Zippity-Do-Dah Sewing Skills Workshop – Zip Insertions

Another Saturday, another workshop! This week we explored zip insertions.

I was joined by Janice and Paula (who last week did battle with a “Toile”) as we settled down to 12 inch squares of fabric and a variety of 8 inch zips.

First to be tackled was a “Centre zip insertion” as used in dressmaking for centre back, or indeed for centre front of garments. Next was a “Lapped zip insertion” used for centre back or side closure in skirts and dressmaking. This method is also great for use on the back of cushion covers.

I then showed a decorative trim zip and demonstrated how to add a zip pull to a length of continuous zip.

After adjournment for a warming lunch at the “Ewe and I” cafe we discussed which types of zip insertions Janice and Paula would like to cover next. The “how to” of decorative trim zips and invisible/concealed zips are covered in the workbook but we proceeded to make a “Letterbox zip closure with Concealed Pocket” followed by my “signature” insertion, “ZIP & SLIP Pockets” both of which are particularly useful in bag-making.

Janice and Paula were both able and enthusiastic students finishing the class with completed samples. Armed with their comprehensive workbooks they can now go forward and complete a variety of precision zip insertions with confidence.

Teddy Print Pinafore Dress

new look 6261

In anticipation of tutoring a workshop tomorrow using the New Look pattern to make a toile, I thought it would be a good idea to wear a version of a shift dress.

prima shift

I used my TNT version of the Prima magazine “Go Anywhere Shift Dress” as my preferred version of a basic shift dress. This is only because I have already fine-tuned the fit for this one whereas to date I have not got around to making a toile of the New Look pattern. That is one of those projects that just keeps getting put to the back of the queue.

I knew that I had limited time to make the pinafore dress so just pulled a length of polyester blend gabardine twill fabric from my stash. It happened to be this charming print of multiple teddy bears. I remember making a child’s dress from the original yardage – many years ago as that child is now in her third year at University!

So does using this fabric from my stash count as credit against my purchase of fabric to make the Butterick B6143 coat?

To ensure that the pinafore dress would fit over a lightweight polo neck sweater I added ¼ inch to each side seam, dropped the armscye slightly and re-drafted the neckline into a more generous scoop at the same time maintaining the width of the shoulders. Prompted by the fact that the Corduroy Dungaree dress tends to “grab” at my underwear, I made this dress fully lined with anti-static lining from New Threads Quilt Shop. There is a centre back “lapped” insertion zip and a short hem vent in the centre back seam.


The dress fits well and is easy to put on and pull off due to the great lining. I can foresee that I will get a lot of wear from this simple garment as it will go with many different tops and opaque coloured tights. The style will also work well made up in cottons and linens as a Summer dress- roll on warmer weather!

“No Fashion Fabric & Pattern Purchases in 2017” – That plan didn’t last long!

I said in a previous post that I wanted to start using up my stash and to that end I would not be buying any new fashion fabric or patterns. Well that plan has gone bust! Today I wore one of my standard dresses with the full circle skirt. As the weather was cold and wet I needed to have a coat. The only long length coat that I possess is a cashmere and wool blend which would be too slim-fitting to wear over the dress. I had a little think – what I need is a coat with a similar full circle (or near about) skirt that is made in a fabric that is not too hot, not too cold and not too heavy or too light. I need to make my own.

I visited Fabricland in Salisbury and having checked the pattern books found Butterick 6143 which is exactly what I need.

pattern envelope

line drawing

I checked out comments and reviews on the Pattern Review website and decided to “go for it”!

I purchased 4 metres of a Black embroidered wool blend fabric, 4 metres of Vilene 410, 4 metres of Bright Cerise Pink lining and 1 metre of Black background Liquorice Allsorts print to make the contrast piping.


I have a couple of more urgent projects to complete but am hoping that I can get started on my new coat within the next two weeks. Watch this space!

Meantime, here is a picture of my “Sewing Supervisor” aka “JAZZ” my cat. She loves to keep me company when I am busy stitching. Sometimes she watches from her station on the ironing board and others she likes to sit on my lap as I machine stitch the fabrics.

the supervisor

Cat print Maggie Bag – Medium size

bag front   bag reverse    

As mentioned in my previous post, one of the final fabric purchases of 2016 was some fabulous cat print by Michael Miller. I have combined the quilting weight cotton with a remnant of Black corduroy that I had left over from making the dungaree dress. I have designed the Maggie bag in 3 sizes and this iteration is the Medium size. The finished size is 12” wide x 14” high x 3½“ deep.

