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‘Well that didn’t work’

13 Nov

Let’s take a look at makes that didn’t work!¬†I did a similar exercise years ago, and discovered every single make that didn’t work came down to either poor finishing or poor fitting, so I took some proper lessons. Best sewing thing I’ve done since actually learning to sew!

Ever since then I’ve keep a list of what I make and how it worked, but it’s good to take a specific look at what doesn’t work, to see what’s to be learnt. Feel free to comment honestly, whether to point out things I’ve missed, or just tell me I’m over-analysing ūüėõ¬†(And please excuse the mirror-selfies. My christmas wish list is basically ‘GOOD CAMERA‘)

Oh noes! My beautiful jacket?¬†I’m so pleased with myself for having pulled the jacket off, but not so pleased with the actual jacket. Important distinction!

The fit just … Not Happy! Too big in the waist, and I’m not sure I can actually fit it close enough to look good either. The huge waist is the pattern itself. What looks like an hourglass pattern from the line drawings …


is, when you look at the actual pattern pieces, a box with godets at the waist. And I’m not a box with hips. Look at these piccies¬† – boxes with godets (with apologies to the women who were so kind to do pattern reviews on it). Gah!

I also adjusted the neckline, the original long rectangular neckline was going to look awful when I wore it open.

The peplum-effect is off too. I based the shape on this Burdastyle top, that I’ve made before and found it quite pleasing, but I didn’t pull it off in the jacket. (May not be clear from the pictures.)


Lessons – good

  • I can actually sew with cotton velveteen in this climate! Weehee!
  • A colour that suits me so beautifully draws attention away from poor fit and shape.

Lessons – bad

  • I’m mad at myself for not going with my gut instinct about the fit not being good for my body.
  • More than two major changes to a pattern (waist, peplum, neckline) … might be better looking for a pattern closer to what I actually want?

The A-line knit skirt in the jacket picture got chopped up to make t-shirt yarn. Why? The style was stupidly hard to style nicely on my figure, and the fabric faded badly.


Green dress with roses 

Disclaimer: I ADORE this dress. It’s easy to wear, cool, comfortable, pretty pretty fabric. Looks gorgeous irl, takes me anywhere.

It just isn’t what I intended! It was supposed to be a loose slouchy casual dress, but irl it’s rather dressy. The slouchy look on the pattern envelope isn’t the style, it’s that it doesn’t fit properly on the model. *sigh* Caught out.

I drafted the collar myself. The shoulders ended up too wide – I have to push my bra straps to the edge so they don’t show. (And if they show they look terrible) The collar doesn’t sit well over the buttons.


  • Pretty pretty fabric (especially poplin) is hard to make slouchy and casual! It is extra-important to use a casual pattern to pull it off. Or casual fabric. Perfectly matching hand-crochet trim and buttons aren’t gonna help either.
  • Duh, necklines duh. I made this one up myself, so it was my bad.

No idea about the collar. Use a proper pattern? Only extend the collar to the beginning of the button placket?

A fitting issue –

Guess what it is! (It isn’t the waist being too tight, trust me, these fit me in the waist.)


I still don’t know how to fit my little short back (or back waist?) properly! However, looking at other photos where it is fitted nicely they can be summed up in one word: Empire line.

I think it might be worth a post unto itself actually, comparing what is well-fitted, and what billows, and try to figure out WHY!

Beautiful! But …

I even managed to fit the back nicely!

What’s wrong? The damned thing kept creeping up over my bust and towards the back. The front nearly choked me. And yes, the shoulder seam was supposedly in the right place.


I don’t know! Another top, from this pattern, did it too. (Yeah, vintage, from an op-shop, why do you ask? :-D)

What was happening with the above¬†pattern was not enough fabric across the front shoulders, so it was ‘borrowing’ from the wider bust area, which of course was lower down, so the whole thing slid backwards. Is this what my lovely white top did? I don’t know. I just know I wish I did know to avoid it ever again! Because a similar thing happened with my ‘walkaway dress’ muslin which was actually a top.

