Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 Hits and Misses

I debated about whether to do an end of year review. I haven't made enough to do a list of 5 hits and misses. I've logged eight completed items on the blog this year. I also made two other items but I won't include them as they won't meaning anything if I haven't posted about them.

I really like Gillian's idea with the top 5 lists. We can use this cute little button and change the rules to suit ourselves.

Instead of doing top 5 lists I will talk about the “hits and misses” with what I've made this year. What I like, what I love, what I don't like and what hasn't worked. I enjoyed putting this together and hopefully it will help me to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

If you want to read more about any of the items please follow the links from the Finished Projects tab at the top.

Burda slip dress

The good.

  • The colour. The white is neutral and versatile.
  • The fabric. It's soft and lovely to touch.
  • The fit. I was surprised at how well this fit with little alteration. With my odd shape I was expecting a lingerie item to take longer.
  • The finish.  The “turned-under” vintage seam finish takes a bit more effort but is totally worth it.

The not so good?

  • The straps. Some form of elasticated strap would be good. When I sit down I can feel them digging in my shoulders.
  • General thoughts. I've worn my first Darling Ranges dress loads since this was completed. I haven't worn it with anything else though.  This is probably because most of my garments are already lined but it's nice to know I have a slip if I need one.

Denim Wiksten Skirt

The good:

  • The colour and fabric. Denim. No further explanation necessary. I need to make more denim skirts. I have 3 at the moment. Maybe a Beignet or a Ginger?
  • The fit. This is good but I've always found skirts easier to fit. A bit of adjusting at the side seams is all that is usually needed.
  • The vintage seam finish. See above.
  • My additions: pockets, belt loops and longer ties. They make a superior skirt in my opinion. I'm usually alright with leaving pockets off dresses but somehow skirts need pockets in my humbles.
Misses? None that I can think of.

  • General thoughts.  Next to my Royal Blue Minoru jacket this has to be one of this year's most worn garments. I'm wearing it now with my stripy Rendrew top. I added a lining to the skirt which was the basis of my first tutorial. I've just noticed the tutorial now appears as a “popular post” in the side bar. Nice to see a 2013 post there among the mainly 2011 posts.  My side bar is a constant reminder of my Peter Pan collar phase.

Light Blue Wiksten Skirt

  • Hits and misses? Very much the same as the Denim version.
  • General thoughts.  I haven't worn this skirt as much as the denim one. This is mainly because I haven't found anything to wear it with other than the blue jumper that I wore on the photo shoot. I did wear my White Banksia with it a couple of times. As an interlude I would now downgrade my Banksias to misses. They were hits in my 2012 list. The slightest bit of bending over means a whole lot of flashing. Not what you want to worry about when wearing a garment. Purely for that reason I would now consider them fails. Such a pity because I love the tops and so want to wear them in real life.

Royal Blue Minoru Jacket

The Good.

  • My changes: the length, the fully lined patch pockets, the interlining and inferfacing of the whole jacket for warmth and the storm flaps.   
  • This jacket gets worn every weekend so it must be a hit. I wore this coat to work today as my usual one was at the dry cleaners. One of my lovely colleagues saw it hanging up and asked if I got a new coat for Christmas! She wasn't expecting me to say I'd made it! (Ha ha – that's the first time that's happened to me!).

The not so good? 

  • The colour and fabric. I love the colour but I sometimes wish it was plain black like my first one.
  • The fabric isn't great but I can't expect miracles with Ikea curtain fabric. The same fabric type worked well with my first Minoru. I think the jacket just needs bedding in more to loosen it up a bit. I did interface and interline the entire jacket so this presently adds to the stiffness.
  • The sleeves. I've never had a ready to wear coat (or ready to wear anything for that matter) that properly fitted my long arms. Why oh why then did I not make the sleeves longer? Why didn't I notice this at the muslin stage?

French Hat Box Dress

The good.

  • The colour and fabric. It's lovely and soft. The neutral colour detracts from what could otherwise be considered a garish print (by my “un-garish standards” anyway).
  • The lining. The same fabric as my slip dress so soft and lovely to wear.
  • The zipper finish. With this make I perfected my zipper and lining insertion technique.
  • The rub-off method. Although this was a long and, at times, impossible process, with a lot of winging it, I'm glad I tried it. The method opens up so many possibilities and I definitely want to try it again.

The not so good?

  • The final muslin fit much better than the finished make. I know the reason for the skirt being bigger (my mistake) but I can't figure out why the bodice ended up larger as I transferred all my adjustments.
  • General thoughts. Despite my niggle with the fit, this dress is definitely a hit. I also made a version in blue. Both dresses were worn a lot this year.

Red Skater Dress

Hits and misses:

  • The colour. I love the colour but for me it is more of an evening dress. I wore it to the supermarket once and it felt so bright under the harsh light!
  • The fabric. Not a great quality but it's lovely and soft so it doesn't bother me.
  • The fit and style. I love the fit and flare silhouette. There may be more 50s style dresses in my future – a style I haven't yet tried. I'm glad I took the time to get the fit right on this Renfrew modification. Particularly in getting the bodice to stop at my waist. I could have settled for the half hearted dropped waist look of my first muslin but I didn't.
  • The skirt length. With this particular style, I don't know if it's the stretch fabric, but I prefer the shorter length of my blue skater dress. I've received compliments on the length so this is not a major issue and I still love the dress.

Blue Skater Dress

Cut and paste everything above about the Red Skater Dress, except there are fewer negatives with this one. The colour is not so loud and I love the skirt length.

