To Toile or not to Toile that is the question?

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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.

Calico

The name Calico 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

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!)

Toile

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Happy toile making

Jules

Making More of your Patterns – Portia as Jeans – Part Two

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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.

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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.

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Once cut out I marked out all the notches and pattern markings.

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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!

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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.

Sewing a flat felled seam, or not –

True flat felled seams are strong and neat, enclosing all the raw edges of fabric. They are often used in shirt making as well as jeans. You can follow the tutorial here for sewing a flat felled seam.

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!

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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.

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The wider part of the yoke always goes in towards the centre back. Match up the notches on the yoke seam too.

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.

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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.

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I folded over the top edge of the coin pocket by 1cm then by another 1cm.
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The belt loops are folded into thirds so the overlocked edge is on top.

I top stitched across several pieces in one batch – the back yoke seam, back pocket, belt loops and coin pocket.

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Try to make sure that the topstitching on the back yoke seam is the same both sides. If it’s off slightly it will really show up when you sew the centre back seam together.

Now I could press the sides of the back pockets and coin pocket in place ready to top stitch again.

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Press under the seam allowance down the sides and across the point at the base of the pocket.
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Line the top edge of the pocket with the pocket placement marks and pin in place.
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I should have made the coin pocket a bit longer so it matched up with the base of the pocket back facing, but hey ho no one’s perfect!

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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.

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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.

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Batched top stitching!

Back to ordinary sewing for this batch. Join the two back trousers.

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Make sure to match up the yoke seams or it will really notice when it comes to top stitching the centre back seam.

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.

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And attach the back pocket facing to the back pocket lining.

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The pocket facings are just sewn straight on top of the lining.

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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!!

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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.IMG_0035

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Snip into the seam allowance to the stitching line at the base of the fly extension.

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Now I can do a batch of overlocking as I need to go back and neaten the centre back seam…

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…as well as the front crotch seam…

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Fold the fly extension out of the way to start overlocking the front crotch seam.

And the left hand side of the fly extension.

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Fold the crotch seam out of the way to overlock the left hand fly extension.
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The overlocked fly extension and crotch seam. The snip in the seam allowance allows the right fly extension to sit flat.

Back to a bit of topstitching and I can now sew the rows of top stitching around the edge of the front pocket.

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I can also push the centre back seam allowance over to the left and top stitch through that.

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YES!! The topstitching matches! That is so satisfying!

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I know it looks slightly out, but I think that’s the camera angle. It really does match – Honest!! 🙂

 

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.

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For some reason I’ve only done one row of topstitching? But I don’t think it matters.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Use a template to give you the guide for top stitching the curved shape for the front fly.

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I marked on where the zip stopper was to make sure that the inside row of top stitching would miss it.

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You can just about see the marked in topstitching guide.

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.

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Sew across the bottom edge of the fly facing and trim it back by half.

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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.

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Undo the basting stitches that have been holding the centre front part of the zip together.

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Don’t forget to remove all the little bits of thread.

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.

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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.

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Then I trimmed off the excess fly extension close to the stitching so it won’t show.

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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.

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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.

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Baste the top edges and the sides of the pockets to the trouser fronts to hold them in place.

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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.

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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.

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Overlock the seam and press it towards the back.

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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.

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Now is the time to make any adjustments to the zip. Measure down the seam allowance and mark that with a pin.

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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!!

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You can snip off the overhanging zip tape once you’ve pulled off the unwanted zip teeth.

Interface the outside waistband and then sew the two waistbands together along the top edge.

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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.

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Press the waistband with the wrong side together so it sits nice and flat.

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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.

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Sew around the waist making sure that you stitch right across the ends of the fly. Then press the seam up towards the waistband.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I inserted the button back, lined up the button then flipped over the waistband and hammered the two together. It’s really easy!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jules x

Making More of your Patterns – Portia as Jeans – Part One

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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!

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This is what I did…

Reduced the depth in the crotch –

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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.

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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…

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fly extension-

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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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You can see what I did in Part Two of Portia as Jeans coming soon.

You can purchase your copy of the Portia Trousers ready to make you own jeans adaptations. The denim I used in the top picture is the Dark Washed 8oz denim from our store.

Jules x

 

Are Clothes Comfort or Clutter?

