Sewing Imogen’s Front Placket

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This is a tutorial I have been meaning to put up here for some time now, but with one thing and another it has taken me until now.

The Imogen Top is a pretty straightforward one to put together but to get the front placket absolutely ‘bang on’ takes a bit of accuracy so here is how I do it.

 

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I tend to apply the interfacing and then trim off any overhanging pieces. This ensures you’re using the fabric as the guide for sewing and pinning not the interfacing.

Make sure you have interfaced the placket pieces (and one of the neckbands.)

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 22Like anything it’s the prep that makes all the difference. So marking the stitching points for the placket opening are key. I use a pin and a marker pen for added accuracy, rather than tailor’s tacks or chalk, but whatever works for you. Just remember the A word!!

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 36The little dot at the corner of the placket opening is marked by poking a pin through the dot on the paper and then gently lifting the paper away from the fabric and marking where the pin goes through the fabric with the pen.

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 57You can then flip over the fabric and where the pin comes out of the second layer mark with the pen again.

File 11-11-2017, 11 33 13On the placket pieces make sure to mark the small dot at one end using the same method of poking the pin through and marking with a pen on both pieces to make sure you get a pair.

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Now when you come to offer up the placket pieces to the front neck opening you can match up these dots exactly. Remember to place the RIGHT side of the PLACKET to the WRONG side of the FRONT. This way you end up doing the topstitching on the right side keeping it nice and tidy.

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Place a pin at the base of the placket where the dot is to make sure you end exactly on the dot.

Sew down the sides of the opening attaching the placket pieces with a 1cm seam allowance. Again accuracy here with the seam allowance will mean it’s easier to finish the placket neatly.

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Make sure to finish exactly on the dot!

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Slow your stitching right down and even hand wheel or just sew one stitch at a time to make sure you finish exactly on the dot.

You should have two perfectly level rows of stitching. (If you mark everything accurately.)

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Press the placket away from the front so it lies over the seam allowances.

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Flip the front over and snip into the ends of the lines of stitching. Again it’s the A word. Accuracy is important here too, because if you don’t snip right up to the ends of sewing you will get “woolly corners”, to quote my old needlework teacher, when you try to pull the placket over to the right side.

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You must snip in far enough to allow the placket to sit flat after being pulled over to the right side.

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Press under the raw edge that is left on the placket by just under 1cm.

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The pins on the right side should be turned around so they follow the direction of sewing. Basically this means you always have the pin head towards you so it’s easier to remove the pins as you go. 

Fold the pressed edge over to enclose the seams and to sit just over the sewing line of the seam. Pin in place along the length of the placket. Pinning this way will hold more of the placket in place as you sew.

If the folded placket doesn’t ‘fill the space’ ie. sit neatly inside the gap without hanging over or leaving a gap between the other placket pieces you may need to adjust how much has been folded under in the previous step.

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Flip the front over and you can see the little triangular pieces of the front left behind the placket.

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Flip the placket pieces back over to the wrong side and fold the triangular piece down. Fold the placket pieces back in place.  

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Make sure they are even along the bottom edges, and create a perfect V shape from the right side. The triangular piece is tucked down to the wrong side now so it should look nice and neat and level.

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Sew from the right side along the edge of the placket piece. Make sure that none of the original placket seam stitching is visible and that the placket hangs just over that line of sewing.

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You can use a pin to hold the bottom edge of the placket in exactly the right place so you can sew one stitch from the placket on to the front.

Drop the needle down so you can pivot and sew along the bottom of the folded over triangular piece. Stop just in time so you can pivot again and do one stitch to take you back onto the other placket piece.

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Sew back up the edge of the other placket piece. You should have a row of sewing that comes down one edge of the placket hops onto the front, across the flat bottom of the placket, hops back onto the other side of the placket and up the other side.

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You can remove the marker pens spots with a paintbrush and a dab of water.
You may note while reading through this tutorial that I haven’t used stay stitching around the opening as described in the pattern instructions. This is for several reasons:

  • I find the extra stitching can get in the way of real accuracy.
  • They can remain visible after sewing in the placket.
  • Most of the time a stable fabric is used so it’s not strictly necessary. And if it’s not necessary there’s no point!
  • I’m not a “sewing purist,” so am quite happy to use whatever processes I feel I need wherever I feel I need them – or not.

