30 June 2012

What's On My Sewing Table...

I'm planning to get stuck in to developing the pattern for my pussy bow blouse this weekend, but sometimes you just get the urge to sew something nice and easy, non? So I'm also whipping up another full skirt the same style as my Thinking in Shapes Skirt but probably gathered rather than pleated. Isn't this fabric dreamy? It's a Lucie Summers print, gifted to me by Annie at The Village Haberdashery. The collection is really lovely - take a peek if you dare...

Do you have any sewing plans this weekend? Do share!

[Soundtrack: 'Shop Around' by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles]

28 June 2012

Me me me....

Morning! I'm spread around the internets a bit at the moment, with two pieces recently going up on other people's blogs.

The first one is an interview with moi for the awesome Elena Cresci of Seamless. Remember that name, as Elena is destined to become a famous journalist very soon. Plus she writes a fabulous blog and has been sewing herself a very stylish wardrobe.

The second piece is a list of blogging tips that PR wizz Lissa Cook asked me to write a few months ago so she could teach them on a social media training course she runs for... erm... a sports development consultancy (!). She's now put the tips up on her blog for all the world to see. I'm a little embarrassed... but it's fine! Regular readers will recognise Lissa's name from the Day in the Life interview she did for me. My blogging tips were written with organisations rather than individuals in mind, as in my day job so often I see companies trying to jump on the blogging bandwagon but for purely promotional reasons, without considering it a two-way conversation. But maybe you'll find it interesting to compare your own blogging style... and do share your own tips in the comments here, I'd love to read them!


[Soundtrack: 'Ringing in My Ear' by Adem]

25 June 2012

Sewing Social: The Debrief

Want to know...

  • All about our plans for a sewing flash mob?
  • Who's dreaming of setting up a sewing cocktail bar?*
  • What the fabric for a Twitter-themed dress looks like?

Well you should have been at yesterday's inaugural Sewing Social Twitter Chat then!**

It was such fun chatting in real time with stitching fans. So many people joined in and the conversation was so animated that at one point #sewingsocial was trending above #Euro2012! How cool are we?! (On second thoughts, don't answer that.) Shame on those of you who thought the international football tournament was more important.

Image courtesy of Fiona at The Sewing Directory

Update! Marie has put together a Tweetdoc (me neither) capturing some of the conversation. Most strikingly it reveals that the first ever Sewing Social had 79 participants!

So it's safe to say the Sewing Social was a success, and participants agreed we should make it a monthly rendez-vous. Suggestions for future topics to kick off the next discussion include:

  • Sewing tips and tricks
  • How you learn to sew
  • Sewing fears
  • How to be a productive stitcher
  • Sources of sewing inspiration

Do suggest any other ideas you have and I'll announce the topic, time and date for the next chat nearer the time. Yay!

* Okay so you can probably guess that one!
** Residents of Asia, Oz etc excused.

22 June 2012

A Day in the Life of Rosie Martin - DIY Couture

So many of you loved the relaxed ethos and can-do attitude behind DIYcouture (see my book review), so you'll love reading all about what Rosie Martin gets up to on a typical day for this month's A Day in the Life. As you'll discover, Rosie practises the DIY attitude she preaches in all kinds of ways. Not only that, but having met her in the flesh I can assure you she is as delightful as she comes across here. "And what's her recipe book of choice, please?" you ask. Let's see...


"I usually get up at 07.30hrs and aim to start working by 09.00hrs, if not before. (I like to use military vocabulary for time keeping!) When I’m working I always have a concoction of different cereals for breakfast. I tend to have two coffees with my boyfriend before he leaves for work, then I feed our tropical fish and get on with the day. I am a natural tomboy, so I always wear trousers or shorts. I make a lot of trousers, so these may be my own high-waisted creations or simply some skinny jeans. I’m lucky enough to have a workroom in my flat, so when I’m working on DIYcouture, I don’t need to leave the house at all. I also have a part-time job in a crafts workshop, making multi-sensory books for people with severe learning disabilities. This is at the opposite end of London from my house, and I get there on my trusty bicycle, usually wearing waterproof trousers and a raincoat!

