Zippity Doo Dah Day! Zip Workshop

00 workbook picture

Isn’t it typical? A really warm day and I spent it indoors at New Threads tutoring a workshop on Zips. Not only was it warm outside, but for some of the time we had the steam iron switched on – just to add to the heat!

But it was worth it to be able to spend time with two delightful ladies eager to learn about zips and improve their confidence and skill when using one of the many ways to insert them.

Debbi and Sue were both very able students and we rattled through the variety of zips and different methods of insertion. We dealt with standard zips, decorative trim zips and invisible zips for dressmaking and bag-making. The sample zips were inserted as standard central closures, lapped and/or hand picked, exposed with decorative trim, letterbox with and without a pocket and of course the “dreaded” invisible zip!

centre zip hand picked     10F LAPPED ZIP FINAL STEP

Hand picked centre zip                                  Lapped zip

14B COMPLETED INVISIBLE ZIP     letterbox and pocket

Invisible Zip                                             Letterbox & Pocket Zip

As a bonus at the end of the workshop I was also able to show Debbi how to apply a zip pull to a continuous zip so that she will now be able to buy lengths of zips for her bag-making which is much more cost effective. Sue has promised to re-visit all the samples prior to filing in her workbook for future reference.

I hope that each lady will have the opportunity to practice and refine the different methods of insertion for zips so that they will go “zip” onwards and upwards in their stitch craft.

Bettina Dress – Mark IV – Poppies


Front View

There is not much to say about this dress as it was back to the TNT Bettina dress pattern to make up the bold Poppy printed cotton fabric bought from Franklins’ in Salisbury.

This time the short cap sleeves are lined with plain White poly-cotton as I did not want any “showthru” of the bold Red colour of the Poppy print. Once again the lapped zip in the centre back seam is hand picked.

As I could see there was a definite one-way to the design I had to forego a circular skirt. Therefore the full, gathered skirt is made from 3 panels across the width of the fabric but there is no pattern matching. As the blind-hemming on my machine is not perfect and I did not want any large stitches showing, the hem is a hand stitched double fold. The folded edge of the hem is NOT pressed flat and the double fold is good for the fullness of the skirt as it adds weight and substance. 


Back View

“Mary Rose” Dress mark II

I really wanted to progress with this style of dress and have therefore reverted to my TNT bodice which has good bust and body dart shaping. Having drawn a new neckline which did away with the “sweetheart” dip at the centre front and extended the width of the shoulders into the centre front, I cut out yet another Mary Rose dress.

front neckline

Squared off front neckline

This time I used 4 metres of a bold floral printed cotton purchased from Franklins in Salisbury “Sale” shelf. I had already overlocked the cut ends and laundered the fabric so was good to go!

I learned from the previous incarnation to ensure that I made the seam allowance at the centre back bodice a good 1 inch wide to facilitate the lapped zip insertion. Although it was more by luck than design, I have managed to pattern match at centre back and across the 3 panels of the gathered skirt.

pattern match and hand picked zip

Lapped zip, hand picked and pattern matched.

I had taken time to print out an “Order of Construction” and this helped considerably to ensure that I was not doing battle with acres of skirt as I tried to apply the neckline facing and insert the sleeves! The former was completed as soon as the shoulder seams had been stitched and the latter once the first fit and side seams were sewn.

The sleeves are my TNT short sleeves that are self-lined and with some “fudging” I managed to insert without tucks, gathers and pleats. This time the lapped zip was a dream to sew and it is lapped in the correct direction. Again I hand-picked the final line of stitching and am very pleased with the completed insertion.

Due to the width of the skirt and the fact that the pattern is very busy on a dark background, this time I used the blind hemming stitch on the machine to complete the double folded hem. It is not perfect but good enough!

full length front view

The dress is not really this wide!

Note the pattern match across the width of the skirt.

In hindsight, I prefer the straightened line of the bodice and have already adjusted the width of the shoulders as in this iteration they are a little too wide. This has meant re-drafting the neckline to bring it in a little at centre front and also re-drafting the armsyce – now I am ready for Mary Rose mark III for which I plan to use fabric from my stash – a cotton print with teapots!

“Mishap Mary Rose” Dress – hack from Butterick B6217

It all started so very well! I had made and “refined” a toile of the bodice so was confident that this would be a good example of my sewing skills.

Firstly, in my enthusiasm, I forgot to double-check the fit of the bodice BEFORE progressing with the insertion of the zip. Had I done so, it would have been easier to make the small adjustment to the bust darts that I later discovered was required. So – I gaily inserted the zip only to I find that I had not left enough seam allowance for my favoured “lapped zip” method. I stitched and unpicked the zip at least twice before I was satisfied. Then to add insult to injury, I noticed later that I had made the “lap” on the wrong side of the zip.

