I recently started a new section of my blog sharing projects that I have developed for classes that are available to make during my flexible sessions and also bookable as private parties or for people looking for me to host a class in their venue.
These pyjama bottoms are a great introduction to dressmaking and very satisfying to come away at the end of a class with a finished item of clothing. I have patterns for this project in ladies, mens and childrens sizes. They are a loose fitting elasticated waist style, super comfy for lounging or wearing in bed, they also make excellent gifts which is a great idea if you are looking to join a sewing class but not sure what to start with, all family members can be catered for while you enjoy getting to grips with the sewing machine.
The following fabric quantities are based on a width of 115cm/45” or wider:
3-4year – 80cm
4-5year – 90cm
5-6year – 90cm
6-7year – 1 metre
7-8year – 1 metre
8-9year – 1 metre
9-10year – 2 metre 150cm/60” wide – 1 metre
10-11year – 2.20metre 150cm/60” wide – 1.10metre
11-12year – 2.20metre 150cm/60” wide – 1.10metre
All sizes 2.50 metres
All sizes 2.50 metres – unless they are very tall and you may need extra fabric in this case.
I suggest medium weight cotton, such as quilters weight cotton, cotton lawn or cotton flannel. These fabrics are easy to work with for beginners projects, they are also easy to source. These examples have been made in Michael Miller cotton flannel.
These PJ trousers are finished with an elasticated waist made by forming a channel for the appropriate size elastic. They have a single inner leg seam which is sewn and neatened with an overlocker. This is always fun for anyone who hasn’t used an overlocker before. I encourage everyone to have a go and try the overlocker but for anyone who would prefer not to I also show alternative techniques.
The hems are finished with a double turned hem. Usually a deep hem. A nice simple project which is suitable for older children to make as well as adults. Perfect for practicing seam allowances as well as some basic useful dressmaking techniques.
I am always keen to cater for everyone who arrives at my classes including all special dietary needs and preferences. For the last few months I have been teaching some customers who follow a vegan diet. Initially this threw me out of my comfort zone completely, baking without eggs or butter seemed like an impossible task! Until I discovered the totally awesome Ms Cupcake. The book is called ‘The Naughtiest Vegan cakes in town’ and every recipe I have made has not only been successful but also bloomin’ tasty!
A little late for Veganuary but nevertheless here is one of the recipes from this book, these are very simple to make and taste so yummy!
100g self-raising flour
60g caster sugar
100ml soya or rice milk
50ml light rapeseed or other flavourless oil
1 tsp vanilla extract or essence
150g dairy-free chocolate chips or a bar broken into pieces.
50g dairy free margarine
grated zest of 1/2 orange
12-15 tsp orange marmalade
How to make:
Makes 12-15 Jaffa cakes
Grease a bun tray. Preheat the oven to 180c /350f/gas mark 4
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and the caster sugar. Add the milk, oil and vanilla, stirring until just combined. Drp a small spoonful of the batter into each of the holes in the prepared tray and bake for about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tray for 2 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Melt the chocolate and margarine in a pan over a low hear, stirring constantly until combined. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest.
Once the cakes have cooled, and before removing them from the wire rack, spoon a dollop of orange marmalade on top of each one. Spoon the chocolate evenly over the cakes so that the tops are completely covered. The excess chocolate can drip through the wire rack leaving the bottoms free of chocolate. Refrigerate on the rack for about 20 minutes until set. Keep these bad boys refrigerated until you are ready to serve them.
Mothering Sunday seems an appropriate day to launch the first in my new blog series. I want to share easy tutorials geared towards total beginners. No matter what age it’s never to late to start sewing. Some of the projects in this section will be with children in mind while others will be aimed at adults and some suitable for both.
I thought this one might be good for some special mother daughter bonding time. I have many great memories of sewing with my mum, who was a great inspiration to me and taught me many of my sewing skills.
Its a great sadness that my mum never got to meet any of her grandchildren. I think if she was here today we might have three generations spending some girly bonding time sewing together. That said between my two children it’s my little boy who is the bigger fan of sewing. I will definitely be including some projects that boys would like to make and for boys too.
This is a simple elasticated waist skirt that you can make without a pattern for any size following these instructions. I have deliberately made it an A-line skirt rather than much fuller style as it uses less fabric. It can feel a little uneasy cutting up metres of fabric when you are unsure of your skills.
This skirt works well in craft weight cotton, cotton lawn or other similar weight blends. Woven cottons are easy to sew and a great place to start. I used Lady McElroy Botanical flamenco print lawn for these skirts. The quantity of fabric will vary depending on the size of skirt you are making. Its best to do the maths first and then work out how much fabric you will need. If you can fit the width of the skirt on the folded width of the fabric you will only need fabric measuring your overall length measurement. If not you will need twice the length measurement.
