Skirt tutorial 2

Beginner’s sewing tutorial – let’s finish our skirt

My previous post Sewing our skirt finished with attaching our waistband and this post covers inserting the zip, waistband facing and hemming our skirt.

Step 5

When we sewed our very first seam (the back seam), we left an opening from our mark for zipper placement to the waistband.  We now want to baste this opening together sewing from just above the seam (indicated by my pen) to the top of the waistband (raw edge).  Basting is a temporary stitch used to hold the fabric together and as in the gathering stage, set your stitch length to its maximum and do not backstitch.  Use a 1.5cm seam allowance and press the whole back seam open once done, not just the section you have just basted.  We should finish our seams at this point, so using your preferred method (pinking shears, overcast stitch or overlocker) finish each back seam separately as they need to stay open but the side seams you can finish each one with the seam allowance together.

Lay your zip with teeth face down on the WS of our skirt with our zip stopper (the bottom of the zip) just below our zipper placement mark on our skirt.  A great tip I learnt is to use a zip longer than recommended so you can have the excess tape above your waistband and this means you can position the zip pull above your starting position  – this will avoid the need to move the zip pull whilst sewing the zipper which can be fiddly.  Pin the zip tapes to the seam allowance only – do not catch the skirt with your pins.  You will need to attach a zipper presser foot to your machine which allows you to sew really close to the zip teeth.  When you have your zipper foot on, move your needle as far left or right as it will go (depending on which side you are sewing first).  In my photo, I am sewing the right side of the zip tape first so I have the left side of the zipper foot closest to zip teeth and the needle position as far left as it will go.  When you reach the zip stopper sew across at right angles and backstitch.  Do not be tempted to turn your skirt around and continue sewing the zipper from bottom to top.  It is always advisable to sew in the same direction to avoid pulling or movement of the fabric so you will need to re-attach your zipper foot to the other side and move your needle position far right to sew the left zipper tape from the waistband down.

Remove your basting stitches working from the right side and give your stitches a good press.

Step 6

Prepare the waistband facing in the same way as the waistband in part 1 of our tutorial.  This time we will turn under 1.5cm along the bottom edge of our waistband and press this using plenty of steam to ensure we get a neat curve.  Trim the turned under allowance to 1cm.  Attach this to our skirt, RST, matching our notches and side seams.

Sew along the top edge at a 1.5cm seam allowance then press your stitches and the seam allowance onto the facing.  Press again from the RS.

We are now going to understitch which involves sewing the waistband facing to the seam allowance in order to stop our facing rolling to the front.  In my photo I have marked the line of understitching in purple which is 2mm from our stitching line.  Sew  adjacent to our previous row of stitching and then trim this allowance, the zip tape and the ends of the waistband to approximately 1cm.

Turn the waistband facing to the inside of the skirt and fold in the ends of the waistband and turn them onto the waistband, WST, so they sit close to the zip teeth.  Pin in place.  To attach the bottom of the facing we can either do this by hand or use a technique known as stitch in the ditch.  This means sewing from the RS and trying to get your line of stitching into the seam that joins the skirt to the waistband so it is almost invisible.  This can be a bit tricky and your stitching line on the inside may be wonky and miss the fold in places (mine often does) but for me it’s preferable to hand sewing!  You can buy a stitch in the ditch presser foot but I find that separating the fabric as you sew works fine for me.  However I would advise hand sewing the waistband facing down close to the zip tape.

Step 7

Finally the last stage, hemming!  Now there are lots of different ways to finish a hem but my pattern called for a blind hem.  It’s a bit fiddly to get the hang of it at first but it does make for a neat almost invisible hem.  We first need to fold up our hem by 1.5cm to the WS, press it, then fold up again by 2.5cm and press.  The finished length of our skirt will be at the length of this second fold.  What we now do is flip our folded hem to the RS but allow 2mm of our first 1.5cm fold to extend beyond the new fold created.  Looking at my photo from the WS, the new fold will just be short of the first pressed fold.

You will need to attach your blind fold presser foot and test on a scrap of fabric that the left swing of the needle just catches the edge of the fold, adjust the stitch width if necessary.  The folded edge of the fabric should follow the inside of the right “toe” of the foot.

When you have completed your stitching, you unfold the hem, give it a good press and you should have a lovely almost invisible hem, hence the name!  My thread was dark so the stitches are quite visible but I quite like this as a design feature.

girls skirt mccalls m6894


There are a lot of techniques covered in this skirt tutorial but I hope I have explained them clearly, please let me know if you are stuck on anything!  Remember to check out my Pinterest dressmaking tutorials and the link to Tilly & the Buttons under Mini Tutorials for advice on individual dressmaking techniques.

Skirt tutorial 2

Beginner’s sewing tutorial – let’s sew our skirt

My previous post finished with having our skirt pieces all cut out and ready to sew.  Read the post here on Understanding Paper Patterns.  This skirt tutorial will be in two parts as there are quite a few techniques involved and the post would be really long if I did it all in the one go!  Firstly we’ll cover side seams, gathering and attaching the waistband.  Part 2 will cover inserting the zip, waistband facing and hemming.

