The Terrible Trio

Three Maria Denmark Day to Night Drape tops, cut out together & sewn on a “production line”.  There was a much more relaxed atmosphere in the sewing room when these three were made up.  Although I picked tricky jersey – no natural fibres in sight – I was at least prepared for bad behaviour!

After the two I made last week & the success of the black cotton top, I decided to omit the clear elastic from the armholes altogether and only used it on the back neckline.  There is still a bit of pulling, but much less than before.  I used one of the suggestions in the comments of that post and stuck a bit of masking tape to the bottom of the presser foot when applying the clear elastic, and was pleased with the result.

Day to Night top in printed polyester viscose jersey from John Kaldor
Day to Night top in printed polyester viscose jersey from John Kaldor

The jerseys I’ve chosen for these tops are man-made, two completely polyester & one poly-viscose.  There is more stretch in the poly-viscose and it has a much nicer drape.  Daughter No1 commented that it feels like wearing a swimming costume.  The fabric was bought from Rosenberg’s stand at the NEC last year, or the one before and was intended to be a wrap dress of sorts for her.  We’ve never found the right pattern and I decided this was it, time to be used!  There is enough left for something else, but probably not a dress!

Day to Night top in grey polyester jersey
Day to Night top in grey polyester jersey

The other two have less stretch and I think I’d have to make an adjustment if she wanted more tops using this particular fabric.  Daughter No1 is satisfied with the look, but if they were my tops I’d be uncomfortable with the pulling over the bust.  I do like how the drape hangs on the poly-jersey tops and the colours are perfect.  Of course, now Daughter No2 wants one in the blue for herself…

Day to Night top in blue polyester jersey
Day to Night top in blue polyester jersey

Next on the cutting table will be (hopefully) a black & white marle wool Honeydew skirt & a self drafted pencil skirt in caramel stretch cotton sateen – both for Daughter No2.  I say hopefully to the Honeydew skirt, because we hauled out some leftover wool from previous projects & she asked for the Honeydew in that fabric, but I haven’t checked to see if it’s enough yet…  I will line it with a nice coloured lining & put a zip in the side seam like I did with this one.

Daughter No1 goes back to University today, I can’t believe it’s her last year – how time has flown!  She’ll be taking a fair few handmade garments with her & I hope they get to be worn as much as her charity shop bargains!

Wherever you are, have a great weekend – I’m teaching some of my favourite people on Sunday, I’m expecting great projects on their sewing tables!  🙂

Dentelle Noire

DSC09726-2I’ve finally something made for Daughter No1!  You might recognise the black jersey cowl tee from my last post – it fits perfectly without needing any adjustments at all – Phew!  She loves the fit, the drape & the jersey.  Needless to say, I’ve now got orders for “more please Mum”.  Yeah, it’ll have to join the queue.  I really like the way the top fits her so I guess I need to make more, not only for her, but for Daughter No2 too.

Maria Denmark Day-Night Top
Maria Denmark Day-Night Top

She’d like some in plain colours, printed jerseys, etc.  Please don’t show her Sew Busy Lizzy’s dress versions….

dsc09722-1On to the skirt…

The inspiration for the skirt came from a pin on Pinterest, which came from this style blog.  I had some black lace in the stash which I’d swapped Kat from Modern Vintage Cupcakes for last year but never got round to using it up.  I knew I’d be using it for Daughter No1, but we didn’t quite know what it wanted to be.  Until this summer.

DSC09725-1Using her straight skirt block, I altered it to create a box pleat in the centre and added two more pleats to the sides.  I did this on the back too and put the zip in the side seam.  The waistband is a straight piece with a slight underlap from the back to attach a hook & bar.  The skirt measures 70cm from her waist & initially she thought this would be too long, but the toile reassured her that for this sort of skirt it would work.

No hem!  Just the selvedge edge.
No hem! Just the selvedge edge.

I cut the lace with the selvedge as the finished edge.  Turning up a hem wouldn’t have worked and binding the edge would have made it stiff & ungainly.  Luckily for me there was enough lace to do this!  I have enough left of the lace to make sleeves for something – thinking a black viscose jersey plantain with lace sleeves.  For Daughter No1 – of course  🙂  It’ll look good with black skinny jeans or leggings.