I included the stay stitching in the instructions as a way of making sure to get an accurate opening following feedback from our pattern testers.  But please let me know if you use stay stitching here of if you prefer not to.

There are always ‘better’ ways of doing things and sharing the knowledge is what we’re all about. 🙂

Jules x

 

Sewing Gathers

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Gathers can be tricky little blighters to sew accurately and neatly. Usually a double row of long machine stitches will suffice.

However, if you have a full amount of gathers to sew or even a rather bouncy fabric to tame, an extra row of gathering stitches can be of great benefit.

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The third row of gathering stitches is beyond the seam allowance. 

The first two rows are sewn within the seam allowance, so you don’t have to remove them after you have stitched the gathers into place. Remember don’t reverse and leave long tails to the gathering threads.

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Three rows of long machine gathering threads.

The third row can be sewn below the seam line, about 2cm from the raw edge. This gives a wider channel in which to sew the seam line and ensures that the gathers are small and nice and close together.

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You can use a pin to separate the bobbin threads from the needles threads.

Pull up the gathering threads as normal by taking up the bobbin threads and gently easing the fabric along the threads.

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Spread out the gathers evenly.
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Easing up the gathering.

You can use a pin at the end to anchor the threads by winding them around in a future of eight.

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Sew a normal sized 1.5cm seam.

The extra row means that the gathers are held in place as the seam is sewn.

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The darker row of the seam line is stitched between the second and third rows of gathering threads
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The Pin holes left can be removed by running your thumb nail over them. 

The extra row of gathering stitches can be removed after the seam has been sewn.

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Neat, even finished gathers.

Beautifully even and neat gathers sewn with THREE rows of gathering stitches. It might seem like another step to complete but let’s face it, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly!

This is a technique that would be really useful when making up our NEW Celia Top pattern.

 

The Good Life

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I have a confession to make – I don’t really do holidays. That sounds a bit sad when you write it down but it’s not that I don’t like going on holiday, it’s more that I don’t really have the time to go away for weeks at a time. So we tend to do smaller mini-holidays instead.

We had such a one a couple of weeks ago when we went to the Good Life Experience. It’s a kind of festival for ‘grown-ups’. Not that there wasn’t alcohol and late nights involved don’t get me wrong! But it was so much more than just getting hammered in a field (and I’ve done my fair share of that too!).

It really is about the good life – no not the Tom and Barbara variety –  the GOOD THINGS IN LIFE. And it was another chance for us to use our new bell tent that has a stove – yes a tent with it’s own heating! I can’t tell you what utter bliss this is.

 

The festival is run by a team that include Cerys Mathews, she of Catatonia and now 6Music and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone who started Pedlars -(yes I do have a wish list) and is held at Charlie and Caroline’s pad in Flintshire – Hawarden Castle.

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The walk back from the Old Castle and the view of the current Hawarden Castle.

My Charlie, or @thetallphotographer as some of you might know him, was one of the photographers for the festival which meant we could get in early and joined in the singing at the old castle with Cerys and Sills & Stich. We were creating the beginnings of a festival choir that would continue to grow over the weekend. It’s incredibly uplifting being part of a group of singing people. Not that I can sing particularly well but hiding in amongst lots of other voices is very encouraging.

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A bit of a sing-a-long with Cerys and Sills & Stich

The views from the old castle were just stunning and we could see over the rest of the festival and the field of official Bell Tents.

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The view over the festival from the Old Hawarden Castle. You can just see our bell tent right at the back.

It was such a chilled and relaxed atmosphere, everyone was chatting with people they had just met and it was wonderful to just go “ Ahhhhhh” with a G&T in hand. What was even better about this festival was that there was so much ‘other stuff’ going on. There were talks and readings, bush craft, cookery demos, craft activities to try out, lots of amazing festival food, unusual music to listen to, loads of stuff for kids to do, even dogs are welcome too!

I joined a peg weaving workshop and made a surprisingly warm and comfortable cushion/mat thing. Great for sitting on cold camping chairs.

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A bit of peg weaving with Nellie and Eve

I met people I had only chatted with on Instagram and Twitter who were all lovely, including Sara Tasker whose daughter is called Orla as well. She was giving a talk on Instaphotography – yes there is such a thing!

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Sara Tasker looking incredibly Glam in a lovely summery dress and wellies – Charlie is there doing his thing too.

