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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

How I made cushions, curtains and a roller blind

This post is continuing from a previous post entitled "curtains, cushions and chairs Click here to view the post

As you know I am having a very short break from sewing clothes and replacing the soft furnishings in my home.

I recently went to the secret sale at Abakhan Fabrics Click here to go to Abakhan.Co. uk , and bought several rolls of fabric. Among the items purchased was a roll of this beautiful heavy cotton furising fabric, the whole roll of it did not cost much more than the price per meter!

I started by cutting the largest items out first, which were the curtains. If you have never made curtains before it is so easy you will wonder why you ever bought them!
there are many ways of making a pair of curtains, but if you have never made them before I suggest that you buy a patterned fabric and make them unlined.
If you have curtains already in place then take them down and measure them. You will need to buy enough fabric to make a pair of curtains and you need to add three inches  or so at the top for a hem, and at least four inches at the bottom for another hem. You will also need to buy ruflette tape to go along the top. Buy double the width of your curtain fabric.
Cut your fabric out and hem the sides. Turn the top hem down and press. Pin your ruflette tape along the top, covering the raw edge of the fabric. You will notice that there are strings I  the tape, this is so that you can gather the top, make sure these are free and tie the ends together so that they do not come out when you start to gather them.Machine the top and bottom of the tape.
At this stage it is a good idea to press them and then hang them to see if the fabric will relax and drop before you hem them. Once you are satisfied with the length then go ahead and machine sew a double hem. See, I told to how simple they are!

My curtains are lined with an attached lining - you can make a loose lining if you prefer. I am not one for fussy tie backs I must admit, but I do see the usefulness  of them when the window is open and it is windy, I do not want my new curtains blowing around outside!

I made these really simple tie backs by measuring the length I wanted, cutting out the fabric and very stiff interfacing and sewing them into a long rectangle. I added hoops at the end and hooks on the wall. And there they are, simple tie backs!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Curtains, Cushions and Chairs, My sewing room

How I updated my sewing room.

It is that time of year when it seems pointless making any more new summer garments but too soon to be thinking about winter, so I am turning my attention to soft furnishings.

There are two rooms which I want to update, my sewing room and the lounge and kitchen. An easy way to do it is by replacing the soft furnishings.

I wanted to start with the sewing room because it is where I spend my evenings and it is important to me to have everything to hand and orderly.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

My top ten tips for wonderful results

These are my top tips for producing a wonderful garment which fits well and is a joy to wear. 

  1. When purchasing your pattern ignore your ready to wear dress size! take your measurements and cut out the size which best corresponds with them. Do not be alarmed if you need to go up a few sizes. ready to wear sizes change constantly, patterns do not.                                                                                                    
  2. Press and shrink your fabric if necessary before cutting out, and then pin the selvedges together                                                              

  3. lay the pattern pieces on the correct grainline which is clearly marked on the pattern piece                                                                                                                            
  4. Transfer all pattern markings onto the fabric. I use tailors tacks or chalk. Wash away and air-erasable pens are popular but use them with caution  as the marks can easily become permanent. Dressmakers tracing paper and a tracing wheel can be used on thick fabrics so long as the marks do not show on the right side of the fabric                                                                                                                               
  5. Leave extra seam allowances when cutting out to allow for adjustments. This works well on side seams and waistbands                                                                        

  6. tack the garment together before machining anything. This not only gives you the chance to fit it correctly but is where you can be creative and add your own design touches                               
  7. Press every seam as you go, this is important so I will repeat it. Press every seam as you go!                                                                                                                                  
  8. Use a brand new machine needle for every project. Choose the correct one for your fabric, for example a ball point needle is used for stretch fabrics etc                
  9. Try on at regular intervals to check the fit, wearing the correct underwear for the garment                                                                                                                            
  10. Most importantly ENJOY yourself and only make time making things that you love

Thank you for reading this. What are your tips?


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

How to sew with stretch fabrics.A Minerva Blogger Network post

This is my second blog post for the Minerva Blogger Network and for this I chose to make a garment in Stretch Jersey. Everything I used is available on the Minerva craft website by following the links shown.

The pattern is SIMPLICITY 1653 and is an "Amazing Fit: pattern.


When you choose your fabric first of all look at the pattern back because there is a guide to help you to choose fabric with enough stretch in it. So take the pattern with you, hold it against the guide and stretch it to make sure that it will stretch enough.

