I am Angela and I love to sew. I started sewing as a child and by the time I was a teenager I was wearing the very latest fashions to go out in. All me-made. I am passionate about reducing the amount of textiles sent to landfill, and encourage you to repurpose fabrics and clothes I started this blog in order to have a way in which to pass on my gained knowledge, and my professional knowledge to you, Sewing is empowering, you can save money by making items, make money by selling then, You can pass your knowledge on to others. What is there not to love? Interestingly I am a direct descendant of the Flemish weavers who came over to England in the 1300's. I find that fascinating especially as most of my family from as far back as I can trace are somehow involved in the manufacturing of fabric . . I have a degree in tailoring with a special interest in WW2 fashion.

Friday 2 September 2022

An easy way to learn how to sew - and save money

If you are anxious about learning to sew then have you thought of starting off with making dolls clothes? It's how I first learned to sew.

When I was very young I learned to sew by making dolls clothes. I feel that if you have little girls in your family you could also save a fortune as dolls clothes are very expensive Dolls clothes  are easy to make but will demonstrate perfectly how you would make an adult garment   as you use the same processes. Making dolls clothes is a great way to learn to sew for any age as the garments are small enough to be completed in one go.

Another advantage is that you can practice new techniques small scale . The doll is your mannequin and is a fabulous tool for any dressmaker .

                                               A very short video on YouTube 

 There are many patterns to choose from. The instructions remain the same 

Look in the Craft section of one of the major pattern companies to find patterns .

This is possibly the pattern I have used most, as I have dressed several dolls for the little girls in my family

For fabric I suggest looking  at either cotton or polycotton. There is plenty of choice. Try to choose a small print as it will look nicer on a small garment and be more to scale 
Another lovely source of fabric is to use the child's favourite clothes when they no longer fit. It just makes it special 

I  used a dark  floral cotton from my stash to make the first dress. Cotton is the best fabric to start sewing with as it is so well behaved. I used  a white handkerchief  to make the bodice of the two coloured dress 
You need to  cut your pattern pieces out so when you are ready open your pattern instruction sheet and find the instructions for making the dress as above.

Find all the pieces you need to make the dress. These are clearly shown on the instruction sheet.Very carefully press the fabric and the pattern pieces in order to get the creases out  

take a look at your pattern pieces. Some will say "place on the fold" that means you must pin them onto the fabric along the line where it is folded so that the piece is cut doubled. Some will have a  line or an arrow saying "place on the grain line"  That means that the line or arrow has to be parallel to the edge of the fabric all the way down. Grain lines are important because if it is wrong it could easily affect how the garment hangs.

The dress in this pattern is the one which takes the most fabric. 
To get all the pattern pieces on to the fabric take a good look at the photograph above, because in order to get the most out of your fabric  you need to fold it like this:- Lay the fabric out flat and fold the left side in so that it is just wide enough to put the dress front on the fold and the dress back below it slightly away from the fold. Bring the right  side over to meet the edges of the fabric.

Pin the dress top pieces in place on the left side as shown. Then pin the front skirt right on the fold on the right of the fabric. Take your Tailors Chalk and a ruler and carefully draw exactly round the pattern piece.

Carefully remove the pattern piece and move it along next to the markings to cut out the back skirt. Pin that in place too. You need to take the sleeve pattern and fold the lower sleeve carefully along the short sleeve lines and pin that sideways next to the back skirt with the pockets underneath.

Take your scissors and very carefully cut around each pattern piece remembering to cut the little triangles facing outwards as they are important. A lot of adults make the huge mistake of just snipping into the points instead of cutting around them, but this is wrong and it means that if you need to make the seam a bit smaller you can't because you have cut into it. So learn the correct way now.

Using your tailors chalk again mark the position of the pockets. If you look at the frompnt pattern piece it shows you exactly where to place them. On this photograph one pocket is already in place. To make the pocket turn under the top by 1/4" and sew it down iether with your sewing machine or a neat hand sewn back stitch . Press the seam allowance, again 1/4" to the inside on the other three sides. Stitch the pocket to the skirt front lining up the top with the markings. Dont forget to leave the top open!

This is the pocket sewn in place.

To make the bodice, (the bodice is the top part of a garment) sew the shoulder seams together and neaten the edges. You can use pinking shears or if you have a sewing machine use a small zig-zag stitch.

You should now have something which looks like this. Neaten the sleeve edges next. Zig zag or pink the edge and turn under and top stitch.
You would not use pinking shears on clothes for people as this sort of finish will not withstand frequent washing

Now to put the sleeves in. This is the hardest part because you have to sew two different shaped pieces together without spoiling the appearance by making any pleats or gathers show in the right side. A lot of adults struggle with this I can tell you.
So,  matching the triangle to the shoulder seam and pinning the ends together start to pin the sleeve onto the sleeve opening using a lot of pins so that it is going in evenly.

