26 February 2013

In Which I Rediscover Magazines

My friends, I've fallen back in love with magazines! Now, fear not, this doesn't mean I love blogs any less. Believe me, I love the blogosphere more with the dawning of each new day :) But after years of thinking that the authenticity of blogs was the only thing worth reading (apart from books and newspapers, you understand... oh and street signs etc), my faith has recently been restored and I'm WELL back into mags! Here are a few publications I've been enjoying recently which I thought you might like too...

First up is Peppermint, which does a fantastic job of balancing design and substance. The mag is beautifully produced and covers all sorts of things from fashion to food, but what's really interesting is that every article has an environmental and/or ethical slant. What's more, they include refashions, such as this shirt to top tutorial above, and their website has free sewing patterns to download.

I've mentioned Frankie before and I'm not ashamed to mention it again. I'm in love, y'all. Just LOOK at that embroidered cover! It's actually textured. And the back of the cover looks like the back of a piece of embroidery. I just can't express how much joy this brings me.

Behold Betty. It looks amazing. It feels amazing. It even smells amazing. A Moonrise Kingdom-inspired fashion shoot on one page, how to make mackerel pate on the next. Bliss.

And finally, Cloth. I always liked Cloth, and their recent rebrand is really interesting, as they seem to be repositioning themselves towards the mainstream. Doesn't that "top trends" spread, for example, remind you of fashion mags? For a sewing magazine, I reckon this can only be a good thing. Wouldn't it be awesome if young women accidentally picked it up in the newsagent thinking it was a fast fashion mag? And became inspired to get out the scissors and thread and make some stuff themselves? Are we about to see sewing taking off big time?

Oh, wait, there's one more thing...

For it is I, included in their cover mount about bloggers! Eep! Thank you so much to Jane and all the other lovely sewing peeps who gave me the heads up about the piece :)

[Soundtrack: 'Soft as Chalk' by Joanna Newsom]

24 February 2013

Your Mathilde Blouses: Part 1

Can you hear me squeal with delight every time I see a photo of a Mathilde Blouse made by you? I'm just blown away by how lovely they're looking! Here are a few recent makes by you...

Kirsty made her stunning blouse in a floral Liberty tana lawn - check it out in its fully glory on her blog. Kirsty says:
"I bought the Mathilde Blouse the moment I saw the pattern. It is such a cute and stylish blouse with gorgeous detailing. I knew it had to be part of my wardrobe. I was a little intimidated by the 7 buttons and the tucks at first, but Tilly’s online tutorials were so comprehensive, that it made sewing it an enjoyable experience. The fact that each of the steps is separate helps break up the sewing into manageable pieces, for those like me who need to spread the sewing out over a period of time. Oh and I loved being able to tick off the steps on the checklist! My Mathilde is a real 'romantic stroll in the garden' blouse."

Marie's version is seriously elegant. Tucked into a skirt this would look very Mr Selfridge-chic, non? Marie was kind enough to test out the pattern before it was released, and wrote about her experience here. She reports:
"Mathilde is so dreamy - with irresistible details like back buttons, frothy sleeves and tasty tucks. For my version I wanted to do right by the pattern by creating a chic and romantic look, so I knew immediately that it was destined to be paired with some delicate 1960s voile from my stash. And I'm delighted with the result! I would encourage anyone wanting to try Mathilde to go for it - Tilly's detailed instructions and complimentary blog posts expertly cater to varied abilities."

We jump from the Edwardian era to the present day with Karen's very modern, super cool blouse. Karen made a feature out of the yoke, making it in a sequined edge fabric - take a closer look. She tells us:
"For me, the Mathilde pattern represents a perfect combination of creative freedom and technical discipline. Creative freedom: customising the yoke and having fun choosing button and fabric combinations. Technical discipline: getting those tucks just right and making sure the button bands match up! Oh, and there's a tick list - instant gratification for my inner list-maker."

