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Tag Archives: Sewing

Pretty pyjamas

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I mentioned on my last post how I had been inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee, to finally make my own clothes, like I had been wanting to do for ages. I wanted to start with an easy pattern and as Simplicity were having a half price sale, ended up buying Simplicity pattern 2116 for pyjama bottoms and two different tops. The tops needed a stretch fabric and the bottoms just a standard cotton, so I got a lovely flowery cotton poplin and a matching colour stretch cotton for the top.


To start, I never realised how confusing pattern sizes would be. Maybe it is because I’m only a beginner, but I really had to think about what pattern size to cut out. I’m still not sure I got it right, but as they are pyjamas, it doesn’t matter! I also found the instructions a bit tricky and I’m glad I had picked up a bargain book about dress making that really helped with everything. If you are new to dress making like me, I would really recommend Dressmaking by Alison Smith for help on everything from fabric choice, pattern cutting and alterations to sizing and of course, sewing up. It also has patterns in the back with step-by-step instructions on how to make the garments! (I got mine for a lot less than is showing on amazon at a discount book shop) In the end, the bottoms were really easy to make. They are comfy and I can see myself making a lot more. They would also be a nice present for someone!


There were two patterns for tops. One a regular t-shirt and the other a racer back sleeveless top. I only intended to make one, but after a mix up at the shop, had enough fabric to make both, so I did. The Racer back top was pretty simple, considering it was a stretch fabric, I thought it might be more problematic. I just switched the stich on my machine to a straight stretch stitch (try saying that 5 times fast!) as when I used a regular straight, the stiches broke when I stretched the fabric. All the hems on the tops are raw, which I expect if I wasn’t using a beginners pattern, would be a lot more work. The trouble with sizing in this top became apparent when I tried it on, the arm holes are quite gape-y, so I don’t know if I made a size too big or maybe I need to add some bust darts?


The t-shirt was also pretty simple. The only slight tricky part was adding in the collar, and that also looks a bit wonky when I put it on, but never mind! Again the fit is strange, because according to the measurements of the pattern, this is 2 inches smaller than my actual size, but it still looks pretty big. I asked someone who knows about these things, and she said to measure the actual pattern pieces to find out which size to cut, rather than go off what to say. A helpful hint for the future! I feel like my first try went well, I didn’t expect them to be perfect, but as I can get  my arms and legs into the holes and they are in the correct places, I will say success! Anyone else just started dressmaking?


The Great British Sewing Bee!

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I am sew(!) excited about this new programme on BBC2 called The Great British Sewing Bee. It is a sewing competition where each week the contestants are given challenges to make or alter items of clothing. Episode 1 the challenges were to make an A line skirt using a pattern they were given, alter the neckline of a simple white top then finally make a ladies day dress to whatever design they liked.  The programme is made or created (or something like that!) by the people who make The Great British Bake Off which is one of my favourite programmes. You can see my attempt at making one of the cakes from the Bake Off here. The show also has little films about the history of sewing and tutorials on simple projects. It is the kind of show I like and reminds me of Projects Runway/Catwalk and The Next Great Artist. I really want to get into making cloths so I will be watching keenly over the next few weeks to pick up loads of tips! In fact I’m off to buy some dressmaking patterns now, I’ll post up my attempts when they’re done!

P.S. If you want to watch, The Great British Sewing Bee is on BBC2 every Wednesday at 8pm!

Blanket of many colours

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blanketAbout three of four years ago, I bought a knitting book really cheaply in the sales. It was by Rowan and had all sorts of designs for cushions, blankets and rugs. (I tried to find it on Amazon to link to but couldn’t. I should just go downstairs and find it, but I’m feeling lazy today! I will post it later.) This patchwork blanket caught my eye. It is made up of different hexagons, some in knit, and some in fabric. All the knitted hexagons have a different pattern so it’s really textured and interesting to look at.

