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Adapting Sewing Patterns with Claire-Louise Hardie

If you've decided to dress-make because you're frustrated with high street clothes not fitting well, then you will probably need to learn some basic pattern alteration skills. 
Getting the fit right is trial an error, and PRACTISE! Give yourself time, and allow yourself to make some mistakes. Even as a professional seamstress I still make some rookie mistakes and boo boo's! 
ALWAYS use your actual body measures, and compare to the size chart of the pattern company you've chosen! Please don't assume your high street size is your pattern size, sometimes it might be, but more often it's not.
Before you get started, try on some of the clothes in your closet that don't fit you well and analyze where the fit is poor. Making a note of these issues will help you think about what fitting skills you need to learn. If you're making for yourself you don't need to learn every alteration under the sun! 
Take some time to understand ease and how finished garment measures can help you really fine tune the fit of clothes and sizing.
Suggested Further Reading
 Perfect fit - Simple clear photos. Although dated, it’s an easy to use book.
Fit for real people - this book has lots of fitting tips for all figures but doesn’t include trousers. The Authors “Palmer Pletsch” are also pattern designers for McCalls and their patterns all include fitting tips and alterations lines not found on other patterns.
Create the Perfect Fit - A recent acquisition which has a fresh approach to fitting.
Essential Tools 
Paper 
Scissors 
Tape Measure 
A pencil/some coloured pencils 
A french curve or fashion ruler 
Seam measuring gauge 
Dressmakers tissue paper 
Scotch  magic tape  
Fine dressmaking pins 
Length of elastic or black tape (waist length) 
A full length mirror and a hand held mirror 
Nice to have Tools 
Sellotape dispenser -­ makes a handy pattern weight 
Wrist pin cushion 
Cardboard Cutting Mat 
How to Measure Yourself
1) Make sure you’re wearing close-fitting clothes like a vest top and tights, or underwear.
2) Tie a piece of elastic snugly around your waist, and move about a bit. This will help you find your natural waist. Even though fashion dictates that clothes rarely sit right on the natural waist these days, patterns have all been cut from this measurement, so that’s the one you need to use.
3) Make sure the tape measure is firm. Too tight or too loose and you’ll get the wrong size.
4) When you take the measurements, keep the tape measure horizontal, and try and look straight ahead.
These are the main measurements you’ll need to determine pattern size. 
How to Choose your Correct Pattern Size 
The most important thing to remember about sewing from Commercial patterns is that the sizing is VERY DIFFERENT to High street ready to wear sizes. Generally pattern sizes are about 2 sizes smaller than British High Street sizing. The only way you can get good fitting clothes from a pattern is to compare your own body measurements with the size chart provided on the pattern. For example if you wear a UK 10, then you may need a pattern size 14 in vogue, a 16 in burda, and an 6 in a collette pattern. The sizing varies across all pattern companies, so always start with your own body measurements.
I like to think of this as Step 1 in the process, as depending on the amount of ease in a pattern I may choose a bigger or smaller size based on my personal preference for how loose or tight I want the garment to be. Use my blank measurement chart below, to make a note of your own measurements.
You need to make a note of an unfamilar measurement on your personal chart, which is the high bust. This helps determine whether or not you need to make bust adjustments to the pattern. 
If your full bust measurement is bigger than your high bust measurement by more than 6.5 cm (2½ in.), then you’ll need to do a full bust adjustment (FBA). Use your high bust measurement as your pattern size in your personal chart Otherwise use your full bust.
The last three columns on your personal chart refer to the pattern size closest to each of your body measures, and this will help you ‘blend’ between pattern sizes. For example, you may be closest to a 10 on the bust, a 12 at the waist and a 14 on the hip. 
Using Finished Garment Measures to Refine Size Selection 
All clothes need wearing Ease! This is the extra you need to allow for movement. For example if you cut a skirt to exactly the same size as your body measures, then it’s impossible to breathe or walk! You need all your clothes to be a little bigger than you, so they’re comfortable to wear. Minimum wearing ease is a matter of taste, but as a rough guide you need 1.5 inches at bust, 1 inch at waist and 1.5 inches around the hips. 
Now for STEP 2: When choosing a size, you should consider the amount of “Design Ease” that’s been allowed in a pattern. Design Ease is the amount of extra fabric in the garment over and above your own body measurements. If you compare your actual measures plus wearing ease with the finished garment measures for each pattern you use, you’ll be able to see how fitted or baggy the garment will be. You can choose to go up a size if the pattern has come up tight, or down a size if the pattern seems very loose. 
CL' s Top Tip: Use your tape measure around your body at the finished garment measurement to really see if this is the size that suits you. 
How to Blend Between Sizes
Most of us need to blend several pattern sizes to get a good fit.
Let’s say your hip measure is close to a 14, But you're a 10 at the bust, and a 12 at the waist. 
Using a curved ruler draw a new shaped line between the bust to waist, and then between the waist to the hips hips to the bust. Your pattern is now tailored to your own unique body! 
This illustration shows part of the pattern piece for the back of a fitted dress in three sizes - 10, 12 and 14. The blue lines are the pattern lines for each size; the red line is our hand drawn blending line between sizes, shaping the dress from a size 10 at the bust, through a size 12 at the waist and a size 14 at the hips.
Tip: Use a coloured pencil for your blending lines, as multi sized patterns can make to hard to see where to cut!
Demystifying Pattern Markings
If you’ve never used a sewing pattern before, you may be baffled by all the marks and symbols printed onto the pattern. Pattern terminology is a bit like learning a new language. Unlike a language, however, there’s a limited number of terms or symbols to learn, so it’s really quick to pick it up. These are the main things you’ll be looking out for on sewing patterns:
Grainline Arrows
This long, straight line with arrows at one or both ends is pinned parallel to the selvedge of your fabric. This ensures that all your garments will hang correctly without any twisting.
Place to Fold
This indicates that the edge of the pattern needs to sit flush with a fold in your fabric. 
Notches
These little triangles are positioned around the outer edges of your pattern pieces. They help you know how to join the pieces together. Once the paper pattern with all the writing on it has been removed from the fabric, you’ll need these guides. As a general rule, single notches are used to denote the front sections of a garment and double notches are used on the back. Once you’ve cut out your pieces, make sure you snip these little markers into the edge of your fabric. 
Cutting Lines
The outside edges of all the pattern pieces are indicated on multi-sized patterns by a series of solid and dashed lines. These will be numbered by size. Where there are lots of sizes marked closely together, it can be confusing. Go over the cutting lines for your size in coloured pencil before you trace.
Circle with a Cross Through It
This symbol marks the main fitting lines on the body, i.e. the bust, waist and hip. Sometimes the finished garment measurements are printed alongside these symbols.
Lengthening/Shortening Lines
