Patterns, fabrics, workshops and courses for the discerning dressmaker. At Sew Me Something we run a whole range of sewing and craft workshops from our lovely studio in Stratford upon Avon where we can help you to learn and develop your sewing skills. If you can’t physically join us we can still share our skills and knowledge with you through our tutorials and courses.
Kate is just the most perfect dress for this hot weather as it’s infinitely hackable.
This is how you can adapt the pattern to make a sleeveless version just right for the long hot Summer days.
The pattern needs a little bit of tweaking as the armholes are designed to take a sleeve.
First of all a I drew on the seam allowances around the armholes and across the shoulders. This makes it easier to see where and how the alterations need to be made.
The shoulder point on the pattern needs to be brought in slightly so the arm hole sits better over the ball of the shoulder.
As the Kate Dress has a visible binding to finish the neckline this works well around the armhole too. But it means that the edge of the paper pattern will be the finished edge of the dress, with the binding wrapping itself around the cut edge of the fabric. Something to bare in mind!
First I matched up the shoulder seams to make sure that both the armhole and neckline alterations were nice smooth flowing curves.
For this dress I wanted to widen the neckline slightly too. So I made a mark 1.5cm in from the neck edge and then redrew the neckline curve blending it in to the original line.
The shoulder point was moved in by 3cm and as it is going to be an open armhole I wanted to raise the underarm point a bit too so it would be too gapey.
I raised the underarm point by 1.5cm so it was level with the cut edge of the pattern piece, then re-drew the armhole from the raised armhole point on the front to the new shoulder point, and around to the back underarm point.
I cut the pattern through the new armhole and neckline while the paper was still pinned together to make sure the lines followed true.
I also lengthen the pattern by 10cm to make it more dress length than tunic length. I did this directly on to the fabric as I pinned out the pattern pieces.
Making it up
The Kate Dress has two options for the front of the dress. Plain and simple or with a bit of gathering at the centre front neckline.
As I am more than amply catered for in the bosom department I usually opt to go for the version with a bit of extra gathers just to make everything a bit more comfortable around the bust. You can do a Full Bust Adjustment too if you prefer.
Gathers are a form of ‘suppression’ and like their confederates; pleats, tucks and darts, basically just suppress the extra fabric to create a 3D shape. They can be interchangeable too.
For this dress I wanted a flatter finish at the neckline but to keep that bit of extra fullness in the fabric. So I turned the gathers into an inverted box pleat, a bit like the one I created in the Woven Peaseblossom Hack
An inverted box pleat on the woven Peaseblossom
The additional fabric is marked on the Front pattern piece and I marked this onto the fabric.
I measured down 20cm as I wanted the opening of the pleat to be just below bust level, and marked this as the base of the pleat. I stitched along the new pleat line and then pressed the pleat open evenly to create the inverted box shape.
It can be a little bit fiddly doing it on one this little but it’s worth getting it neat.
The rest of the dress was made up in exactly the same way as a normal Kate Dress. The pockets were bound across the top edge and sewn in place.
I know you can hardly see the pockets here, no contrasting top-stitching this time.
The armholes were finished in the same way as the neckline. I measured the armhole first to work out how much bias binding I would need.
I used a visible binding finish, to matched the neckline. And it was sewn in exactly the same way as the neckline and pockets.
This is a simple and easy pattern hack to do. I hope you give it a go and make several Kates for the Summer.
Our Kids Craft Club Tutor Marie-Jeanne is an experienced child care practitioner and teacher.
And she knows no bounds when it comes to creativity! We all want to join in with some of the activities she has planned for this Summer!
We have a regular Craft Club every Monday and Wednesday 9am – 4pm from 23rd July. These sessions will include a whole range of projects to engage and encourage children in their creativity. Sessions will include, sewing by hand and machine, paper marbling, weaving, smash journaling and all sorts of other things too. These sessions are £40 for one child and there are discounts for siblings too. Just let us know if you’d like to book for more than one child.
Call us on 01789 330588
Children are welcome from age 8 upwards and will need to bring a packed lunch with them. Drinks and healthy snacks will be provided to keep them crafting all day.
