PU fabric

I am currently making a simple pencil skirt for parties. The fabric is silver PU (a girl needs some bling over Christmas) which is much simpler to work with than I expected, however I have no idea how to make the hem.

Like leather you cannot use pins because they leave holes in the fabric. But unlike leather it is very stretchy so presumably that precludes the use of fabric glue.

Any ideas?

What To Do Next?

Sewing is supposed to be the relaxing part of my life but at the moment I feel as if it’s actually the most stressful – my own fault I have done what I always do and have too many things on the go at once.  So in order of completion:

Finished but not blogged about:

  • Two jersey dresses which my friend Alice of Alice & Co designed
  • Orange trousers made at the end of last summer and copied from another pair of trousers
  • Drapped jersey skirt from pattern runway – lovely skirt – made because I was intrigued by the construction method

Nearly complete to in progress

  • Raw edged coat from the Makers Atelier – just needs buttons and button holes
  • Two more jersey dresses designed by Alice – put aside for the time being because the bamboo jersey I chose to make them with proved to be much stretchier and drapier than I had expected
  • Self drafted cotton sateen dress – actually this one could be called finished, I am just not sure it’s actually that flattering so I have plans to alter it.
  •  Vogue 1179 in orange just waiting for the hems to be completed (bought the thread, lost the thread…..)
  • Vogue 1194 front made – lots of swearing about the pleats – back to do
  • StyleArc Emma dress for work – lots and lots of swearing about the fit – called on my friend who helped sort it out, but now needs sewing up
  • Charlotte skirt cut out but not started

Wanna start and (in a fit of enthusiasm) have bought the fabric

  • Checked shift dress – I even have a pattern for this one
  • Silver pencil skirt for Christmas (but which year?) to be drafted from my block
  • Curved seam dress to be drafted using Studio Faro instructions

Vague ideas

  • Pair of good trousers
  • A jacket

Is this normal or is it just me?

Thank you!

Thank you all for the advice given in response to my last post about books for helping children learn how to sew, there were some great ideas.  Catherine I think you are right the SewU books might be the answer, particularly home stretch.  Being a bit of a tomboy she  wears leggings, t-shirts and sweat shirts so learning how to make dresses from woven fabric doesn’t have much appeal.  I also like the idea of the Japanese books, the other advantage of these is that the patterns are likely to fit a 12 year old child.   Also, Marianna thank you for pointing out that the screen has superseded books for many youngsters!

Another book I am considering is the newly published  Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking by Wendy Ward.   Look at these great projects you can make from it.  I particularly like the jacket

Also look at the variations – the t-shirts are great fun

Actually I might get it for us both – that way I can use the patterns too!



Help and Advice Needed!

My partner’s daughter is going to be 12 next week and, as she has enjoyed sewing a few things with me, we have decided to give her one of my old sewing machines. I wasn’t sure if this would be as good present as its a fine line between encouraging a child and pushing them into something which they later don’t enjoy, but we asked her if she wanted it and her response was beyond excited.

She doesn’t live with us and her Mum is not a sewer so if her sewing machine is not going to sit in the corner unused she could do with a book to help her and that’s where I need some advice.

So far we have sewn a simple dress which I drafted for her, an elastic waisted skirt and a t-shirt which we copied off one of her favourite tops. So she hasn’t really had any experience of sewing with patterns or making anything complicated. If she’s going to progress she really needs to start having a go on her own and make things she wants to make.

There are lots of beginner books out there but most of them are so pretty as to be off putting to a tomboy like Sas. She wants to make clothes she can wear to show off to her friends, that means t-shirts or sweat shirts or leggings, not pencil skirts or vintage dresses or cushion covers.

So does anyone know of a book which is good for absolute beginners and will help her to make the sort of things a self respecting 12 year old will want to wear?

Vogue 1250

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you remember Vogue 1250?  It was the dress everyone was making a couple of years ago  – I jumped on the bandwagon with my Accidental Dress and although it didn’t look too bad in the photo’s I posted on the blog, it really was too big to be flattering on me and so was never worn.  I found it again recently and put it in the pile to go to the charity shop, but that got me thinking…

Yesterday I found the pattern again and this time cut out a smaller size using Navy Roma jersey from The Fabric Godmother. I’ve written before about how much I like this fabric, it is probably slightly thicker than the pattern calls for but I know it will wear well and be comfortable.