This is the position at which that’s best to either add an extra bit of paper to make your pattern longer, or to fold the pattern to make it shorter. By lengthening or shortening along these lines, you won’t disrupt the proportion of the pattern’s design.
Triangular Lines with Circles
The outside lines of the triangle indicate the stitching lines for darts. Darts are used to create shaping in your garments.
Parallel Lines with Circles at Bottom and a Single Arrow Inbetween
This indicates the position of pleats in the fabric, with the fabric being folded in the direction of the arrow.
Squares, Circles & Triangles
These are used to mark the end of openings, or at the end of stitch lines such as gathers. They are also used to mark the position of details such as pockets. 
Buttonhole & Button Positions 
This shows where you will mark up and sew the buttonholes on your garments. There is a corresponding mark for the button position, too. 
Making Clothes That Fit
Fitting is more of an art form than a science and, like all great art the secret is practice. It’s impossible to make one pattern that will ft all the body variations that exist. Generally, women’s sewing patterns are cut for someone who is 165cm (5 ft 5 in.) tall, is a B cup and has standardly proportioned hips, waist and bust measurements. Only around 25% of people will fall perfectly into the standard pattern sizes. To cover all the ftting variations would be an entire book all of it’s own,but fear not: there are a few common alterations that can easily be made to paper patterns to make them unique to you. 
Altering the Length
Always adjust the length before making any width adjustments. Paper pattern have lengthen and shorten lines, which have been added at points that won’t affect the overall shape of the garment. If there are no lengthen or shorten lines, then you can add or shorten at the bottom of the pattern piece.
1) Lengthening. Cut between the two lengthen and shorten lines. Spread the pattern pieces apart by the amount that you need to lengthen by. Slide a piece of tracing paper underneath to fill in the space. Make sure to line up all vertical lines like the grain line. Stick the pattern to the tracing paper. Use a pencil and a ruler to true up the outside edges.
2) Shortening. Fold the pattern along its lengthen and shorten line. Make a tuck in the pattern that’s half the amount by which you’d like to shorten the pattern; for example, if you want to shorten by 2 cm (3/4 in.), make a 1-cm (3/8-in.) tuck. Stick down the tuck to the paper pattern, either above or below the line. Use a ruler and pencil to match up and re-draw the outside lines.
Moving Bust Darks Up or Down
Your bust may not be at the same height as the one on the pattern, so you may need to raise or lower the bust darts. Darts are angled, making them a little awkward to re-draw freehand. This technique is really simple and there is no complicated geometry involved, plus all the shaping at the side seam remains intact.
1)  Use a ruler and a pencil to draw a rectangular box around the dart. Cut around the box.
2) Slide the box up or down by the amount you need to raise or lower. Make sure you keep the cut edges parallel. Stick the box into its new position and fill in the space with some tracing paper. Use a ruler and pencil to match up and re-draw the outside lines. 
Adjusting for a Narrow or Broad Back
If you find that clothes strain at the back, and you end up buying a bigger size that then doesn’t fit your front, then the chances are you have a broad back. If clothes stand away from your spine along the centre of your back, then a narrow back adjustment can help. This is the real beauty of dressmaking: we can fine-tune the fit exactly where we need it. This technique is really similar to moving darts.
Narrow Back
1) Some patterns come with an adjustment line for narrow or broad backs drawn on. If your pattern doesn’t, draw a vertical line down from the shoulder, starting 3 cm (1¼ in.) from the armhole and ending just below the bottom of the armhole. Draw a second line out to the side of the pattern, at a right angle from this point.
2) Cut along the two lines, and slide the armhole side over, lapping the paper. Stick in place. There are no hard and fast rules, but generally a 6-mm (¼-in.) adjustment is enough. Play around with this amount as you develop your fitting skills.
3) Use a ruler and pencil to match up and redraw the side seam. N.B. You’ll need to make the front shoulder a little shorter to match.
Broad Back
1) Start in the same way as for a narrow back adjustment, drawing the two lines and cutting out the armhole section. 
2) Instead of overlapping the cut pattern pieces, spread them apart. Again there are no hard and fast rules, but a 6–12-mm (¼–½-in.) adjustment is usually enough.
3) Fill in the space with some tracing paper and stick the pieces together. Use a ruler and a pencil to match up and re-draw the outside of the side seam. Again, you’ll need to make the front shoulder a little longer to match.
Making a Full or Small Bust Adjustment
As most patterns are cut to fit a B cup, you may need to make a full bust adjustment if you’re bigger or smaller than a B. While this can seem a little daunting to anyone new to pattern adjustments, it really can make a massive difference to how your clothes fit. If you have a small frame with a full bust, and you use your bust measurement to select a pattern size, the chances are that the clothes won’t fit around your neck, chest and armhole. If you’re smaller-busted, you may have unsightly excess fabric folding around the bust.
How to Work Out if You Need a Bust Adjustment
If your full bust measurement is bigger than your high bust measurement by more than 6.5 cm (2½ in.), then you’ll need to do a full bust adjustment (FBA). Use your high bust measurement as your pattern size.
The process of adapting the pattern for both a full bust adjustment and a small bust adjustment (SBA) is the same, except that for an FBA you spread the pattern to add space, whereas for an SBA you reduce space by overlapping the pattern pieces.
There’s no exact science to measure how much of a bust adjustment you’ll need. It also depends on the garment you’re making. If making a loose- fitting garment with masses of ease, then you could skip making bust adjustments; for more fitted garments, however, you would need some adjustment. The best starting point is to subtract your high bust measurement from your full bust measurement and divide the difference in two. We’ve given two examples below, and a space for your measurements.
Preparing the Pattern Pieces for a FBA
1) Lay the tissue pattern against yourself to establish where your bust point or apex is. Mark this on the pattern with a cross.
2) Using a ruler and pencil, draw a vertical line from the marked point to the hem. Make sure that this line is parallel to the grain line on the pattern.
3) From the top of this vertical line, draw a second line up towards the armhole, hitting the lower third of the armhole. Together these two lines are called Line 1. 
4) Draw a second line horizontally through the middle of the bust dart, meeting Line 1 at the bust point. 
5) Draw a third line horizontal line a little above the hem between Line 1 and the centre front of the pattern. 
6) Cut along Line 1 from the hem to the armhole, making sure you do not cut all the way through the armhole. Leave a hinge so that you can pivot the paper. The point of the dart has now swung away from its original position. 
7) Cut through the line in the middle of the dart, again leaving a little hinge at the tip of the dart so you can pivot.
8) Line up the cut edges of Line 1 so they’ve been spread apart by the amount of your FBA. The edges should be parallel to one another. You’ll notice that your dart has now spread apart, too, and become bigger.
9) The lower edge of your hem no longer meets at the bottom, as the side that has been adjusted is now longer. Cut along the third line that you drew, and spread the pieces apart until your hem is level.