I progressed with the gathering of the 3 panels of skirt which was fairly straightforward, only to have a “mishap” when overlocking the seam. I caught part of the bodice front in the seam and managed to CUT a small hole in the bodice, close to the waistline seam. There followed a stressful half hour whilst I made a patch to cover the hole. Fortunately, the print of roses is so busy and the patch close to the seam, that I do not believe it is immediately apparent to the casual observer!

mishap no 3

mishap with patched rose print

Having attached the skirt in such a hurry, this meant that I had to “manhandle” a deal of fabric when I went back to finish the bodice, to insert the tulip cap sleeves and attach the neckline facing. On the original toile the sleeves were easy enough to insert but again on the actual dress it was not so. It took several attempts to get the sleeves inserted WITHOUT tucks and puckers and in the final analysis I am not sure that I like them. Next time I will draft a longer sleeve to (maybe) convert to tulip petal style.

neckline+ sleeves

neckline & cap tulip sleeves

When understitching the neckline facing I found that the centre front clip went beyond the staystitching so there was a tiny gap and raw edge of fabric. Back to unpicking and re-stitching that part of the neckline!

The hem is a double fold of fabric to add weight and substance to the full skirt. This had to be stitched by hand, all 135 inches of it – not my favourite activity!

Finally, I have worn the dress which when standing looks very good but unfortunately the fit of the bust darts is not quite right and is apparent when seated, so will need some “finessing” on the next iteration of “Mary Rose”. But, my husband likes the dress and it is very comfortable to wear!

full frontal


Perfecting the Fit – Butterick B6217

Although our figures are not at all similar, I particularly like the style of dresses that Sian Singleton of Kittenish Behaviour has been showing on her vlog/blogs and believe that they also suit my rubenesque silhouette! Inspired by her makes using a Vogue pattern I decided that I would like to make a dress with a similar neckline. I particularly like the width of the shoulders as I have found that  with some of my recent dresses, there can sometimes be an issue with bra straps showing.Although Sian’s bodice in this iteration has a straight neckline, I found Butterick B6217 blouse by Gertie in my stash and felt that it was sufficiently similar to use that.

Serenity Bridge

Inspiration from Kittenish Behaviour

b6217 pattern envelope    B6217_lineart

Butterick B6217 –  Using view C plus tulip sleeves for the Bodice

Rather than hack the neckline onto my TNT bodice, I decided to make a toile of the new Butterick pattern before cutting into my fashion fabric. I would use View C, remove the front button closure and add the tulip sleeves from View A. I would then have a prepared toile for a blouse at the same time (multi-tasking!)


Bodice Front & Back – copied and extended to my measurements


Bodice Front & Back Calico toile after fitting – note the need for a full bust adjustment!

Checking out my stash of fabric I came across a pretty Pink roses print that was originally purchased from Fabricland several years ago. I had previously used some to make a blouse so knew that the fabric was a good weight for a dress and easy to stitch. There were at least 4 metres so there would be plenty for a new dress and it would also be 1 less length of fabric in my stash.

fabric for dress

I spent a while deliberating on whether or not the print of my Roses fabric was a one-way design. It was certainly directional so would not be appropriate for the full circular skirt that I used on Bettina dresses 1,2 & 3. I decided to make the full gathered skirt by taking 3 panels across the full width of the fabric. See the next post for the full story of Mishap Mary Rose!


Finishing off Projects

I usually make a demonstration bag when tutoring a workshop and it often happens that the sample does not quite make the cut at the end of the day. For the Carousel Tote bag workshop I had prepared a bag using some remnants of fabric that were originally purchased for a Sewing Organiser ( that a great friend made for me to give to another great friend!

There was just sufficient to make the tote bag but on the day of the workshop it did not get finished. Now it is and as I plan to visit my friend mid-August I will save it to give to her when I visit.

101_6719 (2)   101_6720 (2)

Front of the Carousel Tote Bag        Reverse showing the accent fabric

When preparing for the Simplicity 2396 Tote Bag class – I was delighted to discover that due to the width of the fabric, I had sufficient for TWO bags. I managed to complete one on the day of the workshop and this afternoon have completed the second. This version has the added accents of contrast piping on the joining seam between the main bag and the bag band and also around the “fussy cut” tab. Both bags have my signature pockets inside – one divided slip pocket plus a zipper pocket with slip pocket behind. The second bag also has a loop with key chain so that those important keys do not get lost in the depths of the bag!

MARK 4 -2

I shall be sending one bag to my sister for her birthday in October and keep the other for me.

Bag-making Workshop – Simplicity 2396

pattern envelope

Caitlin and Sue arrived promptly for the workshop and after a brief introduction we got down to the business of cutting out all those pieces of fabric, interfacing and fusible wadding. Caitlin was re-cycling an Blue-printed Indian cotton tablecloth and Sue had chosen two beautiful, bright lengths of Batik in shades of Turquoise. For myself I chose a Natural-coloured coarse-woven linen/cotton blend with a print of old-fashioned Roses in Red.