DSC09724-1The underskirt was also developed from the skirt block, 50cm long from the waist, all I did was add 5cm to each side seam at the hem, tapering back up to the hip point.  The darts were left in, she didn’t want the poly-satin of the underskirt to be pleated & add bulk to the lace.  We were after a sleeker look.  I ran the skirt up on the overlocker, so it was pretty quick, only needing the sewing machine for darts & the hem.  The overlocker was put into service for the lace skirt too, it wasn’t a particularly matchy lace so I wasn’t concerned to line things up and match the patterns.  French seams would have made the side seams stiff and the whole idea was to have something floaty & feminine.

Satin waistband -  I love the contrast textures.
Satin waistband – I love the contrast textures.

There’s an invisible zip in the side seam and black hook & bar attached to the waistband. The texture contrast is great & I love how the light catches on the satin underskirt through the lace to add another dimension.  We’re both really happy with it & the whole outfit is having its first outing to a dinner with the boyfriend & his parents tomorrow night, so I guess I did good!  🙂

Detail shots, not many because who needs to see masses of overlocked seams??
Detail shots, not many because who needs to see masses of overlocked seams??

So I’m patting myself on the back for the positive end of the draped tee saga, but I’m not doing that well on picking the winner of the BHL pattern giveaway..  I know, you’re all watching your email boxes to see if you’re the winner – man your creative reasons were good!  Too good!!  I feel really bad that I only have one of each pattern to send out.  Every time I think I’ve picked to best of each, I have a re-think.  But I will pick one, I promise!

The Top That Almost Wasn’t

This has been a day of extreme frustration for me.  It started all well & sunny by unpinning the drapey jersey I’d cut out last night for a Day to Night top by Maria Denmark.  I’ve wanted to make this for ages.  I bought it earlier in the summer & decided Daughter No1 would get first crack at it.  I read the instructions re FBA etc, knowing I’d need one here. Can you believe I’ve never done one?  That’s because all the tops I make for myself & No1 are self drafted!

Anyway, I was slightly suprised to note the pattern doesn’t go down to her size, unlike the Kimono tee – but the smallest size is 1cm wider at the bust than the measurements I had.  A decision was made to wing it for the toile & see just exactly what and how much I’d need to adjust.  The fabric chosen was from the stash, I’d bought copious amounts of this drapey poly-jersey some time ago.  I found a couple of packs of clear elastic in the elastics stash too, no idea what I’d got them for initially!

A quick read through the instructions left me feeling confident, lets face it, there are only 2 pieces to this pattern, it’s hardly rocket science.  However.  My old Bernina refused flatly to have anything to do with the clear elastic I was to sew to the back neckline to stabilise it.  I begged, I pleaded.  Eventually it gobbled up the first 2 cm – fabric, elastic, the works.  Cue much cursing & frantic tweeting – help!!  Obviously there was a “tutorial” which wasn’t much help.  If I had a teflon foot apparently all my hair pulling & scaring the birds outside my window would go away.  I. Don’t. Have. One!  Trying to find one for a 42 year old machine is pretty nigh impossible too.

collage 1
Neckline on first toile

In the end I managed to bully, cajole, persuade (you pick the right word) dear old Bernina to zigzag the elastic to the neckline.  Reluctantly it obeyed but I was gifted skipped stitches & pulling where there shouldn’t be any.  This didn’t get any better when turning the elastic over & stitching the seam allowance down on the outside.  I tried the suggested zigzag again & ripped it out almost as soon as I’d started!  In went the twin needle & things were a bit better.  Bernina was still sulking & skipped stitches in revenge.  The same happened with the armholes.. By now I was thinking this whole thing was jinxed.  Shoulder & side seams were fine, the overlocker behaved perfectly.

Pulling on armholes & into back neckline
Pulling on armholes & into back neckline

I put it on the dress form – I don’t think this will fit Daughter No1 over the bust.  The waist & hip will be fine, probably even slightly baggy, but the bust line looks pretty darn snug. By this time I was pretty fed up.   A walk in fresh air and some loud music in my ears was in order so I left it for a couple of hours.

DSC09696-1It fits Daughter No2 fairly well.  You can see all the pulling from the neck & armholes clearly and again, it’s snug over the bust.  This is the size I’d have made for her, without adjustments.  She rather likes it & would be happy to wear it, but there’s no way I’m allowing that thing to see the light of day!  I haven’t done such a poor job on a garment since I was 14 in Home Ec!

