Saturday, 10 February 2018

Making a Draw String Gift Bag

At this time of year after I've put away the Christmas decorations I  like to have a good tidy up and my husband feels the urge to decorate. I often find projects that I planned ages ago but haven't completed. This happened the other day when I came across a chess set that I had put away planning to make a bag to store it in. So I dug out some oddments of cotton from my bits bag and made this draw string bag.

The dimensions of my bag are 17cm x17cm. I cut 2 pieces from the lining which were 19cm square and set these aside. Then I cut 2 rectangles from the blue fabric 19cm x 32cm to allow for the gathers and the neck of the bag. I stitched each blue piece to one patterned piece, pressed the seams open and placed these right sides together.

I stitched around the edges taking a 1cm seam allowance, leaving a gap of about 4cm along the bottom of the lining to turn the bag out to the right side. Some of you might recognise the lining material from my sleeveless shell top that I wore on holiday in Paris.

Next, I trimmed the corners, pressed the seams open and turned the whole bag right sides out through the gap I had left in lower seam.

As you can just see in this picture, I closed up the hole in the lining with a short section of top stitching. I didn't re-thread my machine with white thread to close the hole because this stitching will be in the bottom of the bag and I reasoned that as it wouldn't be seen the blue cotton didn't matter and it wasn't worth the fiddle. 

I pushed the lining down inside the bag taking care to push the corners into place securely. Then I pressed my bag again. As you can see I had a double layer of blue fabric at the top to form the neck of the bag. I used a white tacking stitch to mark the join between the blue fabric and the lining because I planned to stitch a double row of stitching around the bag to form a casing for the draw strings and needed to stitch this from the outside.

When I turned the bag right side out I could see the row of tacking stitches marking the line for my first row of machine stitching. 

I have a sleeve arm on my sewing machine which is very useful for stitching around circular seams such as sleeves, cuffs and trouser hems and it was ideal for stitching the top of this bag.  I ran two rows of straight stitches around the top of the bag just less than 1cm apart using the presser foot as my guide. Then I unpicked the side seam between these rows of stitches and threaded through two lengths of string, knotting these at each side of the bag. 

Last of all I threaded two wooden beads onto the draw strings. I have seen lots of draw string bags that only have one cord around the top but I think it is definitely worth while using two draw strings. The bag will close much more securely and doesn't slip open on its own if you used two strings. 

Monday, 5 February 2018

My Second Version of the Silk Woven Tee

This top is my second version of the Silk Woven Tee from the Great British Swing Bee book, Fashion with Fabric. I bought this fabric thinking it was a woven lace but when I came to cut it out I realised that it was actually knitted and had a slight stretch. This was really good news because I knew from making it before here that if I made this top in a slightly stretchy fabric I wouldn't need to put in the side zip. 

When I saw this fabric it was love at first sight... I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to make a simple, short-sleeved top.

The top layer of the fabric is  cream, knitted lace with a design of flowers and dots. The wrong side is a knitted mesh. These two layers are loosely bound together and easily pulled apart during construction.

Cutting out was easy. There was no need to match this all over floral pattern and the fabric didn't fray too badly when it was cut. I stitched all of the seams with a small zigzag stitch to allow some stretch in the seams and to prevent them from popping later. I used the 0.5 width setting on my machine for this.

The pattern advised me to press the seams open and neaten the seam allowances separately. This didn't work at all well for my soft, slightly stretchy fabric. The seem allowances were too soft to lie flat. When I tried to neaten the edges they stretched and the layers of fabric came apart. Instead I put the seam allowances together and neatened them with my overlock stitch. Then I pressed the seam allowances towards the back of the garment throughout. The overlocked seams gave my T-shirt some much needed structure.

I used a light weight iron-on interfacing to give the neck facing more body, which I also neatened with the overlock stitch. I under-stitched the facing close to the seam to keep it in place. I think this has been especially necessary for this fabric which doesn't hold a press at all well. 

Last of all I took up a 2cm hem on the sleeves and a 3cm hem around the bottom which I stitched by machine for quickness. It really was a lovely quick project.

I took these photos in a sunny spot at home and I have to say that I am very pleased with the way this top turned out, so I have included a review of the pattern below

Pattern Review:

Pattern description
A simple T-Shirt with a classic set in sleeve and neckline finished with a facing.

