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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

How I made my Polka Dot dress and Jacket for Minerva Crafts Blogger Network

My beautiful spotty, dotty dress and jacket. A Minerva Crafts Blogger Network post using McCalls and Butterick patterns

I love polka dots, and I love the combination of Navy blue and white.luckily sent me  a large piece of Navy and white polka dot print stretch cotton fabric, so I was overjoyed.  It is a beautiful fabric, quite heavy and with a bit of stretch too. View it on web site click here,  Navy and white polka dot cotton

I was not quite sure what to do with it and my  first thought was to make a long dress, but when I calculated how much fabric I would need there was a large piece left over but not enough for anything useful.The fabric is very heavy and hangs well so I decided to make a short dress and a jacket.  Jackets and me go together. I love making them and I love wearing them. I go out a lot in the evening and so I wear them a lot. I prefer them to a cardigan in fact. I have a favourite jacket pattern which I have altered and adapted so many times I cannot remember what the original one looked like! I love this pattern though, it fits me well, it is easy to alter, it always looks different, so why change? Anyway, more about the jacket later. Let's get on with the dress.

Before we start to make the dress though I wanted to show you the dress and jacket together. I honestly thought that the two garments worn together would be far too much, but in fact they make an incredible outfit and I love it. I envisaged wearing the jacket separately, and I will, but they do look good together don't you think?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

How do I set up my dressmakers dummy or manequin?

How to set up a dressmakers dummy 

Many of us have a dressmakers or tailors dummy but do we know how to use it correctly? Think about it, if it is to be effective in producing well fitted clothes then it has to mirror the owners figure exactly. Do you agree?

So, how do we do this?

Firstly set your dummy up on its stand. Turn all the dials  to the same setting , zero, because we are going to start again.
You need a tape measure, some tape, a bra which fits you perfectly (you can change this as often as you like to suit the garment you are making ) and a close fitting vest top in a thin stretchy fabric.or a pretty cover like the one I am using.
Measure your waist and turn the dials until they correspond exactly to the measurement you have just taken.
Measure your bust, around the fullest point, and turn the dials to this measurement.  Do this with the hips.
Some manequins have more scope for adjustment so follow their instructions.

Put the bra on the dummy, you should do this because  your cup size determines the fit too. Put some stuffing inside it if necessary to fill it out gently.
Now, this sou ds boring but you will have to measure the bust, waist and hips again and adjust them to correspond with your own figure in underwear.

For more accurate sizing pin  a piece of tape or ribbon round your own waist, it has to be snug but not too tight. Measure from the nape of your neck down to this ribbon. Measure on the dummy from the same position down to the waist. Pin a piece of ribbon around the waist on the dummy check the measurement again. Secure in place. You will need this line when making pattern adjustments to the waist and when making skirts and trousers. You can keep these on top of your manequin cover if you like, they are useful for fitting purposes.
You need also to put lines of tape down the centre front and back and also down the sides from the centre of the armhole.again, these are fitting lines.

The beauty of dressing your dummy in this way is that you can insert padding to various areas as and when required, for example if if your waist expands, pad the manequins waist out to correspond, you can also  do this for the hips and bust.
Another convenient fact is that if you want to wear a specific style of bra with your new outfit you can put it on the dummy and fit your garment around it. Pad the bra out as necessary too.
Just remember that this is a fitting tool and correctly fitted clothes make you look and feel slimmer, so please be honest!
Take as many of your measurements as you can, you might need help with some, and transfer them to your  other you. 

In order to check that the manequin is the right size put a dress on it that you know fits you well and take a long critical look at it. Make any further adjustments as necessary.

It honestly is worth all the effort in getting this right. Imagine the benefits! Every garment you make will be perfect for YOU, who cares about standard shop bought dresses which fit ok here and there, this is perfection ladies!

Dummies or manequins are not cheap I admit, and you must get an adjustable one , be warned - display Dummies like those seen in shops are not the same thing at all.

Dress forms are available from  Dress form  there are different types too, even one for men!  Take a look. They really are worth saving for if you are serious about dressmaking.

