Simple Sew Chelsea Collection blouse hack.

A lot has happened since I wrote my last Simple Sew blog post, Christmas for one thing, and I had a lovely holiday in the sunshine too but now we are all confined to our homes because of Covid 19. Without wishing to trivialise the gravity of this situation, one of the side effects of it is that you might have more time to sew. 

I’ve had a rummage through my Simple Sew patterns to find one which I haven’t already shown you, and which has opportunities to hack, and I settled on the Chelsea Collection. This is a capsule wardrobe of a short sleeve blouse with two variations, a pair of trousers and a button-front skirt in two lengths. I liked the blouse with it’s shirred sleeves and keyhole back detail but I decided to mix it up a little by adding a button front. Normally we are able to select fabric from a couple of generous sponsors but I wanted to ‘shop my stash’ to find something this time. I found a very pretty vibrant floral John Kaldor cotton lawn which I think I picked up from a swap table sometime and I knew would work well for the blouse. 

I didn’t want the blouse to be overly tight so, after checking my measurements I opted for a larger size than I’ve made previously. If you’ve been a regular reader of my posts you’ll know that I tend to check Simple Sew patterns for any discrepancies before I start. There didn’t seem to be any glaring ones but I just added a slight curve to the back hem so that it dipped in the same way as the front and I trued the shoulder seams so there was a smooth flow from front to back. 

Adding a curved hem to the back, I measured the distance from the lengthen/shorten line on the front then made the back the same amount, curving the line gently upwards to the side seam.
trueing the shoulder seams

As I wanted to alter the front significantly I had to make some changes there first. In order to create a button-stand I simply added 2.5cms to the centre front all the way down what would have been the fold. [2.5cms was a fairly arbitrary figure because it depends really on what size buttons you’re using, a general rule of thumb is that the bigger the button the bigger the button-stand needs to be so that there’s enough overlap and the garment doesn’t end up too tight because the overlap isn’t big enough.]I was able to do this by drawing directly onto the tissue before cutting the piece out as there was enough space to do so.

adding the button stand to the front

If you’ve already cut a pattern that you want to add to just stick some extra paper to the centre front fold line, or trace off the whole piece again adding the extra. The original front had a facing for the neckline so now I needed to create a new facing which would neaten both the neck edge and the button-stand. To do this I simply traced off the whole of the new front opening including the neck edge and made the facing a depth of 7cms all the way down from shoulder to hem, with a smooth and gradual curve. The photo should make this clearer. The back neck needed a new facing too because the existing one took the armhole into account. Again I traced off the section I needed making it 7cms at the shoulders to match the front facing. 

The final change I made was to lengthen the sleeve a little and add some more fullness to it. I started by making the sleeve 5cms longer and then I drew 3 vertical lines on the pattern at approximately the front notch, back notch and shoulder seam points. [Depending how much extra fullness you want to add to a sleeve you could use more places than this but do try to space them evenly apart.] Next I cut up each line from the bottom until I reached almost the top, I left this very slightly attached. With the piece flat on the table I spread the bottom of each slit by about the same amount, probably about 4 cms, then taped slithers of paper into each gap.

First I added the extra length and then drew the vertical lines where I wanted the extra fullness.
Next I opened each part to add the extra being careful to keep the pieces flat and not twisting or wrinkling up, put extra pieces of paper under the gaps. Once you’re happy tape them in position,
Once I had added the extra I cut the piece out.

If you don’t want to cut the pattern up you can do the same process by still marking the vertical lines on then pivoting the uncut pattern at the top of each line, use a pencil or your finger as the axis. Draw or trace around the first section, which remains stationary, then each subsequent section after you pivot it to so that you get the extra fullness being added at the hem. Opening up the wedges in this way means you’re adding fullness to the hem but not the crown of the sleeve, if you want extra fullness in the crown spread the whole piece more or less parallel. The grainline should run equidistant down the centre of the new piece (unless you want to cut it on the bias)

Having done all this I cut it out and was ready to sew! 

I started by joining the shoulder seams of both the blouse and the facings (which I’d interfaced and neatened) then I attached the facings to the neck edge, turned, understitched and pressed. The keyhole back calls for a small rouleau tube as a button-loop which needs to be inserted at the same time as applying the facing although you could choose to make a hand sewn thread loop and stitch that at the end. In fact it isn’t even vital that this is a functioning loop if you’ve got a front opening, the keyhole is purely decorative now. 

I put the blouse onto Doris to check it was looking OK and this was when I found that the keyhole appeared to be bagging outwards quite significantly. I decided not to do anything at this point and I would check again once I had sewed the side seams and put the sleeves in, then I would get a better idea by trying it on myself. 

Checking the front neck
With the loop pinned I discovered that the keyhole didn’t sit flat.
It seems to stick out quite significantly on Doris.
If the button isn’t done up it would look like this.

I made three rows of shirring on the sleeves next, using my quilting guide to make sure the first row was 5cms from the bottom edge, the next two rows were then sewn parallel to the first. [Refer to a previous blog post on how to sew shirring if you haven’t done so before] Next I sewed up the sleeve seams and pin-hemmed the bottom edge to give a neat finish.