Before we get sewing, thread your machine and bobbin with your chosen thread, I chose a darker shade to match the bicycle print, although on this particular skirt the stitching will only be visible on the outside where the zip is placed.  As a beginner, you can get away with 4 minimum thread colours to start – black, white, grey and rose pink – try them on your fabrics you’ll be surprised!  As your sewing progresses you’ll add to your collection but as a start I would recommend having these colours in stock.  I’m using a Gutermann 100% polyester thread for my skirt, the colours are identified by numbers not names.

Before we sew a single stitch, we need to test our tension and you should do this on a scrap of the fabric you’ll be using for your project.  Also do  you need to change your needle?  It’s often recommended that you change your needle with every new project but it very much depends on how much sewing you do with each needle.  I have to confess I am often changing my needle but this is because I’m switching between different sizes for different fabrics and the used needles tend to get put back in the cases.  My last project was sewing denim so I still had a 90 needle in the machine, I changed this to a 70 as my skirt fabric is fairly lightweight.  Once you have sewn a few lines of stitching and are happy with the tension, we are ready to sew.

Your pattern will give clear instructions as to the order of sewing, so just follow through the stages step by step.  Generally we sew in a particular order, for a skirt it will be side hems, waistband, zipper, waistband facing and hemming.

Step 1

With right sides together (RST), match our centre back seam notches and pin.  Sew using a 1.5cm seam allowance from our zip placement marking to the hem, remembering to back stitch at the beginning/end and removing pins as you sew.  Open the fabric out and place it on top of our front skirt section, RST, match the side seam notches on each side and pin/clip together.  Sew both these seams and press all 3 seams you have just sewn before moving on.

Step 2

Take your waistband pieces and fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one front waistband and two back waistband pieces.  You want to fuse the shiny side of your interfacing to the wrong side of fabric.  Place a cloth on your ironing board, place your fabric RS down, interfacing shiny side down on top and another pressing cloth on top.  Press your fabrics with a hot iron, trying not to move the iron as it may shift the interfacing, use a holding action for the amount of time specified on the intefacing instructions.  Check the interfacing has fused to the fabric.  Match the side seams, pin and sew.  Press and trim the seam allowance to 6mm to help reduce bulk in the waistband.

Step 3

Gather the upper edge of the skirt between the small circle markings we made.  (Your machine may have a gathering pressure foot – follow your instruction manual if so).  If you do not have a gathering foot, then set your stitch length to the maximum, known as a basting stitch (mine is 4.5) and sew between the circles marked on each back section.  You should be sewing just inside the 1.5cm seam allowance (so 1.3cm from raw edge).  Before you start sewing make sure you have long thread tails so you can hold the thread securely for gathering and do the same when you finish stitching.  Do not backstitch at either end.

Then sew a second row of stitching approximately 3mm away from your first line within the seam allowance, so we are now 1cm away from the raw edge.  When you have your two rows, hold both bobbin threads (on the underside) at one end and start pushing the fabric towards the other end.  This is a bit fiddly and you want to try to get the gathers even, the size of the gathered section needs to match the waistband you have just sewn.  Offer up the gathered skirt to the waistband and match the side seams and pin, you can then adjust the gathers as necessary.  If the gathered skirt sits close on the waistband, they are the same size but if it sits in the air in a curve then it needs to be gathered a bit more to reduce the length.  In my photo, the gathering is too tight and needs to be loosened to fit the waistband.

Step 4

Pin the waistband  to the skirt, RST, matching  up the notches and side seams.  Sew together with the gathered side on top, at a 1.5cm seam allowance, you should be stitching just outside the gathering lines we sewed.  Turn the waistband up away from the skirt, trim the seam allowance and press the seam allowance up onto the wrong side of the waistband.  We now have something resembling a skirt, well done!

Part 2 to follow shortly.  If you have any problems with your skirt so far, please do get in touch.


Skirt tutorial 2

Sewing tutorial – shorten your bootleg jeans

I was asked by a friend if there was anyway her Levi bootleg jeans could be shortened, she had bought them recently in the sales at a wopping 70% discount! I knew I had seen Pinterest tutorials on how to do this and keep the original hem in tact, so I said yes of course I can do it for you (I also came away with 3 other items that needed adjustment but I guess that’s what happens when people realise you can sew….?).

So after trawling through Pinterest and the web, I was struggling to find a tutorial on how to hem bootleg (flared) jeans, lots of tutorials had comments asking how to deal with bootleg jeans but not so many answers.  The problem is that the fabric gets wider towards the hem so using the technique of keeping the original hem in tact won’t work without making an adjustment for the difference in girth.  We could detach the hem, reduce it to fit and reattach it but the thought of cutting into jeans with a £100 price tag was a little scary so I decided I would slim down the flare instead and keep the jeans intact!

