It’s Sew Simple is a mobile sewing school teaching sewing & textiles decorative techniques to all. We exhibit at various events & craft fairs in London. I love to teach simple ways to tackle difficult sewing techniques, developing your confidence and broadening sewing skills.
The sun has been shining, so all I’ve wanted to do is be outside. When I worked full-time in a secondary school I would arrive at school in the dark and leave in the dark, so with this new freelance life style brings choices and my number one choice is to be outside as much as possible. It’s all about timing, if I hadn’t lived that life before, I wouldn’t want this life. It’s all about change.
As I do most days, I start with a coffee, do the school run and when back home today, my first job is cutting out my paper pattern on my patio floor. I carried the big roll of denim and unrolled it, making sure the right side was inside, all the while catching some rays. Win win right? Apart from the uncomfortable kneeling on paving slabs I managed it, time to get back inside? I also managed to find the extension lead and take both machines to my garden table. Sewing in sunglasses is so strange and fun. I threaded my sewing machine with a dark blue thread and my over locker was already threaded with black, the denim is very dark so this is fine. The next exhibition I teach at I will look out for some cheap navy overlocking thread.
I firstly overlooked all the seams as this denim seems to fray a lot. However before overlocking the facings, I applied black interfacing. I have a sheet of Teflon that I use to protect my iron when pressing interlining. I started using this after years of ruined school irons, from students ironing the sticky side of interlining or getting transfer paints on the iron plate. You can use ae used to use this when I worked in the bridal industry. Make sure your room is well ventilated as it does give off a lot of fumes.
I then overlocked the facings. Firstly sewing the shoulder seams and shoulders of the facings. These facings were then added to the neckline. I trimmed the seam and pressed it to the inside. The instructions don’t tell you when to press it round, the simple sew patterns keep it very simple, which I am happy with and the pictures show that it’s pressed the other way at this stage anyway, so I’m ok.
The next part is the pockets. I have done pockets before and hated them, as they can be challenging, not so on this pattern. The notches have gone after overlocking so I marked them again with a chalk pencil. I think having a clear right and wrong side helps here too, when I made some trousers the fabric wasn’t as forgiving. I pinned the 4 pockets to each side matching the notches, I made sure to lay them together to make sure they lined up. Once they are all attached you can overlock the pockets together. This was really easy. Quite relieved.
Then it’s just sew the side seams and hem the arms and hem. I pressed the hem first before top stitching. It says snip the underarms, I didn’t as I don’t like cutting into the overlocking. It doesn’t look bad when on, so don’t need to. I would like to know how they over come this in industry, as you don’t buy clothes that are cut into do we?
I was half expecting this dress to not fit, or look like a tent, one or the other, so I was surprised it actually looks quite sexy and is so comfortable. It is above the knee, so think I would add an inch next time, as sitting down it looks much shorter and could be inappropriate at work. It looks really great with heels and I added a thin red belt and again this makes it look more dressy and feminine. You can wear it with flat shoes and even leggings (as short). It is also smart enough for, as it looks quite elegant in the dark denim.
I cut out my pieces first and then the actual sewing only took 2 hours. Such a great quick sew, I loved it.
Don’t be put off by the pockets, they are quite technical, but really simple at the same time. Sewing this can give you confidence and make you feel quite clever, it did me. At the end of this make I managed to get brown shoulders too. Sewing in the sun is the best.
I can’t wait to wear my cocoon denim dress.
This may sound ironic considering the name of these patterns, but I was quite surprised how simple this dress is to make. As soon as I opened the instructions and saw the 6 steps, it was evident this would not take me long. My ethos is all about making sewing easier and more accessible, sharing sewing tips and helping you to develop confidence and build on sewing skills, though easy makes. This definitely does all of these things. #ItsSewSimple
It has a belt which gives you the option to cut in 3 sections or to cut in one long piece. I chose to do this is sections as I think it’s important to keep the fabric costs down whenever possible and also you can’t see the seams on the belt anyway. It takes close to 3 metres to make the dress as the front and back panels are wide and the front is a cross over. I did manage to fit the 3 sections of the belt next to the back panel.
You start by overlocking all the seams, this could be replaced with French seams. I used a white overlocking thread, it has white in the pattern, so looks nice, that and I don’t have any blue for my overlocker. You could pick out other colours, like the main blue or a pink.
I avoid replacing my over locker thread like the plague, so much so I have 2 over lockers, one threaded in a black and one in white. I have several machines as I teach sewing, Before I gave up teaching I bought 12 sewing machines and 3 overlockers. I paid for these monthly over a year.
Sew the shoulders and under arms after overlocking. Then fold under and press the edges all the way a round. Finishing with a top stitch. This also could be replaced with a pin hem or double folded 1cm hem. Or even self-made bias binding or a contrasting colour binding. If you made it in a plain cotton, you could add a contrasting binding, it would be nice to splash out on a Liberty binding for example.
The belt was simple to sew, just joining the panels, then front and back pieces. It just needs a simple slip stitch to close the opening and pressing flat, making sure the seams are on the very edge.
Dress up or down
The cotton fabric I chose is very light weight, so this is a definite summer dress; either dress up for a wedding or dress down with leggings, a vest underneath and flip-flops. It would be a nice dress for an evening outfit on a hot holiday. It could also be made in to a dressing gown by lengthening the sleeves and front and back panels.
The fabric is bright and the flowers give it a fresh look.
I would definitely add two press studs, to keep it in place, as the fabric is so light and the front will open easily. You could also add thread loops at the side seams for the belt.
If you have a party to go to and nothing to wear, well you could whisk this up the same day and problem solved.
Love the fabric and pattern. I have both in stock, so if you like let me know and I can get this to you today.
£10 for the pattern
£7.95 per metre Total £23.85 for the fabric.
This is a great make for a total beginner. It would be a lovely mother and daughter sew along.
Sewing has always been part of my life. My grandmother (she is featured in the cover picture) introduced me to sewing, arts and crafts, at a very young age, she had a black singer sewing machine. She would make teddy bears with me, make lemonade, and bake cakes. My great-grandmother would knit me amazing outfits for my dolls. I have lots of fond memories making things with my grandmother.