Preparing the Pattern Pieces for a SBA
1) Draw in the lines as per an FBA adjustment. This is essentially the same process as an FBA adjustment in reverse. Draw in the lines on the pattern, and cut along lines 1 and 2 in exactly the same way as for an FBA adjustment. 
2) Pivot the darted side of the pattern across the other side by the desired SBA amount. 
3) The lower edge of the hem no longer meets at the bottom, as the side that has been adjusted is now shorter. Cut along the third line you drew, and overlap the pattern pieces until your hem is level.
How to Fit
As with most aspects of sewing, there are many schools of thought and methods of fitting. It’s up to you to decide which is for you, and how much time you’re prepared to invest at the fitting stage. Whatever your process, the best trick for fitting is to ‘Fit as you sew’. Fitting your clothes at several points in the construction process will save you needless unpicking, and is the single best advantage of sewing your clothes rather than buying them. Always fit before adding a waistband or hemming, as it’s easier to fine tune side seams without them.
Tissue Fitting
This is a process whereby you pin the paper pattern pieces together and try it on like a garment. This method is pretty quick, and you can quickly see the outline of a garment. If you realise that the style is not for you, you’ve wasted no money on cloth. Another advantage of tissue fitting is that you can correct fit issues that would be impossible to fix once the cloth had been cut. Tissue fitting can replace the need to make a test garment. The disadvantage of this type of fitting is that the paper doesn’t sit around the body in the same way as cloth. It can also be fiddly to do on your own.
Making a Toile or Muslin
This involves making up a test garment in an inexpensive fabric that is similar in weight to the fabric you plan to use. Traditionally calico or muslin is used in couture to make these mock-ups or toiles. Many home sewers choose to make a wearable muslin, in a much cheaper fabric. so they aren’t wasting time sewing up a test version. If you’re making a new garment in fabric that’s extremely costly, then a toile is an excellent idea! Bridal wear and complicated garments are also worth making up as a toile. Simple clothes that aren’t very complicated may not require the use of a toile. Once you’ve fitted a toile, the alterations can be transferred to your paper pattern. 
Pin Fitting
This technique is somewhere between the two previous methods, and is a great time saver. Once you have cut out your pieces in the cloth, pin the seams together as if you were going to sew, and then try it on with the pins in place. You can do this with the garment inside out, or with the right sides facing out. I often pin fit inside out to save time, as the alterations can be marked directly onto the wrong side of the fabric.
Adjusting the Top of Sleeves
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than a sleeve without enough space around the top arms. Like the rest of the pattern, sleeves are cut to a standard size and your arms may not be standard. It’s deceptively easy to think that all you need to do is add extra width under the armhole, but this won’t fix the problem. This technique, like the FBA, adds extra space right where you need it, by slashing and spreading the pattern. And like the FBA, you can do it in reverse if you need to adjust for slim arms.
Tip: To work out how much adjustment you’ll need to make, measure your biceps. The distance across the sleeve from the armhole to armhole should measure be your bicep measure plus 4cm (1½ in.). The difference between the pattern and your measurement is how much extra to add or take away.
1) Draw a straight vertical line from the middle point of the sleeve head to the hem. Then draw a horizontal line joining the two underarm points.
2) Cut along both lines, making sure you do not cut through the armhole edges or the hem. Leave a hinge to pivot with, so that you don’t change the length of the seams or hem.
3) In the middle, where the two drawn lines overlapped, spread your sleeve pattern out by the extra amount you need. The pattern pieces will need to overlap horizontally to allow this area to spread.
4) Anchor the pattern pieces together once you’ve spread the pattern by the desired amount, anchor the pieces together, then fill in the space with tracing paper and stick in place.
5) Using a curved ruler and a pencil, redraw the curve around the top of the sleeve head, which may have become distorted.
Fitting Trousers
The complicated relationships between all the curved shapes in a pair of trousers mean there are many, many fitting adjustments that could be made. In fact, there are whole books dedicated just to fitting trousers. Here are a couple of the most common adjustments to get you started.
Crotch Depth & Crotch Length
In terms of trouser making, these are the most important measures to get your head around. Crotch depth is the distance between your waist and crotch line. To measure your crotch depth, sit on a chair and measure the distance from your waist to the chair. It’s what defines the rise of your trousers, and can vary massively.
The process used to adjust crotch depth is basically the same process as lengthening and shortening (see page XX). Slash a line along the hip-line and add in extra paper if you need to lengthen or make a tuck if you need to shorten the pattern. 
Crotch length is the measurement from the front waist, between your legs to the back waist. Measure from your front waist, between your legs to your back waist.
Adjusting Crotch Length
1) Compare your measurements to those of the pattern around the curved crotch seam, and then divide the difference in half.
2) Mark a point 8 cm (3 in.) below the waistline on both crotch seams. Draw a line from this mark horizontally across to the side seam, then cut along the lines, making sure to leave a hinge at the side seams.
3) To lengthen the crotch, spread the pattern apart by the desired amount, making sure to hinge at the side seams. Fill in the gap with tracing paper and stick in place.
4) To reduce the crotch length, overlap the pattern pieces at the crotch by the desired amount and tape in place.
Transferring Pattern Markings
Your paper pattern has lots of information written on it that will help you sew up your clothes, so before you whip off the paper pattern and pack it away, you’ll need to transfer those marking onto your fabric. If you’re sewing a fairly simple project, there are likely to be just a few essential markings. More complicated projects may have lots more details, such as pockets, that you’ll need on your fabric. 
You’ll need to use some marking tools for this job. There are lots of options to choose from, so we’ll start with the basics. 
Tailor's Chalk Slabs
Available in several colours, this a very cheap product that lasts for ages. The downside is that you need to keep sharpening the edges as they dull. The chalk brushes out of most fabric, but always do a pre-test on a scrap of fabric to make sure. Useful for drawing in hemlines, the legs of darts, pockets and anything where you need to see a stitching line. These are a pencil with tailor’s chalk inside. Again there’s a range of colours available. The pencils give a fine line and can be sharpened with a pencil sharpener. They are more expensive than chalk slabs.
Marking Pens
There are lots of special pens available that are either air or water-soluble and disappear from the fabric. You need to test on your fabric before committing to these, as on some fabrics they will stay visible. These are really popular and more expensive than the chalk pencils.
Tracing Wheel & Dressmakers Carbon Paper
These are very useful and quick to use. Place the carbon paper between the pattern and the wrong side of the fabric. The coloured side of the carbon paper needs to face the wrong side of the fabric. Use the tracing wheel to roll over the pattern marks. When you peel the pattern back, you’ll see a row of coloured dots on your fabric. Make sure you’ve marked both halves of your garment.