So here’s my step by step tutorial on how I shortened the jeans:

Step 1

Try the jeans on with the footwear you would normally wear with them and turn up the hem (right sides together) to the desired length – you’ll probably need help with this step, put a couple of pins in to stop the folded hem moving as you take them off.  Measure the total distance of the turn up – with my jeans this measurement is 12cm, representing how much shorter in length they will need to be when finished.  Next we need to work out how much we need to slim the flare by and with these jeans (and most it would seem) the outside leg seam has a standard seam whereas the inside leg has the flat fell seam with the orange top stitching so it is best to stay away from altering that!

Unfold the hem and working with jeans wrong side out,  snip into the seam allowance just above the hem so we can lay the jeans flat for measuring.  Measure the width of the leg from inside seam to outside seam at a distance using your measurement above, so in my case 12 cm up from the top of the hem (NB – this is not from the very bottom but from the top of the original hem as photo 3 shows).  Repeat the measurement at the top of the original hem and you should have two different measurements – mine are 25cm widening to 27cm at the bottom.  Work out the difference, 2cm in my case, and mark a line on the jeans 2cm in from the original outside leg seam (at the top of the original hem) to a point 12cm up on the original seam.  You should have a triangle indicating the excess flare.  Pin the fabric and prepare your machine for sewing denim (use a denim needle, 90/14 and matching blue thread).

hemming bootleg jeans

Step 2

Start sewing from the existing outside leg seam towards the hemline – I stitched the last few stitches over the hem using the handwheel and reverse stitched back over the hem for extra strength.  Trim the excess fabric and finish the raw edge at this stage using an overlocker or sewing machine.  (I left this stage to later but I should have done it now to make life easier!).  Press from the wrong side and the right side and your new outside leg seam should look seamless with the original!?  Now we have slimmed down our flare, we can sew up our hem and this measurement will be our original measurement (12cm in my case) divided by 2, so for me 6cm.  Working with jeans right sides out, turn up the hem so you have a distance of 6cm from the fold to the original hem not the very bottom of the jeans.  I matched the inside leg seam first and pinned all around closed to the original hem.  This is where we will be sewing and want to get as close to the hem as possible.  In order to do this you’ll need to attach your zip foot and move your needle position as far to the left as possible.  I started sewing from the outside leg seam, close to the hem and remember to reverse stitch at each end.

hemming bootleg jeans

Step 3

Once you’ve sewn both legs, fold the excess fabric to the inside and give them a good press.  We do need to remove the excess fabric from inside, so turn the excess hem back out and trim this to 1.5cm and overlock all the way around.  Turn the hem back to the right side and give them a final pressing with plenty of steam good – it should be almost impossible to see where you have shortened them (unless you look really closely?).  By keeping the original hem in tact we have kept the top stitching and the frayed effect on the hem.  Finally I sewed a few hand stitches into the inside and outside leg seams to anchor the remaining excess fabric inside and prevent it from coming down.

hemming bootleg jeans


I hope you found this tutorial useful and if you’re lucky enough to find such a great bargain on a pair of jeans that are way too long I hope it comes in useful?!


Skirt tutorial 2

Understanding Paper Patterns

My last post talked you through the information featured on the outside of a pattern envelope, now comes the exciting bit – the actual pattern within!  Inside you’ll find an instruction sheet and full-size pattern sheets made of flimsy tissue paper.


Your excitement may be short lived when you see the many lines, markings and symbols on the tissue paper.  Don’t despair, most patterns are multi-sized and the patterns will therefore contain different sizes denoted by different cutting lines.  The lines representing these different sizes may be solid, dotted or dashed as a means of distinguishing between them.  They will also be marked with a number to represent the different sizes.  It can all be bit confusing but just break it down and take time to read through the instruction sheet – it will give you a guide to the pattern markings, how to adjust your pattern and cutting and marking details.

There’s a great article from The Sewing Loft about pattern symbols, so have a read if you want more information http://Pattern Markings Guide/

Below you can see the different numbers representing the sizes (in ages for my child’s skirt) with an arrow pointing to the cutting line for each size.  The double triangles are called notches and they help you to accurately match seams when constructing your garment.  Any corresponding pieces that join to this piece will also have notches.

paper patterns

My pattern comes with 5 style variations so within a pattern we have all the different pieces needed to make all 5 skirts, we need to select just the pattern pieces we need.  The instruction sheet will give you a guide to which pieces you need for your variation and they will be numbered on the pattern.  I need pieces numbered 1, 3, 6 and 7 and having checked my sizing, I need these pieces in the age 10 size.  I could just cut along the lines for age 10 however I would then lose the opportunity to re-use the pattern in a larger size in the future.  My top tip for getting around this is to cut all your pieces out at the largest size and fold the pattern pieces under along the lines of the size you do need, thereby reducing them to the size you need but keeping the pattern pieces in tact for the future.  Once you have all your pieces give them an iron on a cool setting to ensure they are flat and crease free.