My Mum and I were given a big bag full of odd Rowan balls by my Aunty and they were just perfect for this project. I knitted them on and off for about three years (!) until I had finally finished them. I then went hunting in the fabric stash box, and came across some corduroy type fabrics to use as the other hexagons. Now there was a laying out pattern in the book which seemed straight forward, but when you consider that no two same knitted patterns or colours should lie together, this got complicated! Finally I arranged the knitting pinned and sewed it together (I don’t mind sewing up knitting. I know some people hate it, but to me it means I’ve nearly finished, Hurray!) then I came to a stop.

The book said, sew the fabric hexagons into strips according to the pattern. I did that on my tiny sewing machine that just does straight stitch. Then lay the knitting over the top, pin and zig zag stitch to the fabric. I’m not doing that by hand! I eventually got myself a sewing machine, and my first project was to finish the blanket. I zig zagged, cut out a plain grey wool backing, used the same for the edging and sewed it all in place. The edging was like bias binding, so I then had to flip it over to the back and hand sew 😦 all around the edge.

Finally after four years I had finished and just in time for the snowy weather. Although at times I absolutely hated this project, I love the finished result. I can really see it being something I will always have, and the fact that I finished it by hand makes it all the more special. I don’t know if four years is a record for not finishing a project? I’d love to hear of anybody else’s long suffering craft projects!


Tips on how to sew leather

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p>When I first got my sewing machine, I should have really taken the time to get to know it, what each button and switch did and make easy things out of cotton squares. Did I do that? No. I went straight in at the deep end making bags out of recycled leather coats. Cue broken needles, bunched up material and fabric that would just not go through. This caused many arguments between me and my machine. I would shout at it for not doing what I wanted and it would ignore me because I treated it so badly. Now that we have known each other for a while, we have become friends and I thought to save you all from falling out with your machine, I would post my best tips for sewing with leather. Some I have found out about from other bloggers (Thank You!) others I have discovered from trial and error!

Tip 1: Use a leather needle

That’s obvious I hear you say? Well yes it is, but I tried to sew with a regular needle for ages because I didn’t have any leather needles. It does work and you can get away with it, but using leather needles makes it soooo much easier! They pierce through the material with the sharp spike at the end, so the sewing hole is a little more noticeable, but it is worth it. (They are also quite cheap. I got mine for about £2)

Tip 2: Use a non-stick foot

A regular metal foot can stick to the leather, especially if you are working on the shiny side. A non-stick foot is made out of plastic and will glide across the surface without pulling, making it easier to sew! (Also not very expensive. I got mine from Amazon)

Tip 3: Decrease the pressure

Does your machine have a dial like this? This dictates how much pressure the presser foot puts onto the fabric. Normally, if you are sewing with a thick material, you want a lot of pressure because you want the fabric to be pushed through to the feed dogs (little metal tracks on the base of your machine) which pulls the fabric through while it is being sewn. However, I have found that this can increase how much leather sticks to the foot. If you are able to decrease the pressure of the foot it is less likely to stick. If I wanted to decrease the pressure on my machine, I would turn the dial to a lower number, but it might be different on yours!

Tip 4:  Dont use pins

Pins are really awkward with leather. Because it is so thick, it often doesn’t lie flat after you have pinned layers together, meaning that when you come to sew it, it will be tricky to sew a straight line. Pins can also mark the leather and leave small holes. I prefer to use small bull-dog clips, as they don’t mark and can be repositioned quickly whilst you are sewing.

Tip 5:Use some baking paper

Where I live, we call this stuff baking parchment/greaseproof paper. I don’t know if other countries call it something different, but basically it is the stuff you line a cake tin with to stop the cake sticking. If your leather is still sticking to the bottom of the machine and not moving though, you can put some of this paper underneath it. Just like a cake, this stops it sticking and makes it so much easier to sew. This is a really good tip if you are making straps as often there are many layers so you need a bit of pressure to make sure the material goes through the machine. The only problem I have found with this technique is that afterwards, when you pull the paper away from the leather, because you have sewn through it, sometimes little bits of paper get stuck under the sewing thread. This can be pulled out, it’s just a pain to do the whole length of a bag strap!

And that’s it. Those are the tips and tricks I use, but if anyone has any others I’d really like to hear about them. I hope this post has helped you and now you can sew with leather all day long!