How to Transfer Specific Pattern Markings
Your paper pattern has lots of information written on it that will help you sew up your clothes, so before you whip off the paper pattern and pack it away, you’ll need to transfer those marking onto your fabric. If you’re sewing a fairly simple project, there are likely to be just a few essential markings. More complicated projects may have lots more details, such as pockets, that you’ll need on your fabric. 
You’ll need to use some marking tools for this job. There are lots of options to choose from, so we’ll start with the basics.
Marking Notches
These are the most basic of markings and appear as small triangles on the edges of your pattern pieces. Use the tip of your scissors to cut out a small triangle in the seam allowance of the fabric. Don’t make the cut too large, as it will weaken your seam allowance. 
Marking Out Darts
Darts are usually marked with lines drawn onto the pattern and circles positioned over the lines. Use either the pin-marking technique on the circles, or tailor’s tacks if you’re working with a tricky fabric. It’s a good idea to mark in the sewing lines with either some chalk and a ruler or carbon paper and a tracing wheel.
Tip: When sewing with sheers or delicate fabrics, cut notches outwards rather than cutting into the seam allowance.
Marking Dots & Circles on Cottons & Robust Fabrics
This is a super-quick technique called pin marking. 
1) Pass a pin through the centre of the circle or mark you want to transfer. Slide the pin all the way through the pattern and both layers of fabric.
2)  Open the two layers of fabric without removing the pin, and use a chalk slab or a marking pencil to mark where the pin pricks the fabric.
3)  Do the same on the other side of the fabric.
Marking Dots & Circles on Sheer or Woolen Fabrics
Pin marking is a great technique, but on woollen and sheer fabrics, the chalk mark is likely to fall off the surface. For these types of fabrics it’s best to use an old-fashioned tailor’s tack or thread mark. 
1) Thread up a needle with a double thread. Make a stitch through the circle, ensuring that it’s gone through both layers of fabric. Leave a 2.5-cm (1-in.) tail.
2) Make a second stitch in the same spot so that you have sewn a loop. Cut the thread so that there’s another 2.5-cm (1-in.) tail.
3) Gently open the two layers of fabric and cut the threads in the middle. There’s now some thread on either side of your pieces.
Common Sewing Terms
Sewing terms can seem confusing and it may feel as if you need to learn a new language before you can get started. If you’re new to sewing, here are a few key terms. 
Backstitch - This means to reverse stitch on your sewing machine. Check your manual for how to use the reverse button on your model. Use a backstitch at the beginning and end of every seam, and your clothes will never unravel.
Binding - This is a strip of fabric cut on the bias of the fabric. It has a slight stretch, and is useful for finishing off curved edges. You can buy it pre-made in a range of colours and prints, or you can make your own. It’s a really versatile and quick way to finish off the edges of garments. 
Bobbin - These are the small spools that come with your sewing machine, onto which you need to wind thread before you can sew. They come in plastic and metal, and are often specific to your brand of machine.
Clipping and trimming - Once you sew a seam, particularly a curved one, you need to make snips into the seam allowance in order to create smooth curves once the garment is turned right side out. If the fabric is bulky, you may need to trim away some of the seam allowance so that no lumpy bits are seen from the outside.  
Easing - This means that one side of the seam is longer than the other and needs to be manipulated in order to fit onto the shorter side, without there being any gathers or tucks visible.
Facing - A facing is a shaped piece of fabric that attaches to the edges of garments in areas such as the waist, neck and armholes to finish off the edge.
Grain - This refers to the lengthwise (warp) threads woven into the fabric. These are parallel to the finished (selvedge) edges of your fabric. The centre of each piece in a garment should have the warp thread running through them. Patterns have a grainline marked on them to help you position the patterns correctly on to the fabric.
Hem - This is the extra fabric allowed to finish off the bottom of your garment. Hems can be a single fold, a double fold, hand stitched or stitched by machine. A hem gives some body to the lower part of your clothes, and makes them hang well.
Interfacing - This is a product that is used to stabilise fabric and stop the garment from becoming stretched and distorted out of shape. It comes in lots of weights; choose one that matches the weight of the fabric being used. Interfacing is available in both fusible (iron-on) and sew-in forms. Interfacings are often attached to facings or the edge of hems.
Pressing - This is the way you smooth out all your seams and stitching processes. There is a difference between pressing and ironing: when ironing, you are merely smoothing out the fabric; when pressing, you work a little slower and push some weight into the fabric so that it’s really flattened.
Right side and wrong side - You’ll see this term used throughout sewing instructions. The right side of the fabric refers to the side that will be visible when the garment is finished; on printed fabric, it is usually the side that is the most strongly coloured. The wrong side is the side that’s seen from the inside of the garment. 
Seam - This is the process of joining two pieces of fabric together.
Seam allowance - This is the distance between the row of stitches in your seam and the cut edges of the piece. In dressmaking, this is usually 1.5 cm (5/8 in.) If this is not the case, the project instructions will tell you how big your seam allowance needs to be. There are lines on your sewing machine’s throat plate that you can follow to help you sew an accurate seam allowance that is the same width all the way along. 
Shell - Lined garments are often described as having two shells. The outer shell is made up in the fashion fabric, and the inner shell is made up in the same way in lining fabric. These two ‘shells’ are then joined together. 
Staystitching - This is a row of machine stitches placed within the seam allowance around curved edges, or at the top of garments. It’s used to stop the garment from stretching or distorting out of shape while it’s being made.
Tacking (also known as basting) - Sometimes you need to hold a seam or a zip in place firmly before you sew it on the machine. Tacking is a row of stitches that holds a seam or zip temporarily in place more securely than pins. You can either tack by hand using a running stitch, or use a long stitch length on the machine. Tacking is usually done within the seam allowance, so that it’s not visible once the garment is finished. 
Tension guides - Thread is wound onto reels at ‘tension’ when manufactured. When you thread a sewing machine, it’s necessary for the thread to retain that tension. Tension guides are adjustable discs that keep your thread taut. Check your sewing machine manual for the optimal settings for your machine.
Topstitching - Topstitching describes any stitching that is very visible from the right side of the garment. Topstitching is sometimes sewn using a heavier-grade thread as a decorative feature or to add strength. It’s used to great effect on the seams and pockets of jeans that have to withstand lots of wear and tear.
Understitching - By sewing the seam allowance through the facing very close to the seamline (3 mm or 1/8 in.), you can stop facings and linings from poking out to the right side. 
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Pleated Velvet Makes by Vasiliki

