Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Sew Along New Look 6871 - Week 4. Finishing.

Welcome to week four, our final week together for this Sew Along.

This week we'll be finishing our garment.

Rightio then.  Off we go again.

Lower Band.

We're up to step 23, the lower band.  
Firstly, measure the width of the lower band accurately to see if it will fit the bottom of your garment.  If you have lengthened the top into a dress or tunic, the band width from the original pattern is not going to be wide enough, so just double check that.

Once you have worked out the width, sew the side seams of the band and machine stitch on to your garment, right sides together.


Step 24.  This is the last step.  Read any further and you'll be sewing in Spanish. 😊

Try on your garment and pin where you'd like the hem to be.

As the finish of our Sew Along was looming so close, I thought I'd just quickly sew the hem up by machine. The following morning I decided that I didn't like it and I had to go outside so I could see to unpick it all!  I've done that more than once so you'd think I would have learned by now, not to rush.

In the following photo you can see the line left from the unpicked stitching (which will disappear with the first wash I hope) and my hand stitched hem in progress. Did I mention I like hand stitching?
Hand stitching the hem also gave me some quiet time to think and plan while enjoying the slow repetitive movement of the needle. 

........and seen from the right side.

If you'd like to have a bit of fun with the lower band, perhaps make a pieced, embroidered or patched one?  This image shows the bottom of my pinny made out of two men's denim shirts from the op shop.  I pieced the bottom band as I didn't have enough fabric to cut it in one length.  I'd like to do a bit of hand stitching 'boro' style on it as well when I get a chance.

At this point your garment is finished......unless you'd like to add.........


The pockets on my blue linen dress have a little inverted pleat and a finished measurement of  6 1/2". Here's how they have been made.

Cut the fabric 7" high, 7" wide across the bottom and 9" wide across the top.  Cut a band for the top of the pocket 1" wide and 7" long.

Iron a small crease in the centre of the pocket and pin a little pleat into the centre crease, ensuring there is a finished measurement of 7" across to match the band.

Iron the band in half lengthwise and fold one half into the centre and iron again giving a 1/4" turn-over that will be top-stitched down on the right side of the pocket.

The blue thing you see is called a Clover Ironing Finger and it's just fantastic.  It's a heatproof rubbery stick that is used to hold things in place while you are ironing, preventing steam burns to fingers (trust me).

Place the right side of the pocket band against the wrong side of the pocket and stitch with a scant 1/4" seam.

Fold over to the right side and top-stitch right along the edge of the band.

Press under 1/4" all the way around the other three sides.

Pin in place on your garment.  I put a cutting board inside the garment to give something to pin against.  I use an LP record cover for smaller garments (showing my age here!)

Stitch pocket in place using a little reinforcing triangle of stitching in the corners.

and voila!

A dress for Summer,

or Winter,

or bloopers!

......such is the life of a model!

I'm still learning to use the self timer on my camera and I couldn't get it to focus properly unless I had something for it to focus on.  Thankfully my trusty mannequin 'Ivy Florence' (Flo for short) kindly agreed to be my very capable assistant.  Unfortunately she's a tad slow on her feet and needed a hurry along so I could get her out of the picture.  My camera is just too quick for Flo.  🙂

Your tasks for this week.

Attach the bottom band of your garment.
Hand or machine stitch the hem.
Attach pockets if you're having them.

Further Reading.

Boro hand stitching how to.
Pleated pocket tutorial by Made by Rae.
A one year sustainable fashion challenge at sustainablethreadsblog.wordpress.com
Ten tips for transitioning to a (mostly) hand made wardrobe at sewmamasew.com

Where to from here?

That's such an exciting thought isn't it?  You can take the craft of stitch as far as you like, as far as you can imagine.  

If you're still not feeling that confident, you might like to stay working with New Look patterns for a little while until you feel ready to try something different.  Now that you've made one New Look pattern, the next one will be so much easier.

