Did you know about the little red blob on your un-picker? It isn’t there to just look beautiful, it really does have a practical purpose as well.
If you want to unpick a seam super quick all you need to do is use the shorter spike on your un-picker, the one with the red blob, under the row of stitching and then “zip”along the row of sewing slicing through the stitches.
The red blob prevents the spike poking through the underneath of the fabric and slicing though the garment as well.
Give it a go, it really does make for quicker unpicking!
Darts are one of the things that I’m asked about frequently when I’m teaching dressmaking. How to mark them, sew them and how to avoid getting that little dimple at the end are the most common questions.
So let me explain….
Firstly let’s look at what darts are and what they do.
Darts are a form of “suppression”. That is they suppress the fabric to create the three-dimensional shape you want to fit around and over the body. Pleats, gathers, tucks are also forms of suppression that allow you to mould and manipulate the fabric to create the shapes you want.
Darts will reduce the fabric from the apex of a curve to the outer edge or in the case of a fishtail or asymmetric darts to an area of ‘fit’. So basically creating shape over your curved bits – bust, buttocks, belly and shoulder blades – those areas really.
In flat pattern terms a dart does the same job as a split in a flat piece of paper which when overlapped pushes the centre of the paper up to create a three-dimensional shape.
Most darts will be marked on the pattern as straight lines.
However, our bodies are not made up of straight lines. We are a series of curves, some more than most but we are all most definitely not Lego people or Madonna with pointy boobs!
This means that the darts we need should follow the curves of the body. I will explain further once we’ve looked at how to mark out the darts.
Transferring the dart markings from pattern to fabric can be done in a whole host of different ways. Many people like tailors tacks and admittedly they do have their place in some sewing projects, but coming from industry and being used to speedier sewing techniques I prefer the double pin method.
Another handy tip is to mark the end of the dart 1cm back from the point of the dart before you mark the dart onto the fabric. You’ll see the reason when we come to sew the dart.
Snip the ends of the legs of the dart as they sit on the edge of the garment.
Poke a pin through the end of the dart (the new one, 1cm back from the original point) and then flip over the fabric and pattern.
Where you can see the pin is poking out from the underneath layer push another back through.
Carefully remove the pattern allowing the pin head to slip through the hole to mark the dart. Then when you remove the pattern and separate the layers of fabric a pin should remain in each piece marking the end of the dart.
You can use this method to mark any type of dart, but just be careful the pins don’t fall out before you’ve pinned the dart in place!
Pinning the dart
Pinch the fabric together creating a small pleat and match up the small snips at the edge of the fabric and pin vertically in together.
Follow the crease of the pleat until you reach the marker pin. Then remove and replace that pin vertically where it came out.
You can draw in the dart line if you choose with a fabric pen or tailors chalk.
Another handy hint is to use the tail of the starting threads to pull around and use as a guide once you’ve sewn a couple of stitches.
Sewing the dart
Starting at the edge of the fabric sew in towards the point of the dart. Now going back to what we mentioned earlier about the darts following the contours of the body, this now means that the dart we sew will be slightly curved and NOT a straight line. Admittedly it is subtle but it will make a difference to how the dart sits and fits over the body.
And marking the end of the dart 1cm back from the point also allows us to curve or “stitch into the dart” by extending the stitching line almost parallel to the edge of the fabric.
This reduces the angle that the sewing line hits the folded edge of the dart and means the end of dart will lay flat and not dimple. My old needlework teacher used to say “think hill not mountain”!
When you get to the end of the dart you can either run a few stitches off the fabric and then knot the ends – great for lightweight fabrics.
Or personally I prefer to drop the needle down, pivot the fabric around and sew back into the dart. This is quick and easy and won’t bulk out the end of the stitching too much.
Sewing a slightly curved off dart is just one of those things to practice. It is a good opportunity to get some scraps out and sew a dozen to get the hang of it. It’s like anything – the more you do the better you’ll get.
Pressing the dart
First of all it’s best to ‘set the stitches’ this just means pressing the dart as you’ve stitched it, so the stitches are pressed into the fabric and ‘set’. Do this from both sides of the dart.
Then press the dart from the right side over a tailor’s ham or if you don’t have one of those a tightly rolled towel will do.
Pressing carefully will help to eliminate those pesky dimples at the ends of the darts as well.
This method of marking, sewing and pressing darts is certainly not the only way to do it, but I know it does give good results and sewing good darts is definitely worth getting right. It will give a much more professional look to your finished garments.
Making your own clothes is an amazing super power. Getting them to fit perfectly can be a little more tricky. What helps is making up the right size for you – yes I know that sounds obvious but when it comes to selecting the right size to make up there are a few things to take into consideration.
Pattern companies are like high street brands in that there is no standardisation in measuring sizes. Just as a size 12 in say Topshop will be completely different to a size 12 in M&S.
The sizing bands on different pattern brands can be a little skewed. However, using the sizing information pattern companies already provide on the pattern envelopes and printed onto the pattern pieces themselves can help.
First things first however. You really need to get a set of your own measurements together. This may sound daunting but you don’t have to show anyone else unless you want to I promise! And if you use centimetres it doesn’t sound ‘real’ anyway. I’ve created a little Crib Sheet download of basic body measurements to help you take your own set of measurements and you can keep them safely under lock and key if you prefer.
The pattern’s measurements
All patterns will have their own sets of body measurements – these may vary but will give you a starting point and will normally include bust, waist, hips.
I generally find it quite useful to mark on the pattern information where I fall in terms of their sizing.
However, what’s more useful are…
The Finished Garment Measurements
Patterns also have Finished Garment Measurements – these are what the garment will actually measure around the bust, waist, hips etc. when laid out flat.