The fabric I chose is this Hawiian print stretch jersey, the link to it is below

This is an Amazing Fit pattern which has various options to enable you to choose the correct pieces for your size.
it is imperative therefore that you are honest with yourself and take your measurements exactly. Compare them to the pattern envelope and choose the size which most closely resembles your figure. If in doubt cut the larger size out.
To make fitting even better there are options to cut out different backs to suit slim, average or curvy figures,and different cup sizes. 
There is a guide, copied above, which tells you how to measure your bust enabling you to cut out the correct cup size. Once you have determined which pieces will fit you best make a muslin to toille out of some stretch lingerie fabric. Make any adjustments to the paper pattern before you even think about cutting your fabric out.
(The stretch toille can be adapted to make a piece of lingerie or nightwear if you like).

Steam press your fabric to shrink it and then pin it together along the selvedge. Some pattern pieces will be cut out singly, so leave them to one side until you have finished Lay the fabric flat before cutting out..
Each pattern piece has a grain line and the pattern pieces need to be positioned exactly so that the grain lines run in the correct direction. It is important to measure the distance between the grain line and the selvedge to ensure that the pattern pieces are perfectly straight. Any slight deviation will produce a garment which does not hang correctly. When pinning the pattern pieces in place make sure that the pins only go inside the seam allowances to avoid putting a hole in the fabric or puckering it. Use plenty of pins as jersey has a tendency to stretch when being cut.

The next thing to think about is what sort of stitch you are going to use and what sort of thread. I took some offcuts of my fabric and experimented with various machine feet, stitch types and stitch lengths. I chose to use a WALKING FOOT in the end. If you do not have one try a Teflon foot.  If necessary put some spare tissue paper or tear -away stabiliser under your seams as you sew. This definately helps you to get smooth seams. You may also need a longer stitch length and if you are using normal polyester thread you will need to use a special stretch stitch or a narrow zig zag.

You will also need a brand new Ball Point machine needle. This is a needle specially for sewing through jersey fabrics and you can buy them from Minerva or your local supplier.  A new needle should be put into machine for every garment you make.An old needle will be blunt and will cause your stitches to be uneven,  your thread could break and become  tangled in the machine

I have chosen to use a Stretch thread from Minerva Crafts. This is a new product and I have to say that I fell in love with it as soon as I used it for the first time. It enables you to stitch stretch fabrics with a normal machine stitch!

I did some experimenting and the thread does not snap when pulled as far as it will go.
I do highly recommend this product. The link to it is under, it comes in lots of colours too,

The next most important job is to stay stitch the pattern pieces along the neckline to stop them from pulling out of shape. By the way never leave your stretch garment on a coat hanger or dressmakers dummy until the neckline is finished as it could well be pulled out of shape by the weight of the fabric.

The pattern instructions look complicated and I admit to reading them through a couple of times until I understood them. Basically what it is telling you is that fit is vital in this garment and to achieve a great fit you must in addition to paying attention to the points above, try it on at intervals through the making process.
It advises you to machine baste everything together wrong sides together before trying on. It does not really matter if you tack it together right or wrong sides together,but to me it made sense to tack it right sides together so that if the fit was correct I did not have to undo the work and I could then  go straight into machining it.
When trying the dress on make sure that it hangs correctly and does not pull anywhere. Look at the back and ensure that the centre back seam hangs straight down, and make sure it does not pull anywhere or indeed is too loose. This pattern is meant to hug your figure when worn. When trying it on make sure that you are wearing the underwear you will wear with the garment, if necessary you may need a smoothing all in one garment if you feel that you wish to smooth out any lumps and bumps.
Also do not forget to press each seam as you go.

I have pinned the dress together after stay stitching the neckline pieces and the construction is now a lot clearer. I tacked it and tried it on. because I took my measurements correctly, and chose the right pattern pieces for my actual size it needed no adjustments whatsoever.
Stitch the dart and make the pleats in the front according to the pattern instructions
The next job is to insert the sleeves by joining join the sleeve seams. These are Raglan sleeves so they are easy to insert as long as you match up the pattern markings correctly. Press each seam and then overlock the edges. The pattern gives you the choice of either  over locking (Serging) the entire garment but i prefer to do a straight seam and then overlock the edges afterwards. Personally I feel that it gives a nicer seam finish

The neck edge has to be faced with Bias Binding. If you are used to using Bias Binding you will know that it does not actually stretch very much! This new product, again from Minerva Crafts is brilliant! It is a stretch lycra bias binding and it is perfect when used with the stretch thread. It stretches easily but springs back into shape instantly too.
Prepare it for use by measuring it against the guides included in the pattern pieces. Then press it open to get rid of the folded edges.Fold it in half down the centre and pin the strip to the neck edge stretching it slightly as you go. stitch it with a narrow seam allowance all the way round the neck edge

 Press the seam open and fold the entire binding to the inside. Press again and top stitch in place.
You now have a bias facing on the inside of your garment as in the photograph above.