The pretty covers like mine are also from Jaycotts, do contact them about them. Available in different sizes and colours, see them on the link below

 They really make a difference to how they look and I don't know about you but I like to use pretty things when sewing, it makes the experience even more magical.

Thank you very much for reading this, do you have a manequin?  Does she have a name?


Monday, 31 August 2015

How I made my Butterick 4386 in Orange Linen with machine embroidery

I bought this butterick pattern some while ago and thought that it would look fantastic made up in a variety of fabrics. I have some pale grey silk dupion which will be lovely for parties later in the year but I wanted to make it up first of all in this orange Linen.

The fabric needed pressing and shrinking with a steam iron through a linen pressing cloth, i folded it in half matching the selvedges and proceeded to lay my pattern pieces out in my correct size.
I say this each and every time, please take your measurements and compare them to the pattern envelope, cutting out the pieces according to your measurements which could be two or three sizes different to your commercial dress size.

I decided on the version with small cap sleeves, knee length skirt and crossover front. This will be worn on summer holidays in hot climates so linen will be cool and the cap sleeves will protect my shoulders from the sun

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

How to sew with stretch fabrics.A Minerva Blogger Network post

This is my second blog post for the Minerva Blogger Network and for this I chose to make a garment in Stretch Jersey. Everything I used is available on the Minerva craft website by following the links shown.

The pattern is SIMPLICITY 1653 and is an "Amazing Fit: pattern.


When you choose your fabric first of all look at the pattern back because there is a guide to help you to choose fabric with enough stretch in it. So take the pattern with you, hold it against the guide and stretch it to make sure that it will stretch enough.

The fabric I chose is this Hawiian print stretch jersey, the link to it is below

This is an Amazing Fit pattern which has various options to enable you to choose the correct pieces for your size.
it is imperative therefore that you are honest with yourself and take your measurements exactly. Compare them to the pattern envelope and choose the size which most closely resembles your figure. If in doubt cut the larger size out.
To make fitting even better there are options to cut out different backs to suit slim, average or curvy figures,and different cup sizes. 
There is a guide, copied above, which tells you how to measure your bust enabling you to cut out the correct cup size. Once you have determined which pieces will fit you best make a muslin to toille out of some stretch lingerie fabric. Make any adjustments to the paper pattern before you even think about cutting your fabric out.
(The stretch toille can be adapted to make a piece of lingerie or nightwear if you like).

Steam press your fabric to shrink it and then pin it together along the selvedge. Some pattern pieces will be cut out singly, so leave them to one side until you have finished Lay the fabric flat before cutting out..
Each pattern piece has a grain line and the pattern pieces need to be positioned exactly so that the grain lines run in the correct direction. It is important to measure the distance between the grain line and the selvedge to ensure that the pattern pieces are perfectly straight. Any slight deviation will produce a garment which does not hang correctly. When pinning the pattern pieces in place make sure that the pins only go inside the seam allowances to avoid putting a hole in the fabric or puckering it. Use plenty of pins as jersey has a tendency to stretch when being cut.

The next thing to think about is what sort of stitch you are going to use and what sort of thread. I took some offcuts of my fabric and experimented with various machine feet, stitch types and stitch lengths. I chose to use a WALKING FOOT in the end. If you do not have one try a Teflon foot.  If necessary put some spare tissue paper or tear -away stabiliser under your seams as you sew. This definately helps you to get smooth seams. You may also need a longer stitch length and if you are using normal polyester thread you will need to use a special stretch stitch or a narrow zig zag.

You will also need a brand new Ball Point machine needle. This is a needle specially for sewing through jersey fabrics and you can buy them from Minerva or your local supplier.  A new needle should be put into machine for every garment you make.An old needle will be blunt and will cause your stitches to be uneven,  your thread could break and become  tangled in the machine

I have chosen to use a Stretch thread from Minerva Crafts. This is a new product and I have to say that I fell in love with it as soon as I used it for the first time. It enables you to stitch stretch fabrics with a normal machine stitch!

I did some experimenting and the thread does not snap when pulled as far as it will go.
I do highly recommend this product. The link to it is under, it comes in lots of colours too,

The next most important job is to stay stitch the pattern pieces along the neckline to stop them from pulling out of shape. By the way never leave your stretch garment on a coat hanger or dressmakers dummy until the neckline is finished as it could well be pulled out of shape by the weight of the fabric.