I positioned the needle 5cms from the cut edge and the quilting guide helps me as a visual marker to keep it parallel all the way.
Shirring is stitched from the right side so that the elastic is on the reverse. Use a long straight stitch, secure both ends and then apply plenty of steam to shrink up the stitching further.
finished sleeve

After sewing up and neatening the side seams I inserted the sleeves. At this point I tried the blouse on again to check the keyhole on myself and, with real shoulder blades under it, it didn’t seem so noticeable. Two other things struck me though, the blouse was a little too big so I took it in on the side seams and also the blouse was a bit shorter than I expected. In order to take as a small a hem as possible I made some bias binding from offcuts of the fabric then stitched it (folded in half lengthways and with the cut edges together) to the hem using a narrow 5mm seam allowance [This is a useful finish to any hem or edge where you need every spare centimetre of fabric.] Have a look at the photo which shows you how to get the ends of the binding enclosed within the front facing. I turned the binding up and top-stitched in place. 

If you’re adding binding when there’s also a facing pin it like this so that the end is neatly enclosed inside the facing when it’s turned right side out.

Finally, I found some ‘vintage’ buttons amongst my treasure trove and there were just the right number meaning the whole blouse had been sourced from what I already have!

Well I hope now that I’ve made it that I’ll have a chance to wear my Chelsea blouse somewhere other than in my own garden this summer, who knows? Maybe you’re reading this long after the emergency ended and life has returned to some sort of normality, although it definitely won’t be exactly as it was before.

Sewing our own clothes is an activity which gives us so much enjoyment for a variety of different reasons and, right now, the simple act of creating something is chief amongst them for me. It’s absorbing and the problem-solving gives me something else to think about.

I think the keyhole back is, by and large, just about acceptable when I’m wearing the blouse. I also think the cure could be to add a centre back seam instead of cutting on the fold so that the point of the keyhole could extend beyond the centre back line, this would hopefully bring the button and loop closer to one another when they are done up…this is just my theory based on experience and I haven’t tried it out. It’s such a nice little detail that I’m disappointed it hasn’t worked out quite right. I also regret not reading my fellow Simple Sew bloggers reviews of the blouse because then I would have known how short it comes up, personally I would add a minimum of 8-10cms to the length next time.

The sleeves are pretty and feminine but maybe they are a little too girly, the jury is out…

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

Making Burda 6914

I’ve recently realised that Burda 6914 has become a bit of a favourite as I’ve just made it for the fourth time so I thought I’d write a quick review of it here. It has 3 variations; sleeveless cocoon dress with hem darts, cocoon dress with a hem band and short sleeves, and a sleeveless top. They all feature the double pleat at the neckline and a visible bias binding neck finish. There’s no zip, it just goes over your head.

I got my copy quite some time ago with Sew Magazine but it’s still available to buy . My first version was the dress with darts at the hem and I added the sleeves. I had some wintery fabric of unknown origin or fibres in a dogtooth check so I didn’t want the short sleeves. The sleeves have 2 external darts which is an interesting feature but I wanted them longer so I increased the pattern to below elbow length simply by continuing the seam lines down to the length I wanted (sorry, it was ages ago and I didn’t take a photo at the time) make sure that the 2 seams are the same length as each other, it will gradually increase the width the longer they get. I then created new darts on the outside to absorb the fullness I had added, 5 in total.

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the finished external pleats

The dress goes together very quickly, make the pleats in the front, join the shoulders, add the binding watch the instructions here as you’re told to trim the neck edge before adding the binding. 

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With a striking design like a dogtooth check the bias binding at the neck will add a nice touch.

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I’ve added pockets (of course) which aren’t part of the pattern. The darts at the hem are quite diddy but they give the skirt a nice shape. It’s been one of my favourite winter dresses.

Following the success of this dress I made another a few months later in a striped poly crepe from somewhere or other.

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I added pockets again but as a single layer that was stitched directly to the front. 

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I cut the sleeves on the cross grain so that the stripes were diagonal.

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I love how the binding looks on this one but it does make your eyes go funny!

I liked this dress but I didn’t like how it looked on me. The sleeves made my arms look chunky and somehow the length didn’t feel right either-odd, because I didn’t do anything different to the pink/black dress. I wore it once and then it languished in the wardrobe for ages. Eventually I unpicked the sleeve darts and re-hemmed them and I cut off some of the skirt to the bottom of the pockets. I thought about unpicking the pockets too but that might have left holes in the front plus it would be quite a bit more work.

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I’m wearing the top with my Megan Nielsen Ash jeans.

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Much happier with this! I made a split hem detail and the sleeves are so much better.

Version 3 was made with 1 metre of viscose fabric which had been donated by Stoff & Stil in the second Sewing Weekender goody bags. Because it was 150cms wide I managed to get a top with short straight sleeves to which I added a short frill.

I hemmed the frill using the rolled hem on my overlocker so that it lost barely any fabric. The neck has a button and loop closure.

The latest version is made in a lovely 100% organic cotton lawn which I bought on impulse at the Sewisfaction Big Summer Stitch Up in July. I’d earmarked it for yet another Camber but changed my mind.

