30 October 2015

Sewing Orla: Finishing the Hem with a Facing

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

It’s the final step in the Orla sewalong – woooop! Congrats if you’ve made it this far – the remaining steps are a nice and easy way to finish. If you haven’t been following the sewalong, you can join in at any time – order your pattern and bookmark the sewalong page which has links to all the steps.

Orla sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

So all we have left to do is the hem. The dipped hem is one of the distinctive design features of the Orla top. Rather than trying to fold the hem to form the curves and side seam inner corners, we’re going to sew a facing to it, which creates a lovely and neat finish.

Before we begin, remember that if you took in the side seams at the hem of the top, you’ll need to take in the hem facing by the same amount.

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

Lay the front hem facing over the back hem facing, right sides together, and pin them together at either side. Stitch. Trim the seam allowances and press them open. Finish the upper edge of the facing – the edge without notches – using zigzag stitch or an overlocker (serger).

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

Lay the bodice out right sides out, the front facing up. Lay the facing out below the hem of the bodice, wrong sides out, the front facing up. The front of the facing has a shallower curve than the back to match the dipped hem of the top.

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

Slip the bodice inside the facing so the right sides are together. Pin them together at the raw edges, matching up the side seams and notches.

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

Starting at one of the side seams, stitch the facing to the bodice, taking your time to sew the curves smoothly, and pivoting the fabric with the needle down when you reach the other side seams.

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

Trim the seam allowances and cut triangular notches into the curves and side seams, taking care not to cut through the stitching. Press the seam allowances open to help define a neat seam line, then press both the facing and seam allowances down. Understitch the facing to the seam allowances close to the seam. Remember understitching from when we sewed the neckline facing? This will help keep the facing from flipping out to the outside of the top.

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

Press the facing to the inside of the top, rolling the seam line slightly to the inside so it’s not visible from the outside. A bit of steam will help soften the seam to make rolling it easier.

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

Pin in place.

All you need to do now is stitch the loose, finished edge of the hem facing to the inside of the top. You can topstitch it on your machine using a a 35mm (1 3/8in) seam allowance. Or if you don’t want the stitches to be visible from the outside, and are the patient type, you could do a hem stitch by hand, such as a catch stitch.

Finishing a hem with a facing - Tilly and the Buttons

Wanna catch stitch? Starting at one of the side seams, knot the thread on the wrong side of the top edge of the hem and stitch through to the right side of the hem. Sew a teeny tiny stitch through the bodice fabric diagonally to the right of the hem edge (left if you’re left handed), from right to left (left to right if you’re left handed). Pull the thread back down right and take a little stitch at the top of the hem facing, again sewing from right to left. So you’re kinda sewing backwards and forwards at the same time – the stitches are moving forwards but you’re inserting the stitches backwards, if you see what I mean. Keep the stitches teeny so they are almost invisible from the right side of the top (I’m just using pink thread so you can see what I’m doing), with about 5-10mm (1/4 – 3/8in) between the stitches. Repeat until you’ve come full circle, then knot the threads and admire your handiwork.

Dipped hem - Orla sewing pattern

Give your lovely Orla top a final press and feel mighty proud of yourself – you’ve finiiiiiished!

Excellent work. I hope you enjoyed the sewalong. We’d LOVE to see what you’ve made. Please email us a picture of your finished Orla top to lookwhatImade [at] tillyandthebuttons.com. Alternatively if you want to post it on your own Instagram or Twitter feed, tag us in @TillyButtons and use the hashtag #SewingOrla so we can find it.

We’ll be showcasing some of your Orla tops on the blog on Wednesday 11 November 2015. If you’d like the chance to be featured, submit your photos by 9am GMT on Monday 9 November 2015. We like to feature bright, focused, uncluttered images, at least 650px wide and preferably portrait format. Can’t wait to see!

28 October 2015

Sewing Orla: How to Sew the Sleeves

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

Sewing the Orla top? In the penultimate post in our Orla sewalong, we’re going to sew and insert – or “set in” – the sleeves. (You can catch up on the rest of the sewalong anytime here.)

Orla sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

The Orla top has fairly slim-fitting set-in sleeves, with a smooth sleeve head and subtle pleat at the shoulder. The pattern includes options for both full length or cropped-above-the-elbow sleeves, so the pattern will see you through all year round.

