Box pleat shirt from Trend Patterns

I’ve made loads of different clothes over the decades but actual shirts for myself have not tended to be among them. I’m not sure why, possibly because I had to wear boring school shirts for years and years, and for a while I had to wear a uniform when I worked for the John Lewis Partnership so my personal preference has tended to softer blouse shapes. That said, I love to see a crisp white shirt especially when it’s given an inventive twist. It’s a wardrobe staple and yet there’s always room for a new version. 

Lucy at Trend Patterns has just released the first 3 patterns of what will become a shirt collection and each is available printed, as a PDF or as a complete kit with pattern, fabric and trims. TPCSH1 is a feminine Pussy bow top with shirt sleeves and a ruffle hem, TPCSH3 has stunning gathered ‘angel’ sleeves which really make a statement whilst the body is kept simple and traditional so that the sleeves do all the talking. 

Lucy offered me the kit of TPCSH2 to try out, it is a box-pleated front shirt, deceptively simple to look at but those details take a little time to get right. It’s classified as ‘moderate/hard’ and I would agree, not because the elements in themselves are especially difficult but each of them needs some experience and precision to execute so I wouldn’t recommend this as your first shirt project. 

The kit comes with enough good quality plain white cotton poplin to make up to the largest size of a UK 22, along with Trend-branded buttons (a nice touch) and iron-on interfacing. All you need to provide is your own thread! 

I started off by taking my measurements and comparing them to the sizing chart, there is also a chart giving you finished garment measurements too which is helpful because it will give you some idea of how oversized the shirt will be when it’s finished. I made a UK 12 and as you will see from the finished photos it’s a very generous fit, to be honest, if you want a close-fitting shirt then this particular pattern won’t be the one for you. 

I opted to trace off the pattern, there are two separate fronts, right and left, and a whole back plus sleeves, yoke, cuffs and collar. There is no pattern piece for the bias binding for the sleeve placket, you just need to cut yourself two bias strips approximately 30cms x 4cms. The right and left fronts are the same except for the extra on the centre front which creates the folded fly with concealed buttonholes. I traced off one front then, to save some time and to ensure they were identical, pinned it to more spot and cross paper before cutting them out together so that I had a mirror version with the additional front added. It’s really important to trace the front very carefully because of the three box pleats, if they are each a bit off you risk the pleats not sewing together accurately which will leave you scratching your head. There are a lot of drill holes to mark the stitching which will eventually hold the pleats in place, don’t be tempted to miss any out because they are also really helpful when you’re folding and pressing the pleats in position. You could choose to trace just half the back to save paper if you intend to always cut it on the fold anyway but having a whole piece gives you the option to have the fabric out flat, besides, it’s almost always more economical to cut fabric out as a single layer [this can be especially helpful if you ever need to do some tricky pattern placement or matching]

Because the fabric is plain, placing the pattern pieces and cutting out was a breeze-no pattern matching, yay! I spent quite a while making traditional tailor’s tacks for every single one of the drill holes. You could use a washable or some other kind of disappearing marker pen if you are confident that it definitely won’t come back to haunt you but I wasn’t going to take the risk on plain white fabric! 

In the past I’ve occasionally found some of the earlier Trend instructions a bit tricky to follow but the more recent ones have illustrations rather than photos and I found this set very clear. My biggest piece of advice would be to read then re-read the instructions before you start, and to highlight anything that you know you’re going to have to really concentrate on, this isn’t a race after all. 

Constructing the fly front and button stand first, including the buttonholes, was satisfying, I often feel like I’ve run out of steam by the end of any project which requires buttonholes and it’s a bit of a chore by then but this gets it out of the way nice and early. [I should add at this point that I started out sewing with a fine size 60 needle so as not to leave too many noticeable puncture holes in the plain fabric if I went wrong or needed to unpick. However, this size needle kept skipping stitches for some reason so I went up to a 70 and had no further problems]

transfer all markings and instructions to the paper pattern if you’re tracing it off. I made tailor’s tacks through every drill hole

My second piece of advice would be to press your pleats on the ironing board if you possibly can. I only have a small heat-resistant board in Threadquarters which meant I was constantly moving the fabric which was not ideal, it was so much easier on the ironing board because the whole piece fitted on. Do not rush this part, with pure cotton fabric you can have the iron on pretty hot but do be careful of your fingers with hot steam. Pin, tack or Wonder Tape the pleats in position once pressed if you want to. 

pressing the pleats on the ironing board, the snips top and bottom along with the tailor’s tacks will help you get each one in exactly the right place.
In progress-making the bar tacks

The instructions are to stitch down each pleat according to the markings using a few stitches. I did quite a lot of testing using a variety of decorative stitches for this before I committed to the bar tack. The next challenge was getting each of those bar tacks (30 in total!) central over the pleat. My machine comes with a number of feet which are used in conjunction with the decorative stitches and one of these has horizontal red lines which proved very helpful in getting lined up for every bar tack. After making a few of these bar tacks I ‘got my eye in’ so I could tell very quickly where to start each stitch, having the needle stopping in the up or down position is an absolute essential feature on my machine for me and it was brilliant during this, being able to lift the foot to check I was sewing in the correct place without the work shifting was so helpful. The photos will hopefully make my method clearer to follow. It’s vital to take your time and be as accurate as possible during this stage because the box-pleats are the USP of this shirt and it will obvious if they are off-kilter. I sewed in white thread but you could use a colour, or even hand embroider to give your shirt a totally original look.

testing various stitches including triple straight stitch and arrow heads, the difficulty was going to getting every single one central over the pleat