The pattern instructions look complicated and I admit to reading them through a couple of times until I understood them. Basically what it is telling you is that fit is vital in this garment and to achieve a great fit you must in addition to paying attention to the points above, try it on at intervals through the making process.
It advises you to machine baste everything together wrong sides together before trying on. It does not really matter if you tack it together right or wrong sides together,but to me it made sense to tack it right sides together so that if the fit was correct I did not have to undo the work and I could then  go straight into machining it.
When trying the dress on make sure that it hangs correctly and does not pull anywhere. Look at the back and ensure that the centre back seam hangs straight down, and make sure it does not pull anywhere or indeed is too loose. This pattern is meant to hug your figure when worn. When trying it on make sure that you are wearing the underwear you will wear with the garment, if necessary you may need a smoothing all in one garment if you feel that you wish to smooth out any lumps and bumps.
Also do not forget to press each seam as you go.

I have pinned the dress together after stay stitching the neckline pieces and the construction is now a lot clearer. I tacked it and tried it on. because I took my measurements correctly, and chose the right pattern pieces for my actual size it needed no adjustments whatsoever.
Stitch the dart and make the pleats in the front according to the pattern instructions
The next job is to insert the sleeves by joining join the sleeve seams. These are Raglan sleeves so they are easy to insert as long as you match up the pattern markings correctly. Press each seam and then overlock the edges. The pattern gives you the choice of either  over locking (Serging) the entire garment but i prefer to do a straight seam and then overlock the edges afterwards. Personally I feel that it gives a nicer seam finish

The neck edge has to be faced with Bias Binding. If you are used to using Bias Binding you will know that it does not actually stretch very much! This new product, again from Minerva Crafts is brilliant! It is a stretch lycra bias binding and it is perfect when used with the stretch thread. It stretches easily but springs back into shape instantly too.
Prepare it for use by measuring it against the guides included in the pattern pieces. Then press it open to get rid of the folded edges.Fold it in half down the centre and pin the strip to the neck edge stretching it slightly as you go. stitch it with a narrow seam allowance all the way round the neck edge

 Press the seam open and fold the entire binding to the inside. Press again and top stitch in place.
You now have a bias facing on the inside of your garment as in the photograph above.

The link to this wonder product is here

At this stage I do some more over locking and neaten what seams are not finished off yet.Also attach the tie belt to the edge of the wrap over part of the bodice. Neaten the edges and top stitch the seam along the dress edge. (The tie belt is easily made by joining the seam, clipping the corners, turning right sides out and pressing)
Pin the other tie belt to the position marked on the pattern on the OUTSIDE of your fabric.

Join the side seams from sleeve edge to hem in one long seam matching all markings and making sure that the sleeve seams are aligned.
It is easier when doing the side with the wrap-over to baste (tack) it in place first then pin the whole side together and stitch in one long seam as before, enclosing the wrap-over.

This is what you now have! The wrap over part ties beautifully at the side of the dress.
Finish it off by trying it on again in case there are any more adjustments to be made. Overlock the side seams and put it on again to measure the hem. In my case I put it on my tailors dummy to measure and pin the hem
For the bottom and sleeve hems. overlock the edges and fold up to the desired length. Top stitch.
give it a final press and it is finished.

This is the view from the side showing the tie belt and the pleats

As a final touch I added my own label to the dress. Dont forget that Simplicity own the design rights and you cannot sell any garment which has been made from one of their patterns!

The pattern envelope shows only suggestions of how the dress could be made. I think that if I make this pattern up again I may put gathers in the side of the wrap-over section which will make it narrower and fuller. It is your choice how you interpret a pattern which is why tacking it together and trying on before sewing is so important. It is at this stage that you can add your own touch to the design. The pattern has sleeve variation too. I chose the three quarter length straight sleeve so that I may wear it under a jacket. For a special occasion the flutter sleeve would look amazing.

The fabric is very easy to care for and drapes well. It is worth purchasing a good quality fabric if you want  a garment which will last you for many years.