Hello everyone!

I’ve always been a big fun of velvet in every form and every colour but I never really owned anything in velvet. I made once an Emery Dress from a fabric that had velvet details but this is as far as my relationship with this fabric has gone. I’m not going to lie, I do find it a bit intimidating both to sew with and to wear. Recently, my mum bought me a beautiful pleated velvet skirt, which I adore. Wearing it in different combinations made me realise that velvet is simply a great fabric, which can be easily dressed up and down. So when the opportunity appeared to review this Pleated Velvet Fabric, I just said yes!

I got two metres of the grey-silver colour. As mentioned in the description on the Minerva shop the fabric is indeed very soft and drapey. I really wanted to love this fabric, but I'm afraid that I may have not done it much justice. The good thing though is that we are here to talk about the fabric and not my sewing shortcomings. I initially wanted to make again a kimono but decided against it as I wasn't sure I was going to wear it. Going through pinterest for some inspiration, I discovered a lot of velvet boho style shirtdresses and I immediately wanted one of them. I somehow thought that it would work well with the DP studio #601 lengthened to a short dress. I didn't even think twice about cutting my fabric and it was only until I had sewn the top part of it that I realised that the fabric was too soft for the type of dress I had in my mind. The 601 has a lot of ease as it is a type of oversized shirt and meant for wovens, so even the smallest size felt a bit too buggy. Also although the fabric has got a lovely crinkled texture, to me it felt a bit untidy as it was hanging, so I decided to scrap the dress and start all over again by mocking up an elastic waist skirt. This also went out of the window as again, I didn't think the way the fabric was hanging was very flattering on me.

Having failed on all of the above attempts, I decided that the fabric was too special on its own and a simple pattern would let it shine. I went for my tried and tested and all-time favourite Mabel Skirt by Colette Patterns version three with the two side panels. This is my favourite version although the panels are rather unnecessary with this fabric but this was the only version I had printed out and cut. What the pleat effect does really well though is to camouflage the seam lines and make them look like they are also one of the vertical lines, creating the pleat effect. Overall, I think the end result of the skirt is quite acceptable, but I just don’t feel the stretch and the shine which is a bit intense on the grey version really suits me. 

To accompany my skirt I chose the Vanessa Pouzet Wanted Tee which has been waiting in my sewing queue for a while now. This proved quite a challenging make, firstly because there wasn’t enough fabric to accommodate all the pieces due to the odd shape, some of it was already cut, from the previous project. So you can see for example that in the back there is a type of yoke on the top and at the front the neckline consists of two pieces sewn together. Once again although visible, the seam doesn’t look strange as I think it blends well with the pleat effect. 

I love the bottom front of the top, where the stretches completely and in my opinion this is the best way to use it, for fitted or semi-fitted garments than very loose ones. I can also see it working very well with draped cowl necklines and low draped backs. Big thanks to Emma and Her Machine for the excellent tutorial on how to assemble the t-shirt and especially the neck band. I’m afraid I didn’t do as good a job as her but I will give it a borderline  pass for now. I managed to destroy it first time round so had to use a different fabric as you can see. 

The fraying of the fabric is minimal to non-existent and the raw sleeves are a proof of that, plus I had completely run out of fabric at this stage. All the insides are finished on the overlocker but I have done some machine stitching too. Sometimes I like doing that for extra safety, haha! 

A great thing about this fabric is that it doesn’t need any ironing, you can just put it on once dried, throw a fur jacket in the mix and you are ready to party. 

Thank you for reading!

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Stylecraft Candy Swirl Cake Yarn Review by Nicky

Hello again. It's been lovely to be given some more yarn from Minerva to try out and tell you about. The Candy Swirl Cake Yarn by Stylecraft. Trouble is it looks so pretty it’s a shame to use and see it unravel!

Candy Swirl is an 100% Premium Acrylic Double knit that comes in a great value 150 gram ball. It is available in eight different blended shades, which look almost edible, but I picked the lovely Blueberry Gum option. I think each shade of blue is like a different shade of denim!

It’s a lovely soft yarn that is machine washable and I thought I would see what I could make from one ball. I wanted something plain to show off the changes in shades. I hadn’t used one of these multi tonal yarns before and expected the shades to change gradually but found the change to be quiet distinctive therefore once knitted it produces bold, clear strips.

To try out the yarn I decided to make a large snood or cowl that could be worn in a variety of ways.

The ball band suggests using a 4mm knitting needle but I wanted a more open, loose stitch effect so I used a 6mm needle.

Taking the loose end from the centre of the ball allows for the yarn to run smoothly without the ball jiggling all all over the place and falling out of my bag!

Casting on 66 stitches I used a simple stocking stitch, one row knit & one row purl, and repeated this until almost all the ball was used. 4

Casting off just before the final colour change meant that the cast on & cast off sections were in matching shades making it slightly less noticeable when these two ends were stitched together to form a big loop.

Now it’s made up I’ve found this yarn to be lovely, soft and comfortable to wear. With the size I’ve made it’s great to wear as a neck warmer or hood.

But it’s also long enough to wear as a long draping scarf or as a shawl/ shoulder cover by placing your arms though.

Or if your like me & feel the cold across the small of your back I also found I could twist and wear like this.

This Double Knitting Yarn would be suitable for a number of different makes but I hope you like my suggestion.

Happy knitting :)

Nicky

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Punched Satin Kimono Dress by Frankie

Distressed clothing is a huge trend for this season. But I'm not a huge fan of the whole tatty look.

This punched Satin Fabric is a perfect solution to my problem. 1. It's satin so it's not some grungy looking thing, its got a certain amount of vavavoom and 2. the punched holes are deliberate enough that it doesn’t just look like your clothes are falling apart.

It comes in 7 different colours but I chose black because it makes the most sense with my current wardrobe.

And when it turns up it certainly is a spectacle to behold!! From what I can tell each circle has been cut by some sort of heat/laser? So they don’t fray but that doesn’t mean the fabric doesn’t create some challenges.

For one, due to the fact each circle is left attached by a small amount, you need to make sure that you cut everything out the right way otherwise you could have some circles flapping open whilst others are closed. Should you choose to have the join at the top the circles will lay flat offering more coverage [I did this and I’m wearing my kimono with a nude slip so I don’t look like a streaker instead you just show a small amount of skin or something that looks like skin.] But should you cut everything out with the join at the bottom all of your circles will fall open and you’ll have a sort of transparent polka dot effect.

It's also worth making sure everything is lying perfectly flat when cutting out and I would definitely recommend using a rotary cutter and matt so you don’t shift the circles as you are cutting out.

The nature of the fabric also makes it a bit tricky to sew. Not only does it have the general shiftiness of satin it also has the added fun of there being actual holes in the fabric. I found the best way to combat this was to use a really simple pattern with clean lines. I opted for the kimono dress by simple sew patterns. It has a kimono sleeve so you don’t need to set anything in and the whole thing is very easy to sew in fact the whole pattern only has two seams not including hemming. I also think a simple skirt, cardigan or t shirt would work really well.

Bear in mind though that anything with too many design details such a pleats and darts are likely to show on the right side and that interfacing will definitely be visable. However you could always line whatever you are making if you want to keep things super neat or aren’t keen on showing lots of skin.

Construction wise I used my overlocker because it creates a chain of stitches which is useful for filling the gap in between circles. However if you don’t have an overlocker you could try stitching it on your regular machine and then using bias binding to give you a neat finish on the inside and to make sure you’ve definitely caught everything that needs to be caught.

I also gave it a really small hem around the front edges, however I’m not sure this neatens it up too much and I think its weighing it down. If I were to do it again I’d either leave it as a raw edge or use bias binding around the edges. In fact a coloured bias binding with a coloured slip underneath could look really cool!