I joined in with the Oh Comely Book Club – I hadn’t actually read the book they were discussing yet, it’s called Strange Heat Beating by Eli Goldstone,  I have it on my kindle ready go.

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The Oh Comely Book Club

I listened to the wonderful Michael Rosen, who held a whole tent of kids and adults completely rapt with his stories.

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I threw axes and wasn’t really rubbish at it! I hit the target more often than not and I really enjoyed it – now where do we keep the axe at home?

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No this isn’t me and it isn’t a dead horse in the background either. Ha ha ha 

I wore my wellies the entire weekend – yes it rained and was muddy but hey this is Wales in September what do we expect?

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And…. I want to go back next year. I loved it. I know spending a wet weekend in a tent isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time (you don’t have to camp by the way, there are weekend tickets too and you can just stay in a local hotel). But it only rained at overnight and I got to listen to the tawny owls in the woods nearby and of course spend some time with my love.

You can order early bird tickets hereIt is a wonderful festival full of inspiration and joy I hope you get the chance to go sometime, maybe I’ll see you there next year?

Jules x

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Apples, Oranges, Pears, Bananas

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Would a size by any other name fit the same? I know I’m badly mis-quoting Shakespeare here but listening to a programme on iplayer the other day prompted me to think about dressmaking pattern sizing as opposed to commercial clothing sizing.

Surfing through iplayer to find something interesting to listen to the other day I stumbled upon a programme called More or Less. One of the topics covered in the programme was on clothes sizing, something that I get asked about a hugely in our workshops.

It was only a short piece but rather interesting, you can listen to the full programme here and the piece about sizing starts at 19.45.

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Commercial sizing hasn’t been around that long at all really, as before the Second World War clothes were mainly tailor made, made at home or were bought from department store or catalogues and then altered.

In the 1950’s the UK Board of Trade did an enormous survey of women’s measurements in an attempt to try and standardise it all to encourage women to shop for stuff and aid the flagging economy after the war. However, due to the huge number of sizes needed to cater for the majority of the population, that was just unworkable.

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This is one of the main reasons the fashion industry has to work with averages. If the bust size of the smallest customer is X and the Largest Y then the measurements in between need to be divided pretty evenly to create a ‘range’ of sizes to cover most people and are usually labelled 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 etc.  But to be honest it might as well be apples, oranges, pears, bananas, as the name of the size has absolutely no bearing on the actual measurements.

So, if we can accept that the names of the sizes are not directly connected to our body measurements and don’t really mean anything relevant,  it all sounds pretty doable – right? Except when you bring into consideration the more modern concept of the ‘target customer’.

Designers and manufacturers all have their own specific target markets. Top Shop’s range is about age 16 -25 young slim and athletic frames. While White Stuff is more 25 – 55 with a slightly more mature figure (that’s euphemism for a fatter tum!). Evans and other brands may cater for even more specific demographics, but each has their ideal customer.

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Going by exact body measurements the population would comprise of the 126 different sizes mentioned int the Radio 4 piece, but do you really want to be described as size 114 or size 0? I don’t think I would to be honest. Each group of customers, rather than being differentiated by individual size, has appropriated the ‘normal size’ banding of 8 -26  so a size 12 from Top Shop will of course be different from a size 12 in White Stuff or Evans, yet they are still all called ‘size 12’.  And so ‘vanity sizing’ has appeared to become the norm.

Although I don’t necessarily think this is all bad. I am careering headlong into middle age with breakneck speed and have the grey hairs and extra inches to prove it, but even if I still had the figure I used to in my twenties I don’t think I would want to shop where my teenage daughter does. My attitude, lifestyle and general outlook on life have guided me to find my own ‘Style Tribe’. I know the brands of clothing that suit me and I know roughly what size I am. I’m not that bothered if the size 16 I wear should really be a size 24 or anything else. If it fits and I feel good – that’s alright with me.

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Perhaps this is where us Independent Pattern Designers have the edge on the ‘Big Boys’. While they are still trying to be all things to all people we can be more specific. Our branding and size charts also reflect who we design for – usually people like us.

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I love the aesthetic of Sew Over It patterns, they have a wonderfully distinct vintage look to them. The same applies to Tilly, her pretty colours and 60’s inspired silhouettes again feed another group of dressmakers. A lot of the time we dip in and out of different ‘Tribes’ too, depending on our moods or occasion. I buy from White Stuff, Boden and Hobbs as well as M&S.  

