Introduction to Sewing

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New Sewists are such an inspirational and enthusiastic bunch. There is something about not having the confines of  the usual convention in learning that make for true creativity – don’t you think?  The “that’s the wrong way” and “this is the right way” approach can stifle many.

I set out from the beginning to make classes fun and informative. I noticed that people like to learn quickly and so I made it a policy that all courses would be for the minimum term possible – whilst still covering the fundamentals of sewing/dressmaking. I was also conscious that if courses last for too long then the longer the course (more number of weeks) the more likelihood that at some point at least one class in the course would be missed by the student. This would be detrimental to learning as each class deals with progressing with a project through from beginning to end, with each class covering the necessary processes involved.

Classes have been running for a number of weeks now and I have to say I am astounded at how easily and quickly students have picked up these skills. I do think the main reason for this is that our class sizes are restricted to a maximum of 6 per class. This was a conscious decision as I had queries from people saying that they had attended courses in the past at other establishments but had felt they had not taken anything on board and were a little bit disheartened – although still keen to learn. On probing further I found that this was invariably due to the large class sizes in the course they attended. They felt swept along, in addition the duration of the class was usually very short around a couple of hours, one lady said she had hardly settled herself when she felt it was time to pack up! I took another call from a lady asking me how to attach a bodice to the skirt of a dress she had been working on for “a number of weeks!”. Although happy to help I asked if she had contacted her tutor, she responded that she felt she couldn’t – as she (the teacher) wouldn’t know who she was and in any event the college was closed for the Summer! Such a shame that the sewing experience for new Sewists is leaving them disheartened before they start!.

I would be interested to know how you guys learnt/were taught to sew. Was the environment nurturing and was there any support offered once the course/class was finished? Perhaps you were taught by a family member, mum, aunt, big sister.

 

Welcome All to the Southside Sewing School

As I mentioned previously I have undertaken something of a career change. Behold my new Sewing School set in the Southside of Glasgow, Scotland. I know most of you guys are too far away to call in,  so check out my website http://www.southsidesewingschool.com. I am thrilled with this development given that this was not my initial intention when I left my job earlier on this year. I had intended to teach on a freelance basis with other local schools and privately on a one to one basis. However fitting in the different course times was proving problematic and after discussions with my family it was decided that having my own base would be the best use of my time and energy.

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The school is purely for teaching sewing and design and I do not offer anything other than courses as I want to stay focused on the teaching and to be an enabler for students to get together with others to form a support network, in much the same way as when friends and relatives would teach and support each other in days gone by. I am also conscious that until very recently this was a dying art and due to the passions of sewing bloggers and Sewists around the world it has been pulled from behind the wardrobe brushed off and found to be supremely rewarding and an antidote to the insular and fast pace of life today not to mention an alternative to what is on offer today on the High Street.

I am delighted to be in a position share my passion with others and to see the result of their endeavours and progression of their skills.

I will still be posting regularly with Tulle and Tweed however I intend to have a different blog for student work to chart their sewing achievements and to act as an inspiration to others. This will be available through the website link once up and running

Elisalex – By Hand London

 

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I’ve been meaning to make this pattern for while now as I have seen some great versions on other blogs – It’s not one that immediately appealed – who wants bulk in the hip area! But there is some voodoo magic going on here and with the close fit of the bodice, the overall shape is very attractive and I think suitable for everyone. I had an idea that I would use a structured fabric to make it more a formal number. I also like this pattern because equally I could make this in a cotton print as a casual dress with perhaps some side seam pockets.

On this one I wanted to incorporate a full lining so I settled on this crisp blue grosgrain which shimmers and rustles on movement. I like this idea when the dress is  plain, without embellishment or pattern that  there be some interest in the texture of the fabric and this fulfills the brief.

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With the bodice I used the feature of the grosgrain and inserted the front panel and centre back with the grain going crosswise and with the side panels, sleeves and skirt with the grain running lengthwise, its a subtle feature but with the shading when the light hits adds something of a design element. As with all makes I drafted this first as a toile as the bust section is quite important and has to be right – with some re-drafting, not quite a FBA (Full Bust Adjustment), I opened the seam on the side panels – I did not move the seam to hit the apex of the bust as I liked the look of the bodice as is, I only needed to re design and extend the curve of the side/bust seam. I also added an inch to the bodice length as in the toile it was sitting a touch too high on the waist. I also shortened the shoulders and re aligned to sit properly at the shoulder head. I will attach a couple of bra strap carriers as the shoulder line front and back is a feature of the dress and would be ruined by a wandering bra strap.