There is not a great deal to say about the bag and its construction as the method is the same as that used for the “Maxi” size. I used a medium-weight fusible interfacing (Vilene F220) on all pieces plus some fusible Bosal ® for the main bag panels and flap. I love using this foam wadding on bags as it makes them very sturdy and able to stand open, ready to fill!

On the front there is a slip pocket that has a plastic popper closure and on the reverse a “zip and slip” pocket. The flap has a nickel twist lock. Inside I used my signature 3 panel lining that incorporates a divided slip pocket on one side and a “zip and slip” pocket on the other.

After Monday I will be making the bag available as a sample in advance of the workshop to be held in March at New Threads Quilt Shop

Sewing Plans for Spring 2017

My New Year’s Resolution – STOP buying patterns and fabric! Well I realise that I won’t be able to last an entire year without buying any fabric especially as I know that I will need to stock up on things like fusible interfacing, wadding, anti-static lining etc. But, I do need to start using up some of my stash of fabulous fabrics. In anticipation of the moratorium on fabric buying I did indulge on one of the last days of 2016 and purchase some SALE fabrics from New Threads Quilt Shop.

cat prints by michael miller

This first selection of cat prints are by Michael Miller, a favourite designer. I bought 2 metres of the White background to use as linings for bags, 1 metre each of the Red and Black background prints. I have already started work on a medium-sized Maggie bag using the Black background yardage which I will combine with some of the Black corduroy in my stash. The Red background is earmarked for a Sew Sturdy Organiser bag as designed by Annie Unrein so stand by for a mammoth quilting session. I plan to make a range of accessories in red-printed fabrics to go with my latest Brother (R) sewing machine. The organiser will be the piece de resistance!


I bought the last of this Burgundy background Chrysanthemum printed Cotton Poplin. There are a good 4 metres of fabric, plenty to make my TNT Bettina dress with full circular skirt. I will probably make the lined cap sleeves as this print is ideal to wear with a fantastic cable patterned cardigan that a good friend knitted for me last year.

mystic breeze by balson-hercules group

Again, I bought the last of this printed cotton, “Mystic Breeze” by the Balson-Hercules Group. There is enough fabric to make a 3/4 length sleeved blouse.

Reviewing just some of the purchases from 2016 that never got made up I have a length of beautiful wool blend Green-based jewel-coloured tapestry-type fabric in an Aztec-style weave that I bought from SEW OVER IT. Unfortunately, I mis-read the pricing thinking it  was per metre when it was per half-metre. I ordered 3 so have ended up with just 1.5metres x 152 cms wide. I will have to check through my patterns to find a short length coat or long-line jacket to make up this fabric – ready for the Spring.  The colour is a little more Emerald than shows in this picture below but you get the idea.

aztec tapestry wool

Also on reviewing my “recent purchases” stash I came across these two lengths that are calling to be made up. First a pretty mid-Blue floral-printed chambray/light denim fabric that I think I bought from M Rosenberg & Son when visiting the Quilt Show at Sandown Park. There is sufficient to make a button through dress to replace an ancient M&S dress that I bought about 20 years ago and is really  ready for the “cut up and recycle” bin.

floral print chambray

The second length is a very stretchy textured polyester jersey. Floral print again on a Dark Navy background. Although the fabric is very wide it is not over long but should be sufficient to make a similar tunic top to the Sparkly Sequinned Stars jersey that I made for New Year’s Eve. Whilst the overlocker is still threaded up with 4 Black threads there is a good chance that this top will be sewn sooner rather than later.

floral textured jersey

So that’s it for now. This selection of fabric is just the tip of the iceberg from my stash. Here’s hoping that I will be able to convert the quantity into quality garments.

Black Corduroy “Cleo” Dungaree Dress from Tilly and the Buttons

         Cleo-dungaree-dress-sewing-pattern-15_medium   Cleo-dungaree-dress-sewing-pattern-16_medium   Cleo-sewing-pattern-technical-drawings_medium

When the Tilly and the Buttons “Cleo” dungaree dress pattern was released it immediately called to me. I checked out various versions that other bloggers had made and finally, on 28th December I managed to find time to cut out and stitch my own version. I used the size 8 knee length version as a starting point and adjusted up to my personal dimensions . Included in those adjustments, I increased the width of the “bodice” at the front, though later discovered that this was a mistake and involved me in making alterations to a completed garment. Gasp with horror as I don’t do alterations!!