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I tried out the ‘fork’ pleating method on the sleeve hems this time. I made a long strip of fabric gleaned from the leftovers and neatened them first with a rolled hem finish again. It’s a really simple method and I don’t know why I haven’t used it before. I think some people use the fork to create the pleat first and which they pin in place before sewing but I did it directly in the machine, just needing to be very careful that the needle didn’t hit the fork!! In truth the strip I made wasn’t quite long enough and I ought to have added a bit more but I’d already hemmed it and couldn’t be bothered. It just meant I had to juggle the pleats a bit to get them relatively even, it really isn’t that noticeable (I hope) If you’re good at maths you might be able to work out the ratios for this….I’m not and I didn’t… 

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I used two buttons in similar colours to the print, one on top of the other. I always make a hand-sewn loop, it’s usually the last thing and I find it quite a soothing, peaceful way to finish a make.

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There’s an option for a double binding at the neck which I used this time. I think I like it but it doesn’t sit flat like the usual method.

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It has a pretty hand-painted look to the design, the background colour is a little more Eau-de-Nil than it looks here. 

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Knowing me this probably still isn’t the last of Burda 6914. One thing I keep forgetting is that there’s slightly too much ease in the sleeve head and I have to adjust the armhole so just watch out for this.

Have you got a favourite quick pattern that you go back to time and again? This isn’t a taxing make and there are times when I think I should push myself more with more complex makes but this is a satisfying garment to wear which is why I keep returning to it.

Until next time,

Happy Sewing

Sue 

Visiting fabric shops in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire

In late 2017 I responded to an invitation/request on Instagram by Sewrendipity for bloggers to contribute to a project she wants to put together to collate information about fabric shops in as many areas or cities of as many countries as people care to add. If you don’t know Alex she was a contestant in Series 3 of the Great British Sewing Bee, and she’s passionate about sewing and dressmaking.

 Alex sewrendipity

It can be really difficult to know where fabric shops are around your area and even if you do know they’re there, are they worth visiting? I live just north of London so it’s not that difficult to go in to places like Liberty, The Cloth House, MacCullough & Wallis, Walthamstow market, Goldhawk Road and any number of other retailers. Googling doesn’t always shed much light on what you’re looking for so Alex’s idea of creating, over time, a go-to place for this information could be a big leap forward! It’s now live and you can now check it out here.

I don’t always want to go into London so I like to use shops and retailers that are in my own area. This isn’t an exhaustive list for my part of Hertfordshire and South Cambridgeshire by any means but it’s a few to give you an idea. I’ve been to some of them but not all so I’ll give more details for some than others but I hope overall it’s helpful. If you’ve got any other suggestions do let me know, you could add them in the comments at the end if you like. The list is in no particular order so don’t assume I’m putting them in order of my preference because I’m not. Please bear in mind I wrote this original post in late 2017 so not all the information will still be up to date. Please check the website for each shop for current information.

Escape and Create, St Ives, Cambs

This shop for dressmakers and crafters which had opened just one week before my visit in 2017.

Owner Julie Miles made me very welcome and was more than happy to share her vision for the shop, she has great plans and it will be lovely to see them unfolding over the coming months.IMG_4193

So far she has a small-ish but rapidly growing selection of printed and plain cottons, the Christmas fabrics were just being put out while I was there! There are some nice jerseys, fleece and plush fabrics too, and a selection of fat quarters as well. They don’t currently sell specific soft furnishing fabrics although they probably will eventually, they do offer furnishing-related courses though including lampshade-making, and roman blind and curtain making. The fabrics are beautifully displayed on ‘industrial-style’ metal and wood racking against an exposed brick wall, the effect is very striking and classy (when I saw a photo of it posted on Instagram before my visit I thought it was the newly refurbished Liberty fabric department!) fabrics are priced per metre. They don’t sell yarn or wool though.

The shop stocks a range of Indie patterns including Tilly and the Buttons, Cashmerette, Closet Case, Fancy Tiger Crafts, Sewaholic and Avid Seamstress at present, and the range will probably expand in the future. They carry a few of the major pattern books too including Burda.

You might be interested to know that Escape and Create offers a 10% discount if you have a valid membership card for the W.I. or Quilter’s Guild.

Escape and Create has a small but useful range of equipment and haberdashery, mostly essentials like needles, pins, unpickers, tailor’s chalk and markers etc. the Gutermann thread hadn’t arrived when I visited but I know it has now.

Upstairs there is a large bright room where all the classes will take place. It’s so spacious that it’s possible for 2 classes to go on at once if needs be. I was there on a sunny day but it would be a bright workspace even on a dull day. There is also more fabric up here but if you go in the next few weeks please be understanding because this is area is a ‘work in progress’.IMG_4185

Escape and Create has a good website https://www.escapeandcreate.co.uk (you can’t buy fabric through it yet but that will be coming) although Julie told me it will be having an update and refresh soon. The website carries a full list of all the classes they offer both in St Ives and several other locations in the area. Sewing machines are provided at St Ives if required or you can bring your own if you prefer. You can also find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

St Ives is a small attractive Cambridgeshire town and it took me an hour to drive from my home. I came a bit unstuck once I got there because parking was a bit tricky (I missed a sign to the public car park so I ended up in the main shopping area which has quaint and narrow streets and not meant for lost drivers like me!) Anyway, there is a public car park behind the shops so make sure you look out for the P sign shortly before you get to main shops. There’s also on-road parking but don’t rely on that on busy days, I had driven past the shop as I came in so at least I knew where I was heading once I’d parked!

