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Surf to Summit Top Pattern - Out now!

Sewing Indie Month: My Buff tutorial and interview

27 May 2014, 12:14

How’s everyone enjoying Sewing Indie Month so far? Has anyone entered the contests yet? There’s still a bit of time left if you haven’t got everything together yet…

Sew a Buff

Last week I wrote a really simple but useful tutorial which appeared on the Seamster Patterns blog – How to sew your own Buff. If you’re not familiar with a Buff, it’s a simple tube of stretchy fabric that can be worn a million different ways…

They’re really popular with a wide variety of active people for both winter and summer wear and literally could not be easier to sew, so head over to the Seamster Patterns site to read how to make your own!

My interview with Yuki


I personally think the best part of Sewing Indie Month has been connecting with other indie designers, and I was tickled to find out I was paired with Yuki from Waffle Patterns, because I’d been admiring her designs on Etsy for ages!

She interviewed me over email recently, and you can read my interview here, which went live yesterday.

Classes and my next pattern


I’ve got quite a few more stretch fabric classes coming up in the next few weeks at the Thrifty Stitcher studio, including a full “Stretchtacular!” day on Sunday 29 June, where you learn to sew leggings in the morning and a Breton tee in the afternoon! If you live outside London this means you only have to travel once to get both classes… Or I’ve also still got some space in this Thursday’s leggings class if you’re more local. These are all suited to beginners who have basic knowledge of a sewing machine, but haven’t necessarily worked with stretch fabrics or overlockers before. You’ll get to take your garment and pattern home with you, and I’ve had many students not only wear theirs home, but turn around and sew more that same week!

The stretch class listings are here.

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Sewing Indie Month: An XYT maxi dress tutorial from Closet Case Files

13 May 2014, 12:32

As part of the wonderful Sewing Indie Month celebrations, each of us are collaborating and sharing tutorials throughout the month of May. During the planning phase of the month, I requested to partner with Heather from Closet Case Files as she’s also a fellow stretch fabrics fanatic plus I loved her Bombshell Swimsuit pattern (if only English summers ever got warm enough to swim, eh?).

Well, she’s since gone and released Nettie, a fantastic bodysuit and bodycon dress pattern, and it’s already on my To-Sew list for later this summer. I can never wear RTW ones as my torso is too long, so I’m excited to finally wear some! (That, and her dress looks SO much like Wolford’s £300+ dresses!)

As we were discussing which tutorials to do, Heather was really up for hacking my XYT Workout Top pattern and making it not only something suitable for casualwear, but also a dress! She’s gone and done it, so if you’d like to make your own, read on…

The tutorial

Hello everyone! Heather here from Closet Case Files. I’m on Fehr Trade today to share a tutorial for Sewing Indie Month.

One of the things I love most about the independent pattern community is the way that the unique taste and point of view of each designer shines through in their work. I was really excited to be paired with Melissa for Sewing Indie Month; I have tremendous respect for her skills and knowledge, and love her cool and modern take on active wear. It was a good pairing, since we both love designing for stretch fabrics. For my Fehr Trade tutorial, I thought it would be fun to put a Closet Case spin on the XYT Workout Top.

Since I’m not the jogging type of girl (more of a leisurely bike riding lass), I thought it would be fun to take the great design lines of the XYT and make a summer maxi dress. I loved the racerback option, and thought it could look sexy and sporty in a mix of lycra and powermesh.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-12

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PB Jam Leggings - invisible pocket tutorial

6 February 2014, 13:16

One of the favourite features of my PB Jam Leggings pattern is that there’s a secure, inner pocket at the upper back to keep things like your phone, keys, or gels handy while you’re working out. While I was developing the pattern, I decided to make this pocket one layer, and use the exterior of the leggings as the other side of the pocket, sealing off the bottom with topstitching.

But sometimes you may not want any topstitching visible from the right side, so to do this, you only need one extra piece of fabric and a few short steps. Making the pocket invisible from the outside will only add about 5 minutes max onto your construction time, but if your fabric is thick, definitely consider cutting your pocket from a thinner lycra!

Here’s the finished invisible pocket on my latest “rainbow sherbert” pair I’ve just finished!

Before you start…


When you’re cutting out your fabric, cut two pocket pieces instead of just one.

Step One



Fold down the shorter, curved edge of one of the pocket pieces and topstitch with a twin needle or coverstitch (or, alternatively, finish with narrow elastic or FOE)

Step Two



With right sides together, stitch the longer, curved edge of the two pocket pieces, and flip right side out (note: if you’re zigzagging this seam, you’ll want to trim the seam allowance and/or clip the curves to get a smooth seam)

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A hidden travel pocket tutorial

11 September 2013, 12:33

We’re travelling to Mexico in a few weeks, and I decided I should probably have a money belt to keep my passports and spare cash secure while we’re there, especially since we’ll be staying in mid-range hotels and travelling by coach. But the money belts available to buy are all really uncomfortable-looking, made of either rough fabric that will get soaked by sweat, or plasticky fabric that will stick to your skin, and with chunky buckles that will dig in over the course of a day.

Since I’m sewing a bunch of bottoms for my trip anyway, I figured there must be another way, so I had the idea to draft up a simple zippered pocket that attaches onto the waistband and hangs discreetly inside. It can be accessed easily in a private place (like a toilet stall), but not easily seen or pickpocketed, and the zippered opening means its contents aren’t going to just fall out, either.

I’ve added this pocket into my recent travel skirt, leggings, and Hummingbird skirt already and I’ve worn these around London to test drive them successfully!

You can choose to either permanently sew the pocket into the waistband of your skirt or trousers, or you can use snaps to make it removable at the last step, like I did for my leggings.

It’s sized to allow a standard passport to fit through the zipper, plus some emergency cards and cash and other small items you want to keep on you at all times, but that don’t have to be readily accessible.