The difference between these and the body measurements is the amount of ease included in the garment.
Let’s digress slightly…
There are two types of ease – wearing or fit ease and design ease.
Wearing ease – this is the amount of space you need inside a garment to be able to actually move about while wearing it. Typically in a fitted sheath dress for example you would need about 5 – 10cm ease on the bust, 3 – 5cm on the waist and about the same on the hips. This enables you to move around easily but still retain a fitted silhouette.
Design ease – this is the amount of extra room the designer has added into the pattern to create the desired shape and silhouette. For example our Kate dress fits smoothly over the bust but then skims out over the waist and hips providing a relaxed and ‘easy’ fit.
Back to the Plan…
You can determine the amount of ease within a pattern by taking the body measurement from the finished garment measurement.
Finished -Body = EASE
The general rule of thumb is to use your bust or hip measurements to determine which size you choose to make up.
Now I want to start waving a little red flag here.
Using your hip measurement for skirts and trousers will probably be fine as it is much easier to alter the waist to make it larger or smaller depending on your waist to hip ratio.
But using your bust measurement can throw up issues, especially if you are of the fuller bust variety of person. Just going by your bust measurement could result in you making a larger size than you need, which could in turn mean the shoulders and neckline are too large and will gape and slide off.
Don’t panic though! This is where the extra High Bust Measurement can help. With most of the Big Four US pattern companies if you are over a C cup you may well need to perform a Full Bust Adjustment to give you the extra fabric you need across the bust but keep the correct sizing to ensure that the garment still fits over the shoulders and neckline alright.
With our patterns it’s if you are over a D cup. Other Indie pattern companies will have their own sizing as well.
This is only a ‘Rule of Thumb’ as of course each pattern will need to be judged on its own merits, fit and measurements.
Once you know the amount of ease included in a pattern and whether you need to make a FBA or SBA (small bust adjustment) you can make a judgement call on whether you want to go up or down a size.
Most of the time you’ll find that you fall across a couple of sizes and may be a size 12 on the bust, 16 on the waist and 14 on the hips. Let me just say THAT’S FINE! Very few people fit one size band completely. This is one of the reasons that modern patterns are multi-size now, so you can grade across the sizes to fit your own personal measurements – after all isn’t that why we make our own clothes?
It is very easy to cross over the lines from one size to another. Just make sure to keep the lines smooth and flowing. We don’t have any odd sharp corners on our bodies, well we shouldn’t have, so neither should our patterns. The best way to do this is to use a set of French Curves or a Pattern Master to help you smooth out the new cutting lines for your pattern pieces.
Now you have worked out a more accurate way of deciding which size pattern to cut hopefully you will be able to sew better fitting clothes.
It can be really daunting turning up to a workshop in a place you’re unfamiliar with and facing people you don’t know. I have let my own fears put me off attending things and joining courses in the past and I actually run workshops!
It was while chatting in one of the workshops I teach that a lady confessed that it had taken her quite a while to pluck up the courage to come along. This surprised me as she was really confident and chatty. So we pursued the conversation and it turned out that she had had her own preconceptions about the workshop and that everyone would be really good and she would get left behind.
This got me wondering if there were others who wanted to join workshops but were just a bit too…. Or it was all a bit….
So these are just 9 reasons why you should find one for you and join in.
It’s easier to See and then Do – I understand that this is a HUGE generalisation but most people I’ve come across who do creative stuff are visual or kinesthetic learners, or more likely a combination of both. By this I mean that it’s far easier to watch how someone else does it so you can copy them. Now I realise that you can do this on YouTube or Google and rewind over and over again. But often the angles aren’t quite right or you just want someone to say, “pin it there” or “hold it like that” and you’re away.
You can ask anything – If your tutor is an expert in what they’re teaching, and they should be, workshops are a fabulous opportunity to ask anything! There is no such thing as a daft question. I think that’s really important and something I want to emphasise. And the ‘daft question’ you want to ask will probably be asked by someone else anyway.
You‘ll meet other people just like you – When you join a workshop you are already with other people that have something in common with you – a love of, or an interest in, whatever the workshop is for. I have lots of lovely friends that go way back, but none of them sew! Unbelieveable I know, but true. So I love it when I can get all nerdy talking seam finishes or the benefits of an overlocker during workshops. I’ve found my tribe.
You WILL learn stuff you didn’t know before – This is something I absolutely guarantee! Even if it’s just that the capital city of Tibet is Lhasa, yes this really did come up in conversation (but if that’s the only thing you go away with I feel I will have failed in my job as an educator). However, there are always things you didn’t know before and extra nuggets of information you will take away with you from a workshop. Everyday is a school day and we all learn things from each other during the workshops too.
When you’re sewing at home it is so easy to get bogged down with all the other really important thing s that need doing like laundry or cooking dinner or, or, or…
Workshops give you time out – The space and time you need away from everything else. We have people come to workshops who could probably do whatever we’re doing in the workshop on their own but really enjoy having some time to themsleves. I’ve mentioned before in other blogs how important it is to have that time and space just for you. Workshops facilitate mindfulness – there I’m getting all Zen again!
They help your confidence grow – Whether you do a one off short workshop or a longer course. You will see an improvement in both your skills and understanding in a relatively short space of time. I think that is because of the tangible nature of what you’re creating. You are physically holding and manipulating fabric to transform it into something else. You can literally see the transformation happening before your very own eyes. So often we work in offices or on computers where you never really see what you’re working with it’s all ‘virtual’. Or we’re or at home running around doing chores and tidying up only to have all our hard work undone when the family get home – I really get that one! So seeing what you create and other people can admire provides a huge boost in confidence.