Collage 4On coming home from my “clearing the air walk” I thought I’d make another one, but with a different jersey.  This time I used some back cotton/lycra blend, also from the stash.  Applying the elastic at the neckline was much better, without the slippness of the other jersey, the elastic was easier to control.  I still got some skipped stitches but it was far better, as was the twin needle top stitching.  I left the elastic out of the armholes all together, just turning under the 1cm seam allowance & using a twin needle to stitch it down.  The hem was also stitched with the twin needle.  I don’t think I have to say how much better this one has turned out!  No swearing, no scaring the birds or wishing for the death of the fabric!

I still need to see if it will work on the missing Daughter No1 (still away visiting the boyfriend) but it looks good on No2..  Will I make another?  A proper one?  Yes, but I will be oh so careful about the fabric choice!  Drapey stuff feels good, and looks good but is a pain in the be-hind to sew & I really don’t need the aggravation.  If I buy more fabric to make this top again, it will definitely be of the controllable sort & I might try to source some fold over elastic & give that a try. 

Less drape but better fitting around the armholes without the elastic.

Collage 5Has anyone else had any problems like this with fabric/elastic/etc? How did you overcome it or did the project end up flying out of the window?

Sewing Cake – or something you want, but don’t need.

The Monthly Stitch has an amnesty running this month for those of us who wanted to join in with a challenge, but either ran out of time or steam!  August is a rubbish month for me to sew in, it’s summer, school holidays, we go away for a bit & the other half takes time off to relax too.  I got some things done, but not the “Sewing Cake” challenge.  Now as I read it, “cake” in the sewing world is the stuff you don’t necessarily need in your wardrobe, but is is most certaily the pretty stuff you want! Scratch that, that definition belongs to frosting!  Trust me to get it all wrong!  🙂  Just goes to show there’s always something new to learn.  So, cake is normal stuff, everyday sewing, and the stuff you want but don’t need is the frosting.  What have I made then, cake or frosting? 


On re-reading the “blurb” for August’s challenge I realise I can make whatever I like, as long as proper cake is involved somewhere, either as a print on the item, or as something to eat!  I’m off then to make something cake-y & will photograph Daughter No2 with it just as soon as she’s home from school later.  In the mean time, I think we need a new definition, cake is fancy, yummy & not somehting you should be sewing (eating) everyday!  Or is the every-day sewing stuff really bread?

birthday TMSI’d bought 1.5m of pale blue cotton chino twill from Croft Mill Fabric last year, with the intention of making a pair of trousers.  Needless to say that didn’t happen, then we got the Papercut Bellatrix pattern and all thoughts of trousers went out of the window.  Daughter No2 has 5 of these already, so did she really need another?  No.  But she wanted one!  Therefore, this Bellatrix Blazer is most definitely cake!  It’s also the first Bellatrix I’ve made since the Paris print one where I haven’t had to squish in the pattern pieces.

Bellatrix Blazer - CAKE!
Bellatrix Blazer

I lined the jacket with some blue floral print cotton lawn I’d bought from the Remnants House in Bude whilst on holiday last year.  I’d grabbed it, then afterwards decided the print was too busy for me, so it languished in the stash.  I tried to sell it to someone who’d love it more, but that failed.  When the decision was taken to get on with the Bellatrix, I knew what the lining would be!  Of course there is loads left over, but one of my students kindly agreed to take it off my hands to make a skirt.  The sleeves were going to be lined with white haboutai, but when I went digging in the linings box I couldn’t for the life of me find it!  oops..  Instead I used a bit of lilac lining left over from goodness knows what.  It works really well with the pale blue & the print of the lining.  Job well done, I’ve used all stash materials!

Floral cotton lawn for the lining & pocket bags
Floral cotton lawn for the lining & pocket bags


Once cut out and interfaced this jacket is quick to go together, after making 5 already, I should hope it would!  I do think that this one needs some closure though.  At the moment Daughter No2 is too busy wearing it for me to add something to it, but I did get some interesting closures for an edge-to-edge finish from John Lewis a while ago, so perhaps I’ll be adding those.  All in all a successful project and one I could get done quickly to get me back into the swing of things.

