23 June 2010

How to Make a Bow Belt

This bow belt will add a gorgeous finishing touch to your homemade dresses and skirts. Make it in matching or contrast fabric - it's a great way to use up leftover material. 

You will need:
- fabric (the amount you need will vary depending on the measurements of your pattern, below)
- matching thread
- iron-on interfacing (similar weight to your fabric)
- two sets of hooks and eyes
- sewing machine and tools

To make the belt, start by drawing the pattern pieces on some paper to the following measurements:

Belt: length is half of your waist size, plus 5cm (2in) (cut on fold), by width of 11cm (4 3/8in)
Bow: 30 x 12cm (12 x 4 3/4in)
Knot: 8 x 8cm (3 x 3in)

1. Cut one of each piece in your fabric, cutting your belt on the fold so it ends up double the length. Cut iron-on interfacing to the length and half the width of the belt pattern, and apply it to the wrong side of the bottom half of the belt.

2. Fold the belt in half lengthways, right sides together, and press. Pin, then sew along the long side and one of the short sides, leaving one short side unsewn. Snip the corner, trim the seams and press them open.

3. Turn the belt right sides out so the interfacing is on the inside. I find a chopstick (or similar) helps here. Hold the smooth end of the chopstick against the stitched short end of the belt, then gradually smooth the wrong side of the belt over it. It'll bunch up more and more, and feel like a bit of a chore for a while, but eventually you'll see the end of the belt emerge out of the top of the tube. Grab this end, discard the stick, and gently pull it through (don't yank it too hard!) so the belt turns right side out.

4. Right now the belt looks a little like a deflated snake. Let's sharpen it up. First we need to make the corners look a bit more like corners - use a pin to gently coax out the point. Now give the belt a good press, rolling the seam line a tiny bit to the non-interfaced side of belt. Fold the seam allowance of the unsewn edge inside the belt, and either topstitch or slip stitch the end closed.

5. Fold the bow in half lengthways, right sides together, and sew along the long edge. Trim the seams and press them open. Turn the bow right sides out and press, with the seam line in the centre of the piece. Place the short ends of the bow together and topstitch them together to form a loop (the ends won't be on show). Position these topstitched ends in the centre of the loop and press the bow flat.

Make up the knot in the same way, but don't sew the ends together.

6. Pinch the centre of the bow into a concertina shape. Wrap the knot tightly around the bow and pin the ends of the knot together to hold the bow in place. Sew the ends of the knot together, either by machine or hand, trimming off any excess fabric if need be.

7. Hand sew the bow onto the front of the right-hand end of the belt, catching the bow and knot pieces with the stitches. Hand-sew two hooks onto the underside of the right-hand end of the belt. Try the belt on, mark the positions for the corresponding eyes on the front of the left-hand end, then hand sew them on.


love at first stitch

This is an updated version of a tutorial which appears in Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes (Quadrille, 2014) - you can order a signed copy from Tilly's shop or regular one from Amazon
Photos by Arielle Gamble

19 June 2010

Blogger meet up with Debi!

My first blogger meet up! I'm in Edinburgh for the film festival so took the opportunity to meet up with the lovely Debi from My Happy Sewing Place. I was somewhat apprehensive walking into the rendez vous (would it be awkward? would we get on?), but the nerves evaporated the second we spotted each other across the cafe and burst into fits of giggles, shrieking and pointing at Debi's dress (she wore her dress! of course I was going to spot her!), to the bemusement of the rest of the clientele.

We bought up nearly the whole of Edinburgh Fabrics. Debi picked out some lovely blue cotton for her next very exciting, top secret project. It was great to find out more about Debi (although in a way it felt like I'd known her for years). And it was so much fun talking about sewing IRL!

I spent a fortune (blame Debi) but am proud to say I can match up all the fabric I bought with patterns I've been meaning to crack open, so expect to see some new finished projects soon. And I couldn't resist these buttons (above). They made me shriek in a very high pitched voice. I won't show you all the other stuff I bought as I'm a bit embarrassed about just how much of it there is! It was all really good value though, particularly the candy striped bed sheet I found in a charity shop for £1.29 that's going to become a Summer skirt (finds like that don't exist in London).

Afterwards went to Anteaques, a gorgeous antiques-and-tea shop (can you see what they did there?) where we ate scones and drank hazelnut tea (Debi) and verbena infusion (me), surrounded by historical gems. The owner came to take our order just as we were reviewing our purchases, and it turned out that he's obsessed with fabrics too! We had a nice time chatting to him, explaining how we met each other through blogging (I felt like such a nerd), and he rummaged around under some boxes to bring out a vintage Singer machine to show us.

I had such a fantastic afternoon! Hope to see you again soon, Debi!

16 June 2010

The Birthday Party Dress

Finished! Woop woop! The pattern is McCalls 6120, but I don't know what date it's from as I can't find it on the Vintage Sewing Pattern Wiki - any ideas? 1960 maybe? I'm calling it The Birthday Party Dress - it's not my birthday and I'm not having a party, but for some reason wearing it makes me feel like a precocious girl itching to get to the party and do the mashed potato.

Man, it feels so great to have another vintage sewing project under my belt. And a red bow belt at that! Made from leftover fabric from my Ceylon dress.

The project came together pretty easily, up until the point when I came to insert the zip in the back and noticed a freak 2 inch discrepancy on each side between the centre back of the bodice and the centre back of the skirt - see above. I couldn't understand this as I'd folded the pleats quite accurately. Maybe it's a feature of inserting a lapped zip? But it didn't make any sense to me, so I had to perform some jiggery pokery on the pleats to pull the skirt edge in to meet the bodice. And after that I couldn't face the pressure and confusion of the lapped zip instructions with all its references to laps, flaps and semi-flaps, so I stuck to what I knew and went with a centred zip. I know, I know, living on the edge!

I learnt how to make pleats! The toil involved in these babies made me feel extremely guilty about the fact that, when I was at secondary school, my mum used to tack - yes, tack - the pleats of my school uniform skirt up every Sunday night before ironing them. Sheesh! She really shouldn't have bothered, particularly because as a teenager experimenting with ways to attract boys I'd roll my skirt half way up my thighs anyway, thus ruining the pleats and my mum's hard work. Oops.

I particularly like the bow belt and am planning on making another one in the yellow floral fabric leftover from my first dress to give it another look.

[Soundtrack: 'Party Lights' by Claudine Clark]