That’s enough! I might do more in my sewing visual diary, see what I come up with. I think I’ll do the opposite next blog post and look at why things work!

ETA: Just saw this post on the¬†Sew Sorry So Fat blog. I might use that template (being nice and asking first because I’m just a naturally courteous person so they ain’t got nothing to snark at ;-P )

What is intermediate sewing anyway?

14 Sep

The recent discussions round the place on beginner vs intermediate sewing information have gotten me thinking too. What IS intermediate or even advanced sewing anyway?

I don’t think it’s about advanced sewing techniques or couture techniques. Not for me, anyway. These are just technical sewing skills, some harder than others. A good instruction book (of the many I’ve found in op-shops) will teach me what I need for these skills.

For me, advanced sewing involves something completely different than learning yet another sewing technique. It is about harnessing and applying creativity to my sewing. About understanding how I¬†create, why I¬†create and how to do so most effectively apply it to my¬†sewing. It’s also about utilising skills of maths, proportion, size, an understanding of the properties of the materials you are using, (does it sound like I come from a scientific and engineering family?!) and applying these to the creative mix as well. Not a lot of activities¬†so neatly combine two very differing ways of using your brain like technical and maths skills with creativity. I think the way it does is what makes it so immensely satisfying.

I find almost all the beginner sewing things online irrelevant to me. Sure, there are gaps in my skills, but most of them are because I just don’t enjoy a certain kind of sewing that requires those skills. Learning them would be pointless for me unless I branch out into sewing something unusual to me, like my recent velvet jacket make. I found all I needed in instructions to make it successfully online, and by reading the pattern instructions, and delving into my sewing technique book collection.

The reason why that jacket was challenge for me wasn’t the technicality of the sewing, it was coming up with a design that appealed, that fitted my jacket-needs. I then sought a pattern that seemed the best suited to being adjusted to fit the vision I had. I looked for and found some fabric that would work with it, having ‘auditioned’ quite a lot of different kinds of fabrics. I started sewing, I found a few problems with my original concept that I hadn’t forseen, and used my experience and knowledge of patterns and fabric to solve the problems, and eventually came up with a jacket that was 95% close to the vision I had originally had. (Minus 5 %¬†due to the fit not being quite what I wanted but only 5% because it’s very fixable!)

As I’ve just shown, I am sewing with a different focus than beginners and even slightly more experienced sewers have. They seem to be focussed on sewing skill acquisition. (It’s been a loooong time since I’ve been a sewing beginner, so I’m only going on what seems to be popular online for beginners.) I also seem to be sewing with a different focus to the supposedly ‘advanced’ sewing information, such as couture techniques. ¬†In the end, to me, they are just yet more fancy techniques.

For me the techniques themselves long ago took on less focus. They are simply tools to help me translate my creative concepts into reality. What’s important now, and has been since my late teens are things like how to interpret the fabric, interpret the¬†personal style (for whoever you’re sewing for), the pattern, fit (not in a beginner way of making measurements fit and doing FBA’s but as a more fluid and creative concept of how the garment is going to behave on the wearer as they wear it, doing the things they are going to do while wearing it), finding ways round issues like the desired fabric being so expensive you could only afford half a metre of it, or that the perfect zip colour doesn’t come in the zip style you want.

It becomes about creativity, and creativity has its own dynamics – and a creative person needs to work out how to maximise their own creativity, how they personally get from start to finish of a creative project, how they maintain the enthusiasm that will help carry them through the boring bits of a project. Fundamentally it’s about getting the most satisfaction out of their creativity. It’s also as important to know how to not stifle their creativity it in some way, and conversely, manage the outflow of creative ideas so they don’t overwhelm the person to the point of stalling them entirely.

Sewing has taught me SO much about creativity generally and my own personal creativity. Having sewn steadily since about age 8, I’ve gone on to learn how transferable those skills are to other creative pursuits, eg dance, music, writing. And most of life really.