You can learn at your own pace – Our class sizes are usually pretty small, only a maximum of 6 for dressmaking and pattern cutting so there is no need to feel like you HAVE to keep up. And other independently run workshops are pretty much the same too. I and all our tutors are really happy to go over things as many times as required for you to get it right. And I sometimes act as a “sewing sous chef” to help you get things done during the time we have. Never the interesting bits mind, just the boring bits you already know how to do.
There are no EXAMS! – No one is judging you or testing you on what you’ve achieved or asking you to provide evidence of criteria met. This is learning for the pure joy of learning new stuff. Even when we run a workshop on a specific pattern like the Kate Dress, all the individual dresses created by the end of the day are amazing in their own way. And you are able to take inspiration from other people on the workshops too, who may have used a contrasting fabric or picot edge binding. These ideas are stored away ready to come out when you start sewing again.
There’s always cake! – Well at our workshops anyway. We try and make the cakes and cookies we have at our workshops ourselves. I know Rachel has a bit of a reputation of being a demon baker and my lemon drizzle cake always goes down well. We want you to feel relaxed and at home when you join us for a workshop. After all you are putting your faith and trust in us to be able to help you to sew better.
The least we can do is to make you feel welcome and put the kettle on.
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know how to sew.
That’s a bold statement I realise but it’s true. I have been sewing since I was 5 or 6 years old, which is now well over 40 years ago. And I don’t know about you, but my memories don’t really stretch much past that. Sewing and dressmaking have given me so much.
It has given me something to do – When I was a child loafing around not sure how to occupy myself during school holidays the response from my elders was “go and make something”. So I did. I raided my Grandmother’s scrap bags and hand stitched crude dresses and outfits for my Cindy dolls (see it really is over 40 years ago).
It has allowed to create my own style – When I was younger in my teenage years the more outlandish the better. The New Romantic fashion tribe I belonged to allowed me to go overboard on frills and flounces. I could run something up on a Friday ready to wear clubbing that night safe in the knowledge I was unique. No other bird of paradise would have quite the same plumage.
As the years are marching on ever quicker I am still able to create my own look and style identity albeit in a more understanded grey laundered linen kind of way.
It’s taught me patience – In my youth I would run up something really quickly so I could wear it that night not bothered about neatening seams or finishing inside as long as it looked good from the outside. After all image was everything. But as I have sewn more projects over more and more years I am appreciating the processes involved in constructing and creating a piece of clothing. And I do still like to run up something to wear at the weekend, although not necessarily to go clubbing, but I’m not in that much of a rush I want to compromise the quality of what I create anymore.
It’s given me a new BFF – Yes meet my unpicker. We go back a long way. My old needlework teacher used to say “make friends with your unpicker”. Making mistakes and unpicking your stitching is part and parcel of sewing and making clothes. Get over it! Embrace the time you take unpicking to reflect on how you can make your sewing better, or some other Zen like shit.
It’s made me curious – After all the unpicking I’ve done on the many sewing projects I’ve undertaken, it has made me want to find out better, more effective and easier ways of sewing different processes. Part of this comes from my career in fashion, but also because I’m actually quite lazy and can’t be bothered to hand sew if I really don’t have to.
I’ve learnt how to be a furtive photographer – Clothes shopping is more of a trial than a treat now, but every once in awhile I will stumble upon a dress or top and I can’t quite work out how they’ve inserted that panel or attached that collar.
This is where my furtive photography skills have been honed. Putting my phone on silent, discreetly taking said item of apparel into the changing room and turning it inside out to see exactly how they’ve managed to sew it all together. Then taking as many pictures as I can so I can remember how to do it myself when I get home. Anyone looking at my camera roll might be forgiven for thinking it had turned itself on inside a bag of laundry there are so many pictures of raw edges and seams.
I’ve found a sense of community – Working in the fashion industry and the education sector can be very lonely and isolating. Fashion isn’t friendly, but sewing is. Since setting up Sew Me Something, my haberdashery shop and sewing studio I have found like minded souls who seek solace in sewing as I do. The wonderful people that come into the shop or join our workshops have become friends who ‘get’ what I’m into and can revel in being nerdy over seam finishes. I have found my tribe.
I have discovered I am normal sized!! At whatever point in my life I am and whatever size I am I’m normal. Despite what it might say on the measurements on the back of the pattern envelopes. (They are 70 years out of date anyway. Don’t get me started on that, it’s a whole other rant!) But because I am making clothes only for me my size is ‘normal’ whatever it is. I don’t have to squeeze my ample flesh into a dress in a badly lit cubicle and feel a failure. I can just pin a bit in here or there in the comfort of my own house and marvel at how gorgeous I look!
It’s now acceptable to make your own clothes – In my teenage years I was a bit of an oddity, a non-conformist who was very nearly thrown out of Grammar school and used clothes as a way of visibly rebelling. I was on the tail end of the generation that was taught ‘proper dressmaking’ in school. But even then it was fading out of popularity. Mass produced clothing was so cheap, so what was the point of making your own? Those of us that did became a kind of underground cult. A raised eyebrow or nod of the head became a universal sign to acknowledge approval of a ‘homemade’ item.
Fast forward 30years and the Cult of Craft has arrived. It’s now cool to make stuff, even if you can afford to buy it. And it’s acceptable to ask someone “Did you make that?” Because the answer won’t be a shameful nod but a resplendent “Yes I did!”