You will also need thread and 2.5cm wide elastic – enough to go round your waist with a small overlap.
You can draw the pattern out directly on to your fabric or if you prefer draw it out on paper first and then use this as a pattern. Either way you will need a ruler with right angle markings.
To make the pattern or mark out, first measure your waist and hips. Place the tape measure around your waist making sure the tape is straight and not sagging. The tape should be firm but not to tight. Do the same for your hips. Write down the wider measurement of these two.
Now add 25% of this measurement to your sum. For example a hip measuring 97cm/38″ add 25% = 24cm/9.5″ Total measurement = 121cm/47.5″
In addition to this add 6cm/2.5″ for seam allowances – 1.5cm each side front and back. Now you have a total measurement of 127cm/50″
Now divide in half = 63.5cm/25″
Decide how long you would like the skirt to be when finished. Add 10cm/4″ to this length. In this case finished length 51cm/20″ with turnings 61cm/24″
The other measurement you will need is 5% of your first width measurement in this example 5% of 121cm/47.5″= 6cm/2.4″
How to make:
Lay the fabric out with the selvedges matched. Unless you are making a pattern draw a right angle from the fold of the fabric. This ensures you are working on the straight of the grain. This is the top of your skirt the line needs to measure your final divided measurement in this example 63.5cm/25″. From this line draw another two right angle lines your length measurement in this example 61cm/24″. Join the lines to make a square. If your measurement is wider than the half width of the fabric you will need to open the fabric out fully and use the selvedge edge as your right angle point.
2. Once you have your square – mark a point in from the side at the top of the skirt half your 5% measurement in this example half of 6cm/2.4″ = 3cm/1.2″ from this point draw a line to the hem edge so that the skirt side seams are slightly angled. Cut the skirt pieces out. You may want to pin the two layers together so they don’t move while you cut. If you have had to mark on a single layer, lay your marked out work on top of another piece of fabric with the selvedges matched. Pin the two together and cut out.
3. Join the side seams. If you are completely new to sewing machines you will notice some grid markings on the plate near the sewing machine foot. These can be used to help sew straight and even seam allowances. We have allowed 1.5cm seam allowance for this skirt. Line your raw edge up with the line that is marked 1.5cm/5/8″ or if its not clear measure from the needle out to check. This is really worth getting to grips with early on if your aim is to sew clothing. Varied and uneven seam allowances are likely to change the overall finished size of a garment which might be important to fit. In this project if it goes a bit wobbly or uneven it won’t be a problem.
4. Once you have sewn the side seams neaten the raw edges. On the left I have used an overlocker which gives a neat professional finish, however you may not own an overlocker at this stage. An alternative is using a zig-zag stitch as shown on the right. This will still serve the purpose of neatening the raw edge and preventing fraying when the skirt is washed. Press the side seams towards the back.
5. To make the channel for the elastic, turn the upper edge in approximately 1cm/3/8″ Press this edge so it stays in place.
6. Turn this folded edge in again this time measuring 3.5cm/1.1/2″ Check the measurement is accurate, pressing as you go round. This channel needs to be wide enough for the elastic to fit comfortably inside.
7. Pin around this edge to hold in place. The stitching needs to be around 2-3mm /1/8″ from the inner folded edge. It is important not to make the channel to small or the elastic may not feed in. Leave a gap somewhere away from a seam for threading the elastic. I like to place two vertical pins for where to start and finish. The gap size should be roughly 8cm/3″.
8. Cut a piece of elastic to aproximately 2.5cm/1″ bigger than your waist size. Attach a safety pin to one end and thread into the channel. Be careful to keep hold of the other end so it doesnt disappear inside.
I have had this 1950’s vintage cocoon coat pattern in my collection for quite a while. Last year when I decided to make a vintage pledge for The Stitching Odysseys incentive I thought I would add it to my making list. This is actually the second one of these I have made. I initially started to make one in a grey wool blend coating fabric, the toile was lovely the way it was going together was good, then Christmas parties started popping up.
I put the grey wool blend coat aside in favour of getting this one finished in time for the parties!
I have had this piece of lovely cotton black velvet for a while acquired from the very talented Chris Smith when it wasn’t quite right for the cos play costume he was making at the time. It is quite a light weight with a very short pile. The idea of a black velvet cocoon coat from this pattern that I was enjoying so much seemed like a great idea. An ideal coat to pop on over any party dress. However I decided the weight of the fabric would be a bit to light for this coat style. I think the weight of the fabric for this style is key to getting a good end result, something to light would just look limp and shapeless.