I’m figuring it’s people who are very creative that are likely to be the ones who want to sew at more than beginner level. They also probably have creative skills already that they could learn to apply to sewing – and vice versa. I think seeing sewing¬†in this context could also help people who feel guilty about the size of their fabric and pattern stashes (There’s SO much of that on the sewing blogosphere), to feel less like they’re being Naughty somehow, and more like they’re simply making sure as creative beings that they have the tools with which to be creative. It may even help them work out ways to create stashes full of things that DO inspire them, and that they DO want to sew, rather than filled with the latest pretty fabric they couldn’t resist buying (I may or may not be refering to myself too, in this ;-P)

Sewing also requires some very technical, engineery and mathematical skills that are not of the ‘traditional woman’s skills’ type. Looking at what those are and how they apply – and if it isn’t something you’re good at, how to work around your own ‘weaknesses’ and get that part of the job done anyway (though from what I’ve observed, most serious sewers are strong in technical engineery skills too.) The same skills for harnessing your creativity also apply to the engineery things. For eg, figuring out the best way to do an SBA for a particular pattern style you’ve never worked with before.

And working with the two different things, creativity and engineery together has an entire new set of lessons to learn, like when is it best to get all technical to the last millimetre or when to go with your creative wild impulse and throw measuring to the winds.

Some of the blogs I enjoy the most are ones that show these elements of the sewist’s process. Less with the how, and more with the why and the inspiration and the struggles and triumphs as they grapple the reality of fabric and pattern and body that is or isn’t living up to their original vision.


Yes, intermediate sewing skills are very different to beginners! And not in the obvious ways. It becomes more about the experience of sewing and wearing your own sewn clothes, why you choose to do what you do with fabric, thread, patterns and stitches and less about how to do ‘perfect bound buttonholes’ or ‘how to set in the perfect placket zip.’

Do I sound like I think I could write an intermediate sewing book myself? YES! Do I have the health to do so? No ūüė¶ Would I like someone who has the health and ability, to actually write it? Hell yeah!

There IS a gap in the market. I’m really hoping someone will write one, or more! One that satisfies a lot more than a book made up of more ‘advanced’ sewing techniques would.


Jacket sewing is hard work! :-P And a question on jacket hemming.

26 Aug

Can’t please me! It’s scary or it’s hard work! Sheesh, any other complaints, Imogheena???

Actually I have a question to the more seasoned jacket-sewers out there. How do you hem the jacket and lining? Is it best to sew the lining to the jacket hem somehow, or better to hem jacket and lining separately with the lining able to swing free? I am worried if I sewed it to the jacket hem it would sag down below the hem of the jacket over time. If I sew it separately then I can sew it a bit shorter than the jacket hem, and if it sags I can fix it easily.

Which is best? or some other option this jacket-sewing novice¬†doesn’t know of?

Anyway, I have been finding sewing this a bit of hard slog. It’s such a BIG project, bigger than most of the things I sew and I’m starting to never want to see blue velvet ever again. Oops! That wasn’t my intention… I’m getting through it though, I’ve just today joined the lining and the jacket. That was big stuff. To do from now on:

Press the front/neckline jacket and lining seam.
Cut the armscye lower, adjust sleeve, set sleeve in, bind sleeve seam.
Put cuffs on the sleeve. (Maybe do that before setting sleeve in?)
Make buttonholes for front and sleeve cuff.
Make back belt to pull waist in. Sew it on, and two extra buttons to allow for weight changes.
Hem jacket and lining.

Tomorrow I’ll focus on the sleeves. If I could have them finished by the end of the day (Can’t really sew once it’s dark as the fabric is so dark it needs natural light to enable me to see properly) then I’d be a Very Happy Vegemite!

I’ve got a week to finish because I’m flying out monday afternoon in a week. Oh oh oh! how exciting!

Here are piccies taken just before I sewing the lining to the outer fabric.
Outer jacket:


This is the sleeve and the cuff above it. Not very exciting, but it gives a pretty good example of the true colour of the velvet and also how it reflects the light. Oh ok, I’m not reeeelly never wanting to see it again, no not reeeelly. It IS¬†gorgeous gorgeous fabric ūüôā

The jacket was making me look terribly short and squat, but then when I put the sleeve on my arm and held it in the right position against the jacket armscye, it suddenly looked fantastic. The sleeve defined the waist beautifully, probably because you could then see there was a gap between the waist and the sleeve.

