All Tucked Up! – Fabric Manipulation

christmas basket 3

Tucked panel on the front of the basket

On Monday’s P&Q class at Franklins, Salisbury we attempted some fabric manipulation. Emma demonstrated a technique of a panel of ¼ inch tucks that are stitched down in opposite directions which results in a very tactile piece of work. As we always like to have a project in which to incorporate new techniques, Emma showed us a storage basket. The project does not take a great deal of fabric and is ideal for using up remnants from fabric stash.

Requirements for the storage basket that we made are as follows:- 2 x fat eights, one of which will be “tucked” plus a fat quarter for the lining. Also required is some foam wadding.

By the end of the class we had all completed the length of tucked fabric and I finished the construction of the basket at home. I am especially pleased with the result and plan to make more baskets in different sizes- maybe a set of 3 that when empty will sit inside one another. Yet another idea for Christmas presents?

christmas basket reverse

Christmas printed reverse panel of thebasket

Maxi “Maggie” Tote Bag

front bag

I was born in the year of the Rabbit and this fabric featuring various Hares on a Linen-look cotton hopped into my shopping basket! I purchased a metre of the print from eBay and was delighted when it arrived to see that it co-ordinated well with the remnant of spotted linen look cotton left over from a dressmaking project(more of that later!).

I wanted to make a large tote bag to use for attending patchwork and quilting classes that would also be robust enough when out and about shopping.

I thought about the dimensions and based the main panels on the size of the “Martha” market bag which is a free pattern from the Craftsy website. From that starting point I went on my own unique path making external pockets on the bag, fussy-cutting the pocket panels and adding the contrast fabric to accent various features of the bag. I particularly like the way that a Hare is peeping over the top of the zipped pocket on the reverse of the bag.

reverse bag 2

There is a slip pocket behind both the external and the internal zipped pockets plus an internal pocket that is divided into sections to take a mobile phone, pens and pencils. I also added a loop and parrot clasp to one of the internal seams so that keys are always close to hand and don’t get lost at the bottom of the bag.

The contrasting flap has a twist lock and the entire bag is padded with Bosal ® foam interfacing. As the Bosal ® makes the bag somewhat cumbersome to handle, I applied a contrast binding around the top so that I could avoid the trauma of turning through a gap in the calico lining.

The final dimensions of the bag are 17” wide x 16” high x 4” deep. The handles extend by 22” and are therefore long enough to go over the shoulder.

I am delighted with this bag and intend to publish the pattern and instructions – maybe for a class or workshop. I have some more “Hare” fabric, featuring a smaller creature and plan to make a similar bag on a smaller scale – the “Midi Maggie”, followed eventually by the smallest, “Mini Maggie”. I can foresee many more “Maggie” bag incarnations in the future.

Dressmaking Workshop II

Although there were two ladies booked into the Dressmaking Part 2 workshop on Saturday, only 1 turned up so Hilary was fortunate to have one-to-one tuition.

As there were a few “tweaks” required to perfect the fit of Hilary’s toile we busied ourselves with that for a couple of hours. We re-drafted the pattern and whilst Hilary ate lunch I sewed a new toile bodice so that we could double-check the fit after those tweaks had been made. Finally we had a really good-fitting toile bodice to use when making up the New Look dress pattern.


Hilary had chosen some pretty Turquoise cotton fabric which had a non-directional print and this made pattern placement easy. The dress was cut out and darts etc., marked with a Frixion ® pen.


By this time having experienced a “full-on” day of tuition Hilary decided to quit whilst ahead.

Armed with the workbook that I had produced to accompany the class, Hilary will now complete her dress in easy stages at home. I look forward to hearing how she gets on and seeing a photograph of the completed garment.

2 Sweet Peas in a Pod

The first and third Thursday of each month is when the Sprat & Winkle Quilters meet at the village hall in Goodworth Clatford. Last week we had a sewing evening when we enjoyed making Sweet Pea pods! No it was nothing to do with gardening – simply making a delightful zipped purse that is shaped (with a little poetic licence!) like a sweet pea pod.

Here is the link for the pattern and instructions which can be purchased from the craftsy website:-

Using some scraps from a recent dressmaking project, a length of continuous zip plus 2 zip pulls, some calico for lining, a 10” square of fusible wadding and a short piece of satin ribbon I was able to produce 2 pods.

Lizzie had prepared an excellent tutorial clearly demonstrating each stage of the construction. These little gems are compulsive – like a chinese meal – no sooner have you finished one than you want to make another!


Back to Basics – a new Toile for me

In anticipation of tutoring yet another dressmaking course I decided to re-visit my basic shift dress pattern. I used a Prima pattern that was originally released with the magazine back in April 1997! Since then I have made the pattern up many, many times. Over the years it has seen a variety of sizes from a 14 to a 22 plus lots of variations in styling.

prima shift

So – back to basics. I measured myself (not a happy experience!) and noted on my chart. As I use my upper bust/chest measurement on which to base the pattern I needed to draft my “personal fit” pattern from a size 20 and then do a full bust adjustment.