Escape and Create is open Monday to Saturday but not Sunday or Thursday afternoon, which is the local half-day closing. Their address is

40a, The Broadway, St Ives, Cambs, PE27 5BN,

phone: 01480 300092,

email: escapeandcreateuk@gmail.com

In my opinion Escape and Create is a lovely, promising sewing shop in a nice location. It’s ‘bedding in’ at the moment so I would say if you want something specific then give them a ring first to check, it’s better to go at this stage with an open mind and just enjoy looking around. They have some lovely things already with more to come and the new shop has loads of potential to develop and I really hope sewers and crafters in the local, and wider, area support them so that they can flourish.

Backstitch at Burwash Manor.

Backstitch is an independent fabric and wool shop based in the village of Barton just outside Cambridge and as such you’ll need a car to get there. There’s plenty of free parking though and, because it’s based in several converted farm buildings, there are a number of other deli, plants and clothes outlets as well as a nice little tea room serving tea, coffee, cakes and light meals.IMG_4205

The shop itself is modestly sized (although it is now double to the size it was a year ago) and it’s light and bright with the fabrics well displayed. They carry a good range of quality modern printed and plain cottons, linens, jerseys, denims, some boiled wool and coat fabrics as well as interfacings and haberdashery. There’s also a small selection of furnishing fabrics.IMG_4203

They sell a large range of various indie pattern brands which are catalogued in a flip file so it makes it simpler to look through them rather than wade through masses of patterns. They sell an extensive range of haberdashery, sewing and crafting equipment too although not sewing machines. They also sell an expanding range of yarn, knitting and crochet patterns and equipment too.

Backstitch offers a variety of classes in dressmaking and crafting which are listed and bookable online via their excellent website http://www.backstitch.co.uk and they also sell their fabric online too.

I like the range of fabric they have on offer because it’s extensive enough without being too sprawling and unfocussed, the designs are well-considered and modern, or traditional with a twist but they have good basics too. One thing I noticed on my recent visit is that they have an impressive range of plain fabrics (not as crazy as that might sound, it can be really hard to find nice quality plain fabric to match a dizzying array of patterned ones!) These come in woven cottons, ponte roma jersey, lovely linens, sweat-shirting and ribbing, and craft felt by the metre.IMG_4204

The downside is that without a car it would be hard to visit….unless you can persuade a friend to drive you! It takes me around 45 minutes to drive there from my home but I generally come away with something nice…

I’ve written a review of them previously when I took a group of my sewing students for a visit last year and you can read about it here

Backstitch // Burwash Manor Barns  // New Road // Barton // Cambridge // CB23 7EY // 01223 778118

Normal Opening Hours: 

Mon – Sat: 10am – 5pm, Sun: 11am – 5pm

You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest too.

Crafty Angel, Buntingford

Craft Angel is primarily an online shop at present but the physical shop is open on Saturdays and Sundays 10am-4pm. This is because the owner, Angela, is still a full-time graphic designer who happens to have an absolute passion for fabrics and crafting!

I went for a visit and was given a lovely warm welcome by Angela, she really appreciates the fact that customers make a choice to visit because it isn’t on a high street. Crafty Angel is based on a working farm outside the village of Buntingford in Hertfordshire. I won’t lie, I went a bit adrift when I tried to find it because instead of trusting the map on their website I put the postcode into my Sat Nav and it took me all over the countryside but nowhere near where I wanted to be!! My advice is to stay on the A10 between Buntingford and Royston as instructed and then follow the turn off for Therfield and Sandon from this direction. There are then pink signs up to direct you towards the shop, it’s probably a mile or so and is a bit further than the map on their website makes it look but keep straight until a sharp right-hand bend in the lane and then you should see another pink sign to go straight on up a farm drive. Go to the right past the farm buildings and park in front of the shop.

Unit 2b
Hyde Hall Farm
Sandon
Buntingford
Hertfordshire
SG9 0RU

Mobile: 07973 877 028

Shop: 01763 271 991

Email: info@craftyangel.co.uk

The premises contains the shop and workroom combined with the tables in the centre, and shelves containing the stock are around the edges. Whilst not a huge space it is very pleasant and welcoming, the windows look out onto the yard. There is a kitchen onsite too so hot and cold food and drinks are possible if you’re there for a whole day course, subject to prior arrangement.

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aftermath of a busy day’s free-machine embroidery!

Crafty Angel has a modest but well-chosen and attractive range of good quality cottons, jerseys, denim and linens all priced by the half-metre. Have a look at their (not surprisingly) well designed website for full details of the brands they sell. They also stock a variety of Indie dress patterns too and a small range of haberdashery and equipment. Although cushion-cover making has been a class previously they only stock a very limited range of specific furnishing fabrics.IMG_4150

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fabrics and Gutermann threads on offer

Crafty Angel also has a modest range of qood quality yarn for knitting and crochet, with patterns available for inspiration, and classes too.

Amongst the workshops on offer are dressmaking, free-machine embroidery, applique and even umbrella-making! [I really like the sound of that!] Ange plans to offer more courses over time, you can always contact her to see if it’s possible to tailor-make (sorry) a class to your needs.IMG_4152

I would say it’s best to ring first if you’re making a visit if you want something specific but otherwise it’s a nice place to drop in at a weekend, and Pixel the dog is bound to be delighted to see you too!