File 27-05-2017, 10 19 17My beloved, @thetallphotographer, has been reading a book over the last few weeks and has suggested that I have a look at it too. It’s called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo.

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.

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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?

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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?

Jules x

Making More From Your Patterns – A Woven Peaseblossom

 

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Hark! I can hear the sewing machine calling!

I wanted to have a section on our blog that shows you how adaptable our pattern really are and to help with some suggestions as to the alterations and adaptations you can make at home.

After overhauling my wardrobe and clearing out what I don’t ACTUALLY wear I have focussed my mind on to the shapes and styles that I do wear more of and one is a boxy top that I can wear with jeans or wide trousers – otherwise known as a Peasblossom!

This is one of my favourites to make up in different fabrics. Now Peaseblossom is normally known as the draped or cowl neck top, but Version 2 of the pattern is just a round necked style.

My absolute favourite fabric is the laundered linen we have in the store, so what better combination!  Peaseblossom in linen!

 

A Bit of Pattern Hacking…

I did alter the pattern slightly as I wanted the top to be a more comfortable fit over my hips but not too big across my shoulders and around the neck as there will be no stretch in the fabric I’ve chosen for this project.

So I cut the size up from what I would normally cut – to make it roomier over the hips. But I closed the neckline slightly to make it a bit higher – I wanted it to have more of a traditional T shirt look.

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I then drew on a box pleat 2cm wide at the centre front and back to take the shoulders back down to my usual size. This would be made into an inverted box pleat.

The top needed a bit more interest at the hem so I decided to add a bit extra on to the hem to make it deeper and included a side split. The split needed a facing to neaten it off so that led me into thinking of including mitred corners. They give a neat and clean finish to corners on hems and look great if they are top-stitched as well. So I had to add a bit extra onto the pattern at the side seams as well.

 

This is what I did…

  • Drew on the original hem line
  • Added an extra 5cm on from the hem line
  • Drew on the side seam allowance
  • Added an extra 5cm onto the side from the seam line
  • Marked the split to end about 8cm or 3” from the finished hemlineWoven T pattern hack spilt.jpg

 

I wanted to sew the hem by top stitching 4cm away from the finished edge to give a border to the hem and split, I thought it would look quite neat to have the split sewn with a gable (or point) above it. So I drew on the top-stitching line and created a gable over the split so the point of the gable was 4cm above the end of the split. I could then trim off the excess paper to give me the shape I needed.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Now For a Bit of Cutting Out…

That was the pattern alterations done so it needed cutting out and making up.

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Ooops! Missed the timer!

The centre front and centre back went on the fold of the fabric and as there were only 2 pieces, that was pretty darn quick!

 

And a Bit of Sewing At Last!

Basic Construction

Stitch down the inverted box pleat by 5cm on both the centre front and centre back 2cm away from the fold.

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Open out the pleat and press into place. Sew/baste across the top of the pleat to hold it in place. (Not shown because I forget to take a picture! Oops!)

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Neaten the side seams and hems on both front and back separately.

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Sew the shoulder seams and neaten.

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Sew down the side seams to the end of the split and press open.

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Hem and Split

Then I constructed the mitred corners and you can follow our tutorial on How to Sew Mitred Corners to do this.

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Once the corners were completed I gave myself some guidelines for the top-stitching. I started at the top of one of the split gables so it wouldn’t notice too much.

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The hem and splits once sewn need a really good press – use a pressing cloth and plenty of steam if you need to.

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Neckband

Although the body of the top is a woven fabric I wanted to use something with stretch around the neck and cuffs. Luckily I had a bit of navy bamboo viscose jersey in my stash that would do nicely.

Because I had raised the neckline I needed to re-measure it to work out the length of the neckband. I’ve only shown measuring halfway around the neck in the image as it’s easier to do this then double the measurement, rather than to try and accurately measure all the way around.

Mark on the seam allowance around the neckline. Then measure out from the seam line the width you wanted for the neckband, I’ve used 2cm here.

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Then I measured around the neckline 2cm away from the seamline. This will be the length of the neckband.

If you think about concentric circles we want the inside finished edge of the neck band to sit flat against the body and then the raw edges of it to stretch out to fit the woven edge of the neckline. So that’s why the neckband is shorter than the actual neckline.