For those wanting to investigate a handmade wardrobe of clothing or you feel ready to jump into something more, here are some ideas -

How about trying one of the Japanese sewing books, a Merchant and Mills wardrobe, the newly published Tunic Bible, the simple Scandinavian style of Lotta Jansdotter, the gentle hand stitching of Alabama Chanin  or for more of a challenge - recreating some of the fashions from a vintage sewing book.  The best part?  These books all include the patterns!
These projects (and more believe it or not) are all just waiting for me in my 'stitch queue' (!) because I truly do believe we are only limited by our imagination.

Thank you.

To the girls on the Down to Earth forum, thank you so much for your enthusiasm, conversation, photos, questions, positivity and for supporting each other (and me) through our first Sew Along together.  It's been lots of fun and an absolute honour to be your host.  I've learnt so much along the way and can't wait to see what the future will bring should our paths cross again.

...........and remember.  Mistakes are part of the journey and how we learn, so.........

Monday, 20 February 2017

Sew Along New Look 6871 - Week 3. Body & Sleeves.

Welcome to week three.  We've reached the half way mark!

This week we'll be discussing sleeves, bias binding and sewing up the side seams.

It's been so hot here this past week that I've hardly been able to get any sewing done at all.  Even the air conditioner has just about given up the ghost, out in this little tin roofed back room of ours.

Okie dokie.  We're up to Step 12.....now that I've finally found the pattern instruction sheet which was being used as a bookmark in a cookbook.  If it was too hot to sew, one would have thought it would be too hot to cook.  Surely?


Step 12 asks you to gather the top of the sleeves then stitch under arm seam.  I actually find it easier to attach the sleeve to the body of the garment before sewing the under arm seam. Then I sew the under arm seam and side seam in one continual line of stitching.  This is no doubt not the correct way to 'set in' a sleeve, but I find it's easier for me.

I'm not that fond of gathers in the top of my sleeves either, especially if the fabric doesn't have a soft drape. For some stiffer or more structured fabrics like linen blends or patchwork cottons, the following is how I alter my sleeves so that there is no 'puff''.

Rule a horizontal line just under the arm hole curve from seam allowance to seam allowance.  Rule a vertical from the centre top of the sleeve down to the horizontal line.  Cut along these lines being careful not to cut past the seam allowance on either side.

Measure the sleeve opening.  You'll have to be a little more accurate with your tape measure than I look like I'm being in the following photos, but I couldn't hold my heavy old SLR camera and the tape measure at the same time.  Yes I know, I need a smart phone.  

Fold the cut pattern over on top of itself until the measurement is the same as the armhole opening measurement.  This really does sound like 'double dutch' doesn't it?  Thank goodness I took some photos.

You can see in the following photo how much excess fabric was cut away after drafting out the new sleeve. Using this method, The front and back armhole curves remain the same so the sleeve will still fit into the dress nicely.  It's just the extra fabric for the puffed sleeves that is cut away.

Pin sleeves to dress using a lot of pins so that there are no puckers.  (I went to all this trouble to reduce the puff.....no way am I putting up with puckers).    

The finished sleeve with no 'puff'.

Sewing the side seams.

Overlock or zig zag the raw edge of the fabric on the side of the garment and also on the under arm edges of the sleeves if you are having sleeves.

Sew the side seams using a regular length stitch.  Press seams open.

If you are making a sleeveless dress, pinny or popover style, you might like to cut away a little of the shoulder fabric.  An easy way to ensure both the shoulder shapes end up the same, is to draw the cutting line first. When you are happy, cut off the excess fabric, then use that piece to mark the cutting line on the opposite side.