Put all the spare pieces into a plastic sleeve or similar (the pattern never seems to want to go back neatly into the envelope, I don’t even bother to try anymore) and put this aside so we don’t have any confusion about the pieces we’ll be using.

Your instruction sheet will have what’s called a Cutting Layout – this is represented by a drawing of folded fabric with an image of the pattern pieces you have just cut out.  This is your guide to how to place the pattern pieces onto your fabric and it is important that you follow this layout.  The layout will also indicate the right and wrong side of the fabric and pattern so you need to pay attention to that as well.  It is a little tricky to get the hang of at first, but take your time, if you get your pieces mixed up then you have no hope of being able to sew them together correctly.

Ensure that you fold your fabric right sides together with the selvedges together (the edges of the fabric along the length), this will allow our pattern markings to be made on the wrong side of the fabric.  The grain line is the long pointed arrow and you need to make sure this runs parallel to the lengthwise grain of the fabric (the selvedge).  This sounds technical but it basically means squaring up your fabric, if you imagine you had a vertical stripe and you folded the fabric in half along that stripe, if you could see more of the stripe at the bottom than at the top, it would mean your fabric wasn’t folded on the straight of grain.   If you measure the distance from the top of the arrow to the selvedge and again at the bottom of the arrow to the selvedge our measurements should be the same, adjust your pattern if this is not the case.  If you are using fabric with a nap then you will need to ensure all pieces run in the same direction (which often requires extra fabric and will have been indicated on the pattern envelope).

Your pattern pieces will have written instructions, these will indicate the name of the pattern, the piece number, the pattern variation and how many of these pieces you will need to cut.  Your pattern will indicate which pieces are to be cut on the fold indicated by the words “to fold” with arrows pointing to the fold, and you should place the edge of your pattern piece aligning with the fold of fabric.  This will create both sides of the fabric when the pattern piece is cut out.  In the photo above my top pattern piece was for the front of the skirt and this was cut on the fold as it has no joining seam whereas the bottom piece, which is for the back of the skirt, is cut as 2 separate pieces as they will be joined at the centre back with a zip.  Use pins to pin through the corners and mid way along the pattern length at right angles to pattern.  You can also use quilters clip to hold the fabric at the edges.  As you pin, ensure you smooth out the pattern to ensure it lies flat and stays in position along the grain line.

The photo above is part of the waistband and you’ll note that the pattern piece is placed face down as indicated by the layout guide.  This often happens as the pattern pieces offer a layout which ensures that all the pieces you need are placed in the most efficient way in order to minimise fabric wastage.  I needed 4 back waistband pieces so I had to mark around the pieces twice, moving them after the first markings – don’t be tempted to fold your fabric in half again for this – it will be more difficult to cut them out four fold.

Once we have all our pieces pinned to the fabric we can cut them out using either dressmakers shears or a rotary cutter on a self-healing mat.  I tend to use both, for straight lines I tend to use the rotary cutter and for the curves my shears.  I have a metal ruler that I use as guide for running the rotary cutter along the straight edges.  Always aim to cut on a flat surface and try not to lift the fabric up, place your hand on the fabric to secure it. If using shears, use the full blade for long, straight edges and smaller cuts around curved edges.


Once you have your fabric cut out, you need to go through each piece and transfer the pattern markings – these will include notches for matching pieces, darts, buttonholes, zip placement, pockets etc.  There are different methods for doing this and you will find your own preference.  I was taught using tailor’s tacks at college, but I found this more time consuming than other methods, so I use my chalk pencil and heat-erasable pen to mark.

pattern markings

pattern markings

Where I have marked the double notches, I will just snip those marks with scissors, no more than 4mm in length (alternatively you can cut the notch outwards giving you an extra little triangle of fabric but I find this more time consuming but as a beginner you may prefer this for greater accuracy).  I wouldn’t advise cutting the notch inwards as you are removing some of the seam allowance and generally this is not a good idea!  I use the pushing the pin method through to mark other points such as gathering points or darts.  Pop the pin through the mark on the pattern and through the fabric, lift up the tissue and where the pin enters the fabric mark that spot with a dot around the pin, you’ll need to mark both sides of folded fabric.  Remove pattern piece and draw a cross over the dot to make it more visible.

Finally when all the marks have been transferred, remove the tissue pattern and I find it’s a good idea to number the pieces, mark whether front or back, an arrow to indicate the top and also adding RS or WS to the fabric (if it’s not obvious which is the right and wrong side – it’s all too easy to get the pieces mixed up).

pattern markings

Depending on your pattern, you may also need to cut out pieces in interfacing and the pattern pieces you have just used will tell you this.  It may say for example cut 2 waistband pieces in fabric and 1 in interfacing, just follow the instructions.  Do the fabric first then re-use the necessary pieces to cut out the required pieces in interfacing.  You can see below that I have interfacing pieces for the waistband.

pattern markings

My fabric and interfacing pattern pieces all prepared.  We are now Sew Ready……next tutorial taking you through the sewing process, finally!