I’m rather relieved – I know if I don’t feel comfortable in my clothes I’ll never pick them to wear when I’m bleary-eyed and sleepy in the morning. Short and squat doesn’t do much for my confidence, and I’ve put a LOT of effort into this jacket. Too much to throw it away by not wearing it coz I feel ugly in it. Or only wearing it because I’m cold but have nothing nicer. So yay for sleeves helping to define the waist!

I think too, I’m just not used to seeing 2 layers of clothing on me. So much bulk…

Eh, who cares! I’m on holiday next week!

Back to the sewing machine…

Vintage pattern pledge: late but doing it anyway!

5 Aug

I’m joining in the Vintage Pattern Pledge, for the same reason A Stitching Odyssey created the pledge – I love collecting vintage patterns, (mostly from the local op-shops here) but don’t use many of them. The few I have used have been really good, and ended up in some cases becoming TNTs. It’s kind of silly to collect them all and then not use them. Especially when I’ve had such great luck with the few I have used. (might find some more TNTs in there!

I’m going for 5 by the end of this year, but won’t beat myself up if I manage less. And I’ve decided to add in three little clauses of my own to the pledge.

1) Use vintage patterns (or vintage repro, I’m not fussy) that I haven’t used before.

2 Use fabrics I’ve had sitting in my stash forever, that are too good for any pattern! You know, the ones you look at and think ‘one day I’ll find a pattern that does justice to this fabric.’ And you’re still thinking it 5 yrs later. Uh, 10 in some cases… *sheepish* (Well, when your brother sends you 1.5m of silk georgette from Como in Italy, specifically chosen as a present because legend has it that Como was the first place in the west that produced silks, in a stunning green and blue floral pattern, what pattern IS good enough for that???) (I’ve long ago accepted I’ll never cut it. I just take it out every time I ‘shop my stash’ and pet it lovingly.)

3) Make things that fit in with my wardrobe plan, so I’ll actually end up wearing them.

Well, here’s the patterns I’m intending to use:

I’m working on learning the skills to be able to sew my own underwear. I’m good with the stretch-knit undies. I’m working on the woven undies (They’re so similar I don’t really ‘need’ to work on them but I am having fun and gaining experience, so hey!). After that I’m going to work on ‘bralettes’ given a lot of my life is spent in them. Lastly will be full-on underwire bras.

This comes under the bralette category. I’m thinking the red halter second from the top, and/or the one right at the bottom. I’ll probably use up some scraps rather than cutting in to a bigger piece of fabric. That’s still very Virtuous though, I feel.

Simplicity Creative Group - Misses' Vintage 1950's Bra Tops

While I’m still on the bralette subject, I have this pattern from Mrs Depew Vintage. It’s on my bralette-sewing list. I may get to it this year. So pretty!

Vintage Sewing Pattern 1940's Pauline Matching Bra and Tap Panties PDF Print at Home -INSTANT DOWNLOAD-


I want to make some of this style of french knickers, just out of curiousity¬†as to how those gussets work, and how comfortable they might be. Don’t know what fabric yet, either. I’d love to make them up in silk I have had for three or four¬†years, but realistically I’ll use something less expensive to tral it.

These lovlies are from New Vintage Lady on Etsy. I love her shop!

NVL 1940s bra and tap panties pattern set 46 by NewVintageLady


However for my pair, I’m going to draw up this pattern I found through pinterest. Just the undies – unless I go totally nuts and make them all up ūüėõ (Actually… that’s not a bad idea! They look so light, easy to wear and cool. It’s lovely and cold and dry today, but it’s August. October and the ‘build up’ *are Looming O_O )

*The Build Up is the build up to the wet season. It’s very hot, extremely humid and the only saving graces are the magnificent and awe-inspiring storms we get during this season, and – mangoes! YUM!