The strips of neck band and cuffs are sewn across the short edges to create a circle and then pressed in half to create the double layer.

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I have found the best way to sew on the neckband is to match up the centre backs and centre fronts on both the neckband and neckline and pin those with the right sides together.

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Then I use my little fingers and ring fingers to stretch out the neckband and hold it in place while my other fingers and thumbs manipulate the fabric and neckband into position.

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It can be a bit tricky at first, but it’s all just practice.

Overlock or machine stitch around the neckline. You can see from the image is that the inside edge is flat and the outer edge of the neckband is stretched out to fit the neckline. You can use the same method for attaching the cuffs.

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To keep it all neat and tidy I used a twin needle to topstitch around the neckline through the woven fabric and seam allowance.

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Give the neckband a gentle press to steam it into place if it’s stretched out a little bit in the sewing.

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I was really pleased with the way this particular hack turned out, and I’m planning another one already.

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Here Are Some of the Details…

This is a very straightforward Pattern Hack to achieve and I hope it shows how easy it is to adapt a pretty simple pattern to include a few interesting details.

If you decide to have a go let me know how you get on.

Jules x

Bianca Coat Tutorial

Bianca Coat large size jpegs web quality -8666Out lovely new pattern Bianca is so quick and easy to make up, but during the workshops we run one of the issues that crops up constantly is how to sew across the back of the neck with the overlocker.

So I thought I would create this tutorial to help you sew your own Bianca Coat with an overlocker. This tutorial focuses on the method we use in the workshop constructing and edging with an overlocker, (you will need a normal machine for some bits – but not many!)

Of course you can also use a normal machine to construct the coat as well and then either leave the edges raw or finish them with a different stitch, zigzag or mock overlock would look great.

Prep

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This is what you’ll need:

2.5m of fabric

Matching or contrasting overlocker threads

Matching or contrasting threads on your sewing machine

Pins

Scissors

Tape measure
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I can be a bit of a control freak when it comes to patterns and I really like mine to lay flat on the fabric so I iron them first. Sounds daft I know, but just set your iron to a low temperature with no steam and give them the once over. Simple! And it allows the pattern pieces to sit flat allowing you to cut more accurately too.

Cut

To make following the layplan a little easier I usually cut off enough fabric for the front piece first.

**Make sure that you have enough fabric

overall before cutting anything!!**

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Then I fold over just enough fabric to create a double layer for the back piece to sit on the fold. Measure both ends of the folded over section to make sure it is parallel to the selvedge, otherwise the back panel will be ‘off grain’.

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Lay out the rest of the pattern pieces, pin and cut them out.

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Remember to transfer all the pattern markings onto your fabric. The notches I mark with a small – I mean SMALL snip. You can use chalk or marker pen to mark in the small dots at the neckline.

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Make

Neaten the edges of the pocket pieces – but leave the edges with the notches unfinished.

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You can see from the image that there is a slight slope to the outer edges of the pocket pieces. The wider edge is at the bottom. So this should help to get the pockets the correct way up if you are using a patterned fabric.

This video show a neat way to overlock around corners.

Lay the pocket pieces onto the right side of the coat fronts aligning the notches on the side seam and pocket.

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Sew around the front edge and bottom of the pocket making sure to leave the top edge open otherwise you will have a patch – not a pocket! (I can’t tell you how many times I have done this myself!)

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Baste the edges together at the side seams to hold the pockets in place.

Staystitch around the collar and neckline on the coat fronts, pivoting at the small dot.

Blanket Coat Tutorial-39You only need to sew 2 or 3 cm either side of the dot.

Place the coat fronts with the WRONG SIDES together and sew down the centre back of the collar.

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Snip in towards the dot, making sure not to cut through your stitching.

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Attaching the collar can be a little confusing so I place the coat back with the right side up in front of me…

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…then place the coat fronts on top of the back, also with the right sides up.

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Then I fold down the collar so the back necklines match up and flip out the shoulder seams so the shoulder points line up.

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The snips into the front neckline will open out so the base of the snips should now sit on top of the small dots on the corners of the back neck and shoulder line. 

Here is a quick video to show you what I mean.

