Merry Christmas! & my 2012 plans for sewing…

Well it’s that time of year again – I’ll be away visiting family and friends between Christmas and New Years, so this will be my last post for the year.

How gorgeous are the laser cut wooden snow flakes above? I’m trying to make a tradition of buying a special Christmas ornament each year, and these are this years find, from Etsy seller Timber Green Woods. Last year I bought some ‘baubles’ covered in lovely polka-dotted pheasant feathers, so unintentionally it seems I’m going for an earthy theme for my future Christmas Trees. 

I’m hoping you all have a safe and joyous end to the year – I’m looking forward to coming back next year and tackling the ever growing sewing ‘To Do’ list, including a whole plethora of new tailoring projects, working with lace, attempting to fit my first pair of pants – I could go on and on!

So I’ll leave you with some of the fabrics I’ve got plans for… and some vintage lovelies I’m dying to jump into!

I’ve gone crazy buying vintage (and non-vintage) lace on Etsy – here are some of my findings along with an AMAZING woven silk in periwinkle blue that I’m planning to team with a pale lemon yellow lining as a tailored jacket:

Plus some black and white checked wool with a bright blue silk lining for a fitted sheath dress for work…

And yet another work dress from a cashmere fabric with lime green silk lining:

I’ll be trying my hand at a pair of jeans – I figure, if pants are so difficult to fit, why not try to make a pattern from a favourite pair of jeans? So I’ve cut up a pair that fit like a charm, but are no longer wearable (at least, not in public!), and bought some denim. I’ve also ALWAYS wanted a pair of slacks in an olive green colour, for any variety of completely unknown reasons. 

Some kelly green, black and grey wools for some more work basics…

And ponti knits! I’m in love with ponti knits. Blue and red, in this case. Also a gorgeous chocolate wool flecked with pale orange and a warm grey – most probably another tailored jacket.

Not to mention I’ll be trying my hand for the first time at some vintage patterns, perhaps even a crinoline (or maybe just horsehair braiding – depends on how brave I am!) for the flouncier one:

I’m also looking forward to seeing what you and the rest of the online sewing community will be making :) But until then, see you next year!



101: French Seams

French Seams are fabulous for lightweight fabrics in skirts and dresses – like the lining for my Royal Blue Pencil skirt. If you can get past the unnatural feeling you get when sewing the first seam with the right sides of the fabric facing out, then this is easy to master!

1. For slippery and thin fabrics like the silk habotai I’m lining a skirt with, I like to add an additional 5mm to the seam allowance before cutting out. For stiffer fabrics that aren’t likely to get pushed into your feed dog whilst sewing a slim seam, this isn’t really necessary.

After realising that my black thread and black silk habotai aren’t really photo instruction friendly, I’ve pulled out some calico so you can actually see what’s going on.

2.  Align your fabrics with the wrong sides facing each other, and sew your seam with a 1cm seam allowance,  or 0.75 if you’re doing the usual 1.5cm seam allowance. Basically, whatever seam allowance you have allowed for on your fabric – divide that in two and this will be your allowance for your first and second seams. This is because we are effectively sewing two seams where we’d normally sew just the one.  

For bulkier fabric, this is a good time to trim back your seam allowance to reduce bulk. I’m trimming this habotai back a little (3 or 4mm) just to prevent any loose threads coming through onto the right side when the second seam is sewn.

3. Iron along the seam you’ve just sewn to set the stitches:

then unfold your fabric flat and iron the seam to one side – as if you were ironing a dart flat:

Then fold the fabric over so the right sides are facing, making sure the seam line is right on the fold, and iron flat:

4. Back to the sewing machine, and sew another 1cm seam along the edge you just ironed – the raw edge of the fabric is now safely enclosed in your seam – no need to overlock or finish your edges. Iron flat and you’re ready to go!

The end result? Your fabric edge is safely tucked inside it’s own seam:

101: Bound Button Holes

Bound button holes are a dividing issue in my sewing class – some of my fellow sewing enthusiasts adore them, others not so much. I’m rather fond of them – and the more of them I do, the better looking they seem to get. Practise really does make perfect huh?