Jo's blouse started out as a muslin (test version), but she loved it so much she's now wearing it for real. Take a peek at her hilarious photos! Jo says:
"There are so many things that I love about this blouse. The instructions... The tick boxes are genius... As for the pattern itself - I love that it is simple enough for a beginner to put together but has those little touches, in particular the tucks and the buttons, that stop it looking like it has been made by a beginner, even if you are one. The sleeves are fabulous. Finally I love that this pattern is so versatile. It is modest enough for work, looks great with jeans and is dressy enough for evening wear depending on what fabric and embellishments are used. The buttons can blend in or be a feature, and it can be tucked in or lengthened to tunic or dress length for a totally different look. You could even leave off the sleeves for a summer top. I am just about to cut out another, and as soon as I can justify buying new fabric I'm going to make a bright pink version. And after seeing Solvi's I think I need a black one as well."

Orange buttons is starting to become a trend! My beautiful friend Mai lives hundreds of miles away from me in Scotland, but the Mathilde Blouse can bring us together (sob!):
"I love the Mathilde Blouse! It's such a beautiful design and unusually versatile too: it can look casual, cute, romantic or super dramatic, depending on what fabric, colour and pattern choices you make. The instructions are really clear and engagingly chatty, and the construction is simple, but it encouraged me to strive for something like perfection (those tucks!). I chose quite a flamboyant iteration for my first version, with a big bold graphic print and contrast buttons. I'm planning a red wool pencil skirt to show it to its best advantage. Note that I refer to it as my first version; there will be more..."

Check out more gorgeous blouses in the Maker Gallery. If you're feeling inspired to make your own, you can buy the pattern for just £7. Use the insanely detailed step-by-step photo instructions to guide you through every stage, or take a workshop with me at Ray Stitch sewing school.

Have you made a Mathilde Blouse? I'd LOVE to see! Submit your bestest photos to the Maker Gallery by leaving a link to your blog / Pinterest / Twitter / Facebook, or send me an email.

22 February 2013

Coppelia in Red

Look what I made! It's the Coppelia cardi by Papercut Patterns, in a fire engine red wool jersey from Simply Fabrics in Brixton. I really enjoyed making this, firstly because it was a relatively quick make, secondly because I'd been coveting Lauren's version, and thirdly because it's always great to try out an indie pattern company for the first time (noooo, of course I'm not hinting at anything...).

Winnie just wrote a great post asking what steps people add to a sewing project that aren't listed in the pattern - it's so interesting to read about different people's approaches. For this pattern, a couple of steps I added were to stay stitch the seams that were cut on the bias and apply stay tape to the side seams to help prevent the knit from stretching out of shape.

When I first finished this, I declared it a wearable muslin* because I wasn't totally happy with the fitting...

... the neckline seemed to be sticking up by about a mile, which I put down to my narrow shoulders...

... or if I pulled it down to fit my shoulders the cardi gaped at the bust. So I was planning a refitting operation involving pinching out triangles of fabric at strategic points and redrafting the pattern to fit me...

... but then when I wore the cardi properly for the first time, I just did the wrap bit up a bit tighter, pulled it a slightly different way, and tada! It didn't seem so bad after all. Do you ever have that when you stare at a project for too long and blow little niggly things out of all proportion? In the meantime, however, I'd emailed the lovely Katie Papercut and she offered to produce a photo tutorial on the fitting. How's that for customer service? Pretty awesome, if you ask me!

Have you sewn a Papercut Pattern pattern? I'd love to see! Check out my interview with Katie Papercut, then get yourself over there.

[Soundtrack: 'Flutes' by Hot Chip]

*a test version of a sewing project to check the fitting, but that can also be worn around the house when no one's looking

19 February 2013

Come Sew With Me!

Hey pals, great news! I'm now signed up to lead two different workshops at Ray Stitch sewing school in Islington, London over the Spring. My professional background is in learning and skills, so it's brilliant to be able to apply that experience to sewing!

Make Your Own Pattern and Skirt
Saturday 20th April 2013, 1.30pm - 6.30pm
or Saturday 1st June 2013, 1.30pm - 6.30pm

Learn to make this gorgeous gathered button-down skirt with practical pockets – aka the Picnic Blanket Skirt! The class starts as a gentle introduction to pattern making, guiding you through drafting a simple pattern to your own measurements. Then we’ll sew the skirt, learning techniques, tips and tricks along the way, including gathering, constructing a waistband, stitching pockets, forming buttonholes and finishing it all off neatly. You should already be comfortable with using a sewing machine and basic stitching. Please bring along 2m fabric and 8 - 10 x 20mm buttons. Choose a medium weight cotton or linen – the skirt looks great in plain colours, gingham, polka dots, florals, cats, bicycles… you name it!