Only use the bare minimum of pins to hold the corners in place. Pins and overlockers DO NOT go together and the best way is to use your fingers as pins and hold in place small sections of fabric as you sew.

You can now sew along the first shoulder line, over the snip and corner, across the back neck, over the second snip and corner and finish along the second shoulder all in one seam.

So you should get a corner that looks a bit like this.

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If you do get a little hole you can always go back over it again either with the overlocker or on the sewing machine.

That is the tricky bit done!

It is easier to hem the sleeve now while it’s flat so zip across the cuff with the overlocker or sewing machine.

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The sleeves sew in flat, which means the notch at the sleeve head matches up with the shoulder seam and the single and double notches on the sleeve match up with those on the back and front of the coat.

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Sew across the sleeve head easing the fabric in as you go.

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With the right sides of the coat together match up the cuff, armhole seam and hem. You can clip or pin these together to hold them in place.

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To help with the bulkiness at the armhole seam, push one seam one way and the other in the opposite direction. This will help the machine or overlocker sew over the bulk of the seams.

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Sew all the way from cuff to hem, sewing across the armhole seams.

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Finish

Now the construction of the coat is complete you can either leave it raw edged or sew all the way around the edge with the overlocker or an alternative stitch on the sewing machine.

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We have lots of fabric and colour combinations used in our workshops and I have to say that a contrasting thread around the edge provides a real ‘pop’ of colour and can look amazing!

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But I’ve just stuck to grey!

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A Few More Bianca Coats

The Bianca Coat or the Blanket coat, has been a workshop we have run for a while now and we have been consistently asked if we were making it into a pattern. So due to popular demand we have now released it.

You Can Order Yours Now Too

You can see some of the versions our wonderful pattern testers have made.

Fabrics have ranged from double jersey to wool coating…

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…with a bit of boiled wool and scuba jersey thrown in too.

Some have been left raw edged, and some overlocked…

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…and others with beautifully bound edges.

The creativity and different approaches never fail to amaze me when other dressmakers put their stamp on our patterns. After all making something personal and individual to you is part and parcel of sewing a handmade wardrobe.

I hope you decide to give the Bianca Coat a go, it really is quick and easy to make up. this is what some of our Testers had to say…

The coatigan was a dream to make. The instructions were very clear and easy to follow, especially with the added diagrams. I really liked the fact that the pattern instructions contained a glossary this was really beneficial. I am not a very confident sewer but thanks to your pattern and instructions I feel on top of the world with the garment I have made, thank you.” Judith

Great coatigan pattern, swift make, could be pimped to make your own style, with different trimings, thread choices. Loved it on first try on. This is the 3rd pattern I have used of yours.”  Helen

A simple and quick pattern to make with lovely results.” Charlotte

Clear concise instructions. One of the easiest garments I’ve made.” Angela

I really enjoyed making the Bianca Coat. The instructions are clearly laid out, the pattern pieces fit together easily and the coat fronts have been cleverly designed to produce a lovely waterfall effect.” Janet

You can order your Bianca Coat as a

Paper version HERE

or as a

PDF version HERE

Meet Bianca – Our Latest Pattern

We would like to introduce you to our latest pattern…

The Bianca Coat

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This is a another relaxed and easy shape to wear.  The loose fit ‘coatigan’ has a dropped shoulder line to add ease and comfort.

Waterfall Collar, Turnback Cuffs and Pockets – of course!

The waterfall collar softens the neckline and frames the face. And the turn back cuffs echo the glimpse of reverse fabric revealed by the fall of the collar. And of course no coat would be complete without handy pockets to keep your hands warm in.

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Easy to Make

The Bianca Coat is very easy to put together using either a normal sewing machine to give a raw edge finish or you can use an overlocker to neaten and give a semi finished edge. It looks fantastic using contrasting coloured thread too.

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Great for Beginners

As you can see from the tester’s comments the pattern comes together very quickly and could easily be made in an afternoon.

We have run this as a workshop and have released it as a pattern due to popular demand. It is just the garment for the change in seasons and although we are heading into Spring it is still chilly enough to need an extra layer.

The coat requires about 2.5m of 150cm wide fabric and it works well in boiled wool, double Jersey, scuba and wool suiting.

