Stretch Masterclass

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI treated myself last month to another fabulous course at Raystitch. This time it was the Stretch Masterclass taught again by the lovely Alice who helped me make my blocks last year. I had three fabulous evenings the result of which was one block to use for stretch dresses and one dress (and pattern) made with some lovely liberty jersey.

The block was much simpler to make than the ones we made last year. Stretch fabrics are very forgiving so the shaping is a lot simpler.

There were six of us in the class; we all chose to make very different garments and it was fun to see how to manipulate the pattern in different ways. My dress is very simple with grown on sleeves, the others made a cowl neck top, a pleated neck top, a pretty v-necked dress with a full skirt, a skirt with godets and a summer dress.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe checked the sizing on our blocks by tacking up the garments. This took me ages as I wanted to match all my checks. Once they fitted we overlocked the seams which took no time at all.

This is the beauty of jersey fabrics, once you’ve got the pattern and the fit they are very quick to make; the overlocker finishes the seams as well as sews them and there are no fiddly fastenings to insert.

I finished the neckline on my dress with a facing, interlined with a stretch fusible. I hemmed the skirt and sleeves by hand using a herringbone stitch in order to give them a bit of give.

This is a great dress. Perfect for scrunching up in my pannier ready for a quick transformation when I get to work. Alice recommended some very cheap M&S slips which give a smooth line.

I’ll be making more of these!

M&S slips

A couple of people asked for more information on this. The ones I bought are these They are ridiculously cheap at £17.50 a pair. The pair I bought are marked as being natural on the web site but actually you get a natural one and a black one which was perfect for me. I found the sizing true to M&S’s guide. They come in three lengths so I got the shortest. With this sort of material they would be easy to cut shorter if you wanted to. Hope this helps.


Pattern Magic II

My friend and I have spent the last two Saturdays at the fabulous Morley college completing the Pattern Magic II course.

Over the two days we managed to complete two exercises from the book. The first was an exercise called “fundamentals” where you create a garment replacing dart shaping with style lines. This involved creating a bodice, drawing the style lines onto it, cutting into the various style lines and flattening each piece out to create a pattern and lastly making up a toile using the new pattern pieces. Sounds simple? Well I was extremely glad our tutor, Moni, was on hand to help. I managed to draw up the pattern in the class and took it home to make the toile. Despite marking the pattern with notches and so on, working out which piece went where gave me a serious headache, and that was before I realised how difficult it was going to be sewing around all the tight curves I had made.

The second exercise was called “wearing a balloon” in this you created a bodice with a large collar that expanded and became part of the bodice. The drafting required to do this was probably more difficult than the drafting required for the fundamentals exercise; the book is not always as clear as it might be and I was very glad of Moni’s assistance in guiding us through the process. The final toile is very elegant and now I understand how it was created I am keen to have a go at making one using my own block as a base rather than the tiny Japanese ones we used in the class.

I would definitely recommend this course if you are interested in the Pattern Magic books. It has fired my imagination and given me the confidence to try some of the effects out for myself.

Basic pattern cutting part two

I had my second pattern cutting evening class last week. With my block already made up we spent the evening discussing how it could be used to create a skirt. I had taken in a photo of the Anthropology skirt shown here and we decided to make something similar.

Not the best picture of our toile!

The skirt has an asymmetric yoke, a frill set into the seam below the point of the yoke and some cowling on the side. We only had three hours but managed to produce what I thought was a pretty credible first toile. The cowl needs a bit of work (not really helped by the fact that the toile is made out of a stiff calico) but the rest is reasonably similar to the original

The skirt fitted beautifully but unfortunately it proved that I am never going to suit a skirt with this sort of shaping. I might rework it without the cowl as I liked the rest of the skirt. In particular the frill down the front is fun, I don’t usually wear frills but this one is big enough not to look too girly.

I should probably tell you a bit about Alice the tutor. Alice runs her own dressmaking business designing and making bespoke clothes. She taught herself how to draft patterns and now uses software to create designs based on her customers requirements. I feel very lucky to have such a good tutor. Having spent a bit of time playing with my block I can see that pattern drafting is really quite difficult. The theory is fairly simple, once you have your block there are a limited number of ways you can manipulate it. The difficult bit comes in working out exactly how much you need to add in or take out in order to get a garment that makes sense. Alice has an artistic eye and a huge amount of experience and manages to make it look a lot more simple than I found it.