Enter the idea of interlining! I had a large piece of lightweight cotton batting and decided to use this as an interlining. Holding the two fabrics together felt lovely, thick and luxurious. It was a bit of a risk as I am pretty sure cotton batting should be quilted for it to remain stable when washed or cleaned. However I decided to go for it as it is a coat and an evening coat meaning it probably won’t need cleaning that often. There is a lot of long winded laborious tacking involved to get the interlining applied to the back of the velvet, suddenly time seemed to be running out.
I had already made the bound buttonsholes on the grey coat which had gone like a dream. This is really the only time consuming detail on the coat (other than the interlining) I felt sure I would I would whizz through this and the coat would be finished in no time…..how wrong was I ! I cut away the batting carefully from the buttonhole area to reduce the bulk before beginning making the buttonholes. I didn’t take into account how badly the velvet would fray and the difference between the weight of the coat and the button welt pieces seemed to make it very tricky to turn and make sharp ends to the buttonholes.
The buttonholes are far from perfect, I faffed about for ages trying to get them to sit neatly. I could see that the different interfacing and interlining that I was using for each part was causing some of the problems (none of which I had with the grey coat). That and the uncontrollable fraying on these tiny pieces. In the end I achieved a passable result and lost a lot of time on the project.
I covered very large buttons to match, when done up the buttonholes actually look just fine!
The coat also features welt pockets, made in exactly the same way as the buttonholes but being larger they were much easier to keep neat and sharp.
Despite all the problems with the buttonholes the rest of the coat went together easily. The construction was super easy with kimono sleeves and a short stand collar. It has a lovely dart detail at the front neck. I lined the coat with a shot purple taffeta from local Montreux Fabrics which was the perfect lining fabric for this coat making it luxurious inside and out. It feels warm and really wonderful to wear. I don’t think I will be needing to make another evening coat for a long time!
Underneath the coat I wore a self drafted flared t-shirt dress. I made this in Lady McElroy viscose jersey. The fabric has a great drape, in my new comfy clothes mode I wanted to keep the dress simple and understated and just let the fabric speak for itself. I lined the the dress but not the sleeves with a jersey lining bought at Minerva crafts, the lining gives the dress a little bit more body. I really loved wearing the dress, it was so comfortable and cutting the flare from just above the waist meant it was easy over the tummy – no uncomfortable waistband after a meal out! All in all probably my favourite outfit made last year.
Last week there was much excitement about the yearly event – World book day. This always entails rustling up some sort of costume which is now automatically understood will be a Mummy make. I don’t think my kids even know that you can actually buy costumes for such events!
Last year was my little boys first World book day, I don’t think he really knew what to expect and was happy with my suggestion of a Stickman costume. My little girl always has her own ideas which usually comprise of anything very girly and princess like. The notice arrived from school with the details of World book day. I asked who they would like dress up as, I was really expecting some discussion and idea brainstorming but this time they both knew exactly what they wanted…
They both went off to their bookcases and returned presenting me with these two books for inspiration! You couldn’t have got more stereotypical girl/boy books if you tried! Nevertheless I was happy that they were so decisive in their choices and started thinking how to go about making the costumes.
It wasn’t to difficult to make the Rosa ballerina costumes. I found some glitter spot net at Minerva crafts along with white feathers and a glue gun. Several layers of net gathered on to an elastic waistband finished off with white feathers made a quick and simple tutu. I made a white t-shirt and glued diamontes in a swirl down the front. A fabric covered hairband with the same embellishment finished the outfit off.
She was thrilled with her outfit and jumped out of bed in the morning excited to put it all on.
I didn’t get off so lightly with my little boys costume. The dinosaur started to get a bit specific! It had to have a jaw/mouth! It had to have spikes so people didn’t think it was a crocodile! It needed teeth…phew! My idea of a hoody with a few spikes just got complicated. The jaw/mouth was an engineering task, I started off with an oval shape piece with one blunt end, at the other end I made two darts to give it a boxy shape. After adding the teeth I bagged it out in self fabric and planned to attach it to the hood face, however the weight of it made it flop down into his face. He patiently tried it on a hundred times while I tried to figure out a way of making it stay up. In the end I added a piece of heavyweight interfacing that threaded from the front of the mouth piece and fastened to the top at the back neck. I also hand stitched the inner edge of the mouth piece together where it joined the hood. Both of these combined made it stand a little straighter.
I used my skinny jogger pattern simplifying them by removing the pocket detail. I was keen to make the trousers something he could wear afterwards for everyday clothing. This boy grows way to quick and never has enough trousers!