I recruit and co-ordinate skilled volunteers at my part-time job, a charity called Bag Books. The books we make are very unsual. Each page is an A3 piece of stiff board with a handmade object attached to it. The page may also have a sound or a smell. As well as supporting volunteers I also do a lot of hands-on making with fabric and wood as all of the books are created from scratch in the workshop. It’s a great job and I do it three days a week. I tend to work on DIYcouture for three days a week too and give myself one day off. I also tend to answer DIYcouture related emails in my lunch break and in the evenings.

I go everywhere by bicycle in London as it allows me to feel a sense of control in the city. I enjoy negotiating my way from Hackney in the North East right down to Battersea in the South West, which is where the Bag Books workshop is. I get to cycle over the River Thames and feel the wonderful British weather on my face and sometimes in my shoes. I love it!

My flat where I do DIYcouture is quite near the site of the 2012 Olympics, in a small area called Homerton. I live on a main road which is a strange mix of kebab shops, dry cleaners and trendy cafes! A fairly expensive vintage shop has even recently opened up there which is great for clothing research. My front door is sandwiched between a Nigerian jewellery shop and an Eastern European snooker club. There is a lot of floor space for sewing in our flat, basically because we live in a strange ramshackle building and cannot fit a sofa through our very narrow front door! My boyfriend makes music so our flat is jammed full of my fabric and his various amps, keyboards, guitars and other pieces of equipment.

My DIYcouture work is very varied, as I do almost everything for the business. I tend to deal with one big project at a time, so when I begin, I plan what tasks I need to do in order for this idea to become a reality, then I work through them methodically. I tend to give myself a deadline, which I write on my calendar, then I plan backwards from that date.

At the moment I am working on releasing three e-books – ‘How to make a kaftan,’ ‘How to make a shrug’ and ‘How to make a tulip skirt’. I am at the design stage of the visual instructions themselves. I have spent a few months testing the garment construction process, taking photos of this, drawing diagrams using Adobe Illustrator, then finally organising and styling a photoshoot with different girls wearing the various incarnations of the garments. I am now at the point where I am gathering all this information together and doing page layouts in InDesign. I like to sit down and get on with this straight away in the morning, which is when I am most sharp. I also manage the DIYcouture website, and sometimes I dedicate full days to working on this. When I started DIYcouture in 2008 I couldn’t afford a web designer, so I bought a book for ten pounds and taught myself html. In the morning, my boyfriend may ask me what I am doing today, and I say, “Today I am going to change the internet”. I find web design very exciting, as I spend hours writing in code that looks like nonsense, then I upload the nonsense and it becomes clear imagery that anyone can access.

I have been lucky enough to meet all sorts of great people through DIYcouture. When I first printed the books I started selling them at zine fairs in London, so I met a great crowd of DIY book artists, particularly Jimi Gherkin, an enthusiastic believer in getting stuck in and giving new things a go. He is part of a group called the Alternative Press who put on great zine-related events and I am proud to be part of many of them. I deal with all the people who stock my books, often inspirational women running their own haberdasheries or design shops, either physically or online, for example Barley Massey at Fabrications in Hackney, or Rachel and Michelle at Ray Stitch in Islington.

I teach sewing workshops at sewing schools all across London, and have met some amazing, practical, ambitious girls through doing this too. I am a huge admirer of Claire-Louise at The Thrifty Stitcher. She is a costume expert and is never afraid to explore new sewing gadgets or forms of digital technology. I also have the pleasure of working regularly with Louise and Claire (two people!) at The Papered Parlour in Clapham. They work incredibly hard to make their dream business a success.

I deal with clothing and shoe designers, as I often borrow pieces to style the DIYcouture photo shoots. I try to borrow items from ethically-minded companies, or from independent designers. It has been a great pleasure to meet Amanda Luisa from I CAN Make Shoes and to borrow some great DIY creations from her.