This one I found through pinterest too. Oh how I ‚̧ pinterest! I drew it up full-sized, based on the schema given, last night. I was presuming it would be too small for me and I’d have to make it bigger, but measuring the flat pattern, it is bigger than it looks. Worth muslining as is, at anyrate. I love that collar…

Fabric? No idea! I do have some ‘my vintage’ fabric I’ve been meaning to make up into a simple top. Like you know, meaning to for 4 yrs, heading fast towards 5! But it’s quite busy and I wonder if the details might obscure the lovely simple lines of the blouse. Or would it work if I had the inside of the collar in a plain co-ordinating fabric?



Another pinterest find. I’m planning on drafting it to my own measurements – short-sleeved of course! I’m loving the style lines of this top, however I’m not entirely sure how I’ll work my bigger-than-A cup-bust. An FBA that still keeps these style lines intact? Hmmm.

I’m not so interested in the trim. The fabric I’m planning to use (some beautiful soft satin cotton sent to my by my ‘Auntie’ Josie a few years ago) is also quite busy. Perhaps the neckline would look good in a co-ordinating plain fabric?¬†*ponders*

Miss Conover's blouse, 1921 | via blueprairie

Lastly, I can’t decide between making a blouse like this (short sleeved and the bow lower so it’s cooler, of course)

Lovely blouse

using this pattern. 1986 IS vintage, right? The fabric that jumps out at me for this is a simple very light grey op-shop find that a burn test suggested was either pure cotten, or cotton/linen mix. It’s a soft fabric. I’m quite in love with it. And being from the op shop it’s of unknown vintage. Perfect!

Butteric 4032


Or do I want to do this one, using a cotton sateen of blue roses on white? Lovely! Both the pattern and fabric have been in my stash at least 4 yrs.

I think that’s all too far in the future to worry about. I may not even get there this year.


However what I have to start on right after finishing this post, is a jacket in blue velvet from this Bolivian Milkmaid’s Jacket from Folkwear – the bottom view, which is the traditional one. Though I cut down some of the excesses of godets, and the width of the sleeves coz I didn’t have enough fabric for the full jacket. Yikes! It took a lot O_O.

I’m heading south at the end of August and I’ll need something nice and warm. Mmm dark blue velvet Mmmm!

Learning to fit a plus-sized friend (Help?)

20 Sep

Recently I’ve come face to face with body-dislike, and the fears and humiliation that so often comes from having a body at all, let alone ¬†a body nowhere close to what our western society tells us it should be. Not my body-dislike, but a friend’s. She’s plus-sized, and describes her body with a genuinely humourous grin as a ‘beach ball’. And she generally seems pretty ok about her body size and image overall.

So I was a dismayed when we started upsizing patterns for her, (there are very few patterns, even plus-sized, that don’t need adjusting upwards for her figure) that she – well she very determinedly didn’t disintegrate into tears. Eeek!

There’ve been a number of posts and conversations over the years in the sewing blogosphere that talk about the effect of sewing on body image. I’ve even chimed in on a few. Recently Karen of¬†Did You Make That posting in¬†The Guardian “Can sewing change your body image?”¬†created a lot of discussion, The Colleterie has visited this issue. Gertie‘s visited it. From comments and posts generally, it seems some people have found sewing to have a negative effect on their body image. Most seem to have found it positive.

I particularly liked Julie’s Doodle Blog’s take on it, that fitting the things she sews is about resolving the differences between patterns and her body, as opposed to when she shops for rtw it becomes a list of ‘problems’ her body has. This is probably closest to how I personally feel about size, fit, and sewing. However I can’t tell you how I feel about rtw shopping because quite honestly I hardly ever do it. I sew, or op-shop, and the sizing in op-shops are all over the place, as are the styles, colours, fabrics, and quite often the clothes themselves! (Oh I ‚̧ op-shopping!)

And I can’t tell you how sewing has or has not affected my own body image because I’ve been making clothes for myself since I was 10, a year or two before my body started developing. I kinda have no ‘before’ and ‘after’ to compare! But I do know the freedom to create exactly what I wanted to wear – within the constraints of a typically small budget, and the fabric available in the local fabric shops or op-shops (no Spotlight in Darwin back then, for good or ill, and no Lincraft ever) has meant that my feelings about my body and clothing is simply another part of the creativeness that infuses the rest of my life.