So does it really matter that sizing is different from one company to another? Granted it’s hard to navigate the choppy waters of sizing on the High Street, but should it make that much difference to us if we are going to be making our own clothes? The information supplied with each pattern includes the body measurements for the different sizes. After all we measure and fit and alter the clothes to suit our own shapes and bodies.

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Don’t we?

Or do we just expect it to fit if we make up a specific size? Most of the time I make up a Toile to check the fit before I make up the final garment.

So what do you do?

Jules x

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Is September the New January

File 05-09-2017, 17 01 48I am wearing a scarf!

I’m also sitting in the garden with a cup of coffee answering emails and generally planing my day and the week ahead. But I’m wearing a scarf – and there in lies the difference.

The mornings are becoming distinctly Autumnal and there is a bit of a chill on the back of my neck as I sit on the bench in the garden, so my scarf has its first outing of the new season.

August has ended and with it the Summer holidays. Gone are the relaxed mornings without having to duck the sniper like bullets of questions fired at me by a sulky teenager late for school. My kitchen table has been an oasis of early morning calm throughout August, as those of you who wrangle teenagers will know – they rarely surface before noon.

September has sidled her way in and every day the changes in season become more apparent. Our tomato plants have heaved their last sigh and the few remaining fruits have turned a beautiful golden orange. Our Elder tree has almost been picked clean by the starlings, save the ones I managed grab. And my youngest is back to school in her last year of High School.

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The last of the tomatoes.
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What’s left of the elderberries.
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Orla and Sugar

The wheel is turning – but I rather like that.

I rather enjoy the ending of something you have enjoyed, but know will return. It’s the opportunity to  say “thank you, see you again soon” and then “Hello again, back already” to what is to come with all that Autumn has to offer.

I really enjoy making plans for the new things that are to come. Friends of mine lament the loss of Summer and the longer light evenings, but there is nothing nicer that coming home lighting the fire and cosying up as the evenings becomes darker and the weather more inclement.

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The change from Summer to Autumn around September time is far more pronounced than the actual New Year in January, for me at least. After all the 1st January is still mid-Winter, but maybe it has more to do with the new academic year starting. Traditionally children were given the summer months free from schooling to help their families with the harvests. Then when all was safely gathered in they had to start back again. So I suppose it all links together somehow.

My sewing plans are changing too. Some of the projects I really want to make have had to go on the “next year pile”. But that gives me space to focus on other projects that need to be prepared and started in readiness for the Winter.

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The lovely winter coat I have been using for the last 10 years has finally given up the ghost so that is a project I need to complete fairly swiftly!

I’d like some new trousers, slim legged but not sure of the pocket detail yet.

The Julia top, lengthened is easy to throw on over jeans, so a couple of those in some new French Terry or quilted jersey would be great.

I also fancy a new dress. Maybe one with a waist seam and pockets? Where’s my sketchbook I feel some designing coming on…..

What are you planning on making this Autumn? I’d love to know.

Jules x

The Day We Went To Brum

File 04-09-2017, 16 47 57Thank you so much to all of you that come to meet us for a bit of fabric shopping in Birmingham last week.

It was lovely to see some familiar faces waiting at Stratford Station and waving out of the window attracted a few more to join us at a couple of the stops on the way.

We met more people at Saint Martin’s Church, familiar faces and some new ones too.

The Rag Market was our first stop and to be honest I could have spent all morning in there.

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Looks like the ladies have found something interesting, and it’s not like they’re posing or anything!! 
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There’s even more fabric in the market outside too!

Then it was lunch at Browns while we shared our fabric finds. Luckily we missed the main shower – or so we thought. 

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As we headed over to Barry’s Fabrics the heavens opened and a rather sodden group of sewists arrived to drip all over even more fabric.

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This is definitely one for a “caption competition” !

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The last stop of the day was Fancy Silks to drool over yet more gorgeous fabrics. Although I had spent my quota already so I may have to come back again soon.

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The sun shines on the righteous!

I think the day was held up as a resounding success and everyone enjoyed themselves hugely,  including me.

The general consensus is that we need to do this again as fabric shopping with other fabric minded people is SO MUCH more fun!

So watch this space as we will be organising another one before Christmas.