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Here are just a few of the comments from our pattern testers…

“The coatigan was a dream to make. The instructions were very clear and easy to follow, especially with the added diagrams. I really liked the fact that the pattern instructions contained a glossary this was really beneficial. I am not a very confident sewer but thanks to your pattern and instructions I feel on top of the world with the garment I have made, thank you..” Judith

“Great coatigan pattern, swift make, could be pimped to make your own style, with different trimings, thread choices. Loved it on first try on. This is the 3rd pattern I have used of yours.”  Helen

“A simple and quick pattern to make with lovely results.” Charlotte

“Clear concise instructions. One of the easiest garments I’ve made.” Angela

“I really enjoyed making the Bianca Coat. The instructions are clearly laid out, the pattern pieces fit together easily and the coat fronts have been cleverly designed to produce a lovely waterfall effect.” Janet

I hope you decide to give it a go –

you can order your Paper version HERE

or the PDF version HERE


Wardrobe Overhaul

IMG_1655It has been a while since I wrote the last post on What is MY Style?  We have done a few of the Spring Shows and launched a new pattern, as well as all the workshops that we run.

So now after a bit of time to sew for me I have gone back to trying to figure out “What is my style and what do I want to sew?”.

After looking through Pinterest and creating a My Style Board I decided to try and Spring clean my own wardrobe and see what shapes and styles were repeated and whether they bore any resemblance to what I had ‘liked’ and pinned to my board. So often we can admire things on others and wish we could wear that ourselves, but remain loyal to our ‘safe’ or comfortable way of dressing.

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Blax The Cat would not be shifted off my bed and insisted on continuing her morning ablutions!

Looking dispassionately at all of my wardrobe items this was what I concluded:

1 – Everything was pretty loose or even oversized

2 – Most of it was grey or navy in various shades

3 – There were more tunics than anything else

4 – Colour, if any, was usually in the accessories or an ‘accent’ garment.

5 – Although the shapes were simple the garments contained details to create interest.

So it pretty much matched my Pinterest board.

The next thing I asked myself was ‘Were these items what I really wanted to wear or were they ‘just things that I already had lying around?’ I then sorted those out into a pile to donate to a charity shop. If I wasn’t feeling the ‘lurve’ it was time to go!

Next I looked at putting the remaining items together into outfits. My daughter does this on a regular basis so she knows what ‘goes’ and she can style her outfits with accessories and shoes etc, before she goes out with her friends. And to be honest I do remember doing this myself as a teenage when I had more time to spend – on myself.

The upshot of this is that there is a similarity between the outfits.

I mainly wear loose boxy tops with skinny jeans, a long-line, long-sleeved T with wide leg trousers, or tunic dresses with leggings.

Basically these…

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As I have gotten older I have fuller bust now and little waist shaping, but my arms and legs are still pretty slim – so basically I’m an apple shape. Looking online at various style blogs and other ‘helpful’ sites that suggest dressing for your shape I should be “wearing V neck tops to draw the eye in and show off my ample bosom and empire line dresses to hide my tummy.”

But frankly I wouldn’t be seen dead in either of those. I just don’t feel comfortable exposing my decollate unless in an evening dress and the last time I wore an empire line dress I was asked if I was ‘expecting’!  Needless to say that person was crossed off my Christmas card list straight away! To be honest I was never one for obeying the rules.

So these are the shapes I feel most comfortable in.

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Polyvore is a brilliant resource if you’re trying out different style ideas and looking for design details to add something to a shape you know you’ll like and wear.

So now I am more sure of what shapes I know I will wear. That’s not to say that I won’t deviate and make something that totally contradicts everything I’ve just written about. But it enables me to be more mindful when I’m selecting which patterns to make and how I intend to wear them as outfits with the other elements in my wardrobe.

Have you decided on your preferred shapes and styles? Maybe your wardrobe could do with a Spring overhaul?

Let me know what works for you.

Making the Most of Your Sewing Time – Batching!

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While I have been doing a bit of sewing for myself I have been reflecting on the process of sewing and creating garments.

The process of planning can affect the outcome of your sewing project enormously and the Project Planner I created certainly helps me to prepare for any sewing projects I want to undertake.

But there are other things that can help you make the most of your sewing time and Batching is one.