The link to this wonder product is here

At this stage I do some more over locking and neaten what seams are not finished off yet.Also attach the tie belt to the edge of the wrap over part of the bodice. Neaten the edges and top stitch the seam along the dress edge. (The tie belt is easily made by joining the seam, clipping the corners, turning right sides out and pressing)
Pin the other tie belt to the position marked on the pattern on the OUTSIDE of your fabric.

Join the side seams from sleeve edge to hem in one long seam matching all markings and making sure that the sleeve seams are aligned.
It is easier when doing the side with the wrap-over to baste (tack) it in place first then pin the whole side together and stitch in one long seam as before, enclosing the wrap-over.

This is what you now have! The wrap over part ties beautifully at the side of the dress.
Finish it off by trying it on again in case there are any more adjustments to be made. Overlock the side seams and put it on again to measure the hem. In my case I put it on my tailors dummy to measure and pin the hem
For the bottom and sleeve hems. overlock the edges and fold up to the desired length. Top stitch.
give it a final press and it is finished.

This is the view from the side showing the tie belt and the pleats

As a final touch I added my own label to the dress. Dont forget that Simplicity own the design rights and you cannot sell any garment which has been made from one of their patterns!

The pattern envelope shows only suggestions of how the dress could be made. I think that if I make this pattern up again I may put gathers in the side of the wrap-over section which will make it narrower and fuller. It is your choice how you interpret a pattern which is why tacking it together and trying on before sewing is so important. It is at this stage that you can add your own touch to the design. The pattern has sleeve variation too. I chose the three quarter length straight sleeve so that I may wear it under a jacket. For a special occasion the flutter sleeve would look amazing.

The fabric is very easy to care for and drapes well. It is worth purchasing a good quality fabric if you want  a garment which will last you for many years.

Check to make sure that it is fine when you sit down, common problems are that garments ride up when sitting, or they are too tight and therefore uncomfortable

This is me sat wearing it for the first time. It is extremely comfortable, and it fits like a dream.
I hope that if you have never sewn with stretch fabrics before you will have a go at making this dress. It is extremely flattering to all figure shapes.


After wearing the dress I did feel that I needed to alter it slightly. I did exactly what I thought was needed in the first place! So, I undid the side seam where the overlap is enclosed by the front and back and reduced the width of the overlap by just over an inch. I gathered it very slightly and eased it back into place. I also took the sleeves in by an inch, tapering the new seam towards the underarm.
I feel that the front drapes better now and the sleeves feel more comfortable.
sometimes gut instinct tells you when something is not right, I am constantly altering patterns and designs to make them suit me, not the model on the envelope!

Thank you for reading this


Monday, 6 July 2015


This Bell dress by SIMPLE SEW was so easy that I made it in an afternoon.
The fabric is a heavy jersey so you will need a stretch stitch  on your machine, plus a new ball point needle

 The fabric is thick enough to enable me to use dressmakers tracing paper and a tracing wheel to transfer the pattern markings. Do test a piece of fabric first though, because it does not always come off and if the marks show through to the right side of your fabric, your garment is ruined. My pattern markings are visible but not too dark.
Stitch the darts. Press. Stitch tbe shoulder, overlock the edges or finish in your usual way.

Friday, 3 July 2015

How to make a man's shirt with a collar. Blog post for

How I made a mans shirt.

I am delighted to be doing this blog post for This is the first garment I have made on my new Bernina 350. I chose to make a mans shirt because it gives me the opportunity of trying out a lot of the machine's functions on one garment.
 I enjoy sewing mens shirts probably more than anything else, they give me an opportunity of being creative with materials and designs, and producing something which is totally unique .Be warned though if you do decide to make a mans shirt then you need to ensure that it looks professional because if it looks home-made then he just won't wear it.having said that do not be put off too much as this tutorial can be used to make yourself a shirt instead.  

This is the machine I am using, it is a Bernina 350PE  To view it on jaycotts web site  CLICK HERE

Jaycotts sell other makes of sewing machines at different prices so please do not be afraid to ask them for advice on choosing the correct one to suit  your needs and budget

I am using two different cotton fabrics, one in an uneven black and white stripe and a plain black. I will also be using some red piping. The pattern is a very old one which I have adapted and changed many times to make different variations of the shirt. I have made over a dozen shirts so far and no two are the same.
You may like to read my previous blog alongside this one, it gives more detailed  instructions for making the various components of a shirt.Click here to view it:- How to make a collarless shirt