Jules x

 

How to Make a Fabric Necklace

IMG_0681I’m often asked in the shop or at shows where I get my necklaces from. Well, I make them! And they are really easy to do, so I thought I would show you just how easy they are.

You’ll need :

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A fat quarter of fabric

6 polystyrene balls about 2 – 3cm in diameter

Matching thread

IMG_0656Measure around a polystyrene ball to get its circumference. In my case it was 6.5cm. Add on the seam allowances of  2cm. This gives you the width of the strips of fabric you need to cut as 8.5cm.

 

Cutting

Press and lay out the fabric so it’s nice and flat. If using several layers line them up so the selvedges are level.

IMG_0657I often find they are so quick and easy to do you can make several in one go by layering up the fabric and cutting 3 or 4 layers at a time.

IMG_0658Cut bias strips from the fat quarter the cutting width you need. Cut enough strips to sew together to make about 1m. In this case it was only 2 strips needed.

IMG_0659Sew the strips together by lining up the first strip with the right side up horizontally. Then place the second strip with the right side down, vertically over the end of the first strip.

IMG_0661Sew diagonally from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. Trim down the seam to just under 1cm.

IMG_0662Then press the seam open and flat.

IMG_0664Fold the bias strip in half lengthwise with the right sides on the inside.

IMG_0665Sew a seam just under 1cm along the raw edges to create a tube. You don’t really need to pin,  you can use your fingers as pins to hold the layers together as you sew.

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Turn the tube the right way around. I’ve used a rouleau turner here but you could pin across one end and push it through with a pencil instead.

 

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Use the latch on the loop turner to poke through the folded edge of the fabric.
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As you pull the loop turner down into the tube the latch closes and brings the edge of the tube with it.
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A bias strip of Cumberland sausage

 

In the middle of the length of bias tube, tie a knot.

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Then thread a polystyrene ball down the tube until it hits the knot.

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Tie another knot keep the poly ball tight up against the first knot.

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Repeat so you have 3 balls one side of the centre knot.

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Then thread a poly ball and tie a knot on the other side of the centre knot. Repeat the process again so you have a central knot with 3 balls either side and 3 knots holding them in place.

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Cut the ends of the tube off so they are level.

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Tuck in the raw edges and slip stitch them closed. Give the ends a quick press to help them sit flat.

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Now you can tie the ends together to wear your necklace

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Happy Sewing!

An Even Quicker Unpicker

Sew Me Something Macro -5Did 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!

 

How to Sew Darts Without Dimples

File 15-08-2017, 16 57 36Darts 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.

Where the dart shaping is

 

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.

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Cutting through the paper allows the “dart” to be removed.
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The dart is folded outfit decreases the outer edge causing the middle to lift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most darts will be marked on the pattern as straight lines.

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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.

Marking 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.

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Double pinning

Snip the ends of the legs of the dart as they sit on the edge of the garment.

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Only very small snips mind, nothing that goes in too far to the seam allowance.

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.

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I have made a hole at the new point to allow the pin head to go though the paper more easily.

Where you can see the pin is poking out from the underneath layer push another back through.

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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.

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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.

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Follow the crease of the pleat until you reach the marker pin. Then remove and replace that pin vertically where it came out.

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You can draw in the dart line if you choose with a fabric pen or tailors chalk.

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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.

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Pull off extra long tails of thread.
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Use the threads to act as a guide for stitching the dart.

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.

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The sewing line sits in a very slight curve above the chalk line.

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”!

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The stitching line gently curves into the fold of the dart creating a smooth line.

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.

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Pivot at the end of the dart and sew back into the dart pleat.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Press carefully from the right side to allow the curve to remain in the dart.

Pressing carefully will help to eliminate those pesky dimples at the ends of the darts as well.

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No unsightly dimples at the end of the dart.
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From the wrong side you can see how the dart just comes to a neat point with no extra bulk.

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.

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Happy dart sewing

Jules x

How to work out which size pattern to cut.

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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.

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All commercial and Indie patterns will have their own measurements printed on the pattern information and some on the pattern pieces themselves.

Your measurements

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.

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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.

 

Ease differnce info graphic

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.

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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.

We have a Tutorial right here to show you how that’s done.

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.

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The pattern has gone from a size 12 on the bust through a size 14 on the waist to a size 16 on the hips.

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.

Happy Cutting!