Sewing in sleeves can feel a little fiddly the first few times you do it, so don’t sweat it if you don’t get the hang of it straight away. We’re going to tack (baste) the sleeve in before stitching it for real, so you’ll get a practise run and chance to correct anything you’re not happy with :)

You should have two symmetrical sleeve pieces – the front is marked with a single notch, the back with a double notch. If your fabric looks the same on both sides, make sure you’ve got one left sleeve and one right sleeve both facing up before you start. They should both have pleat markings on them exactly 15mm (5/8in) long – check the pattern if you’re unsure.

Ready? Let’s do this!

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

At the top of each sleeve, fold the fabric right sides together, bringing the pleat lines directly on top of each other, and pin in place. Sew each pair of pleat lines together with a line of stitching exactly 15mm (5/8in) long. It’s best to start sewing from the inside of the pleat marking, sewing out towards the raw edge – if you start at the raw edge, you may find your threads get knotted up into a bit of a mess. Back tack at the start of the stitching, and the end if you can, so the stitching stays in place.

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern
How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

Spread each pleat open and finger press it flat against the sleeve so it’s spread evenly each side of the stitching. Pin each pleat in place. Set your machine to a longer stitch length (about 4mm) and tack (baste) horizontally across each pleat, 10mm (3/8in) from the raw edge. You could also call this tacking “stay stitching” as what you’re doing is holding the pleat in place so it stays put when you sew the sleeve into the armhole. The sleeve in the left of the photo above is showing what the pleat should look like on the right side (outside) of the fabric; the sleeve on the right is showing the wrong side of the fabric.

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

The sleeve head is a bit bigger than the armhole in order to create enough space for the fabric to go over the curve of your shoulder. So we need to ease the longer sleeve seam into the smaller armhole seam – and we’re going to use “ease stitching” to do it. This is pretty much the same thing as “gather stitching” if you’ve sewn a gathered sleeve head before, but more subtle, as ideally we don’t want to see the gathers on the outside of this sleeve.

Thread your machine in a contrast colour, so it’s easy to see the stitches and pull them out later, and set it to a longer stitch length. Starting about 5mm (1/4in) from the top of the sleeve, sew a row of stitching parallel to the raw edge, from one sleeve notch to just before the pleat, leaving some loose thread at either end of the stitching. Do the same thing on the other side of the pleat, from just after the pleat to the other sleeve notch. On each side of the pleat, sew two more rows parallel to the first, about 7mm (1/4in) apart – you should end up with two sets of three rows of stitching. Do the same on the other sleeve.

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing patternHow to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

Rethread your sewing machine in a matching colour and reset the stitch length to 2-2.5mm. Fold each sleeve lengthways, right sides together, and pin together the underarm seams. You might want to try the sleeve on your arm now and take it in or out if you prefer a slimmer or tighter fit. Try to avoid changing the position of the seam at the top too much as it’ll affect the way the sleeve goes into the armhole. Stitch. Trim the seam allowances, finish them with zigzag stitch and press them either open or towards the back (remember the back has double notches on the sleeve head).

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

Before pinning the sleeves to the armhole, check you’re putting the left sleeve into the left armhole and the right sleeve into the right armhole. I like to start by laying the bodice out right sides out and putting each sleeve next to its armhole – remember the front of the sleeve head has single notches, the back has double notches.

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

Flip the bodice over one of the sleeves at the armhole, bringing them right sides together. Line up the underarm seam of the sleeve with the side seam of the bodice and pin them together, with the pins at right angles to the raw edge of the fabric. Line up the centre of the pleat on the sleeve with the shoulder seam on the bodice and pin. Pin the sleeve at – and below – the notches, just below the ease stitching. Don’t pin over the ease stitching just yet…

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern
How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

Grab hold of the three ends of ease stitching on one side of the pleat – just three threads on the inside of the sleeve, not all six otherwise they won’t move – and gently pull on the ease stitching to gather up the fabric slightly. Do this until this part of the sleeve between the pins fits the armhole, then smooth out the gathers with your fingers so they’re nice and even, and secure in place with plenty of pins. Do the same on the other side of the pleat.

While I’m a fan of sewing efficiently, personally I like to pin and sew one sleeve before the pinning and sewing other. I find that if I pin both before sewing them, by the time I come to sew the second sleeve some of the pins have fallen out and the ease stitching gone awry. So let’s get to the sewing machine now…

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

We’re going to tack (baste) the sleeve into the armhole before sewing it for real. This is by no means essential, I often cut straight to the stitching, but if you haven’t set in many sleeves before – or just want to make extra sure you get it really neat - it’s good to have a practice run with some temporary stitches that we'll pull out later.