DSC09631-1Daughter No1 pinned a black lace skirt to her Pinterest board for me to look at, found here.  Would you know, I have black lace (albeit without a scalloped edge) from Kat from the Stash Swap last year, and black satin in the silks box, so I really should be getting on with that.  She also wants the Day to Night top from Maria Denmark so I need to check the jersey stash to see if I have the right stuff.  I’m determined to make decent inroads into the stash, but there’s so much loverly new fabric coming into the shops right now…  I must resist.

Don’t forget the By Hand London pattern giveaway – you have until Friday midnight GMT to add your creative reasons as to why you should win either the Anna or Elisalex pattern.

I’ll leave you with Daughter No2’s model pose…


Change of Seasons Giveaway

giveawayApologies for being away from my blog for so long, summer was good, holiday was too short & sewing continues amidst school restarting & waiting for Universities to do the same.  I managed to re-sort my fabric stash last week & put away all the summer things that were still waiting to be made.  Next year…  Now my make it now pile has been upgraded to a whole box, no more clutter on the sewing table! Hmm, we’ll have to see how long that lasts!  I’ve also bought 3 new large boxes to house my vintage patterns.  As long as I don’t buy any more it should be ok.  “Not buyng more patterns” sounds like “not buying more fabric” – not gonna happen!!  🙂

In with all the sorting and changing things around I realised I hadn’t yet heard from many of the sponsors of the Sewing Indie Month competition.  I’d been told they’d be in touch, but I guess they’ve been as busy as me!  So this week I sent out a round of emails and have recieved some goodies.  The prize pack was pretty big & I’ve already allocated some goodies to a very good friend who loves to sew for herself & daughter.  Today I have a giveaway of two patterns by a popular indie pattern company By Hand London.

Anna & Elisalex from By Hand London
Anna & Elisalex from By Hand London

I picked their two most popular patterns, the Anna dress & Elisalex Dress, figuring they’d suit most people out there.  So here’s what you have to do to win one.  Yup, I’m giving them away seperately.  Leave me a comment below stating which pattern you’d like, and why.  Now I want a good reason, not just “cause I think it’s cute”!!  I’m happy to post worldwide.  The winners will be the ones with the best reasons why they need the particular pattern, there’ll be no random selections!  You’ll have until midnight GMT on Friday 12 September, best of luck!  🙂

In other news, if you’re based in the West Midlands (UK) and would be interested in attending a seminar for sewing with stretch knits & lace, Fred Winter in Stratford on Avon is hosting Gill Arnold for a 2 hour talk on the 15th November.  Gill is so very knowledgeable, and a very nice person too!  You can choose from a morning or afternoon session where she’ll be giving advice and demonstrations on stretch knits & lace.  The sessions are 10-12 for the morning and 1:30-3:30 for the afternoon and cost a mere £15 per person.  You will have to pre-book because these sessions always sell out quickly and there are a limited amount of seats.  Contact Caroline Winter on 01789 268 011 if you’re interested.  (I’m not being paid for advertising this, I can highly recommend Gill after attending some of her workshops!! & Fred Winter is my local fabric store.)  They also have a fabulous selection of Liberty fabrics, tana lawns now on sale at £16/m!  I was good – very good, and didn’t buy any!

Now I’m off to see how I can reorganise the vintage patterns to fit into those new boxes – oh, and I am about half way through making another Bellatrix for Daughter No2.  She wanted a solid colour one and I found 1.5m of pale blue chino cotton from Croft Mill in the stash.  This is the first Bellatrix in a long while where I haven’t had to cram the pattern pieces onto the fabric!  I’m lining it with a blue floral cotton lawn, apart from the sleeves which are getting a white silk haboutai.  Hopefully I’ll be showing that off after the weekend.

In the mean time, get cracking on thinking up creative reasons why you need an Anna or Elisalex in your life!  🙂

Wardrobe Architect Result

Picture the scene, you’re relaxing after dinner with a glass of something yummy & Husband announces we’ve got a wedding invitation from an ex-collegue of his.  First thought – “Oh heck, what on earth an I going to wear??”  Second thought, “How much time do I have?”  It turned out I had about 2 months, the two months that were to be taken up with Indie Pattern makes!