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The other alterations that I did were to have the sleeves finish slightly longer as I don’t like it when sleeves finish right on the elbow and of course I had to consider the poofie-ness of the skirt. After much deliberation I decided to take a couple of inches off the side seams at the hip area only. I know the width of the skirt is a particular feature of this dress but I had to consider scale. I am only 5ft 3″ and there was a serious chance of the dress wearing me and I think I would have been a bit self concious. I also had to cut a chunk off the hem – consideration has to be made for in the hem when turning up as the narrowing of the hemline means you have to graduate back out for a turning. This you will have to determine at the cutting stage. Therefore a toile  is a must. Inserting a full lining was straight forward although the pattern calls for a lining on the bodice only and to be honest with the skirt being so full a lining is not really required in the skirt as there is no chance of cling but I think on formal wear like this its a necessity as it prolongs the life of expensive fabric. I used a viscose lining on the bodice and an anti static lining on the skirt and I have to say it feels lovely on.

Also the pattern instructions call for the same amount of fabric for cutting out for all sizes, as a result I had quite a bit left over, which I have since roll hemmed and made it into a stole. I am currently on the look out for some glass beading to finish the edges and to break up the sea of blue. I am also toying with the idea of covering the stole in a luxury fur with the fabric on the inside, which could be kinda spectacular! what do you think?

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Another Burdastyle-ish

Burda 03/2014 # 106

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All is not what it seems with this top. I used this fabric as a toile – wearable muslin – as I had a piece of silk I was more interested in using for this pattern and I wanted to perfect it.  It is just as well, as the armholes (the initial pattern is with sleeves) are very gappy and only with some surreptitious darting did it become wearable. That said I quite like it,  the waterfall frill in the front with the rouleaux bow,  is a nice touch, I turned the neckline into a V. I decided that I would use up the remaining fabric and turn it into a simple gathered skirt. I made the skirt without a pattern and drafted some side seam pockets, and then realised I did not have enough fabric so two of the pieces of the pockets are just white lawn, which is not great but ok.

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I also added the concealed zip to the pocket at the side instead of the usual centre back, as I think in some skirts its better at the side. The fabric is a very lightweight viscose which doesn’t add much bulk to the waistline as this is the main issue with gathered skirts they can be very bulky in the one area you want to minimise bulk. I left the hem as it was finished on the selvage edge which has a bit of a fringe going on.

I see this twosome as the type of thing you could wear to the beach over your swimsuit. The top is loose enough to put on over your head –  no fastenings and the skirt is just a pull on and off affair and given the fabric is so lightweight if it gets damp or wet it will dry in no time. Yet still decent enough to wear to the pub on the way home! I have to say it looks way better with a little white cardigan over as it dumbs down the rather busy print.

The final finished silk blouse

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Vouge V8829 re Vamped

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Shirtdresses are a part of most women’s wardrobe not least because they can be worn either very casual or more dressy depending on fabric, heavier for winter and lightweight for summer, sleeveless, short-sleeved or long.

I have no idea where this pattern came from – for the life of me I cannot remember and I think it may have remained in the back of my pattern stash and my memory only for seeing a neat little dress in a magazine which made me pull this one to the fore and give it a re think.

The dress in question was a graphic, I assume – cotton, in blue and white with a white collar, sleeveless and it just screamed summer to me. Check out that woe-full pattern match on the bodice tusk, tusk!

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I also had a lovely cotton lawn in my stash which I was dying to use but couldn’t find the right pattern for. It’s liberty-esque both in design and colourway and the design of the fabric although not large could nonetheless overwhelm so the right pattern was crucial. The plain collar added a nice contrast and also making it sleeveless would stop it from heading into frump territory.

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When it came to the buttons I decided I would double up and make them small – like a shirt and I had these buttons in  my button box. They are vintage and one card was in a pale aqua blue and another in a darker blue. I didn’t have enough in any one colour for them all so I alternated them, as between them they picked out both the colours in the main fabric – All at once justifying the wholesale purchase of vintage buttons whenever I can find them!