To make it easier, close to the edge of the sleeve put a row of running stitches and pull them to gather the sleeve very slightly. You will find by doing this the sleeve goes in perfectly . If it doesn't,  use your seam ripper  to take your stitches out and try again.

You now should have this! Neaten the seam edges as before .

Then right sides together stitch the sleeve seam and side seam all in one go. Neaten the edges and press. Turn right sides out and press again.

That's the bodice done, so now we have to make the skirt part. Right sides together and matching the notches (the tiny triangles you cut out) stitch the side seams and neaten the edges. Press. Pressing is important,  it makes the garment look professional and accomplished dressmakers and tailors press every seam every time they sew one. Whenever I start sewing I always set my ironing board up too and I have things like a pressing cloth and a sleeve roll and many other things ready too.

Very close to the edge of the skirt sew two rows of running stich to make the gathers. If hand sewing use a small running stitch with a knot in the end. On a machine use a long straight stitch. Start to pull the gathers up

 Put the bodice and tbe skirt together, right sides together. Match the side seams together and adjust the gathers so that they are the same size as the bodice. Make sure that they are distributed easily and pin together.  Sew the bodice to the skirt , neaten the seam and press.

On the skirt pattern back there is a dot. Mark this position on the skirt back because you need to sew the back together from the bottom to this dot. Above it will be the back opening so you can get it on to your doll easily.

To finish the back opening neaten the edges and fold the ends in by 1/4" and sew them down with a straight stitch

You now need to think about how you are going to fasten the back. You can use press studs which you sew in yourself.   choose a small size.

You will also need the pliers . Both are widely available

I use no sew poppers  which are great fun and very easy to use,  they come in lots of sizes and lots of colours. Before you put one on your garment read the instructions and do a practise one. A tip for you is to put  the top one on first. Cover the back with tailors chalk and press the front and back openings together with your fingers. The chalk will leave a mark where the bottom bit goes!

So, that's the dress almost finished just the hem now. Zig-zag or pink the end. Turn it under 1^4"and stitch it down iether buy hand with a tiny slip stitch or  by machine with a straight stitch
Give it a final press and there it is finished!

This is the finished dress.

This is the back showing the non-sew poppers.

To make this dress which looks like a skirt and top. Use some white  and sew lace down the front and on the edges of the sleeves. Cut the skirt out of a different fabric and make it just the same as the previous dress. Add a ribbon bow at the waist. If this is for a very small child I would sew the ribbon on securely at one side or leave it off altogether

For the blue dress I added lace to the front and hem and sleeves. Then I added this pretty floral lace which you can buy in most haberdashery shops.  I added a small flower to the front.  You could make her a headband to match.

About sewing machines

To get started with using a sewing machine you will need the quick start guide leaflet which explains step by step how to thread the machine and how to wind the bobbin. The instructions are very easy to follow and the machine easy to thread so don't just guess ag how it threads, do it correctly by following the instructions step by step. This way you can be certain  that the machine will work first time. It is very important that you do take care when threading the machine and will avoid getting stressed because it does not sew correctly.

Once you have threaded it and stitched a test row,then get your instruction manual out and play around with the various stitches . If you look at chapter 2 in the manual, on page 39 it shows clearly how to select each stitch. This is a very easy machine to use it is by brother from Jaycotts.co.uk  By the way it threads needles automatically which is bliss!

We are going to make the Shirt which is view A together with the flared pants, so first of all select your pattern pieces and press your fabric.
I am making the short sleeved shirt, but if you prefer the long sleeved version the process is exactly the same.

Cut out all your pattern pieces  and put them to one side.

Just as we would make an adult shirt, certain parts of this shirt need interfacing. You will need small pieces of a lightweight interfacing, do buy a good quality one , and follow the pattern instructions foe Shirt view A to cut the pieces out. Carefully iron them on to the fronts and the collar. Press the front facing in and press the collar in half as shown.

Following a pattern is very easy but it does require a little practise, so do persevere.

This is the interfaced collar and shirt fronts.the shirt fronts have been pressed to the inside.

Using your sewing machine select your stitch, I chose a basic sewing stitch, number 2 which is shown in the Manuel on page 53. Pin the fronts to the back at the shoulders right sides,together.  Carefully measure 1/4" seam allowance and stitch the shoulder seams. When you start and finish a seam secure the stitching so that it does not come undone by pressing the reverse button to do a couple of reinforcing stitches. Page 45 of your manual shows how to do this.

Once you have sewn your seam you will need to neaten the edges. Now is a good time to experiment with the various stitches on your machine. Again referring to your manual and using a spare scrap of fabric have a go at using the utility over casting stitches on page 51. Experiment with changing ths stich length and width too. When you feel comfortable make a note of the stitch you like best and use it to finish the shoulder seams.