It’s given me peace – After all the years I’ve been sewing and teaching the thousands of people that come to our workshops this is something I can say with all confidence. Sewing provides peace. Mental health issues have always been with us but they seem to be more visible now and I have seen at first hand how the simple act of taking a piece of cloth, cutting it, pinning it and sewing it into something else provides the calm mental clarity that so many of of us crave.
When you’re sewing you are in and of the moment, unconcerned with anything else except what you happen to be doing right now. That is so freeing and almost like a meditation in itself.
This I think is THE best thing sewing has given me.
A toile, if you haven’t come across the term before, is a prototype or mock up of a garment you want to make up. It’s a way of working out all the niggles and fit issues before having to cut into your beautiful and very lovely, expensive fabric.
But firstly I’d like to clear up a bit of confusion that seems to reign over this process and the various name given to it. Toile, Muslin, Calico these are all names used for pretty much the same thing, but also have other meanings too.
The nameCalico is derived from Calicut, the European name for the Indian city of Kozhikode. When Dutch traders began to visit India in the 17th century they brought back Indian textiles, particularly a simple, cheap, plain weave cotton fabric block printed in multicoloured floral designs.
Calico is the name used in the UK to describe this type of plain, but unprinted, natural state cotton fabric. It can sometimes be the name used for a prototype version of a garment as well.
Calico in the US often means a plain cotton fabric that has a small floral printed design.
Muslin is the term used in the US and Canada for the same type of plain weave unprinted fabric as calico. But it is also the term given to a prototype garment.
In the UK Muslin is the name given to a lighter weight more open weave fabric. More like a gauze and often used to strain food (or in my case elderflower gin!)
A toile (pronounced twarhl) is the term used mainly in the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. For the prototype version of a garment. This name originates from the type of fabric used, a rough, light-weight cotton canvas that was used to create the Toile de Jouy prints of the 1760’s. Toile is French for canvas. These were printed with small intricate woodblock designs, and they were an imitation of the Indian block print designs brought to Europe by Dutch traders.
So you can see how, although all these terms are different, they basically all relate to the same thing. It just appears that the particular name given to a plain, even weave cotton fabric can also be used to describe the prototype version of a garment depending on what part of the world you’re in. So whether it’s tomayto or tomarto, calico, toile or muslin they are all referring to creating a practice run of whatever you want to make.
So back to my original question – To Toile or not to Toile?
It’s question I get asked quite often in our workshops so I thought I would pose the question on social media too to see what other people think about “toile-ing up” or “making a muslin” as it’s known in the US.
The responses were really interesting. Of all the people that replied to my question 20% said they would rarely or never make a toile, 23% will sometimes make a toile depending on the pattern/fabric and 54% said they always make a toile.
So I thought I would go through my reasons for making a toile to see if they resonate with anyone else. Firstly I have to say that I rarely make up commercial patterns either from the Big Four or other Indies. This is probably more to do with the fact that I have quite fixed ideas about what I want to make and wear and find it really hard to find that anywhere other than in my own head.
I design as I make.
Although I will always draw out what I want to make I often find that ideas will emerge as I’m making something up. So I will always make a toile with a new pattern even if I’m working from a block I know works for fit and shape.
For example, if I want to add a frill to the hem of a Kate dress I will adapt an old toile to get the depth and proportion of the frill right in relation to the rest of the dress. I might only add the frill to the front part of the dress, but it gives me a better idea of how it will look.
I can record what I do
I take pictures, and lots of them, of the different stages of making up a pattern. If I’m using a particular process or technique I will photograph it as I go. So I can use this as a set of visual notes for when I make up another version or one to be used as a Final Pattern.
I also write on my toiles and make notes on them as to the alterations needed. “Add 1.5cm here” with a big arrow usually does the trick.
I can try out new processes
If I’m unsure as to the best way to do something I can give it a go. Because of my background working in industry I’m always looking at quicker and more efficient ways of sewing different processes. So I will often just mock up a particular section of a garment to experiment with the best way to complete it using a combination of calico and paper. Some of you mentioned ’tissue fitting’ using just the pattern pieces first and this can work really well. I did this with the front placket for the Imogen Top and eventually decided the most effective way was to sew the placket on from the wrong side and top stitch from the right side.
Voila! No hand sewing = quicker to make up.
I can get the fit just right
This is probably the most important, and the main reason by far, that the respondents to my question gave for making up their own toiles. If you happen to be a standard – not average – standard, size you will probably get away without having to alter much on the fit of most garments you make.
Pattern companies have to work with averages when it comes to calculating standardised sizes. Which means almost by definition most of us will not adhere to these. Therefore, unless you are pretty confident with a pattern already or if the pattern requires little or no fitting you will probably benefit from making up a practice run first.
In my case I know I have a fuller bust in proportion to my overall size. Most commercial pattern companies will use a standard B cup size for their patterns. I think this is incredibly outdated (don’t get me started!!) and one of the reasons the most common pattern adaptation is the Full Bust Adjustment.
The blocks we use for most of our patterns are a C cup. The styles of our patterns are for the most part pretty roomy and include a lot of ease so a C cup is fine at the moment. This may well change. If our designs become slightly more fitted I will alter the blocks to reflect this (but this is a whole other story for another day!).
I know that I will have to make an FBA adaptation to most of the patterns I make up. Luckily I have my own set of blocks that include this alteration already. So when I’m making up a new pattern I will usually try it out with my own blocks first before using our standard ones for the other samples.
I am also a combination of sizes, as are most people. So grading between sizes or crossing over the tramlines can be really useful too. I know I have a lower waist to hip ratio i.e. I have a bit of a tum. So will almost certainly have to go from one size on the hips to a large size on the waist. This is easy when you have a multi-sized pattern.