First I used the Nancy Zieman method of pin, pivot and slide. I compared the finished result with the TNT bodice that I have been using of late and there was a huge discrepancy.

nancy zieman

I then re-drafted using the Palmer Pletsch method of slashing and spreading  the pattern and after a deal of “finessing” ended up with a bodice that was not too dissimilar to my TNT bodice.

palmer pletsch fba

I cut out the front and back using a firm calico, marked the darts etc with carbon paper and a tracing wheel. I stitched with a long stitch using a contrasting thread. I inserted a zip into the centre back using my favourite lapped zip method.

lapped zip

Now to try on the toile and check the fit. Interesting! Several tweaks required. I needed to pinch out a small dart at the neckline to remove a little “gaposis”. My shoulders are slightly more sloping than the pattern – adjust them by 1/4 inch. They are also narrower, so reduce the width by 1/2 inch. The bust dart needs to be shortened and lowered by ½ inch and the body darts also reduced in height by ½ inch. The front armscye needs to be raised by ½ inch and the side seam taken in by ½ inch. The front waistline was way off. It needs to be lowered by 1 inch at the side seam and 1½ inches at centre front. The back bodice side seams need to be taken in by at least ½ inch and the back armscye cut back by ½ inch. I could put on and remove the dress without opening the back zip so not required. The width of the skirt seems OK. The length of the skirt at 26 inches finished is also fine.

I re-drafted the bodice front and back incorporating the changes. In view of the number of alterations I decided to make another toile of the bodice. Using a lighter weight calico I quickly ran up a new bodice and tried it on – success! I attached the new bodice patterns to their corresponding skirt pieces and set aside ready to make the dress in a fashion fabric.

I will keep the 1st attempts at drafting the bodice patterns plus the original toile so that I can use them as demonstrations for my students. If at first it is not quite right – keep going and you will get there in the end……

Simplicity 2580 – 2 Dresses instead of 1

pattern envelope

A couple of weeks ago I made up a toile from this pattern in a Peach jersey fabric for a friend. Last week I re-visited that friend and she tried on the toile. We were pleased to find that the toile was a good fit with just a very small tweak required over the hips.

We went ahead with making the dress in Pat’s chosen fabric which was a fine jersey print. The dress is to be worn to a ball later this month and would need to be full length i.e. View D from the pattern envelope illustration. Pat tried on the toile again and we measured how much extra fabric would be required to bring the hem to floor level. We added the appropriate amount to the pattern front and back skirt pieces. Pat also decided that she would like to have the sleeves as shown in views A and C.

Taking care to match the bold design at the centre front and back of the bodice and skirt pieces, we cut out the dress. The only other change that we made was to place the back bodice on the fold rather than have a seam. Pat had purchased a jersey needle and so with each of us pressing, pinning, stitching and pressing again the dress went together very quickly. The joy of sewing with jersey fabric! At the next fitting we discovered that the weight of the jersey was stretching the length of the skirt so a further 3 inches was removed and the hem pinned into place. The hems on the sleeves and the skirt of the dress were machined in place and after 4 hours of work we had a completed dress!

Pat was smiling and obviously delighted with her new dress. As we now knew how to perfect the fit of this dress for Pat, I offered to continue with the making of her original toile. I made the alteration to the side seams, added sleeves and machined up a narrow hem with jersey twin needles. Two dresses for the price of One!

front full llength   full length back

Front                                                Back

I have been so impressed with how easily the design has come together and have now purchased my own copy of the pattern.

Watch this space for the next iteration of Simplicity 2580!

Christmas Dress Hack – Simplicity 1452


This dress is the second of the samples to promote the workshop planned for November at New Threads Quilt Shop.

santa christmas ark

Nearly 14 years ago I gained a great deal of experience in making dresses for little girls as I made several for the daughter of a friend, from the time that Lucy was born until she was aged around 8 or 9 years old. This Christmas dress hack is very similar to those I made back in the early 2000’s.

Using the smallest size pattern firstly I re-shaped the neckline to a gentle scoop and then added sufficient to the centre back to allow for a buttons and buttonholes (or velcro) fastening. To avoid any raw edges of the seam allowances on the bodice I decided to line with a plain calico cotton.

dress front

n.b. Centred design on bodice front

To make the dress with a fully lined bodice is a very simple procedure.