Skirt tutorial 2

What does a Sewing Pattern Envelope tell us?

As mentioned in my previous post, I am going to be doing a tutorial for making a girl’s skirt using a shop bought pattern and will break the tutorial down into sections so I can cover each part in detail.  The first part will be fabric and pattern preparation followed by construction of skirt and additional tutorials on some of the techniques.  If you have never made anything before from a pattern, then chances are you’re not too familiar with the terminology or information those tiny little paper envelopes contain!

I’m using a pattern by McCall’s M6984, it’s for a girl’s skirt and the front of the pattern gives the age range 7-14.  It also shows that 5 variations of the skirt can be made from this one pattern, so that’s all straightforward – my pattern also says it graded as easy, so perfect for novice dressmakers.

McCalls M6984 girls skirt

The other side of the envelope is where you will find information on what type of fabric is suggested, how much you’ll need for your chosen size depending on the width of your chosen fabric and whether it has a nap or not, how much fusible interfacing you’ll need and what notions are required.

Wondering what nap and notions are?   Some fabrics have a nap due to the pile which means the fabric shadows when smoothed in a different direction, think of velvet and corduroy, brush your hand over these and the colour appears different depending on whether the nap is running up or down.  A fabric that has a one-way design is also described as having nap.  Fabrics with a nap are generally cut with the nap running down whereas those without a nap can be cut in any direction.  If you imagine piecing together a skirt where you have cut 2 back pieces with the nap in different directions, then you’ll have a noticeable difference in the finished skirt.  Notions is the term that refers to buttons, zips, elastic etc, all the additional items we’ll need aside from fabric and interfacing.

The amount of fabric will generally be given in yards and metres (Imperial and Metric measurements), we buy fabric in metre lengths in the UK so looking at the fabric size guide (on the right hand side) I can see I need 1.1m of fabric that is 115cm  wide or 0.8m of fabric that is 150cm wide.  When you buy fabric it should tell you the width on the label, it may say 45 or 60″ or 115 or 150cm.  If your chosen fabric comes in a wider width, then you need slightly less of it, hence needing 0.8m of 150cm wide fabric.

Pattern pack guide

Finally the envelope will also give you the details of the body measurements that each size is based on (shown here on the envelope flap) and you should check these measurements against actual measurements.  For example, although my daughter is age 12, her actual waist and hip measurements fall between the sizes given for age 8 and 10.  I will therefore make her skirt based on age 10 sizing and not age 12.

Things get further complicated when you fall between different sizes between waist, hips and bust, which to be honest, most of us do.  I have a small bust and hips but my waistline isn’t in line with those sizes (I blame it on the 3 children and a penchant for cakes!), so that’s where we would need to blend between sizes and adjust our pattern accordingly.  Too much information for just now, we can save that for another time.

So if you want to have a go at making a beginner’s skirt for yourself or a child, then purchase an easy pattern and some lovely fabric (make sure you wash and iron it, and tumble dry if that’s something you normally do – this is to ensure any shrinkage happens before we make our skirt!) and we’ll have a look at what’s inside the envelope on the next post…..


Skirt tutorial 2

Sewing skirts with and without a pattern

It’s been all about skirts recently!  I’ve been busy making a couple of skirts over the last few weeks for my daughters, the first being a self-drafted pattern based on the white skirt below.  This came about when she wanted a skirt in Top Shop and I refused to pay £26 for a black mini skirt (the seamstress in me was thinking it’s less than a metre of fabric I could make it for less!).  So she held me to my word and I set myself the biggest challenge in having to draft a pattern from scratch based on her measurements.

So here’s the Top Shop skirt – this one is slightly stretchy with an elasticated waist, no zip and no visible stitching at the waistband or hem (I gave it a good inspection in store).  Down each side there is a pretty scallop detail.

top shop scallop skirt

And here’s my finished design in black, my material didn’t have any stretch so I had to incorporate an invisible zip, back waist darts, waistband facing and blind hem.  Plus I had to work out a template for the scallop design, bit of a mathematical challenge as we wanted them to start and finish on a whole scallop but overall a success.  It would have made the project easier if I had bought stretch fabric but I already had a remnant of black fabric that I had purchased for £2! (yes just £2 as it had a mark near the selvedge but I had enough fabric to avoid using that section).  My eldest daughter is a UK 8, so generally a metre will be enough to make a short skirt, so I am always on the lookout for metre remnants of fabric at discounted prices that can be used for short skirts, shorts or tops.