Evening classes

I love spending a Saturday afternoon in Islington. To me it’s the perfect small town within London. There is a good mix of shops with high street chains interspersed with independents and some interesting restaurants. My favourites are Loop – the best knitting shop in London, Ottolenghi’s for divine food, Twenty Twenty One which sells beautifully designed furniture and gifts, Bill’s also selling divine food, a French clothing company whose name I can’t remember and Raystitch.

Raystitch is at 99 Essex Road and sells a wonderful collection of fabrics, patterns and haberdashery and last night I went there for my first Pattern Cutting evening class. I have signed up for four classes, yesterday’s involved making a personalised skirt block and next week we use it to draw up some basic skirts. The next two classes are similar but about the upper body. I am hoping I can also sign up for trouser classes at a later date. Originally three people had signed up for the first class but two of them dropped out at the last minute which meant I had private tuition

Alice, the tutor,  runs a business making bespoke clothing and she was wearing a beautiful red silk and linen suit she’d made for herself.  She also designed clothes for the Tootsie Rollers who I saw in action a couple of weeks ago at the open air cinema in Kew.

We started by looking at a number of skirts Alice had made using her own block and discussed some of the basics. We then moved on to drawing out a block to my measurements on calico. This was stitched up, a few tweaks were made to get a perfect fit and then it was unpicked and separated into a back and front half piece. We then copied this on to dot and cross paper to give me my block. After a quick sandwich and glass of wine we sat down to discuss the principles behind moving darts etc. to get different effects.

Next week I’m taking in a couple of patterns so Alice can show me how I can use the block to check fit prior to making up. I’m also going to hunt out some pictures of skirts so we can practice making some mini calico models using the blocks as a starting point.

I can heartily recommend this course as I learnt a lot and am keen to start using some of the principles.  Alice is very knowledgeable and is a good teacher.  I see the bodice workshop still has some places open if anyone is interested.

Summer dresses part one

So I promised to tell you about a few things I have made.

First up was the “Study Hall Skirt” by Anna Maria Horner

This was the first garment I had sewn for a very long time.  Living on the outer edge of Suffolk (and indeed England) fabric shops are a bit hard to come by but I managed to get some quilting fabric.  The shop only had four or five different fabrics so I had to take what was available. The pattern calls for a contrast fabric to be used on the inner pleats but I thought that would be too much so I just used the contrast on the hem edge.

OK the good bits:  The pattern instructions were easy to follow and I managed to put the skirt together well including the invisible zip. For an absolute novice I guess this isn’t bad going.

The bad bits:  Well the quilting fabric is too stiff for the skirt and as a result it sticks out after you’ve sat down.  The waistband is higher than I expected; I would have preferred it to sit a little lower than it does. The instructions for finishing the seams said to use a zig-zag stitch which to my eye just looks untidy

The ugly:  Well you can see – the pattern is just too loud and the contrast doesn’t really go with the main fabric.

This one will stay in the cupboard until I get around to throwing it out!

Second up was this dress

Sorry about the dodgy photo.

I made this at a Make Lounge course.  The course itself was very basic (probably a bit too basic)  but it gave me confidence and I did learn how to apply bias binding trims to edges.

The good bits:  I love the fabric and the style is so easy to wear.  It’s much more girly than I would normally wear but occasionally that’s good. The green doesn’t look too horrific with my  extraordinarily pale skin (always a problem with sleeveless garments).

So all good, no bad and no ugly this time.


So thanks to Miss Dibs I have signed up for the Susan Khalje Couture Craftsy class. I then found that Gertie had also released a new course, so I signed up for that too.  I then read that the material girl had attended a course on Pattern Magic at Morley college. I’d never heard of Morley College but it seems they have loads of good courses and very cheap prices (and they are in the centre of London so easy to get to).  Unfortunately the courses I wanted to go on – making a duct tape dummy and fitting workshop are either full or at times when I have other engagements.

I think I’m going to have to give up working so I can just spend my life going on courses.

Have you come across any good courses recently?