Thread your machine in a contrast colour and set your machine to a longer stitch length. With the sleeve right sides out, the wrong side up on your sewing machine so you’re sewing within the loop, tack (baste) the sleeve into the armhole using a 10mm (3/8in) seam allowance. Sewing the sleeve this way means that you can keep an eye on the little gathers of fabric – take your time, pausing with the needle down when you need to, and use your fingers to smooth out the easing in the fabric so it stays evenly distributed.

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

Once you’ve tacked the sleeve in, take a look at the right side. The aim is to end up without any little pleats or puckers, just a subtle fullness at the shoulder. If you’re not happy with how it’s gone in, you can unpick some of the tacking around any folds of fabric, smooth them out and try again.

On the other hand, if you just want to finish the top and get on with your life, I hear you!

Once you’re happy, rethread your machine in a matching colour thread, reset the stitch length to 2-2.5mm and sew it in for real with a 15mm (5/8in) seam allowance. There’s no need to back tack as long as, when you come full circle, your final few stitches overlap the first few.

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern
How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

Pin and stitch the other sleeve the same way. Use a seam ripper to unpick the tacking and ease stitches, taking care to avoid accidentally ripping out the “real” stitches. Trim, finish and press the seam allowances towards the sleeve. Try to avoid pressing out the fullness you’ve created at the shoulder. A sleeve board, sleeve roll or rolled up towel can help you to press the sleeve without pressing a crease into it. (Wanna make your own sleeve roll – AKA “tailor’s sausage” (LOLZ!)? Check out this fab guest tute by Kristiann Boos of Victory Patterns.)

How to Sew the Sleeves - Orla sewing pattern

The Orla top includes a 20mm (3/4in) sleeve hem allowance. Try the top on and shorten the sleeve length if you need to, bearing in mind that it will end up being 200mm (3/4in) shorter than where the raw edge finishes. Finish the raw edge of each sleeve hem with zigzag stitch or an overlocker. Turn it under towards the inside by 20mm (3/4in), press and pin in place. With the top turned right sides out so you’re sewing inside the loop of the sleeve, topstitch each sleeve hem close to the inside edge.

Orla sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

And that’s it - you’ve sewn the sleeves! I hope you’re feeling suitably proud of yourself, my friend. Only one more step to go! Stay tuned for the final post of the Orla sewalong when we’ll finish the hem with a facing.

Ooh and then on 11 November 2015 we’ll be showcasing some of your Orla tops on this blog! If you want the chance to have your Orla top featured, email us a picture by 9am GMT on Monday 9 November 2015 at lookwhatImade [at] tillyandthebuttons.com. Alternatively if you want to post it on your own Instagram or Twitter feed, tag us in @TillyButtons and use the hashtag #SewingOrla so we can find it. We like to feature bright, focused, uncluttered images, at least 650px wide and preferably portrait format. Can’t wait to see what you’ve made!

26 October 2015

Sewing Orla: Neckline Facing and Side Seams

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Sewing the Orla top? Next up in the sewalong is making the neckline facing, which will create a neat finish to both the neckline and the zip opening on the inside of the top. We’ll also sew the side seams at the end of this post.

If you haven’t started the Orla sewalong yet and fancy joining in, you can order your pattern in the shop and catch up on the steps.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

You should have one front neckline facing and two back neckline facing pieces, all interfaced apart from a 5mm strip along the long straight edge of each back piece. Place the back neckline facings right sides together and pin the bottom of the long straight edges. Mark a point 25mm (1in) up from the bottom. Using a 5mm (1/4in) seam allowance, stitch the facings together from this point down to the bottom.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Press the seam allowances open all the way up the back opening, including above the stitching line. You can use the edge of the interfacing as a guide.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Pin the front and back neckline facings together at the shoulder seams, right sides together, matching the notches.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Stitch. Trim the seam allowances and press them open.