The website is https://www.craftyangel.co.uk and you can follow them on Instgram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest too.

Fashion N Fabrics, St Albans

This shop was first opened 45 years ago but at the moment it’s future is in the balance because the lady who started it recently passed away and so it is up to her family if it will continue as a fabric shop. Efforts are being made to find a buyer so we’ll have to see. Since the summer of 2018 it is under new ownership, still as a fabric shop, although I haven’t had a chance to visit yet.

In truth, the shop had a lot of stock but much of it wouldn’t appeal to a modern dressmaker. It was geared more towards quilting, patchwork and crafting and so there is an abundance of printed cottons better suited for these. They also have jerseys (mixed quality, some reasonable, some less so) and fleece (some quite nice ones for children) There are currently some tweeds and brushed cottons which would be good for autumn/winter projects, they sell lining too. There are plain and printed poly/cottons and a few satin and moire-type fabrics used for bridalwear. There are some printed viscoses in jazzy designs too, along with interfacings and quilting supplies.

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This was me at the shop meeting fellow sewer and Instagrammer Ruth who lives nearby.

There is a varied selection of haberdashery and equipment in the shop including zips, Gutermann thread, ribbons, trims, buttons etc, and they sell big-brand patterns but not Indie ones. They don’t sell sewing machines.

They have quite a large selection of wool and knitting patterns but these tend towards the more ‘traditional’ shall we say.

The thing with Fashion N Fabrics is that it’s got stuck and not moved with the times or the newer generation of sewers so it feels very muddled, cluttered and quite dated which is a real shame because it could be trading on its 45 year history and attracting younger sewers and riding the crest of the ‘Sewing Bee’ wave. All the staff are knowledgable and obviously keen for the shop to continue, and I know they’ve been having a sort-out recently and unearthed long-forgotten gems!

There is a website but it isn’t much use because it’s really only a collection of pictures and some background on the shop, with the address and phone number etc. They’ve only been accepting credit cards in the last year or so too!

I hope this doesn’t sound like a hatchet job because it really isn’t meant to be but in order for me to include it here I need to be truthful about what to expect from it at the moment. Definitely go for a visit if you’re in the area, it’s in a part of St Albans called Marshallswick on Beech Rd, there is free parking on the road and in front of the shop. There’ll be a bus route nearby too although I don’t know what number it would be, sorry.

You can find the shop at 24, Beech Rd, St Albans, AL3 5AS

Telephone: 01727 865038

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm, except Thursday 9am-1pm (although this may not be correct because I don’t think the website has been updated for quite a while, best to ring first)

Email: shop@fashion-n-fabrics.com

website: www.fashion-n-fabrics.com

Finally, my local shop is a branch of John Lewis, Welwyn. It’s a pretty good-sized department with a wide selection of fabrics including the usual printed cottons, viscose, jerseys and linings as well as woollens (suiting, coating etc) evening and bridal fabrics including sequins and lace. They offer a wide range of trims, haberdashery, threads, zips etc and equipment although this does feel reduced from what it used to be, annoyingly you can’t buy ribbon by the metre, just on rolls. Most lace and trims are still by the metre though. They have a range of sewing machines mainly Janome, Brother and their own brand [I think each branch might have different models in stock though so definitely check with the store if you’re making a special visit to view or buy] The regular department staff are very helpful and knowledgeable but because it’s a department store you can’t always guarantee that the sales assistant is a regular who knows what they’re talking about, or being asked about! the range of patterns is very limited now to just Vogue and New Look, they also have a few Tilly and the Buttons but not the full range. They sell Adjust-o-form mannequins too.

There’s some free parking on the street outside or a number of town centre car parks, and there is also a mainline railway station [Welwyn Garden City not Welwyn North] and a number of bus routes come into the town centre too.

Address: Bridge Road, Welwyn G.C. Herts, AL8 6TP

Telephone: 01707 323456

Their opening hours are currently Monday to Saturday 9am-7pm except Thursday 9am-8pm and Sunday 11am-5pm (10.30am for browsing)

The website is www.johnlewisplc.com you can find a map with directions on there. There is also a branch in Cambridge which stocks fabrics.

So that’s my list of fabric retailers that I’ve actually visited in my area. In addition to this there is a stall in Hitchin market who have a range of fabrics including the usual printed cottons and poly/cottons plus furnishing fabrics and oilcloth. He often has a number of bolt-ends or sample lengths which he’s bought from clothing manufacturers and I’ve found a few gems amongst them in the past. He’s definitely there on Saturdays and possibly Tuesday and Thursday but because it’s an outdoor market this might vary. By the way, he can be a bit grumpy but he’s ok if you smile! There are various car parks in the area as well as some street parking. The town has a railway station (10-15 minute walk into town) and is well-served by buses. There is also a good haberdashery stall run by Kim Keeping and from September 7th 2018 she will have a shop premises nearby in 34, Bucklesbury.

There is also a stall in Stevenage Indoor Market but I haven’t visited it personally. It isn’t open every day though [Wed-Sat only] I’m told it stocks a good range of specialist dance, stretch and lycra-type fabrics.

Among other shops in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire that I haven’t visited but have been told about are Needlecraft in Hemel Hempstead. It has a comprehensive website which seems up to date and interactive so I might try and get over there sometime.