Sewing aside, I also danced all through my teen years (Ok, ok I still do! I’ll dance on my deathbed!) and my dance teacher’s focus on the quality of movement rather than the shape or size of the body doing the movement probably had an overall far more positive effect on my feelings about my body than any other one thing in my entire life. (Thanks Mrs H! You’re a legend!)

Believe me, my generally healthy body image isn’t bullet-proof. I avoid reading woman’s magazines like the plague¬†– they inevitably make me feel huge, ugly as hell, covered in acne and wrinkles and that my relationships with my partner, mother, daughter and all my friends are in tatters.

But… all in all, for me, the numbers on the tape measure are mostly just a (pretty useful!) fitting tool.

So here I am, not sure how to teach my friend to sew clothes that actually fit her without accidentally shredding her self esteem about her body, in my enthusiasm to teach her to sew clothes that fit and look good on her. I’m hoping the ‘looking good on her’ will win over the “OMG that pattern is HUGE, look at the vast expanse of fabric it takes to cover me” reactions. But getting to the hopefully positive end product may not help if she doesn’t survive the negative feelings fitting her properly is bringing up.

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!

She’s visiting from Melbourne for a month, the day she left home it was raining and 5C *shivers* and she arrived to a balmy 30C here. Oddly enough she didn’t have many clothes suitable for the late dry-season weather we’re having, so we ran up a “pillow-case dress” in a gorgeous bright pink-and-orange hibiscus print. Looks great!. I’d LOVE to post a picture of the first dress we made but she’s not sure if she’s ok with it.

eta: she’s decided she is ok with me adding in her picture here! She’s one brave woman in a lot of ways, and facing her body-image fears is just one of them ūüôā

Invisible zips really ARE easy! How? read on…

23 Oct

I know I know, even I don’t believe that statement – yet! It is gonna take a while for it to sink in that I’ve just set in two invisible zips that turned outperfectly, in the past 2 days.

Ok, so let’s write it all down so I don’t forget for next time, and on the off-chance I can help someone else.

1 Open up the zip and iron the coils flat. OK, so it says so in the instructions that come with it, but of course I had to work out the hard way this really made a difference. I use nylon heat setting which is warm enough to actually DO something but not so hot the zip melts. (Always a bonus!)

2 Stabilise the seam opening edge. I have learnt to do this especially on a curved edge, or if the fabric is a bit soft and flooffy (technical term). However, on a straight-grain seam opening in a reasonably sturdy fabric it doesn’t make much difference.

3 Neaten the seam edge, aka do whatever you need to stop it unravelling. (Let’s be honest about it. In my reality this means overlocking, not an exquisite hong-kong edging ;-P) I find it easier to do this now, rather than once the zip is set in.

4 “Key” the zip. (I think that is the right term, correct me if I am wrong) This step is the Master Step, I have discovered. The one that makes the rest of the setting in sooooo much easier. Attach the top of the zipper tape with a simple straight stitch, to the seam allowance, right where the zip starts. Do this on both sides of the zipper/seam allowances. In other words, line the zip up onto the garment exactly how it will go, then sew it down to the seam allowance at the top of the zip, on both sides; ie you actually sew the top of the zip in place, across the zipper tape and the seam. For some reason this works a zillion times better than pins. It also has the virtue of ensuring the zip matches up evenly on both sides of the opening – extra-useful when the zip crosses a horizontal seam like a yoke or waist seam. AND it makes sure I don’t get muddled up halfway through and set one side in back to front or round about (ask me how I know :-D)

I think this could do with a photo to demonstrate, but I don’t have one yet.

5 Sew the zip in using the invisible zipper foot. I find pinning it in place first made it harder, as the pins just warped the way the fabric was sitting. I also find making the presser-foot as heavy as I can (I have a little tension dial for it) stops foot sliding around on the slippery zipper-tape fabric, thus making everything neater.