I had a wild plan to make something fabulous in a 50s style, something nipped and flared nudged at the edge of my brain.  Then I got real.  I’d never feel comfortable in a Fifties dress, no matter how beautiful it was, and I’d never – ever wear it again!  I’m not into having things in my wardrobe that only have one use.


I turned instead to my Wardrobe Architect board on Pinterest and came up with a plan.  I had initially planned to wear black – I know, it’s a wedding, not a funeral!  But I’m comfortable in black.  But I’d have had to buy all the fabrics for whatever I wanted and I really, really didn’t want to do that.  Digging through the piles of fabric on the sewing table I unburied the navy & ecru spot silk chiffon Husband had bought for me back in January.  I’d planned a cowl drape top with that.  I also had a piece of navy silk charmeuse in my silk box, just right for a camisole.  So I had a top and something to counter the sheerness of the silk – all I needed was something on the bottom.

Instead of inviting fate to mess with me too much I decided to play safe & make one of my tried & tested Burdastyle trouser patterns (102 from 07/09), I just needed the fabric.  I found a beautiful stretch cotton sateen in navy on Fabric Godmother and that was that!  The trousers were made as soon as the fabric was washed & dried.  Done!  And in plenty of time, I was not going to be rushing & still sewing 30 minutes before we had to leave!  I used a remnant of the Liberty cotton from the Carme for the pockets & to trip the lower edge of the waistband.

Trouser details
Trouser details – I changed the button to a plain blue one, this one could be seen through the silk!

Then the Indie stuff hit the big time & I lost sense of time completely.  Only once all the madness was over I settled to making the cami.   I used an out of print Butterick 5487 .  The pattern calls for it to be double layered but I didn’t have enough silk for that, so I cut one layer & loads of bias strips for the upper edges.  I used French seams for the inners & double turned a narrow hem.

DSC09715-1The top was always going to be self-drafted.  It took a couple of attempts to get the right amount of drape in the front.  The first time I didn’t open up too much & kept the waist darts in.  This looked fine, but I wanted more drape & no darts.  Trying again there was too much drape and the top was too baggy in front.  Third time lucky I was happy with everything.  The back is cut on the straight with darts for shaping, 3/4 length sleeves are simple & narrow and the front is dartless.  The toile was more fitted than the silk turned out to be.  Again, I used French seams throughout & double turned the hems.

DSC09718-1I had of course, left it to the 2nd last day to begin all this.  Why?  ‘Cause I get distracted with other things!  Instead of getting on with the blouse I made two vintage dresses.  Neither were desperately needed.  But I liked the patterns & the fabric & wanted to make them.  So I did.  The net result is that yes, I was still sewing 30 minutes before we were due to leave!!  I’ll never learn it seems.

DSC09712-1But I was happy with my outfit.  I’d have prefered the blouse to be more fitted and can always add darts to the front again, but the biggest let down were the trousers!  I’ve made this pattern so many times I’ve lost count, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  I decided to make them 4 weeks ahead of schedule – and then went on a little healthy eating plan!  NOOOO!  They were too big, and of course I only realised that when I put the whole lot on to go out!  BOTHER!  Now I need to add belt loops.

The end result is positive, I have a fab new blouse I can wear anytime and it looks even better with my pale beige & camel coloured linen trousers than it does with the navy, and that navy cotton sateen is just brilliant to wear.  It’s cotton so it breathes, the satin finish makes it pretty, although it does tend to attract light-coloured fluff and the stretch content makes it all so comfortable.

DSC09713-1I’ll never be one of those in a shop-bought pretty party frock, but I will be happy in my handmade stuff.  🙂

Have you made anything “out of the ordinary” for an occasion such as a wedding?


Sewaholic Fan-Girl


The final instalment of Indie Pattern Month is the Fan-Girl, Ultimate Level.  Now I don’t know about ultimate here, but I have managed to make up two Sewaholic patterns.  Initially I thought about this combination, but then after all the other competitive sewing I wondered if I really needed to enter another competition.


I’d bought the Gabriola skirt pattern after spotting the most beautiful bird print chiffon from Croft Mill Fabric.  I had great plans for this fabric and Daughter No2 draped herself in it when it arrived!  The grey jersey for the Renfrew is from Croft Mill too, Caroline helped me greatly in chosing the right stuff, so a big thank you there!