I usually have lunch around 13.30hr. Sometimes I am so busy at lunchtime that I just have marmite on toast, or chocolate spread on toast (I have a horribly sweet tooth!). Mostly though I make a big salad. My favourite is a kind of vegetarian salad nicoise, with leaves, raw broccoli, capers and soft boiled eggs.

If I have sewing to do I will often do this in the afternoon. I find it harder to concentrate on the computer after lunch, so to avoid wasting time getting lost on Tumblr or some such like I tend to turn off the computer and get down to making.

The hardest part of DIYcouture is admin – finances and record keeping. I have to force myself to do these, and when there are so many more pressing or exciting tasks to do these often slip down the list. I really have to strap myself down to tackle them. The other hard part is fitting everything in. I have so many ideas for DIYcouture that I would like to realise, but I must prioritise. Which leads to another hard part – making sure I don’t work constantly! I truly enjoy DIYcouture so much that I find it hard to give myself limits! I find drawing the technical diagrams absorbing and satisfying, I obviously love to design and make clothes. I adore having an excuse to go fabric shopping and the way designing for other people (imagined users of the instructions!), not just myself, allows me to explore fabrics I might not otherwise buy. I take great pleasure in breaking down a practical process and doing my very best to explain it so that others can understand. I still get nervous about teaching, but I love working with people who have never made a piece of clothing before and seeing how proud they are when they see that they have created something all by themselves.

I started DIYcouture as I was frustrated that people I knew seemed to feel making clothes was not something within their grasp. I saw that beginners turned to patterns when they wanted to start sewing, but were often baffled by the complexity and therefore put off for life, or they saw old-fashioned images of people wearing unflattering clothing and didn’t feel inspired. I had a burning desire to make picture-based instructions that anyone could understand, in order to help more people access self-created clothing.

I quit my full-time job doing research for a homelessness charity to pursue the DIYcouture project. My mum was quite worried about this and retrospectively it was certainly not very sensible, but I was 25, very determined and not especially sensible!

DIYcouture has grown like things do, gradually and like a snow ball! I have learned so much through DIYcouture that I feel as though I have sort of put myself through art college. When I started I had never drawn a diagram before so I taught myself to use Illustrator. I couldn’t use InDesign, and my Dad spent many a painstaking hour with me at his shoulder doing layouts and showing me the ropes, so that using it is now second nature.

My tip for other women planning to start a sewing business would be to allow your initial idea to adapt as time passes. You might begin with a very strong picture of what you want, but it may develop in a way you couldn’t imagine at the start. You will work out the best way for your idea to progress as you go.

This brilliant post idea of Tilly’s is an investigation into making money from a sewing business. When I began DIYcouture I did have the idea that it would be a full-time business for me. As time passed I realised selling instructions alone did not make a business. I went through a period of considering all the ways DIYcouture could become a profit making enterprise. I played with the idea of selling starter sewing kits of scissors and thread but I didn’t want to buy a load of physical equipment that I would then feel tied to pushing in order to sell. I was approached by various companies who wanted to advertise on the DIYcouture website but I always turned them down. I wondered whether I was being silly, but realised that DIYcouture is my dream project. At that point I decided I would be happy to run it part-time, as a business that covers its own costs, rather than as a full-time job that I depend upon in order to make a full living. This way I avoid compromising the goals of DIYcouture and I maintain my passion for it, as one does with a hobby. Luckily, pieces of paid work have sprung from DIYcouture, such as the book I recently wrote and teaching workshops. My part-time job ensures that I can always pay my rent!

