Thursday, 9 August 2018

How to sew a Gertie dress from less than 1m of fabric

Over the summer I have been sewing with small pieces of fabric. Most less than 1m. I had this lovely black jacquard fabric, but there was less than 90cm of 150cm wide.

My original plan was for some capri pants, but there wasn't quite enough for that.

So I opted for the  B6453 Gertie princess seamed sundress. I thought it would make a chic LBD. Due to the amount of fabric, the skirt is much shorter than I'd wear and I decided I'd make this for my daughter (for reference she's a UK size 10 in RTW).

I cut the skirt pieces out on the fold, using the pencil skirt version as a guide and extended the sides to form a subtle A-line shape - I think this looks really cute.

The rest of the pieces I cut from a single layer and used all but the tiniest of scraps. I did manage to cut all the pieces including the facings. I chose to make fixed straps rather than adjustable as they used a bit less fabric and I didn't have any suitable sliders and rings.

The front bodice went together well. As usual when sewing princess seams I sew a line of stay stitching 1mm inside the seam line. This helps keep the concave and convex curves accurately placed when pinning and stitching the curves.

I stitched the skirt pieces to the bodice fronts and backs before joining at the side seams. And that's where I went wrong.

Not paying attention - I joined the bodice backs the wrong way around - so the side seams are at the CB. I was really wondering why the side seams didn't match when I was sewing them - it didn't click until I'd sewn them together. I'm hoping I can get away with this as I really can't be bothered to take it all apart and re-sew...

Do you ever just leave something even though you know you should correct it? No? - Me Neither

My OCD got the better of me! I took it apart and re-sewed. Can you see the difference in the shape of the back?

Once the dress was sewed in the correct way I fitted it to my daughter. I ended up taking a little from each side seam from the rib to the hip line - otherwise, the fit was fine. I didn't want to overfit as last time I made her this dress I made it a bit snug and she didn't get much wear out of it.

Key advice for sewing with small amounts of fabric. 
1. Check the yardage. I place the pattern pieces on the fabric before cutting out to check I have enough room. I usually find I can manage on way less than the pattern envelope suggests.
2. Cut out from a single layer. It takes more time but is much more fabric efficient - remember to flip the pattern pieces once you have cut one side so that you get the opposite piece.
3. If necessary us an alternative fabric for the facings. I've made this dress before and used a contrast facing as I didn't have quite enough of the shell fabric. understitch well and it shouldn't be an issue.
4. Check the pattern/ nap of the fabric. If you have a directional print or nap, cut all pieces in the same orientation. I will occasionally cut facings upside down or on the cross-grain (depending on the fabric).
5. Make a muslin/ use a TNT pattern. You need to know that the pattern will fit as there's no opportunity for cutting extra pieces.
6. Try not to make silly errors (unlike me) as its disheartening when you have to unpick loads of sewing!!!!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Art Schools

Bob & Roberta Smith
It's drawing close to the end of the summer term and with just one week to go, I can safely say this term has been very busy and I'm very tired. The last few weeks have seemed like a treadmill with no time to really relax.

In my head the summer term should be a lot more laid back and chilled - in reality, it's probably one of the busiest times of the year. Reports to write, tests and exams to be sat and marked, new students to meet and some to say goodbye to. Last week the year 6 SATs results came out and it brings into focus for me the imbalance in the educational drive of the UK.

We have great Arts education here but is under threat as more and more schools drop the creative subjects at primary level to focus on English and Maths in order for children to "pass" their SATs. At GCSE level, schools are directing students to take Ebacc subjects which have resulted in some high school arts course completely folding. I hate it! I actually get quite angry when I hear of this happening and the arts being sidelined as subjects you do if you 'cant' do other subjects. I know from my experience that those children who engage with the arts generally do well in other subjects and have a different way of processing information and are more able to think outside the box.

As you can tell I'm passionate about arts education and last week I had the opportunity to take some of our students to London for an arts enrichment experience. We had a jam-packed three days and saw lots of stuff. It was hot and tiring - but brilliant.

44 students and 5 staff set out early from school on Thursday morning, we travelled by coach and checked into our accommodation at 4pm before enjoying a meal out and off to the Cambridge Theatre to see the production of Matilda. Our Friday activities included the Tate modern, a tour and drama workshop at the Globe theatre, focusing on Macbeth and a visit to St Paul's Cathedral. The whispering gallery was the highlight for most students here. We finished the evening at the Underbelly festival seeing Circolombia - the most jaw-dropping acrobatics I have ever seen!