Is there a down-side to Toiles?
Some of the comments made in reply to my question involved the cost of producing a toile and I can understand this. If you’ve already costed out the fabric to make a garment it can make it much more expensive if you have to factor in extra fabric to make up the toile. But I loved the idea of using old duvet covers or curtains, this appeals to me and my ‘waste not want not’ kind of attitude. And it’s a good excuse to go trawling through a few charity shops.
I can also appreciate the frustration of just wanting to make it and wear it. And this is something I have had to overcome myself. I have tried really hard to reprogramme my brain from wanting things RIGHT NOW. This is not just for sewing but for other things in life too. I am beginning to find contentment in process as well as result.
Time sewing for myself is limited as I’m sure it is for others too, but as well as wanting quick results I’d also rather have something that I know will work for me, is what I want to wear and fits in with my life.
So overall, and in my humble opinion, I think a toile is probably worth doing.
After all if something is worth doing it is worth doing well.
This is another in the series of making more from your patterns. This time I wanted to use the Portia Trousers to make a pair of jeans. After making up the Morgan Boyfriend Jeans from Closet Case files and teaching the Jeans Making Course I have hankered after a pair of wide leg cropped jeans to wear with some new summer tops I’m planning.
In Part One I showed you what I did to alter the pattern to make it have more of a jeans style.
Now in Part Two I’ll cover the sewing processes involved. You’ll notice that I’ve used a paler denim for some of the images in this tutorial. That’s because I made up the dark pair first to see if it would actually work and then loved them so much I’ve made another pair in the paler denim and photographed how I made this pair. The denim I used was the 8oz washed dark denim and the 8oz washed pale denim from our store. It is a pretty long tutorial as I’ve tried to cover everything I did, so I hope you stick with it.
Cutting Out –
I laid out the pattern pieces in a single layer. This may seem a bit long winded but it will make a difference to the way your jeans hang and sit on the body. The nature of the twill weave in a denim fabric means the fabric naturally wants to follow the weave and can result in the fabric twisting. By reversing the pattern pieces you minimise the risk of the fabric twisting the trouser legs. So it is easier to do this by cutting as a single layer.
I placed the pattern pieces on the fabric first to arrange them in the most fabric efficient way (the technical term for this is called getting a “tight lay” and always makes me snigger, childish I know) before pinning them in place temporarily while chalking around each piece.
Once cut out I marked out all the notches and pattern markings.
Using the correct needle and thread –
The seams on a pair of jeans can get rather bulky with all the layers of fabric used so a good quality Jeans needle is a must!
I used Schmetz Jeans size 90 for this project. The thread used for the basic construction can be normal sewing thread, but if you want the top stitching to show up a contrasting top stitching thread is much better as it’s slightly heavier than normal sewing thread. As I’m using a dark denim for these jeans I wanted a lovely bright yellow top stitching thread to use to really show up. I also used a specific top stitching needle too to go through all the thicknesses of fabric.
You can cheat slightly if you want to create nice flat seams without the extra bulk of a proper flat felled seam by sewing a normal flat seam then overlocking both seam allowances together to neaten it. Press the seam to one side and sew a row of top-stitching a couple of millimetres from the seam line on the right side through the seam allowance underneath. You can sew another row about 6mm from that if you would like a double top stitch feature. This was the method I used for the seams on my jeans, not particularly authentic I’ll admit, but much quicker!
Jeans Construction –
To be honest most of the processes involved are the same as the Portia Trousers. However I prefer the Closet Case Files method of putting in the zip. I have tied to batch things as much as I can as it really does make sewing up a garment that much quicker.
First of all I attached the back yoke pieces to the back trouser pieces.
Although it was only one seam, I could then overlock all the pieces I needed in one batch which included the back yoke seams, belt loops, across the tops of the back pockets and around the edge of the pocket back facings.
Now I could press everything flat. In this pressing batch I also pressed over the top of the back pocket, the coin pocket and pressed the belt loops into thirds ready to top stitch.
I top stitched across several pieces in one batch – the back yoke seam, back pocket, belt loops and coin pocket.
Now I could press the sides of the back pockets and coin pocket in place ready to top stitch again.
The easiest way to get your topstitching perfect is to line up the edge of the foot with the edge of the pocket and then swing the needle over to the right a couple of clicks. You can then use the edge of the foot as your guide. On the coin pocket I started at the base of the pocket stitched up then counted the stitches across the top (4 at stitch length 3.5) before sewing back down the other side. On the second/ return row I used the edge of the foot along the first row of sewing as my guide.
On the back pocket I started where the horizontal rows of stitching were instead of right at the top. This meant that once I had gone all the way around the edge of the pocket and back up to the top, I could count the stitches to sew across the top (4 at stitch length 3.5, same as the coin pocket) and then come back around the pocket the other way using the edge of the foot against the first row of sewing to create the inside row of stitching. I counted the stitches across the top again before coming back down to meet the start of the stitching.
Back to ordinary sewing for this batch. Join the two back trousers.
Make sure to sew up to the blunted off point on the centre back seam allowance at the crotch. It’s easy to miss this and it will throw out the inside leg seam if you do.
And attach the back pocket facing to the back pocket lining.
The pocket facings are just sewn straight on top of the lining.
And I also stitched across the base of the coin pocket. Although if you make you pattern piece the correct size in the first place you won’t need to!!
Still with on ordinary sewing I attached the front pocket facing to the front pocket lining and hopped up to press the seam down quickly.
The front pocket is placed on top of the front trouser sections with the right sides together and stitched around the curved pocket opening. Snip into the seam allowance to release the tension in the curve.