This is an example of a zigzag stitch I used when making this garment.it is a fairly short stitch, 2,  set at an average with, 3.5

Stitch the collar down the sides, right sides together,  clip the corner carefully as on the pattern instructions , fold in half, press.
This is great practise at following a pattern by the way!
Overedge the facing in the fronts of the shirt
Stitch the collar in place and press. Top stitch all around the front up and around the collar and back down the other side. Choose a longer straight stitch and keep the stitches close to the edge.

Now it is time for the sleeves. On an adult garment you would finish the sleeve edges later,  but because this is a small garment it is far easier to do it now. So overedge the sleeves, turn them up by 1/4"and top stitch.

TIP - If you add a row of long stitches to the top of the sleeve you will find it easier to ease the sleeve into the armhole.
Right sides together pin and  stitch the sleeve into the armhole. Press and overedge the seam.

Pin the side seams together from the  sleeve edge to the bottom of the shirt. Stich and overedge the seams. Press.
Overedge the hem and press the hem allowance up. Top stitch the hem.

Put the shirt on your doll to check the fit and mark the position of the buttons. I am using poppers, the details of which can be found in my precious blog post as I used them when making the dress. It is ok to mark the position of the poppers with a pencil dot as it will not be seen once the poppers are in place.

This is the popper kit, it has everything you need in the pack including a tool to fix them on with. There is a great selection of colours available, don't forget to choose small ones for this garment. 
Once the poppers are in place then give the shirt a press and it is ready to wear.  Dont forget to cut off all loose threads.

The trousers are simple to make with just four pieces all the same. When you cut the pieces out try to match the pattern if you can, but don't get too hung up about it, whilst we are still learning about sewing..
Lets start by placing two fronts and two backs right side together and sewing the centre front and back seams.don't forget to neaten the seam edges.

Let's take a look at the machine a bit more. You will notice that there is a pull down accessory box which will hold your spare feet, screwdrivers and other accessories.

The machine has a drop in bobbin which is very easy to use as you can see easily what you are doing.

The storage box slides off to enable you to sew narrow tubes such as sleeves etc. It is a good idea to keep your manual close at hand when you are sewing as I promise you will constantly discover new things about it!

Stitch the side seams and then neaten the hem just as you did when making the shirt. Pin and stitch the remaining seam by starting at the bottom of one trouser leg and sewing right round to the bottom of the other leg. Neaten the seam.

The pattern instructions tell you how to cut a piece of elastic to fit the trousers waist

Stitch it together to make a circle and mark it into equal quarters. These markers match up the centre front, back and side seams.
Stretching the elastic, and using a wide zig zag stitch sew the elastic onto the wrong side of the trousers top.

Finish the waist exactly as on the pattern  instructions . Press the trousers.

This is Annie's new causal outfit made and we have explored how to begin using a sewing machine.  If you do not have access to a machine these can still be made with hand sewing, so do not worry.
The headband is easy to make by sewing a tube of fabric, turning it right side out and stitching a small piece of elastic to the back. Why not make one for yourself too and have something to keep the hair away from your face when removing make up etc

Teddy Bear Clothes + Build A Bear 

There are shops devoted exclusively to Bears but to build up a reasonable wardrobe you would need to spend a small fortune 

I found that there are hardly any sewing patterns for these bears clothes , but by sheer accident I found that the patterns for " our Generation " dolls and the like can very easily be made to fit a standard Build a bear or similar This dress for example is from a 18" dolls pattern and all I needed to do in order to make it fit was to increase the side seam and sleeve  seam allowances to make it wider.This blue dress is now the perfect size!
Don't forget that bears and so on have tails so leave a gap in the centre back seam !

The original pattern - made from a Christening Gown, is the original pattern and fits the doll beautifully

I am very fond of this little outfit. The pink coat is made from a bright pink seersucker , which is very easy to sew and the trousers and top are from fat quarters of quilting cotton.These two garments, and all the rest, can easily be made wider to fit a bear, and boys clothes can be made just as easily.I hope that I have given you some ideas. Sewing small scale garments is great fun, you have a chance to be creative and you will end up with gifts.Two of my great nieces were given entire wardrobes of clothes which I enjoyed making, everything from underwear to bags was included.

Dressing gown, slippers, headband and pyjamas 

Fabrics and patterns used

Printed poly cotton . 1/3m for dressing gown, various colours Starry poly cotton print

Pyjamas are in a fabric I used recently in another  blog post 

Cotton jersey fabric Cotton jersey

The white pintucked dress is in white cotton Fabric , this comes in a wide range of colours Plain cotton fabric

Butterfly fabric , other colours too Butterfly poly cotton

The bag can easily be made from a scrap of faux leather or anything else you fancy 

The top is poly cotton. , Poly cotton

The pants are from the same  range as the fabric I used for the  white dress . I used Navy 

Please follow me on my social media channels and you are free to ask questions any time.

                  With Best wishes


#SewAngelicThreads #sewingblogger #sewingblog #sewingteacher #tutorials #sewing #handmade #handmadewithlove #fabric #beginner #learntosew #toys #doll #imadeit 
#gifts #giving