The odd thing is, as much as a I cursed it when I was making it and that I was sure it was going to be a bit of a bust, I kind of love it! The texture makes it a really interesting cardigan if I wear it with a vest top and jeans and wearing it with a nude slip actually makes a simple dress quite sexy. In fact the only real issue I’ve found when I’m wearing it is that it catches on doorhandles as I'm walking past but that's probably just me walking to close to the door! Plus when I’m wearing this I basically feel like Stevie Nicks and feeling like Stevie Nicks is never a bad thing!!!

Much Love

Frankie

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The Colette Sewing Planner Review by Mel

How many times do you find that you have lovely fabric and sewing patterns that never make it out of the “stash drawer”. For me, I know that this is because I just aren’t organised enough with my sewing projects, for example I’d purchase Autumn/Winter fabric in the Summer time trying to plan ahead, but then totally forget about it until the following Spring, then it is too late!

My key focus in 2018 is to be more organised in what I am sewing and when, I’ve tried so many different apps on my phone to help with this, but I find that I quickly become distracted and forget what I had planned or the plans just don’t come into fruition.

So I was super excited to have the opportunity to test the Colette Sewing Planner through Minerva Crafts, somewhere to physically write down my plans. There is just something about writing in a physical book (preferably with a nice new shiny pen), a book that you can touch, feel, and pick up and flick through at a later date, some how it feels more of a firm plan.

This beautiful planner had been on my “Sewing goodies that I’d love to try” Pinterest board for quite some time, so lets take a look inside!

The planner is split into 4 main sections;

1) Styles and Favourites - this is a short section where you can note your favourite styles, fabrics and your measurements

2) Spring / Summer - this is a large section where you can document your sewing goals for the Spring / Summer seasons, there is then room for you to plan approximately 25 Spring / Summer projects (pretty much 1 project per week)

3) Fall / Winter - this is another large section where you can document your sewing goals for the Fall / Winter seasons, there is then room for you to plan approximately 25 Fall / Winter projects

4) Resources - In this section there are several useful resources such as needle types, metric conversion charts, sewing abbreviations and a glossary

I thought that the best way to truly test this handy little planner is to actually plan my next project, The Hudson Pants.

If like me, drawing is not your key strength, this planner includes 4 different Croquis body shapes that you can trace or photocopy, and then sketch your design onto, which is super useful for when it comes to planning the fabrics and details.

To start with, on the left hand page you give your project a name and note the pattern that you are using, so for me this was simply “Hudson pants”.

You then list the supplies that you need and the supplies that you have, so for this project I listed my Art Gallery Jersey (I love that fabric so much), contrast jersey for the waistband and cuffs, eyelets, interfacing, ribbon, elastic and thread. There is also a box where you can glue in a scrap of the fabric.

You can then list the learning resources e.g. websites or books that you will use to help you. There is also a customisation box for your own design ideas for example I noted here to use eyelets for the drawstring rather than button holes (as I never get on very well with button holes), and there is also a section to add your notes for example I noted here that the pattern is drafted for a 5ft 5” female.

On the right hand page there is a blank page so that you can sketch your design and add notes, for my project I simply cut out my sketch (that I traced from the Croquis and glued it onto the page.

Planning out the project worked really well, it made me ensure that I had all of the supplies before I started and sketching out the design really helped me to visualise the fabric, you don’t need to be a artist to do this.

My Hudson Pants were finished in no time!

There are also a couple of envelope sections in the back of the planner where you can save your pattern sheets or other useful notes and tools.

There are lots and lots of little surprise sewing tips throughout the planner for example “Always cut your thread on an angle to make it easier to thread through a needle” there are quite a lot of the tips that I had never thought of so an added bonus for sure.

I really like this planner, the colour scheme and quality is great, the information contained within the planner is super useful and I know that it will definitely keep me more organised with my sewing into 2018. It is also a good size to keep in your bag so that you can add ideas whilst you are out and about. I think that this will also be great to look back on, to see what I have made throughout the year.

The only thing that would have made this planner even better for me would be to have a couple of blank note pages between each project so that I could use this to plan my blog posts, YouTube videos etc… about the project, or to maybe have the planner as an open ring binder (rather than bound book) so that I could add extra pages, however I can work around this by using a separate note book and then use paperclips or small bulldog clips to add it to the relevant project pages.

If like me, you aim to be more organised with your sewing projects into 2018, I would definitely recommend using this Sewing Planner. I don’t want to plan out everything as part of the fun of sewing my own wardrobe is seeing a pattern or fabric that I love and deciding there and then to make it into something lovely, but this will help my overall sewing plans and commitment for sure.

I also find that I’m much more likely to get a project completed if its written down in a physical book, so I have added just the titles on the project pages for the key items that I plan to sew, then I will add the finer detail, sketches etc… in time.

This planner is a great gift for a keen sewer, or a treat for yourself, especially at the New Year Resolution time of year!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing,

Mel @ Ditsy Tulip

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New Look Layered Top 6412 by Sheila

As a stay-at-home mother running a business from home, casual dressing is the order of the day as there is no need to dress up for work. However, just because I can wear a T-shirt and jogging bottoms all day, doesn't mean I want to.
The Stitch Academy runs dressmaking classes for children and adults which means there is sort of an obligation to wear handmade clothes as an example to my students. It also means that my clothes have to be comfortable and flexible for dashing around from student to student.
When I found New Look Pattern 6412, I knew it would be the perfect combination of comfort and smart-casual that I was looking for and decided on the main view, B.
It's actually a dress with a built in, full length, slip, but has the appearance of a skirt with tunic over. This has several advantages: -
  • it doesn't have the tight waistband of a skirt
  • there is no gap between top and skirt to let in the cold
  • the full length slip is another layer adding warmth
  • there is no need to readjust your clothes all day long
The pattern calls for stretch knits only, so I chose a Ponte Roma Fabric in orange for the tunic and brown for the underskirt. The underbodice would be in a matching brown jersey so that it would feel soft against the skin.
The pattern envelope has a really helpful guide to ensure that your fabric has the required amount of stretch in it - why don't all manufacturers adopt this?
I liked the fact that there is provision for adjustment of torso length, too, and I made the usual 1 1/2" reduction above the waist on the clearly marked "lengthen or shorten here" line. I made a 2" reduction in sleeve length, too.
The underbodice is constructed first - here you can see where the firmer ponte roma skirt meets the soft jersey bodice.
The over-tunic came together as easily as the "Easy" label promised.
When tunic and underbodice are joined together, the next stage is to set in the sleeves - which is where an error came to light.
The instructions stop at the "baste" stage and it doesn't then tell you to go ahead and stitch the seam permanently.
The more experienced seamstress would automatically stitch the seams as a natural progression but, as the difficulty level is classed as "Easy", beginners may well feel confident enough to tackle this and may be confused by the lack of clarity.
There are also no directions as to how, or when, to finish the raw edges, should you wish to do so. Again, this type of thing is no problem for a seasoned sewer, but details would probably be useful for a beginner.
I used an overlocker to construct the majority of the garment and switched to the sewing machine just for setting in the sleeves, adding the neckband and finishing the hems.
I finished the hems with two rows of top-stitching using a slight zig zag stitch for added stretch. A twin needle would be useful here, but I didn't have one to hand.
I decided to add a contrast neckband instead of the self-fabric one on the pattern illustration. Stretching the neckband to fit the neckline as you sew, helps to prevent any bagginess or gaping around the neck.
A very pleasant afternoon of sewing resulted in one very happy lady with the perfect working-from-home outfit.
A smart dress that is so comfortable that it feels like you're wearing a tracksuit - what's not to love?!
At 5'2" and a size 14, I may not look like the tall, thin model on the pattern envelope, but I think the design translates well to the average figure and am pleased with the finished dress. Oh, I forgot to mention that I also added a couple of inches to the skirt hem, too, as I felt that it was too short for someone of 48 - not to mention my modesty when bending over machines!
Having since worn this dress several times, I have already decided to make more in different colours. In summary, the pattern is easy to follow, notwithstanding my comments above, and true to size if you take accurate body measurements.
This pattern would be ideal for a confident beginner as there are no awkward design elements such as zips or darts and, therefore, a good introduction to knits.
Sheila @ Sewchet
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Pleated Stretch Velvet Wrap Dress by Frankie

