list of additional pages, click on any one to view

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

How to make a satin Burda shift dress, and altering a pattern

This post shows you how I altered the pattern to make this stunning satin dress
Now that we have made the test garment, worn it, lived in it, loved it, it is time to make the real garment in a more expensive fabric.
I wore my tester for a few days, I love it! I tried sitting in it, it does not pull anywhere and is comfortable when sitting down. I bent down in it, the length is just right.
So, I am happy with the style and the fit. I made some minor adjustments to the paper pattern, you must see my previous post for more details on how to do that, but please read through it again. It seems a pain, but I do this frequently with new patterns, it saves a lot of heartache. I can then more or less whizz through the actual garment, although you do need to check the fit from time to time.

I cut out the front and back both in the main fabric and also in a black satin lining.
The main fabric is a beautiful heavy green satin.

I wanted to include short sleeves. The pattern includes a short sleeved coat but the dress is sleeveless.

I compared the front and back coat to those of the dress and realised that by making just a couple of tiny adjustments to the sleeve it would fit the dress perfectly.
Although I prefer side zips, this dress called for a back zip. I also prefer concealed zips, but because of the parkinson's they can proove hard for me to pull up. Instead therefore I chose a centered back zipper. If you are not familiar with how to put one in do let me know and I will demonstrate.

We are getting ahead of ourselves though!
Make up the body of the dress as in the test dress, stitching the fronts to the front top, the backs to the back top as before. This time stitch the shoulder seams.
At this stage I overlock every seam. And I do mean every seam, including the back seam top to bottom as it is easier to do this first before the zipper goes in. I even neaten all the seams which will be enclosed within linings.

Apart from the back seam I overlock the other seam edges, before you touch the back seam overlock both centre backs without cutting away any of the seam allowance.

When I looked at the fabric I liked the look of the inside which has a satin finish just like the right side.
I therefore cut the fabric out so that the stripes on the inside would all match up. You might be thinking that I am bonkers for going to so much trouble, but I insist that my garments are just as nice on the inside as the are on the outside.  I know only I will see it, but it really does matter to me.  
You can put the zipper in now. To do this stitch the back seam to where the zipper will end. Then baste the rest of the seam and press open.
Right side down and with a zipper foot attach the zip,

This is the zipper going in.

This is the inside,(above ) dont you agree that it looks nice with the pattern matching on the inside. As an added bonus a lining to the skirt is not necessary.
I cut out top facings in black satin. Stitch the shoulder and side seams and press. Right sides together stitch around the neckline. Trim and clip the seam so that it will turn out properly

When it is turned out, ie the facing turned to the inside, hand tack around the neckline, tack around the sleeves by machine within the seam allowance.

Don't you agree that the inside is starting to look good too?

Now for the sleeves. All I needed to do was to increase the seam allowance on the sleeve seam! Easy!
When you have done that, run a row of long machine stitches within the seam allowance and use them to ease the sleeve into the opening. Careful not to get any pleats or gathers! It should be smooth.
After machining the sleeve in place, overlock the seam.
There we will leave it for this evening.
Next time I need to finish stitching the bodice facing in place,and do the bottom and sleeve hems etc.

Hello again,
We need to finish off the lining first of all.simply turn up the seam allowance and slip stitch it to the dress at the seam not let your stitches show on the right side.
Slip stitch the sides to the zipper tape and add a hook and eye.
Neaten the hem and sleeve hems by overlocking then turn up to the required length. Either hand sew the hems in place invisibly or use machine stitching whichever is your preference.
A final check for loose threads, a final press, and voila, all done!
This dress was made much easier and quicker because I took time to make and wear the test muslin first and to make alterations to the paper pattern before cutting the new dress out.

I hope that you enjoy this blog, do let me know, your feedback is appreciated



When you make a garment you really ought to make up a muslin first. A muslin is a test garment on which you make any adjustments before transferring them to the pattern for use when making up the real thing. On the muslin, pockets, facings, trimmings ae all left out so that what you are actually making is the shell  of the garment with no embellishments.
The trouble with muslin, although cheap,is that it does not give and move with you, so what I like to do is to make a wearable muslin.
Choose a nice but inexpensive fabric, cut out the main pattern pieces only.

This is my pattern and the fabric which I intend to eventually make it up in.

I am going to make the shift dress from the second pattern

The fabrics I have chosen are an orange cotton with linen and a similar weight printed cotton. I have yet to decide properly which garment is to be made in what  combination of fabrics.
I will be making the shift dress, the short jacket plus a pair of trousers from another pattern.

Back to our wearable muslin.