Sugar Plum

Hits and misses.

  • The fabric and colour. I love the blouse fabric, the peachy colour and the print. It goes surprisingly well with the black skirt. It reminds me of a frothy milk shake or an ice cream sundae and so goes well with the dress name!
  • The fit. My only niggle is the sleeves. After my hacking they are now a bit restricting. It is only noticeable when I raise my arms (as in the hands on hip poses in the photo shoot). However, I'm not going to be rock climbing in this dress (or standing around with my hands on hips) so it's not a major issue.
  • The skirt lining. I wish I could cope with a wool skirt right next to tights but I can't so lining is essential for me. The lining defeats the point of the stretch skirt slightly. Maybe I can find a stretchy lining in future? Again this isn't a huge problem. I didn't make the skirt as fitted as the design intends so I can still move about and sit down comfortably.


I'm surprised I got a whole blog post talking about these few items. Although I only made a few things, I took my time with what I did make. I think this is why I am happy with all my makes this year. There's nothing on the list that I don't want to wear. On the whole it's been a successful year.

I don't have any immediate sewing plans. After the Sugar Plum I'm not yet ready to dive into another pattern. I bought some lovely fabric on eBay and I'm thinking of making another Burda top with it. I've made three of these tops now and they get worn all the time for work with a suit. If it ain't broke don't fix as they say. I think the top would be a perfect showcase for the fabric plus it will be a nice easy make after the challenges I've set myself this year!

Thank you to my lovely readers for following along with me throughout the year.

I hope you have a happy 2014. I'm sipping wine at the moment and and about to have some Tiramasu!

See you soon.


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sugar Plum

I've finished my Sugar Plum dress from Lolita patterns!

I love this pattern. First up here are some pictures.

What I like about the design is that it's so different. A dress that look's like a skirt and top? I don't know why that should be so appealing. Probably because it's so darn different. The pattern also provides a bit of a challenge for the more experienced sewer. The button loops and modesty shield for example - so cute!

Amity, the designer, is lovely and ever so professional. Whenever I became stuck or wanted more information about the design I just emailed her and she responded straightaway.

I only wish I was able to finish in time for the Sugar Plum contest. Despite starting my muslin on 2 November 2013 I was miles away by 2 December 2013, the contest deadline. I finished putting the last button on today. In my last post I said I wouldn't finish this dress in 2013 so I've surprised myself by finishing it now!

Here are the details.


I used a wool knit fabric for the skirt (I can't remember the mix). I was all set to use a polka dot black and white fabric for the bodice when I remembered this lovely peach fabric I bought from the old lady. This close up of the fabric on the dress form will give you an idea of what it's like. It has an oriental feel.

First muslin

I traced and cut the pattern in a size 12. I was really happy with the style. My changes were to lengthen the bodice and remove some width from the hips and side seams. I emailed Amity and she said the waist line should fall on the lower seam of the waist band.

I lengthened the skirt pieces as I didn't want it any shorter than the un-hemmed muslin.

Sleeve Changes

I didn't like the original sleeves on me. It was more gathered than I would like at the top. I then added the vertical gathers at the sleeve hem to see if that improved things. It didn't. The sleeve was too big and stood up too much at the sleeve head. I wanted it to lay flat.

I had a go at removing all the excess fabric in the gathered sleeve head. I simply made a large dart at the shoulder seam and removed all the excess. I sewed the dart and tried it on to see what it looked like. Despite the less than professional technique I deployed this was a vast improvement.

I removed the sleeve and set about making up a new pattern piece. This was really hard to figure out. What I should have done was open up the patternmaking book I bought to see if it could offer any help. I'm a bit short on sewing time so that wasn't going to happen. I carried on winging it. All credit to the indie pattern makers (who do get a hard press from some snobbish quarters). This stuff is hard.

Where was I? Oh yes. I tried to alter the flat pattern but I couldn't figure out how to get it to lie flat. I then took my fabric sleeve piece, complete with dart, pressed it flat and traced around that, transferring all the markings. (Gingermakes – is this how they did it on your FIT course? Ha ha!)

I then made a further muslin from my new pattern piece. There was still a bit of gathering around the sleeve head but it was much more to my liking. I moved the notch for the shoulder seam to where it should correctly lay with the new cut.

The sleeve hem circumference was too big for my arm. Instead of just taking in the sleeve side seam I noticed there was a lot of excess fabric at the bottom of the sleeve at the back. I took about 2 cm out of that area by placing a dart at the sleeve hem. I sewed the dart to see what it looked like and it was much better. I then transferred my alteration to my pattern piece. Instead of taking out the 2 cm in one area, I distributed the amount to be removed by making small tucks which together added up to the 2 cm needed to be removed. The pattern piece now looked vastly different at the back (and downright odd!).

I changed the sleeve attachment method. The pattern has you make up the sleeve and lining and then set into the bodice, right sides together. This would leave you with a seam on the inside. I didn't want this seam and I like my lining to look clean on the inside with all the seams enclosed. Having made the Minoru jacket twice I know how easy it is to join the hem of a lined sleeve after the sleeve is attached so that's what I did.

Collar Changes

I muslined the neck ruffle to see what it looked like. It looked alright but a bit ruffley for my liking and not in keeping with the clean lines elsewhere. I then shortened the collar piece to make a stand collar. I preferred this style on me and I thought it was in keeping with the Japanese influence of the pattern.

The pattern calls for a single layer of fabric which is serged to prevent fraying. I preferred to make up the collar with two pattern pieces with enclosed seams.