This isn’t obligatory but because I was using the Portia pockets rather than normal jeans pockets I wanted to understitch the pocket seam. So I sewed through the pocket facing and seam allowance close to the seam line.
This made it easier for the pocket facing to sit flat and hidden underneath the edge of the pocket. You won’t see the understitching from the right side and it won’t interfere with the top stitching, but you could leave it out if you wanted to.
Still on normal sewing I attached the two front trouser pieces together along the centre front seam. Use a long basting stitch from the waist down to the mark for the base of the fly extension, then reduce the stitch length to normal, reverse a few stitches and carry on to the end of the seam.
Snip into the seam allowance to the stitching line at the base of the fly extension.
Now I can do a batch of overlocking as I need to go back and neaten the centre back seam…
…as well as the front crotch seam…
And the left hand side of the fly extension.
Back to a bit of topstitching and I can now sew the rows of top stitching around the edge of the front pocket.
I can also push the centre back seam allowance over to the left and top stitch through that.
YES!! The topstitching matches! That is so satisfying!
The centre front seam allowance is also pushed over to the left (I know it looks like the right but it’s the left if you’re wearing the trousers) and top stitched all the way around the seam.
This is the method of inserting the zip that Closet Case Files use and it is really easy.
On the wrong side of the jeans place the zip face down onto the right hand side of the fly extension. Make sure that the zip teeth are about 6mm from the seam line and the zip stopper is about 1.3mm above the end of fly extension. This is to make sure it’s out of the way when you come to topstitch the fly. It doesn’t matter if the zip comes up above the waist of the jeans, you can deal with that later.
Pin in place but only pin through the fly extension NOT the trouser front.
Fold the right trouser front out of the way so you can sew though the zip tape and the fly extension. Sew close to the zip teeth using a zip foot.
Fold back the the zip so that the fly extension is pulled back from the zip teeth. Top stitch through the fly extension close to the seam line.
Flip out the left hand fly extension and fold over the zip so it lies face down on top of the left fly extension. Pin in place through the zip tape and fly extension.
Flip back the end of the zip tape if it hangs below the fly extension and pin in place out of the way. You can catch this in when sewing the next step.
Sew down the left side of the zip tape close to the zip teeth. Then sew a second row close to the edge of the zip tape. This helps to strengthen the zip. Fold back the rest of the jeans so the zip sits nice and flat along the centre front.
From the right side mark where the metal zip stopper is. You don’t want to accidentally hit this when top stitching a break a needle!
Use a template to give you the guide for top stitching the curved shape for the front fly.
I marked on where the zip stopper was to make sure that the inside row of top stitching would miss it.
Top stitch around the front fly following your guide line. Then sew the second row using the edge of the foot along the first row as your guide. Make sure to stop at the centre front seam and not to cross over onto the right hand side of the jeans front.
Sew across the bottom edge of the fly facing and trim it back by half.
Turn the fly facing to the right side and press it flat. I prefer to overlock the open edge now ** but you can leave it and do it at another step further on.
Undo the basting stitches that have been holding the centre front part of the zip together.
On the wrong side lay the fly facing over the zip so that the folded edge lines up with the overlocked edge of the fly extension.
Sew along the overlocked edge of the fly facing through the zip tape and the right hand fly extension. You could have left overlocking the edges of the fly facing until now instead of doing it earlier. ** You could overlock now through all the layers trimming off the excess front the fly extension if you wanted to. I think it’s quite tricky trying to get all the layers under the foot of the overlocker, so I prefer to overlock the fly facing first then just machine it in place, but it’s up to you and your overlocker.
Then I trimmed off the excess fly extension close to the stitching so it won’t show.
From the right side sew a bar of satin stitch at the base of the zip and on the curve of the outer row of fly topstitching. Sew these through the fly facing as well.
This helps to secure the zip and keeps the fly facing in place.
Now I can finish the front pockets. You could do this earlier on but I don’t think it makes a lot of difference and I can batch things more now.
Lay the back pocket on to the wrong side of the trousers so that the right sides of the pockets are together. Pin and sew around the curves edge of the pocket bag only, lifting the rest of the jeans out of the way.
Baste the top edges and the sides of the pockets to the trouser fronts to hold them in place.
With the right sides together match up the crotch seams and pin and sew the inside leg seam. I just used a normal closed overlocked seam and pressed the seam to the front before topstitching it. But you could use a proper flat felled seam here if you prefer.
Then I pinned the outside leg seam with the right sides together. Now is a really good time to try the jeans on and make any adjustments you might need. This will really be beneficial if you’re using a fabric that has any stretch in it as you will almost certainly need to take in the side seam a fraction to account for any stretch.
Also don’t forget that denim will ease out during the day as you wear them so you may need to account for a bit of that too when deciding how close you want to make them on the waist and hips. As you can see I needed to take these in just a fraction.
Overlock the seam and press it towards the back.
More jeans detailing means top stitching though the side seam only as far down as the pocket bag. So feel through the fabric layers and mark the bottom of the pocket bag.
Now is the time to make any adjustments to the zip. Measure down the seam allowance and mark that with a pin.
Now for a little bit of sewing dentistry! You can pull off the unwanted zip teeth with a pair of pliers quite easily. Make sure you have pulled off enough so they won’t get caught when sewing on the waistband. Just DON”T PULL UP THE ZIP NOW. There is nothing to stop the zip head flying off the end of the zip!!
Interface the outside waistband and then sew the two waistbands together along the top edge.
Trim the sew allowance down by about half then press it open. This helps the seam to sit right on the edge of the waistband when it’s turned round the right way.