Incidentally, Trend will be creating a series of video tutorials to help so I suggest you check their Instagram account or the website for those. Also, there was a slight problem with pattern markings for the back box pleat which were incorrect. This has been rectified but if you bought a copy very soon after release you might find you have to scratch your head a little, the notches were in the wrong places. Check the website if you’re in any doubt.

the right front, including the fly, taking shape
the shirt with the side seams now sewn up, ready for the sleeves to go in
sewing the continuous binding to the sleeve opening. the instructions don’t call for it but I like to sew across the top of it at a 45 degree angle to encourage the binding to stay on the inside
close up of the finished front
all done
close up of the finished bar tacks

I followed the order of construction to complete the shirt (I usually do the first time I make a pattern) but personally I would put the collar on after making the yoke. I like to do it before the side seams are sewn up or the sleeves are inserted, unless there’s a technical reason not to obviously. 

the finished back yoke
I popped a bar tack in the middle of the back to hold the pleat in place, this hadn’t had a proper press yet

Everything came together really well, I’ve always found Trend patterns are accurately drafted so I know the pieces will go together well without major discrepancies-this is why it’s so important to trace off carefully if it’s your preferred method, if seams or notches don’t match up you won’t know where the fault lies [the same applies to accurate cutting out too] 

The sun came out so we could take some outdoor photos, I’ve paired the shirt with my much-worn Megan Nielsen Ash jeans
is it a bird? is it as plane?…
I’ve pressed the pleat now

Clearly not everyone will want to make a shirt that is going to take a sizeable amount of time to construct, or to launder afterwards for that matter, but if we only made simple loungewear for ever then the art and skill of making our own clothes will be lost, just at a time when so many people have discovered, or rediscovered, the joy of sewing for themselves. There will always be a place for a classic white shirt and Trend has created a small but growing collection with original twists on the genre. The last year has been so tough for small business owners so I really appreciate being given this kit to try out, I wasn’t under any obligation to review it other than share some photos but personally I have no problem with sewing and writing about it. I will always try to give you a balanced view and if I can support a little business by giving them some positive exposure then I will. Alongside that I’m keen to demonstrate that a design-led style doesn’t have to beyond us ‘ordinary’ sewers either, if you like it then sew it! 

I hope I’ve given you some idea of what will be involved in making the TPCSH2, if you’re looking to push your skills on a bit this could be a good project. Maybe you need/want a plain white shirt in your wardrobe [amazingly I didn’t have one in mine, just a couple of short-sleeved ones] I might layer this with a sleeveless tank top over it, or a waistcoat could look interesting. This is a typical cotton poplin shirting but you could use a variety of fabrics, you could have fun with graphic prints or stripes, try something soft like double gauze or a crisp linen? Or what about harvesting the fabric from several well-worn mens shirts to make a more patchwork look. Take your time though and enjoy the process.

I’ve got a long-sleeved T-shirt under it because it was a chilly day and it will be perfect for the day I can return to the V&A. I don’t know about you but I’ve really missed putting an outfit together to go on a nice day out, deciding which of the lovely garments I’ve made that I want to wear and how I’m going to accessorise them. It seems such a small silly thing to miss but I shall be so glad when I can start doing it again.

Most of all, thank you to Trend for giving me the opportunity to try the kit, until next time,

Happy Sewing

Sue

Prada-inspired shirt dress

This whole project all came about because I couldn’t resist some ex-Prada fabric I spotted on my friend Dibs’s website, Selvedge and Bolts! She specialises in sourcing gorgeous quality high-end and ex-designer fabrics from Italy and France. This one caught my eye because funnily enough it doesn’t scream ‘designer’ but I liked the graphic print which stands out amongst so many florals.

I ordered 2 metres although I didn’t have a plan for it, then it occurred to me that I should look at actual Prada designs to see if there were any that were at all wearable by someone like me (ie. not six feet tall or looking about 17 years of age!) Somewhat surprisingly there were some really lovely shirt-dresses in eye-catching fabrics.

This was just the springboard I needed so, after a bit of a search through my patterns, I found this McCalls 7470 which had originally been free with Love Sewing magazine at some point in the recent past. The Princess seam lines and shirt styling were exactly what I wanted except I would change the skirt to be a dropped waist dirndl to echo the original.

The #7470 is a Palmer Pletsch fitting method pattern which I’ve never attempted before. I’ve been thinking lately that many of the garments I’ve made in recents months have either been old favourites or very simple shapes with little use of interesting techniques or style lines. I needed to stretch my sewing muscles a bit more-use them or lose them-so I set about following the instructions to tissue fit the bodice first. By a combination of body measurements, knowing my body quirks, periodically trying on the pinned tissue and using my padded-out dress stand Doris I arrived at a fit that I was happy with.

I’m not going to claim it was particularly easy but there are a lot of written instructions on how to approach it on the accompanying sheets to help you, plus online tutorials too. I’d recommend making a toile (or even two) if you need to before using your fashion fabric to avoid expensive mistakes.

I knew fairly early on that my 2 metres of fabric wouldn’t be enough for what I had in mind, and I didn’t want to waste my lovely Prada fabric so I opted to make the pattern instead in a vibrant printed stretch cotton which I’d bought in Paris at last year’s Sewcial event.

I took my time sewing the dress, I wanted to enjoy each part of the process. There is a two-part collar for example, pleated patch pockets with flaps, and a band running right down the front. I had a few problems with insetting the sleeves though. I’d made a small alteration the back of the arm scye which resulted in it getting a little smaller so I expected there to be a discrepancy but it was much bigger than I anticipated, the sleeve head was far too large and wouldn’t fit without puckering and gathering. I looked at a few examples of #7470 on Instagram and many versions were either sleeveless or didn’t mention it as a problem. Anyway, after a lot of fiddling about in the end I dropped the arm scye down to make it larger so that the sleeve head fitted properly.