Order of Construction:-

  1. Stitch the shoulder seams of the bodice front to the 2 bodice backs. Repeat for the bodice lining.
  2. Place lining right sides together with bodice, matching notches.
  3. Pin and then machine stitch around the armholes. Pin and machine from the waistline edge, up the back, around the neckline, and down the other side of the back.
  4. Press well and then pull the back bodice pieces through the shoulders to turn right side out.
  5. Understitch as far as possible around all the edges.
  6. Stitch the side seams of the skirt panels and gather the top edge.
  7. Pin and stitch the top of the skirt to the bottom of the bodice, ensure that you keep the bodice lining free.
  8. Fold up the bodice lining to the inside, matching the fold to the stitching line of the skirt.
  9. Hand stitch the bodice lining to the previous row of stitching so that now all the raw edges of the bodice are covered.
  10. Work buttonholes and attach buttons at the back bodice BEFORE stitching the centre back seam of the skirt, leaving approximately 3-4 inches below the waistline unstitched.


    back dress

    I used a French seam when joining the skirt panels together and machined a narrow double-folded hem.

    back bodice showing buttons 1

    Christmas-themed buttons

    For the back fastening I made 5 buttonholes and used 5 different Christmas-themed buttons to complete.

Party Princess – Simplicity 1452


As promised here is the first (I plan to make another pinafore-dress- style) of the samples to promote the workshop planned for November at New Threads Quilt Shop.

The dress will eventually be sent to my great grand daughter, hence I have made a 3, the smallest size included in the envelope. My version is based on view B. I used a pretty pink spot cotton from New Threads and trimmed with a floral embroidered braid that I had in my stash. I think I bought that trim when on holiday in the Canary Islands, several years ago!

party princess 1

party princess 3a

The dress has a square neckline with facing.

party princess 2

The sleeves have a gathered cap, they are trimmed with the same trim that has been used on the bodice and around the skirt of the dress. The main seams were sewn using a French seam to avoid raw edges on the inside of the dress. However, the gathering of the skirt into the waistline is finished with a narrow zig-zag overcasting.

party princess 3b

I used my TNT lapped zip insertion with a hand picked finish.

I am delighted with the finished garment and cannot wait to get stitching the next version for which I will be using a Santa’s Christmas Ark printed cotton from my stash.

santa christmas ark

Autumn Daisy Print Bettina Mark VI

After the toile-making class on Saturday I purchased a couple of lengths of fabric (by way of a change!).

The first was 4 metres of a cotton poplin printed with daisy-like flowers in various autumnal shades.

autumn daisy print close up

The second was 1.5 metres of Pink spotted cotton to be used to make a sample dress of the Party Princess workshop being held in November using Simplicity pattern 1452.

The cotton poplin had its raw ends overlocked and the length was popped into the washing machine first thing on Sunday morning.

Since then over a period of 3 mini-sessions of sewing the latest incarnation of Bettina has now been completed.

autumn daisy print front  autumn daisy print back

                                                   Dress front                                              Dress back

There is really not much to say about the construction, you know that by the 5th time of making I have pretty much got the pattern sussed. I did not bother with pattern matching this time and I don’t think the dress suffers for this. The lapped zip is, as usual, hand picked and the hem has a single row of top-stitching. On checking the knit shrugs in my wardrobe I was pleased to find one in a sort of lime-green colour which co-ordinates well with the print of the dress, so that’s what I shall wear with it tomorrow.

That’s all folks for now. I am off to the cinema this afternoon to see the latest “Bridget Jones” movie and from Friday afternoon I will be working on the Party Princess sample dress. Watch this space…..



Spotted – a new dress for the Autumn

spots front view

By now you will be bored with looking at pictures of my TNT bodice with various skirt incarnations. Nevertheless, here is the latest. I used a 100% cotton spot print from Fabricland, bought from the Basingstoke store when my sister and I visited back in July.

The fabric has been washed and pressed but set aside whilst I concentrated on more urgent work. Now that the evenings are drawing in and there is a definite “nip” in the air it is definitely time to make some Autumn-colour-themed dresses which will be worn with knit shrugs or cardigans.

As I had only 3 metres of this khaki green spot fabric I was not able to make my preferred circular skirt. Instead I had to “make do” with a gathered dirndl using two widths of the fabric x 30 inches length.

At first fit of the bodice I thought it a little dull and remembering that I had some “interesting” trim bought from the Mandy Shore stand at the Malvern Show, I auditioned that plus some other trims to see which would be best suited to go around the neckline and the sleeves. The centre of the chosen trim has a red thread running through so that made it easy to machine stitch using a red thread in the needle with khaki thread in the bobbin.

Inspired by my success at pattern-matching on the “Teapots” dress I have again matched the pattern on both the bodice back where there is a lapped zip fastener and the skirt.

back zip

There are pockets set into the side seams, using my usual pocket bag design they are also stitched along the waistline seam to prevent them flapping about! The short cap sleeves are lined with plain White polyester cotton. The skirt hem is a double fold and was hand stitched.

So, does the fact that I have had the fabric in my stash for a couple of months count as stash-busting? Can I now use the new fabric that I bought on Saturday or do I need to raid the “old” stash for my next project?