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The collar I had previously made in a cotton broderie anglaise but on application I felt it was too heavy for the cotton lawn of the main fabric, so I replaced it with a plain off white cotton which I lightly interfaced. I have kept the broderie anglaise collar as I can attach to a couple of round necked jumpers that I have – so all was not lost. I think if I was to do this again I would make the collar slightly smaller other than that I am very happy with this.

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I didn’t use any of the recommended sleeve options instead I made some bias binding and bound the armholes. I can see this little dress being a useful addition to my wardrobe, it’s very comfy with a relaxed fit.

If ever I needed reminded of how great it is to handcraft your own garments, this reminds me.  I know I am speaking to the converted but when I think that I paid half the price for the fabric – which is a lovely cotton lawn, and for a few hours of my time (which I enjoy) I know I now have a much superior garment than the shop bought one.  In addition the hemline is where I want it,  and I know no one else will have another like it. It also fits me in a way the shop bought one never could, freeing me from the tyranny that is vanity sizing and the dreaded changing room! Not to mention the ethical and moral question of cheap labour and the cost, not just in monetary terms, of making and shipping these garments in their 1000′s from the other side of the world. It’s really no surprise that the sewing revolution is with us. It’s a no brainer! ….

Happy Sewing!

Brodie Dress aka Burdastyle 12/2013/124B

Inspiration struck as I settled down to watch the wonderful Maggie Smith in the film adaptation of the equally wonderful Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I really recommend this film, not least of all for the fabulously affected Edinburgh accent! The clothes however were the revelation, the colours, the shapes. I set about recreating something similar and I found the perfect  little dress pattern  in a previous months Burdastyle magazine and I moved all else aside to make a start on it.

I spent some time tracing the pattern from the crazy Burdastyle pattern sheet. The next step was to find the perfect fabric in a colour reminiscent of the film and the period it was set in.

Inspiration …..      the wonderful Maggie.

As luck would have it I had been given some vouchers for a local fabric store from colleagues of a firm I used to work in and wanted to make something that would remind me of my time there. I found it in this deep burgundy crepe, with a wonderful hand, quite heavy with a beautiful drape, perfect for my Brodie keepsake dress.

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covered button deep cuff

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covered button yoke

I love this pattern, its very elegant and I could see it in a black crepe with silk sheer chiffon sleeves. It moves beautifully due to not only the crepe fabric but the design of the skirt with the deep centre front pleat and slight flare. The shape on the body, because of the separate waist yoke, gives a nice fit through the torso and of course the sleeves (which I had to shorten slightly) are an absolute favourite. If you can dig this pattern out it’s well worth the effort. I would recommend a muslin/toile though as the v-yoke detail really needs to be perfect so some practice in insertion would be advised.

More of Maggie as Miss Brodie

     

  

Maggie now as you may know her in Downton Abbey.

Butterick 5880 Retro

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Hello all, I know it has been some considerable time since my last post and although I have been busy with a number of projects – bit of a career change! I have still managed to do some sewing, though not quite to the same extent as previously. I am finally back to a routine which will allow me to sew and upkeep my blog more regularly It’s nice to be back.

Yesterday I was off to a wedding of a niece of mine and as late as last week I still had not a notion as to what I was going to wear. Then as always when panic strikes I headed to my pattern stash for inspiration and remembered this little beauty. I then remembered that I had some shot silk that I bought a few years ago when in Paris that I had been dying to use but couldn’t justify cutting up for less than something exceptional and – this pattern is it.

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I did the usual toile/muslin and there were only a couple of alterations needed. First up the shoulder line was a bit too loose and I just narrowed it an inch on each side and re-jigged the darts a bit. I think on hindsight I would make the bodice a size smaller as this one was a bit roomier than I normally go for. That said the dress is so comfortable. I think this was due also to the lovely viscose lining I incorporated which stayed cool during the festivities. The shot silk was a good choice for this pattern as the fabric has a crisp hand which allowed for the pleating to be more sculptured without the need for any interfacing. Also as there is not much in the way of embellishment the shimmery nature of the shot silk lifted it out of the ordinary.  I was very pleased with the way this turned out and it fitted the bill perfectly. Had I had more time I would like to have made a little pill- box hat with a veil to finish things off as is in the end I made do with a large corsage.