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How to line the Burda peplum top

3 September 2012, 15:53

Peplums are a major AW12 trend and one that’s well within reach of most home sewists and high street shoppers. There are plenty of patterns out there, but one of the nicest I’ve seen so far is the cover design from the August 2012 Burda magazine, which is also available to purchase as a pdf download here (and you can look at the full instructions and layout diagrams on that site for free).

A lot of peplum dresses just feature a ring of excess fabric around the hips, but here, the curved waist seam plus the sloped hemline and bias-cut peplum on this particular pattern really sets it above the rest. I also like that it’s separates, so I can pair my top with a skirt, slim trousers, or leggings and get much more wear from it than just a single dress.

One thing I don’t love about this pattern, though, is that it’s unlined. Or rather, it has lined cap sleeves, a narrow bias edge on the underarms and a neck facing, but nothing further. It’s pretty straightforward to make lining pattern pieces from the shell and facings (see below), but the construction was more challenging to figure out. It is possible to do a nice clean finish almost entirely by machine (you still have to sew the hems by hand), but you have to do a bit of clever reordering of the construction…

Luckily for you, I made notes as I sewed so I can share my clever order of construction with you!

As mentioned above, you’ll need to modify your bodice pattern pieces after you’ve cut out your shell fabric. Place the neck facings on top of the bodice pieces (annoyingly, in this case they must be face-down so the shoulder seams and CB/CF edges line up), trace the neck facings onto your front & back bodice pieces and then cut these off before cutting your lining pieces. Remember to add seam allowances to these new cut edges, too!

Be sure to interface the facing pieces, then attach them to the lining pieces and treat as one for the rest of the construction.

Instructions for a clean-finish lining!



  1. Sew all darts, attach peplum pieces to bodice on the shell, and sew at shoulders (but keep it open at side seams and centre back!), ie: the follow the first few steps of Burda’s instructions, but stop before the zipper insertion!

  2. Do the same for the lining

  3. Sew the sleeve shell pieces & sleeve lining pieces together at the bottom edge of the sleeve. Understitch, then baste around the other (armscyce) edge

  4. Baste the sleeve onto the shell with right sides together (beware of excess ease!! Don’t skip this basting step!)
  5. read more >>

    Running arm band pocket (with tutorial!)

    12 July 2012, 14:27

    A few weeks ago, I was asked if I wouldn’t mind making two prizes for the RDC Mission Impossible event this Saturday, and I knew it’d be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at drafting some arm pouches while helping out my crew at the same time.

    Essentially, I reverse-engineered a Y-Fumble I own to figure out how they constructed it (no Y-Fumbles were harmed – I just thought about it hard and made a prototype first!). The only problem is that they’re available in limited colours and the lycra feels quite flimsy to me, so if I can make my own I have a lot more freedom in the fabrics used.

    It’s an arm band that has a pocket on one side, with a simple fold-over flap for keeping things like phones, keys, travelcard, etc nicely inside and tight against your arm while your run. There are no closures – the band just slips over your wrist and up your arm and the stretchiness of the fabric holds it in place. I wear mine on my forearm to hold gels for long runs, but you can also put them on your upper arm, too, if you’d rather. Even though the back doesn’t contain a pocket, it’s still double-sided so all the raw edges are nicely contained inside.

    For these prize versions, I used leftover red bamboo jersey from my Donna Karan dress so they’re nice and soft, and should resist bad smells, too.

    For those of you who are interested in my thought process, here’s the sketch I used when working out what pieces I’d need, and then how I’d construct it all together:

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    Golden silk asymmetric blouse

    16 May 2012, 13:14

    From a total loser of a silk blouse to a triumph of a silk blouse, all in one afternoon! After the Burda FAIL, I turned around, cut into my gorgeous butter yellow floral silk charmeuse I bought at Ditto in Brighton last weekend, and sewed up this blouse in about two hours flat!

    The layout of this blouse is really cool, and the entire blouse is just one piece, with only one side seam (and two shoulder seams). I took a photo of my fabric when it was laid out on the floor, and I added some annotations in pink (below) to help show where the drapey side comes into play. I hadn’t realised it from the diagram, but the CF neckline is on the straight grain, and the CB neckline is on the cross-grain, with the only side seam on the bias. Very cool, and the design feels quite Bunka.

    I used the leftover silk in the bottom left corner to make several bias strips about 4cm wide, as I prefer a narrow bias edge on my silk blouses instead of finicky facings. I also left off the shoulder bow, as I felt there’s enough going on in this blouse already!

    We were very lucky to catch the “golden hour” on Monday evening, which just makes this silk come alive in these photos! I’ve paired it here with my grey leather skirt to try and give an edgier look to the twee floral of the silk.

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    PSA - Freezer paper and laser printers don't mix!

    27 April 2012, 14:23

    This is a bit of a Public Service Announcement, but as I couldn’t find this information easily myself, I thought it was really important to get it out there to save some other poor sod the frustration and money I just spent.

    Freezer paper stencils are great – fast, fairly easy, you get good results, and you can reuse the stencils a few times. Search for freezer paper stencil tutorials online, and you’ll get tons of results, all saying you can either print directly onto the freezer paper, or lay your design on top of the freezer paper, and trace around it with an exacto knife.

    The latter is what I’ve always done in the past, but for my upcoming RDC refashioning project, I have a ton of stencilling to do, so I thought if I could cut out the step of taping the paper layers together, it’d go a bit quicker.

    Only thing is, clearly none of the well-meaning tutorials out there own a laser printer. Laser printers use heat to print. Freezer paper uses heat to bond to the fabric. You see where this is going…?

    DO NOT PRINT DIRECTLY ONTO FREEZER PAPER WITH A LASER PRINTER!