Finally, our weekend culminated in the Royal Academy Summer show. I wasn't quite sure what the Children would think of it. But they really enjoyed it. I'm hoping to go back again over the summer to see it again with my husband. I'm also hoping to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A.

Our Arts experience didn't end there as on return to school on Monday I was put to good use finishing off the backdrop for the school show. Plenty of our students took part and were amazing in their performances. 

I'm so thankful that the school I work in values the arts and I know the students got so much out of it. I just hope this doesn't become eroded away under pressures from the government.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A win and a lose

This week I have sewn two patterns from Burdastyle magazines - one a resounding success the other a fail.

First up  - the win!
A friend gave me this fabric that was light furnishing weight. I think it's IKEA. I had 1.5m and it was 145cm wide. I thought it might work quite nicely as some culottes. This is a trend that I'm still not 100% convinced is me, so sewing up something in a non-precious fabric from the stash seemed like a good idea.

The pattern is 114 from the 03/2016 issue of the Burdastyle magazine. I cut a straight size 38, which is my normal size for Burdastyle, although I sometimes grade to a 40 at the hip on slim fitting styles.

The pattern came together really well. As usual, it's drafted well and was a good fit straight out of the box. I did pinch in a couple of centimetres at the centre back - both the back pieces and the waistband. If I sew this again I'd change the straight waistband to a curved one. I just didn't have enough fabric this time.

As usual, I sewed the hems by hand and also the inside of the waistband. I considered topstitching from the front but decided that a hand-sewn waistband would look better and I think it does. The stitches are all but invisible.

I'm pleasantly surprised with how much I like these. It's a bonus that I didn't need to make a load of adjustments to the pattern.

Secondly the fail - and I really thought I was going to like this. This was style 111 from Burdastyle 05/2016 it's a simple cami top with an inverted pleat at centre front. Easy right?

Yep. Easy to make and sew. It all came together really nicely the bias binding was easy to make and the fabric behaved itself - but...

I hate it. It gapes under the arms. the strap placement is too narrow and it looks odd on my frame. It's already been relegated to sleepwear form my daughter.

So why did I not alter it? TBH I really couldn't be bothered. I've tried a few cami tops and often find them too narrow. I do have broad shoulders and I think that the only strappy thing I've ever made that has been the right width is the Butterick B6453 Gertie princess seamed sundress.

I think I'll just stick with my tried and true Sorbetto tops, I'm wearing one with the culottes in the top picture. I love this pattern - we don't see many around the internet these days. It's such a versatile top and really should still be up there with some of the more recent offerings, it's been updated and there are several different options for it now -  and it's FREE. If you've never tried the Colette Sorbetto - you can download it here.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Burdastyle #116 07/2012

This simple top is becoming one of my favourites.

In the Burdastyle magazine, it's a double layer top and made in a very drapey fabric. It has raglan shoulders and a front/ back - simples. I've made this 4 times now and I have a few tweaks to the pattern.

The neckline is gathered all the way around -I've always done this, but it can make the shoulders a bit bunched. So in my next version, I'll take some width out at the shoulders and leave the gathers at the front and back only.

I also taped the front and back shoulder pieces together to create a single piece, it means cutting out can be a bit quicker.
If I sew bias binding at the armhole I usually take about 1cm of the whole edge to account for lack of hem. I leave it if I am going to hem the edge.

I always finish the neck edge with a bias binding and this cotton is brilliant for making your own. It presses well and keeps the crease - very well behaved fabric but still soft and smooth. I bought it from The Sewing Box in Morpeth - they're moving premises on Monday so do pay them a visit if you're in the area.

I extend the bias binding to form ties. it makes for a quick and easy fastening and means I don't need to bother sewing rouleau loops or using plastic buttons, so this is a plastic-free make.

I also sew the back with a Centre back seam. Again this is laziness on my part and it just makes making a keyhole opening a bit quicker and easier.

All in all this make took about 1.5 hrs from cutting out to final try on and I did redo the armhole binding as I forgot to take the hem allowance off the first time. I've already worn this to work this week. I think it will be in heavy rotation.

Fabric 1m £6
Thread from the stash
Pattern from a Burdastyle magazine I already owned.

Sunday, 24 June 2018


Have you been to see the documentary about Lee Alexander McQueen yet?

What a delight. This film has both inspired and saddened me. There are very few truly creative genius in the world and I think McQueen was one of them. Trailer below.