Initially art was my first passion, I used to live in the art rooms at school. I would go to art club twice a week and just hang out in the art room as much as possible in between. Following A Levels I went on to do an art foundation course, this was still to this day my favourite course I have ever done. I would stay in often at weekends filling pages of my sketchbook, we had to do a sketchbook a week. I would always take a sketchbook on holidays and draw natural objects on my sun loungers.
My other very different passion is swimming, we travelled a lot when I was very young, my father was a hotel manager. We used to live at the back of the hotels in a bungalow. We had access to several pools, so I would swim most days. My parents split up and future summer holidays would be spent at my dads with my brother making friends at the pool, where we would spend most of our 6 weeks, we had an au pair as my father worked 24/7.
I continued swimming through my teenage years whilst living in Camden Town, attended life saving, swimming and canoeing clubs in the local Kentish Town pool. Anything that involves water activities I would do. As an adult I started to enjoy scuba diving and took every specialism certificate possible; wreck diver, nitrox, photography, and many more. Then this stopped when I had my son, it’s a time-consuming, expensive hobby. I do dive when ever I can, but not like I used to.
Back to education, after my foundation I decided to do a fashion degree, musing my love for colour, pattern and drawing, with my love for clothes. I was never the best at fashion illustration, just loved drawing, putting pieces together and definitely had an eye for couture fabrics and dresses. I lived in Camden through my teens and worked firstly in a local hairdressers, then a fabric shop at weekends and evenings whilst completing my studies. I loved the fashions in the markets and spent most of my wages whilst walking through the market on my way home from work.
I started learning how to sew properly at degree level, textiles wasn’t an GCSE option at school. We had 3 technicians at college, to support us through a variety of projects. A master of tailoring, a couturier and a dress-maker. I spent many hours with each, learning some amazing techniques; the perfect tailored jacket, the thinnest pin hem, lots about pattern cutting and dress making skills. I think they probably have a different memory to mine, they spent most of their time telling us to unpick things and to start again, similar to my teaching textiles experience.
We had to make all our own patterns, toilles were scrutinised by our tutors and amendments made, before our garments made it to the cat walk. We were all very creative and expressive back then. We had to make up to 15 outfits for our final collection. I designed shoes and hats. A milliner came in to help me learn techniques and I was sent to a cobbler with my shoe designs, all a huge experience when so young.
My career started out as a design room assistant, this was the title given to a sample cutter, basically I would spend 9 hours a day cutting out t-shirts and blouses, or running to a buyers, arms over flowing with hangers filled with samples. I then went on to work in a bridal shop. Learning everything about couture, working with some beautiful silks, meeting many brides. We worked in the basement, creating collections for the shop and the bridal fittings would take place in front of a huge beautiful mirror in the changing room upstairs. Dress makers would make the brides dresses at their homes. I learnt the most in this job, initially I made all the toiles and several badly to begin with. 3 years later I was very confident at sewing, not as good as my boss, but I could do some very difficult techniques easily. I mastered a tiny french seam and inserting a sleeve for example. The best part was the annual Bridal show, we would travel to York, exhibit our dresses and attend an evening party and fashion show which included our dresses.
I worked here for 3 years and I wanted a change, as there is so many buttons you can sew on and hems to hand sew, I had learnt as much as I could. It also coincided with my mother dying of cancer. Going though bereavement makes you look at your life and strong enough to make changes. I considered going back to college to do a fashion masters, and went for 3 interviews, here the very eccentric head of fashion told me to teach, so I took her advice and excepted a place on a PGCE art course. I wanted to be creative and draw again, how delusional was I, as there is little time allowed for such luxuries in education and definitely not once I became more managerial.
It was quickly recognised how much textiles knowledge I had and I was encouraged to take this route rather than art. Textiles was all about decoration and having a teacher knowledgeable about sewing was also seen as an asset. I loved teaching textiles, over the 16 years as a textiles teacher, together students made so many different things. My sewing skills broadened, as I would always give their ideas a go. Helping them overcome sewing hurdles and learning along the way myself. My passion for sewing started to grow again, much so that when my son was about 2, I started to sew again at home. Making him pyjamas and lots of different children’s wear for friends. I loved making girls clothes and started to sell these on a market stall and then on Etsy. At this stage I was a department manager and balancing work, my creative hobby and a child, this began to become a challenge. I decided to take a step back and go part-time. This gave me the freedom to do more outside the classroom. I started to teach at the knitting and stitching shows and the country living fair and exhibited at the Handmade fair. This I really enjoy, as I met lots of like-minded adults. Children are lovely, but for adults learning is 100% a choice, so very attentive and keen.
I started my website, slowly adding to it and sewing on my days off.
I have now given up teaching, instead my son is my main priority, when he is at school I spend most days blogging and sewing. I held a beginners small beginners sewing course at the Arts Depot in Finchley and this was so much fun. Unfortunately it’s just too expensive to run further events, so I want to focus my time and money on my website, I want to sell patterns and fabrics, I have managed to establish links with several wholesalers and am in the process of adding my first pattern and fabric combo to see if it works.
I still teach in my sons primary school, I have set up an after school textiles club and the little ones love it. I love how I have creative freedom, I am used to teaching older children, so I enjoy the challenge of creating age appropriate schemes of work and making sure they are having fun. Several have already expressed a passion for textiles, which is really lovely to hear from children so young.
I love making clothes now more than ever, I enjoy working outside my comfort zone, working with jersey fabrics and an over locker. I have spent so many past years making made to measure, it’s now nice to make quick easy wearable clothes, also stretch fabrics were not available years ago. I am enjoying working with paper patterns, especially; Simply sewing, Sew over it and Paper cut patterns. I enjoy making and then writing blog reviews for my website.
The next chapter to my story; Ideally I would like my own studio, where I can run sewing workshops, make up the latest patterns, continue to sell my favourite fabrics. I want to continue blogging and developing my own website shop. It would be my dream to sell Liberty cottons and Orla Kiely upholstery fabrics.