I have chosen this printed cotton, and because I will want to actually wear it I have cut out lining pieces for the bodice but not the skirt.i want to wear it on holiday so a lining is not needed. They are not normally included in a fitting muslin anyway because you do not want to spend too much time on it.

Monday, 29 December 2014

How to Sew a Simplicity 1960s style dress

This is a pattern which was given in SEW magazine a couple of months ago. It is Simplicity K1609.

The pattern is a simple shift style which became popular in the 1960s. 
After the austerity of earlier years fashion for the young suddenly became fun and young designers, boutiques and fun fashion, heralded the start of the swinging 60s. 
The key look of the period was mini skirts and short A-line dresses and coats. Graphic  prints were used to create a strong look. It was during this period that tights came into being, so now that young women were free of stockings skirts could become shorter and shorter. 
Boutiques were a new way of shopping for clothes, they were dark and mysterious with loud music playing, sales staff wore the clothes they were selling and chatted about fashion passionately. 
Mary Quant was a pioneer in fashion and she desIgned dresses which were very short, with zips down the front with a circular pull-ring. She used a new fabric called courtelle, one of the first synthetic materials used in fashion.
Of course we cannot mention the 60s without paying homage to Twiggy probably the most famous fashion model of all time.Her waif like figure epitomises the era and the total change in how women looked and dressed. This was the age when fashion was
young and fun, and girls dressed for themselves not as copies of their mothers.

How to make a lined Simplicity shift dress

How to make a shift dress,

I have already made one version of this dress in 1960s style. I think that this style is so easy to wear on holiday that I wanted to make a couple more of them.
This is the previous version in silk fabric

I have some fine cotton lawn and I thought that it would be perfect for this style. It is however quite sheer so I decided to line it.

The pattern is the same as the 1960s style dress  Simplicity K1609. I am however going to make some alterations to the pattern
Firstly I want to lose the back zip and put a zipper in the side seam instead. Now you cannot just swop zip placements as you please without thinking about it carefully.  Because I have made this dress before, and because I made a muslin first I know without any doubt that moving the zip will work.
You also must consider if by moving the zip to the side willmit go over your head? What I did was to lower the neckline by about an inch to make sure it did!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

How I made sewing machine covers and accessories

Now that I finally have my own sewing room I want to add pretty accessories. I could never have them before. You know how it is, everything has to be cleared away at meal times because you have been sewing on the dining table. Well, now that my son has left home I can leave everything out.
There was a pattern in my SEW magazine which has given me lots of ideas.

Once I have cut the pattern pieces out for the sewing machine cover and overlocker cover I will be able to compare them to the actual machines and make any adjustments necessary. My sewing machine already has a hard plastic cover which I want to keep so I rather think that I will be using it to cut a template to make a cover which will fit over that.
I want to make the lovely accessory holders to go under the machines, but may let the one for the overlocker serve as a catcher for the excess fabric which the machine cuts off in use. I like to adapt patterns as I go and that is the beauty of making things yourself, nobody tells you what to do, what colour to choose,  all the decisions are yours, you can make everything to suit your own personality and style. Thats what I do with the garments I make, they are all individual and I am never slavish,  even to a sewing pattern.

 I looked in my stash of fabrics, these are all smaller pieces of around half a meter which will be perfect. The only problem I can see is in choosing which ones to pick! I do have plenty of clothes to sew but I think it is nice to make something pretty and practical which will make the room a joy to use. I will just choose as I go along I think, in my usual manner.
So, thats me busy for the rest of the evening, I will be sitting cutting pattern pieces out!


I started with this one, only because it is the largest.
I looked through my fabrics and chose coordinating colours, all cotton . I must admit that I was glad that I have a lot of short lengths of fabric available!
I think that the beauty of making something yourself is that you can make it exactly as you want it, so I included some lace and added lots of pockets for accessories. I did a little bit of quilting here and there too.

There is a very large pocket on the front which I decorated with bands of fabric as the pattern suggests, but added some lace instead of the fabric triangles on the pattern.  I made this first, lined it and then attached it to the front piece.

This is the front with the pocket in place.  It is large enough to hold the foot pedal easily

The front shows the different fabrics and how they coordinate. 

The sides also have pockets to hold the instruction book and other accessories.

It took longer to make than expected , about four hours non-stop.   And as I said, it used a lot of fabric and wadding.
Now that I have made one item I cannot wait to get in with the rest of the items!

I totally remade the overlocker cover because it seemed to large and floppy. I alterd it to remove some of the bulk and there was another problem too, the cotton lining was pulling on the threads and you know how time consuming it is to re-thread it every time you want to use it. In the end I cut out a new lining in a showerproof material. Problem solved!