The skirt was simply 3 rectangles, two for the front and one for the back which I pleated onto the shirt top using a fork to make each pleat even.

I used some plain white cotton scraps to make a faced hem.
I joined them into a long strip, folded lengthwise to about 5cms in width.
It was sewn onto the hem, all raw edges together.
At the centre front I enclosed it within the band for a neater finish.
the turned centre front band
the final stitched hem-it needs a good steamy press here. You can read more about hem finishes in my recent post here.

So what started as a Prada-inspired dress for one fabric has still ended up as a Prada-inspired dress but made in a different fabric! I finished the whole thing off with these beautiful buttons from Textile Garden all the way down the front.

the buttons look great
I love the detailed pockets too.
the collar is nice and crisp
the sleeves are two-part with a deep cuff
Yup, I’m happy with that!
I would have added a self-fabric belt like the Prada original but there wasn’t enough fabric left, just scraps.

So that’s my Prada-inspired dress up to this point, just not made with actual Prada fabric. I have a plan for it though because there was another shirt-dress that caught my eye…

I love the idea of a completely different fabric for the sleeves and the back
The front isn’t as I’d want it but I really like how the sleeves are such a contrast.

I’m really pleased with the outcome and the way it fits, and because I took my time and didn’t rush, it was an enjoyable process. I’d fallen into the habit of making simple projects, I felt something more complex was needed.

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

Revisiting a ‘vintage’ blouse pattern

I know many of us often sew patterns multiple times because we like them but I’ve taken this to a new extreme recently. I last sewed this blouse pattern Simplicity 8704 when I was around 16 or 17 years old, the date on the back is 1978 so I must have made it while I was still at school! I remember I used a burgundy-coloured viscose (or similar) with a floral print on it and it was definitely one of my favourites as I wore it a lot, probably swanning about in the Sixth Form common room!

There have been several times when I’ve been tempted to revisit it but for one reason or another I’ve put it back in the box for another day but this time I kept it out and went in search of fabric in the stash. Initially I was going to use a really pretty pastel pink lightweight checked cotton I got from Sew Me Sunshine (I can’t see it on the website now though) but when I realised I was going to have to pattern match the deceptively tricky check I thought better of it. I wasn’t in the mood for taking an age over that so I continued to rummage until my eyes fell upon the (also) pale pink linen I acquired from the local Scraps Store last year. I found it in a container full of various unwanted fabrics and there was nearly 5 metres of it so, for a donation, it came home with me! I laundered it at the time but put it away. I thought I might make a dress with it originally but, because it’s such a pale pink, I didn’t want to end up looking like a blob so I left it for another time.

A plain linen blouse appealed to me though and I didn’t have to fiddle about pattern matching so away I went and it was cut out in no time. Even though the pattern was a single size-this is how most patterns were sold until multi-size patterns were introduced-and my size has fluctuated to say the least over the years, amazingly it was still going to be the right size with no alterations.

There’s not much else to say about making it up except I remembered that an @SewOver50 stalwart, Lisa, had shared on her grid the day before that she had used a wing needle to decorate a plain linen tunic she was making which reminded me that I’d intended to find a use for the same effect at some point but forgotten all about it-Thank You Lisa!

The wing needle (I’ve also seen it called an ‘heirloom’ needle recently too) is like a regular needle except it has fine metal ‘fins’ to each side of the shaft which creates a little hole like a tiny eyelet in the centre of the stitch as it forms. A stitch which looks like a little star works best for this effect but you could try experimenting to see if any others look nice

I made a little video of my machine in action.

It’s worth bearing in mind a couple of important points if you’re going to use this decoration. Firstly, you can’t easily pivot at a corner with the needle down in the work-I sewed the collar in three separate moves, secondly you won’t be able to use the automatic threader if your machine has one and thirdly (thank you Lisa for telling me this because I don’t have this feature) you can’t use your automatic thread cutter if you have one.

As well as the collar I embroidered the cuffs, the front raglan seams and down the button placket, although I did this last one after I’d hemmed the bottom and sewn the buttonholes so that it was the exact distance from the edge and the buttonholes.

I love the way the blouse gathers into the collar, which is a two part construction incidentally, the raglan sleeves are straightforward but the gathered cuffs add a nice touch. I found a selection of Mother of Pearl buttons amongst my tidied-up button boxes to add another of my usual quirky details but otherwise that’s it. It’s a reasonably quick make but it was lovely to sew the details of collar construction and the cuffs, there’s an elegant simplicity to it I think. I will either wear it loose over the top of trousers or tucked in, or underneath a pinafore dress maybe?

It might sound strange but it feels a bit like an old friend has come back to visit, and I might even make the placket front version now too!

Until next time, keep sewing!

Sue

A leather jacket refashion

Oh my goodness, I’m not sure I would have started this if I’d known how tricky it was going to be!

I was asked by a neighbour if I’d consider refashioning a leather jacket she had had for a good number of years. She had worn and loved it a lot back in the day but it was now relegated to the back of the wardrobe, she neither wanted to wear it because it was too big and dated, nor did she want to throw/give it away so what to do?

Although I’ve done other radical refashions in the last couple of years they have been for myself so the pressure wasn’t there like this one. You can read about those here, here and here. I made it clear, in the nicest possible way, that I had no guarantee of the quality of end result with a leather jacket, once sewn the stitch marks were there permanently, anything cut off couldn’t be reattached. So long as she understood that there was an outside possibility that it wouldn’t go well and was able to accept that then I was prepared to have a go. I haven’t sewn leather since I did it as a module at college many years ago.