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    Coverstitch binder attachment tips & tricks

    18 April 2012, 13:35

    Way back when I was making my first muslins of my new running gear, I realised that the methods I’d previously used to finish knit necklines (elastic, FOE, serged bindings, etc) were just NOT going to cut it on slippery exercise lycra. The results were awful and sloppy, so I allowed myself to be convinced by Pattern Review that a coverstitch binder was the way forward.

    At £80 a pop, they’re not a purchase to be taken lightly, and they’re probably about the most expensive thing you can buy for your sewing room, short of a machine or a dressform! But I wanted to ensure the most hassle-free experience, so I went for a brand-name Janome attachment rather than one of the cheaper, much more hacky eBay jobs. I bought mine from Jaycotts and Janome shipped it directly to me:

    Unlike a lot of the eBay binders, this comes with everything you need to get started – the big metal plate, the shorter foot, and a big set of instructions on top of the binder attachment itself. So it’s expensive, but you don’t need to then go and buy all the non-optional bits separately – but I can understand the allure of just buying the binder for your second or third if you’ve already got the plate, foot, and instructions!

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    A better elastic waistband finish - tutorial

    12 April 2012, 14:35

    While I await a photoshoot on my new Papercut Ooh La Leggings, I thought it’d be nice to share with you what’s become my go-to finish for elastic waistbands. Oftentimes pattern instructions will tell you to create a casing, leave an opening, and thread the elastic through it. I totally hate this! You end up with uneven bunching of fabric, plus the waistband tends to fold up and twist and generally get really uncomfortable to wear.

    Over the years, I’ve developed this method which a) attaches the elastic directly to the fabric, and b) protects your skin from direct contact with the elastic. I find it’s much more comfortable than the casing method, looks much neater, and also gives you the added option to have greater stretch in the back if you need it (swayback/bootay ladies, listen up!).

    Finished leggings:

    Step 1



    Step 1 – Place the elastic around yourself where the waistband will lie, making sure it’s snug, but not tight (you may want to pre-stretch the elastic a bit first). Mark the overlap edges with a pen, and trim so the edges overlap by an inch or so. With your sewing machine, zigzag the crap out of it so it’s not going anywhere!

    Step 2



    Step 2 – Make the overlap the Centre Back, and mark the opposite side with a pin as the Centre Front. Mark midway between these two with pins as your side seam marks (or offset towards the CB if you want more stretch in the back). Place your elastic against the inside edge of your waistband, and serge/overlock the elastic in place, taking care to not cut the elastic with your serger blades! If you don’t have a serger, that’s cool, just sew near the top edge of the elastic with a narrow zigzag and very short stitch length. Stretch the elastic as you sew/serge so all your pin markings line up.

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    How to finish a cowl neckline

    4 November 2011, 15:12

    As promised yesterday, here’s a really cool technique I used to sew the shoulder seams and get a clean finish at the neckline of my MyImage cowl tee (M1152 from the Fall/Winter 2011 issue) all in one go.

    It’s a variation of “the burrito method”, and you can use it on any top where you’ve got a facing on one side, and a folded edge on the other. So it doesn’t have to be cowl necks, it’ll also work for surplice or wrap necklines with a self-facing, too!

    This comes fairly early in the construction of your garment, but by this point you should have already sewn your facing (in this case, my back neck facing) to the body of the garment (the back here), right sides together. You should also stabilise your shoulder seams, either by using Vilene bias tape like I have, or with strips of knit interfacing or clear elastic – whatever your preferred method is!

    In my example, I’ve got a back neck facing which is a separate piece, and a folded (ie: integrated) facing on the front.


    Step 1. Pin the shoulder seams together from the shoulder edge to the back facing stitching line, right sides together. Keep the front facing and the back facing out flat (ie: don’t pin them!)

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    How to buy Lekala patterns

    27 June 2011, 13:22

    First of all, congratulations to #9 Rebecca, #13 Olga, #17 RuthieK, #14 Clair McLaughlin, and #20 NancyK who were the winners in last week’s Lekala contest! I picked these using Random.org but you’ll just have to trust me that I did so without any favouritism (Seriously, if I was faking it I would’ve picked a few numbers from the beginning and the end of the list, too. Funny how all the picks were in the middle this time around…)! Each of these ladies received a Lekala code good for 2 credits, so if you’re one of the winners, skip ahead to step two below to activate the code I just emailed you.

    Since Lekala use an ordering system different to what any other site uses, and the English isn’t 100% perfect, I thought it might be good to go through the steps on how to purchase patterns on their site. Please note that I do not work at Lekala, nor do I have any affiliation with them, nor have I been paid in any way for this post! If you need help from Lekala, please email Lekala customer support.

    If you just want to try their custom sized patterns without buying anything you can enter in your measurements on the limited set of free patterns here. Or if you happen to be their special example size (165h/84b/74ub/64w/92h in cm) , you can download all their patterns for free in those set measurements by clicking the pdf link next to “FREE DOWNLOAD Pattern on fixed size” anywhere on the site (so if you’re a total grading wizz then I suppose you could always grade that size to match your own, though it’d be a fair amount of work!).

    Step One – Buy a code


    Before you decide which pattern to purchase, you first need to purchase a code. The idea is kinda like those Pay As You Go mobile phone cards, or top-up mass transit tickets – you purchase the code, which contain credits, and with each pattern, credits are deducted from your code. So you only need to purchase the code, not the individual patterns.

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    Lekala cowl top instructions and giveaway

    20 June 2011, 13:38

    You’ve seen my version of this fantastic cowl top, now’s your chance to make your own and show me yours!

    As you’ll recall, the above is made using Lekala 4020, but I’ve created sleeve bands on the back to echo the ones on the front, so our first step is to alter the pattern for this.