There will be workshops for the slightly older creative youngsters too.
To make sure the young people that attend our workshop have all the support they need we keep numbers limited to ensure that have plenty of 1:1 time with MJ and the other tutors. So please make sure to book early.
I know I’m paraphrasing here, but I think you’ll kind of get what I mean.
Not long after we moved into our new studio space I rashly agreed to become part of the Warwickshire Open Studios. “What better way of showcasing The Tall Photographer’s beautiful pictures and helping him kick-start his new career as a photo and videographer.” I thought.
“But what will you be exhibiting?” asked said Tall Photographer.
And now you can see where my mis-quoted statement comes in. With only a few weeks to go until we joined the creative throng in Warwickshire I had to come up with some stuff to show.
When push comes to shove and you really have to hit a deadline it’s amazing how the creative juices can flow.
Being pushed for time meant I had to look around me for inspiration and our new studio is surrounded by the most beautiful countryside. Right outside our door we have a green haven of meadow grasses, cow parsley and daisies. Perfect for translating into stitch. Anyone who has done our Free Machine Embroidery classes will understand how liberating this can be. Literally using the sewing machine to free draw stitches onto the fabric to create a picture.
Then I began playing with cut out shapes, in fabric of course, using our good old GoBaby die cutter. So much quicker than hand cutting shapes! And from a pile of leather, silk and linen scraps a hydrangea grew.
Looking through my images on my hard drive, all the photos I’d taken over the years, the ones that sprang out were some taken in Istanbul on our honeymoon. The almost iridescent colours of the cerulean and cobalt blues with viridian greens brought back some wonderful memories.
As an aside – why do we not print off images anymore? Or flip through photo albums? Or is it just me that has thousands of images laying forgotten on a hard drive somewhere?
But what resonated with me where the red and white ceilings of the walkways in the Topkapi Palace Hareem in Istanbul. I love the contrast of colour on white, the simple patterns and repeats. So playing with this idea led to experimenting with the auto stitches on our machines.
Now I don’t claim to be the most creative of individuals and I’m reasonably pleased with the work I have produced. But I so enjoyed the process of creating these pieces of work, having to think a little outside of the box of ‘dressmaking’ and to do some sketching again. Planning out ideas and experimenting.
Which is why I’m really excited about a new workshop we have coming up.
If you would like to learn to draw, or just give yourself time to play and sketch, or even if you think you can‘t draw at all you will learn a huge amount from Evgenia. Her beautifully colourful illustrations are such a joy. And she will show you techniques you can use yourself to allow your creativity to flow.
Drawing and sketching doesn’t have to be scary. As adults we worry so much about ‘getting it right’. About accurately representing what you see in front of you. But that’s what photos are for! Ha ha! I have found it’s more about trying to convey a feeling or mood or an idea that’s more important. And like any new skill, you get better the more you practice.
So I fully intend on practicing much more now I have rediscovered my love of sketching and creating. Are you going to join me?
Under-stitching is one of those funny things people often don’t see the relevance of. I have even found it skipped in several commercial pattern instructions. Now I’m not sure if that was deliberate, maybe the pattern writers assumed that everyone would already understand the value and place of under-stitching or whether they had just missed the point themselves? Who knows?
But, under-stitching really is one of those processes that you shouldn’t avoid. It will elevate your sewing from ‘homemade’ to ‘handmade’ and give you a much more professional finish and make your clothes sit a lot better too.
As with so many terms in sewing it kind of does what it says on the tin. Under-stitching holds another part of the garment underneath so it doesn’t bounce out and reveal itself, particularly neck facings.
I have come across several methods for understitching but this one I find is the easiest and most effective.
Once you have attached the facing to the neck or waist line, layer and clip into the seam allowance.
Layering or grading the seam allowance ensures that the seam allowance fades out into the rest of the garment rather than ending in a big step of fabric which can often be visible from the right side of the garment, especially after pressing.
Clipping into the seam allowance enables the seam allowance to fold back on itself and releases the tension on the outer edge of seam. Each clip in the seam allowance needs to be right up to but not through the row of sewing.