We started by assessing what the jacket looked like as it was and we agreed it was much too large for her and it looked over-long now. The sleeves were too roomy as well, the zigzag detail at the neck and shoulders I could do nothing about so that would have to stay. Because you can’t pin leather I bought some quilting clips to do the job instead. I undid the lining and clipped the side seams and sleeves inside so we could assess in front of a mirror what the effect looked like. We decided pretty quickly that the over-large shoulders had to go too. Because we had to make each decision before moving on to the next Etain had to keep coming by, luckily she only lives over the road from me.

the original jacket was below hip length with a horizontal seam and welt pockets.

I was kindly given a specific ‘leather’ foot by Pfaff Uk for my Quilt Ambition 2.0 and I bought some leather needles too. The foot is made from Teflon (that’s right, like non-stick pans) because it glides over the surface of the leather rather than ’sticking’ to it. If you don’t want to buy a special foot you could attach masking tape to the underside of a regular foot although I must stress I haven’t tried this personally so I can’t vouch for its success. I also used some Stitch-and-Tear Vilene which I’d got knocking about to put under the leather if it was directly again the teeth of the feed-dog underneath [this prevents them from scuffing and chewing up the surface of the leather]

I’m not going to lie, even though I have a wonderful machine which doesn’t usually struggle with multiple thicknesses, and I had the correct tools for the job, I found this a very tricky refashion because the machine hated going over too many layers of leather. The needle sewed smoothly over two layers but as soon as I went over more than that the needle would ‘stick’ and then clunk back out of the leather with such loud bangs that it frightened the life out of me every single time! I resorted to winding the balance wheel by hand every time I had to sew over seams or darts so that I had some control over it. I also had to adjust the top tension a lot in order to get a reasonable stitch quality, added to which there wasn’t a decent colour-match for the shade of pink I needed in the stronger thread from Gutermann. It’s possible that another brand had something available but, bearing in mind the trouble I was having with multiple layers, I wanted to avoid visible top-stitching at all costs and I didn’t want to order threads that might not be a good match anyway.

Onwards! I must confess that I kept pushing the jacket down the list because I wasn’t enjoying it and there were other projects to complete which were preferable….

I took off the lower portion of the jacket at the midriff seam, put darts into the front and pulled in the centre back seam to give the jacket more shaping. The sleeves came in by quite a bit although, in the end, we retained the modest shoulder pads to give some structure. Unfortunately one of the side effects of bringing the sleeves in caused the shoulders to raise up slightly in wear but anchoring down the collar to make it appear narrower distracted from this to some extent.

with the lower section removed, before the darts were added.

To give the jacket some definition again at the bottom I took leather from the original lower section, made a much narrower band and reattached it to the bottom. This looked ok and by pressing this seam open I could fold the band up and stitch it through the seam allowance thus keeping it in position. I was also able to bag out the corners at the front thankfully, the last bit of reattaching of the new band to the button-stand had to be done by hand through the seam. It’s not completely invisible but it’s perfectly acceptable. I reattached the lining to the seam allowance of the new lower band, I was partly able to do this on the machine and then sewed up the remaining gap by hand.

with the new band stitched in position and clipped to hold it. The collar is now anchored down to make it appear narrower.

I’ve made a tiny stitch through the neck seam and caught the reverse side of the collar stitching to hold it down.

Inside the new band, it’s not the tidiest but I had to stitch by hand through the seam and then catch down the lining to the leather too.

I gave the fold of the band a good press, with a cloth over it naturally, to flatten it as much as possible. the final touch was to change the buttons for something newer than the slightly scuffed covered buttons of the original.

Finished, I do hope she’s happy with it.

The centre back seam was taken in by about 2cms at the bottom too, to give a bit more definition.

So there we have it, it was a challenge but Etain is happy with it and it looks a good deal more fashionable, at least for now! Leather isn’t difficult to sew as such but there are definitely challenges, I didn’t follow all the rules like glueing seams flat but when you’re dealing with an already-made garment some of those things go out of the window a bit. Please don’t think I’m now an expert in this field but if there’s anything you want to know about how I tackled things then do message me and I’ll try to answer. Meanwhile, I think I’ll find a simpler project next….

Happy sewing

Sue

Sewing a no-pattern kimono in Liberty Tana lawn.

Creative Sanctuary asked me if I could teach a class for some kind of kimono jacket that used one of the gorgeous Liberty Tana lawns that they stock. I agreed but first I had to come up with a design!

We decided I’d limit it to just 1.5m of fabric partly because of the cost, but also because it’s quite wide anyway. Laura at the shop gave me a few of her own criteria if she were to make a kimono and I used them while I planned the design.

First of all I made a wearable toile version in some fabric I already had because I didn’t want to risk cutting up the lovely lawn and then it didn’t work very well. This worked to an extent but the sleeves were a bit too long and also a bit too wide, all flappy and annoying!

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Bit of a dobby finger in the way-oops!

Other than that I was happy with it so I went ahead and cut it out in the Tana lawn, and altered the sizing of the sleeve when I did so.

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Laying up the fabric (I must tidy the floor before taking photos in future!)

The size of rectangles needed for the back and two fronts was length 80cms x width 35cms each, one being on the fold [because the fabric is 140cms wide, anything less than this means you might not get fronts and back out side by side depending on your dress size] as well as two sleeves and the pieces needed for the collar. Because this fabric has a distinctive one way design the collar became a complex arrangement of sewing the 3 strips together in to one long piece and then cutting the strip exactly in half, rotating one piece, sewing it back together so that the 2 halves both had the design facing the correct way, rather than one side being upside down. From the 1m 50 of fabric I allowed 80cms for the jacket parts and 70cms for the sleeves and collar parts. The sleeves were cut singly and measure 70cms x 25cms each (the 25cms will vary depending on how long you want the sleeves) The 3 collar sections are 70cms x 12cms each on this sample, you could use the remaining fabric for patch pockets if you wish.