6 Sew the seam beneath the invisible zipper up using the standard zipper foot. It is a bit of a pain to change feet so often, but it is soooo worth it. The standard zipper foot allows the invisible zip to sit with the closed teeth vertical, allowing the stitching to get in close to the end of the invisible zip, while keeping the stitching lined up with the zippers stitches on both sides. ¬†If I use my standard everyday foot, the zipper teeth invariably fall over to one side or another, making it impossible to get the stitching to line up with both sides. Even stopping a bit before I get to the teeth isn’t satisfactory with the everyday foot, as it still ends up pushing the two seam allowances below the zip out of alignment. The standard zipper foot eliminates this problem and also allows me to so quite close to the zipper, rather than leaving a little gap I need to sew by hand.

7 Sew the zipper tape to the seam allowance on both sides, below the end of the zip, so that when you want to put the garment on, you don’t have to wrestle to get the zip in the right place to do it up. This is not only good for my temper, I find, but is good for the longevity of that area of the garment, which can otherwise get a bit worn from above-described wrestling. (RTW garments don’t always have this done either. I have been known to do this step on rtw garments too.)

And that, my friends, is the collected wisdom of my invisible zip setting-in to date.



Learning to sew – links to beginner sewing info.

11 May

(If you aren’t enamoured of my diehard¬†imperative¬†to tell stories about sewing, just scroll down to the linky goodness below ;-P)

I have been drinking much tea and gossiping teaching a friend the basics of sewing. For a start, she had lots of alterations and mending she wanted to do. I used to do mending and alterations for the local Red Cross Op Shop and discovered the treasure-trove of learning to be had from rtw clothing construction. I helped her work out how her own rtw garments are constructed, explained how much can be learnt from it, and encouraged her every step of the way.

How my mum taught me to sew

When it comes to the actual sewing, I have simply been teaching her in the same way my mother taught me – explaining how to do something, getting her to do it while being on hand to give further guidance or answer questions.
Then I explain what the next step was and why – and how I worked that out – then repeat the above procedure for that step.
Rinse and repeat rinse! Just like my mum did with me when I was little.

It has been working! Yay! Just like it did for my mother with me.

My friend’s first actual garment project was a half-circle skirt. We ran out of time to finish off, but she asked me to explain what she needed to do to finish. She returned the next week with her skirt completely done. Hurrah! A triumph for her, for me and for her wardrobe.

It’s been making me think a lot about learning to sew.¬†I got quite so frustrated with the Swing Dress pattern because with my experience I knew I could work out how to do the dress regardless of the issues I had with it. But at the back of my mind was the thought “What if I didn’t know how to sort this out?” “What if I was a beginner like my friend and didn’t have the sew-along to help? How would I fare then?”

I guess we all have our own paths, and a few failed dresses here and there certainly never put me or plenty of others off! I learnt from each and every failure, mediocre garment, and stunningly beautiful sewing success I have had. I would just hate to think a difficult pattern at the beginning of a sewing fascination killed the desire to go further.

Happily there is a lot of help to learn to sew out there.

Cruising the interwebs this evening, I found:

  • Pressing – one of the most important things I learnt when taking lessons, was how to press.¬†This post on pressing on Gorgeous Things’ blog. It has a picture demonstrating the difference between a properly pressed seam and one not pressed very well. It demonstrates wonderfully the saying “Well-pressed is half-sewn”.
  • Dud patterns – Sometimes things not going well can simply be because pattern is a dud, rather than lack of experience in the sewist. I really urge learners to read this article on patterns in Threads magazine website, that helps sort the pattern sheep from goats.

And of course, there are masses of tutorials out there, and people who love sewing and are more than happy to share their experience and enthusiasm. Which is one of the bestest of all things about the interwebs!

Travel and ruffles

29 Oct

My Grand Plan for a dance wardrobe came to an abrupt pause when I realised my holiday down south was Looming Large. Attention immediately switched to getting my travel wardrobe er… not so much “up to scratch” as getting it to exist at all.

