Sunday, 25 September 2011


I've just discovered Bloglovin.   I've haven't got much idea how it works at the moment but it looks interesting.  I'll be sure to have a play around.   I'm claiming my blog with this post.  Here is the link if you want to follow me over there.  That doesn't seem to work - try this link.

Happy sewing.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Blue Denim Miss Chalmers Skirt

My blog name implies having more than one handmade denim skirt.  Before Trading Standards shut me down for having a misleading blog name I thought I would make another one.  Not too much of an effort I admit as denim is one of my favourite fabrics.  Here are the pictures.

I'm delighted with it!   I used the Miss Chalmers Skirt pattern from Papercut patterns, a new independent  from New Zealand.   The pattern and packaging is wonderful.  It's in a cardboard envelope with a hanger so you can hang it up.   My wardrobe has no room for this but the idea is nice.  There is also a little booklet of instructions which are really clear.  The pattern is drawn on brown paper, like brown envelope paper, rather than tissue. 

The pattern includes a 1 cm seam allowance.  This was new to me.  The standard for commercial patterns is 1.5 cm.  I was worried the fabric might move or be vulnerable to fraying.   My concerns were unfounded.  It was surprisingly easy to sew a 1 cm seam allowance.  The best part was not having to trim.  I think the professionals laugh at home sewers for having a 1.5 cm seam allowance and then trimming half of it off!  I will now seriously consider only adding a 1 cm seam allowance to net patterns in future. 

I cut out a medium and made up a muslin.  I was delighted that it needed no alterations.  I added 1.5 inches to the length as the skirt is on the short side.  As I mentioned in my last post my hands instinctively reached to where pockets should be.  I decided to add slash pockets.   I used my Sewaholic Crescent skirt pocket pattern piece.  I traced the outline of the front skirt piece of the Miss Chalmers pattern.  I then made up a new pocket pattern piece with the outline edge of the Miss Chalmers skirt rather than the Crescent skirt.   I used my french curve to make a more rounded pocket opening than on the Crescent skirt. (Remember to add seam allowance to your pocket opening as well.  I forgot and so did a tiny seam here for my test and wrote on the pattern piece to remind me to add it when cutting).   I used Sewaholic's sew-a-long post for slash pockets to sew the pockets here.   I also french seamed the pockets and added twill tape to the pocket openings, both using Sewaholic's post (see also previous link).

I made up one practice pocket on the muslin and was so pleased that it looked good.  I was on a bit of a pocket roll and decided to add a welt pocket at the back.  The back of the skirt has no gathers and apart from the waistband is a bit bland.  I thought the welt pocket would add interest.   This was with some trepidation given my last experience with welt pockets on my Forever Skirt.   I made a test using the same method as last time, where you cut out a separate welt strip, sew that on first and then add the pocket pieces.  My test did not come out brilliantly because the welt strip came out too big for the gap in the skirt.  I did not want to ruin my skirt in this way but was sold on the idea of welt pockets.  I then looked at the tutorial on Burdastyle by the member wzrdreams.  There is something wrong with the Burda site at the moment so this link is to my Forever Skirt on Burdastyle where I have linked wzrdreams' welt pocket tutorial.  This tutorial uses the same strip of fabric to make the welt and the pocket.  I followed through the tutorial on another test and it worked perfectly.  

I have used quite a heavyweight denim and so it is quite bulky having the pocket pieces all in the same fabric (but not bulky enough to make it a problem).  I'm sure the tutorial can be adapted to have the pocket bag area in a slightly lighter fabric, such as batiste or even lining material.   Instead of having one piece of same fabric for the welt and bag, you can work out how much shell fabric you will need for the exposed welt plus seam allowance and then cut out this and then attach the remaining lining sections.   I may try this in future.    I am also pretty sure the same tutorial and principles can be used to make a more vertical welt pocket for the front of the garment. Something I may also try in the future.  Having found this method I would not want to go back to the other method of sewing the strip separately.

The skirt has a gathered front.  I sewed on one line of basting stitches around 0.5 cm from the edge, using a size 4 stitch to do the gathering  It was surprisingly easy to gather the heavyweight denim.  

I have seen quite a few examples of seams bound with seam binding following Sewaholic's tutorial here for the Lonsdale dress.  I decided to have a go myself.  I didn't have any seam binding.  I decided not to use twill or bias tape as I thought that would be too thick.  I therefore used quite a fancy ribbon I had in my stash.  I was going to use it as a trim for something else but ended up not doing it.  It's quite fancy for something that's not going to be seen.  I have now stocked up on seam binding as I like the technique and how it looks.  It does look so much better than a zig zag stitch.  As the denim was quite thick I did have a problem attaching it to areas where were was a lot of fabric, such as where the pockets join the side seam.  Four layers of fabric was too much for the width of my ribbon and so in some areas the ribbon hasn't properly attached.  I think in future I will also stock up on some slightly wider seam binding so there is enough for it to wrap around thick layers of fabric.  