I'd followed the McQueen collections from a distance for many years, always being inspired by the creative and artistic elements he included. As I began my MA in fine art in 2007 and started thinking about my own artistic practice, I became more aware of contemporary artists and designers. I consider myself an artist, teacher, designer, maker. and all of these facets are linked for me. I have a desire to create - whatever that might be. Sometimes it takes the form of artworks. Sometimes technically accurate patterns and sometimes looser draped ideas. All things that I saw in the work of McQueen. His attention to detail; the inspired impossible clothes and the ideas that underpinned it all.

In my opinion, Lee Alexander McQueen was an artist and a sculptor at that, not just a fashion designer. A true creative. I saw through the film that drive to keep making - it's part of your DNA. Not a choice, but a need - it's part of who you are and I can relate to that - I feel it too. For McQueen, the fame and stress that this bought eventually had a negative impact on him, which ultimately led to his untimely death.
The focus and creativity of the man have been an inspiration and I can say without a doubt that the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A was singularly the best exhibition I've ever seen. It was Also shown at the Met and you can see a gallery view here.

I love his insects inspired work. Sometimes I have felt that my own butterfly inspired work was somehow influenced by his work. It wasn't - I was working on my pieces before his collection came out - it's just coincidence - or maybe great minds think alike (who am I kidding).


Some of my work with the same subject matter.

Anyway. If you are a lover of high fashion, or art, or McQueen, or creativity, or genius, or inspiration, or real-life stories then you must go and see this film. Go to be inspired, go to cry, go to recognise true talent, go to seek creativity in yourself, go to be touched by a troubled life, but go.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

How to Sew Plastic Free - Fastenings

Well Hello, I feel like it's been ages since I posted - it has. We have had computer issues and the blogger app no longer works on my Ipad. I have posted via bloglovin' and you can follow me there too. But hey, computer sorted and I can now access all my blog stuff.

Back in May, I pledged to sew plastic free for June - specifically fastenings. So far I have succeeded. In fact I haven't really sewn anything as I've been busy with work over the last few weeks. I've been doing quite a bit of felt making and considered how I could make felted buttons/ beads - I'm still exploring that one.

So here I am wondering how I can avoid plastic buttons and zips in my sewing. This is what I've come up with and how these items may be used.

Plastic zips are the most common fastening I use; all my RTW clothes have them and they are easy to find and buy. But what about the alternative? Metal zips. Currently the only place I see metal zips are in jeans and trousers and coats/ jackets, all dress zips seem to be plastic. I think this is due to the wieght. Metal zips are heavier and might not suit a light weight dress. However, those of you who have vintage clothing will be used to seeing metal zips in dresses and skirts, usually installed as a lapped zipper. The advantages are that metal zips are generally more robust, there is less stretching and puckering when installing them and they and be easily shortened and adjusted. It might be worth trying a metal zip even in a dress, unless it is a very lightweight fabric.

I have a large stash of buttons - and they are all plastic. Finding alternatives is tricky, but not impossible. One of the easiest solutions is to buy metal self-covered buttons. These are available in many sizes and once covered match perfectly with the garment. I think self covered buttons look stunning on delicate blouses and tops. other options include wood, shell, glass, leather, ceramic and metal to name but a few. Again many vintage garments will be found to have nonplastic buttons. I hope to try and make some ceramic buttons soon.

Hooks & Eyes/ press studs
The most easily sourced nonplastic fastening in my opinion. Most bar hooks and hooks and eyes are metal, simply because the design lends itself to a metal construction. The best press studs are also metal and they can be manufactured to a high standard. Plastic press studs are generally inferior. The beauty of these types of fastenings is that the fastening is hidden giving a sleek appreance to the garment or accessory.

Snaps and buckles
Again due to the nature of these types of fastenings, metal is better. I often use snap fastning on jacket cuffs and they are great on childrens wear. Some of my favourite fastings are the metal dungaree buckles when paired with a brass antique effect jeans button. I only need one set and I just transfer them to whichever garment I'm wearing, rather than buying multiple sets.

Eyelets are very popular at the moment and I've seen a lot used as design features in garments. I mostly use these when making corsets, but they can be fantastic when paired with decorative laces as a fastening or feature on different garments.

Other options
There are quite a few options for using fabric as a fastening. For example, traditional Chinese corded buttons or frogging can be bought or made (if you have the patience).

Consider if your garment actually needs a fastening. Many times I've made shift dresses with zips in, only to discover I can actually just pull them on! My favourite way to avoid using a button on a keyhole fastening is to add thin rouleau loops to each edge and then just tie them together. If the garment has a bias bound neck, that becomes even easier, as I just lengthen the bias strip, stitch the edges together and tie.


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