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Making the collar strip by joining the 3 sections first

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There’s interfacing ironed on to half the collar, Press the seams open.

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Press under one long edge by 1cm along it’s whole length.

The two front pieces of the jacket need to have a small triangle cut out at the neck edge so that it is shaped better when the collar gets applied to it.

 

I made a triangle that’s 40cms down from the top edge, and 10cms in. If you’re using a one-way design for goodness sake make sure you cut the triangle from the top edge and not the hem!

Firstly I joined the shoulders using French seams. [place the fabric WRONG SIDES together and stitch close the edge, approx 5 mm away. Trim if necessary. Turn so that the fabric is now RIGHT SIDES together, press the seam flat and stitch again 1cm from the folded edge.]

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first row of stitching for the French seam, wrong sides together then trimmed slightly. Press flat.

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the finished French seam should look like this.

You don’t have to use a French seam though, if you have an overlocker use that, or zig zag the edges, you can even use pinking sheers if you have any.

The neck looked a slightly awkward shape at this point so I trimmed a small semi-circle away from the back neck.IMG_0039

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shaping the neckline, make sure it comes from a right angle at the centre back fold, I’ve used an air-erasable pen to mark it.

The collar goes on now so start by pinning it first at the centre back neck then all the way to the bottom on both sides. Sew carefully in place.

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Collar pinned to the CB neck

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stitching collar in place, stop short by approximately 3cms  at each end. You’ll need this to make a nice flush finish with the hem and the band later.

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Press the seam towards the collar.

I turned and stitched the hem first and then the remaining gaps I’d left earlier at the bottom.

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Fold the collar band RS together and pin.

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Stitch in place, make sure it’s a right angle otherwise it won’t be in alignment with the hem.

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Turn the band so that it’s RS out and pin on the outside.

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Pinning the band down on the right side ready to stitch in the ditch.

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Stitch in the ditch on the right side .

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Ooops, missed a bit! This should have been caught down on the wrong side.

If this process is too tricky for you then you can always slip stitch it down by hand.

Next I attached the sleeves. If you’re using a fabric that has a distinctive one way design with this method you must make sure that the front part of the sleeves are the same as the kimono front. It therefore follows that the back of the sleeve will be up side down but that’s unavoidable  unless you have a shoulder seam on the sleeve. Fold each sleeve in half and match this point to the shoulder seams, pin and stitch in place. It should look like this. IMG_0058At this point, if not before, you can fold and press up the hem for the bottom of the sleeve, it’s a bit easier whilst it’s flat before stitching it up later, you can see the pressing lines in this photo.IMG_0059Sew up the underarm seams like the photo above, and neaten by your chosen method. You can turn and stitch the cuffs now too, I turned them once by 2.5cm and then again by 2.5cms.

So that’s pretty much it!

I’m not sure if my instructions have been as clear as I’d like them to be, hopefully the photos offer some assistance. It’s a simple garment and not perfect by any means-the underarm seam isn’t particularly smooth but it’s just that, under the arm, so it’s hardly seen! You can simplify it further by not using a collar band if you wish and just hemming the neck edge.

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Modelled by Katie, assisted by Tinker!

Sadly you may have heard that Creative Sanctuary will be closing at the end of September but before then all their Liberty Tana Lawn is reduced to £15.50 per metre which is a considerable saving on the full price. If you’re in the Hertford area before September 30th you could do worse than pop over and bag yourself a bargain.

On the subject of Liberty, I wrote a previous blog about their history and an exhibition at the Fashion & Textiles museum that I visited, you can read it here

Until next time,

Happy Sewing

Sue

When do you use those other fancy stitches your sewing machine has?

I’d already made a The Maker’s Atelier Holiday shirt recently which you can read about here and I’d got a second cut out ready. This second one was a soft cotton voile (or muslin, not entirely sure) which my elderly neighbour had gifted me a while back and I cut it out as part of my batch-cutting binge. I didn’t realise it at the time but she’s since told me that it’s Liberty which makes it even more special. I asked her why she’d never used it but she said it was “just one of those things”, it just never happened.IMG_1291IMG_1293

I started making up the blouse as before but this time I fancied changing it up a bit by using one of the range of stitches my ancient Elna 7000 machine offers.

Does your machine have loads of these embroidery stitches that you’ve never used? I’m curious to know whether having all these extra stitches was a reason for you to choose a particular model? trying out machine embroidery or quilting perhaps? [and I’m not talking about utility stitches that help with construction and finishing here, purely decorative ones] were you persuaded by an enthusiastic sales assistant, or a bargain price, to go with a more complex machine than your needs or skills warranted? I think it’s so important to be able to test machines and compare them before buying, and the internet makes it much easier to compare reviews than ever before. When I bought my Elna well over 25 years ago I was working in the dress fabrics department of our local John Lewis where we had two wonderful ladies who were employed by Elna and Brother to demonstrate the machines and give individual lessons. This gave me the luxury of taking my time and seeing the different machines in action before I eventually bought an ex-demonstration model which cost me nearly £500 then!! It was money well-spent though I’d say. If you’re new to dressmaking but aren’t sure that it will become a life-long hobby then there are some terrific machines available in the £120-£160 bracket, if you want it to be lifelong then you may choose to buy one machine now for the long-term and up to £500 would easily be enough to spend and get a good quality machine for it. If you have bags of money then you could spend waaay more than that-it’s up to you entirely.