In the first couple of years of doing DIYcouture I would work into the night, but these days I usually finish my day at about 18.30hrs or 19.00hrs. My boyfriend Joel has helped me to recognise the benefits of time-off! I play drums and practice with a band once a week. This is a lot of fun and very relaxing. I have a few friends in bands so we go to quite a few gigs to see them play. I like to read short stories and non-fiction books too. I don’t have a TV but my boyfriend and I own all seven series of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD and we have been steadily working our way through these over the last year! Before that we were watching the Leonard Nimoy series ‘In Search Of’ on YouTube. I love museums and galleries, so on my day off I often go exploring some of the amazing places that London has to offer. Dinner varies, it may be a pizza that my boyfriend and I enhance with extra vegetables, or we may get fancy and cook something from Ottolenghi’s vegetarian recipe book. If I am lucky, my sister will invite us over to dinner and we will have something exquisitely delicious that she has somehow found the time to rustle up (she runs her own jewellery business full-time)! She makes an amazing pecan and caramel cheesecake. I am usually in bed by around 23.30hrs, unless my band is playing a gig, in which case it will be horribly late and I will have to go to bed at 21.00hrs the next day!!"


Oh Rosie! Can I be you, please? No? Is that just a bit creepy? Okay, I'll just admire from afar then!

18 June 2012

Sewing Social Twitter Chat!

Hey,  how about we get together for a Twitter chat next Sunday?

One of the best things about the online sewing community is how friendly and interactive it is. And yet, as posts, comments and replies are temporally staggered, there is a sense in which the conversations are interrupted and don't flow as naturally as they could (well, as natural as is possible online). So how about we try to have an online meet-up in real time through a Twitter chat?

Sunday 24th June
8 - 9pm London / 3 - 4pm New York / 12 - 1pm LA etc
(with apologies to the people who will be asleep!)

On Twitter using the hashtag #sewingsocial
My Twitter name is @TillyVanilly if you want to follow me ready for kick off.

What shall we talk about?
How about we have a chat about why we sew. What does sewing mean to you? What inspires you to sew? Why do you enjoy it? What made you start sewing? What's the best thing about sewing? What frustrations do you have with sewing and how do you overcome them? Why should other people try sewing?
And if that gets boring (as if!) we could always move on to other topics.

Hoping you can join me and I won't be Tilly No Mates on Twitter!! If you'll be there, do help spread the word in advance so we get a nice group of people together. If it's good, perhaps we could turn it into a monthly date? I'm sure we can think of loads of topics to discuss!

17 June 2012

Craftivism in Action

The sunshine came out - at last! - just in time for Craftivist Collective's latest event, where I had a lovely time this afternoon embroidering a fabric jam jar lid and chatting to other stitchers. You may remember my recent interview with Sarah, who set up the Craftivist Collective as a way to use handmade as a tool for political engagement. Meeting Sarah inspired me to go along and see for myself what it's all about... and I'm so glad I did.

The project I took part in is part of Oxfam's GROW campaign for a fairer world where everyone has enough to eat. The idea is to stitch messages promoting change and equality awareness onto the lids, fill the jars with homemade tomato jam and gift them to someone who you want to think about the issues - whether that be a person you know or someone in power such as your local MP. You can find out more about it from Crafitivists themselves.

The event took place at lovely Spitalfields City Farm. I often go on about the importance of being aware of how clothes are made and where they come from, and being surrounded by growing veg and bleating animals was the perfect backdrop to remind me to be conscious of the source of my food too...

14 June 2012

A Vintage Pattern Haul

I recently acquired this score of lovely patterns via a reader. I've been trying to avoid all types of shopping - vintage pattern shopping in particular, which can be highly addictive! I couldn't resist these little gems, however, particularly because they're all so wearable, which I find many vintage patterns aren't (for me). Some of these you may just call "old" instead of "vintage", but whatever, personally I think they're all really special. The short green version of the first pattern is my favourite - I love the baby doll style. And oh those dreamy hairstyles!

[Soundtrack: 'Sweet Virginia' by the Rolling Stones]

12 June 2012

What's On My Sewing Table

The very unglamorous beginnings of a new pattern design, drafted by moi. It's going to be a button-down blouse with a one piece front-and-back yoke, gathering, pussy bow collar and floaty sleeves. Or that's the initial idea, but just like the button-back blouse I drafted it'll probably mutate over time as I make a series of iterations, each of them slightly different.