I'm also excited to be running a Mathilde Blouse workshop over two Saturdays for those of you who need a bit of hands-on IRL guidance with techniques such as tucks, sleeves and French seams:

Mathilde Blouse
Saturday 2nd March & Saturday 9th March 2013, 2pm - 6pm (two days)

Learn to make this cute, versatile button-back blouse, which can be dressed up with a pencil skirt or dressed down with skinny jeans. The pattern designer will guide you through each step of construction, including creating beautiful tucks or gathers, setting in puffed sleeves, and finishing it all off with elegant French seams. You should have already made at least one garment, be comfortable with basic sewing construction techniques, and be ready to take your sewing to the next level. This is a digital print-at-home pattern - you will receive the pattern by email and will be asked to print and assemble it before the class. Please bring along 2.5m x 115cm fabric (or 2m x 150cm) and 7 x 15mm buttons. Choose a lightweight, drapey fabric, such as cotton lawn, voile, lightweight chambray, silk or polyester crêpe de chine, habotai or charmeuse. Please avoid anything too slippery!

If you fancy learning some new techniques, sewing with like-minded people, having a laugh and a currant bun, sign up on the Ray Stitch website. I'd love to see you there!

17 February 2013

FINAL STEP! Attach the Cuff Bands

Last part of making the Mathilde Blouse, y’all! You excited? I am!

As you will have no doubt noticed, the sleeve hem is a lot bigger than the cuff band. By gathering a large sleeve into a small cuff band we’ll be giving the blouse an elegant puff. Let’s do this…

1) Your cuff bands should have already been interfaced. Stitch the short ends together, right sides together. Press the seams open.

2) Fold the cuff band in half lengthways, wrong sides together. Press to mark the fold line, then unfold again.

3) Slip the cuff band over the edge of the sleeve, right sides together. Match up the seam lines and the centres (marked on your pattern), and pin in place.

4) Pull on the gathering threads at the sleeve hem so it bunches up, then use your fingers to spread out the gathering evenly. Keep going like this until the circumference of the sleeve hem is the same as the cuff band. Pin in place, perpendicular to the edge – use lots of pins to help keep those gathers even.

5) Now stitch the sleeve hem to the cuff. If you position the sleeve side directly under the needle you can keep an eye on the gathers and readjust them as necessary (mind your fingers!). If you’re super earnest and want to make extra sure your gathers are really even, you could baste first (using long stitches). Take your time here, there’s no hurry.

6) Trim the sleeve seam down to reduce some of the bulk. Remove your gather stitches.

7) Press the cuff band away from the sleeve. Now turn the sleeve wrong side out. Fold the bottom edge of the cuff band under by 1cm / 3/8”, wrong sides together, and press. Fold under again along the central line that you pressed in earlier, and press again. The inside of the cuff band should overlap the previous stitching line.

8) All that’s left to do now is attach the cuff band to the inside of the sleeve. My preferred method is to stitch on the right side of the sleeve “in the ditch” – ie. stitch within the seamline to hide the stitches – ensuring the inside of the cuff band is caught in the stitching and the raw edges are tucked away neatly. If you prefer, you can hand stitch the cuff band down.

Ta da!!! You’re done. You’ve made a beauuutiful Mathilde Blouse!

Wanna show us? Submit your best pics to the Maker Gallery!

Catch up with all the instructions here, and buy your sewing pattern.

16 February 2013

How to Insert a Sleeve

I’m going to show you how to insert a sleeve into an armhole using a classic method which adds fullness at the shoulder.

The theory

The reason we’re adding fullness at the shoulder is to help the fabric fold over the curve of your shoulder where it sticks out from your body. A sleeve head is often at least 2cm / ¾” bigger than the armhole (even bigger on the Mathilde Blouse to produce visible gathering as a design detail). This excess fabric is gathered so the circumference of the sleeve head and armhole match when sewn together, forming a slight puff in the fabric to accommodate your shoulder.