I may make some further changes when I do the pattern again. I will interface the collar stand as it is a bit limp in this drapey fabric. I will also change the collar stand piece so that it is more vertical at the centre front rather than at a 45 degree angle.

Button Loops

The button loops nearly defeated me trying to turn them through. The pattern called for one long spaghetti strap, turned through, and cut into loop lengths.

The problem was my fabric. It was too delicate to turn through and frayed really easily at the edges. I ended up making up a couple of smaller length straps to practise on. I finished the seam with a zig zag stitch to stop it fraying and I pressed the seam allowance to one side. I used the hair clip method used in the Saltspring sew along. This worked well but I had to do it really slowly and pull the clip through carefully adjusting as I went along. If I yanked too hard the clip would break through the loop snipped at the top.

I also left off the top loop as I liked the look without. Next time I will put small strips of interfacing on the centre front edges to give more body to that area as it flops back slightly.


After finishing the seams and topstitching the waistband I decided to topstitch all the skirt princess seams. This was to try and reduce the “hanging” of the jersey fabric between the stitched panels. I'm not sure what the ruched effect was all about. I thought it may be because I didn't have the skirt quite as fitted as the design intends.

The pattern only has lining up to the waistband. As I need to be able to wear things easily with tights, I continued the lining to the skirt. My waistband facing pieces are in lining fabric rather than shell fabric as in the pattern.

I was disappointed with the skirt when I had finished because the princess seams still gave a ruched effect. Turns out all it needed was a good press, while slightly stretching the princess seams lengthwise. The ruching disappeared and I was happy once again!


I attached the invisible zip, and the zip to the lining, using my usual method (details and links can be found in this post if you're interested. (If you follow the links, I link to two step by step tutorials, the second of which does it exactly the way I do my zips and lining. I do my zippers and lining slightly different to the Sewaholic Cambie and Sunni Craftsy methods which I know a lot of sewers use).

I have a new way of matching waistband seams at the zipper tape. After stitching one side I close the zip and then line up the other centre back waist seams. I pin the zipper tape to mark where the waistband seams should go. I do small hand tacking stitches to mark these points rather than faffing around with my blunt and mostly useless chalk. I then do hand and then machine basting stitches to attach the waistband part only to the zipper tape, sewing between the two hand tacked stitches. I then close the zip and make sure the two waistband seams match. If they do then I complete the upper and lower parts of the zip.

I found that the top of the zipper tape finished about 3 mm further away from the top neck edge than on the other side. My bodice piece must have been slightly bigger. No problem because I just sewed the top neck edge 3 mm lower on that side so that it matched the other side.

Here are some pictures of the finished lining, front and back. I didn't use red lining because I thought it would go well with the peach fabric (ha ha!). It was because although the white lining (used for the bodice and waistband) was nice and soft, I didn't want to have white lining under a black skirt. The red fabric was the only lining I had that was as soft as the white lining.


I spent a good hour yesterday trying to find suitable buttons from my button stash. There was nothing suitable so I headed down to John Lewis today to buy these white pearl like buttons. (I was the only person in the Haberdashery! I love John Lewis by the way – such great customer service).

The pattern intends the buttons to be sewn on through the lining. I didn't want messy button stitching to interfere with the clean finish of the lining. I attached my buttons to the outer shell only but after adding a strip of interfacing to the wrong side. Next time I will add this strip of interfacing at the cutting stage as it was a faff to attach after the event.

I'm really pleased with the buttons and the little loops. Such a cute detail. The buttons are not the main closure which is just as well as they are fiddly to open and one of my loops came out too short.


I really like this pattern and there will definitly be another one. I might make it next even though I have a mountain of other exciting patterns I am anxious to start on!

With my reduced amount of sewing time (I work and live in London during the week and my sewing machine is in Norfolk) I have been consoling myself with buying patterns. I now have every possible Indie pattern I could ever want. I've also been slightly addicted to ebay pattern buying and I've bought a vintage Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern!

Well that's it now for my completed makes for 2013!

I still hope to be back with some top 5 posts.

See you soon.


Friday, 27 December 2013

Blue Skater Dress

All I want for Christmas is ... to get all my 2013 makes onto the blog before the year end.  It hasn't quite happened so here is one of them.  My second Renfrew skater dress!

This version is the same as my first version in red (same fabric type as well).  I didn't have enough of the blue fabric to cut another circle skirt so this one is the muslin skirt used when practising my first version.  The skirt isn't as long as the red version but I quite like the shorter length.  It has a nice casual feel.  It's as brilliantly twirly as my first version.  (Twirliness factor - check.)

Despite using the same pattern as my first version, the top came out much bigger at the waist.  I therefore had to cinch in the waist with elastic at the back.  Sewing elastic into a finished make was no joke and nearly drove me mad!  It took nearly as long to mess about with the elastic as it did to make the rest of it!

The circle skirt was much easier to hem on this version as I was able to do it by machine.

Even with the elastic, the waist wasn't cinched in enough for my liking. I added ties using this tutorial from the Darling Ranges sew along.  I made the ties much longer than the Darling Ranges ones which are tiny.  The ties make such a difference and the cinched in waist is now complete!

This dress is every bit as comfortable as my first version.  I wore my red version on Christmas Day - the perfect Christmas dress for sitting around in and rushing about making the Christmas dinner.   I've worn the blue one quite a bit already as well (I finished it quite a while ago).