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This is my machine when it came with me to the Sewing Weekender last August.

When my two girls were little I did use some of the stitches, little ducks, flowers etc and when my eldest started school her summer dress featured patch pockets with ‘LEFT’ and ‘RIGHT’ written across the top of them! But that’s 22 years ago so not very much use since then…

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These two rows of illustrations rotate to show all the stitches available.

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I tested a few that I thought would look nice around the collar, in a couple of different shades of blue, to see which I fancied best.

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Initially I liked the little triangles but I wasn’t sure I could get it to fit accurately to turn the corners which wouldn’t have pleased me at all.

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I tried out the blanket stitch on a corner and it was much more satisfactory so I decided to go with that.

Once I’d settled on the blanket stitch I made up the collar and embroidered it, I decided to add it to the sleeve hems too. I made the blouse up exactly as before after that.

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Blanket stitch on the collar

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…and on the sleeves.

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Finished Holiday shirt.

It might not be the most exciting use of embroidery stitches but it’s a start and I think it looks rather pretty. Do you use any of the stitches like this that your machine offers or were they a big lure to buy the machine to start with but then are actually redundant? I’m curious to know.

I’ve got plans to make at least one more Holiday shirt with some chiffon I bought at Birmingham Rag Market last year too, that will have to wait until my next batch of cutting though!

Happy sewing,

Sue

a Moneta dress to ‘party’ in!

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I haven’t made anything by Colette patterns before but I’ve heard about the Moneta and when I saw friends Elle (@sewpositivity) Abi (@sewabigail) and Rach (@rach_wain) on Instagram had got together and were organising a ‘Moneta party’, with enticing prizes, I thought I’d enter.

It’s a pattern that’s available as a PDF or in paper form and to be honest, even though it was cheaper, I didn’t really want all the cutting and sticking of a PDF this time. Luckily for me my (almost) local fabric and pattern emporium The Creative Sanctuary in Hertford had one in stock. I popped over to collect it-and ended up buying the pink sparkly star sweat-shirting I used for the top I blogged about previously here at the same time!IMG_1003.jpg

I already had 2 metres of a really nice geometric design Ponte from Backstitch near Cambridge which I thought would be perfect for the dress. In theory, as ever, the pattern instructions stated more fabric than I had but that’s rarely stopped me before!

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I used the blue knit for the Moneta, the black and white and the plain black became a Heather by Sew Over It which you can read about here.

I wasn’t keen on the elbow length sleeves because I prefer below the elbow if they’re not long OR short, I wanted full-length as it was going to be a wintery dress. The idea of the ‘party’ was, I thought, to put a new spin on the style but I wanted it to be a dress I’d be comfortable and happy in so I opted to put my favourite roll collar on. I thought that in itself wouldn’t be original enough so I decided I’d put a fake exposed zip on the back too.

I made a quick toile of the bodice before cutting the fabric because even though it’s a stretchy style I didn’t want it too tight. I cut it slightly between two sizes and this was absolutely fine so I went ahead and cut the dress out of my ‘good’ fabric!

Because of the scarcity of my fabric after I’d cut the rest of the dress with long sleeves I ended up having to cut the collar in two parts and making a join in the centre front.IMG_1029.jpg

There was enough fabric to make 2 rectangles, each 14cms x 35cms which would just fit around the neckline.

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The pattern wasn’t going to quite match at the CF but I decided, unusually for me, that it  wasn’t going to matter too much!

I interfaced the two pieces to give them a bit more stability and then joined them to form one long rectangle. Incidentally, I’d raised the back neckline on the bodice because it was lower than I wanted for a winter dress and the collar wouldn’t be long enough to fit either.

Before I sewed the collar on I’d added the zip (taken out of something else previously) which I bound first with bias binding and then sewed directly onto the CB of the dress. It didn’t need to be a functioning zip because the fabric is stretchy and the dress just goes over your head.img_1028

Next I sewed the collar on to the neck edge.

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Rather than trying to get the seam of the collar under the overlocker I added bias binding to neaten the seam instead.

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I flipped the binding down towards the inside of the dress to enclose the edges and sewed it in place. The stitching won’t show on the right side because the collar would roll down and cover it.

Next it’s the skirt. The pattern calls for clear elastic to gather it but a) I hadn’t got any and b) I discovered it was pretty expensive so I used regular stuff! I cut a length to my waist size plus about 4cms to overlap the ends. This gets evenly divided into quarters around the waist of the skirt. [The skirt has been sewn up the side seams, with pockets inserted already] I used the 3-step zigzag stitch on my machine to sew on the elastic, gently stretching it to fit the skirt as I went. That was surprisingly straightforward! It isn’t a massively gathered skirt so there isn’t loads of fullness to deal with. After this the skirt gets attached to the bodice, simples!

The sleeves fitted in beautifully and everything gets hemmed as required. All that remained was to finish off the back of the collar so I dug out two small metal buttons and stitched them down on each corner to give a buttoned down effect.IMG_1109

So that’s it! One Moneta dress. It would be a pretty quick make if I didn’t keep complicating things! I’ll make a nice simple one next time. As it turned out my original take on the dress wasn’t interesting enough because it came a big fat nowhere in the competition but I’ve had LOADS of lovely comments from people about it and it’s really nice and comfy to wear so it’s not about the winning, it’s the taking part…isn’t it?

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I’ve realised that I look like Stretch Armstrong from the back! Aaargh, good job I can’t see my back 😦

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Ta-dah! in ‘the photo corner’ of the room where I teach my classes.