In Hertford is the Hertford Craft Centre which has a website but it doesn’t look like the information is very up to date. I know the opening hours are a bit hit-and-miss, supposedly you ring a bell and someone comes to let you in. However a friend tried to visit recently but waited in vain to be let in, disappointing as she’d made a special trip based on website info.

There is a shop in Ely to called Sew Much to Do (great name!) which again I haven’t had a chance to visit. It doesn’t have it’s own website though, the website address directs you to a Facebook page. They are on Instagram though https://www.intagram.com/sewmuchtodoely

In Cambridge there are two other stores, The Cambridge Fabric Company at 7, Peas Hill, Cambridge, CB2 3PP and Sew Creative at King St, Cambridge although they are both quite small.

[Right off territory is Anglian Fashion Fabrics in Norwich which I visited recently-great shop, definitely worth seeking out if you’re in the area!]

You might be aware of other shops or retailers in this area of the country, we aren’t hugely well served for fabric shops without going into London I don’t think. The retailers I’ve talked about are ones I’ve shopped in or know about already, let me know if there’s a good one near you so we can all share the information, or if you think I’ve misrepresented a shop I’ve mentioned above. I’ve tried to be fair and honest but as I’ve not been paid to do these reviews so I want to speak as I find. I know trading is incredibly hard though so I don’t want to be overly harsh, the shop I was working at in Hertford ‘The Creative Sanctuary’ sadly closed at the end of September 2017 so we all need to try and support bricks-and-mortar stores as much as we can. That said, they have to sell what customers want and give excellent customer service otherwise we won’t go back or spread positive vibes about them.

Since September 2019 a new fabric and knitting shop ‘Stitch and Knit’ has opened in Brookmans Park in Hertfordshire. It stocks a range of fabrics suitable for quilting, patchwork, dressmaking and crafting along with haberdashery and Simplicity and Burda patterns. There are also yarns and patterns suitable for knitting and crochet, plus trims and embellishments. There will be classes suitable for children and adults in sewing, crafting, knitting and crochet. The website is under construction and the contact details are 91, Station Close, Brookmans Park, Herts, AL9 7QT, telephone 01707 518966   

Plenty there to keep you busy! New places to visit, or ones to revisit maybe. Let me, or Alex, know if there are others you think could be added, I bet there are. You might fancy compiling a list for where you live for others to use too.

Happy Sewing

Sue

Imogen blouse from Sew Me Something

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This has become one of my favourite patterns this summer because I’ve made 3 now and I only bought it in March at the Spring Knitting and Stitching show! What I like about it is it’s beautiful simplicity with just a bit of detail on the neckline. Sew Me Something are based in Stratford Upon Avon and designer Jules sells lovely fabrics, teaches classes as well as producing a range of very wearable pattern designs. Whilst I haven’t been able to visit the shop, I’ve met Jules a number of times now at various shows in London. I admire her personal style and we have similarities in our work background, I used to work in high-end bridal and evening wear too…back in the day.

After I bought the pattern in March I made the first one in a slubby white poly/cotton (I think) origin unknown as a wearable toile. Rather than cut up the pattern I traced it off onto Swedish tracing paper which is stronger than regular tracing paper. I’m not always in the habit of tracing patterns off (especially if they’re tissue paper anyway) but, perhaps bizarrely, when it’s good quality paper I often do. I was short of fabric so the back had to have a seam in it but that wasn’t a problem. The instruction booklet is clear and well illustrated, the only possibly tricky part of the design is the notch neck front but following it slowly and methodically it works a treat. I’ve photographed my most recent version which hopefully makes it clear if you’re reading this as a bit of help.fullsizeoutput_1f97fullsizeoutput_1f98fullsizeoutput_1f9afullsizeoutput_1f9bfullsizeoutput_1f9c

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sorry this one’s a bit blurry 😦

Once you have the placket pieces overlapping I stitch through all the layers at the bottom to secure them, then I zigzag the edge to neaten them (easier than trying to put such a tiny piece underneath the overlocker.IMG_3993

Finally ‘stitch in the ditch’ carefully from the front to hold the placket in place.IMG_3995

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Oops, got that bit caught! annoying but easily rectified.

With my first plain white version I followed the balance marks for the gathering but actually I felt the gathers looked too spread out so when I made my second version (and now the third!) I’ve condensed the gathering into smaller areas on the front, shoulders and centre back which I’m happier with.

Another thing I like is the instruction to sew hems separately before joining the side seams. This sounds a small thing but because the hem is dipped and rises at the side seams it means you get a much neater finish at the side seams-genius!

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I sewed the sides with French seams so it super-neat inside. I’ve used contrast yellow on the hem too.

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I’ve noticed I always wear my gorgeous ‘bee’ necklace from Alex Monroe with Imogen because the notch shows it off so well. I’m wearing one of my Zierstoff Gina skirts and you can read the blog about those here.

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Autumn leaves at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire.

My second version was made using the gorgeous coral lightweight linen I bought from Jules with the pattern in March.

 

I’ve made all my versions with the longer length sleeve with loose elasticated cuff, you could obviously make them tighter but I prefer them like this.