I was hoping to finish my Sugar Plum in time for the year end but that isn't going to happen so that will be a 2014 make now.  I haven't managed to photograph my second Florence and Fred Rub off dress for the blog.  I also made a pencil skirt for my mother which I will have to photograph at some point for the blog. I got around to changing the zip on my Plain Black (Almost) Miss Chalmer's skirt. That was such a pain to do.  I had to sew on extra fabric to the centre back edges.  It hasn't come out perfectly, and the piping at the back doesn't line up now, but at least I can wear the skirt again.

I hope to be back before the year end with a top 5 post (even though I haven't made enough to exactly qualify for that!).

I hope everyone had a great Christmas.

See you soon!


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Red Skater Dress

Skater dresses should be made compulsory. Here is mine!

This is possibly the nicest dress I've made, or at the very least up there with the likes of my Darling Ranges dresses.

The idea to make a skater dress came when I couldn't make the Hummingbird top work for me. I made a few muslins of the Hummingbird but decided to throw in the towel. I was still keen to make a knit and something peplum-y. Initially I was going to try and make a peplum top from the Renfrew but decided to go the whole hog and make a skater dress.

I made at least two muslins, possibly three. I started by tracing out my Renfrew bodice pieces, cutting it off at the waist and adding a seam allowance. I cut out a circle skirt. I was lazy and didn't follow any tutorials to calculate the waist circumference. I just guessed and of course it came out way too big. The skirt was gathered in to fit the waist.

After the first muslin I could see the style had potential but needed a lot of adjustments. I wanted my dress to go in at the waist, and the first muslin was more of a dropped waist. I also needed to cut out a lot more from bottom of the back bodice for it to hit at the waist, far more than I had to cut from the front. It took a bit of fiddling and adjusting to get the side seams to match. I also made the neckline higher than in the original pattern. One or two muslins later and I was happy.

This red fabric was only ever intended to be muslin fabric. My chap bought it at an auction. It's stretchy and has a waffly texture on the front, and a shiny knit like texture on the back. I have some blue fabric the same and I'm convinced the previous owner bought it to make Super Hero costumes. Despite that I really like the fabric. I usually avoid red because I've read that with my colouring I should steer clear, particularly next to my face. Well I'm happy to break the fashion rules.

I still refused to follow tutorials and winged the cutting of the circle skirt. The waist was smaller than the muslin but still too big. I had to gather the skirt again but I'm not worried. If anything this adds extra twirliness to the skirt. Speaking of which, how much fun is twirling around the living room in a circle skirt? I've never worn one of these things before so the novelty may take a while to wear off.

The dress was really easy to sew up. The top was sewn as per the Renfrew instructions but I did the neckband differently. I sewed it more like the Pendrell neckline but in reverse so the band shows on the right side. (The Pendrell neckband instructions are here.)

I serged my seams together with a zig zag stitch, including the waistline seam, after trimming them down to about 0.5 cm. I then pressed the waist seam up and edge stitched the seam from the front.

The only downside to making a circle skirt is hemming the damn thing. I tried to stitch the hem on my machine but it didn't like it one bit. The Superman fabric must be rubbery or something as it kept sticking to the needle. I didn't have this problem with any of the other seams. There was no alternative but to  hand stitch it. I used the blind catch stitch, which I learned from Gertie's book. The hem has come out really well. Despite moaning about hand stitching I have come to really enjoy it and I don't mind a bit of hand stitching in my makes every now and then.

I'm really pleased with the dress and I'm looking forward to wearing it. I wasn't thinking of a Christmas dress when I made it but it will be the perfect dress to wear at Christmas!

I've already cut out a second skater dress in the same fabric but blue (a great cobalt blue).

Happy sewing

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Tutorial: Inserting Heavy Duty Snaps

This is the last of my Minoru jacket tutorials following my Royal Blue Minoru Jacket.

Before making this jacket I had never inserted snaps. I'll be fine, I thought. There's bound to be a tutorial on-line. If there was I wasn't able to find it. There were a few tutorials but with different snaps to those I was using. I started my practice attempts by, gasp, working it out for myself! The instructions on the tiny packet were minimal to say the least. My biggest problem was working out what part joined to what, and which way round.

On my first attempt I inserted the parts the wrong way round so, unsurprisingly, the snaps wouldn't close. I trawled the internet again to see if I could find a tutorial. The best I could find was a tutorial for adding snaps to home made nappies of all things. The tutorial was helpful in showing which way round to insert the parts so my second attempt was successful.

Another thing that put me off trying snaps was the misconception that special equipment was needed. If you're doing snaps a lot then specialist equipment makes the job easier but you totally don't need it. I just used the little tools that came with the snaps, a hard surface and a hammer.

This tutorial shows how I inserted the snaps on the storm flaps I made on the jacket. As the upper snaps were inside a hidden flap, they were awkward to insert to say the least. I suppose in ready to wear they insert the snaps before the plackets are sewn into the jacket. However I wanted to make sure the upper and lower snaps lined up correctly so I inserted my snaps at the very end.

Anyway enough talk, here's a reminder of the snaps, which gives you an idea of why they were awkward to insert.

The tutorial can be downloaded from this link. The link takes you to the Rapidshare home page. Click the blue download button and this takes you to the tutorial. Select the tutorial and click download. Unfortunately it is slow to download but you may be able to speed the process up if you sign up for a free Rapidshare storage account.

If you have any problems downloading or with the tutorial let me know.