When you make your own clothes you may as well make them a bit special, whats the point in making something plain when you can jazz it up a bit. No one else will have one like it and you can be a bit creative at the same time, making a statement piece. I also like to wear examples of what I teach. I teach at the Knitting and Stitching show twice a year, one of my workshops is all about manipulating fabrics, part of the workshop I show how to make a gather, pin tucking, pleating and making frills. I wanted to make a tip that includes one or two these.
A few weeks ago now, I cut out the simply sewing sweat shirt. since starting to sew jersey garments I have discovered that sweat shirts are so quick and easy to make, so this time I thought I would add some additional details to this one.
I have a box full of Liberty scraps, so I decided to use some cream cotton that has prity little orange flowers on it, the petals are also tiny and grey. It looks good against the black jersey I am using for the sweatshirt. I cut strips measuring 6cm wide and as long as the piece I had, about 50cm long. I cut 4 of these and sewed 2 together. I then pin hemmed both raw edges. To do this you press over 0.5cm, sew right on the very edge, then trim and press and sew again. This can take a while, take your time, as the finish is lovely. I then did two rows of gather stitch down the centre. I marked 2 lines on the front of my front panel with chalk and started to pin the gathered strip to this, making sure the edge was the right way round.
I found it very difficult finding a matching orange ribbon. I went to my local haberdashery and picked up some and I ordered some glitter ribbon in orange, black and rainbow colours online. All of which looked very different when they arrived. This is the risk of buying online, the colour doesn’t always look the same. For example the orange was too brown. Lots of the ribbons I didn’t use in the end.
I liked the black glitter ribbon, so placed this on the front of my top next to my frills. To do this I drew another straight chalk line. I couldn’t find mine, but if I did I would add a strip of bond a web to the back of the ribbon, this would make sure it’s secure first, then sewing is much easier. I also decided to add the orange velvet ribbon and the silver ribbon to the sleeves. I had to unpick the under arm first. I really like the way this looks.
I also ordered some ribbing for the hem cuff. I found this on Etsy and it took over two weeks to arrive. I will need to find a UK supplier if I’m to sell this pattern on my site. I even dyed some of the ribbon to make the colour match better.
Website. Just a little website update, I know I have mentioned this a couple of times in previous blogs, I will eventually be stocking patterns and fabrics on my site. This is quite a long process to start with, as I have to make sure I get it right and source all the right materials for you guys first. I am due to visit my wholesalers at the end of the month and will put in an order with a haberdashery very soon. I have 2 boxes of patterns ready for me to make, review and then sell. Then working with my website designer, I will be able to get everything up loaded and ready to go.
The ribbing was the perfect length for the hem, it was really easy to attach. I marked four points and pinned these in place, slightly stretching to match. I overlocker all the 3 layers together. The arm cuffs and neckline were a similar process. Sew in a loop, fold over and overlock, then pin and sew to arms and necklines. You can make this with self fabric or a similar in a different colour perhaps. I will make both to show you. I want to get some quilted jersey for this sweatshirt and as soon as I get the fabric I will put up images.
Size The sweat shirt came up quite big, it is a style that is for lounge wear, to wear around the house perhaps, so it is nice bigger. I do the school run every morning and some mornings recently its too warm for a jacket, but too cold for a t-shirt, so they would be perfect to throw on with jeans. I will make one a size smaller and see what its like. I would also like to make one without the frill, as I actually think the ribbons are enough on their own. it was always an experiment and did just happen as materials arrived and on reflection the ribbon looks great on its own. I wore it to my Textiles club and the children loved the top, especially the silver glitter ribbon. I have never worn a top with a stripe down the sleeve and it looks great.
You could make this top solely on the over locker, I think I will give this a go with the next one that I make. it is such a quick make and literally has just 8 steps. It’s Sew Simple!
Sewing the skirt:
The seams are quick and easy to sew, make sure you sew the right panels together, the notches are important and each paper pattern has side front or side back written on it. This all helps. Not forgetting that the opening is at the front, instinctively you think it’s at the back, (well I did when I started pinning) luckily early on, so I could correct myself.
Terminology: One method I have never heard of before is, stitching the ditch? I would normally sew the waist band seam allowance inside, enclosing the raw edge, or in this case over locked edge. This time the pattern asks you to sew along the waistband seam, catching the reverse of the waistband as you go (this is called ‘stitching the ditch’). I can see why they use this technique here. It makes the waistband nice and flat, if it was enclosed it would be bulky and the buttons would be harder to add later.
Advice: When you are sewing the ends of the waistband make sure they are equal on both fronts.
I checked and matched my measurements to the pattern before I cut the pattern out. I haven’t time to toile it, as it advises on the pattern. If you have never made a simple sew pattern before, I would advise a toile on the first pattern you make up. Then once you know what size you are, then each one after that should be ok. It’s just like shops. I can’t buy clothes from Top-shop, as everything is tiny. There customers are much younger than me it seems. Monsoon sizing is more accurate for me these days (I’m in my 40’s).
Buttons and button holes: I highly recommend that you test a few button holes before you do them on your skirt. When you do make sure you fold the fabric over twice so that it’s the same thickness as your skirt.
I looked at a similar skirt I have in my wardrobe before I marked my holes. The pattern just says sew your button holes on the right hand side. The pattern markings are only on the skirt panels, it doesn’t say to add another to the waistband. When using my brother sewing machine button-hole foot I needed to get my manual out, as it wouldn’t start. Obviously I soon realised that I needed to remove the foot pedal, as it’s automatic. I used a sharp pink chalk pencil. White would show more, but I haven’t got one at the moment. Marking is so important. I pin my pattern to the front panel, then pin each button-hole over the markings from beginning to end. I pull the paper up and where the pin tip shows mark with the fabric pencil. I start my button-hole from the centre front edge, as I am using a round ended hole, so this needs to be at the edge. Check each button-hole is correct before you cut them
I use a craft knife and cutting mat to open the holes. Do this very carefully as it is easy to cut too far. You can use small embroidery scissors or a quick unpick.