I’m wanting to use a bound button hole on the second iteration of my favourite pencil skirt B8155 (see here) – so here’s how I do it.

Additional things you’ll need beyond the usual scope:
 – iron-on interfacing
 – some silk organza scraps (or a similar lightweight but strong fabric)
 – small scissors (embroidery ones are great)

1. How wide your bound button hole should be depends on the size of your button. If the button is relatively flat, i take generally add an extra 3mm to the width of the button hole slit. If the button is a bit fatter like my one – I’ll add an extra 5mm.

As for the height of the button hole, I tend to go with whatever looks the best – in this case I’ve gone for 2 x 5mm.

2. I’m applying this button hole to a waistband, which already calls for interfacing. If where you are applying your button hole to doesn’t already require interfacing, cut a circle shape about 2x the width of your button hole and apply to the wrong side of your fabric, over the location where you want the bound button hole to be.

At this point I draw on the size and location of the button hole to be on top of the interfacing:

You can see I’ve marked the seam allowances and placed the centre of the button hole in the middle of the waistband.

3. Cut a smallish piece of organza (approx. 2x wider than your button hole in each direction) and baste it to the right side of your fabric, over the position where the button hole will be. I’ve put a pin in each of the corners of the button hole drawn over the interfacing on the wrong side so you can see where it will be located:

4. With your smallest stitch (I’m using 1.0) and starting in the centre of one of the longer sides, sew around your bound button hole, pivoting a the corners. This will be the guiding rectangle when it comes to attaching the button ‘lips’, so it’s really important to get this straight and square. Trim off the dangling threads and remove the basting. 

5. Using your small scissors, make a cut along the centre line of the button hole. Stop the cut at 0.5cm from the end (the same as the height of your button hole lips) and cut on the diagonal right up into the corner:

Then push the organza through the hole you’ve just cut, and iron flat, aiming to get it so you can’t see any of the organza from the right side of the fabric.

6. Now we’ll make the ‘lips’ that sit behind the panel we’ve just created. Cut two rectangles of your shell fabric, and sew in your machine’s basting size (anything greater than a size 4 is perfect) down the centre (we’ll be removing this later on):

When folded back over each other, these two pieces of fabric will form the ‘lips’ of the button hole:

Iron them flat.

7. Align the ‘lips’ and secure (I prefer to baste, but you can also pin. I may have gone a little overboard on the basting, but it’s important it’s well secured, otherwise you end up with a crooked opening) to your button hole. Note how the basting doesn’t go over the two shorter ends – this is because we’ll be sewing these bits next!

8. I find this next bit the trickiest part – with the right side of the fabric facing up, fold back the shell fabric so that you can see the triangle of fabric on top of the button hole ‘lips’. Pin the little triangle down and sew across and over, getting as close to the stitch line of the guide rectangle as you dare.

Once I’ve done one shorter edge, I flip it around and do the other shorter edge.

Then, removing the basting from one of the longer edges, do the same again along this edge – then again on the last of the longer edges. Once you’ve got all your sides sewn, you can cut the basting stitch holding the lips together. 

9. I tend to trim back the two squares of fabric making up the lips to reduce bulk at this point, but that’s up to you.

You’ll now need to repeat steps 2 through to 5 to create the button hole window on the piece of fabric that will be on the other side of the button hole – in my case, the other side of the waistband:

On a coat, this would be the lining fabric. Then you’ll need a needle and matching thread to join the two sides together. 

Whallah! One beautifully bound button hole :)

You’ve got mail: Marfy Patterns

Marfy dress – F2643
When I first started sewing back in March 2011, I stalked online pattern sites. I was moderately obsessed with them. Which is how I stumbled across the Italian pattern group – Marfy. I’ve been an avid follower of the online sewing community since the start, so I’m still surprised at how little blogging/online information is available on Marfy patterns. Liana has a wonderful visual archive of the many Marfy patterns she’s made, The Sewing Diva’s blog has a couple of entries, and has 3 or 4 reviews of Marfy patterns. But otherwise, all I’m getting is static.
Marfy has such a delicious range of designs – stuff that’s actually fitted and tailored – just the way I like. I’ve heard on the grapevine that they’re really well drafted as too – I had to restrain myself from ordering several of their jacket and coat patterns – oh wow.