The other important factor and reason for choosing this particular dinosaur book was the ….Poo!! They both helped me make the poo. I bought a pair of brown tights and they stuffed them with the filling from an old cushion. Once filled it was just a case of coiling them into a suitable poo like shape and stitching to hold in place. He was delighted with his dino poo!
They both loved their costumes. Another fun World book day complete!
A few weeks ago I posted a tutorial for how to make an infinity scarf from your left over bits of jersey. I planned to make this simple opened ended classic scarf version for men, I didn’t seem to have the right selection of leftovers to make a suitable manly scarf (or not one that my hubby would like to wear) so I made another ladies scarf. However this could easily be made for a man.
I used cotton/elastane jersey you could use other different types of jersey too. I think it hangs better if the fabric is not to heavy in weight.
I used plain navy for the back of the scarf joining it in the centre to achieve the length I wanted. I used two fabrics for the other side. You could panel both sides or add more panels if your scraps are smaller.
The overall size of this scarf including seam allowances is 184cm x 27cm. I cut two 27cm x 93cm in navy for the back. (using a 1cm seam allowance to join).
The teal print measures 27cm x 70cm
The plain teal measures 27cm x 116cm
If you add extra panels remember to add a seam allowance to each one so that your overall length is the same both sides.
If you are making for larger men I would recommend making the overall length around 25cm longer and the width around 3cm wider.
How to make:
Start by joining your panels together. This is an ideal project to make using an overlocker if you have one, make sure it is set up with four threads so that the seams are strong. You can also use a regular sewing machine. Change your needle to a stretch or ball point needle and use a shallow zig-zag stitch or stretch stitch so that your seams will have a bit of ‘give’.
2. Once all the panels are stitched together place the front and back pieces right sides together, its easier to do this on a flat surface to ensure it doesn’t stretch out of shape at any point. I like to pin a little way in from the edge so that I can leave the pins in while I sew. They need to be far enough back to clear the sewing machine or overlocker foot. You can also pull them out as you go.
3. Stitch around all edges leaving a gap around 10cm long for turning through. Its best to leave this opening in one of the long edges as its easier to conceal when you close the gap.
4. Turn through and press, press the gap closed in line with the seam and slip stitch closed by hand. A simple speedy scarf perfect for this very chilly weather. You could make a matching pom pom hat if you have enough fabric.
This is the first in a new series on my blog of available projects. Most of the classes I run these days are flexible dressmaking or bring your own project sessions. It is quite difficult to find time to add specific project classes to the timetable. However that’s not to say there aren’t quite a lot of options when it comes to projects. In fact in the early days I developed more projects than I knew what to do with. Recently I decided to work through all these projects and publish the ones that I think really teach some good skills as well as deliver a decent end product. These projects are all available to make in my flexible sessions alongside others working on different projects. The patterns can be borrowed and copies made should you wish during my sewing classes or courses.
The projects shown in this section of my blog are also good options for people who might want me to host classes in their venue or as private or party bookings in my studio.
This is a classic apron a perfect project for level 2 customers. This may be a second or third sewing project, ideal if you have basic machine skills. There are lots of techniques included in this simple apron but nothing to worry about when it comes to fit. I have three sizes for the adult apron, catering for small frames, medium frames and larger frames which is also suitable for men.
For fabrics with a width of 1.12m/45inches:
Small – 1.35m
Medium – 1.40m
Large – 1.50m
For fabrics with a width of 1.50m/60 inches:
All sizes – 1.25cm
The front has a curved patch pocket. I will teach you how to create a smooth curve on the lower edge of the pocket as well as how to transfer markings and position the pocket.
The strap and waist ties are made with a technique called ‘bagging out’, we will look at the different options of how to do this and how to create a neat finish.
The straps and ties are double stitched strongly, perfect for a practical and hard wearing utility garment like this apron.
The armholes are faced and under-stitched, introducing techniques that are commonly used in dressmaking.
The corners of the apron are mitred, I will show you an easy way to learn this neat finish.
The apron hem has deep top-stitched hems, introducing less used guidelines on the sewing machine.
This apron has been made up in linen fabric it also works well in lots of different fabrics such as lightweight denim, cotton, quilters weight cotton and medium weight canvas types. There is plenty of sewing straight lines, ideal practice for new sewers. The end result is a useful and practical item which you could keep or give as a gift.
Last year I launched my first dressmaking pattern the Rosie dress for little girls. A classic pinafore for beginners with the option to make it as a single sided or a reversible version for girls aged from one year to ten years. I had the plan to continue publishing my patterns regularly but that didn’t quite happen….until now!