The finished blouse will be made in chocolate brown polka dots - this yellow cotton is just for the toile. The first toile looks like such a mess, hastily basted together, but it's important to not be precious about it as it's just the very first test version. When flat pattern cutting, I often get sucked into perfecting the paper version, but until you see what it looks like in fabric on the stand you can't really tell how you're going to want to change it. And now that's in on the stand I feel like the shape needs some radical changes. So it's a slow process... but hopefully worth it in the end!

[Soundtrack: 'Ooh, Yeh Yeh' by Graham Coxon]

9 June 2012

How to Make a Picnic Blanket Skirt: Part 3

Part 3: Gathering, attaching skirt to waistband, hemming, buttonholes

This is the final part of How to Make a Picnic Blanket Skirt (see also part 1 and part 2). Just a few more steps and you'll have your own button-down gathered skirt. Yay!

4) Gathering:

- To help make the placement of the gathers nice and even, put some little markings along the bottom edge of the front waistband piece (the interfaced one) where the side seams and centre back of the skirt should go. Mark the centre back of the skirt too.

- Gather stitch along the top of the skirt by sewing three rows of long stitches (preferably in a different colour thread) parallel to each other and leaving long thread tails at the ends for pulling. Tilly Tip: If you try to gather stitch along the entire length of the top of the skirt, your threads will probably snap as there is so much fabric to gather. Instead, divide the skirt into four segments and gather stitch each separately – left front piece, left side seam to centre back of back piece, centre back to right side seam of back piece, right front piece.

- Form the gathers on one of these segments by holding the three threads from one end of the stitching and pulling on them as you use your other hand to help the fabric scrunch up evenly. Keep doing this until the gathers are nice and even and the skirt pieces fit the matching segment of the waistband (the waistband markings should come in handy here).

5) Attaching skirt to waistband:

- Place the front waistband piece on top of the skirt right sides together. Pin this segment of the skirt to the matching segment of the bottom edge of the front waistband piece only (NOT the back waistband piece) using lots of pins to keep the gathers in place. Then gather and pin in the same way along the other segments of the skirt.

- If you’re more patient than I am, baste. If not, just skip straight to the stitching part, sewing the front waistband piece to the top of the skirt, being careful not to catch the back (non-interfaced) waistband piece.

- Tilly Tip: If your fabric is on the heavy side, stitch again to reinforce it as you’ll have quite a weight of fabric hanging down from a relatively small waistband.

- Remove the gather stitches. This is why it’s a good idea to sew them in a different colour – so you can more easily identify which stitches to rip out.

- Press the waistband away from the skirt.

- On the back (non-interfaced) waistband piece, press the seam allowance up (wrong sides together) and pin it to the other side of the skirt.

- If you’re more patient than I am, slipstitch by hand. If like me you can’t wait to finish this beauty, machine stitch - topstitch on the front/outside of the waistband close to the seam line.

6) Hem it:

A few people who've sewn this skirt said they prefer to do the buttons and buttonholes before hemming so they can make sure both sides match up at the hemline. If your fabric isn't geometric like mine - and thus not so easy to line up each side - this is probably a good idea. Personally I prefer to do the hemming first so I know how many buttonholes to add.

- Because you’ve got lots of fabric hanging down, it’s a good idea to let the skirt hang for a few hours or overnight before hemming in case the fabric stretches.

- Try it on and adjust the hemline if necessary so you’re comfortable with the length.

- If you went with a 2” hem allowance, fold it up by just a tiny bit under 1” and press, then by another 1” and press again, then pin in place. Again, if you’re patient you can slipstitch the hem by hand, but remember you’ve got a lot of fabric there to cover! Otherwise go for a machine stitched hem. You could try a decorative topstitch like I did on my Thinking in Shapes Skirt to make a feature out of your laziness!

7) Buttons and buttonholes:

- On the right placket, you need to mark the buttonholes. First mark the vertical position with little dots or crosses. You’ll definitely want one on the waistband, then you’ll want to place the rest evenly down the length of the skirt, maybe around 3” apart from each other.