Pattern Sizing
Women's size 8 - 20. I made size 12.

Did it look like the photograph in the book once I had made it?
Yes it did.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The Fashion to Fabric book has really good instructions for each pattern and also includes all the basic sewing techniques in the first half of the book. There are lots of diagrams and all of the sewing terms are explained. This would be a very good place for an absolute beginner to start.

Fabric used
This pattern is especially designed for woven fabrics, but I have made it twice now in a stretch material. My first in scuba and this version in a double knitted lace. 

Any alterations I made to the pattern.
I omitted the zip from both versions of this T-shirt that I have made in stretch fabric. It pulls on over my head without any difficulty at all. 
For this version I opted to neaten the seam allowances together with the overlock stitch from my sewing machine. I do not own an overlocker. The pattern advised you to press the seam open but instructions are included for zigzagging a closed seam on page 29 of the book in the instructions for neatening raw edges. 

Would I make this again and recommend it?
Yes I would make it again. I have already made two. This is a quick, easy make. Any challenge to your sewing skills will come from your fabric choice and not from the pattern, which is very easy. Inserting a side zip is not easy so if I do make another T-shirt in a woven fabric it will take me longer and be a bit more of a challenge. 

I think this is an ideal wardrobe basic and a good project for anyone who is just starting to sew their own clothes.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A Simple Little Pencil Case

This Christmas I had a set of Sharpies as a gift. They didn't come in a case or a box like so many pens do so I ended up putting them in a freezer bag, but I needed a pencil case to keep them in.

I hate to spend time re-inventing the wheel if I don't need to and I had a pattern for a simple, lined pencil case in my Cath Kidston Sewing Book. I used the pattern exactly as it is in the book without making any changes and I am very pleased with the result, but it would be very easy to change the dimensions if I  wanted a larger or smaller pencil case.

This project used up small pieces from my stash,  which was very satisfying. I originally made a bag from this sturdy fabric as a present for a friend here and had a small amount left over. I am so glad that I saved it. You never know when some small pieces of fabric will come in useful.

For the pencil case I needed 2 rectangles from my medium weight blue fabric, two rectangles from the pink cotton lining fabric the same size and one 25 cm long zip. The first step was to turn under a seam allowance and top stitch the main pieces to the zip tape. I tacked these panels in place first to hold them level and to stop the fabric slipping as I stitched. I used a zip foot to make sure that the stitching was close to the edge.

The with the zip open I pinned the main fabric panels right sides together and stitched down one side, across the bottom and up the other side.

I trimmed the bottom corners. pressed the seams open and turned the pencil case right sides out.

Next I turned down 1 cm at the top of the lining pieces and stitched the two pieces together. Again I trimmed the bottom corners and pressed the seam allowances open.

With wrong sides together I slipped the lining inside the pencil case and carefully slip-stitched the top of the lining to the zip tape just above the line of machine stitching. I used thread that closely matched the zip tape and small stitches so that these stitches are invisible from the outside.

Here is my lovely pencil case, just the right size to hold all of my sharpies and so much nicer than the freezer bag I was using before!

For the finishing touch I tied a short piece of cord to the zip pull and threaded on some painted, wooden beads. This was a great addition, suggested by Cath Kidston, which makes it so much easier to open the zip.

Monday, 29 January 2018

The first of my MAKENINE - The Drapey Knit Dress

I know that I am not at the forefront of the sewing world and that this dress pattern came out in 2015, but I am pleased to say that I have completed my first MAKENINE project before the end of January. So  here is my version of the Great British Sewing Bee Drapey Knit Dress, and I have to say that it has turned out better than I expected. I have worried about this make from the beginning but when I wore it to church today, it was comfortable and it made me feel good.

This is a very unconventional pattern, which is what attracted me in the first place. It is based on Japanese cutting styles. I have always been fascinated by Japanese patterns but have never tried something like this before. I bought this piece of medium weight jersey intending to make this dress but the problem with pattern books is that they are so heavy that I didn't take the book with me when I was shopping and as usual I hadn't made any notes but was shopping from memory. The instructions say "stable double knit jersey". My knit fabric was quite stretchy... I think something like a scuba would have worked better and made a smarter dress. Having said this I really like my dress now that it is finished.