    Here’s the (unaltered) tech drawing:

    Lekala give full pattern pieces rather than placing some patterns on the fold, so the first thing I like to do is fold the front and the back in half. If you’re altering the back like me, then cut the back piece in half along this foldline (at the CB).

    To echo the sleeve bands/yokes on the back, first lay the front sleeve band/yoke piece onto the back, and mark the corresponding widths at the back shoulder and the back side seam, so the two bands will align nicely when sewn together. Then, using the front yoke piece as a guide, draw a nice curve to join the two points, trying to keep the width of the yoke even. Lastly, draw a double notch somewhere in the lower half across the line, so you’ve got the notches on both the back piece and your new back band piece. Then cut along the line and treat as two pieces.

    You’ll end up with something like this:

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    A plum tulip top and seamed silver trousers

    12 April 2011, 12:47

    I’m finally over my post-wardrobe exhaustion and able to sew again, so I carried on with my March mini-wardrobe plans and made the seamed trousers from KnipMode Oct 2010 (#8):

    (hmm, why are they covering the waistband in their only magazine photo?)

    I also thought I was due a “quick knit top” so I pulled out Jalie 2806 (a gift from LynnRowe on PR!) so I could try out those fantastic tulip sleeves, with the thought of maybe using them on the spring/summer version of my Burda September cover dress

    I had just enough of Ditto‘s wonderfully soft and supple plum bamboo/lycra jersey leftover from my plum and green lace top for this, so it was clearly meant to be! For the trousers I used the same Fabric.com stretch twill as in my navy riding trousers, though in different lights this goes from looking pale grey (nice!) to baby blue (not so nice!). But the combo of pale trousers and dark top feels very Spring-like to me.

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    How to use jeans rivets

    15 March 2011, 12:31

    I’ve sewed a bunch of jeans over the past few years, and with every single one, I’ve been disappointed by the quality of the rivets available to buy as a home sewers. I’ve tried the ones available in stores, like Prym, Hemline, etc and every single time they let me down. Even when they’re properly hammered into place, they move around and “jangle” a bit, they’ve been snagging my coat linings, and I’ve had several fall out under normal wear of the jeans. For my last few pairs, I haven’t even bothered using rivets at all. I’d rather not use any than ones that look and behave badly!

    I’ve been keeping an eye out for quality rivets for a while now, and I’ve heard word that a man named Junior in Louisiana does excellent ones and will sell them in small quantities. So I took the plunge and bought a few of his high quality rivets (and a handful of all-metal buttons while I was at it), even though it meant importing them from the States.

    Seriously, these rivets are fantastic – they look just like RTW, are easier to install than the crappy ones, and once they’re in, they’re in!

    Here’s the finished back pockets up my upcoming jeans:

    I can never go back to crappy rivets again – for real, I’m tossing the others in the bin. So as part of my grand education scheme, I’m going to show you all how easy these are to install. Just say NO to crappy rivets!

    How to install jeans rivets


    You’ll need an awl (an ice pick may work in a pinch though), some pliers with a wire cutter, and a big ol’ hammer.

    Here are the Rivets pieces. On the left is the nail, which goes on the underside of your jeans. On the right is the cap, with the right side shown at the top, and the wrong side (which connects to the nail) underneath:

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    Free kitty kicker pattern and tutorial

    1 March 2011, 12:43

    Do you have a cat? Does he sometimes scratch where he’s not supposed to?

    Ours may look angelic, but Bosco’s certainly got a naughty streak!

    Cats need to scratch with their hind legs or bad things happen. But we don’t really want them “bunny kicking” our arms to shreds, either! That’s where the Kitty Kicker comes in – your cat will nuzzle the felty, catnippy wonder to his face and kick at the body with his hind legs! And the offset end seams means it rolls really easily, giving kitty something to chase as you throw it around the room.

    Download the pdf here!

    Like with all downloadable patterns, make sure to print it at 100%! Unless your cat is very small, or utterly enormaincoon, in which case feel free to scale up or down. Also feel free to change around the felt piece – make it long and fringed, or spiked, or even replace it entirely with ribbons or yarn if you’d rather.

    You will need:


    1. Small piece of tough fabric like denim, twill, canvas, or home dec fabric (IKEA do great heavyweight fabrics for cheap!)
    2. Small scraps of felt (optional)
    3. Fiberfill, or scrap fabric for stuffing
    4. Catnip!
    5. Hand needle and thread

    Instructions:

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    The first Jalie jeans

    23 February 2011, 13:46

    The ladies at the Walthamstow meetup got a sneak peek of my new jeans on Saturday, but now everyone can have a look at my (mentally counts…) sixth pair of jeans!

    I wanted to try out the Jalie 2908 jeans pattern in cheap fabric before I broke out my good stuff, so I made these using some cheap stretch denim from Goldhawk Road, bought for £3/m. It’s papery and stiff and smells kinda like petrochemicals when you iron it, but it was taking up room in my stash and was good enough to try out the pattern (and good enough for wearing round the boat, too!).

    I made the regular rise version (as opposed to the low-rise) and I knew these were bootcut, but wow, this has a VERY flared leg! But the fashion mags can’t stop going on about how flares are big for SS11, so I suppose I’m ahead of the pack with these. I think the rise here is good and comfortable, and the crotch curve, bottom, and thigh fit my “white girl pancake butt” really well. The leg length on these was almost perfect for me, too – I only needed to add 1-2 cm past their hem line (I usually have to add more for Burda trousers, and nothing at all for Knip’s).