Happy sewing.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Tutorial: Finishing the hem and plackets on the Minoru Jacket

UPDATE from 6 June 2014: My cloud storage has now changed from Rapidshare to Dropbox.  I have adjusted the links below to Dropbox.  Any problems let me know.  Katy.

This tutorial shows how I adapted my tutorial on hemming a lined skirt with a placket (seen here) to finish off the hem and lining on the Minoru jacket from Sewaholic Patterns. The main differences to that tutorial are the use of a hem facing and the hem is attached to the lining instead of free hanging.

The instructions to the Minoru jacket use a different method which you can see here.

Here is a picture of the inside of the jacket:

and of the finished jacket:

On my jacket I added storm flaps to the front of the jacket (tutorial here). That tutorial links to this one at the appropriate place. This tutorial works equally well without the storm flaps and with the zip plackets as per the original Minoru pattern. Just ignore the references to storm flaps as you will be finishing the zip plackets with no storm flaps added.

The tutorial can be downloaded from this link. The link takes you to Dropbox. Just click the download tab.

UPDATE on 6 June 2014: I tested the link today and it downloaded quickly for me, no more than 2 minutes. 

Happy sewing.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

French Hat Box Dress

Remember the rub-off experiment I wrote about way back in March this year? Well this is the second dress made from that. I finished this way back in April and for one reason or another I've only just got around to taking photos of it.

Anyway, better late that never as they say. Here are the photos.

Luckily I made notes of this make or I would never have remembered all this. I used the rub-off method to copy a Florence and Fred ready to wear dress. In my March post  I showed you the penultimate muslin and said I was going to make another one. I did this and the only change was to add a bit more length to the bodice.

While making the dress I noticed an error on the skirt part of the muslin I showed you. I added an extra pleat in the centre by mistake. There were 6 pleats and there should only be 5! That extra pleat led me down the path of making the skirt bigger as I mentioned in the post. So the skirt is bigger than it should be for a tulip style but it's not a major problem.

More inexplicable is the roomier bodice on the final version. I tried on the final muslin again and it was far more fitted. The changes I made to the length shouldn't have affected the width! I'm not too worried. It's a day dress, and the ease is needed to move about comfortably. If I make the dress again I'll do another muslin to figure out what happened to the bodice and take some ease out of the skirt.


This is a lovely cotton I bought from Hobbycraft. The fabric was called “French hat box” which I rather liked so that's the name of the dress.


I sorted out the lining fabric that came with the lot I bought from the old lady (which has gone down loads, especially for muslins). I removed all the lining and slippery fabric from their bolts into a plastic crate. There's some great fabric that can be used for lining, including this white one. It's a lovely soft fabric and feels great on the skin.

I did my usual method for inserting the lining based on Angela Kane's method which I talk about here. I under stitched and top stitched the neck and armhole seams (under stitching as far as as I could go – it's not possible to under stitch right up at the shoulders). I added strips of interfacing at the armholes for extra strength.

Stitching in the ditch

I stitched the lower edges of the neckbands together “in the ditch”. Don't under estimate the effect of this little step. It really does improve the look of the dress.


This was my first slot zipper using a regular zipper. I got loads of practice during the muslin stage using this excellent tutorial. My topstitching was about 3/8 inch from the centre of the zipper which I think produces a neater result than a smaller gap.

As my dress was lined I was going to have to do it slightly differently as the tutorial was not for a lined dress. I remembered that Kathleen Fansella's centred zipper technique was for a normal zipper with a facing. I used her method as usual and just topstitched around at the end, taking in the lining at the same time.

The zip came out better on this one that on my first make of this dress (which I have yet to blog). I thought about hand picking the top stitching but I didn't think it would be strong enough even though with this zip method the dress and lining are machine stitched to the zipper tape and then top stitched. The topstitching is vital as the zipper is visible otherwise. I didn't want hand picked top stitching coming undone and exposing the zipper.

This dress also marks the first time I have used Kathleen's centred zipper tutorial completely right! Despite always using her method I had been overlooking one small measurement which makes a huge difference to the final result.

I've mentioned before that Kathleen's method has the facings smaller. Instead of altering my facings (and lining) to make them smaller I have been “over hanging” the facing / lining unit about 0.5 mm beyond the corresponding shell pieces when attaching it to the zipper tape using Kathleen's method. It turns out I haven't been bold enough in the amount of over hang. It needs to over hang by 1.5 cm (if you're using a 1.5 cm seam allowances) to get the optimal effect. The method also reduces bulk at the top of the zip. I haven't trimmed the corners of the zip seams at all and but this makes no difference. (Kathleen trims the corners in her method but I'm still a fan of Tilly's method of not trimming corners).

Thank you as well to Kayotic Sewing of Gently Down The Seam as it was her comment on my post about zippers that got me thinking further about this. I have now updated my post on zippers here with this information. I have added a link there to a tutorial on Pattern Review that Kayotic Sewing referred me to which uses the over hang method.

The bottom of the zip where it joins onto the seam allowance of the dress and lining also came out really well and sits flat against the shell.

See that triangular shape at the bottom? That's the seam joining the bottom of the zipper tape to the lining.  It's at an angle as it starts at the lining seam at the bottom of the dress and has to taper out to meet the end of the line of stitching that attaches the zip to the lining.  I've never seen that explained anywhere like this.  It just came to me as I was making my first version of this dress and has worked nicely.


The dress I copied had a vent so I added one to his make.