- Next mark horizontal lines for each buttonhole. If you’re using a flat ¾” button, the buttonhole will need to be 7/8” long. The buttonhole should start 1/8” from the left and overlap the centre of the placket (the “fitting line”) by 1/8”. The buttonholes don’t sit dead centre as you want the buttons themselves to be centred and the buttons will slide towards the right edge of the holes.

- Stitch your buttonholes.

- Now you need to mark the positions of the buttons on the left placket. Overlay the plackets as if you’re buttoning up the skirt, then pin them together evenly. Slip your marker (chalk pencil, washable pen…) through each buttonhole to mark the vertical positions along the left placket. The horizontal position should be dead centre to the button stand, but you may want to adjust the waistband one slightly to your preference while trying on the skirt.

- Sew the buttons onto the left placket.

Ta da! You’re done!

If you make your own Picnic Blanket Skirt, I’d love to see it! Please do share a link below to your blog, Pinterest, Flickr or wherever. I may feature the pictures in a future post so if you’d rather I didn’t borrow your image just leave a note with the link in the comments.

I hope you enjoyed this how to! There are a lot of figures involved and it took a looooong time to put these together typing into the night, so if you spot any mistakes, let me know so I can correct them. Hopefully you find this useful though :)

8 June 2012

How to Make a Picnic Blanket Skirt: Part 2

Part 2: Sewing the plackets, pockets and waistband

If you’ve followed Part 1 of How to Make a Picnic Blanket Skirt, you should now have your pieces of fabric cut out (with interfacing attached) and ready to sew together to make your own button-down gathered skirt like this one. Ready to sew? Let’s go!

1) Create the plackets (where the buttons and buttonholes will go):

- On the centre front edges of the front pieces of the skirt, fold the seam allowances back (wrong sides together). Press.

- Fold back another 1 ¾” to form the placket, press and pin in place.

- Top stitch down both sides close to the edges of the placket.

- Do the same with the other placket.

2) Add the pockets:

- Finish the side seams of the skirt on the back piece and two front pieces. Finish the edges of all four pocket pieces.

- Work out how far down the side seams of the skirt you want the pockets to go. You could look at where they are on an existing skirt or guess based on where you think your hands will sit. As a guide, placing the top of the pocket pieces a couple of inches down the side seams should be about right, but work out what's right for you based on where your waist (and thus the skirt waistband) sits. Mark this point on each of the four skirt side seams.

- Pin each pocket piece to one of the skirt side seams, right sides together, aligning the flat edge of the pocket to the side seam. Before you stitch, double check that the pocket placement matches up by laying the front pieces of the skirt on top of the back piece. Once you’re happy, stitch the flat edge of the pockets to the side seams of the skirt with a slightly smaller seam allowance than your regular one (3/8” if you’re using ½” SA).

- Fold the pocket away from the skirt so it’s sticking out the side and press along the seam.

- Place the right side of the skirt front piece onto the right side of the back piece, aligning the side seams and pockets (which should still be sticking out the side). Pin in place.

- Now stitch it all together. Starting from the top of the skirt side seam, sew down the side seam until you’re ½” past the top of the pocket, then around the pocket edge and back out ½” onto the skirt, then down the rest of the side seam to the bottom. Do the same on the other side of the skirt.

- Tilly Tip: Reinforce the corners of the pocket/side seam stitching with a few extra stitches, as this is one of those areas that likes to form holes.

- Press the pockets and seams towards the front.

3) Waistband:

- Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), this is the key part of the garment that is going to be fitted to your body, so before stitching it's a good idea to double check that the piece you cut out is the right size. Test it out round your waist, taking into account the fact that at this stage each piece will be 3 3/4" bigger than your waist to accommodate button stand, seam allowances and 1" ease.

- Pin both pieces of the waistband together, right sides together. Stitch along three sides, leaving one of the long sides (the bottom edge) open.

- Snip the corners, being careful not to cut through the stitching. Trim the seam allowances down to half the width.