I had to wait a few days for the buttons, as I have never made a denim skirt before, so don’t have any denim buttons in my stash. This is frustrating as i am really enjoying making this skirt and have had to put it on hold. I want to include everything you need, so you don’t have the same problem.
You need a chopping board and a hammer. I used a screw driver to make a hole, then pushed the button back through the wrong side, with the button front facing down on the board and the fabric sandwiched in between. Hammer the screw into the button, easy. I had them attached in close to 10 minutes. Much easier and quicker than sewing on 8 buttons. They look great too. The hem: it says turn up by 2cm, it doesn’t explain that you need to turn the raw edge under first. The diagram does illustrate this. The hem is on a curve so I would advise that you tack it in place first and give it a steam. Make sure both centre fronts match. They the skirt flat on a table and draw the two fronts together to check before you sew.
Fit and Shape: the skirt is high-waisted, it fits well (I made up a larger size to my shop size) it feels comfortable. If I make it again I may take out the side front and back panels. It would be easy to hack, just stick the panels together.
The making stages are simple and easy to follow, sometimes a bit too simple. Now I have seen a few of their patterns they have a booklet style and all are the same size, so they need to fit all the stages in to this format, so can’t be too descriptive. This booklet included 3 garments, so impressed they could fit it all in.
The cover shows a drawing and a photo, the button position on the photo are actually different from the drawing. There is 6 buttons on the drawing and 8 on the photo. The first button below the waistband is lower. As they don’t explain the button-hole positioning in detail this makes this a little confusing.
Fabric: I used a medium weight denim as they suggested and this makes it easier to sew as not too bulky and it’s comfortable too. I also used a light weight cotton for the blouse, I would like to make it again in a floral cotton.
Check for size, not just waist and hips, measure the length. I would definitely lengthen this if I made it again. I should have measured the length first. If you are making this make sure you do, as mine is about 4 inches too short. i do have a long body, but 4 inches is a bit extreme.
I overlocker all the seams except the necklines, as these have facings. I found the button loop quite long. It also said top stitch it, I used a loop turner instead. I’m not a great fan of facings, but this pattern made them easy. The hem of the facing is overlocked and is easy to attach at the side seams. I don’t like it when you have to pin hem facings. Snip around the curved edges of the facings before you turn and press.
Pin your darts matching the notches at the side seams and sew towards the point. I always stop at the point and then hand tie the points, instead of back stitching.This makes it a neat point.
Sleeves: I didn’t realise it needs shearing elastic, so I have ordered some and will have to wait till it arrives before I finish it.
I have established an account with a haberdashery supplier, so soon this will not be a problem. As I mentioned before, I want to stock everything you need for each product. So if you buy this pattern, you will have everything you need; some fabric and button options, the elastic and thread. I can post everything in one special parcel. I need to make every pattern first, so it has a written review blog attached.
A friend lent me some elastic and initially it went really well and I was actually surprised how easy it was, then my bobbin ran out after 3 out of 4 rows. I hand wound some more on and it just wouldn’t work. I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials to see if I could work out why this was happening. I changed the bobbin tension, rewound my elastic and still didn’t work. It started to frustrate me, so I took a coffee break. I went back and decided to thread the elastic onto the bobbin tightly. YouTube told me different. This time it worked straight away. Just shows you, some people online are not always right. The shearing is a lovely extra detail, it makes the blouse more feminine and pretty.
I don’t like how you can see the over locking at the hem, but you can’t rally hem the sleeve after as it has the shearing elastic gathering it. When sewing the sleeve in, it is important to use an ease stitch, (as the pattern suggests) this makes it easier to fit. Then lastly its the hem, press under and top stitch, its sew simple!
The skirt is really comfortable and quite slimming, I wouldn’t change a thing. Apart from the top being short, it’s a lovely pattern. Making an outfit is great. I will definitely source some more fabric and make the top again, obviously much longer next time. if you want a new summer outfit, this is the perfect pattern.
This pattern company has to be my all time favourite. I have a few:
Papercutpatterns: From the packaging, the graphics, instructions, styles, sizing and shapes. Everything about them is spot on, so much so that I wish they would make more styles. This Kimono will be the first pattern I sell on my website. I am a small company and want to test my idea slowly. Each pattern I sell, I will make and wear.I will include sewing tips linked to each make and links to suitable fabrics, fastenings and tools that will make the make easier. I don’t want to sell anything I don’t make, wear and enjoy sewing. I don’t want to stock everything and anything sewing, I want my knowledge and experience to help others enjoy sewing more. It would also be great for people to share their makes here, so we can see real people wearing these products.
Cutting out the fabric: I have made this kimono before, the first time I used a Liberty cotton, it’s more for a summer evening wear. This time I wanted to make the denim version with the pockets and ties.
You need to inter-line the neckband, the tops of the pockets, hemlines on the sleeves and front and back panels. I used iron on interlining. This is quick and easy to attach, just make sure you have a hot iron. I use a heat press, if I use an iron, I press with pattern paper, or a teflon sheet on top to protect my iron. A tea towel will also work just as well. Also when you press down, do not move the iron around, just press down, count 5 seconds, then lift and press again. Repeat this, avoiding moving the iron when it is touching the fabric, this will stop the fabric moving, prevent any stretching and misshapen panels.
I cut my kimono out slightly longer, but soon realised that I didn’t lengthen the neck and, so had to cut off my extension. Maybe next time doh! if you want to lengthen, unlike me remember to lengthen the neck-band too.
Making: You start by over locking all the seams. I had to re-thread my overlocker. I can’t find my tweezers, so this was a little bit more difficult than usual. It worked first time so that’s always a result. I have 3 over-lockers, (as I teach sewing, not because I am extra) so need to get the other one threaded, so I don’t keep having to change the colour. Threading tip: Thread one thread at a time, cut one thread near to the spool. Tie this to your new colour, then slowly pull through. it may not go through the last needle, but you may be lucky and the more you practice this, the easier it gets. I find I have to take threading really slowly, I can’t be rushed and always follow the diagram literally, on the inside of the machine. If it starts getting frustrating, take a coffee break, I promise when you return it usually works first time.