I wore the coral top to the Sewing Weekender in August and it got plenty of compliments (and obviously I told everyone what the pattern was, although several people recognised it straight away)

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Hard at work (photo credit Charlotte Powell at English Girl at Home)

The jolly fabric for my newest version came from the swap hosted by The Foldline at the recent Great British Sewing Bee Live, it’s a sharp contrast to the plain fabric of the first two that’s for sure! Thanks Kate, hope you like what I’ve done with it…

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I look a bit crumpled after all that shopping and chatting at GBSB Live…I’ve made it to the cover of Love Sewing….well, nearly 😉

What I’ve loved about this top is how comfortable it’s been in warm weather, and the details are pretty but understated-a trademark of Sew Me Something patterns to be honest. I know I’ve made 3 but I reckon there’ll be more, it would be gorgeous in a silk chiffon or crepe de Chine, or fine wool challis for example. You could add a trim to the neck, in the seam perhaps or beadwork perhaps? This third version I’ve cut a little longer than the previous two simply because I had plenty of fabric. I’m going to layer it up in the winter with a long-sleeved tee underneath. Another thing I like about this brand is that the sizing is for real women and goes right up to a 22-not all independent companies have this range and I’m not sure why.  and that seems a shame.

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I lengthened this version by 4cms simply because I had plenty of fabric. If your fabric is wide enough to fold the selvedges to the centre it’s an economic way of cutting out, it also gives you the ability to line up elements of the print so they run pleasingly around the body (always a dead giveaway of cheap RTW clothes)

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I finished the inside neckline this time with a bit of soothing slip-hemming.

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Number 3 finished!

 

I want to stress that I bought my own copy of the pattern and the fabric so any opinions expressed are entirely my own. I’m trying out a few trouser patterns lately (more on that to follow in a few weeks) so I’m tempted to try one of Sew Me Something’s trouser patterns in the future but there’s a long Autumn sewing list to work through before I buy anything more….famous last words!

Happy sewing

Sue

 

Here be dragons!

At last year’s Sewing Weekender I picked up an interesting piece of fabric from the swap table. It was about 1m80 of printed cotton by Alexander Henry, a design called Tatsu and featuring Chinese-style dragons and printed in shades of grey and black with red. It’s not my usual colours or style but something about it appealed to me so I kept it. Thank you whoever donated it!IMG_3517

Initially I thought I’d make a kimono top with it but I realised that the placement of the dragons was such that I’d struggle to cut one out of the small quantity I had, not because there wasn’t enough but simply because I wouldn’t be able to get the dragons to match and look balanced-I didn’t want wonky dragons! So even though I’d washed it ready it languished in my stash for a year, although I did get it out several times to consider a dirndl skirt. Again it was the issue of having the dragons running around the skirt properly and not wonky. Incidentally, a dirndl is the name for a simple gathered or pleated skirt which is purely widths of fabric stitched together along the selvedges and sewn at the top to a waistband and hemmed at the bottom, it doesn’t have any shaping at all.

In the end I took the bull by the horns and worked out where the dragons would be on the front and, having bravely cut that piece, I was able to cut the back so that the two pieces matched at the side seams. In order for there to be a good pattern-match down each side seam there was a wider than usual seam allowance..

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I didn’t trim off the excess simply because it was the selvedge and therefore neat anyway.

I needed to insert an invisible zip into the other side seam  which taxed my brain and my sewing skills a bit but I was extremely pleased with the result-I didn’t even have to unpick anything, it was right first time!! Get in!

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This is the zip after I’d attached the waistband, there’s a large hook and bar under the overlap which I like better than a button and buttonhole.

I made a fairly narrow waistband which I stiffened with iron-on interfacing and then pleated the skirt onto it. I wanted the fabric to lay fairly flat as I’ve got a bit of a tummy these days (sad face) and bulky gathers would be very unflattering. I didn’t use any particular mathematical calculations to achieve this, I just folded and fiddled until I was happy with the look.

Because some of the dragon’s faces are quite close to the bottom edge I decided to hem it with  bias binding for a neat finish without losing any of the design.

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The added benefit of slip-hemming meant there is no visible stitching showing on the right side.

So there it is, a simple dirndl skirt using just 2 widths of fabric. It’s one of the simplest sorts of skirt you can make and works well for any length. Depending on the type of fabric you may need more widths to make the skirt look good though. For example, if you want to use chiffon or georgette, which are quite fine, you’d almost certainly need 3, 4 or even more widths of fabric to make it look effective and not to ‘skimped’, Conversely, thicker fabrics will need less if they aren’t going to be unflatteringly bulky. I didn’t bother lining this skirt although I often do. If you don’t need to consider extreme pattern-matching this is a super-quick skirt to make and you can gussy it up with pockets, trims, exposed zips, whatever, to make it individual. Take a look at my previous blog with the tie waist here if you want another variation.

Just a short blog this time, lots to get on with…

Happy Sewing,

Sue

 

Making a dirndl skirt with a sash belt…and no zip!

I’ve started working recently with The Creative Sanctuary sewing and knitting shop in Hertford and they asked me if I could run a class for a gathered skirt using the lovely border-print cotton they stock from Michael Miller fabrics. First I had to make a sample and this is how I did it.