 The next thing I wanted to make was a mat to protect the table which would also catch all the bits of fabric and thread removed by the overlocker. I cut out a mat shape from the pattern and cut out one side in cotton the other in the showerproof fabric, and put wadding between. I overlocked around the edge and added a pocket, lined with the showerproof fabric to collect the waste in.i have to admit it works a treat!

The next job was to make a cover for tne sewing machine, I made it using tne original cover as a template and glued one half of velcro to the machine and stitched the other side to the cover to hold it in place. I then made another mat to protect the table.

Now both my machines are protected from dust and it will be much better for them

The sewing machine cover has a flap which covers the foot pedal pocket, it fastens with velcro

My sewing machine and accessories are from Jaycotts,

  Between them sits my Daschund pin cushion keeping guard.

I thought I would show you more of the room, in the corner is my tailors dummy with a lavender bag hanging from the wardrobe

On tne bed are two cushions which I made using applique which I enjoy doing as you will know if you have looked at my page "how to make a tie and bow tie"

I am happy now that the room looks neat, it is certainly practical.

Please let me have your comments, I would love to hear from you


Added on 16 may 2015

I was getting frustrated at not being able to find scissors and so on, and of having sewing threads all over the floor, so in a matter of minutes I made these

They  are so essy to make. You need some RIGILENE plastic boning.
take a strip of fabric, fold the top over some Rigilene, stitch down to make a hem. For the scissor  holder stitch elastic on top, catching it down at one inch intervals. 
Stitch the side seam, it will form itself into a circle. Gather the lower end and fasten securely, machining over the gathers on the inside. 
Attach a strip of fabric for a handle, I then stitched mine to the sewing machine mat.
SEW easy!

Saturday, 16 August 2014


I was looking through my copy of Make do and mend issued by the ministry of information and it set me thinking.

First issued in 1943 it was written in order to show us how to get every single ounce of use out of our clothes and household items. Whilst I do not entirely advocate every single suggestion in the book could we all not do more to recycle, upcycle, mend, renovate?
For example do you throw good shoes away instead of having them mended or died or whatever?
Do you throw old T shirts away instead of cutting them up for dusters and polishing rags?
Reading the book reminded me of the importance of not putting away an item of clothing or footwear until it has been aired or cleaned. Coats put away whilst still damp take on a musty smell.
New garments can be made from old - your winter coat can be unpicked,the parts cleaned or washed carefully and be remade into skirts, childrens clothes etc using the wrong side of the fabric as the new front side.
Take the sleeves out of a shirt you do not wear any more, make a bow from the sleeves  to tie around the neck and give it a new lease of life!
I quite often visit charity shops where curtains and bedding can be bought for next to nothing, the material can then be cut up for cushion covers or used for patchwork.  These fabrics are perfect to make toilles or muslins out of. And why not save your clothes from spills and make yourself a pretty cooking apron?
For example, i had a dress which just did not suit me. Rather then throw it out I cut it apart, pressed it, kept the lining for another project and made this pretty shell top from the skirt fabric.

So, although I no longer have the dress, I do now have a top which I love and which will get worn, the dress was just taking up space, and I never felt good in it anyway.

Some of the book is dedicated to knitting. I doubt that I would ever unravel knitwear and make fair isle pullovers well, you might,but those of you who know me are fully aware that I am still knitting a cardigan I started four years ago, so that is just never going to happen,but i have cut up jumpers to make fingerless gloves, I  have chopped them up to use as stuffing and i have embelished jumpers and cardigans with beading, buttons, crochet  collars. Have you seen my post on how to make a too small jumper into a cardigan?

This again was a garment I could never wear, now it is my favourite cardigan!

Another point I want to make is this. How many times have you bought a sewing pattern, made it up and it did not fit? How did you choose the size? Did you buy your normal dress size and hope it would fit?  Clothes you buy in shops have changed in size and shape over the years and todays size 12 dress would bear no resemblance to a size 12 in 1960 for example. Unfortunately whilst ready made fasion has changed, commercial patterns mostly have not. I know i have mentioned this before but do cut out a pattern to your actual measurements as printed on the pattern envalope, ignore your normal dress size. Dont forget there are no size lables in your own makes! Any garment made exactly to fit you personally  will look and feel great,and  in this instance size (label) does not matter!

It really does pay to be thrifty with your clothes, I personally have not bought a hand made garment for over a year now, and I doubt that I ever will again, i love my hand made clothes so much more.

I hope you have found this interesting,  do keep your comments coming in, and tell me your thrifty tips.