I backpacked for 3 years in my early 20’s and had the contents of the pack down to a fine art, but I never really worked out how to pack for shorter trips, in particular how to stay warm but not overheat in variable climates.
People say “layer layer layer” but what does that mean?! Seriously, what does it mean? how do you wear more than one layer to start with, and how does that make you warm enough and cool enough for many climates?

In total despair I bought Travelling Light by Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style It turned outto be more about travelling light (like the name said Duh! <— silly me) than packing for different climates. Again that presumed knowledge in the audience. But nonetheless, it gave me so many other ideas and tips I was really glad I had bought it after all. Some of it was really obvious once she had pointed it out, such as

  • everything you take should match each other (she explains clearly how to achieve that).
  • ¬†taking garments made of non-bulky fabric so they pack down into a small space. This was like a lightbulb going off in my head – I know all about packing “non-iron” fabrics, but I’ve never thought of packing non-bulky fabrics. I had done that instinctively while backpacking but never realised its importance.

Anyway, I really do recommend the book, even if all it said about dressing warmly was to (ahem!) layer, and suggested thermal underwear (like wha-??? and where do you get these mysterious items of clothing?) because the book is so GOOD!

I realised I could do with some nice soft, non-bulky but warm pyjamas, seeing how we will be in the mountains of Victoria and the Southern Highlands of NSW for half the trip and the nights, even in November, promise to be cold.
So I went to my trusty local fabric store and found on special some “seaspray” cotton/lycra knit. For t-shirts it is a tad heavy for this climate, but for jammies I thought it a perfect weight. And the colour is fantastic – in the fandeck of colours that suite me I got from Kerryn, it is right between “lemon” and “lime fizz”, a shade usually hard to find. I grabbed it!

I am not the world’s most experienced or enthusiastic knit sewer, but I was Inspired. I have no plans to sleep in them, (ok, another tropical thing – not used to wearing much at all to bed, so a tank top and undies will do for bed) but want to be able to lounge in comfort (and style!) in our various accommodations ranging from riverside self-contained cabins, to medium-nice hotels, to friend’s homes. I pulled out my favourite “Yoga outfit” pattern for the pants and my favourite t-shirt pattern for the top. Having made both a number of times the cutting and basic sewing was quick.

But how to finish them off? I find the classic band-edge both difficult technically and a disappointingly boring result. I have some leftover dark purple polyester knit from my dance wardrobe project, and I love the combination of it with the lemony-lime fizz of the pj’s. And, I confess, although it;s technically a colour that suits me, I have rarely worn lemony-lime fizz before. Getting yellows that suit me has been super-hard till I got the colours from Kerryn’s fabric world. So purple (a lifetime wardrobe staple) will bring the pj’s right back into my comfort-zone.

Embellished edging
My inner children (who says you’re only allowed to have one?) delight in ruffles, so… I used a technique picked up from rtw clothes, and used to good effect previously on this dress.

I satin-stitched the edges of both the ruffles and the main body of the garment (huge job) with a matching rayon thread. Looks gorgeous.  I attached the ruffle by simply pulling the edge of the fabric taut, and sewing the ruffle straight down onto it. The fabric had enough give to return to normal after a wash. I am not sure my pyjama knit does.

This time I wanted to avoid the huge job of satin stitching the ruffle edge, and plan to take advantage of the no-fray property of knit to create a slightly decontructed look. So I simply cut strips of purple; then using a 3mm woven elastic but to 2/3rds the length of the strips, and zigzag, I stretched the elastic to fit the strip and sewed. Wow! First time I’ve done this but certainly won’t be the last. Instant stretchy ruffle for very little time, energy and money. (It’s shown in the top photo)
Now all I have to do is attach it. Photos of me wearing the finished project will have to wait till I am down south and cold enough to wear the jammies for long enough to get a photo of them.


What if they aren’t warm enough? I figure I can put a cardigan over the top. And if I am super-cold I can wrap my sarong round the pants as an overskirt. That is certainly putting one layer on top of another, but not entirely sure that is what this mystical “layering” means… Never mind – can’t wait for my holiday!

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