Turn the facing and garment out to the right side, but don’t press them first. The trick with under-stitching is to sew it first into the correct position. If you press the facing first and it’s not quite in the right position it can make it harder to get it corrected.
Lay the garment and facing flat with the right side uppermost. Spread them flat with your hands and make sure that all of the clipped into bits of seam allowance are pushed towards the facing.
We will be stitching through the facing and all of the seam allowances, but NOT the garment.
If the facing is attached down the centre back or front don’t worry about getting in too close to the corners. Start about a 5 – 8 cm away from the corner but make sure all the seam allowance is towards the facing.
Line up the machine needle about 2mm away from the seam line onto the facing.
Sometimes it can be easier to line up a marker on the foot with the seam and then swing the needle into the correct position.
Start sewing through the facing and all the seam allowances spreading everything flat and away from the seam with both hands as you go.
Allow the facing to dictate how it all sits by keeping that flat and letting the garment bunch up as it needs to to follow the curve of the facing.
Remember to lift up the facing and check that all of the clipped seam allowance is still pushed towards the facing.
Finish as you started about 5 – 8cm from the corner, or if sewing in a circle, back to the beginning.
The action of spreading it all smooth and flat with your hands as you sew – no pinning, means that the facing and seam allowances are joined very close to the seam. Because of this the main garment fabric has to roll over the depth of the attached seam allowance and therefore when the garment and facing are pressed you should be able to see a very thin line of the garment fabric above the facing.
Understitching means you can achieve a really neat and clean finish to an edge or opening of a garment.
We have used this technique in several of our patterns including, Celia and Miranda. and you can see the clean finish it gives in the Celia below.
I hope you give this method a go, do let me know how you get on.
The most amazing setting in the woods at Cornish Tipis.
Life can be a bit of a slog sometimes. We can find ourselves on the Hamster Wheel Of Life, or just facing the daily grind without really thinking about what we are doing or where we are going. Sewing for yourself or anyone else for that matter just gets pushed out of the picture or put on the back burner until you have “more time”.
Sometimes we just have to stop and temporarily move away from life. Take a side step or just retreat from the coal face – just for a day or so.
I did this recently with my good pal Claire- Louise, also known as @thriftysticher on social media, complete sewing guru and all round fabulous person. She had told me about a Yoga retreat she was going to in Cornwall and did I want to come along. My first thought was ‘well yes it would be lovely but I have so much on my plate a the moment … blah blah blah’ and I didn’t really give it much thought.
Several weeks later even busier and with yet more ‘stuff on my plate’ I realised that I had to take a step back, or retreat from my life temporarily as I had lost sight of where I was going and beginning to feel that mild panic that can swiftly build into overwhelm. So I booked and managed to grab the last place on the retreat.
Home for the weekend – chez Jules & CL
The weekend was a truly magical one in the most beautiful of settings. We were totally off grid and the wonderful Jules @pureplantnutrition (on instagram) cooked all our delicious meals for us. Amy from @nextwave_yoga lead the yoga sessions for us in the morning as the sun peeped through the trees and in the afternoons with the sun full on our faces. Evenings were spent chatting around the campfire swapping stories and experiences.
We even went wild swimming in a freshwater lake with water so clean and clear you could drink it – literally, once you’d caught your breath back from the shock of the freezing cold water of course!
No! You really don’t need to see me in a swimming costume!
There was no mobile signal and that meant freedom from outside intervention or work as most people call it. It was just time to think about and focus on what’s really important and how I can put those things to the front of my life and move towards them. It also made me realise how un-bendy I am and that I really need to do some more exercise.
Apart from that particular fact I have also been able to take away several key things from that wonderful weekend.
ONE I need to book time off – Time off is not some random idea that happens to other people. I can have space away too and it makes me a better person for it.
TWO Meditation really does calm the soul – I had forgotten this and was overjoyed to have rediscovered it.
THREE Having a change really is as good as having a rest. It was actually quite hard work for me to do nothing. But changing where you do stuff can be just as beneficial.
FOUR I need to hang out with my mates more. All work and no play makes Jules a dull girl and laughter IS the best medicine.