I used Sunni's tutorials to draft the lining to the vent which I have linked to in my earlier post on vents. Instead of drafting new lining pieces I used the back skirt pattern piece (with vent) to cut out the lining and then chalked straight onto the fabric the extra ease that is needed at the hips and above the vent. I cut out the vent area on my lining pieces as per the outer shell. I then cut the vent lining down to size when I was ready to sew the vent lining to the outer shell, figuring out where I needed to cut. If you're doing this it's essential to chalk on to both sides of the lining and outer shell pieces the centre back seam line and all the seam lines around the vent. Remember to take into account and add seam allowances to the lining pieces. This is easy to forget. I know because I did it and had to re-cut the back lining piece. (By the way I didn't do Sunni's curve thing on the vent lining).

I adapted my own tutorial here to do the hem on the lining and the corners of the vent.

When sewing up the vent of this skirt I didn't follow any tutorials. Vents freak me out a bit so I wanted to see if I could overcome my fear by sewing it up intuitively. It took ages and a bit of un-picking here and there but it came out fine.

I started by sewing the centre back seam on the lining and dress up to about 2 inches above the vent area. I then chalked on all the seam lines on the vent and chalked in the centre back seam line, extending the chalked line right down to the hem edge (on both the shell and lining pieces). That centre back chalked seam line is valuable for lining up and folding the vent accurately.

I stay stitched with small stitches just inside where the seam line will be on all the critical corners of the vent, including the corner which meets the centre back seam. I did this on the lining and the shell pieces. You need to clip into these corners and so you can clip up to the stay stitching. I also added squares of interfacing in those corners. This is crucial if your fabric frays easily.

I stitched the vent intuitively starting from the long vertical edges of the vent. Where I wasn't sure I would leave a gap of about 1.5cm before the edge of the seam, turn though and then see what I would need to do next. This took some time but it enabled me to work out which bits needed to be clipped to make the vent work and why.


I made a hem facing for the skirt by tracing out pattern pieces from the bottom of the skirt pattern pieces and added seam allowances to the bottom and sides. I love how the hem facing has turned out. It's given a neat result and fits perfectly.    


I love the dress and wore it a lot over the summer, including to work. I'm a rub-off fan and will definitely be doing it again. In fact I bought a nice dress from H&M this summer that I want to rub off. The dress fits really well but has a high-low hem which I'm not keen on. How great that the rub-off method can let me create the dress again with a hem-line more suited to me!

Happy sewing

Tutorial: Storm Flaps

UPDATE from 6 June 2014: My cloud storage has now changed from Rapidshare to Dropbox.  I have adjusted the links below to Dropbox.  Any problems let me know.  Katy.

Hello all. I hope you're having a good Saturday whatever you're doing. I've taken a break from hemming a circle skirt to finish my tutorial on how I did the storm flaps on my Royal Blue Minoru jacket.

Here's a reminder of what they look like.

What are storm flaps? The best explanation I could find on-line is:

To prevent wind-driven rain from coming into the garment through button-holes or zipper teeth. If you're really out in the weather for an extending period, and are counting on the coat to keep you dry, they're somewhat important. Zippers aren't waterproof.”

Just the ticket for a winter Minoru!

As with my last tutorial the lined bellows pocket with a flap there are too many steps to insert into one blog post so it is available as a download for now. I use Dropbox for my cloud storage and you can download the tutorial here. The link takes you to Dropbox. Click the download tab. 

UPDATE on 6 June 2014: I tested the link today and it downloaded quickly for me, no more than 2 minutes.

I realise it would be better to have the tutorial available on the site. Now I have this page set up I might get around to adding all the steps to the end of this post on an ongoing basis and let you know in a separate post when it's ready. In the meantime the download will always be there!

Please let me know if you have any problems downloading it or with the tutorial.

Happy sewing!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Tutorial: Lined bellows pocket with flap

UPDATE from 6 June 2014: My cloud storage has now changed from Rapidshare to Dropbox.  I have adjusted the links below to Dropbox.  Any problems let me know.  Katy.

I have now finished the first of my tutorials following my second Minoru jacket - the fully lined bellows pocket with a flap.  Here are some pictures of the finished pocket to remind you what it looks like.

There are too many steps to insert into a blog post so this tutorial is available as a download using this link.  I use Dropbox for my on-line cloud storage and the link takes you to the file uploaded there.  Ignore the hyperlinks I created in the document.  They no longer work since I converted the document to a ".doc" format.

UPDATE on 6 June 2014.  I tested the link above today and it downloaded quickly for me, no more than 2 minutes.  I have not yet moved over to Dropbox any of the links to pattern pieces etc referred to in the paragraph below.  Please let me know if you would like the links in the paragraph below and I will arrange for the links to be added.

I also created pattern pieces using the free Google Sketch Up application which can be downloaded using this link.  You need to have Sketch Up loaded on your computer to open the file - see the link to Sketch Up here if you want to download it.  For those with access to Windows: please see the instructions using this link for printing the pieces to scale.  (I haven't tested this as I don't have access to Windows but my techie brother assures me it works).  Mac users: I don't think you can print to scale on the free version of Sketch up.  You can view the shape of the pieces on the Sketch Up document or you can refer to this link to see the measurements I used to draw my pattern pieces.

The lining is pretty nifty and I think the principle and the pattern pieces can be extended and adapted to make a lined hand bag.  

Please let me know if you have any problems opening the links.

Happy sewing. 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Royal Blue Minoru Jacket

At last I can show you my finished jacket! I actually finished this on 21 June 2013 but have only just got around to photographing it. Without further ado here are some photos.

I have already done two progress posts on the various changes I made to this jacket. In the first  I talked mainly about the interlining. In the second I talked about a few other changes I was making.