Batching just means grouping a series of similar tasks together. This can save time and energy. Whether you are lucky enough to have a designated ‘Sewing Zone’ or even a specific sewing room, or if you have to clear away all your sewing paraphernalia at the end of each session, batching tasks can help you to organise your work and prevent missing out certain steps or pattern pieces.

It can also help get you into the Flow State. Without getting all geeky, the flow state is really just a totally focussed state of mind where you are completely absorbed in the task that’s occupying you. A bit like a state of meditation and to be honest that’s what I love about making and sewing stuff. It’s the total freeing of your mind of all extraneous thought apart from what you happen to be doing right now. And anything that can facilitate that gets my vote!

 

Cutting

Once you’ve planned out what you want to sew I generally find it easier to cut several items out in one session. And I make sure that I cut EVERYTHING even down to the last bit of interfacing that I’m going to need for a specific project.

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If you have planned out your sewing you will know exactly which fabrics you’re using and whether you need a contrast fabric, lining, interlining and interfacing too. I’m sure all of us have at some point suddenly remembered that we needed to apply interfacing to the back neck facing, or something similar, when we’ve reached that point in the order of work. I believe the technical term is a face-palm moment!

Each pattern, whether it’s from the Big Four or any indie pattern company,  will always have a pattern inventory and a list of which pieces you’ll need for whichever version of the pattern you’re making. This is the Pattern Inventory for our Kate Dress.

Kate pattern inventory 2

If you need to make your own cutting list –  if you are mixing different versions and want to add the collar of one version with the sleeves of another, you can add this list to your Project Planner and then tick them off once they are cut out.

Top Tip – Make a list and check it twice!

Once all the pieces are cut out I bag them up and label them so they are ready for when I can get back to them for the next stage.

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Marking

Once all the pattern pieces are cut they need to have the pattern information transferred on to them – notches, balance marks, little dots…. They all have a purpose and will help you to match up the pattern pieces to sew your garment together accurately.

I have learnt, Dear Reader, through bitter, bitter experience that there are plenty of places to take a shortcut through the woods but this is most definitely not one of them!

Do spend time going through all the pattern pieces and marking them up accurately. It really will help your sewing go a lot more smoothly. Although it may seem more long-winded, the more preparation you can do beforehand, the easier the garment will be to make up. The method you choose is up to you – tailor’s tacks, fabric marker pen, chalk… whatever works for you.

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Top Tip – Don’t use an air erasable pen and then go off on holiday. The marks will not be there when you get back – I know this to be true!

 

Sewing

When I am creating a new pattern, before I start writing the instructions, we devise an Order of Work. This is just a bullet-pointed list of the order in which the different sewing processes take place to make up the garment. For example you would need to sew the shoulder and side seams of a bodice before you could set in the sleeve.

It helps to get a clear and logical sequence of sewing.

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However…

…most of the time instructions are written in a perfectly logical way – sew the bodice first, then the skirt, then the sleeves then the collar…..this is fine but it does mean that you will be up and down from your sewing machine pressing and sewing each stage and not necessarily making the most of the time you have.

But if we want to Batch sewing tasks to create a better flow to our sewing we can group similar processes together.

 

Look at the Order of Work for our Kate Dress

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Everything is logically ordered but there are three separate incidents for sewing binding and neatening and pressing seams !!

So if we try and group the steps by the process involved it might look a bit like this…

Kate Dress Order of Work colour coded

The different tasks have been grouped by similar process – flat sewing, neatening, pressing… etc.

Then if we re-listed the Order of Work we could achieve a better flow and be more productive.

Kate Dress Order of Work Batched

It has reduced the number of steps from 27 to 19 which means more time for sipping coffee and eating cake. It also means that you won’t be hopping up and down from sewing machine to ironing board and can do several jobs in one place before having to move work stations. And you don’t have to keep changing machine settings to sew different types of stitch.

Basically it all boils down to the fact that I think I am quite lazy so anything that can make my life simpler and more easy to manage I’m all for. You can use my Order of Work download  if you want to try streamlining your own sewing. You can then use highlighters to group certain tasks or processes together and then re-write your Order of Work to make your sewing life easier.

Maybe you do this already without really realising it? Or maybe this is a lightbulb moment for you. Let me know how you streamline your own sewing.