As I said earlier, this a quick-ish make especially if you have an overlocker but that’s by no means essential. Make sure you use a ballpoint or jersey/stretch needle in your machine (jersey is a ‘knit’ and so can ladder like tights if you use a sharp needle) and if you have a stretch stitch setting or can make a very shallow zigzag you should be fine. Jersey doesn’t usually fray either so it isn’t even essential to neaten the edges every time-use your own judgment on this though.

I wore my Moneta to the Knitting & Stitching show last week and I had loads of people comment on it and ask me for the details-I hope sales of the pattern have gone up as a result!!

Happy sewing

Sue

 

Sam McKnight and Burberry capes

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This isn’t exactly a blog, more of a sharing of the photos I took when I visited the hairdresser Sam McKnight retrospective at Somerset House recently, and the Burberry Maker’s House exhibit in Soho.

Obviously I’m not a hairdresser but I knew that the show featured McKnight’s collaborations with designers, as well as fashion magazines and publications over the last 3 decades. I felt though that the show, whilst interesting and well put together was a little lacking in very much substance. Lots of photos and hair-pieces, part of McKnight’s travelling ‘salon’ kit (a massive number of brushes, rollers, driers, straighteners, hairspray and general hairdressing paraphernalia) The opening section where a number of work stations are set up allows the viewer to feel they are backstage at fashion shows during the build-up which is interesting. This moves through to a section featuring McKnight’s collaborations with Vivienne Westwood over the last 20 years. It’s a good excuse to display a number of her outfits from previous collections.

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Vivienne Westwood

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Then there are lots more photos, large and small, and Vogue magazine covers. Sam McKnight is well-known as Princess Diana’s hairdresser, it was he who first cut her hair very short and created the ‘wet-look’ style that divided the press and public opinion. He accompanied her on a number of Royal overseas tours and was instrumental in the ‘reinvention’ of her look after her divorce from Prince Charles. diana

The next section revolves around McNight’s collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel.

The best bit of the show, for me, was the continuous showing of recent Chanel Haute Couture shows, being shown in their entirety. Each one runs for about 15 minutes and I watched 4!! So that was an hour spent watching exquisite dresses and suits on the runway-the hairstyles weren’t my particular focus though….

I don’t want to sound like I’m dissing the show and I’m really not because there was quite a bit that I enjoyed, and Sam McKnight is clearly a very nice bloke who’s very well-regarded in his field and influential in styling terms but it could just as easily have been a show about Westwood or Chanel.

The show is still running until March 12th if you want to go and I’ve shared the link above, or here

From Somerset House I took myself to the last day of Burberry Makers House which displayed their collaboration with the Henry Moore Foundation. I’d seen a number of people share images from it on Instagram so I wanted to see it for myself and I’m SO glad I made the effort to go.As I arrived there was the opportunity for a guided tour (it was a totally free-entry event anyway) which really enhanced my appreciation and understanding of what I was seeing. I couldn’t understand beforehand how a dead sculptor could be linked with a fashion house (albeit a long-established one) There were a number of Moore’s sculptures on display, as well as many of his tools, maquettes and sketches, most of which had never left Perry Green before. [If you’ve never been to Perry Green and you have the opportunity to visit I’d recommend going. It’s in a lovely rural spot and many of Moore’s most monumental sculptures are there in the settings that he intended for them, with the sheep still wandering happily between them keeping the grass down!]

The tour guide pointed out many of the inspirations and cross-pollination of ideas that Christopher Bailey created for the new season collection. I particularly enjoyed seeing the ideas boards and fabric samples. Ideas such as the elongated arms on the sculptures, the striped apron Henry Moore always wore in his studio, and the sheep that continue to wander around the site at Perry Green where Moore lived and worked for many many years, all found a place in the garments that were presented on the runway in the form of over-long sleeves and cuffs, blue-striped matelot T-shirts embellished with lace and beautiful asymmetric cable knitwear.

There were some wonderful ideas which any dressmaker could easily ‘interpret’ in her own way. I particularly liked the layering of stripes and sweatshirts, and evening dress-shirts with lovely details like pin tucks and bobbin lace, and delicate lace over-dresses. I’m hatching plans with a few ideas around these so watch this space.

The capes were the most extraordinary things! They weren’t capes in the useful, Sherlock Holmes sense, they were more like grand shoulder embellishments. There were 78 of them and there was so much variety between them all.  I’ll just share my photos here with the odd comment by way of explanation….img_1199img_1152img_1153

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GIANT cable knit

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Lace was pressed into clay to form a ‘relief’ pattern, and then wired together.

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beaded and sequined feathers

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More giant cable knit and ceramic designs.

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This one reminded me of an exquisite Edwardian evening cape.

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The cape was made up of multiple layers of silk georgette which was then hand embroidered with Japanese-style ‘sashiko’ stitching. As you can see, the edges have been left unfinished. It took over 400 HUNDRED hours to complete!

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Sea shells!

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Discs of fabric looking like scales or sequins.

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Eye-glasses!

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Trimmed feathers and tiny beading around the neck.

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Lace, tulle and feathers

So that’s it. One exhibition you can still go to if you’re quick and one that was somewhat ephemeral and all the more special because of it.

It would be lovely to hope that when the capes come back from their travels they could be displayed again somewhere for people to enjoy. It would be a real pity if such beautiful workmanship representing thousands of hours of work couldn’t be appreciated once more.

Meanwhile I’ll be having a go at my own take on some of the RTW collection (I don’t think the capes would to be that wearable on a day to day basis!)

Happy Sewing

Sue xx

the Holiday shirt by Maker’s Atelier

Since I’ve been able to spend so much of my time sewing among my favourite things to do is get together with fellow sewers and chat endlessly about sewing/fabrics/techniques/tools…you name it really.