I think our moustaches would rival even those of @thetallphotographer!
So where do you retreat to to help you find the clarity and focus you need? Is it just into the garden for a long G & T or for a walk in the woods early evening? Or maybe you just bugger off with some friends for a night out? Do let me know as I’m always looking for more ideas for ways to re-charge.
You can join Claire-Louise and me for our next Sewing Retreat if you fancy a bit of a chill and some sewing space just for you. Our expert tuition will see you sewing as you’ve never sewn before!
Miranda is the latest to join our pattern range and is a beautifully elegant shape to take you through all seasons. It is available in both paper and PDF formats.
Miranda, like all our patterns, takes her name from one of Shakespeare’s heroines, and her namesake is from The Tempest. Miranda lives in exile with her rather domineering father, Prospero. Consequently she can be perceived as a bit naive. But she is guileless and honest and she has an innocent and empathic soul. She begs her father to have pity on the poor passengers of a storm- tossed ship.
And when love strikes true she stands up to her father and shows she has a brave heart and the spirit to follow it. She faces the world bravely, armed with her own courage and loving heart, finding wonder and joy.
Our Miranda is slightly more shaped than the rest of our dress patterns, Miranda is still a comfortable fit through the bust and waist but requires a full length centre back zip.
The streamline princess seams flow over the bust from the shoulders and down into the skirt. These particular seams allow for creating a much better fit for individual figures and draw the eye in and down.
Version 1 has pockets sewn as part of the side front skirt panels and makes up beautifully in a fabric than has a little bit of body, such as soft denim or linen. It would also see you through into the Autumn and work well in a soft needlecord too. Smart enough for work but casual enough for the weekend depending on your choice of fabrics
Version 2 is a simpler make with no pockets, but we will be showing you how to add in seam side pockets in a later tutorial. As there are no pockets this version lends itself to softer more drapey fabrics like Marocain crepe or cotton lawn. And a pretty floral fabric looks perfect for the Summer or for more of a ‘dressy’ look.
Miranda has two sleeve options. Version 1 has a longer, ¾ length sleeve with a faced notched cuff which can left long or folded back giving the possibility of utilising a contrasting fabric. Version 2 has a simpler cut short sleeve that sits just above the elbow.
The neckline on Miranda can be left clean and gently rounded, or you can choose to echo the Version 1 sleeves and include the notch at the centre front.
Shakespeare’s Miranda is a character that induces hope and admiration. In fact her name means “that which must be admired’ and we hope you’ll be admired in whichever way you choose to make up your own versions of Miranda.
At last we have moved the entire contents of the shop and everything else we have over to the new, even bigger studio space. Information on how to find us is on our Contact Page
The tables are set up, the machines working, the tea is in the pot and the printers fired up! Hat’s off the the SMS ladies who worked so hard and were totally awesome at moving us lock, stock and very large printer into the new studio.
We’ve already had our first SASSY Club and I’ve been teaching on a couple of workshops too. The feedback we’ve had on the new environment has been wonderfully positive!
So it’s the same as before – but a little bit different.
You can still purchase your favourite fabrics, haberdashery and patterns from our online shop, but we are no longer operating an ‘open door’ shop, nine to five, five days a week. We will be increasing the number of products that will be available online to ensure that you have everything you need to make up any of our patterns. And if you do a workshop with us, you can buy anything we’ve got online, there and then!
Doing this means that we have a lot more time to devote to designing and creating more patterns for you to enjoy making and wearing. We can write, photograph and even film more tutorials to help you improve your sewing and become confident creating your own handmade wardrobe.
And this is the most exciting thing for me. I really enjoy teaching some of the sewing and pattern cutting workshops we run, but I appreciate that only a small percentage of you can physically come and join us. So being able to focus on producing more in-depth tutorials and even online video versions of some of our workshops and courses is our goal for the coming months. We already have the next pattern ready and waiting for you and it’ll be available very soon.
Another wonderful thing about our new workshop and studio space is that we can now separate the different parts of the business. Although Sew Me Something was how we started, we have been offering different types of workshops, not just sewing, for a while. And we want to be able to continue and develop this by providing a space for different types of craft and creative workshops to run. We are all aware of the positive benefits craft, making things and generally getting creative has on our wellbeing and we want to be able to offer alternatives to sewing.