The Renfrew tee has been made up by me a number of times now, this will be the fourth for Daughter No2!  I cut the 6 on the shoulders, grading to a 2 at the waist and then out to a 4 at the hip.  I also had to lengthen the shoulder by 2cm.  She didn’t want the waistband part of the tee, so I ran a line of twin-needling 1cm from the raw edge and didn’t turn up a hem.  The Renfrew, as always goes together well, it took  a couple of hours on the overlocker, perfect for a quick make.


The Gabriola however, was a completely different kettle of fish.  The print ran across the fabric, so I thought I’d cut the pattern pieces on the cross grain.  This was not one of my brightest ideas, as it turns out.  It was slippery as heck to cut and even worse to pin together.  I used French seams everywhere except to attach the skirt pieces to the yokes.  There I used a flat fell seam.


Good for swirling in too!
Good for swirling in too!

I wasn’t sure what to do with the waistband – at first I didn’t want to make it too stiff, but I was concerned that the chiffon wouldn’t be strong enough with just a fine interfacing.  After asking for so ideas from Tashia on twitter which weren’t forthcoming, I decided to start with interfacing with the fine sheer polyester fusible.  I bought a length of white 4cm wide grossgrain ribbon and handstitched the waistband to the ribbon with a herringbone stitch.  This has worked out quite well & now I can be sure it’ll be secure enough with the button & buttonhole too.


Obviously the skirt needed to be lined, but with what..  The more common linings wouldn’t be suitable here, I couldn’t use an acetate or cupro and silk would have been too expensive and not suitable for a teenager to wear every day.  I bought some white cotton muslin for the job, and used it for the toile too.  This I constructed using Mock French seams so that I could alter it quickly and easily if I had to.


The cotton does alter the hang of the chiffon, the skirt would have been far more drapey with a more fluid lining, but Daughter No2 likes it as it is, and I am not unhappy with the result.  I let the skirt hang for a day to see how much dropping there would be and had a pain of a time evening up the hem!  In some places 6-7cm had to come off, and in others it was fine.  I did away with the 2.5cm hem idea too, just using the rolled hem foot, but hemming the lining properly.

Window shopping
Window shopping

Daughter no2 loves the skirt, it’s so pretty and feminine and she cannot wait to wear it out & show it off to her friends!  I love how it looks with her biker jacket and the grey for the teeshirt has worked so much better than the predictable blue would have.

Jump! :)
Jump! 🙂

 *** UPDATE ***

Voting is now open and will close on Friday 5 July at midnight UCT.  Click on the button below to go to the voting page where you’ll find all the entries.

Can you put an invisible zip into a French seamed seam? Of course you can!

This was a question posed on twitter last week, and I replied yes, you can, but it’s hard to convey just how to get it done well in 140 characters.  So while I was making up a Gabriola for Daughter No2 in chiffon, I thought I’d photograph the process of inserting the invisible zip with a French seam.  Strapped in?  Here goes!

First of all, stabilise and support the fabric to carry the zip.  If you’re using a French seam in your fabric, chances are it’s fine, soft and not very strong.  I used a 3cm wide strip of a fine sheer polyester fusible.  You can buy the same interfacings that I use from Gill Arnold via the post.  Then sew in the zip as you usually would.  Once it’s in, the fun can begin.

Stabilise the area behind the zip & insert as normal.
Stabilise the area behind the zip & insert as normal.

Snip the seam to the zip stop mark or the base of the zip stitching.  Make sure you do not snip past the limit of the seam allowance, or you’ll be in trouble later.

snip, snip, snip!
snip, snip, snip!

Now you can align the seam edges together, with wrong sides together and sew the first part of the French seam, from the hem up to the snip.  Trim that 1cm seam down to just under 5mm, neatly.  Press to one side and turn the fabric over to enclose the raw edges and sew the remaining 5mm of the French seam.  Work from the hem up to the zip stop and sew as far as you can with the machine.

Sew the French seam from the hem up to the zip
Sew the French seam from the hem up to the zip

The last part of the French seam needs to come as close to the zip stitching as possible, without distorting the seam.  You will probably have a gap of at least 5mm.  This isn’t a problem, you’ll stitch that shut from the outside by hand.