I took detailed notes of this make and took lots of progress photos. I've written up several tutorials. I'll do an overview here and post the tutorials when they're finished. (Ha ha I just removed the word "brief" from that sentence!)

I started cutting this on 21 April and put on the last snap just before midnight on 21 June 2013! I added a further step of waterproofing the jacket a month or so ago but more on that below.

Planning and Cutting.

I cut all the pieces and interlining over 3 days. I wrote above the interlining here.

The pattern only lines the inside of one of the collar pieces, where the zip is, but I lined both. When the hood hangs down the lining inside the collar is visible.

I lined the hood, which isn't called for in the pattern. I made the hanging loop out of lining rather than shell fabric. I interfaced one of the loop pieces to give some body. I also interfaced both collar pieces this time.


I added lined patched pockets to my first Minoru. I talked briefly here about the changes I was making to the pockets this time. Last time I didn't interface the pockets save for the under flap. The lining I used on my first Minoru was not good quality and has fluffed and curled around the edges. I thought interfacing all the pocket pieces would help keep them flat. I also made the pocket flap slightly bigger. The biggest change was to make a proper bagged lining for the pocket, so that your entire hand is encased in soft lining when they are in the pockets! Here are some close ups of the pocket and the lining.

Update: My step by step tutorial on how I did the pockets is available on this post.

Lengthening the Jacket

I mentioned in this post that I was lengthening the jacket. This change was forced on me for reasons I can laugh about now but were minor heart attack inducing at the time.

To explain the context you have to understand that the lined pockets took ages to attach. On top of the actual sewing I was taking photos and writing a tutorial. In one of the tutorial steps I dutifully tell everyone to chalk the pocket placement lines and then sew your pockets within those lines. When you eventually see the tutorial you will from the photo of this step that I chalked both the finished hem line and the pocket placement line. Guess which one I attached my first pocket to? Yes I attached my pocket to the line indicating where my finished hemline would be and noticed only after spending ages attaching it!

Leaving it as is was not an option as having no gap underneath the pockets before the hem line would be crazy. Option 2 was to reduce the generous 3 inch hem on the Minoru jacket. I wasn't keen on that idea so I went with option 3. I cut a hem facing for the jacket and attached it to the bottom edge of the jacket with a 1 cm seam allowance. This had the effect of lengthening the jacket. I actually like hem facings and they turned out really well.

I didn't have to re-cut the jacket lining pieces as I made the hem facing long enough to comfortably attach the lining and allow for some ease. The only pieces I had to re-cut were the plackets and I had to buy a longer zip.

Update: My step by step tutorial on how I did the hem facing and finished the lining and corners on the jacket is available on this post.

All in all this was a good save! I did want a longer Minoru. The only change I would make if I was to make another in this length would be to move the pockets higher. I have long arms but even so they are fully extended when my hands are in the pockets.

Sewing the hood and lining

As others have pointed out, one of the quirks of the Minoru jacket hood is that the seam attaching the hood to the collar can be seen inside the collar when the hood hangs down. I trimmed and finished that seam with a zig zag stitch. I thought I would save time by zig zagging the bottom edges of my hood and lining pieces before I started. This turned out to be a complete waste of time as you really do need to trim and grade that seam down so that you can topstitch along that edge.

I went over the trimmed seam with a zig zag stitch and it's not too bad. I took this nifty extra step to ensure that seam was as small as it could be and had less scope to move about when worn. I topstitched the right side of the hood at the lower edge, taking in the trimmed neckline seam of the coat on the other side. I made sure the collar was folded away as I didn't want to stitch onto that. Here's a couple of photos which I hope explains what I did.  The coloured headed pins sticking up show where the topstitching is.

Collar is folded down out of the way

View from the other side

Zip on the collar

I had a few problems with this step. First, I noticed after inserting the zip (yes always after) that I had the collar lining on upside down. The collar is longer at the bottom than the top but I had the short edge of the lining along the bottom. I thought: “Jeez I cut this really badly” before realising my error! Duh!!

My second problem was pressing that window for the zip once it is turned through (rather like a welt pocket). The interfaced fabric meant it was hard to press. I pressed for ages and got it to go as flat as I could.

The corners of the zip window where you snip into? I had the same problem as last time with a small amount of my lining peeking to the right side. Not as much as last time though. I'm also not brave enough to snip right up to the stitching and this adds to the problem.

My main problem was attaching the zipper. The zipper window being slightly too big in one place caused my topstitching to miss the zipper tape in one small area measuring around an inch. I had to go back and fix this which meant stitching over the previous stitching which is quite noticeable.

I'm going to take extra care if I make the jacket again to ensure the zipper window is not too big and to make it uniform. I was lazy about transferring over the zipper markings at the cutting stage. (Seriously the pieces take ages to cut and the last thing I want to do is tailor tack the zipper opening along with the the placement for the elasticated waist). The zipper window only needs to expose the teeth so there's no need for it expose the tape.

Storm flaps

I mentioned in this post that I was adding a front flap to the jacket as I couldn't find a zip to match my fabric.

I'm really pleased with how they look. There are two flaps covering the zip. The under flap is cut smaller so the top one can lay flat. The top flap has a hidden under flap which has the upper halves of snaps invisible from the outside. The lower flap has the bottom halves of the snaps. I worked out how to do this from a ready to wear jacket. I have hand tacked the under flap to the top flap in between the upper snaps.

Here are some close ups of the flaps which hopefully show how they work.