Bias Binding

For either the flutter sleeve or the sleeveless style, you will need some bias binding to finish the armhole edge. It's quite easy to make your own using a Bias Tape Maker (such an original name) or alternatively, just buy a packet of 1/2" bias tape.  For two of my earlier dresses/tops from this pattern, I made the bias tape as I had plenty of fabric to play with.  Because the fabric for the tape must be cut on the bias, you will need to have enough left over fabric to do this.  For my cloud dress I've bought a packet of navy bias tape as I didn't purchase extra fabric, plus sometimes it's just easier to buy it in a packet!

Right.  Here we go.

Mark the seam allowance along the armhole edge as a stitching guideline.

Starting at the under arm seam, place the bias tape right sides together with the garment, with the right hand side of the tape unfolded.  Align the right hand fold of the tape directly over the stitching line you have marked. Be sure to fold the beginning of the tape over a little to conceal the raw edge as this will be seen on the wrong side of the garment and can become frayed with repeated washing.

Machine along the right hand fold all the way around until there is a slight overlap of the bias tape.
Trim the excess garment fabric within the seam allowance back to the raw edge of the bias tape.

Clip the curves of the seam allowance being careful not to nick the stitching.  This will help the curved under arm area to sit nicely flat.  Fold the bias tape over so that it is not showing on the right side of the garment. Gently ease into into shape which is quite easy to do as the bias tape will have plenty of 'give'. 

Hand or machine stitch into place.  I prefer hand stitching as there's less chance of puckering.....and we all know how I feel about puckers.

Next week we'll be finishing off our garment!  

Your tasks for this week.
  • Insert sleeves if required.
  • Finish off armhole edge as desired.
  • Sew up side seams.

 ......and finally some gentle words from Jules of  Sew Me Something.  
Handmade objects are given qualities that come from where we are right now with our skills, time and creativity. It is the time and love we invest in each of our projects that really counts not the perfectly finished piece. So we really should not berate ourselves for the slip-ups we make. Or forgo the pleasure of acquiring a new skill or learning a new technique because we have a fear of it not being “quite right”.
Trying isn’t failing – failing to try is.

Further Reading.   

Rhonda, from the Down to Earth blog has included a link in her weekend reading list on how to attach bias binding. For those who haven't been over to her blog yet, the directions are at theseasonedhomemaker.

There is also a fabulous 'bias tape finish' tutorial over on ProfessorPincushion.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Sew Along New Look 6871 - Week 2. The Yoke.

Ladies.....start your engines!

I've been dying to say that.  Small things, I know.

I hope everyone has had a fun 'Week One' and that you're happy with your progress so far.  Even if you feel you can't keep up, just enjoy the journey.....we all have a lifetime ahead to stitch, create, imagine, design and learn. What a gorgeous thought. 

Okay, let's get stuck into week two.  This post might be a bit long-winded but I want to ensure we don't lose our beginning sewists along the way.

Preparing to sew.

In the sewing directions on page 1 of the instruction sheet, the seam allowance is 5/8" or 1.5cm.  If you are not quite sure about being able to keep your seam allowance to that measurement or perhaps don't know if you can sew a consistent straight line, an easy thing to do is to place a piece of masking tape along the needle plate of your machine at the appropriate measurement to use as a guide. 

The tape I've used in this photo is from the painting section at Bunnings.  Painter's tape has less 'tack' as it's designed to be stuck on walls without removing the paint, so it shouldn't leave a sticky residue on your machine.


Interfacing is used to stiffen the lining/facing fabric of the yoke and provide stability to the garment.  It's really just a matter of personal preference, depending on the look you require and the stability of the fabric you are using. Think about whether you want to use interfacing on the yoke pieces.  I did for my blue dress as the fabric was quite fine, but usually I don't use it as I prefer garments to be lovely and soft.

Iron interfacing (if using) on to the wrong side of the yoke facings.  Ensure that the interfacings are cut marginally smaller than the facing piece or put some glad bake on your ironing board to prevent the interfacing sticking where it's not supposed to!  

Prepare the yoke.