So I was overjoyed when I received a nondescript package in the post the other day, with the three Marfy patterns you see in this very blog post. The dress above is a pipe dream – I certainly won’t be making that any time soon. But the ensemble below is gorgeous. At least, the drawing is. And we all know that drawings LIE. You only have to look at the drawings on vintage pattern slips to realise that.  

The top – F2465, the skirt – F2466

The McCall’s website comes with this warning:

“Alert! These patterns are for experienced sewers only. Expert level sewing skills are recommended for those interested in sewing with Marfy sewing patterns.”
Marfy patterns don’t have seam allowances, cutting layouts, hem allowances or – instructions. The sizing is a little different too.
In full disclosure (ahem), my measurements sit at 97-75-100 (that’s 38-30-39) if you’re behind the metric times), which means according to Marfy’s sizing instructions, I ordered a 48 for the dress, a 46 for the skirt, and whilst I should have ordered a 48 for the top, they only went up to 46 (?!?), so that’s what I got. I guess I’ll soon find out how much of a mistake that was.
I’m fascinated by the pattern pieces, which come already cut out, and with alpha markings showing which piece attaches to which other piece, like a puzzle:

They’ll be perfect for trialling the seam allowance addition technique Gertie used in her bombshell dress course on Craftsy (if you haven’t already, buy it. It’s amazing, and worth every cent).

Obviously I’ll be toile-ing for this ensemble (at some point in the hopefully not to distant future), but I’d love to know – have you or anyone you know tried their hand at a Marfy – and come out unscathed on the other end?

V1218: Dress S.O.S.

This dress was the first pattern I ever bought. When I finished my beginner’s sewing course back in March 2011 and presented this pattern and the fabric I’d chosen to sew it with – my beloved sewing teacher kindly advised that I might want to practise my skills on woven fabrics first – that knits were a different kettle of fish altogether and were something I could tackle when I’d had a few non-stretch garments under my belt.

I hid the sting of disappointment, and ended up becoming so excited and involved in other patterns that this happily sat on the back burner. But then the time came.

The lines on this dress were made for stretch fabric – I love the way they wrap around the body:

I had bought a gorgeous artichoke green (my favourite colour) wool and spandex blend from Tessuti, sort of in line with the fabric requirements (2 way stretch knits only – rayon spandex and cotton spandex).

But somewhere between starting and finishing this dress I lost my mojo, and it sits unfinished in a crumpled heap on my dining sewing table:

The truth is – a *very* fitted dress like this, made from a thin and unforgiving fabric like my wool spandex (or any of the fabrics recommended, really) – just isn’t going to be all that flattering. Even with spanx underneath.

A few reviews on later, and other ladies who are obviously further down the learning curve than myself seem to know exactly what I mean, with their versions being made up in thicker, more figure-friendly knits like ponti. So, I got another burst of inspiration, and went out and bought some, nice, thick blueberry coloured ponti (also from Tessuti):

The dress also requires an unusual notion – wired ribbon, which presumably helps to hold the pleats at the neck together if you choose to make it from the floppy, non-supportive fabric type they recommend for the dress. No amount of Internet searching or asking in shops has yielded a result on this. Fellow pattern reviewer Jo Jo Sews had a fabulous idea – using garden ties, which she left to sit in water for 24 hours to see if they rusted or not. I might have to see about raiding Mr poppykettle’s tool box when he’s not looking:

The other thing with this pattern? It’s shockingly drafted. As the four other reviews on pattern review say – pattern piece 2, which is the part that goes over your shoulder – has a a good extra 9-10cm hiding in there. What were you thinking, Vogue? And how did that go unnoticed when you were whipping up the white version for the pattern slip photo shoot?

I also added a bit to the arm hole seam at the back to give it a bit more coverage. Just a persnickety little thing, really.

So, the question is – will this new fabric save the day, and indeed the dress?