- Turn the waistband right sides out, and use something like a soft pencil (nothing too sharp!) to make the corners nice and pointy. Press.

Next up: Part 3 - Gathering, attaching skirt to waistband, hemming, buttonholes - and then you're done!

7 June 2012

How to Make a Picnic Blanket Skirt: Part 1

Part 1: Measurements + supplies

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my Picnic Blanket Skirt! As promised, here are some instructions on how to make your own – also known as a button-down gathered skirt. Whether you choose to make yours in picnic blanket style fabric or not is up to you! Needless to say (I hope), don’t actually make this out of a blanket… gingham cotton or linen will work just fine ☺It would also look great with stripes, plains, polka dots, boats, cats... you name it!

If you make your own version I'd love to see it! And feel free to grab a button if you have a blog you want to share it on. Choose from 150px or 125px square images, copy the code in the text box next to the image and add it to an HTML gadget on your blog layout:

You don’t need a pattern to make this skirt. It’s made up of simple rectangle shapes - you will work out the dimensions of the pieces based on your own measurements, and mark them on the fabric. I used a large gingham fabric - the squares made it easy to cut out rectangle pieces with right angled corners without marking the fabric too much. But if you’re worried about getting it right or marking the fabric, you could cut the shapes out in banner or pattern paper first and use them as you would a regular pattern.

In this post I’ll explain how to work out the dimensions of the fabric pieces to cut out. Knowing these measurements will help you to work out how much fabric you need (as a guide, I’m little and used about 2.3m). In the next two posts I’ll go through how to sew it all together.

You will need:
  • Fabric – see below for measurements
  • Interfacing for waistband and plackets
  • Thread
  • 7 – 10 x ¾” buttons – depending on the length of your skirt
  • Optional - Pocket pattern piece borrowed from another pattern

You will also need a tape measure, paper and pens to keep a note of all the measurements. And you’ll need your waist and hip measurements.

Okay, so let’s work the dimensions of the pieces that you need to cut out. Don’t be put off by the numbers below – it may look complicated but really it’s quite simple to work out, I promise! Personally when I’m learning something new I like to know why you do it a certain way, so I’ve broken down and explained the reason for all the dimensions for people who learn this way - which is why it looks so complicated. If, however, you’d rather cut straight to the essentials, just skip to the text in bold!

The skirt is comprised of 4 different shapes:
  • Back piece x 1
  • Front pieces x 2
  • Waistband x 2 (inside and outside)
  • Pockets x 4 (to make 2 pockets)

Please note that I’m adding ½” seam allowances (a standard often used in pattern drafting), but do change it to 5/8” if you prefer. Just remember to keep the size of your seam allowances consistent.

1) Back piece:

(i) This is where you get to choose how full you want the skirt to be. To help you decide, first imagine a skirt where the fabric fits tightly round your hips – a full skirt could have somewhere between two or three times this amount of fabric, allowing it to stand out from your body with lovely folds of fabric hanging down. Three times the width is pretty crazy gathered – you could find that amount of fabric heavy to wear, plus that length of gathering could be difficult to achieve without breaking the thread. I went for about 2.1 times my hip measurement to make a lovely casual yet full skirt.
(ii) To get the width of the back piece (half of the skirt), divide your chosen number by two. So for example I went for (2.1 / 2 x my 36” hips) = 37.8”, which I rounded up to 38”.
(iii) Add 2 x ½” seam allowance on each side = 1”
TOTAL WIDTH = (2.1 x hip measurement)/2 + 1”

(i) Choose the length you want the skirt to fall. I usually drop a tape measure down from my waist to the top of my kneecap, but choose the most flattering length for you. To be on the safe side, you could always make it longer and cut it down at the fitting stage depending on how it looks when it’s on you.
(ii) Add ½” seam allowance to the top
(iii) Add 2” at the bottom for the hem (NB. some people add 4” hem allowance to skirts, but I always end up chopping 2” off before finishing. Do what is right for you.)
TOTAL LENGTH = (waist to knee) + 2.5”


2) Front pieces:

(i) There are two front pieces to one back piece, so take the width of the back piece excluding seam allowances [ie. (2.1 x hip)/2] and divide it by 2
(ii) Add 7/8” for the button stand
(iii) Add (7/8” x 2) = 1 ¾” for the back of the placket
(iii) Add 2 x ½” seam allowance for each side of the piece = 1”
TOTAL WIDTH = (Back piece width excl SA)/2 + 3 5/8”

Same as back piece.