Update: My step by step tutorial on how I did the storm flaps is available on this post.

I've done a step by step tutorial on how to do the storm flaps which I'll post once it's finished.
I also did my first ever snaps. I don't have any fancy equipment for this. The snaps came with a small punching tool and a spreading tool which are used with a hammer to pierce the fabric and attach the snaps. The pack also came with a base tool which holds the snap in place while you hammer it.

My test snaps came out better than those on my finished jacket. Only one has come out really well and they are a bit stiff to close. It was difficult to hammer the snaps into the finished jacket, particularly the under flap, as it was hard to keep the rest of the coat out of the way. I now want fancy equipment for attaching snaps but I can't justify the expense.

It is possible to remove snaps with a hammer, chisel and some patience, as I found out when I totally messed one up.

Update: My step by step tutorial on how I did the the heavy duty snaps is available on this post.

Inside phone pocket

As I mentioned in this post I devised an little pull tab to put my phone in. It's not quite worked out as planned. It's great for inserting the phone, where it sits upright. It also pulls out using the little tab. The problem is that the phone doesn't pull out freely when it's in a rubber case like mine. It works better without the case. Also it's a hassle putting the tab back in once you've pulled out the phone. It would be easier if the top half of the tab was stiffened, with cardboard hidden inside the tab or something similar.

It's pretty neat and I do like it. It keeps the phone upright in the pocket. It's probably not worth the hassle though unless it is stiffened with cardboard or something. 

The pocket is slightly longer than on the Minoru jacket pattern, which was not big enough for a smart phone.


I had a few minor problems here. Firstly I cut out elastic for the cuff to fit my wrists, which are very fine. However they were too much of a mismatch for the size 14 cuff. I then went with the elastic recommendation for a size 14 which was too big. I then made the elastic 2 cm smaller which I was happy with.

I did the gathering stitches on the raw edges of the cuff as recommended in the pattern. However I tried to pull up the gathering with the thread tails and ended up snapping the thread. The gathers wouldn't pull I think because of the weight of the fabric. I removed the gathering and just eased and pinned the cuff onto the sleeve. This worked fine. I spent ages removing all the gathering afterwards so I'll be glad to avoid that step next time. I also attached the cuff with a 1 cm seam allowance as I like long sleeves.

Joining the hem facing to the plackets

I adapted my own tutorial here to finish this. I prepared a tutorial for this which I'll post when it's finished.

Stitching in the ditch

This is where the jacket and lining are joined at the collar. It turned out better than on my first Minoru. For the most part the stitching is not visible on the lining of the lining side. It's still impossible I think to get the stitching exactly in the ditch on both sides. I wasn't aiming for this, but I did spend a lot of time making sure the stitching didn't stray too far into the collar part of the lining side. There was one small section on one side of the lining that I re-did twice on the machine. In the end I ended up doing that part by hand. My hand stitching doesn't look great on the wrong side, but that was mainly because I was impatient to get it finished. It doesn't show on the right side which is the main thing.

Elastic casing

I marked the channels for the elastic by pinning the side seams of the lining and shell together starting from the under arm, seamline to seamline. I then pinned the areas around the elastic channels knowing that the jacket was properly aligned at the side seams. As in my last make I extended my elastic out to the front about 2 inches from the side seam. (On the original pattern the elastic comes out much further.) I did notice one thing though when aligning the shell and lining on the jacket fronts. The lining was a bit tight on the side where the inner pocket was. (I only made one inner pocket). I don't know why this was. It wasn't a huge problem at all but it would be a good idea next time to add a tiny bit of ease, widthways, to the front lining piece.

Threading the elastic took a ridiculously long time. I started doing it with a safety pin. The safety pin kept getting caught on the basting lines which attached the inter lining to the jacket. In the end it was easier to start again and do it without a safety pin. I then tested the elastic width with pins. I first tried somewhere just under the elastic length recommended in the pattern. It was way too big. I then pulled it tighter and it was then too tight. I then decided that my elastic should come out slightly more from the side seams than 2 inches as mentioned above. I extended the channels to 2.5 inches out from the side seams which looked better.


My mother gave me some fabric protector she had left over from making blinds (Scotgard Protector for fabrics). The blurb says it: “forms an invisible barrier which resists water and oil based liquids (eg, rain, wine, salad dressing etc). It also provides dirt resistance so fabrics stay looking cleaner for longer and are easier to clean. Does not change the look, feel or breathability of fabrics. Ideal for clothes and soft furnishings.”

As I hadn't yet properly worn the jacket I decided to waterproof it a month or so ago. It's best to do this on the washed fabric before making but it's equally possible to spray a finished coat (which is one of the recommended uses). My chap did the spraying while I held the coat. He sprayed it really well, with extra on the collar, corners, the pockets and along the stitching. He held the can about 20 cm away from the coat. I then left it overnight.


I'm really happy with this coat. It took a long time to make but was worth the effort. With the storm flaps, lined pockets and interlining it's like a Minoru deluxe! I wore my first one to death and I'm sure I'll do the same with this one.

In other news (for anyone still reading – thanks if you are!) I'm currently making a skater dress based on the Renfrew pattern. I've also just finished a pencil skirt for my mother. Before that I started the Hummingbird peplum top from Cake patterns. My muslin didn't turn out well so I didn't go any further with it. However I was still keen to make a knit and something peplum related. It was then that I hit upon the idea of making a skater dress with the Renfrew pattern! Happily this has turned out much better and I'm looking forward to showing you once it's finished!

Happy sewing.