Finishing off the seam & zip
Finishing off the seam & zip

I use a ladder stitch to close the hole, going up and down the ladder a couple of times to make sure the stitching is strong enough to survive Daughter No2 yanking the zip down too hard!

The finished zip & French seam from the right side.
The finished zip & French seam from the right side.

I hope that helps anyone wanting to use a French seam and invisible zip.  It’s a technique I’ve used a lot and it seems to work fairly well for me.  I’ve just about finished the skirt now, just waiting to see how much of the hem needs to be chopped to make it even.  I am hoping to be able to submit it and a Renfrew for The Monthly Stitch’s Indie Fan Girl category in Indie Pattern Month.  If I get the hem sorted in time & I’m happy with it, look out for it to vote!  🙂



Orange French Knot Skirt

 Simplicity 6896, view C
Simplicity 6896, view C

After the reaction the orange skirt Daughter No2 wore with her wearable toile Carme, I decided I’d better give more info on the skirt she had on too!  It was made in July 2012, so it’s had its fair share of outings already, but it was never blogged.  I had used Simplicity 6896, view C.  I liked the box pleats and the wide belt loops.

The fabric had been a plain white linen that I’d dyed this fabulous orange the year before.  It had been a long piece of fabric, I cut it in half and dyed half Dylon Sunflower Yellow & this was Dylon Goldfish Orange.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but once in the stash it was ready when I was!  I then saw an a-line skirt in a friend’s Boden catalogue, the online details are no longer available, but here’s an image someone has pinned to Pinterest.

French knot skirt by Boden, about 2011 or 2012

It was linen and had been embellished with rows of equally spaced French knots in a contrasting colour.  At the time I’d been making French knot sheep on pincushions and cushion covers and totebags, so a few more French knots on a skirt weren’t going to lose me any sleep!  I found enough turquoise embroidery thread in my stash & bought a turquoise invisible zip too.

Three rows of spaced French knots
Three rows of spaced French knots

I made the skirt up first, then measured the width and divided that number into equal parts.  I marked the position of the knots with a disappearing marker and got cracking.  The result is really eye-catching, and it cost me a fraction of the Boden skirt!  Yay for DIY fashion!

The details
The details: (clockwise from top left) French knots on the outside, turquoise zip, the back of the knots & the inner waistband.


Just such a simple embellishment changes it from a normal skirt to something a little special.  If you’d like to do something similar, here’s a French knot tutorial.  I hope you’ve enjoyed our little journey into the past with this make, now I have to get on with a pair of trousers.  I have a wedding reception to attend next month, and would you know it – I haven’t a thing to wear…

Oh – don’t forget to vote for my competition entries:  The Monthly Stitch has the Carme in Liberty & the Dressed to the Nines is being re-run, my entry there is A Snowball for the Summer.  Thanks!  🙂

The Carme – New to Me

I feel like I’ve been sewing non stop lately.  Last week I completed four projects, started and completed, might I add.  So over the weekend I had time off.  And Monday.  And Tuesday too.  Then I remembered I had cut the toile for Pauline Alice‘s Carme Blouse in order to enter it into The Monthly Stitch Independent Pattern Month competition for independent designers new to you (me).  I’d bought the pattern initially for another competition intended to promote independent pattern designers, Sewing Indie Month, but ran out of time.  With Wednesday knocking on my door I really didn’t want to run out of time again!


So I got cracking with the toile which I thought Daughter No2 might be able to wear if it all worked out ok.  I grabbed a navy gingham with a teeny tiny check from the stash & got clever cutting the front placket,tabs, cuffs and collars on the bias.  I interfaced the cuffs and collar on the straight so they didn’t stretch out of shape, but still kept the interest in the print.  I tried out a flat fell seam which looked good, just tricky in the sleeve which in Daughter No2’s size are a little narrow to do a really good job.  By the afternoon things were going well, the iPod was on a good volume pumping out some great tracks, then I realised I’d made a boob.  I sewed the front placket very carefully right sides together.  (It’s supposed to be wrong sides up…)  Of course I’d cut it before noticing.  So the placket looks fabulous – on the inside..  Oh dear.  Anyway, I finished it off that evening.

orange & blue
Carme Blouse wearable toile with orange handmade linen skirt, embellished with French knots