Caitlin and Sue get cutting out

Having demonstrated the variations that I had made to this simple design, both “girls” opted to include the shaped tab and magnetic fastener on their bags.


Caitlin’s Bag partially completed

Stitching and construction went ahead and quickly all three bags were produced. Due to the wide range of fabric choices it never ceases to amaze me how different each completed bag looks.


Sue’s completed Bag                        My Bag – version 3

I hope that Caitlin and Sue will make up more of this bag pattern and look forward to spotting them in and around Hampshire and Wiltshire!


Caitlin models her completed bag.

Simplicity 2396 – Mark II

On Thursday 28th July I will be conducting a workshop to make a bag from this pattern. We will be making either version A or B. Meg at New Threads has recently bought in some lovely heavier weight cotton fabric that is just ideal for, amongst other things, bag making. I decided to use some of the new fabric to make a sample bag and chose the Dark Blue colourway with the charming print of Pink roses. The lining fabric also came from New Threads and is a neutral Beige printed with circles.


Simplicity 2396 is quite an easy sew, it seems that the most time-consuming part is cutting out as you have to cut out each pattern piece from the main fabric, wadding or fleece, interfacing and lining. However once that has been done the bag comes together quite quickly and is ideal for a beginner to make.
As I had already made the bag once before, this time I decided to add a few extras. Firstly as I was not adding a contrast band to the top of the bag, I inset a narrow strip of contrast fabric from my stash into the joining seam between the main bag panel and the top band. I included a small “fussy cut” flap with magnetic clasp closure as I feel this is more secure than the loop and button fastening that is shown on the pattern envelope.


Front of the Bag

I also added a small loop with parrot clasp to clip on a purse charm, but most of the changes were made to the inside. I cut each of the main panels into three sections and set zip and slip pockets (similar to those in the Carousel bag) into the middle sections.

internal divided slip pocket

Internal divided slip pocket

internal zip and slip pockets

Internal Zip pocket with Slip pocket behind

Taking inspiration from Sheila’s bag on Saturday where she had top-stitched her dark-coloured background printed fabric with a contrast Bright Pink thread, I did the same on this bag. In order to get the saturation of colour without resorting to a triple stitch, I simply used two threads in the needle and lengthened the stitch to 3 or 3.5.


Reverse of the Bag

I was very pleased with the finished bag which I passed to Meg to use as a display for both the fabrics and pattern. Hopefully we may get some more sign ups for the workshop as well.

Carousel Bag-making Workshop – 23rd July 2016

Saturday 23rd July dawned bright, sunny and VERY warm. My car was packed and I was ready to tutor another workshop at New Threads based at Weyhill where we would be making the Carousel Tote Bag . There were originally four ladies booked for the workshop but unfortunately one had to cancel at the last minute so that left three – Alex, Joann and Sheila. Alex has attended one of my bag-making workshops on a previous occasion and it was lovely to meet up with her again and to hear all about the two naughty Beagle dogs that she has at home.


Alex concentrating on sewing the Bag Flap!

After an introduction, the ladies set to and cut out all the pieces of fabric, lining, interfacing and fusible wadding. The day was warm and even warmer in the workroom as we fused interfacing and wadding to the fabric pieces. However, once that task had been completed it was down to the interesting stitching and putting all those pieces together. In the Carousel Tote bag there are two different methods for zip insertions which I am sure will be repeated in other bags.


Joann                                                                               Sheila

Alex’s bag was made in two contrasting Batiks in Bright Turquoise and Bright Pink, Joann also used Batik printed fabric, this time in Pinky/Earthtones with a contrast lining in Lime Green. Sheila’s bag was a charming print of little Pink roses on a dark background. Top stitching was in contrasting Pink which co-ordinated with the Pink lining. By the end of the day we had 4 almost completed bags and I feel sure that the ladies will now go forward with confidence and make more bags to this pattern.

  joann's bag with button

   Joann’s completed Bag

Well done!

Bettina Dress Mark 3 – Tropical


Tropical Bettina Mark3

I just love this style and I have received many compliments when wearing either of the two previous versions of this dress. I bought the colourful Tropical print cotton fabric from Fabricland when I visited their Basingstoke branch on Thursday last week and have been anxious to get it sewn up. Having completed the preparation for a bag-making workshop next Saturday there was now no reason to hold back – I went for it!

The short cap sleeves are self-lined and the lapped zip in the centre back seam is hand picked. All seams are overlocked as is hem which is a narrow ½ inch with a single row of top-stitching. I know that I really should have pattern-matched the large floral motifs but it is such a busy print and I was a little short on fabric so it is, what it is – no pattern matching!


                                Full length view of Back             The hand-picked lapped zipper

The next version of this pattern will be a little different as I plan to make a V-shaping at the back, like the original Betty dress from Sew Over It. The dress may even be sleeveless, it all depends on the pattern layout for that circular skirt which takes so much yardage. The fabric will be an ”in your face” bright Red poppy print so keep your eyes peeled for that!