Press the waistband with the wrong side together so it sits nice and flat.
Starting at the centre back pin the interfaced side of the waistband around the waist of the jeans. It should be longer than the waist of the jeans so you can trim some off later.
Sew around the waist making sure that you stitch right across the ends of the fly. Then press the seam up towards the waistband.
I wanted to give the inside waistband an bit of decoration so I pressed up the seam allowance to give me a guide to sew on some pretty bias binding. I folded out the bias and pressed it flat before sewing on to the waistband lining up the creases as a guide.
To neaten off the ends of the bias and to make it tuck up inside the waistband neatly I angled the start and finish of the sewing line.
Fold back the waistband so the right sides are together and sew across the ends in line with the centre front on one side and the fly extension on the other. Make sure that the bias binding sits just over the waist seam. Trim off the excess waistband and turn it through to the right side.
Fold over the waistband and press it all nice and flat. Tuck under the bias binding so just the decorative edge is showing. Pin it vertically so you can sew over the pins if you need to. Just make sure the pin heads are well out of the way of the stitching line.
From the right side top stitch across the waistband just above the waist seam first to secure the waistband. Reverse at the start and finish to secure your stitching. If you are super careful you should see the top stitching just on the edge of the inside waistband above the bias binding. Then it’s easier to top stitch around the rest of the waistband pivoting at the corners. You can use the edge the foot along the edge of the waistband as a guide and swing the needle into the correct position.
Attach the belt loops and the centre back, side seams and in line with the front pockets. Do this with a small satin stitch to really hold them securely.
Mark and sew the buttonhole. I used a rounded buttonhole as I like the look of them as opposed to a normal square ended one, but you can choose whichever you prefer.
A proper jeans button will usually need a hole punched into the waistband first to make it easier to insert the button. There are kits available that will have a punch as well as buttons and rivets.
I inserted the button back, lined up the button then flipped over the waistband and hammered the two together. It’s really easy!
I did the same with the rivets at the sides of the pockets. I used the punch to make the holes through all the layers of fabric then the rivet sat in the die while I hammered it in. I think it’s worth adding these little details, they do make all the difference.
So this is my second pair of Portia as Jeans. I really enjoyed making them and I can’t wait to wear the paler version now as well.
I hope you decide to alter your Portia Trousers and make them up as jeans too. It really isn’t difficult and I’d love to see how you get on.
This is another in the series of making more from your patterns. This time I wanted to use the Portia Trousers to make a pair of jeans. After making up the Morgan Boyfriend Jeans from Closet Case files and teaching the Jeans Making Course I have hankered after a pair of wide leg cropped jeans to wear with some new summer tops I’m planning.
In Part One I will show you what I did to alter the pattern, then in Part Two I’ll cover the sewing processes involved.
To give Portia more ‘jeans’ styling I needed to change the pattern a bit. This is a very straightforward adaptation that just involves a bit of dart manipulation. Don’t be scared, it’s easy – honest!
This is what I did…
Reduced the depth in the crotch –
I wanted these trouser to sit slightly lower than Portia, making them a bit more like the jeans I have already, so I drew a line about 3cm above the hip line straight across the front and back pattern pieces. I cut along these lines then overlapped them by 1cm to lower the waistline and reduce the depth of the crotch seam.
You may find that you need to take off from the top of the waistline to get yours to fit better. Practice and experience have taught me that this method works best for me and my shape. You may want to toile your pattern first to check.
(Yes I know I’ve already drawn on the yoke shaping – See this is what happens when you don’t have an Order of Work!!)
Added a back yoke –
The classic jeans styling includes a yoke across the back of the trouser to help with fitting. So I drew on a new yoke line. I measured the yoke from an existing pair of jeans and used these measurements to mark down the side seam and centre back on my Portia pattern.
The yoke line fell just above the base of the back dart which was just what I’d hoped, as that made it easy to move the dart out of the way. You can either cut along this new line to separate the trouser back and new yoke pieces and add on new seam allowances or you can trace off the yoke piece to create the new pattern piece.
If you trace off the pattern piece you can combine the next stage as well…
To move or close the dart on the yoke I just traced off the back part of the yoke up to the first line of the dart. Then I pivoted the traced off section over from the base of the dart so the drawn line was on top of the second dart line on the pattern underneath. I then traced off the rest of the yoke shape. See dart manipulation is easy!
Closing the dart at the waist kind of ‘flicks up’ the side part of the yoke creating a smooth pattern piece that still has the shaping because it has moved the dart to the side seam.
I’m gonna leave that there so you can ponder on it….but I hope you get what I mean?
Because the side part of the yoke has flicked up, you can see that the bottom edge of the yoke is now rather pointed. That just needs gently curving off and then mirroring at the waistline. If you have just separated the original pattern you might need to add a bit of scrap paper under the waistline of the yoke and re-drew that in as a smooth curve too.
Lastly not forgetting that the back trouser piece still had a small amount of dart left, and needed a seam allowance. As the remaining dart was so small I trimmed it off the side seam. I also added seam allowance onto the trouser part of the new yoke seam line. If you have cut up and separated the original pattern you can do this by adding in a bit of extra paper underneath and marking that in quickly.
Because I have traced off the yoke piece I have just added the 1.5cm seam allowance directly on to the original pattern and cut across that.
Curved the front pockets –
Again I wanted to include more jeans styling so I re-drew the curved shape I wanted. You may need to add some spare paper under the front trouser pocket to fill in any gaps if you have already cut out your correct size. This alteration also needs to be transferred onto the inside pocket facing piece as well.