3) Waistband:

(i) Measure your waist
(ii) Add 1” ease
(iii) Add (2 x 7/8”) = 1 ¾” for the button stand
(iv) Add 2 x ½” seam allowance for each side of the piece = 1”
TOTAL WIDTH = Waist + 3 ¾”

(i) I want my waistband to be 1.5”. You can make yours a little bigger if you like.
(ii) Add 2 x ½” seam allowance for top and bottom = 1”


4) Pockets:
If you want to add pockets, grab a pocket shaped piece from another pattern.


You need three pieces of interfacing in total:
- One to the size of the waistband to go on the front waistband piece.
- Two to the size of the placket, ie. 1 ¾” x length of skirt, to go on the centre front edges of the front pieces (don’t forget to place them ½” in from the edge to account for the seam allowance).
Press the interfacing onto the fabric pieces now while you remember where they go.

Now that you have these measurements, note them down somewhere safe in case you want to make more and more of these skirts! You should now be able to cut all the pieces out, ready to sew – I’ll explain how to do that in the next post. Now go and make yourself a cup of tea, you deserve it ☺

Next up: Part 2 - Sewing the pockets, plackets and waistband.

4 June 2012

Summer Sewing Plans

Like all good plans, they're bound to get abandoned as I get distracted by other ideas, but these are some projects that have been playing on my mind and which I'd love to sew up this Summer. At first glance these garments don't seem to go together at all. But as I looked a little closer I realised two things. Firstly, the patterns are all from totally different sources (vintage, independent, self-drafted, commercial) but they all have a similar kinda relaxed chic vibe going on and more than a smattering of 1970s influence. Secondly, I just can't help myself as far as brown polka dots, bright red and soft bright blue cottons are concerned. Seriously, if you looked in my fabric stash you'd laugh at the repetition there. I know what I like!

What are your Summer sewing plans? Do you tend to stick to your sewing plans or abandon them as other ideas emerge?

PS. Have you seen the design competition that The Sewing Directory is running this month? The prizes are really great - snazzy sewing machine and fabric vouchers!

[Soundtrack: 'Heatwave' by Martha and the Vandellas]

1 June 2012

More Me-Made-May Madness!


Life has been pretty crazy recently. So you'd think that challenging myself to wear homemade garments every day for a month would be just one too many layers of crazy, enough to push me over the edge. Surprisingly, however, Me-Made-May has been really easy! (Check out my Me-Made-May photos from the first half of the month too.) It just goes to show that wearing homemade is becoming part of my regular lifestyle. Awesome :)

Erm... about the random chest shot on Day 20. I was at the Cannes Film Festival (darling) and too embarrassed to ask anyone to take a photo of me, so I just turned my iPhone camera on myself while waiting for a movie to start. Ah and if you're wondering what the rail of clothing is on Day 29, they're the garments featured in DIY Couture! The photo was taken by Karen at the book launch, where we had mega fun (although it was insanely hot) chatting to other stitchers and crafty peeps.

I've been working hard on the Picnic Blanket Skirt tutorial, but I've promised myself a day off tomorrow so I hope you don't mind waiting a few more days. In the meantime if you want to get your fabric ready, 2.5 metres should suffice, give or take a bit depending on your frame and how gathered you want the skirt to be, plus you'll need 7 to 10 3/4 inch buttons depending on your height.

In the meantime, hope you have a lovely weekend. Any sewing plans, perchance?

[Soundtrack: 'Everyday People' by Sly & The Family Stone]