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    A very beginning sewing lesson

    1 February 2011, 13:02

    On Sunday I taught a very beginning sewing lesson to three friends who all wanted to learn how to sew and have been begging me to teach them for months! I decided we would learn to use the machines and make a simple bag, and that would probably be more than enough for a first lesson. So I set up my little red machine, my everyday vintage machine, and made space for Veda to bring her new (purple!!) John Lewis mini machine up in the saloon…

    The Sewing Machine Driver’s Test

    After showing everyone the various parts of the machines, I put an old or blunt needle in each and I had them “sew” on the lines while the machine was unthreaded. The object is to get every single hole touching the line on the page, and when we did this in my home ec class in middle school, the teacher circled any errant holes (if we had more than three, we’d have to repeat that sheet). You start with straight lines, then corners, then a spiral, and finally wavy lines. My girls did great, but opted to redo the last two sheets to get some practice in!

    Download my Sewing Machine Driver’s Test here! (Pdf, 200kb)

    They all said that this really helped them to get comfortable with the machine and said the curves of the bag were way easier because of it!

    The bag

    Then we moved on to BurdaStyle’s (free!) Charlie bag pattern, and I showed them how to trim and tape the pattern pages together, then how to lay out the pieces and obey grainlines and learn how to find the selvedge.

    I really didn’t like that BurdaStyle’s instructions have you trim off the seam allowances on the bag handles and then overlock them (wtf? What beginner sewer has access to an overlocker??) so I had my girls make a facing for the top of the bag. It got them to practice sewing curves, the importance of clipping the seam allowances, and flipping inside out! And I personally think it’s less fiddly than bias binding when you’re just learning.

    Here’s the one I made earlier, to refresh your memory…

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    How to sew welt pockets

    29 November 2010, 13:52

    It may be FREEZING in London, but the heat is on for me to sew James’s fantasy jacket in time for his birthday on Saturday!

    I’m calling it his “fantasy jacket” because he’s asked me to recreated a beloved unlined, simple, waterproof jacket that was stolen from a pub on the night he met me. So he recalled it from memory while I attempted to create an accurate tech drawing. Then I compared this against my vast pattern magazine archive and decided that BWOF 10/08 #134 minus all the bells and whistles plus a few different whistles and bells was the best starting point. The muslin went well, so this weekend I started on the final jacket, made from a very cool laminated linen from Mood in NYC, with bias binding made from some dark red and black tie silk bought in Dublin three years ago.

    The rubberised coating on the fabric means any and all pin holes show, so I needed to treat it like leather – pattern weights and rotary cutter for the pieces, and since it’s unlined, I also needed to create metres upon metres of bias binding for the exposed edges. I used a continuous bias binding method for the first time ever and it was very quick, though not very intuitive.

    (I wrapped the binding around a sunglasses case to avoid creases. And because it was handy. Let’s face it – I’m not going to be needing the sunglasses any time soon!)

    After binding most of the edges, I then set to work on the front welt pockets, which were rather tricky on a fabric that requires a press cloth (I’m paranoid that the laminating will melt!) and can only be basted where it will never be seen. So I thought I’d document the process and give you all a little welt pocket tutorial.

    This is also exactly how I do bound buttonholes, but because the scale is much larger here, it’s easier to try welt pockets first to get the technique down and then just do the same thing on a smaller scale for buttons once you get the hang of it.

    How to sew a double welt pocket


    My pockets here are 7 inches long (6” is standard but I wanted to make sure his big man paws would fit in), and the opening is a total of 2cm wide (1cm on either side of the centre opening line). So the welts I cut out were 4cm wide (folded in half, they’re 2cm wide so straddle the stitching line nicely), and 8 inches long (so I get some overlap at the ends). You’ll need two welts per pocket. I folded each of these lengthwise and machine basted close to the cut edges to keep them together. If your fabric frays or shifts in anyway, you may want to interface the welt pieces in addition to the area around the pocket opening.

    Step 1
    Hand baste the pocket edges and central line. When you’re basting (in general), never turn a corner with your hand stitches, but leave the tails free at the corners. Also, you should extend the short edges here two centimeters or so beyond the long lines. I haven’t here because the needle holes would show!

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    Navy blue riding trousers

    3 November 2010, 10:23

    Jacquie made these trousers as part of her recent wardrobe collection (she’s “dingyadi” on PR) and I instantly knew I had to make them, too. Like her, I was put off by how skin-tight these looked on the Burda model in the magazine, but in real life, they fit really nicely! Unlike her, I left off the front patch pockets, though, as I figured there was enough going on everywhere else!

    They’re from Burda magazine 08/2008 #120A:

    They’re great trousers, but there’s just so many freaking pieces, omg! And the topstitching!!

    Take the front leg, for instance. On a normal pair of trousers, it’s one piece (maybe three if you have a pocket). On these, the front leg is comprised of three pieces before you even get into the pockets (so 6 in total for mine, or 9 if you chose View B with the added pouch pockets with the flap!). There’s a scooped pattern piece at the inner thigh in the front and back, and lots of horizontal topstitching across the knees in addition to topstitching pretty much every seam of the trousers, too.

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    Bridal bodice - boning

    2 August 2010, 13:42

    With the seams (mostly) constructed and all the seam allowances tacked down, it was time for the boning! Bridal Couture assumes that you’ve got a fairly standard princess-seamed bodice and so advises that you sew the channels to the centre of the underlining pieces at the very beginning before attaching the underlining to the fashion fabric. But my bodice has all sorts of crazy seams and the boning crosses over a bunch of seamlines, so I had to obviously apply my channels after the main seams were stitched, as Susan Khalje advises in this Threads article.

    I was originally thinking to make my own channels with silk organza, but then I saw that the Sewing Chest had pre-made and seam-free cotton channels so I bought those and ended up going with that instead to save myself some time. And as Ms Khalje talks about using them herself, I figured it’s okay!

    So I started a production line – first I sewed the end of the channel closed with the sewing machine, then I carefully pinned the channel to the bodice underlining where it was needed, then cut the end just before the seamline at the bottom of the bodice. Once all the channels were in place, I then catchstitched them all to the flannel underlining, keeping the bottom free to insert the boning.