Yes, there really are some people who prefer to do other crafts! Shocking, I know!
With this in mind we will be working with other creatives to provide workshops in photography, lino cutting, weaving and a whole host of other things too. Now as we are going to be doing more than just sewing in our new workshop space, we thought we might give it a more appropriate name – so we have called it The Makers’ Space.
So you’ll be able to Sew Me Something at The Makers’ Space. Or learn to crochet at the Makers’ Space, or get to grips with your DSLR camera at The Maker’s Space, or even create stained glass Christmas decorations at The Makers’ Space. Sew Me Something is still here too, but we’ll be upstairs creating and developing new ideas and patterns for you to enjoy.
We are aiming for The Makers’ Space to become Your space to learn, create, have a great time and even make new friends. So watch this space and we shall keep you posted on what’s coming soon.
If there is anything you’d like to learn or to find out more about, or even if you would like to run a workshop with us do let us know. We always love to hear from you.
When I design patterns I nearly always find ways of altering them and adapting them in some way. I guess I just don’t like to play by the rules, or be told what to do – even if it’s by myself.
So with the Julia Top, although I love her hip-length, as she was originally created, I have found myself preferring her a bit longer.
Most patterns will have lengthen or shorten lines on them and Julia is no exception. These marks let you know the best place to add in extra fabric, or to reduce the amount of fabric, in the best places so as not to alter the lines of the pattern too much.
With the Julia, and her integrated pockets, proportion is key. So while I could just slap a bit of extra paper on the bottom of the pattern it’s going to leave the pockets rather high in proportion to the new length of the garment.
This is why I cut across the Front of the Julia pattern ABOVE the pockets. This way I could insert another 15cm of fabric to lengthen the top and keep the pockets in the correct place. The back was easier, here I could just slap on another 15cm to the hem of the top. And by “slap on” I do, of course, mean carefully measure and ensure the added on paper is parallel to the existing hem.
Now I have to confess I am a Prittstick fan. I know it’s easier to use tape sometimes, but when I go back to use my patterns again, (and being the slightly obsessive person I am about patterns I need to press them to sit flat after being folded away), I find it tricky to avoid the tape with the iron. And you really don’t want melted sticky tape on the base of your iron – trust me!
This is why I prefer glue. Once glued on you can sweep the iron over added-on paper or other pattern alterations without having to worry about becoming stuck – literally!
With the Julia’s I have in a heavier weight sweatshirting I prefer to have a slightly higher neckline too. To do this I draw on the shoulder seam allowance on both the front and back pattern pieces.
Stick a bit of extra paper under each of the pattern pieces, but make sure to keep them as individual pieces otherwise you won’t be able to separate them afterwards.
Then overlap the shoulders, making sure that the seam lines are on top of each other.
Now mark on your new neckline. I didn’t really want mine higher, just not quite so wide. Remember to factor in the width of the neckband as this will reduce the size of the neck opening too.
Now is a good time to measure out and calculate the length of the neckband. I explain how to do this over on the Woven Peaseblossom tutorial.
Once you have the pattern altered it will make up in exactly the same way as the original pattern. You should be able to overlock this together really quickly, in fact the only bit of actual ‘sewing’ is the seam across the front to create the pockets. But if you’re pretty nifty on an overlocker you could even do that seam on one as well.One tip I will share is that you can use a twin needle to finish off the neck band. It just ensures the seam lays flat and sits neatly. Just to prove contrary I haven’t actually done it on this new yellow one because I quite liked it just as it was.
But I have on one of my older ones.
It’s so hard trying to photograph navy on navy! But here is a row of twin needle stitching around the neckline I promise!
Although, I have acquired a new coverstitch machine and this will do the job as well. (I just have to get mine out of the box and find some time to play with it.)
To finish off this pattern hack I decided to add a cuff at the hem. Remember when calculating how deep to make the cuff you will need to double that measurement as the finished cuff is a double layer of fabric.