The Portia trouser fly is a traditional way of inserting a fly zip, but I preferred the way Heather Lou has created hers in the Ginger Jeans method. As denim can be quite a bulky fabric her way of constructing the fly uses fewer seams so I used the same method. That meant that I needed to alter the front fly extension on my Portia pattern. So I added 1.5cm onto the front edge and curved the bottom to echo the top stitching line that I had drawn on as a guide. I also marked in the dot that marks the end of the front crotch seam.
Shorten the Hem-
I only took about 20cm off of the hem as I still wanted to have a deep 6cm hem allowance that I could top stitch for a bit of extra detail.
Curving the waistband –
I knew this would need altering as I had lowered the waistline slightly which meant that the waistband wouldn’t now sit flat to the body. However, I didn’t know how much to alter it by until I had made up a toile and tried them on.
You can see from the picture how the waistband is sitting away from my body and needs ‘pinching out’ to allow it to sit flat. Although I’ve pinched it at the centre back, it is better to ‘spread the load’ and take out smaller amounts in several places. You get a much nicer, smoother curve that way.
Using the straight waistband pattern I marked on the seam allowances and cut it down to the correct width. I wanted the waistband to be 4.5cm wide when it was finished so needed to add on to that two lots of 1.5cm seam allowance as well.
I then drew lines at the centre back and side seams and another point mid way between the two. I cut through these lines, but only up to the seam allowance. A snip through the seam allowance the other side enables the pattern to be hinged at the base but still overlap itself to create the curve I needed.
The overlap was only 3mm but created at the marked points this would allow the top edge of the waistband to contract to fit around my waist.
It’s much easier to work off a nice neat pattern piece so I traced off the new shape for the waistband and marked in the centre front lines at each end of the waistband. I also added a bit of extra length just in case.
That was the pattern altered, I just needed to cut it all out and sew it together!
You can see what I did in Part Two of Portia as Jeans coming soon.
He has been clearing stuff out with gusto – only his own stuff mind you. You can’t tidy for someone else! Your rubbish may not be the same as theirs and concentrating on your own crap certainly avoids any “possible areas of conflict” arising.
So I started reading it and have taken on board the initial concept that we shouldn’t keep the things we do not need or that don’t “give us joy” any more. We can feel gratitude for what each item has provided for us – whether it filled a need, but has now broken or needs repairing; whether it was a new item and we’ve kind of changed our minds about it once we got it home, but it satisfied a need to ‘buy’ something at the time; or if we have been given something we don’t really like/want but it was a gift so we have to hold on to it.
Now I had previously gone through my main wardrobe sorting out what I wear and don’t wear and had put a few things in a bag for the charity shop. These were genuinely unloved items, but there was still a whole tonne of stuff that needed sorting through.
The book describes taking a category of ‘stuff’ to tidy rather than approaching a room or particular space. And sorting clothes is at the easy end of stuff to clear and throw out. Yes there is a hierarchy! It also tells you to hunt down all and I mean ALL items of clothing, shoes and accessories from all over the house, garage and shed. Which I duly did and deposited it all on the floor in my bedroom.
Now I’m not going to show you any pictures, as it is a mountain of clothing shame! Let me tell you it was almost as tall as me!!!
So filled with a zen-like sense of gratitude for all of my items of apparel I started wading through my textile mountain. Bras that were several sizes too small – banished. Knickers that were pretty but not really comfy went the same way. ‘Work’ clothes from a previous life as a fashion lecturer that just didn’t fit my lifestyle now – be gone! Evening and ‘special outfits’, some from over 20 years ago were similarly relegated to the charity pile.
I. WAS. RUTHLESS.
It took all day, in between bouts of painkillers for a dental abscess and emergency treatment (but that’s another story). By the end of this marathon chuck-out I had 3 bags of rubbish and 5 bags for the charity shop.
I had culled my clothes by three quarters! But what was left had to be put back again and Marie Kondo is a folding ninja! Her method of folding is genius.
I followed her advice and stroked and folded what was left of my clothes and lovingly and gratefully placed them back into the drawers and wardrobe. It really shocked me to see how sparse it all looked. This was what I actually wore, these were the clothes I used on a daily basis. I was in an internal conflict. The space and simplicity of what was left was physically lightening, but I was emotionally drained and nearly in tears. So I went and had a gin, (I know not generally a good idea on top of ibuprofen), to consider why I was so upset.
Afterall I hadn’t actually worn anything I had thrown out for ages, and the vast majority of it didn’t even fit me anymore. Looking at and holding these items of clothing had brought back so many memories. There were the T shirts I had worn to various festivals with my best friend, although they were all way too small to fit me now. There was the gorgeous Oasis dress that I had bought to wear to a friends wedding, I just adored the fabric and had made a silk jacket to go with it. But that was over 20 years ago and my friends weren’t even together now. There were several beautiful evening dresses I had worn to some family black tie events, again they didn’t fit but could I really part with them?
It was bit like like having to give up my memories. These times in my life were gone and past, I’m not 25 or a size 12 any more and never will be, but the clothes allowed me to hold on to those memories – like an old photo. Although they didn’t fit and I wouldn’t wear them again I still loved them for what they meant to me.
Was I really ready to give that up? Are clothes comfort or clutter?
A week on and I haven’t actually taken my discards to the charity shop – just yet. But I do love the space and clarity I have in my wardrobe now. I can open my drawers and actually see what’s in there. I can’t promise it will all stay beautifully folded, but one lives in hope. It has also given me the mental headspace to start planning new additions to my wardrobe without the guilt associated with adding to “all the stuff I have already”.
Have you tried this method of tidying and how did it make you feel? Is there something you really couldn’t give up?