I made this dress using my conventional sewing machine, I haven't got an overlocker but my machine has an overcast stitch which I use all the time for sewing stretch fabrics. I began by following the instructions in the pattern and sewed 1.5 cm seams with a narrow zigzag. First I attached the pockets and I was fascinated to see how the two front pieces attached  and folded into place to make the asymmetric pleat at the neck. But, it was at this point that my stretchy fabric began to cause problems. Everything seemed so stretchy and my dress front didn't have enough structure. I pressed the seams open but the fabric was too springy and it wouldn't hold the press. I was about the throw everything in the bin but at this point I had nothing to loose so ignoring the pattern I finished the seams the way I usually do with jersey. I neatened both seam allowances together with the overcasting stitch and suddenly my dress began to take shape. 

I hope that you can see in this photograph that all of the seams have been stitched first with a narrow zig-zag and then neatened with the overlocking stitch. I am afraid that it isn't very clear because the cotton I used was a very good match and doesn't show up very well. These reinforced seams gave the dress the structure it needed and luckily I hadn't throw it all in the bin.

I like the neck detail very much. You need to read the instructions closely to make sure you cut out the left and right fronts the right way round. They are not the same. The fabric and pattern pieces both need to lie right sides up otherwise the pleat will fold over the other way. 

The pattern calls for a knit or bias interfacing which is ironed on to the neck facing. Instead, I decided to use a light weight conventional interfacing. This has given the neck facing a bit more body and so the dress hangs better from the neck. I ironed on the interfacing and neatened it around the edge with the overlock stitch to avoid a bulky hem.  I know from experience that if I wear this dress a lot the interfacing will eventually begin to tear, but by then the dress will be showing some wear and tear in lots of other ways too. 
I graduated the seam allowance around the neck and used my pinking shears to clip the wider seam. The neck lies nice and flat despite the layers of bulky jersey in the folded sections. I was very careful to under-stitch the facings to the seam allowance just 3mm from the seam.

I don't usually make dresses with pockets. I know that some people wouldn't make anything without, but I don't like the lumps and bumps. This dress relies on the pockets to emphasise the line of the hips and I like this feature too. The pockets gape just enough to see that they are there.

The back of the dress is cut in one piece with kimono sleeves and here I think that my soft, draping fabric works well.

Last of all I finished the hems with a stretch twin needle. I really enjoyed wearing this dress today and the sun came out this morning so that we could take these photos outside before more black clouds came over.

and here come those black clouds!!
I am looking forward to wearing my new dress to work during the cold weather. I think I will probably make this pattern again in a double knit jersey of scuba and may try some more Japanese style patterns in future. Have you made any that you really liked? I would be very interested to hear your recommendations.

Sunday, 21 January 2018


I know this is an Instagram initiative and I wasn't planning on making any new year resolutions this year but I have been enjoying looking at everyone else's plans so much. While I was having a January turn out I went to my stash cupboard and I had so many beautiful fabrics (and some rather boring ones) which I had bought with projects in mind. I began to feel inspired and so I turned to my box of patterns and before I knew where I was I had started to make plans. So.... I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and write this post. It seemed a good idea to come up with a plan and even if I don't get everything done it will be good to have a sense of direction at the start of this year. Knowing me I will soon be going off at a tangent so don't say I didn't warn you!!

1. The Drapey Knit Dress, Great British Sewing Bee, Fashion with Fabric

I believe that this pattern is available as a free download here from Love Sewing Magazine, but I have the book "Fashion with Fabric", which I bought when it was on special offer at WH Smiths and I have always wanted to have a go at this project. I have read quite a few bloggers saying that this dress is just not their style, but I have to say that it is mine. Or at least it is a style that I aspire to. I love the pictures of this dress in the book. It is unusual and edgy and looks so comfortable. I don't really like the stripy version, although it does look good on other people, but I love the blue one and think it would be a useful addition to my wardrobe. I was convinced when I saw the version made by  Laura at Sew Different. I bought some medium weight, blue jersey a while ago. It isn't my favourite fabric but I thought I could use it to have a go at this dress and I have to admit that I have already made a start. If I like the fit I may make another one in a nicer fabric, perhaps a scuba like the one Laura made.
On the other hand I may make it and find that it looks terrible on me. I should know soon.