If you are using a proper rib it will usually come as a narrower tube of fabric. So for this Julia I chose to make a cuff 8cm deep. So I cut two strips of 18cm – 2 lots of 8 + 2 lots of 1cm seam allowance.
Open up the tubes so they are two long pieces, one for the front and one for the back. These pieces will be loo long to fit onto either the front or the back so they need to be trimmed down.
Word has been creeping out about this, but we are now ready to make our Big Announcement.
We Are Moving!
The time has come to move out of The Minories and into a new home. We have spent 6 happy years in our current location but we have outgrown the space we’re in now. The high street is changing and our business has grown and developed in new and exciting ways in the time we have been here.
We will still be providing top notch workshops, with expert tutors, a truly friendly welcome and incredibly tasty cakes. And we shall still have a carefully curated selection of fabrics and haberdashery that will meet the needs of the workshops we run and the patterns we create.
But opening the ‘shop’ at more selected times will enable us to focus on producing more patterns and developing the business in a more sustainable way. Our long term vision is not only to help people improve their sewing skills but to enable them to learn different crafts as well, and to help them develop their own creativity and enhance their mental wellbeing too.
The move will mean a bigger studio with more space for different types of workshops, all on the ground floor, and with free parking right outside the studio too, so no need to worry about over-running your parking ticket!
Our new home will be on the Alscot Estate just on the edge of Stratford upon Avon on the Shipston Road. A beautiful drive down the farm track will take you to a group of converted farm buildings that house a range of other businesses. Our New Studio is 3b on the Grove Business Park in Alderminster.
Now we have the keys and the work of transformation has already started turning it into an oasis of crafting calm. We will let you know how the renovations are going and keep you posted on social media.
We will be closing the doors at the Minories on Saturday 7th April and will be opening the news doors of Sew Me Something at The Maker’s Space Studio at Grove Business Park for our lovely SASSY Club Members on Wednesday 18th April. So all workshops listed on our website after this date will be in the lovely new studio. You will still be able to buy fabric, patterns and everything else online while we are in the process of moving.
I appreciate change is not everyone’s cup of tea but our new location is really easy to find and once we have worked our magic there it will be a fantastic space offering creative workshops and training for other local businesses. I am so excited about all of the new things we are going to be able to offer here.
So please watch this space for more exciting news…
We have had a couple of major events back to back hence the time it’s taken to put fingers to keyboard and blog about the wonderful weekend we had on the Sewing Retreat.
It really was a weekend of sewing bliss. I firmly believe everyone learnt from it too, including Claire-Louise and me.
I can still teach and drink coffee!
No, It really will work if you do it like this, trust me I’m a pattern cutter!
There was a diverse range of projects on the go from day one including, trousers, jackets, a coat, a jumpsuit, various tops and even children’s wear too, which reflected the different levels of ability and sewing confidence. It also kept CL and me on our toes as we never knew what was going to be asked of us – just the way we liked it!
It was also a great opportunity to see how others dealt with the tricky issues of fit. Because let’s face it there is rarely a pattern out there that doesn’t require some form of major adjustment or even minor tweak somewhere. There were more than several occasions where a small group had gathered to talk through some fit challenges faced by someone in particular. Claire-Louise and I helping them sort out their own problems definitely helped the others see their way through some thorney sewing and fitting issues too. Sharing different methods of alterations and pattern adjustments helped us all make more sense of our own body shapes and how we fit our own clothes better.
It was also lovely to be able to see another professional tackle sewing challenges as well. Having two heads come at the same problem from different perspectives I think really helped the Retreaters make sense of things too. I felt reassured by CL being there, and although from different backgrounds, mine fashion and CL costume, seeing her deal with issues in a similar way affirmed my own way of sewing and teaching style.
I know there’s a camera in my face but I’m going to ignore it!
Several of the early risers made use of the pool for a refreshing swim before breakfast and on Saturday night some of the retreaters returned to the sewing room after dinner and they kept us there until gone 10:30pm! Hardcore sewing! But that is what the luxury of a retreat is all about. You could sew as much or as little as you wished and we were there to help every step of the way.