Pockets and ties:
You then make the pockets and ties. Both things I have taught in the past, so enjoyed doing them for myself. The ties they suggest using a safety-pin, I don’t like using these as they always open half way. I use a loop turner instead. The fabric is a medium denim, you couldn’t pull it through if it was any thicker. One didn’t work, so I had to cut another, but the other 3 worked first time, so that was a relief. Sometimes things take a little practice and patience. Marking the pockets: When marking the position of the pockets I pinned through the pattern on the 4 pocket corners, then using a chalk pencil mark small dots onto the fabric. Once marked I positioned my pocket matching the dots, making this accurate and easier.
I top stitched and created a small triangle as suggested on the pattern, to reinforce the top pocket edge. One of my triangles was upside down. I actually liked how this looks, so I left it. Some accidents can become features. The tie ends need to be tucked in and top stitched.
Next was to attach the ties to the side seams. Finish the hem of the sleeves, by turning over twice and top stitching. You then need to sew the shoulders together, then attaching the sleeves and the under arms, this is the tricky bit. Once the corner is snipped it sits much better. If you have a dress stand, this is a good time to have a look at it and check it looks ok. if you don’t snip the under arm, it looks like it’s caught and doesn’t sit well. Press the seams open. Hem the jacket before attaching the band.
I ran out of time here and had to collect my son from school. Hopefully he will allow me to continue, while he has his iPad hour later…..I didn’t manage to get back to this until the next day. My son had a play date on Saturday afternoon, this is perfect quiet sewing time. i rarely make things in one sitting, I have pockets of time and sometimes I have to wait for fastenings and trimmings to arrive. I want you to be able to buy everything you need before you start, so you don’t have the same problem as me. sometimes
The hardest part is to attach the front neck-band. Make sure you have interlined it, if you don’t it may stretch slightly making it harder to sew. You need to attach it to the wrong side first, this is so you are top stitching on the front. It is worth tacking at this stage, as it can stretch. I have done it without tacking and ended up unpicking and starting again. Unpicking takes longer than tacking I promise.
I love the over all look and it’s a really enjoyable sew. If you make it please share a picture on Instagram #itssewsimple
If you want to buy the pattern alone you can, or you can buy everything you need here. I will be happy to post you a box of goodies and look forward to seeing your final make. I am also available to answer any questions you have whilst making your kimono. Please email me and or call. I’m also happy to Skype, this way I can see what’s going on too.
You will need
Sewing time: approx 3 hours
Iron on interlining
Medium weight iron on interlining
2 metres of medium weight denim
Loop turner or safety-pin optional
My son Freddie started Primary school nearly 3 years ago now, and I have made some really good friends whilst standing in the playground waving goodbye to my son each morning. One of my new friendships is with Maria, Max’ mum. We soon discovered that we have more than our sons in common. We have similar childhood memories, life stories, the same eye for design and fashion. We love textiles and we have a passion for sewing. So after lots of sewing conversations before and after school, I invited Maria for a sew along.
I soon discovered that it really is lovely sewing with a friend. Maria and her little new-born baby Minnie came over last week for a sewing session and we are already planning the next session. here’s what we got up to.
Maria decided she wanted to make a kimono. She had 2 metres of linen fabric she picked up at a market for just £5. There wasn’t enough for the neckline band, so I raided my fabric stash and we decided on a contrasting floral print.
I have 4 kimono patterns and Maria liked the Simplicity K1108 pattern the most.
We started by cutting out (on my living room floor). Maria has taught herself to sew and been on a few sewing courses, one being draping on the dress stand, so using paper patterns is quite a new experience. I showed her how to line the pattern pieces up with the straight grain first. Measuring from the grain line to the selvedge edge. She loved my measuring tape lanyard.
This gave me the idea that I would like to add a sewing essentials shop on my website. The tape measure being on the list. It will include all my favourite can’t sew without tools.
We then cut out the contrasting fabric for the neck-band and also the interfacing.
I have a small heat press, I heated it up and pressed the interfacing to all the neck panels. The heat press is a lot hotter than the domestic iron and being that you press rather than iron, the fabric doesn’t move and the interlining is always very secure. Heat presses are used in industry, just on a much bigger press/scale.
The next stage was to start sewing the front panels, back under arm, back seam and then shoulders together. These could be over locked, but Maria wanted to learn how to French seam.
Sew the wrong sides together first only 0.5cm, trim the raw edge a tiny bit. Then press the seam flat, turned to the right side and pin again, enclosing the raw edge inside a channel, then sewing again. If you hold this up to the light you can check that the raw edge is inside and the pins are just beside this. french seams are rarely used in high street stores, as it basically takes twice as long, so time is money. I am seeing french seams more; in mens tailored shirts and blouses, these usually have a higher price tag. Over-lockers are fast and you can finish the edge and sew the seam all in one action, so much more economical to use.
Maria soon discovered that it’s important to make sure the raw edge is inside and not to sew too close, if you do, the raw edge sticks out. This can be trimmed away. This time we sewed again and I unpicked the first attempt. This was quite tricky, as the linen has a very open weave and the thread match was so perfect it was hard to see the thread line.
I pinned all the neck panels together whilst Maria was sewing the seams. I did this by laying them out on the floor first, checking with the instruction pictures to make sure I had each panel the correct way. If I had guessed, it would have been wrong.
Maria sewed these together next, there is 2 pairs, the back interfaced ones and the front without. This prevents the band stretching.
We also needed to gather the back neckline. Maria had never done gathering before, so I showed her how to increase the stitch size and how to do the two rows of stitching, remembering not to back-stitch. Then pulling the top two threads to gather.
We stopped for lunch, which was a delicious tuna salad that Maria had brought with her. Baby Minnie decided to wake up at this point, so Maria managed to eat and breast feed all at the same time. Minnie went straight back to sleep, allowing us to get back to work, again.
