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.

 

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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.

Body – Finished = 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!

9 Reasons To Take Part in a Sewing Workshop

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It can be really daunting turning up to a workshop in a place you’re unfamiliar with and facing people you don’t know. I have let my own fears put me off attending things and joining courses in the past and I actually run workshops!

It was while chatting in one of the workshops I teach that a lady confessed that it had taken her quite a while to pluck up the courage to come along. This surprised me as she was really confident and chatty. So we pursued the conversation and it turned out that she had had her own preconceptions about the workshop and that everyone would be really good and she would get left behind.

This got me wondering if there were others who wanted to join workshops but were just a bit too…. Or it was all a bit….

So these are just 9 reasons why you should find one for you and join in.

It’s easier to See and then Do – I understand that this is a HUGE generalisation but most people I’ve come across who do creative stuff are visual or kinesthetic learners, or more likely a combination of both. By this I mean that it’s far easier to watch how someone else does it so you can copy them. Now I realise that you can do this on YouTube or Google and rewind over and over again. But often the angles aren’t quite right or you just want someone to say, “pin it there” or “hold it like that” and you’re away.

You can ask anything – If your tutor is an expert in what they’re teaching, and they should be, workshops are a fabulous opportunity to ask anything! There is no such thing as a daft question. I think that’s really important and something I want to emphasise. And the ‘daft question’ you want to ask will probably be asked by someone else anyway.

You‘ll meet other people just like you – When you join a workshop you are already with other people that have something in common with you – a love of, or an interest in, whatever the workshop is for. I have lots of lovely friends that go way back, but none of them sew! Unbelieveable I know, but true. So I love it when I can get all nerdy talking seam finishes or the benefits of an overlocker during workshops. I’ve found my tribe.

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You WILL learn stuff you didn’t know before – This is something I absolutely guarantee! Even if it’s just that the capital city of Tibet is Lhasa, yes this really did come up in conversation (but if that’s the only thing you go away with I feel I will have failed in my job as an educator). However, there are always things you didn’t know before and extra nuggets of information you will take away with you from a workshop. Everyday is a school day and we all learn things from each other during the workshops too.

When you’re sewing at home it is so easy to get bogged down with all the other really important thing s that need doing like laundry or cooking dinner or, or, or…

Workshops give you time out – The space and time you need away from everything else. We have people come to workshops who could probably do whatever we’re doing in the workshop on their own but really enjoy having some time to themsleves. I’ve mentioned before in other blogs how important it is to have that time and space just for you. Workshops facilitate mindfulness – there I’m getting all Zen again!

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They help your confidence grow – Whether you do a one off short workshop or a longer course. You will see an improvement in both your skills and understanding in a relatively short space of time. I think that is because of the tangible nature of what you’re creating. You are physically holding and manipulating fabric to transform it into something else. You can literally see the transformation happening before your very own eyes. So often we work in offices or on computers where you never really see what you’re working with it’s all ‘virtual’. Or we’re or at home running around doing chores and tidying up only to have all our hard work undone when the family get home – I really get that one! So seeing what you create and other people can admire provides a huge boost in confidence.

You can learn at your own pace – Our class sizes are usually pretty small, only a maximum of 6 for dressmaking and pattern cutting so there is no need to feel like you HAVE to keep up. And other independently run workshops are pretty much the same too. I and all our tutors are really happy to go over things as many times as required for you to get it right. And I sometimes act as a “sewing sous chef” to help you get things done during the time we have. Never the interesting bits mind, just the boring bits you already know how to do.

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There are no EXAMS! – No one is judging you or testing you on what you’ve achieved or asking you to provide evidence of criteria met. This is learning for the pure joy of learning new stuff. Even when we run a workshop on a specific pattern like the Kate Dress, all the individual dresses created by the end of the day are amazing in their own way. And you are able to take inspiration from other people on the workshops too, who may have used a contrasting fabric or picot edge binding. These ideas are stored away ready to come out when you start sewing again.

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There’s always cake! – Well at our workshops anyway. We try and make the cakes and cookies we have at our workshops ourselves. I know Rachel has a bit of a reputation of being a demon baker and my lemon drizzle cake always goes down well. We want you to feel relaxed and at home when you join us for a workshop. After all you are putting your faith and trust in us to be able to help you to sew better.

The least we can do is to make you feel welcome and put the kettle on.

Jules x

Sewing Is Food For The Soul

IMG_0205.JPGI cannot remember a time when I didn’t know how to sew.

That’s a bold statement I realise but it’s true. I have been sewing since I was 5 or 6 years old, which is now well over 40 years ago. And I don’t know about you, but my memories don’t really stretch much past that. Sewing and dressmaking have given me so much. 

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Red, pink and yellow – I knew it would work even then. Or is it more rhubarb and custard?