Is there anything better than wearing velvet in the colder months? I mean you can basically turn yourself into a snuggly teddy bear!

Which is why when this Pleated Stretch Velvet Fabric came up for review I jumped at the chance and I love it for two reasons!

1- I have an unhealthy obsession with all things velvet. And its massively on trend at the moment.

2- It's pleated velvet which means its meant to look a big wrinkled. Which also means it doesn’t need ironing and I am all about not having to do any ironing!

Anyway as soon as it arrived I got it out for a feel and I am happy to report that it is a very soft pile with a great drape and good recovery. It stretches in both directions but it does seem to stretch more in one of them than the other. It also pre washed beautifully, sometimes with velvet it can become matted during washing but this one stayed as soft and lovely as it was when I first got it out of the bag.

Being that it’s a classy looking velvet I decided it needed a simple pattern to really let the fabric shine. I chose to make the wrap dress from the second Great British Sewing Bee book. But you could also use New Look Sewing Pattern 6301 for a similar look.

Cutting out was slightly difficult because of the textured parts of the fabric. So I made sure I cut everything out with the whole piece of fabric lying flat [Because its a jersey fabric if you have the end of your fabric hanging off the end of a table it will stretch and distort all of your pattern pieces.] I also double and triple checked that the nap of the fabric was lying the right way on every single piece before I started cutting. The nap is the pile of the fabric so for example with velvet you want to make sure it all “strokes” the same way. I opted to have it so the dress was softest when stroked down. Although I’m not sure how many occasions I’m going to have where strangers are stroking my dress…….

Another way to make cutting out easier is to use a rotary cutter and mat. The rotary cutter means that you won’t potentially stretch or shift your fabric.

I used my overlocker to sew it all together, but you could also use a small zig zag stitch on a domestic machine using a ball point needle. I did sew all of my hems on my regular machine though and I used my walking foot which made things 100% easier. Luckily the velvet doesn’t create much fuzz when its being cut and sewn so its a fairly tidy fabric.

The stretch is very forgiving with regards to fit and the fact that its a wrap dress means I have plenty of room for cake and snacks! Which makes it a party style dress that you can wear comfortably and REALLY party in! I’m currently thinking this fabric in a pair of loose fitting trousers would be perfect for lounging around in, but stylish enough that if you have unexpected visitors you won’t feel embarrassed.

The quality of the fabric means the dress drapes really nicely and the weight and thickness means its lovely and snug to wear in the cold winter months. It’s currently on sale for £7.99 which is an absolute steal for a nice velvet fabric and comes in either this black or grey.

As you can probably tell I’m smitten with this dress! And the fact I can wear it straight from the wash makes it even better!

Much Love

Frankie

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Tailoring the Neckline of Patterns with Claire-Louise Hardie

I’ve had a lot of students ask about how to change the necklines on their patterns, so I thought i’d create a little tutorial for you. The biggest issue, is that any changes you make to the neck, need to also be applied to the facing. Personally, I adjust the neckline and then re-cut a new facing pattern piece, so that’s what I’m gonna show you. The only time I wouldn’t do this, is if the neckline adjustment is very slight. In that instance, I’d apply the same adjustment to the original facing pattern piece.
In this image, you can see the original neckline which I felt was too high, and the new lower neckline I’ve drawn in once I’d tried it on and decided to lower it.
It’s really important that all new adjustments blend smoothly across any seams. I’ve laid the back shoulder next to the front shoulder to check that the new curve from the front blends smoothly into the original curve.

Once the main pattern piece has been adjusted, you’ll need to adjust the facing. In my example, I’ve only adjusted the front of the pattern, so it’s just the front facing pattern piece that needs to be adjusted. I’ve laid the facing over the adjusted front piece, and it’s now obvious that the front of the facing is now very short. Take a note of the facing depth at the shoulders, as this is how deep you’ll need to make the facing all the way around.

Trace the shoulder and new neckline onto a fresh piece of pattern/tracing paper. Then draw the outer edge of the facing piece, making sure it’s the same distance from the new neckline all the way around the piece.

Ta Dah!

Now both the front of the pattern and the new facing pattern have been adjusted with the new lower neckline. The shape of the alteration can be curved like this example, or could be a V shape too, in both options the principles are the same when you want to make an adjustment.

Ok, so in my first example the alteration didn’t change the shoulder at all, therefore the back neck wasn’t affected. But what happens if you need to “widen” the neckline as well as altering the shape or lowering it I hear you ask?

Good question… Read on and discover how to do this type of neck adjustment.

I’ve re-drawn my new neckline, which has really widened the opening and shortened the length of the shoulder.

Making sure to start at the same position on the back shoulder, re-draw a new back neckline. The shoulders should now be the same length. The curve should look smooth on the new back neckline. Make sure the junction at the shoulder isn’t too much of a point or spike!

Make a facing pattern for both the back and front using the same process I described in the previous example. It’s a good idea to give yourself some notches to help sew the pieces together.

Happy Stitching :)

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How to use the Clover Trace ’n’ Create Bag Templates by Nicky

Bag making seems to be growing in popularity and I’m seeing lots of great makes on social media so it’ s been great to try out one of the Clover Trace ’n’ Create Bag Templates. The template I have used for this review is Nancy’s Hobo Tote. This is a very roomy sized tote bag that could be suitable for many uses.

There are three styles that can be produced from this template and I decided to opt for the two fabric style, view B.

The template pack contains 2 See through plastic templates and an in-depth instruction sheet in various languages.

The instructions provided simple step by step stages with little note for Nancy to help along the way.