The first band was pinned to the top, matching the neck notches. This was then sewn, the second band attached to the first. Once this was done all the seams needed to be pressed and then the neck-band raw edge pinned enclosed, pressed and tacked into position. The reason I tack is totally from experience. The last time I made this I didn’t and I had to unpick it all, it had gathered in places. Not forgetting it’s important to snip all the way around the curved edges too. it’s also important to sew the first panel to the wrong side first, then your top stitching will be on the front.
The day was going quickly and it was nearly time to collect our boys from school. Rather than rush and make mistakes we stopped ahead of time.
I took the kimono with me and did the hand sewing in the car. It’s always hard to park at the primary school and it’s too far to walk, so I like to leave early to get a space close enough. This gave me 15 minutes sitting in the car waiting time, time I usually read or blog. So today it was perfect for hand-sewing. I took a needle, thread and a thimble and managed to finish the hand sewing just in time. I forgot my scissors so it was not easy threading the needle.
My son is allowed an iPad hour a day. This was just enough time for me to top stitch the band in place and press and to stitch the hem of both sleeves. Then it was a trip to the Dentist for Freddie’s 6 month check up, followed by cooking his tea and an hour of monster drawing before bed.
once he was in bed I gave it a good press and it looks really good. I’m really pleased with the result and will give to Maria at school drop off tomorrow morning
Sewing with a friend is so lovely, you get to chat and support each other with your makes. I definitely want to do this again.
If you want to do similar, come along to one of my sewing workshops, have a look at the workshop page on my website. Call a friend and get them along too. I can also do a one to one sew along, just send me an email with dates and what you would like to learn and make.
There are a lot of assumptions made when it come to fashion, textiles, and sewing terminology.
If you didn’t study Fashion and or textiles at school or college, will you have any sewing knowledge? Is picking up a pattern and buying fabric daunting for the first time?
How do you learn best? Do you have a good memory? Learning is so much more accessible these days, what with online YouTube tutorials and the internet.
I have gained my knowledge from the different job roles I’ve had and from books and if there is a gap in my knowledge, I self teach using the internet and going on courses. I started working on Saturdays aged 14. Sadly and some may be surprised but very little knowledge was gained whilst in education. I am more of a practical, visual learner and have learnt on the job!
Learning on the job
I started out as a shop assistant, in the pattern and fabric department in John Lewis Brent Cross. Here I learnt loads about fabrics; the widths, weights, usage, grains and textures. I was doing my degree at the same time, so this job really helped me then and still does to this day. How much to make this and that? I remember people used to come in and ask me, how much do I need for a skirt? I would firstly answer, a short, long, flared, straight, circle or mini skirt? Then we would find out how wide the fabric was and go from there. Usually 1 to 2 lengths, depending on fabric width. At college I learnt basic sewing skills, they had some amazing technicians, a dress-maker, a tailor and a couturier.
Then after college I became a design room assistant (glorified sample cutter) where I learnt about pattern layout, costing, pattern cutting and cutting fabrics. This was a high street supplier so everything was cheap polyester and mostly stretch. I would cut out garments all day, with several daily trips to the buyers always laden with samples.
Then I was a Design assistant in a bridal company; learning most of my couture sewing skills and silk fabric knowledge here. Then back to college to learn how to teach, and onto teaching textiles for a further 16 years. I taught GCSE and A Level textiles mostly, students made a broad range of products, teaching me how not to make something, how to trouble shoot, to make anything and everything from a bag, to baby grow, to bra, to ball gown to jean jacket to suit.
All my various jobs I had to cut fabric, measure fabric and how to rip fabric straight. I have a breadth of experience and have picked up a few tips along the way, some more basic (easy when you know how) than others. lets start with cutting fabric.
A grain line mark on a paper pattern piece is the long straight line with arrows at each end that shows how to position the piece accurately on the fabric’s grain.
Measuring from selvedge edge to grain line:
It is so important to make sure your pattern pieces are on the straight grain. If they are off grain your garments will twist and hang to one side. Use a fabric tape measure and line up the grain line illustrated on the pattern with the edge of the fabrics selvage edge. Do this at both ends of the grain line arrow. Use pattern weights initially, this way you can adjust the pattern accordingly without having to take any pins out. Once it’s accurate you can then add the pins.
Make sure your fabric is straight. Line the selvedge edge up with the table edge. Tap the fabric into place, let the fabric go where it wants to go, avoid pulling it/forcing it into place. Here’s a little sketch of the selvedge and straight grain.
Cutting out chiffon:
Chiffon is a very fine fabric that moves and is almost impossible to keep in the same place. Using dot and cross paper, sandwich the chiffon in between 2 layers of paper. Taping the paper to the table first and then the chiffon and so on. This stops the chiffon from moving when you cut. Pin your pattern on top and cut through the 3 layers.
Once you have all your pattern pieces aligned with the straight grain, pin them in place. Always pin within the seam allowance width. You may damage the fabric and the last thing you want to see when you have spent hours sewing is a hole down the centre front. Also don’t use hundreds of pins, I have seen students spend hours pinning, I’m wondering why it’s taking so long and when I look they have about 50 pins on a 30 centimetre panel. 3 to each side is more than enough.
Tight selvage edge
If the edge is tight snip just 1 along the edge to open it out, the same as you snip a sleeve to ease it in.
Fold your fabric in half, selvage edge to selvage edge. Understanding which edge is the selvedge edge all depends on which way you lay your fabric. I did find this hard to teach when showing students. The raw edge at one end and the finished edges either side. If you look closely at fabric, you can see the grain running down the fabric.
Always cut out with the right side inside/face down or if on the fold the right side should be together. This is so you protect the fabric, keep it clean.
Fabric with a pile:
Pile is the raised surface or nap of a fabric, consisting of upright loops or strands of yarn. Examples of pile textiles are carpets, corduroy, velvet, towelling. The pile should always run down the body. Stroke your fabric, the smooth direction should run down the pattern pieces. Also all pieces should run in the same direction, for example with trousers both legs need to be placed the same, same with sleeves. If you don’t do this you will see a shade difference. If the front panel is going down the fabric and the back up, this will show at the side seam.