You can finish the outside edge of the neckline facing if you want to, using zigzag stitch or an overlocker, or pressing the edge under and topstitching it down. I haven’t finished the neckline facing on mine because the fabric is fine and the thread adds bulk – I think it looks neater without in this case. The fabric shouldn’t fray because it’s interfaced.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Open the zip. Lay the facing over the bodice, right sides together. Pin them together around the neckline, matching the notches and shoulder seams. If you’ve made the collar, it should be sandwiched between the layers. Temporarily fold the zip tapes and the back opening seam allowances on the bodice and the facing flat - if you’ve added the collar, you may need to unpick a couple of tacking stitches at the back. Pin the back edges of the facing to the flattened zip tapes and back opening seam allowances, lining them up at the edges.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

With the facing on top, stitch the facing to the bodice around the neckline (don’t sew the back opening just yet). It’s a little tricky to start sewing over the bulk of the folded zip tapes – to make it easier, you can start sewing a couple of mm (1/8in) from the edge and don’t worry about back tacking. The stitches won’t unravel because we’re going to sew across them in the next step…

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Change the presser foot on your machine to a zip foot or adjustable zip foot. Now stitch the back edge of the facing to the zip tape and bodice on each side using a 5mm (1/4in) seam allowance – you can use the edge of the interfacing as a guide. Take your time to keep the seam allowance nice and even, and sew as far down as you can go before the zip pull gets in the way.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Turn the facing to the inside of the top temporarily, wrong sides together, and do the zip tape up. Is an even amount of zip tape showing on each side? If you’re not happy with your first attempt, measure the difference and restitch to even them out. Also check that the original zip stitching lines – from when you first attached the zip to the bodice – aren’t visible when the facing is turned to the inside. You could unpick them or restitch the facing again using a slightly wider seam allowance.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Turn the facing back to the outside, right sides together. Trim the seam allowances at the neckline. Cut triangular notches into the curves, being careful not to snip through the stitching line. This will help reduce the bulk of the seam allowance when the facing is turned to the inside.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Press the facing (but not the collar) away from the neckline and towards the seam allowances. Holding the fabric taut either side of the seam, understitch the facing to the seam allowances close to the seam line, as far as you can go (you won’t be able to get into the corners). Understitching means stitching a facing to a seam allowance to help keep it on the inside of the garment. If you made the collar, take care to keep it out of the way during this bit.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Snip diagonally across the corners at the top of the zip opening, through all layers including any flappy bits of zip tape, being careful not to snip through the stitching at the corner.

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Turn the facing to the inside of the bodice, wrong sides together, and do the zip up. Press, rolling the neckline seam slightly to the inside, pressing the collar to the right side if you made it, and gently pressing the facing away from the zip.

If the facing wants to pop out at the neckline, you can secure it to the inside of the bodice with some hand stitches hidden in the shoulder seam. You can also stitch the bottom of the zip tapes to the facing if you like.

And that’s the facing done! Doesn’t it look lovely and neat? Let’s just sew the side seams and then we’ll be done for today…

Sewing Orla: Neckline facing + side seams

Lay the front bodice on top of the back bodice, right sides together. Now would be a good time to try on your top and adjust the seams if you prefer a closer or looser fit – so pin the side seams along the stitching lines, parallel to and 15mm (5/8in) in from the raw edges, matching the notches.

A little time-saving tip: On the right side seam, insert the pins from the front bodice, with the pin heads towards the bottom; on the left side seam, insert the pins from the back bodice, with the pin heads towards the bottom. That way, when it comes to sewing, from the underarm downwards, the pins will be on the side you’ll be sewing on and you can pull them out from the head just before the needle gets to them.

Now you can try the top on inside out (assuming your torso is asymmetric!) and adjust the position of the pins to mark the new stitching line if you need to. The Orla top isn’t meant to be too tight, so don’t go crazy fitting it :) It’s best not to move the stitching lines at the underarms if you can help it, or at least not by much, as this will affect how the sleeves go in. Also be aware that if you change the side seam at the hem, you’ll need to take in or let out the hem facing side seams to match. Do-able - just something to remember.

Stitch the side seams from the top down, following the pins as a guide. Trim the seam allowances and finish them with zigzag stitch or an overlocker. Press the seam allowances either open or towards the back.

Take a well-earned break, fix yourself a cuppa, and in the next post we’ll insert the sleeves!

23 October 2015

Sewing Orla: Making the Collar

Orla sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons
Sewing the Orla top? Today I’m going to take you through sewing the snowdrop collar (yes, I totally made that term up).

The collar is optional – you can leave it off if you prefer, in which case join us at the next post when we’ll add the neckline facing. (Catch up with the rest of the sewalong here.)

Still here? Let’s get to it!

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

So you should have cut out four collar pieces and interfaced two symmetrical pieces (read the post on cutting and stabilising your fabric if you don’t know what I’m talking about). The two interfaced collar pieces will form the “top collar”, the other two will be the “under collar”.