In the morning Daughter No2 dutifully posed for me, and then wore it out – in public!  I guess no-one has noticed my obvious mistake – yet!  From the toile I knew I had to widen the shoulders by 1.5cm, which is an adjustment often needed for her shoulders, and lengthen the sleeves by 2cm.  I also needed to lower the neckline about 2-3cm if she ever wanted to button the blouse up to the top.  Luckily for me she decided no buttons were necessary at all, therefore we haven’t adjusted the neckline. Her measurements had landed smack in between the two smaller sizes so I’d opted for the larger, just in case.  The rest of the garment was fine, so I prepared to cut my proper fabric.

Can you spot my big mistake?
Can you spot my big mistake?

We’d chosen a piece of Liberty lawn from the stash, must have had it around 4 or 5 years, so it was time to use it up.  I fiddled around with the pattern, trying to get a good placement on the pieces, when I realised something wasn’t quite right. The print was off grain!!  NOOOO!  It was kinda liberating, I just thought, sod it, and cut where I wanted instead!  🙂

Wheat & white spot cotton bias binding edging the tucked bib.
Wheat & white spot cotton bias binding edging the tucked bib.

In order to add a little pizzaz I picked a wheat coloured spot cotton bias from the stash of trims.  I thought I could use it in some intersecting areas.  To go with the bias we picked out warm coloured buttons and contrast thread, with the idea to use that for topstitching.  After a test, I discarded the contrast topstitching idea and stuck to an off white for that job.  I also ditched the idea of using the flat fell seam and stuck to French seams.  Guaranteed good finish.

Carme Details
Carme Details

The wheat spot bias ended up decorating the curved edges of the tucked bib and trimming the cuffs.  The cotton was a little too stiff to work properly at the neck edge.  This means I have more left over than I’d expected so I can use it somewhere else now too! 🙂  I love the contrast of the blue Liberty print and the warm bias binding.  It draws the eye, so I had to be sure my stitching was dead straight.






I really like this pattern, it’s fairly quick to make, and I only altered two things from the original pattern instructions.  One was to attach the collar differently.  It’s always easier to get a collar onto something if you can make it flat, so no side seams until the collar is done.  Then I changed the way the cuffs were attached.  The instructions have you gather the lower edge of the sleeve, sew the cuffs short ends together and then turn under the seam allowances on the long edge in order to sandwich over the gathered sleeve.  I just couldn’t see that working neatly on the toile already, and knew that with the addition of the bias that it would have to be different.  I attached the cuff the way you’d sew on a waistband.

Fold the cuff in half, wrong sides together & press.  Turn under the seam allowance on one long side.  Leaving seam allowances on the short side overlapping the sleeve, sew the other long side to the sleeve edge, right sides together.  Fold the cuff at the pressed fold, lining up the turned seam allowance and stitch the short edges together.  Layer & trim & turn.  Et voila.

Tuck detail & bias trim on cuffs
Tuck detail & bias trim on cuffs



I made the blouse over two days in the garden.  We’ve been enjoing some lovely weather here in the UK this week, and it was far too nice to sit indoors when all the action was outside.  The only problem was the distraction.  The antics of the various birds in the garden was so funny, I’d sew a bit, then sit back & watch the birds, then sew a bit again.  We have a very territorial blackbird who has decided to attack every dove & wood pigeon who dares invade his airspace. Luckily he’s not bothered by the robins or the little tits.  He could bully the starlings a little more though, they’re eating me out of house & home!  🙂  Do you ever think of moving into the garden with your machine?  Would it even be practical for you?

Sewing in the garden
Sewing in the garden

Will there be more Carme Blouses on my sewing table?  Undoubtedly.  Daughter No2 really likes it, the shape, length, hem curve and of course, the tab to hold up the sleeves to look extra cool!


I’m submitting this blouse for the New to Me category of the competition, and when the voting opens would be very grateful if you’d consider voting for me.  Thank you to all those who voted for my Snowball in Paris dress (which I have just found out I won a prize for!!), and for A Summer Snowball in the other two competitions, and also for all the lovely comments.

ipm new to me


Voting is now open for New To Me, please pop over to The Monthly Stitch & vote!  The entry is called “Carme in Liberty” on that page.