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A word of caution the hemline is rather narrow and there are no vents, so on occasion there is a bit of hobbling required and getting on the bus at the end of the evening was worthy of a You Tube post.

Westwood homage

I have always been a great fan of the designer Dame Vivienne Westwood. I love how she manipulates and shapes fabric to contour the body. Her Red Label is her ready to wear, more accessible line, examples can be seen here. I also love what she does with plaid/check, tartan and tweeds, in particular the wonderful Harris Tweed for which she is an ambassador.

Vivienne Westwood Red Label - Floral print draped crepe skirt  Vivienne Westwood | Red Label AW12/13    Westwood Womenswear

This is my little attempt at the draping of a wrap skirt a la Westwood! The fabric is a remnant leftover from a make from many years ago, I had forgotten all about it, unfortunately there is not a lot of it. Challenge number one!

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Challenge number two was the fold placement on the waist and corresponding drape, (the extended folds on the waist would be chopped off and waistband added) if not done correctly this could add bulk to the waist and stomach region – not a good look! Matching the plaid of the over-lap to the side front – as seen in the first photograph, was a bit tricky but crucial for the finished garment to look professional. I will of course have to cut a front and back to allow for shaping at the side hips and waist and for seam allowance to be added, I think I have just about enough for that and a bit for a front facing on the overlap. I will incorporate a full lining and I have managed to source a lovely pale burgundy bemberg. I will finish the hem by hand blind stitching and not leave frayed as seen in the photo, as although not unattractive with it being a plaid/check its a bit too Braveheart. So an element of tailoring is called for.

I am unsure as to whether to have the back darts converted to folds, my worry is that it would draw attention to the derriere region, which I could do without. I am also toying with the idea of making the skirt sit lower down on the high hip as opposed to on the waist, for two reasons, firstly, I think it would work well and give a more relaxed look and also because I would have to find the fabric for the waistband from the piece. I think though this may move away from the Westwood aesthetic as her clothes, skirts in particular, emphasise the waist – she is after all a lover of the female form. More experimentation needed I think!

SONY DSCI made this skirt previously without a pattern by manipulating the fabric. With this one, there too were restrictions on the amount of fabric, this was a couple of bits of a curtain remnant. As a result there is no waistband and no hem but it doesn’t suffer because of it. I probably get more compliments on this skirt than any other I have made, which when you consider it cost almost next to nothing, that’s a real result.

Therefore this is an approach that can be quite successful and it is very satisfying, paradoxically because of the constraints when using up a left-over piece. A tailors dummy/dressform is a must though.

Skirt Parade

Finally finished the skirt featured cut and ready to go in the previous post.

I have been trying to track down this type of stretch denim for some time as I remembered having a skirt in this fabric many years ago and it was the most comfy and versatile skirt ever! Once I finally found the fabric online at Croftmill as Lightweight stretch denim, (unfortunately sold out, however they have another similar). I was then on the lookout for a suitable pattern and after I had made the chino skirt, well, Kismet! I was glad that I had a chance to practice the topstitching on the chino skirt because with this fabric I wanted to use a contrast thread and there was no hiding place for any mistakes.

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I could have carried the topstitching through to the back welt pockets and back and side seams, (the pattern didn’t call for it) as I have seen this on other denim skirts but I thought it could end up looking a bit too busy.

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I left it plain, which I am happy with. I made the zip shorter and to add a bit of interest I used the cotton ditzy flower print left over from the previous featured Jasmine and Sorbetto blouses as pocket linings on the front and back pockets and in the inside waistband facing. The waistband seam at the zip is slightly off, but I can live with it.

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I had enough of the stretch denim fabric left over to make one of my stalwart 1940′S Straight Skirts and I was so taken with the top-stitching on the other skirt I thought I would incorporate it into this to give a more relaxed feel to the normally traditional tailored skirt. Incorporating the centre front topstitching is an easy adjustment to the pattern, instead of cutting on the fold add on the seam allowance and cut two front pieces instead of the usual one. There is no lining on either skirts, so a quick and easy make.

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back view with top-stitched back vent.

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I love how the choice of fabric can alter the whole use and appearance of a garment.