    Here you can see all the channels, minus the one going on the zipper tape (to be attached after the zipper is in place):

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    How to sew a narrow bias edge

    21 June 2010, 14:04

    I had a busy yet productive weekend – not only did I finish my Colette Patterns Beignet skirt, but I also made the Patrones 292 sleeveless bias cowl top, too! I didn’t have enough time for a photoshoot over the weekend, but I did remember to finally document my favourite way of finishing the edges of thin blouses like the cowl top so I can finally share this with you.

    This technique is great for necklines and armscyes on sleeveless tops, and is my preferred way to finish any kind of blousey, lightweight fabrics like silk satins and the viscose (rayon) you see here. You get a thin, finished edge that looks good inside and out with a minimum of fuss, and you don’t have that awkward problem of facings flipping out or anything, either. As long as you’re okay with a small amount of topstitching on the right side, this is the technique for you…

    So before we begin, sew one of your seams so you’ve got a C-shape. If you’re finishing a neckline, this means you sew one of the shoulder seams. I’m finishing the armscye of a sleeveless blouse here, so in this case I’m sewing both shoulder seams, leaving the side seams free.

    Step 1



    Cut out a bias strip that’s the length of your opening edge, plus a few centimetres just to be sure. For the width, I prefer a finished facing of just 1cm, so my width here is 1cm + (2× 1.5cm seam allowances) = 4cm.

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    Bridesmaids dresses - I pleat the fifth

    10 May 2010, 15:18

    While I’ve been showing you all sorts of books and magazine reviews and drafting up free bag patterns for you, what’s been going on in the sewing room, I hear you ask! Well, I set aside April and May to sew my two bridesmaids dresses, and after a long muslin period, I’ve been getting stuck in with the most time consuming portion of the dresses first – the pleated, silk satin (charmeuse) waistband/cummerbunds.

    If you recall, I’m sewing the Gant exclusive design dress from the 09/08 Burda magazine:

    The fabrics were bought over a year ago, so I fished out the bag and got to work on the reeeeeeeally long pleated sections using Burda’s magazine instructions (which are surprisingly helpful) and a bit of info from my The Art of Manipulating Fabric book (thanks, Cindy!). These are knife pleats, one centimeter apart, and Burda called for seven pleats down the band, but after my test piece, it looked a bit sparse at the top and bottom edges, so I decided to go for eight pleats in the final versions.

    So in order to help any of you attempting this on your own (and sadly, a Perfect Pleater is way too narrow to help me here), or those of you wondering why professional designers outsource their pleating to professional firms, here’s what’s involved…

    How to pleat

    Step 1 – On the reverse of the fabric to be pleated, mark chalk lines exactly 3cm apart, one for every “mountain” pleat.

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    Free ruffled wristlet pattern!

    4 May 2010, 11:29

    This might possibly be my longest running project-to-post duration since I drafted and sewed up this cute wristlet last February using some scrap leather and some vintage lingerie fabric for a lining. I made it as a gift for a neighbour who wanted to remember a dear departed friend who left her a stash of vintage fabrics, and I loved the resulting wristlet purse so much that I felt compelled to share it with all of you! But I had problems digitising the pattern so it languished… but recently I was inspired to take another stab at it and I love the way it turned out!

    The great thing is that because it’s a small purse, you can really make this out of leather scraps, or even an old leather skirt or jacket from a charity shop (thrift store or op-shop)! Or it doesn’t even have to be from leather at all, it’d work equally well in corduroy, denim, or even felt! And because it’s a wristlet, you can keep your hands free for drinks & canapes, or for beers & barbecues!

    Download the free pattern by clicking the image below!

    To anyone linking – please link to this page, not directly to the pdf file!

    I hope you all enjoy this and please email me any photos if you make one for yourself! I’d rate this as an Advanced Beginner project just because of sewing the zipper, but it’d make a GREAT first leather project if you’ve never sewed with it before.

    Illustrated instructions!


    Text instructions are included in the downloadable file, but I wanted to provide photo instructions to make it easier for beginners to sew this, too. But when I put the photos in the file itself, it turned out way too big so I compromised and I’m offering them here instead!

    Step 1



    Using the exterior fabric, cut out two copies of the purse body, two copies of the flap, one of the ruffle, and one of the strap (or omit the strap for a ruffled clutch). The interior circle from the ruffle is unused and can be turned into a decorative flower by pinching the centre and securing with a few hand stitches.

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    Mentally sewing the LMB draped dress

    15 March 2010, 12:44

    I’ve gotten as far as I can on my secret other project while I wait for supplies (mostly new labels – can you believe I’ve sewn through the last lot of 120-odd Fehr Trade labels in the past two years??), so I cut out my muslin pieces for my birthday dress. If you’ve got a good memory, it’s this luuuurrrrrvely draped number from the Feb 2010 La Mia Boutique magazine, #6:

    What I normally do for foreign language patterns (La Mia Boutique is in Italian) is look at the pieces and get a brief order of construction in my head. Usually I work from the top down, starting with assembling the front bodice pieces then join to the back at the shoulders, then finish the neckline, then if it’s a knit, attach the sleeves at the armscye and sew up the side seams, or if it’s a woven, do the side seams first them attach the sleeve in the round. After sewing for a while, you begin to see that most pattern instructions have you sew things in roughly the same order, so you can just do those here to suit this particular pattern.

    But for more complicated patterns like this one, I like to sit down with a pen and paper and mentally go through the whole process, visualising how the different pieces interact and the pros and cons of doing which seams in which order (like “if I do this first, is it going to make it awkward to serge that?”). It’s a great mental exercise in spatial thinking, and one of the most pleasurable aspects of sewing for me.