Laying out your pattern on the fabric to prepare for cutting is an important step that must be done carefully and accurately for great-looking results. All paper patterns have suggested layout options dependant on the fabric width. I however sometimes cut more than one thing at once, so I lay all my pieces down with pattern weights and find the most cost-effective way first. I have memories of my first boss slamming his phone down, then storming over to my cutting table. He would make me move to one side so he could cost a pattern. He had a call from the factory, probably advising a price of a good 10,000 products. This I can image came to lots of money, so it had to be right. If they didn’t have enough fabric and the garments needed to be in the shops the same day, someone would be in trouble. He was a hot-headed man, but now looking back I can appreciate why he got so worked up.
This experience did affect me in a positive way, as when teaching I would always encourage using every scrap of fabric and seeing a student cut a small shape right in the centre of a big piece of fabric, well we had words.
I would definitely recommend going to college, but ultimately you learn more on the job!
If you would like to learn some more, please come and join one of my sewing workshops, see the link below:
I have always loved clothes from a very early age and studied fashion at university. I wanted to share some of my fashion memories with you, some you may laugh at and some you may remember wearing yourself maybe?
This blog has helped me reflect and realise how I want my workshops to include work wear and casual wear. I have a pyjama workshop for beginners, a skirt and blouse workshop, also a bag making workshop. I would like to add a stretch workshop in the future. I want my website to stock fabrics for all occasions, ranging from silk to jersey.
I used to only make clothes for special occasions, wearing something I had made just once or twice a year. I want to prove that you can make your entire wardrobe and enjoy wearing your own clothes on a daily basis. I like fashion, but also like to wear thinks that suit my shape, not just what the high street dictates.
Memories and ever-changing styles.
My mum used to power dress in the eighties, the classic shoulder pads, suits and white steletoes. She had several roles within an advertising agency and she also worked at Lords Cricket Ground, starting as the PA, managing staff, training staff and finally a ICT co-ordinator. She was made redundant from the Advertising agency in the early nineties and went back to university to do a Primary school teaching degree. Her style completely changed over night; she started to wear black Doctor Martins instead of heels and 501 jeans instead of skirts. She was happy in herself and wore what she wanted to wear for once, rather than office corporate wear. She was only 40-42, I was 20/22 and watched on as she changed her style.
Now I have done similar, I worked as a manager wearing similar clothes (minus the white shoes, these where always black) to my mother and then gave that life up and started to wear things that were more me, me at my happiest. No more suits, don’t get me wrong I loved wearing suits and mastered my workwear look, it did feel like a uniform and became less and less creative. Instead of a black suit and white shirt, I have started to wear bright patterns again, floral fabrics, denim and sparkly trainers, more creative clothes. I don’t lead meetings, meet parents, take assemblies and am not on the interview panel anymore. Now when I teach I like to wear clothes I have made, leadby example in a very different way to my previous job role.
Top 3 favourite outfits, what are yours?
1st: bikini, vest, denim skirt and flip flops. If I could wear this every day I would be happiest.
2nd: jeans, t-shirt and trainers. My favourite every day outfit
3rd: sparkly evening dress and high heels. My feel good outfit.
Jeans have changed over the years. My first being high-waisted 501’s, bought second-hand from a shop in Camden called Rocket. Then Diesel jeans took over in the 1990’s. 501’s are making a come back and I wish I had kept all my old ones.
I loved living in Camden, I worked in a hairdressers every Saturday from 14-19 years of age. I was only paid £7.50 for the day, but earned loads more in tips. I worked 9am-7pm with few if any breaks, not sure many teenagers would do this these days? I would save up most of my money and remember buying clothes, a bed and I even saved enough to pay for a flight to Barbados when I was 14.
I loved buying my own clothes the most, it was my freedom of expression. Through college I loved collecting art books and jewellery. I would love walking though the market on my way home from my Saturday job, looking at the latest fashions and the people wearing them. I loved silver jewellery and wore a ring or two on nearly every finger. I find when I do things in this kind of excessive way, it changes me after time. I now only wear my platinum wedding band and diamond engagement ring and a Cartier watch, just simple and elegant. I remember having a collection of bangles and swatch watches and sometimes wore them all at once. I told you its taken years to master this look!
I do remember getting really in to jewellery. I loved a shop in Covent Garden, they sold a collect of young unknown designers pieces. One of the designers I started to collect, would set different objects like tiny leaves and shells in resin.
I have always taken time and care over my appearance, thinking carefully about each item of clothing and how well it goes with another. Teaming a leather bomber jacket with matching leather boots, wearing lots of black, making sure everything coordinates. I do wish I had kept all my clothes, as they always come back in fashion eventually. Although many manufacturers make clothes to last just one season these days.
Dress for a Special occasion
My wedding dress. I married aged 37, not a young bride. I had worked in the bridal industry years before, helping hundreds of brides choose their dress, I had an understanding of what best suited a woman’s shape, working with quality fabrics and helping create made to measure wedding dresses. I remember thinking, it was my turn, so buying off the peg wasn’t an option. I wanted that same special experience I had given to others.
Someone told me once, ‘if you experience 1st class, it’s difficult going back to Economy’. I looked at everything, then settled on my all time great fashion icon, Vivienne Westwood. I had the special treatment and spent several years after paying for it. It was worth every penny, I knew it was well spent when I saw my husbands face turn at the end of the aisle. I am sure it was partly relief at my choice and partly surprised to see me in a red dress. I still have the toile to this day, lined in Vivienne Westwood lining and I show it to students often. It was a corset bodice and draped long skirt. They sent me several red fabric samples to decide on one. They gave me tea in a cup and saucer, or sometimes champagne at each fitting.
I loved it and felt a million dollars on my wedding day. I have never worn it again. I thought I would wear the corset with jeans, but I like to keep that special day sacred and think wearing it again would spoil the memories. I would never look or feel as good on a lesser day after all.