A couple of hours later I had a dress – yes it really only took that long!  There is nothing complicated about this pattern and with only three pieces it doesn’t take much to put it together.

The combination of a smaller size and less stretch fabric make the fit perfect.  My only concern is the sleeve caps which seem to stick out a little. If I were to wear the dress as it is I wouldn’t be too worried but I know I will be cold at work without a jacket or cardigan and these will add extra bulk.  I haven’t thought how to get around this as yet and it may be that I will come back and add some sleeves at some point.

BTW the pictures in the background were painted by my lovely friend Jim, if you want to see more of his work you can look here http://www.kelsopaintings.com/JK_Paintings_Test_site/Home_Second.html


Strathcona Henley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI a bit of a selfish sewer (actually completely selfish) and never sew for anyone else.  I think this is mainly because I tend to sew on a whim  – because I’ve seen a nice piece of fabric, or had an idea about a dress I might make or found a pattern I like.  As there is so much inspiration around I rarely have any time when I don’t have a list of things in my head that I want to sew.  This time it’s been a bit different, I have found a pattern I want to sew but it’s for a man.

Thread Theory started a few months ago and I have been watching their website and admiring their designs.  It’s been noted before that there are few good sewing patterns for men and it’s good to see a company which has decided to specialise in menswear. The Strathcona Henley fitted right in with my current obsession with knits.



I started off with some navy jersey – 1.5m as the pattern says – but found I had barely enough fabric. I managed to get the pattern cut out but had to reduce some of the seam allowances in the process. I haven’t gone back to check the pattern pieces so it may be that I was slightly short changed in the length of fabric I bought, or that it shrunk more than I expected.

This should be an easy pattern but the placket is not that straight forward. My initial attempt was a complete pig’s ear, I unpicked it but having used a stretch stitch to sew it found that unpicking it only stretched the jersey. Fortunately I’ve been able to cut the pieces down to make a Jane sized t-shirt so I didn’t waste all that fabric.

Attempt two was this red cotton jersey of which I had 3m. This time I cut out the front first, so that if I spoilt it I could restart. I’m still not completely convinced I got the placket entirely even but it’s not too bad. I think if I make another I will try using a different placket method – there is one described in my DK sewing book where you use two pieces of fabric and hide the ends on the inside not on the outside like this one.

One problem with the pattern which other bloggers have noted; it asks you to cut the neckband so there is no stretch along the width (i.e. One long strip running down the grain of the fabric rather than across as normal). I’m sure this is a mistake, but it’s repeated in the instructions a couple of times so maybe it’s intentional. Anyway I cut it as I would normally do with the stretch running along the length of the band.

My original plan was to finish it off with a twin needle, but I couldn’t find mine so I went with bands. Unfortunately they turned out to be too bulky (Hugo is a tucker in), so I cut them off and substituted with a twin needled hem. I also had to cut back the sleeves by a couple of inches as they were ridiculously long on Hugo.

I suspect I will be making this pattern again. It makes a nice, comfortable t-shirt perfect for making breakfast in on Sunday morning.



Playing with my stretch block

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been in need of instant gratification recently so I have been playing with my stretch block.  Having a stretch block is wonderful, I can use it for an infinite number of designs, all of which only take a couple of hours to make.  My stretch block came from some pattern making classes I took at Raystitch with the lovely Alice.  I can’t recommend these classes enough as Alice is a great teacher who makes it all look very easy and gives you lots of inspiration and encouragement (also plies you with wine and cake which makes the sewing much easier).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a simple dress which is smart enough for work but fun enough for play.  Stretch dresses are an absolute godsend to those of us who cycle to work as they fold up next to nothing in a pannier and come out looking fresh and new.

There is nothing complicated about this dress, the front and back are straight from my block, which has darts, to give it a great fit.  The collar I stole from the Renfrew pattern, I love large collars and this one is fabulous, the only quibble I have is that because the inner and outer collar are made from the same pattern piece the seam around the outer edge of the collar falls to the outside.  If I were to make it again I’d make the under collar slightly smaller to ensure the seam is kept nicely hidden away.