I used some lovely soft Black Corduroy from my stash and a contrasting Black background floral print cotton left over from a previous project, for the pocket linings and facings. I included both the front breast pocket and the two back hip pockets. The dress was a simple construction. All major seams were stitched then flat felled into place. I stitched the entire length of the front seam and omitted the short slit. Turning the straps through to the right side was very time consuming and next time I will press and fold then top stitch them in place without turning through.The pockets, straps and around the top of the bodice part were all double top-stitched in Black. The hem was overlocked and machined in place.

front   reverse

I used a Nickel set of Bib and Brace hardware that was in my stash and have worn the dress with Black leggings and a Red polo neck sweater. Comfortable and easy to wear although I did find that I kept fiddling with the bib and brace so will have to machine them in place. I also found that the reverse of the fabric “grabs” onto my sweater and leggings, despite wearing a short slip. If I make this dress again in corduroy (or needlecord), I will line with anti-static lining.

New Year – Starry Sequinned Tunic Top


 In addition to a nice new dress to wear on Christmas Day, I also like to have a special top to wear on New Year’s Eve. 2016 was no exception. When buying the Monochrome jersey for the Christmas Day dress, I tucked a length of Star Sequinned Black Jersey fabric into my bag.

This is a very stretchy jersey base, covered in sparkling stars and “glitter”. Due to the “in your face” fabric, there was no need for a complicated tunic top and in any event I had purchased only 1.5m of the wide-width fabric. I turned to my TNT Bettina bodice and hacked it!

First I extended the length by 8inches beyond the waistline and then included the long sleeves in the pattern layout. I would not use any facings as the neckline, sleeves and hem would all be turned to the inside and top stitched.

The construction process was REALLY quick! I used a small lightning stitch on the shoulders whilst including some narrow georgette ribbon to stabilise the seam. The bust darts were also sewn on the sewing machine. I did not stitch the body darts as I wanted the top to be loose and “flowing”. The remainder of the construction was done on the 4-thread overlocker. I overlocked the raw edges at the neckline, sleeves and hem. The sleeve hems were turned to the inside before twin-needle stitching in place. As I wanted more control over this extremely stretchy fabric, the neckline and tunic hem were hand tacked to the inside to prevent stretching out of shape.

The tunic top is lovely to wear, so comfortable as it just skims the body and I almost forget that I am wearing it. Once completed I modelled the tunic for my husband who commented how nice it was. Unfortunately, I was unwell on New Year’s Eve so the modelling session was the only time I have worn the tunic – oh well, at least I have a great top ready to go at a moment’s notice should the need arise!

Christmas Day Dress – Monochrome Jersey

01 front dress

No hanger appeal – but it looks fine when on!

I always like to have a new dress to wear on Christmas Day. In Franklins sale I found just the right fabric to make a warm version of the TNT Bettina dress. As it was a jersey fabric this would also be a good opportunity to continue my experience of stitching jersey fabrics and using the overlocker for more than simply neatening seam allowances.

The fabric was very wide and when I laid it out on my cutting board I realised that the pattern had a pronounced “stripe” in the design which went – unfortunately – across the width of the fabric. That would not do – no width-wise stripes across my bust! As the fabric was quite thick I decided against a gathered or pleated skirt as this would produce too much bulk around the waistline. There would surely be sufficient for my favourite circular skirt. With some “finessing” I managed to lay out the pattern with the grainline across the pieces (so that the design lines were vertical ) but there was just not enough fabric for the ¾ sleeves that I would prefer. Oh well, I can always wear a cardigan!

The dress was a very quick and easy sew. The darts were stitched on the regular machine with a small (2.5mm) stitch length. The shoulders were also stitched with the regular machine but “stayed” with a length of plain black ribbon. The sleeves were first inserted with a straight stitch and then finished with the overlocker. The remainder of the stitching was completed on the 4-thread overlocker. The hems on the sleeves and around the skirt were my usual twin-needle stitching.

I have worn the dress several times and received many compliments. So far I have always worn it with a Red long-sleeve cardigan (and Red “Jewel” shoes from Hotter). As the design is in monochrome it should go very well with a wide range of colours. In the future I may also use my other favourite cardigans from Lands End – I have Bright Teal, Yellow, Autumn Gold, Soft Peach and Green.

Beginners’ Sewing Accessories Workshop

After a meeting with Meg at New Threads Quilt Shop we have now agreed a programme of workshops to be run up to and including June 2017. The first is a Toile making class in January followed in February a class for absolute beginners, returners and improvers. In the class we will be making scissors cases and pin cushions. So…. I needed to make some samples.