I topstitched using light blue Gutterman topstitching thread.  I absolutely love topstitching.   There's something about it that's rewarding.  Probably because it is purely decorative and I love doing the parallel lines on a double topstitch.  I have read somewhere that in commercial garment production topstitching is a bit of a treat and something that supervisors give to their friends which is unfair!

I added a black lining in a nice soft lining fabric.  I used the back skirt pattern to cut out the back but for the front I didn't want a fully gathered lining.  I thought this would be too bulky.  I adapted my Angela Kane pencil skirt pattern front piece to this skirt.  It has worked out well.

I used this method from Kathleen Fansella's Fashion Incubator site to attach the ordinary zipper to the skirt and facings.  As I have mentioned before I have never been happy with my zips.  I have always wondered what I'm doing wrong.  I decided to do Kathleen's tutorial and downloaded her small pattern pieces for the test.   My test came out brilliantly.  I now realise what I was doing wrong.  I have been folding back the zip wrong before stitching the top edge.   Kathleen's facing pieces are slightly smaller than the main pattern pieces at the shoulder.  You sew the zip to the main pattern piece at the centre back and then sew the facing on at the centre back.  You then fold back the zip towards the facing but pulling out the facing piece so it now lines up with the shoulder.  You then sew the top edge.  Another revelation is that the centre back edge above the zip should overhang the edge below the zip.  The stitching line below the zip is not supposed to meet the stitching line above the zip.  In future I will adapt my centre back pattern pieces to do this.  

I also put twill tape around the top edge of the waistband using this Crescent skirt tutorial from Sewaholic here.  (You need to scroll half way down to see the part about twill tape).
Finally I finished the hem using a blue seam binding which you can see in the photo above.  I added the binding to the bottom edge of the skirt and then blind hem stitched on the machine as normal.  This finish is so much better than a zig zag stitch.  One thing I should remember though is to chalk the hem fold before I attach the seam binding rather than after.  

I love my new skirt and I know I will be wearing it a lot.  Being a heavyweight denim it is a sturdy garment and so ideal for the colder weather.  I love the style of the skirt and I would like to make one in a lighter fabric.    I'm thinking a black one adding all the pockets but without the topstitching.

Happy sewing. 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Retro Pencil Case

I've been off work for the last couple of weeks.  As well as lots of fun stuff like days out and sewing I had a major clear out.   I found something that reminded me of a conversation a couple of years back when my parents came over.   While we were reading papers one morning my dad asked if I had a pen.  I told him there was a pencil case by him.  He retrieved the pencil case and he and mum joked that I had always been obsessed with pencil cases.  I didn't really understand what they meant at the time but laughed along.   Anyway I came across my old school pencil case.  I think they had a point - take a look at this.

Before the internet and computer games Saturdays would often be spent with friends looking in the stationery shops at all the cute stationery.  The holy grail was a padded magnetic pencil case.  I wanted a Beautiful Sunday one.   Here's one on Flickr although I'm sure the one i wanted was a bit nicer than that (but maybe not!).

I was delighted when my aunt bought me the above magnetic pencil case for my 11th birthday.   I can't remember the original stationery that came with it (apart from the Holly Hobbie pencils which haven't survived) but I think I collected all the above or received them as gifts for birthdays.  Those erasers are amazing.  The swiss roll, biscuit, strawberry and coke eraser were all scented and apart from the coke one they all still smell.  There's even a mirror on the pencil case inside the lid.  

I carted this around school for at least 4 years and it's amazing that it's still in good order.  I did have the foresight to look after it.  The pencil case is huge with lots of stuff but apart from one pen and maybe a pencil and eraser occasionally, I didn't use any of it.  That wasn't really the point though.    It wasn't exactly a typical pencil case in your average 1980s class.  It was a bit of a novelty and got passed around during lessons with everyone taking a look at all the things and sniffing the erasers and pens.   I didn't use the notepads but friends would scribble notes in it for me while it was being passed around. 

The contents are:

1 Tiny Love hearts pencil sharpener (Lemon - made in Japan).
2 Strawberry perfumed eraser - Lemon Co Ltd - made in Japan).
3 Biscuit cream eraser
4 Swiss roll eraser
5 Cola eraser - made in Japan
6 Snoopy Mini Pocket memo - Butterfly - made in Hong Kong
7 Strawberry Shortcake notepad 
8 Ladybird pencil
9 Little set of pencils "Ribbon Pencil"
10 Pineapple scented pencil (no longer scented)
11 Green Fields pencil
12  Beautiful Sunday pencil
13 4 fruit scented pens (no longer scented)

The little set of pencils was originally attached to the end of a pencil which I no longer have.   Here is an Etsy seller selling the same thing with the original pencil attached.  It is very strange because I can remember the pencil clearly now that I've seen that picture!