One that comes straight to my mind is from my fashion college days. The days of nearly anything goes, experimental outfits were a daily routine for us all. All trying to find who we were, what look to embrace, desperate not to be part of a pack, school years are spent trying to fit into a group, feel safe and not to stand out. I have said once here already,’it’s taken years to master this look’, I really do mean it.
Once I left my flat in Camden and within minutes felt unsure about my outfit choice. I was wearing a pair of 501’s. What’s wrong with that you are saying right? Well one leg was cut like a hot pant and the other leg full length. I met a friend of my brothers on the street and felt embarrassed. I didn’t show this, just walked to my little second-hand mini car and kept my head held high all day at college. Fashion is all about being different and causing a conversation, I’m sure I achieved this that day. Never to be worn again, I might add.
At college I designed shoes for my final collection, these were made by a shoe maker, they had lots of straps and black heels, they looked great with the evening dresses and hats I made.
I loved my heels days. These were dramatically reduced when I had my son. I used to wear high heels every day to work. Driving to work in flip-flops, then slipping into my heels in the school car park. I loved how they made me feel, naturally 5 11” so in 3” heels taller than most. Heels make your posture more elegant, clothes look smarter, better and you feel sexy. Being that I wore them every day, I found them comfortable, this is not the case now. I like very slim heels, not the chunky types.
When Freddie was born, well put it this way, they spend more time in their clear plastic shoe boxes than they do on my feet. Too expensive to justify buying for myself and too uncomfortable and unnecessary pushing a pram. Being more practical and comfort takes over when you have children. I slowly stopped wearing them as you cannot carry a child to nursery, lift a child up and or run in heels.
I wore Jimmy Choo on my wedding day and most weekend nights out in my Christian Lou Boutins, week days in Russel and Bromley’. I don’t wear them as much, so I have managed to look after my shoes, so my heels come out when ever we go on a special night out, weddings and parties. Now I spend the best part of my week in converse trainers. I have a few different pairs now; in gold, black sequins and Liberty floral prints.
I will always love clothes and I am sure I have many more fashion disasters and or triumphs to follow. My aim now is for my wardrobe to include more home-made clothes and less shop bought.
If you would like to make your own clothes with ItsSewSimple, please click the link below.
A paper pattern review for the The ultimate trousers by Sew Over it
Body shape and sizing
Everyone’s body shape is different, so I don’t believe there is a standard size. I spent many years making toiles for made to measure Brides, these gowns used to fit like a glove, no one pattern was the same and it is important to remember that every body shape is different. We all have different genetic and cultural traits. Even if everyone started eating the same things and did the same amount of exercise for a whole year, we would not all look the same at the end of the year. This is because each person’s genetic inheritance influences their bone structure, body size, shape, and weight differently. Both my parents were tall and my father broad.
Swimming has always been a part of my life, especially in my childhood, I did find this harder to keep up when I worked full-time and started a family. I started to put on weight in my 40’s. I recognised quickly that I had to make some life style changes. My son is 7 years old now and I create my own working hours, rather than working 12 hour days as a teacher. When you get older your life changes and your metabolism slows down. I now make it part of my life style to exercise. I don’t go to the gym, I just use an app and a yoga mat at home, to work out most days and I sign up to a swimming challenge every year to motivate me to swim 2-3 times a week. Last year I started swimming outside, wearing a wetsuit at a local Lido pool and I have regained the passion for swimming. I also changed my diet, giving up bread 6 months ago and cutting out snack food. With these changes I lost weight and now enjoy buying and making clothes again. Keeping in shape is not as easy as it was back in my 20’s to 30’s, but I feel so much happier in my body shape now. I still find buying trousers really hard though, I can’t wear trousers with side pockets and find I have to buy bigger, as they don’t normally fit on the hips. I used to be a 10-12 in my younger years, but in my 40’s I am more like a 12-14, depending where I shop.
I made a pair of trousers from another pattern company recently and the shape was so bad, they were bagging around the crutch, loose around the waist and tight on the hip, all wrong basically, so I continued my search for the perfect fitting trouser.
The Ultimate trouser pattern
I decided to toile them first and I am glad I did. I cut out a size bigger, but still had to add a little extra to the hips. when I bought the pattern the lady advised me to make a size bigger, so as to get the perfect fit. I also lengthened them. The fit now is near on perfect. The shape is also lovely, they are really slimming and so comfortable to wear. My search is over!
The pattern suggests putting the zip in after the leg side seam sewn. I didn’t do this. I find this leaves potential puckering below the zip. So I sew my zips in first, then finish the left seam, hence no puckering. I found this so easy and quick to make, as a result I made 2 pairs in little to no time. The pattern was clear and easy to follow.
I used a floral printed cotton sateen, which has a little stretch and another pair in some soft denim. The floral fabric makes them real ‘statement trousers. I can wear them with heels and a blue top, or I can pick out one of the colours in the print. I think a red top with a blue cardigan would also be nice.
The denim pair I made with a stripe down the side, I made my own bias binding, using some Liberty cotton and a binding maker. I have wanted some trousers with a stripe down them for ages. I see them in fashion magazines lots. I would like to make a black pair next, or a pinstripe pair maybe. You could make them in a stretch fabric and then make them slightly tighter.
Packaging and instructions.
The illustrations on the cover are very stylish and give a vintage look. They use the pale purple brand colour which makes it very recognisable Sew Over It. I did have to tape the pattern cover back together when I placed the pattern back in, as it doesn’t stay closed. The instructions are in the form of a A5 booklet. This includes tips, a glossary, pattern layout and then step by step written and illustrated instructions. The drawings are large and well drawn. I like how they show the over locking. The zip part just shows the first stage, then describes how. More drawings might be helpful here.
This is the second pattern I have made from Sew Over It and I think they really have got some great shapes, they are on trend and fashionable. I want to make more and definitely stock them on my site
These were so easy to make and fit so well. A great pattern. I highly recommend to any level.