The bag making progress started with tracing around each piece of the template on the chosen fabric. For this part I used a tailors chalk to transfer the markings then cut along the marked lines on a cutting mat with a ruler and rotary cutter to keep the lines accurate, also nice and straight.

The same template was used to cut the pocket sections for the interior.

Measurements are then stated to cut the strips for the trim.

Once these pieces were cut the front and back sections were assembled by seaming the upper and lower fabrics together.

After pressing this piece was used as the pattern to cut the lining fabric and the interfacing. I used a sew-in facing so this was basted to the back of the tote sections before continuing with the construction.

A fabric trim was added to cover over the seam line on exterior of bag. This was made by feeding one of the crosswise strips, already cut, through a Bias Tape Maker and pressing.

Once this trim was added the exterior pieces were sewn together. At this point a shaping material is added to the bag to help form a base and feet can be added.

Moving on to the lining the pockets are made by sewing the pockets panels together and attaching to the right side of the lining. The template is then used again to mark the vertical stitching lines that create the separate pockets.

The next step was to add a magnetic snap. I had never done this before but was amazed how easy it was. The snaps I used consisted of 4 parts; a front & back with prongs on the back of each, and two backs that you fed the prongs through before folding over.

After adding interfacing for strength at the points shown on the template I marked the position for the prongs to go through and made two very small holes with a seam ripper to push them through.

Once this was completed the lining could be made up as the exterior had been. With this lining inside out the exterior tote section was placed inside, right sides together, and stitched along the side edges before turning right side out.

The bias cut stops cut earlier were then used to edge the top curve of the tote and attach the d-rings for the straps.

The remaining strip was then folded to creat the front of the strap with grosgrain ribbon added to the back.

The final step for this bag was to add an inner snap closure to hold the top corners in when required.

I found these bag templates an easy way of drawing out and marking the pattern pieces. They are a great quality that will survive being used over and over again. The step by step instructions helped tackle each step one at a time!

The size of the tote is perfect for a shopping bag but I think mine has already found its job as my new knitting bag :)

Thanks for reading,

Nicky @ Sew n Snip

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Lauren’s High Street Knock-Off Burda Kimono

I often get inspiration for new sewing projects from something I love that I’ve seen on the high street. I’m sure many other crafters will feel the same, but even if I do see something lovely in Zara, or New Look, I sometimes resent paying for it, when I (at least in my head) think I could make it myself.

This thought process usually leaves me with a lot of plans, but not always a lot in my wardrobe…

Recently I went for dinner with a friend who is probably one of the most stylish people I know. She has gorgeous and glamourous clothes, and isn’t the type of person who has to save her favourite pieces ‘for best’. She turned up in a full-length kimono, with fur cuffs, basically the kind of thing I can image a princess wearing to lounge casually around her home.

The version my friend was wearing was a Zara purchase, and after looking at it and raving about it for pretty much the entire night, I knew I had to have one too. (She luckily doesn’t mind me copying her occasionally!)

The design of the garment itself was straight-forward. A simple, kimono-style jacket, made out of a georgette fabric, with fake fur attached to the cuffs. I was pretty confident that it was something I could replicate fairly easily myself, so I started looking for a suitable pattern to work from.

The Pattern

After having a scroll through the Minerva website, I came across New Look 6476, which came with a few different options. (Including a view which involves a fake fur body section!) One option is a collarless maxi kimono, with long sleeves, which seemed almost ideal, and would give me the basic shape to make what I wanted.

I cut the size 12, as it fitted my largest measurements; I wasn’t too fussed about this fitting perfectly around the bust or hips, as I didn’t plan to fasten it closed. There were only four pieces to cut out, so this took barely any time, and I was soon onto the construction.

Construction

I can’t say I relied too heavily on the instructions for this project, as the construction was very simple and straightforward. I used my trusty Janome DKS30 to sew most of the seams, and used my Brother 1034D overlocker to neaten the insides. As I was using quite a delicate fabric, and I didn’t want the seams to fray over time, I thought it was important to put a little more time into this step and make sure the inside looked neat and secure.

The Fabrics

The fabrics I chose for this project are both from Minerva and I was so pleased with both of them as soon as they arrived. I wear a lot of neutrals, so a light blue/grey colourway was an obvious choice for me.

To make sure the kimono drapes well and flows in the way I was hoping, I wanted to go for a georgette or chiffon-type material, and found this floral Georgette Fabric, which comes in assorted colours. To pair with it, I chose a light grey Fake Fur Fabric, and was hoping that when the two fabrics arrived they would compliment each other rather than clash. I wasn’t wrong – I think they work really well together.

The georgette is on the thicker side, which makes it a little easier to work with. I had no issues with it getting sucked into my machine, and it wasn’t even very slippery, a few pins managed to keep it in place fine. The fur was perhaps a little stretchier than I expected, but this could easily be remedied by adding interfacing, or something similar, to the back. I’ve heard that when cutting fake fur fabric, it can be easier to cut from the back with a craft knife, to avoid covering the room with mountains of fluff. I tried it and while there was a bit of mess, I think it would have been a lot worse if I’d used scissors for the task.

Alterations

The pattern itself gave me an excellent block to work from, but I did make a few changes to get the look I was going for. The sleeves on the pattern were a lot wider at the cuff than I needed them to be, so I simply traced the sleeve piece onto some baking paper, and drew out a new pattern piece with straighter cuffs.

Being quite a short person, I inevitably had to remove a few inches of both the cuffs and the hem, but this is a fairly standard alteration that I fully expected.

I increased the length of the split at the back, so that it would almost have the effect of a tailcoat, and I decided not to include the waist tie. I have since found a use for the tie as a hairband though!

Of course, I also added the fur to the cuffs of the sleeves. To do this I simply cut two pieces of fur the same size, long enough to go around the diameter of the sleeves. I then sewed the two short ends together, right sides together then added the cuff to the georgette sleeve right sides together again. Lastly, I hand sewed a small hem on the fur cuff, to make it look a little neater.

It was a little bit of trial and error, but I’m so happy with the result. I even had a little of the fur left over, so decided to put it to good use and make a fur stole to go over the kimono. This was really easy. I just folded the long piece of spare fabric in half, lengthways, right sides together and drew an outline of the stole shape on the back of the fabric. I then followed round it with my sewing machine, leaving a small hole to turn the stole the right way round.

I’d definitely recommend this pattern to anyone who’s looking for a simple kimono pattern to embellish and enhance with their own designs.

I know this kimono-come-housecoat is perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but to me, that’s the beauty of being able to make your own clothes. This garment makes me feel glamourous and interesting and it’s so easy to make! Plus, it’s saved me a laborious and expensive trip to Zara, and really, who wants to stand in the Christmas shopping queues longer than absolutely necessary!?

I hope you liked reading about my latest make for Minerva, and if you wanted to find out more about me and my crafting you can reach me at www.craftworksblog.com or on Instagram @craftworksblog

Merry Christmas!

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