Little did I know then that one day I would be posting pictures of the pencil case on Blogger for the on-line world to view! 

Moving onto sewing news  - I am currently working on a denim skirt.  I made up a muslin which I didn't need to alter.  I have added 3 pockets to the skirt.  What is it with sewers and pockets?   I used to take no notice of pockets on garments until I started sewing.   So  much so that I have only just realised that one of my ready to wear skirts has pockets!

The skirt I'm sewing had no pockets but when I made up the muslin I found myself on auto pilot reaching for where pockets should be.  There was nothing for it but to add pockets.  I was sooo pleased with them but that will be for another post.

Happy sewing.  

Friday, 9 September 2011

Peter Pan Collar Shift Dress

I have now finished the Peter Pan collar shift dress I have been working on.  Here are the pictures.

This is a fully lined shift dress using Angela Kane's shift dress pattern number 763 with a self-drafted Peter Pan collar.  I posted here about how I did the collar, how I attached it to a lined garment and the muslin / partial test garment.   I have made the dress before.  As explained before I made a number of adjustments to the pattern fit me.  My pattern pieces for the dress are the muslin itself!   I don't know why but this version is slightly bigger than the last one and I prefer the size of this one.  The back also came out better on this one - maybe because it is slightly bigger.

I used the jade linen and satin lining leftover from my Jade Crescent Skirt.   For the collar I took a gamble and used blue jersey knit, mainly because I love this particular shade of blue.  The jersey collar sewed up fine with no mishaps.

I hemmed with the blind hem foot as usual and it has come out invisible.  I decided to experiment with a nice hem finish.  I was inspired by the bound seam finish that Tasia of Sewaholic patterns used in the Lonsdale sewalong.  I used the same principle to finish the raw edge of the hem instead of my usual zig-zag stitch (see the fourth picture above).  I folded white twill tape in half and pressed.  I then sewed the twill tape onto the edge and then machine hemmed as usual with the blind hem foot.  It was easy.  I think you need to have the right fabric to do this, something with body.  This is lined linen so it can take the twill tape finish without showing on the right side.   Maybe for a lighter fabric a ribbon would be better (another hem finishing suggestion from Tasia).  It would have been nice to have twill tape to match the colour of the dress but I have just bought a load of white twill tape which I need to use.  You can't see it on the right side anyway and it still looks nice on the wrong side.  A same colour twill tape would have been nice as the green cotton from the hem shows on the white twill tape.

I used an invisible zipper which, unlike my blind hems, has not come out invisible.  I must get around to practicing this technique more.

When I finished the garment, the gap in the front between the two collar pieces was closing in slightly. The collar sections are quite heavy and the middle section had no reinforcement apart from the lining.  I should have put some interfacing there but it was too late by now.  I then hit upon the idea of putting twill tape on the (trimmed) seam allowance in that little section in the middle.  I cut out 2 little pieces of twill tape the same size as the gap and sewed them onto the seam allowance on top of each other.  This instantly strengthened the middle section!  I love how I can now solve problems with the techniques I have learned along the way.

I am really pleased with the dress.  It's so comfortable.  It can be worn as a summer dress (slightly warm with the lining) or a winter dress with tights and a cardigan.  The royal blue tights in the second photo are the only ones I have that go with the dress.  The cranberry and plum coloured tights I have don't go at all - maybe because of the blue collar.    Maybe some natural tights with a slight shimmer?

Happy sewing.

Friday, 2 September 2011

My Fabric Friday for September

It's the first Friday of the month which means it's dress down day at work.  I wear at least one handmade items to work on this day.   Here is the photo for today snapped about 10 minutes ago at around 1.10 am in the morning!

Today I wore my Burda wrap top.  I wear this top all the time and in fact it is the only handmade item I wear to work.  I hadn't worn it earlier in the week as my shift dresses and suits were at the dry cleaners so I had to find other things to wear.  By the time Friday came it was still clean so I was able to wear it today.   I did want to wear my Here Comes the Sun top underneath but it was in the wash.

When I came down in this outfit this morning my other half asked me if I wanted to change it.  I asked why thinking that he was going to say it didn't look right or wasn't right for work.  He said because you're not wearing a handmade item!   The first time someone has thought what I'm wearing is shop bought (even though he should have known I had made this).

I have to say this top is great and have worn it loads of times (as I said - I wear it every week).  This means I wash it every week and it still looks good.  I now have some more wool jersey earmarked it to make another one of these.

I'm happy today because I now have two whole weeks off work!   I was at work until around 10 pm finishing off and clearing the decks, which is why I was late taking this picture.  I'm actually not very tired at the moment and it's now 1.30 am.

What's more it is going to be hot tomorrow and so I can wear one of my summer makes!  Someone up there must have been listening to my rant about the weather.

I will be finishing off my second shift dress this weekend.  It's looking good so far

Happy sewing.