Because the fabric has the border printed along one edge you should buy the quantity of fabric you want according to the fullness you’d like, for this particular version I used 2 metres which is quite full, but anything over 1m would be ok unless you have a large waist measurement (you don’t want it to look skimped so don’t be too stingy with the quantity)

First of all you need to decide how long you want the skirt to be when it’s finished and then add seam allowances top and bottom [for example 65cms plus 1.5cms plus 1.5cms =68cms] Because the print ran right to the selvedge I didn’t want to turn this up for the hem and lose some of it so I chose to add a facing instead. This facing is 6cms in length but you could make it longer or shorter as you wish.

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working out the length from the selvedge so the hem is to the left and the waist is to the right in this photo.

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draw a line parallel to the selvedge.

Next, if you’re having a hem facing decide how deep it will be, plus seam allowances, and draw that immediately next to and parallel to the first line. Finally draw a third parallel line which will be the waist sash, this should be at least 12-14cms deep including the SA.

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This shows the cut skirt, the sash and the hem facing.

To begin with take the hem facing piece and press under 1cm all the way along one long edge then pin the unpressed edge to the bottom hem edge of the skirt, right sides together.

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The hem facing pinned and ready to stitch in place.

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Facing being sewn into position.

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next I under-stitched the facing using a contrast colour. The fabric is still flat at this stage, the seam will come later.

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I overlocked the raw edges that would become the seam, and then ran two rows of gathering stitches all along the top edge of the skirt. These should be the longest straight stitch your machine will do, they should be 5mm and 1cm approx from the cut edge and parallel to it, within the seam allowance. I always do a backstitch at one end but not the other so that I have something to pull up against.

Now make the only side seam. Leave an opening at the top for the waist of between 15-20cms, topstitch around the edge of it to stop it unfurling.

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After this I applied some iron-on interfacing to the waistband sash but only on the middle section for the waist, not the tie ends.

Now, when I made the sample I made the tie ends on the sash first then attached it too the gathered up skirt section, and that’s the process the photos are of. However when I ran the class I did it differently and it was a bit simpler so I’ll use the photos because they are the only ones I have but describe both methods as best I can.

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To make the tie ends first place a piece of tape or ribbon or even piping cord along the centre line of the fabric and pin it at the narrow end. Make sure it’s well away from the edge you’ll be sewing because you don’t want to accidentally sew though it.

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Fold the tie in half wrong sides together as normal, enclosing the tape.

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Stitch up in the usual way checking occasionally that you’re not sewing through the tape.

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trim the corner neatly at an angle to reduce bulk. If the tie is quite narrow you might want to trim the seam allowance down a little.

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Now’s the good bit! gently pull the tape and the end of the tie will start to come through. You’ll need to wiggle the end a little bit to get the corners out but persevere

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keep pulling…!

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Eventually the end will pop out. Cut off the tape neatly, you may need to make good the ends by hand if there’s any gaps in the stitching.

So that’s the tie ends if you make them first. When I ran the class I attached the waist band to the gathered up waist first and THEN made the ties in situ.

The gathers should now be pulled up to your own waist measurement plus a few centimetres for ease, you don’t want it too tight or the gap won’t close up nicely-there’s no zip after all and you don’t want your pants showing!

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Pull up the gathering threads. You can see the neatened waist opening in this photo too.

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When you’ve pulled up enough wind the threads in a figure of 8 around a pin which is at a right angle to the stitching.

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Adjust the gathers so that they are evenly distributed.

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When you’re happy with the distribution stitch in position (remember to put your stitch length back to normal!) you might need to tweak the gathers a bit as you go so don’t rush.

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Fold the waistband in half, press. Then press under the open edge of the waistband by 1.5cms

If you’re doing the waistband first, now you can make the ties using the method I’ve described above and then finish with the section below to enclose the waistband.

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From the front, pin the waistband in position through the join.

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This is what the pinning should look like from the reverse-the idea is to sew it as closely as the this!! The reality might not be quite so accurate!

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I always knew this as ‘sink’ stitching because the stitches ‘sink’ into the seam but at some point it’s become known as ‘stitch in the ditch’…same thing though! Take your time and you’ll get good results.

Nearly there…just the hem to do.

Turn up the hem facing along the seam which should turn quite crisply because you’ve already under stitched it [do that at this point if you didn’t do it earlier] Finally top stitch the hem facing in position. I chose a matching grey for the outside and a coral colour for the underside. Of course you could slip hem it by hand if you wish. To close up the side seam opening I used a few small press studs, I think they stay closed better than hooks and eyes.

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One finished skirt! You can see that by using a facing the whole of the print runs right to the hem, those leaves would have been lost if I’d rolled the hem up instead. You don’t have to make the facing this deep though, the choice is yours.

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The ties are nice and long and make a lovely bow.

I made this version using a border print fabric but you could just as easily make it in any suitable fabric, although you may need to cut it across the width of the fabric rather than along it depending on the print. You could add patch pockets as well if you like.

I’m leading the class again on Monday 17th July 1.30-4.30pm so what are you waiting for?! Full details of other classes I’ll be teaching are on Creative Sanctuary’s website now.

Very sadly, since I made the sample, the owners of the shop have made the incredibly hard decisison to close in September. This means yet another bricks-and-mortar fabric and knitting store will cease to exist. I’ve so enjoyed my brief time with them, and getting to know the lovely and talented ladies that work there, it’s a very sad thing that that’s happening.

I was provided with fabric to make the sample but the method is my own devising (faults  and all!)

Happy Sewing!

Sue