A few weeks ago I spotted that Emily of Self Assembly Required had posted in the forum on The Fold Line about organising a London fabric swap in the near future. Eventually Sunday 19th February at The Parcel Yard, Kings Cross station was chosen which is perfect for me because I can literally get off the train, walk along the platform and up the stairs (carefully avoiding the MASSIVE queues for the Harry Potter shop!)

I had a sort through my carefully curated fabric collection (!!) to find the fabrics that I’d never found a use for-I’d been gifted them in the first place but I thought someone else might be able to use them more than me. I also had a number of patterns which were mainly duplicates or free patterns that I’d never use (I know I rarely get rid of anything but if I genuinely have no need or liking for something it’s only taking up room isn’t it?)

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This was a neat pile of fabrics and patterns only minutes before…I can spot @pootleandmake, @kara22jay and @selfassemblyrequired in the midst of it all

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really getting into the swing of it now…

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we needed to drag up a second table for the patterns!

So anyway, when I arrived there were already about 7 or 8 lovely ladies there already and it didn’t take long for us to dive in to the big pile of fabrics and patterns. There was some amazing booty to be had but loads of it seemed to find good homes. I picked up some gorgeous lengths of fabric as well as some fab patterns including a Maker’s Atelier ‘Holiday’ shirt and a Merchant & Mills Camber Set. I think there were as many as 15 of us a one point (plus one lady who I don’t think was part of ‘us’ at all but she had a nosey before she went to catch her train!!)

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my swap haul!

I knew I’d have to try the Maker’s Atelier pattern pretty quickly because I had some lovely Swiss Dot cotton already washed and waiting for the right project at home since I bought it last year at Walthamstow!

The pattern had been partly cut out (luckily still a big enough size for me) although there were no pin marks so it didn’t seem like it had actually been used. In theory I didn’t have enough fabric according to the requirements but by folding the selvedges both to the centreline I got everything out just fine. It’s always worth checking using this method particularly if the fabric is wide or has no distinct pattern, it’s surprising how many pieces which need a fold will come out of ‘not enough fabric’. Some pieces might have to be cut singly but if you really want to make something in a certain fabric it’s probably the only option other than buying more.

The pattern is of very nice quality tissue (more like greaseproof paper in it’s thickness!) and the envelope and artwork are very classy, as is the design itself-very ‘Whistles’ I’d say. That said, I’m not really sure what makes it worth the considerable cost, at an RRP of £22.50 it costs a lot more than almost all other independent pattern brands. Don’t get me wrong, I know patterns cost a lot to create, develop and produce but I wouldn’t say this pattern was significantly better than others I’ve used. Another beef I have with it is that the seam allowances are only 1cm. Why is this an issue? well because most UK or European pattern brands have 1.5cms as standard seam allowances and this British brand chooses not to for some reason. This is fine but I think it’s a fact that should be highlighted pretty near the beginning of the instructions and I nearly missed it. Again, it wouldn’t have mattered on this particular very loose-fitting style but I think it’s worth pointing out. Sorry.

I liked the hints and tips card enclosed, it points out a few things that might not be obvious if you’re fairly new to sewing (the 1cm seam allowance note is in here but quite a way in if you don’t read all of it!) There’s a ‘how to measure’ guide on the reverse too.

Making the shirt up was fairly straightforward although I misunderstood the method for putting the collar so, instead of turning the collar edge under and slip stitching in place, I used some pretty bias binding to cover the raw edges-it looks really pretty even though it won’t show.

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Narrow bias binding on the neck edge.

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I’m not entirely clear if the collar should have a little step as mine does or not. The pattern illustrations suggest not but the photos show it looking like mine…hmmm.

Finishing off the cuffs and hem was also pretty straightforward, I like the split hem detail in particular.

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Yay! the sun came out.

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centre front split detail, the sides have them too.

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So there it is, the Holiday shirt from Maker’s Atelier. I made a 14 and it’s probably overly generous so I’ll make a 12 next time, or even a 10. I’ve got some pretty georgette that I bought at the Birmingham Rag Market last year which I think will look rather lovely in this loose style too. I’ll team this one with jeans or a straight skirt with a vest top underneath as it’s very sheer, it’ll be lovely if it’s hot though.

Thank you so much to whoever donated this pattern to the swap meet, I wouldn’t have paid £22.50 for it myself in all likelihood although it does look very classy. This is a speedy make because there are no buttons or zips to contend with so you could whip it up in an evening no problem. I’ve got some other fabric in my stash that I’ll probably make the pond -sleeve hooded version in before the summer, I’m on my holibobs quite early this year so I need to be thinking ahead a bit really-it’s easy to be making stuff for the here and now and then not have time for things that are a bit ‘out of season’.

Happy sewing

Sue xx

yet another variation….neckline 3!

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This one happened because I found a gorgeous double-knit jersey in The Creative Sanctuary in Hertford on a visit to collect a Collette Moneta pattern to take part in the MonetaParty on Instagram at the end of February….one thing leading to another.

Ok, sparkly stars and pink stripes aren’t very mature but I liked it and I wanted a long-sleeved cosy top for our upcoming trip to the Lake District and because this was reversible I knew the roll-back cuffs I’d used before would look good.

I changed the basic neckline on this one by raising it by about 5cms and then making a rectangular collar to fit it, I didn’t want it standing as far away from the neck as the two funnel-neck ones [in truth, I could have raised it a bit more as it still isn’t that close to the neck] By cutting two rectangles and stitching them right side to wrong side I could make the stripes visible. I’d got another heavy metal zip so I thought I’d put that into the collar seam to give it another detail.  Continue reading