2. Silk Woven Tee, Great British Sewing Bee, Fashion with Fabric

After my success making a Scuba Tee from the "Fashion with Fabric" book here I planned to try another one, this time with a woven fabric, so I may need to put the zip in the side seam. I bought this lovely lace brocade with the t-shirt in mind. I thought it was cream and black but on closer inspection the backing lace seems to be a very dark navy. Ever impatient; this one is already cut out and ready to sew.

3. Gold, Semi-Fitted Skirt, Butterick B466

I have seen several nice outfits in gold and navy recently and bought this lovely, textured fabric planing to make a simple skirt. I will make a matching lining because I think it may be a bit rough on the inside and might snag my tights and I really dislike separate slips, although I recognise how useful they can be. The fabric is a loose weave and  frays very easily so I also plan to bind all the raw edges. I haven't used this pattern before but it is simple so I can put my efforts into achieving a really neat finish.

4. Navy Striped Sweatshirt

I bought this navy striped jersey planning to make a sweat shirt. This will be the first time I have made a sweat shirt so I don't have a tried and tested pattern. I  wondered whether Simplicity pattern K8260 would be suitable. My alternative plan is to make the oversized T-Shirt from Maker's Atelier in the long sleeved version.

5. A Coatigan, Butterick B6258
I first came across the term coatigan reading the blog Groovybaby....and mama. What a wonderful combination, a cross between a coat and a cardigan. I reasoned that if this was a practical garment for the Danish weather it would also be useful here in the UK. I have been planning to make one for some time, although I may need to buy some fabric for this project despite my extensive stash.  This pattern came free with Dressmaker magazine Nov-Dec 2016. I have made the dress and top and they are a good fit for me. There is a lovely version in mustard in the magazine. I really want to avoid making too much in black. I am finding that black isn't so flattering as you get older because it can drain all of the colour from your face.

If this project is successful I would like to make a pattern hack with a waterfall front. 

6. Cross Body Bag
I am desperately in need of a new bag. I made this one, use it every day and it is now wearing out and looking very scruffy.

There are lots of free patterns on the internet. This one came from Sewing World, June 2014. Susan Dunlop who designed the bag has a website, SusieDDesigns where there are lots of inspiring ideas. I just hope the old bag holds out until I get a new one finished.

6. Possible culottes, Butterick B4807

This pattern was a charity shop find. It goes up to size 12 and I am usually a size 14. I don't think it will be too difficult to make the pattern slightly larger and I plan to add these culottes to my spring wardrobe. This pattern is described as Fast and Easy. An unfortunate use of words, which in the UK can mean a woman of dubious morals, but I know what they mean and won't let that put me off!! It needs a stretch jersey fabric and I am a bit concerned that there are no fastenings at the waist or elastic to hold the culottes up. It will be a bit of an experiment, I think, and I will let you know how I get on.

7. A shirt for my sister, New Look 6598

I bought this fabric promising to make a shirt for my sister who lives in Alice Springs in Australia. It is a cotton fabric suitable for the hot weather in central Australia and will remind her of the English hedgerows because of the assorted Umbellifera or Cow Parsley in the design. I have had the fabric since the summer and haven't even cut it out yet. She has always said she isn't good at sewing but is now putting me to shame making all sorts of things including the lovely bag she sent me at Christmas, so I need to get on and make this. She chose this pattern herself when she last came to visit and has already made two so I know it fits and she likes it. Hopefully this project can be finished in time for her birthday in March.

8. Camisole Top Hack, Great British Sewing Bee, Fashion with Fabric again.
By the time I have made all of these things the weather might be getting warmer. I cut out a summer dress in this very fine,  draping, viscose material last year and it wasn't at all suitable so I never finished it. Rather than waste this beautiful fabric I thought I would try a camisole top for the summer

9. Summer Wrap Skirt, McCall's M5430

Thinking about warmer weather again I have this beautiful embroidered sari. I would like to turn this into a wrap skirt to wear on holiday. The embroidery is backed by paper and it won't be washable so I thought a skirt would have a longer lifetime. There is so much fabric in a sari that I will have enough to make a self lining for my skirt, which would otherwise be sheer.

I hope that you enjoy browsing through my plans for 2018. It remains to be seen how far I get before my plans go astray, but I feel excited to be making a start and the discipline has made me realise how much fabric I have tucked away that I really should use. My first year of blogging has just passed and I am looking forward to the next 12 months hoping that I can continue to make contact with others who share my interests and keep learning new skills as I go along.

Thank you for visiting