Very pleased with the result as this was my first attempt at creating a pattern from scratch…the skirt fits perfectly, she’s happy and wants me to make another one in white – now that has to be a compliment surely?!

scallop mini skirt

The other project I completed was a girl’s skirt from McCall’s M6984.  I am writing a blog post on the tutorial for this skirt, it is considered easy and will be a good project to follow on from the pyjamas where we got to make something without a pattern.  Understanding patterns can be daunting at first but the more you use them you’ll soon become familiar with the terminology and process.  Even though this project is graded as easy, there are lots of techniques in making this skirt including a waistband facing, applying interfacing, inserting a zip, gathering and hemming.   Don’t worry I have plenty of photos so will break the project down starting with preparing the pattern and fabric.

McCalls M6984 girls skirt

This is a lovely lightweight chambray fabric with a cute bicycle print and I have to say another of my bargain buys.  I found 6m of this fabric in a charity shop and paid just £4 for it, crazy, I guess someone had maybe bought it for making curtains as there was so much of it.  I have threatened to make us all matching garments, not sure what I’ll make with the other 5m, maybe a summer top or shirt for me?

Skirt tutorial 2

Sewing tutorial – sew your own tailor’s ham

Following on from my tutorial on sewing perfect darts, I decided that perhaps I would treat myself to a tailor’s ham.  I do find I use it (well my rolled up towel) often so it would be a useful addition to my dressmaking supplies.  A quick look on ebay (always my starting point whenever I want to buy anything) and there was a rather ugly black and red check one for less than £10.  Now I know it would serve it’s purpose but I really didn’t want that monstrosity in my lovely sewing room – the colours were just all wrong!!  I did find some lovely handmade ones in gorgeous prints but selling at twice the price.  So in order to save myself £20 I decided I would just have to make one myself.

A quick search online and there were lots of tutorials, so here’s another one to add to the web! It’s all really good experience for me as a newbie blogger so here goes.

What you’ll need:

  • My free PDF template – click for free Tailor’s ham template
  • Outer fabric – Cotton/linen mix, minimum 24 x 20 cm (I used 100% cotton canvas)
  • Outer fabric – Wool mix (same size as above).  I didn’t have any woollen scraps large enough so I used a piece of felt instead
  • Inside fabric – Cotton mix, lightweight such as calico (24 x 40 cm) (we’ll be cutting 2 pieces)
  • Pet bedding – you can buy a small pack from supermarkets for under £2 (if you have a small pet you’ll probably already have this)

Print off the template onto an A4 sheet of paper and cut it out.  I transferred my template to card but you don’t have to.  Mark around the template onto your fabrics with your preferred marking tool.  Seam allowances have been included 1.5cm / 5/8″ in the template.

Cut out around the lines you have marked and you should now have 4 pieces of fabrics resembling flat eggs?  We need to take the two pieces of outer fabric (in my case the blue flowers and pink felt) and place them right sides together, let’s keep the fabric that will be on the top of our ham at the bottom.  On top of these place the two layers of inside fabric, RST although this will be inside and not seen so it doesn’t matter which way they are placed.  So I have a sandwich of my blue flower cotton, pink felt and 2 plain cotton pieces in that order.

Clip or pin through all four layers of fabric and leave the bottom open (it should leave a 10cm opening approximately). I marked the seam allowance with a chalk pencil to help guide me around the curves – I do have a tendency to go off piste with curves!  Start and finish your stitching at the bottom and remember to backstitch to secure opening.

Trim the seam allowances (not at the bottom opening) and clip into the curves – taking care not to snip into your stitching.  Press your stitches before turning the right sides out.  I used my scissors handle to push the curves out.

Now we need to fill in between our inside fabric layers with our sawdust, and believe me it will make a mess.  My daughter helped (an extra pair of hands is required) and we made a funnel from cardboard, it wasn’t overly successful!  One of us held the ham and funnel while the other poured the sawdust in.  We worked over our rabbit cage to minimise the mess but we still managed to spill it everywhere.  The trick is to get lots in and compact it as much as possible, push it down regularly with a wooden spoon, and into the curves.  By the time it is stuffed it should be hard.

Once you can’t get anymore in, you need to close up the two openings.  Handstitch the inner layer together first, I used my thread doubled up for extra strength and found this quite fiddly to do (well fiddly to get a neat finish, at least it’s inside!).  Then sew the outer fabric opening together – I probably could’ve taken more time with my stitching to achieve a neater finish but as long as it holds….

Super pleased with how this turned out, it fits in with the colour scheme of my sewing room and it didn’t cost me anything to make!  I shall put making a matching sleeve roll on my projects to do list.



Skirt tutorial 2

Dressmaking tutorial – Sew perfect darts every time

Mastering how to sew darts is an essential dressmaking technique that will give  your clothes a professional finish.  Darts are used to reduce fabric in order to shape a garment so it fits the contours of our bodies and are mostly used to give shaping to the bust and bottom – in other words our curviest bits!  Although obviously we are all different sizes and most of us do not conform to the industry standards which is why it is so difficult to find clothing that fits perfectly and why it is a great idea to start learning to sew your own wardrobe!