Check to make sure that it is fine when you sit down, common problems are that garments ride up when sitting, or they are too tight and therefore uncomfortable

This is me sat wearing it for the first time. It is extremely comfortable, and it fits like a dream.
I hope that if you have never sewn with stretch fabrics before you will have a go at making this dress. It is extremely flattering to all figure shapes.


After wearing the dress I did feel that I needed to alter it slightly. I did exactly what I thought was needed in the first place! So, I undid the side seam where the overlap is enclosed by the front and back and reduced the width of the overlap by just over an inch. I gathered it very slightly and eased it back into place. I also took the sleeves in by an inch, tapering the new seam towards the underarm.
I feel that the front drapes better now and the sleeves feel more comfortable.
sometimes gut instinct tells you when something is not right, I am constantly altering patterns and designs to make them suit me, not the model on the envelope!

Thank you for reading this


Monday, 6 July 2015


This Bell dress by SIMPLE SEW was so easy that I made it in an afternoon.
The fabric is a heavy jersey so you will need a stretch stitch  on your machine, plus a new ball point needle

 The fabric is thick enough to enable me to use dressmakers tracing paper and a tracing wheel to transfer the pattern markings. Do test a piece of fabric first though, because it does not always come off and if the marks show through to the right side of your fabric, your garment is ruined. My pattern markings are visible but not too dark.
Stitch the darts. Press. Stitch tbe shoulder, overlock the edges or finish in your usual way.

Friday, 3 July 2015

How to make a man's shirt with a collar. Blog post for

How I made a mans shirt.

I am delighted to be doing this blog post for This is the first garment I have made on my new Bernina 350. I chose to make a mans shirt because it gives me the opportunity of trying out a lot of the machine's functions on one garment.
 I enjoy sewing mens shirts probably more than anything else, they give me an opportunity of being creative with materials and designs, and producing something which is totally unique .Be warned though if you do decide to make a mans shirt then you need to ensure that it looks professional because if it looks home-made then he just won't wear it.having said that do not be put off too much as this tutorial can be used to make yourself a shirt instead.  

This is the machine I am using, it is a Bernina 350PE  To view it on jaycotts web site  CLICK HERE

Jaycotts sell other makes of sewing machines at different prices so please do not be afraid to ask them for advice on choosing the correct one to suit  your needs and budget

I am using two different cotton fabrics, one in an uneven black and white stripe and a plain black. I will also be using some red piping. The pattern is a very old one which I have adapted and changed many times to make different variations of the shirt. I have made over a dozen shirts so far and no two are the same.
You may like to read my previous blog alongside this one, it gives more detailed  instructions for making the various components of a shirt.Click here to view it:- How to make a collarless shirt

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

How to make a Mans collarless shirt

HOW TO MAKE A  MAN'S collarless Shirt

This is showing you how I make collarless shirts, my next post will show you how to add interest with a contrast yoke and piping, and it will include a collar.
There are many mens shirts patterns, all the major pattern companies have one.The one I am using is an old one which I adapt time and time again.

For this project I am going to be showing you how to make a shirt for a man, of course the same principal applies to making a shirt for a lady. Please do not feel daunted, it is not as difficult as it sounds.
I have made plenty of shirts for my other half and he delights in helping to choose the fabric but the buttons are all his own choice!

So, you will need a pattern.i am using McCalls M6044.
Interfacing,  the weight will probably be a medium unless he intends to wear a tie with it when you would choose a heavy weight sew in. For this project though a medium should be sufficient.I am making it without a collar, but will explain how to do one with a collar on the way.
You will need some buttons too.and matching thread.
If you intend using a contrast fabric for the collar and cuff linings you will need a small piece of fabric which coordinates or clashes with the main fabric in the same weight and same fabric composition.
The reason for using the same type of fabric is that you want it to wash and wear evenly, without going limp or shrinking.

The fabric has been ironed and pinned together along the selvedge - this makes sure the grain is correct which is so important.
The pattern has been cut out, so I am all prepared to cut it out later this evening. Please look again later for photographs and updates on my progress. Meanwhile find some spare fabric and make the tie, you will find it easy and rewarding.