(In case you’re interested, not all sleeves are inserted this way. Some sleeve heads don’t have any ease at all. And an alternative method - often used in shirt manufacturing, I do believe - is to insert sleeves “on the flat”, ie. stitched flat against the armhole before the bodice side seam and sleeve underarm sleeve are joined.)

Anyway, that’s the theory over – let’s get on with the sewing!

The practical

1) Let’s add the gathering stitches to the shoulders while the sleeve pieces are still flat – it’s so much easier that way. Thread up your machine in a contrasting colour so it’ll be easy to identify and rip out the gather stitching later (it’s only temporary). Set the stitch length to 4mm.

Stitch three rows parallel to each other, about 3mm / 1/8” apart, on the sleeve head. Your pattern will have markings showing you where to start and finish the stitching. Leave a few inches of thread at each end so you have something to pull on when it comes to gathering.

If you’re making the Mathilde Blouse, it also has gathering where the sleeves meet the cuffs, so stitch three rows of gather stitches at the sleeve hem too, beginning and ending about 2.5cm / 1” from each side seam.

2) Stitch the sleeve underarm seams, finish and press. You can use French seams here if you like.

3) Now we’re going to align the sleeve and armhole. The way to check you’re putting the correct sleeve into its corresponding armhole is to look at the little notches you cut from your pattern (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check the pattern again). The front of the sleeve and armhole will have single notches; the back will have double notches.

Align the sleeve and armhole, with the fabric right sides together. This can be a little confusing the first time you do it. Okay, so I admit it still makes my brain hurt sometimes and I’ve been doing it for years! But really all you need to do is hold the sleeve right sides out and turn the garment wrong side out on top of it so the right sides are matching. Then line up the two raw edges of the sleeve and armhole seams.

Pin the sleeve and armhole together. This bit is a careful operation. Stick the pins in perpendicular to the edge on the sleeve side (that way the sleeve gathers will be facing up when you sew them to help you control them). Rather than sticking the pins in willy-nilly, it’s a good idea to pin at the following strategic points, matching up sleeve and bodice:

- Underarm seam and bodice side seam
- Sleeve and armhole notches (those single and double snips we were talking about earlier)
- Just past the start and end points of the gather stitches
- Shoulder seam and central point on sleeve
- Any other seams that might accidentally fold the wrong way (eg. yoke seam on the Mathilde Blouse).

Don't pin on top of the gather stitches just yet (that bit comes in a moment).

4) Pull on the gather stitches – gently tug on a trio of threads to bunch up the fabric. Keep doing this until the sleeve fits into the armhole, smoothing out the gathering as you go to spread it nice and evenly. Now stick as many pins in as you think you’ll need to help keep the gathers even.

5) If you’re super confident you can go right ahead and stitch. It’s a reeeeally good idea to baste first though to check you’re happy with your gathering. Basting basically means sewing a practice run with long stitches (4mm) which are easy to rip out if you want to try again. Thread up your machine in a contrast colour so you can see your basting stitching easily and thus whip them out quickly. Baste stitch within the seam allowance so your real stitches don’t go directly on top.

When stitching, start at the underarm seam. Sew nice and slowly over the gathers so you can keep them evenly in place as you go. Come full circle to meet your starting point, making a couple of overlapping stitches to secure. Sleeves aren’t the easiest thing in the world to sew, but with a little practice you’ll get the hang of it, I promise.

6) Once you’re happy with your basting (you did baste, didn’t you?), rethread your machine in matching thread to your fabric, reset the stitch length to normal (2 - 2.5mm) and sew your real stitches. Now you can rip out your basting and gathering stitches.

7) All that’s left to do now is finish your seam and press it. When pressing the armhole, turn the garment inside out and press along the seam. If you want to you can press the seam in towards the sleeve, but try not to press the shoulder area, otherwise you’ll lose the fullness you’ve created with your gathers.

Admire your hard work. Hooray! You set in a sleeve!

Like this? See also How to Pleat a Sleeve Cap