    And it means I don’t have to type in every single word of the foreign instructions and figure out what the translator’s trying to tell me (sewing terms are not the best translated! )!

    So since I was writing these out anyway, I thought my order of construction might help others who were eyeing up this pattern.

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    Silver tweed jacket

    17 February 2010, 08:48

    It’s time now to turn our attention to the upper half of this silver tweed Planned Partnership, the little boxy cropped jacket (#18) from Patrones 272:

    You saw the jacket as part of a classy suit, but how does it work with jeans?, I hear you ask.

    As it turns out, even better!

    I actually prefer this jacket hanging open instead of buttoned up (which is why I left off the button loop at the very top of the collar stand and the small button hidden under the collar that the pattern suggested).

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    Tricky pattern? Build a paper model first!

    8 November 2009, 22:11

    After a weekend of tracing patterns and sewing kids clothes (some you’ll see later, but others are Christmas gifts not to be ruined), I finally got a chance this evening to cut out the fabric for the wool jersey top from the latest Patrones, #285, that I wrote about last week:

    I came across some gorgeous ex-Prada wool jersey at Ditto Fabrics (you’ll remember them from earlier in the summer when I visited their Brighton shop) and knew I was destined to pair fabric and pattern together! (NB: if you’re planning on making this top with this fabric, buy 2m instead of the 1.5m called for in Patrones as it’s ever-so-slightly narrower than Patrones’s and I had a real tricky time fitting everything into 1.5m!) I also bought some dark turquoise ex-Burberry coating, some I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-silk ex-Prada polyester jersey with trompe l’oiel sequin print, Paul Smith grey marl jersey with stars, and some black stretch denim (all pictured at the bottom of my fabric stash gallery if you fancy a perv!). Honestly, I’m beginning to think the owner Gill is a bit like the UK version of Gorgeous Fabrics, she has such an eye for quality ex-designer stuff!

    The funny this about this pattern is that on first glance, it looks like a really easy garment – just a basic blouse with dolman sleeves and some horizontal seaming in the front and back, topped off with a triangular collar with a bit of gathering detail and a covered button. Or so it’d seem. Look a bit closer at the pattern pieces and start chucking bits of the instructions through Google Translate, and it all starts to become a bit more interesting…

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    Chemo hats - with pattern!

    12 August 2009, 17:56

    It was inevitable, but still I hoped I could avoid the hair loss that comes with the chemo in my bone marrow transplant… I was expecting it to be instantaneous, but in reality, my hair didn’t start falling out until 3 weeks after the first dose of chemo, so I’m really glad I thought ahead and made myself some comfortable knit caps before I went into hospital, based on my own design.

    I know there’s tons of chemo hat patterns out there, but IMHO, most just scream “old lady chemo” to me, and as I’m neither old nor wishing to particularly associated with chemo, I wanted something a bit cleaner and less, err, wacky/zany. I mean, if I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that hat when I’m well, why would I want to put it on my head when I’m feeling crappy, fat, and unattractive already??

    So I came up with this method for making what’s essentially a swimming cap made from stretchy knit materials. I knew I definitely want the back of my head covered, though, so you’ll see that my pattern dips down in the back to cover every last bit of Homer Simpson-esque wisps. If you’re a sewer, it’s a great use of scraps, and if you’re not, it’s a great way to recycle old teeshirts! Even if you’ve got some great wigs like I do, I find these absolutely indespensible for wearing around the house and sleeping in! Think of the wigs like your heels, and these like those comfy slippers…


    The finished photo here is quite grainy and this one’s looking more baggy than it does in real life (honestly!), but you can get the idea of what we’re aiming towards here!

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    Easy cowl knit top

    13 June 2009, 10:10

    After over week of agonising waiting, I’ve finally now got a revised admission date (29 June) which means I’ve got two more weeks to sew!

    First up is a modified version of Simplicity 2580 (which my mom brought me from America), sewn up in the £1.70 lycra knit remnant from Brighton! I realised wearing it to work yesterday tht the pale turquiose here matches my spring coat exactly, too…

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    Tips for sewing with faux fur

    21 January 2009, 07:49

    I’ve finished sewing together the furry exterior of my luscious long pile faux fur coat, and now, as I set about creating the lining for it, I thought it’d be a good time to share all the tips and tricks I picked up along the way. Some are from the special “sewing with faux fur” supplemental lesson in the October 2008 Burda WOF magazine, but others are from my own experience.

    Faux fur sewing tips!



    • Only cut one layer of fabric at a time, with the wrong side facing up. Be sure to cut through the backing only and NOT the fur itself! I used the very tip of my tailor’s shears, but an exacto knife would also work. A flat layout also means you need to duplicate any pattern pieces that would normally be placed along the fold, and other pieces must be cut out as mirror images (ie: one sleeve needs to be cut pattern face down and the other cut pattern face up so you end up with a left and right
    • read more >>

      Conquering bound buttonholes and interlining my winter coat

      8 January 2009, 13:25

      Cast your mind back to the heady days of May, when I decided to join hands with the internet and start in on The Great Coat Sew Along, with this beautiful long coat pattern from BWOF 09/2005 #102:

      (There are two similar views – mine’s using the exposed buttons and sleeve tabs of 102, but the in-seam pockets of 101.) Anyway, I got as far as the material gathering, muslin fit and alterations, and even sewed together the body pieces of the coat before I lost momentum in August. The half-finished coat has hung in my sewing room ever since, taking up valuable space and making me feel bad every time I glanced at it, but the abnormally freezing cold temperatures we’ve had in London have made me jump back in with both feet to get this finished, because I could really use this on my daily walking commute to work. I’ve got a RTW long wool coat, but with the wind and extreme cold we’ve had, I can feel the cold through what I’ve got now (the papers are gleefully reporting that, at -10C, London is colder than Antarctica right now, and I’ve lost count of the number of Russian-style fur hats I’ve seen out and about).