Guide to sewing perfect darts every time:

Transfer the pattern markings for the darts precisely to your fabric – I use a pin to push through the pattern to the wrong side of fabric and lift the pattern to reveal exactly where the dart point is.  Use your preferred marking tool to mark this point on your fabric.  Do the same for the top points of the dart and then join these points up to form your dart triangle.

Fold the fabric right sides together and match up the dart lines – I find it helps to join the top markings first, pin and then fold the dart so you can see the mark of the bottom dart point.  Insert a pin here.  I like to lower the needle at the starting point to ensure I start sewing on the dart line, when  you are happy you are at the right place, lower the presser foot.  Make sure you start sewing at least 1cm in from raw edge otherwise your fabric will get pulled into the machine and do not backstitch to secure.  A tip I learnt at college is to bring the thread tail around and hold it at the dart point to give a straight line – this is useful if your markings have faded.   Sew your dart and when you get to the dart point continue sewing off the fabric, again do not backstitch, you can simply double knot the thread tails to secure stitching.  The reason we don’t backstitch is the stitches don’t always sew directly on top of each other and this would upset the line of our dart so it’s best to simply tie the ends to secure.

Pressing darts correctly will make all the difference to the look of your darts and will fix the shape you have just sewn.  Ideally use a tailor’s ham (so called because it literally is shaped like a ham!) but I still haven’t got around to buying one and improvise with a small hand towel rolled up tight with a pressing cloth over it.  I like to press the stitches I have just sewn first before opening fabric and placing it RS down on the ham.  Start pressing at the dart point using plenty of steam.  Continue pressing towards the top of the dart and either press the dart to one side or open as your pattern suggests.

You should have a lovely dart with no telltale bubble or puckering at the bottom, and if you don’t then just try again.  The technique is the same for bust darts so once you have mastered this technique you’ll be able to give your clothes a lovely shaping to fit your curves!

Skirt tutorial 2

A beginner’s tutorial to sewing pyjamas

Well I am finally feeling very accomplished at being able to post my very first sewing tutorial for you – a beginner’s guide to sewing pyjamas.  If you’ve read my earlier blog posts then you’ll know I was making these PJ bottoms in an elephant fabric for my daughter’s birthday last month.  She loved them and they fitted great, I purposely made them a bit long in the length to ensure they last her until at least her next birthday!

pyjama tutorial

These are very easy and do not require you to work from a sewing pattern.  Once you have the fabric cut you are  literally ready to sew!  This was the very first item of clothing I made on my Dressmaking Course and at the time it seemed really quite involved but you’ll be suprised how quickly you begin to understand garment construction.

What you’ll need:

  • Fabric – cotton, polycotton or flannel will work well (avoid jersey & knit fabrics with stretch for this beginner’s project)

Determine how much fabric you’ll need by taking a pair of PJs that you want to remake and measure the width at the waistband stretching it out if elasticated and measure the length from top of waistband to hem.  We will need to add extra for our seam allowance so an additional 5 cm to the width measurement and 10cm to the length.  The actual fabric we will need will be twice the width measurement by the length.

  • Elastic for waistband – 25mm / 1 inch x fabric width measurement (this will be more than plenty but best to have too much than not enough!)
  • Threads – polyester or cotton in a colour to match fabric
  • Ribbon for decorative drawstring (approx 1m)
  • Small piece of fusible interfacing (approx 4cm x 10cm)
  • Sewing tools (Sew Ready Sewing Tools)

Let’s get Sew Ready!

Fold your fabric in half, right sides together matching the selvedges (the edge of the fabric).  Fold the PJs in half and pull out the point of the front crotch first, flatten them out and place on fabric with the crotch point nearest the selvedge.  Using your chosen marking tool, draw around the inside leg, crotch and waist of the PJs but remember you also need to add your seam allowance.  The standard seam allowance is usually 1.5cm so you will be outlining your PJs at a distance of 1.5cm from the edge of the PJs.  I tend to use my seam guage to mark dots every few inches at a distance of 1.5cm from the PJs and join these up afterwards.  When you are marking the waist area you need to try and stretch the PJs out as much as possible as the elastic waistband will be pulling them in.

Once you have marked out the front of the PJs you will want to flip them over so you can mark the outline of the back of the PJs.  However the back of the PJs do not have the exact same curve as the front, in order to allow for the shape of the bottom the curve is deeper.  So before flipping your PJs over, take them off the fabric and refold them so you are pulling out the crotch from the back.  If  you place this on your existing outline you should see it has a different curve.  Place back onto fabric with the crotch point now facing the folded edge and aligining top and bottom of PJs with existing outline.  Mark around PJs as before, remembering to stretch the waistband out as much as possible.

Once you have done this, double check that the point at the bottom of crotch lines up when you fold the fabric over and that the inside legs and length are pretty even.  Trim if necessary.