Using a basic pattern from Threads magazine which then I adapted to make more appropriate for beginners, I used some lovely sewing themed fabric from Lewis & Irene called “Threaded with Love”. The scissors case is lightly quilted with fusible wadding and can be lined in the same or contrast fabric. The fastening can be a snap popper (I used my lovely new set of snaps and pliers!), velcro, button with buttonhole or loop, or popper. Depending on how you fold the case you end up with the 2 sections either small inside the large or small outside the large l. Personally I prefer the former which then leaves a large area for embellishment if required. I have made the large case in both permutations plus closures of snap poppers on one and button with elastic (hair bungee) on the other.

Long ago I hacked the pattern to make a small version of the scissors case which is just the right size for small embroidery scissors or snips. I made a co-ordinating case to accompany the larger cases.

Next, onto the pin cushion. As the scissors case is so basic, I decided that it would be a good idea to “stretch” the students a little and introduce them to one of my favourite patchwork blocks – 3D bow tie with faux cathedral window insert (what a mouthful – I need to come up with a shorter name for the block!).The block uses only small scraps of fabric and can be made uses some of the remnants from the scissors cases combined with a couple of other prints. I started out with basic 4 inch squares (subsequently made a second one with 3 inch squares) which made the “fiddling” of the 3D centrepiece a little easier to cope with. The resultant pin cushion is approximately 7 inches square – a good-sized piece of equipment that will not easily be lost or buried under sewing projects.

Lewis & Irene collection

From the left: Large case with small section outside & popper fastening, pincushion, small scissors case with popper, large case with small section Inside & button/loop fastening.

Having completed the samples for the workshop I then retrieved some Red Strawberry print fabric from my stash together with complimentary spot print and made a set to accompany my latest new Brother ® sewing machine.

My personal collection

Sew Sturdy Sewing Organiser Case by Annie Unrein/

My very good friend Maureen had previously made two of these fantastic cases, one for me and another for Adrienne. Knowing that Maureen had more than enough sewing projects to complete before Christmas I knew that if there was to be one made for Joan, it would have to be me that made it.


I had purchased the lesson and pattern from quite a long time ago – just never plucked up the courage to undertake what I could see would be quite a complicated and involved project. But the desire to make a really lovely gift for Joan was sufficient to stiffen my resolve, to roll up my sleeves and get stitching!

Joan is a collector of all things “Elephant” so I originally planned to make the organiser in an Elephant print that I previously bought from Fabricland. But disappointment – no more Elephant print in the Salisbury shop. Instead I elected for an Elephant Grey background, printed with charming bouquets of flowers! There was a co-ordinating Grey spot print and that is what I used for the project. Although I knew that I had some clear vinyl in my bag-making stash – it was out in the garage store, buried under a great pile of storage boxes. It was cold and dark in the garage, I did not stay long enough to uncover the vinyl – no problem, I would purchase another length from “The Range”. Again, disappointment – no plain clear vinyl to be had. I purchased ½ metre of a simple patterned vinyl which I subsequently discovered was even better for stitching as being slightly embossed it was much easier to feed through the machine when making the pockets for the inside of the organiser. The mesh required for the outer pockets that are on the reverse of the outer front and back had posed a problem. That was until Adrienne suggested we buy laundry bags from Poundland. I cut the mesh from the bag which left the zipped bag still in one piece and the 2 mesh pieces were just the right size for the project. Result! 

First task was to check the dimensions of all the pieces and work out a cutting plan prior to quilting the various sections. After 4 hours of quilting in a 1¼ inch square grid I had all the various sections prepared. Now to get making up the case.

I had read through the written instructions and also watched the video on the website. Having “set up shop” in the dining room, I downloaded the lessons to my tablet which I stood next to the sewing machine. As each lesson was completed on the tablet, I undertook that same lesson on my sewing machine and gradually the project took shape.

vinyl pocket pages

Vinyl Pocket Pages

After three long sessions of stitching I had completed the Organiser.

pages front and back of bag

Bag Bag & Front plus pages

all parts ready for assemble

Pages,Back,Front & Sides of Bag ready for assemble

I am absolutely delighted with the result and like a Chinese meal, once finished, I immediately wanted to make another!





Bag, packed and ready to go!

However, there are still several items that I want to complete before the end of the year, the second sewing organiser will have to wait.