A little extra note on interfacing the collar – if your fabric is very fine, you might find you get a neater collar by trimming the seam allowance off the interfacing before applying it, so it’s easier to press under later. It’s a bit fiddly to cut and stick accurately though, and not essential, so don’t worry too much about this. Just an option to bear in mind if you’re struggling to press the collar into a neat curve later.

Trim the outer edge of each of the two under collar pieces down by 2mm (just under 1/8in), tapering to 0mm at the corners. Making the under collars a teeny bit smaller than the top collars will help the seam lines roll to the underside so you don’t see them when you’re wearing the top.

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

We’ve marked a pivot point on the collar pattern at the inner corner of the scallops – this is where you should pivot the needle to get a nice sharp angle. Make sure you mark this point on the interfaced wrong side of the top collar pieces. It’s really helpful to draw the stitching lines in too, 15mm (5/8in) in from the edge, so you have a guide for sewing the curves, particularly where they are fairly tight near the inner corner. Read about how to mark in a stitching line. (In this picture I'm marking the stitching line on a random piece of fabric, but for this step you should be marking it on the interfaced side of the under collar.)

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

Starting with the corners and the notches, pin each top collar piece to its matching under collar piece at the outer edges, right sides together. Keep the pins at right angles to the raw edge of the fabric. Since you trimmed the under collars, you’ll need to stretch them ever so slightly to fit the top collars – make sure the notches match up so the collar is stretched evenly.

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

With the interfaced piece face up, sew each pair of collar pieces together around the outer edge, pivoting at the point marked on the pattern. Shortening the stitch length a little (to 1.5-2mm) will help you navigate the curves, but take care to keep the small stitches smooth (if you use too small a stitch length, they may go a bit wibbly). Sewing with the interfacing on top will help feed the two layers through the machine evenly, without distortion. Leave the neckline unstitched.

The inner corner around the pivot point can come under a bit of strain when it’s turned out, so go over the stitches around this point to reinforce them.

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

Trim the seam allowances down to about 5mm (1/4in). Cut triangular notches into the seam allowances around the outer edges of the curves and at the inner corner, taking care not to cut through the stitching line. Trimming and notching will help reduce the bulk of the seam allowances when the collar is turned right sides out.

Now we need to do lots of pressing to get nice smooth curves. Use as much heat as your fabric can take without scorching – test the iron setting out on a scrap first. Steam will really help shape the curves, however be careful about getting steam on the interfaced side as it might get squidged up into a sticky mess!

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

We’re going to start by neatening up the seam line to get it nice and defined. Starting with the collar still turned wrong sides out, press the seam allowances apart – the way I do this is to press the uppermost seam allowance back against the collar, then turn the collar over and do the same on the other side. Next, neaten it from the right side, by running the tip of the iron along the seam line between the layers.

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

Turn the collar pieces right sides out, and run the iron along the seam line again, this time on the inside. The iron won’t fit into the smaller curves – you could run a blunt butter knife or similar implement (love that word) along the seam line to neaten it up. Just be careful not to touch the iron to the knife, for obvious reasons!

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

Finally, press the collar flat, rolling the seam line slightly towards the under collar so you won’t see it from the top collar side.

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

Now to attach the collar to the bodice. Lay the bodice out flat, right sides up. Lay the collar pieces over the neckline, the under collar against the right side of the bodice. Pin them together at the neckline – start by pinning the front of the collar pieces so they meet flush at the centre front notch that you trimmed on the neckline earlier; then align the back edges with the edges of the fabric at the zip opening; next match up the shoulder notches with the shoulder seams and the front neckline notches with the notches on the neckline. Once these bits are all pinned, you can pin the rest of the collar to the neckline.

Since you stay stitched the neckline earlier, hopefully the collar will fit the neckline fairly easily. However, it’s not uncommon to find that the collar looks a little smaller than the neckline, either because it’s been cut a bit small, sewn a bit small, because the interfacing has made it less flexible than the neckline, or a combination of the above. Just stretch the collar gently and evenly until it matches the neckline.

Sewing the Orla collar - Tilly and the Buttons

Set your machine to a longer stitch length (4mm) and tack (baste) the collar to the neckline with a 10mm (3/8in) seam allowance. Take extra care when you come to the centre front where the two collar pieces meet – hold them flush together when you sew over them so you don’t end up with a gap between them. In fact, you could tack this bit first if you want to make extra sure you get it looking nice.

And that’s it for today! We’ll attach the collar with stronger stitches when we add the neckline facing in the next post – stay tuned…

How are you getting on with your Orla top?