With right sides together (RST), pin or clip the crotch seams and sew together, starting from the waistband, using a regular straight stitch, length 2.5.  Always remember to secure all your stitching lines by reverse stitching.  Most modern machines have a reverse stitch function that will sew a few stitches backwards and this need to be done at the start and finish of sewing seams.  Press seams once finished.  Now would be an ideal time to finish the seams either with pinking shears, an overlock stitch on your sewing machine or with the overlocker.  Now we need to open the PJs and match the centre stitched seams together, ensuring the join of one seam is on top of the other.  Pin in place and then pin the inside legs together.

Sew the inside leg seams, starting from the crotch point to the ankle.  It is good practice to always sew seams in the same direction to prevent fabric movement in the wrong direction.  You should now have something resembling a pair of PJs?  Finish seams and press.  Now would be a good time to turn them right sides out  and try them on for size!  If you are happy with the fit then we can move onto the waistband.

Before preparing the holes for the drawstring, we need to measure how much elastic we’ll need and join the ends to form a continous loop.  Place elastic around the waist without stretching it and holding it together in a loop check you can get it over your hips without difficulty (not really an issue unless you have a superslim waist and wide hips?).   Mark the point where the elastic joins and cut to this size.  Overlap the elastic by 2 inches and put a pin in it.  Using a stretch stitch or zigzag, sew a box, an inch wide should be fine, through the overlapped elastic and finish with a line diagonally.  Cut off the surplus elastic.

With fabric RST, turn 1cm at the top edge down onto the wrong side (WS) and then turn down again by the width of your elastic plus at least 1cm – this will form the waistband casing.  You could try them on again to make sure the top of the waistband sits where you would like it to.  Once you are happy, press these folds.  Now we can see where the top of the waistband lies, we can mark on the RS of fabric where you would like the drawstring openings to be, about 4cm either side of centre seam will be fine.  Now we can either insert buttonholes (or rivet openings as I did) and because that’s a tutorial in itself I have added a Mini Tutorial on this.

Once you have finished the drawstring holes, refold the waistband and working on the RS,  sew along the top edge as close to the fold as possible to secure the fabric and it gives a nice look to the waistband finish.  Now turn your PJs inside out, insert the elastic under the fold and pin along the bottom fold ensuring the elastic is above where we will stitch so we don’t catch it when stitching.  If you try to make sure you pin from the RS, then when you sew you’ll be able to remove the pins as you go (I always forget to do this as you’ll notice in the photos!).  You now want to sew along this fold and it might be a good idea to mark the sewing line on the RS of fabric to ensure your stitching stays on the bottom fold – this is because we will sew on the RS to ensure we have a nice straight line visible on our waistband.  (If it’s easier for you then sew from the other side but I find my sewing lines tend to go wonky so my preference is to sew on the RS so I can at least try to keep the lines straight!). Remove the sewing bed so the free arm is available which will help move the fabric easily as you sew.  Starting from the back seam, stretch the elastic as you sew so your fabric isn’t bunched up and take your time.  When you reach the point you started at, keep your needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn your fabric 90 degrees and sew up to the top line of stitching to anchor the elastic join at the back.

Nearly there, just hems to finish now.  Working with PJs RST, turn up at least 1cm to the WS and press.  Once you have done both legs, check that they are even by measuring from crotch and I like to put them on a coathanger and hang them up so I can double check they are even.  Once you are happy, fold the fabric over onto itself again by at least 1.5cm this time, press, double check lengths then you are ready to sew.  It is really important to be accurate with this stage – we don’t want one leg longer than the other!  Now we want to sew from the RS, so turn PJs to RS out and sew a straight stitch around the bottom hems that is about 12mm from the bottom edge – this will ensure you catch the top of the fold on the WS.  You may need to adjust this measure depending on how much you turned up your hem but it wants to be just a few mm away from the top fold on the WS.  Again you could sew this from the wrong side so you can see your folded hem but it is more difficult to ensure that the stitching that will be seen on the right side remains straight!  If you are working with a busy print then it won’t matter so much – just do what you feel more comfortable with – with sewing there is often more than one way of doing something, who is to say which is right or wrong?  As long as it works for you then in my opinion it’s the right way!

Once you have finished your hems, turn PJs the right way, insert the ribbon between buttonholes and give them a good press and ta-dah, finished, hopefully they will fit perfectly!

Pyjama tutorial

Please do drop me any comments with how you got on making yours.




Skirt tutorial 2

Getting there with Social Media

A rather productive day, I have now successfully set Sew Ready up on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram.  I have never used Instagram before but my teenage daughter is a regular Instagrammer so no doubt she’ll tell me what’s what.  Perhaps I should be setting up a website on how to set up a website & blog?!  Happy to try to answer any questions anyone may have on that non sewing related topic!

Not sure if I want a Twitter account, I’ve never really got on with it and have no idea what Tumblr does…I think I’ll just stick with the above for now.  Feeling a bit brain dead so going to grab the camera and take some sewing related pics.