This is your opportunity to add lace or embroidery to the yoke (step 2 on the instruction sheet), or perhaps you have decided to do a 'pieced' yoke as I have done in the following photo.


Set your machine at the longest stitch length (for my machine, that's 5) and sew two parallel lines just inside the seam allowance.  For those who haven't yet used their machine to sew gathering stitch, here is a great tutorial.

Gather fabric by pulling the two top threads on the right, ensuring that you only gather the fabric up enough to match the notches.

In the following photo you can see that there's not a great deal of gathering required and there's not a lot of fullness at the front.  Good for anyone who is not wanting to enhance the bust (I should be so lucky).

Pin securely so that the gathering doesn't slip when sewing.

Remember to keep notches matching.  This will ensure the gathers are neatly in the middle, where they're supposed to be.

Stitch along the seam allowance.  Placing the pins at this angle allows you to sew right up to the pinned fabric and also allows you to grasp them easily for removal.  Remember to put your machine back to regular stitch length, (for me that's about 2.5 to 3.0).

An alternative to gathering.

If anyone doesn't really like gathers, an alternative is to make a little inverted pleat just by folding the fabric in the centre taking up the full width of the excess and ensuring that the notches still match.

On the back yoke I've made two little pleats either side of the centre.  This will hopefully give a bit of room for movement across the shoulder blade area.

Attach facing to yoke.

Place facing and yoke right sides together and stitch all the way around the neck edge.

Layer seam.

At step 9 you are asked to 'layer seam'.  This means to cut away some of the fabric from one layer of the seam allowance, thereby reducing some of the bulk.  For this I use 'Duckbill' scissors which were originally designed for applique work I think.  These scissors have one blade that is larger so it's easier to see where the blades (and therefore fabric layers) are.  Somehow, for me, they reduce the chance of snipping fabric where it's not supposed to be snipped!


At step 9 you are also asked to 'understitch' the facing.  Understitching is a row of machine stitching which is done on the facing and seam allowance only and prevents the facings from rolling to the right side of the garment. There is a Professor Pincushion video here which explains how to understitch. 

In this photo the row of understitching is visible on the inside edge of the facing.  I've also tacked the facing down in preparation for ironing and securing the yoke. 

Secure yoke facing.

How you do this depends on whether you want to machine stitch or would prefer to hand stitch.  The instructions at step 10 suggest stitching 'close to lower edge of yokes, catching facing on inside'.  You can overlock or zig-zag the lower edge of the facing and machine stitch across.  I prefer to baste the armhole and neck edges to the facing to secure and then turn under a small hem on the bottom of the facing and hand stitch.  There are two reasons for this - one, I think it's much neater and two, I love hand stitching so I'm always looking for a little project to save until I sit down at the end of the day.

I find a good and clear way to pin is to put a small cutting board on the ironing board and lay the area to be pinned onto that.  The rest of the fabric can then drape down onto the floor and it's out of the way.  The cutting board prevents getting your garment pinned to the ironing board and it's a great height to work at.  

....and there you have it.  A bit of hand stitching and week two is done!

I'm slowly getting used to parking myself in front of this mirror with a camera, but I don't think I'll ever win any modelling competitions.  Not with wet hair anyway.  My gorgeous looks.....well that's another whole subject.  😊 

Next week we'll be tackling sleeves and bias binding.

Your tasks for this week.
  • Interface (if desired) and prepare yoke.
  • Stitch yoke to main body of garment. 

.........and finally, some words from Sonya Phillip of 100actsofsewing.com
"Making clothing is a conscious choice;  it is an investment of time over convenience.  The creation of a functional garment, engenders self-sufficiency and happiness.  Since it is perilous to compare what one makes to the immutable perfection of store-bought, in sewing for oneself it is the work itself and the recognition of flaws and gradual achievement of better skills as part of that work, that produces satisfaction."

Further Reading.

A youtube video on gathering.
Some hand stitching tips and techniques from Closet Case