It has given me something to do – When I was a child loafing around not sure how to occupy myself during school holidays the response from my elders was “go and make something”. So I did. I raided my Grandmother’s scrap bags and hand stitched crude dresses and outfits for my Cindy dolls (see it really is over 40 years ago).

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Beautiful re- imagined Dolls by Sonia Singh. You can find them on Etsy. https://www.etsy.com/shop/treechangedolls

It has allowed to create my own style – When I was younger in my teenage years the more outlandish the better. The New Romantic fashion tribe I belonged to allowed me to go overboard on frills and flounces. I could run something up on a Friday ready to wear clubbing that night safe in the knowledge I was unique. No other bird of paradise would have quite the same plumage.

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C&H Fabrics Tunbridge Wells Annual Fashion Show circa 1985.

As the years are marching on ever quicker I am still able to create my own look and style identity albeit in a more understanded grey laundered linen kind of way.

It’s taught me patience – In my youth I would run up something really quickly so I could wear it that night not bothered about neatening seams or finishing inside as long as it looked good from the outside. After all image was everything. But as I have sewn more projects over more and more years I am appreciating the processes involved in constructing and creating a piece of clothing. And I do still like to run up something to wear at the weekend, although not necessarily to go clubbing, but I’m not in that much of a rush I want to compromise the quality of what I create anymore.  

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It’s given me a new BFF – Yes meet my unpicker. We go back a long way. My old needlework teacher used to say “make friends with your unpicker”. Making mistakes and unpicking your stitching is part and parcel of sewing and making clothes. Get over it! Embrace the time you take unpicking to reflect on how you can make your sewing better, or some other Zen like shit.

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It’s made me curious – After all the unpicking I’ve done on the many sewing projects I’ve undertaken, it has made me want to find out better, more effective and easier ways of sewing different processes. Part of this comes from my career in fashion, but also because I’m actually quite lazy and can’t be bothered to hand sew if I really don’t have to. 

I’ve learnt how to be a furtive photographer – Clothes shopping is more of a trial than a treat now, but every once in awhile I will stumble upon a dress or top and I can’t quite work out how they’ve inserted that panel or attached that collar.

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Neat pocket insertion!

This is where my furtive photography skills have been honed. Putting my phone on silent, discreetly taking said item of apparel into the changing room and turning it inside out to see exactly how they’ve managed to sew it all together. Then taking as many pictures as I can so I can remember how to do it myself when I get home. Anyone looking at my camera roll might be forgiven for thinking it had turned itself on inside a bag of laundry there are so many pictures of raw edges and seams.

I’ve found a sense of community – Working in the fashion industry and the education sector can be very lonely and isolating. Fashion isn’t friendly, but sewing is. Since setting up Sew Me Something, my haberdashery shop and sewing studio I have found like minded souls who seek solace in sewing as I do. The wonderful people that come into the shop or join our workshops have become friends who ‘get’ what I’m into and can revel in being nerdy over seam finishes. I have found my tribe.

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Me, Jenni Taylor @jennibobtaylor and Elle Harris @sewpositivity

I have discovered I am normal sized!! At whatever point in my life I am and whatever size I am I’m normal. Despite what it might say on the measurements on the back of the pattern envelopes. (They are 70 years out of date anyway.  Don’t get me started on that, it’s a whole other rant!) But because I am making clothes only for me my size is ‘normal’ whatever it is. I don’t have to squeeze my ample flesh into a dress in a badly lit cubicle and feel a failure. I can just pin a bit in here or there in the comfort of my own house and marvel at how gorgeous I look!

It’s now acceptable to make your own clothes – In my teenage years I was a bit of an oddity, a non-conformist who was very nearly thrown out of Grammar school and used clothes as a way of visibly rebelling. I was on the tail end of the generation that was taught ‘proper dressmaking’ in school. But even then it was fading out of popularity. Mass produced clothing was so cheap, so what was the point of making your own? Those of us that did became a kind of underground cult. A raised eyebrow or nod of the head became a universal sign to acknowledge approval of a ‘homemade’ item.

Fast forward 30years and the Cult of Craft has arrived. It’s now cool to make stuff, even if you can afford to buy it. And it’s acceptable to ask someone “Did you make that?” Because the answer won’t be a shameful nod but a resplendent “Yes I did!”

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Yes it’s Helena – I can’t get enough of them.

It’s given me peace – After all the years I’ve been sewing and teaching the thousands of people that come to our workshops this is something I can say with all confidence. Sewing provides peace. Mental health issues have always been with us but they seem to be more visible now and I have seen at first hand how the simple act of taking a piece of cloth, cutting it, pinning it and sewing it into something else provides the calm mental clarity that so many of of us crave.

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When you’re sewing you are in and of the moment, unconcerned with anything else except what you happen to be doing right now. That is so freeing and almost like a meditation in itself.

This I think is THE best thing sewing has given me.

Jules x

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 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

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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