There were various teething problems along with my inability to have a reasonable sense of what I can fit into my time!! I also decided the patterns weren’t looking quite right design wise…. So I have had a bit of a review of work commitments, cleared the work table and started again with a whole fabulous fresh look.
This is the new look Rosie pattern now available as a downloadable pdf pattern. Most of my new patterns will be available as pdf or printed versions, ticking both boxes for which ever you prefer.
The pattern range is going to include patterns for all the family – kids, ladies and mens patterns. I appreciate that having a family means time for sewing can be limited so I am aiming for quick, stylish and adaptable patterns. The Rosie has two versions a simple single sided speedy make pinafore. A great version to make in denim or needle-cord for the autumn and winter months layered up with long sleeve t-shirts and sweaters. Also ideal in the summer in lightweight pretty cottons worn on its own as a simple summer dress.
The other version is a reversible option that features a staggered hem which means a border of the reverse fabric shows on one of the sides as a decorative detail. This works best in craft weight cottons or lighter weight fabrics. A fun way of creating two dresses in one. This was especially useful in our house when my little girl turned three and suddenly became a fashion diva with definite ideas about what she would and would not wear!
This is the lovely Lillia Rae modelling a summery single sided version made in craft weight cotton. Lillia Rae is an upcoming sewing star with some great skills at the tender age of seven. I am excited that she (with only a little bit of help from her mum) has agreed to test some of my future patterns as well as model.
This is another single sided cotton version as worn by super cute Marigold layered up with a short sleeve t-shirt. I found in the early years my little ones grew so quickly that I generally opted for one size bigger so that the garment would last a bit longer. Adding a t-shirt underneath is a great way of ‘filling the gap’ if the dress is slightly to big. Before you blink it will fit just right!
This style has lots of options to create new versions or embellish with different decorative approaches. I am hoping you might share your versions on social media to inspire others. If you do don’t forget to use the hashtag #releaseyourhandmade so I can find your post and share. One of the simplest ways to personalise this dress is to use contrast, mis-matched or funky buttons.
I will and have been sharing more ideas on my blog about how to make the most of your Rosie pattern. This is a version made in needle-cord.
I added fun heart shaped pockets in contrasting denim. You can follow this tutorial on my blog. I have also written a post on how to lengthen or shorten a dress or top. I used the Rosie pattern for this tutorial. I think this is particularly useful for kids patterns. The height of children varies so much. My little girl measures closer to a seven year old on my size chart than the eight year old she is and my little boy is taller by three to four years than his real years. It’s really worth checking the size chart for both body measurements and finished garment measurements to ensure you are happy with the end result.
I hope you have fun making Rosie and would love to hear from you if you.
Last week I wrote about making this dress pattern that came free with Simply sewing magazine. I made some amendments to the last dress after I finished it because the fit wasn’t quite right. I made the same amendments to the pattern and cut this one out.
I repositioned the darts just by 0.5cm but even this little bit made such a big difference. The skirt width, and bodice width I reduced by 4cm on the circumference which is a lot but I think it really needed it. I also decided to shorten the skirt a little bit. So now I have two dresses that fit like this.
I used Art Gallery viscose for this version which has no stretch but is beautifully soft and drapey. I love this print and the deep teal blue is one of my favourite colours. As with the first version I lined the skirt but not the bodice. This fabric feels even more light and drapey than the first so the addition of the lining in the skirt feels quite essential in this one.
I am really happy with these dresses and really enjoyed wearing them over the Christmas holidays.
Cut out two hearts in outer fabric and two in lining. If your fabric is quite heavy or bulky like this denim that I used, consider using a lighter weight lining fabric, I used a standard craft weight cotton. A contrast can add a nice discreet flash of colour.
With right sides together and starting at one of the flatter angles of the heart, pin and stitch the heart shapes together, leaving a small gap for turning. Use a 1cm seam allowance, make sure you back stitch a few times at the start and finish as these points will take a fair bit of pressure when you turn through.
Trim the seam down to approximately 0.5cm, make a small cut up to the stitching at the top of the heart and trim away extra bulk from the point.
Turn through to right side and press. Pressing the gap to line up neatly with the seams. There is no need to stitch the gap as you will do this automatically when you sew it to the dress.
Pin the pockets to the dress, I have included pocket placement details above to help you work out where to position the pockets. Pin the pockets to the dress panel, I like to pin in the centre of the pocket so it holds it securely and you don’t need to remove the pins when sewing. You could also tack the pockets in place. Mark the opening position with a pin or chalk mark and top stitch in place around 3 mm from the pocket edge. Continue to make your Rosie dress following the instructions that are with the pattern.