The fabric is called Les Branches and came from Dragonfly.  I had one of those late night buying sessions which lead the next morning to a lot of guilt, and worry that I might have ordered something not very nice.  Fortunately both pieces of fabric (I also ordered some Campan jersey) turned out to be lovely.

I only ordered 1.5m and I was pleased that I managed to get all the pieces cut with next to no spare fabric (really I was struggling to find a scrap big enough to run some test stitches over).

I was so keen to get it made I just ran it through the overlocker without basting it first and as a result it is slightly better fitted than I had meant it to be.  Naughty Jane! Always baste first so you can check the fit.  Fortunately stretch fabrics are very forgiving.

The hems were finished by running them through the overlocker, then turning them up once and sewing around with a twin needle.

Probably two hours from start to finish – that’s pretty instant in my book – taking the train into town, browsing the shops and doing lots of trying on would have taken longer.



Experimenting with the Spiral Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a muslin made with my spiral dress pattern – I knocked it up to check the fit works with a woven as well as a jersey fabric.  The answer is yes! although I probably need to make the neckline and armholes slightly deeper.  On this picture you can clearly see the long, single seam line the starts in the top left armhole runs around my body and comes back to the front at about knee level. Marianna, Ruth you are right to compare this to a toilet roll!

Whilst trawling through the internet I found this Rick Owens dress which I suspect is made in a very similar way.

I feel a party dress coming on, know where can I find a nice piece of silk?

Lola Dress

ImageThis is the Lola Dress from Victory Patterns. I made it a few weeks ago with some grey sweatshirting from Cloth House in Berwick Street. I’m not actually completely enamoured of it, the style is a bit odd, the upper bodice wants to be a fitted dress but below it has these enormous pockets that give it a very casual look.  What I wanted was a very casual sweatshirt type dress and I am not sure this is actually it.  Having said that I have worn it a lot, mainly to do housework, gardening and general slouching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI do quite like the pockets, particularly from the back, but Hugo says they make me look like a bag lady.  I think this was the look I was trying (and failing) to get

I also feel the length is a bit strange, it could do with being a tunic rather than a dress.

Have you tried this pattern? Where you happy with the results?

Spiral Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn instant dress this week made using my stretch block!

I was reading my blogs the other day and came across Alice & Co in the South Pacific. Warning clicking this link will make you green with envy!  About half way down the post there is a picture of Alice in a spiral dress which immediately got me thinking about how I could make such a thing.  Fortunately Alice is a friend and very kindly gave me the secrets of how to cut the pattern.  It’s actually made from one piece of fabric which is cut on the straight grain but, cleverly, once you sew the one long seam that runs around your body, you end up with a dress that sits on the bias.

As the technique is Alice’s I won’t divulge how you make the pattern here but it really is extremely clever and hopefully you will agree that it makes a very flattering dress.  The pattern took me quite a while to draw up, mainly because it’s on such a big piece of paper and I didn’t have a table big enough to fit it all on.  Also I was trying to be as accurate as possible with my lines and angles so I could get the stripes to spiral around and meet up in the right place.

There is no room for adjustment once you have cut the fabric out  so I made this one out of some extremely cheap jersey I bought from Tia Knight.  Cutting the dress out was very trying!  The viscose jersey moved at the slightest opportunity and all the edges curled like mad.  I also discovered that the stripes were not at right angles to the selvedge – I think jersey is often made in a tube and then cut open, I suspect that the cutter didn’t take the care they should have to ensure that it was straight.  It probably took me three hours to cut the whole thing out.


Yes there is a seam there!

The pattern piece is a bit less than 3m long and about 70cm wide. In theory a 3m length of jersey which is 150cm wide should give you enough for two dresses – if you wanted to have two dresses and if your fabric was cut so the grain was straight.

Having spent so long cutting the fabric out, I then took about half an hour to hand baste the long seam so I could be certain that all the stripes matched up. I am pleased that taking the effort to do this paid off – even I can’t see the seam in the picture above but it is there!

It took me less than 10 minutes to run through the overlocker and hey presto I had a dress! Just goes to show  that taking the time to do things properly at an early stage really pays off.