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      Sleeping beauty mask

      27 August 2008, 12:07

      I was in such a buzz of sewing activity on this bank holiday Monday that I finally got a chance to make BurdaStyle’s Marcel sleep mask pattern that I’ve been meaning to sew for ages now!

      One sleep mask is for myself, but the second one is a surprise for my friend (and will-be bridesmaid) Gez (who got it slipped through her letterbox last night!).

      The adorable kitties fabric is from a tunic she gave me that was a bit too long for a shirt but too short for a dress, so I chopped off some length and saved the offcut to make something for her. The grey fabric is from a skirt her auntie gave me years ago that I completely forgot I even had until I dived into my scraps bin looking for something to use here. The dark grey backing was the skirt itself, and the shiny (silk?) casing used to be the waistband of the skirt. So it’s an entirely recycled sleep mask!

      There aren’t any instructions for the pattern, but it’s very easy to make one and would be a great project for beginners:

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      Silver wedding fascinator

      26 August 2008, 12:01

      You may remember that I made my silver linen dress to wear to our friends Holly and Simon’s wedding this weekend. While at Holly’s delightful (and crafty!) hen party / tea party on Sunday, I mentioned that I was debating whether to make a matching fascinator and it was demanded that I comply!

      So in the spirit of my first fascinator, I got out a bit of scrap plastic, some soft, squishy fleece, silver linen leftover from my dress, and grey netting and went to town…

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      True blue

      6 May 2008, 11:16

      I had a busy weekend of sewing, but it was mostly alterations and some beginning work on James’s linen shirt, and not terribly exciting. I’m finding recently that sewing is a useful bartering tool – in the span of two days last week I managed to trade some alteration work for several technical CAD drawings of our bedroom and lounge renovations, and also for the installation of new tongue & groove wall boards in our captain’s cabin bedroom! But amongst all the DIY work over the long, Bank Holiday weekend, I managed to sneak in a quick knit top I’ve been coveting from the April KnipMode magazine.

      I had my eye on this ever since I saw it on the cover of the magazine, but I was recently asked questions about its construction over email, and thinking about it and dissecting the pieces got me REALLY excited to make it and I felt I needed a break (and a boost) from all the technical work on the linen shirt, so I just had to sew it up right away! So thank you, Linda, for inspiring me to make this even sooner!

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      How to trace a pattern

      29 March 2008, 18:36

      I often see other sewers complain about tracing patterns from magazines like Burda World of Fashion, Knip Mode, or Patrones, and I thought I’d share my method for tracing patterns. I don’t have a big window, and carbon paper is just way too messy for me, so I’ve gradually come up with this method and it’s quick and easy enough that I trace out all my patterns this way – even the tissue envelope patterns.


      Step 1 – Gather your materials


      You’ll need a big roll of paper – I buy a big roll of (usually brown) craft paper from Staples, but you can also use rolls from the post office or doctor’s surgery paper or anything else similar. You’ll also need a serrated tracing wheel (found in haberdashery shops), a marker pen, a pair of scissors, and a few weighty objects to keep the layers from slipping around (not shown).

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      Cheap frills

      10 March 2008, 11:18

      Late last week I finished sewing up my version of BurdaStyle’s free JJ pattern as the penultimate piece in my FW/08 Collection (I’ve still got to put the finishing touches on my Jean Paul Gaultier Patrones skirt and these last two substitutes round out the Collection!).

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      Fascinating stuff

      8 December 2007, 16:21

      While I’m pretty much in love with every dress from the November Burda WOF cocktail collection, I found myself flipping back to the yellow dress, #105 more than the rest. It’s only 4 pattern pieces, but that 90 degree dart at the waist is just too cool, and I’m very much into sheath dresses this year. I still had some gold duchess satin leftover from the pirate jacket lining, so I lined up the pieces and was able to fit the dress out of the fabric with hardly any scraps to spare (I just love it when that happens!).

      I’m still waiting on the invisible zipper I ordered online to be delivered, but as I was waiting I thought I’d try my hand at making a fascinator to match the dress!

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      It nearly kilt me!

      4 July 2007, 13:18

      I started this kilt-inspired jeanskirt from the February 2007 issue of KnipMode magazine not really knowing how long it would take me to power through…

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      Smock the boat (Don't smock the boat, baby)

      6 May 2007, 23:33

      Smocks have been in for the last few seasons now, but I finally got around to sewing this one up last week. I very happily used up some fabrics from my stash, a stripey polyester-rayon with a nice fluid drape, and the remains of an emerald raw silk that’s also been in a top for Gez and the lining of my Yamamoto jacket. The pattern was actually for a 34 inch bust (I’m 38”), but after deliberating whether to grade up the pattern or make a muslin, I did a very un-me thing and opted to throw all caution to the wind and just make it up as-is since it probably had a ton of ease in it anyway. And I’m glad I did, because my gamble paid off – I love the way it fits, and the only time it seems too small is squeezing my big head through the neck opening!

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      The pirate jacket

      25 June 2006, 13:17

      My boyfriend and I are currently saving up for the mortgage deposit to buy a boat (a huge barge, not a tiny narrow canal boat) to live on starting this winter. We don’t want your average housewarmi- sorry, boatwarming party, so we’ve already decided it’s going to be a full pirate fancy dress theme. And if you’re throwing a fancy dress party, you’ve got to be the best dressed ones there!

      For him, I bought Simplicity 4923 and have very slowly started to make the jacket portion out of a gorgeously thick, black silk velvet I scored at Walthamstow Market for £3/mt (by rights, it should’ve been at least £20/mt). He picked out some very nice hemispherical antique brass buttons from MacCulloch & Wallis plus some dark gold braid for the accents.

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