Completed: March Minoru

Greetings from a dull, rainy London afternoon! I wanted to share some Minoru pics before the light dies completely but I certainly didn’t want to venture outside on such a horrible day. No, today should be solely reserved for blue cheese on biscuits, roast chicken and cups of sweet tea.

March Minoru from the side

I dragged the husband outside the front door to take a few pics instead and am now back inside in slippers and dressing gown while he makes hot water bottles. Brrrr!

March Minoru back

Pattern: Minoru by Sewaholic (Intermediate)

Difficulty rating for Stitchandwitter: 4.5 out of 5

Fabric and notions used: 2.5 metres of medium grey corduroy (£1.50/metre). 2 metres of royal blue polka dot satin (2.99/metre). Two zippers (one open ended and one standard) about £2 each. All in all, this coat came in at less than £30 even including the pattern!

Fitting issues: I found the original length to be much too long for my short frame so I shortened the length by 8 centimetres. I cut out a size 2 and other than adjusting the length I didn’t need to make any further changes. I added side seam pockets using Amy at Sew Well’s excellent tutorial, and left out the inside pockets.

Making issues: Tasia’s sewalong was a dream to follow. But thank god she did one because I’m not sure I would have had the skills just to follow the rather brief pattern instructions. The trickiest bit by far (funnily enough – when I went ahead of the sewalong) was sewing the casing for the elastic through the corduroy and the slippery lining. I got it really wrong and lopsided the first time, and the second time my lining ended up being pulled up by a few inches, meaning that I had just enough lining to tuck into the hem. I didn’t have the heart to unpick it again so I left it as it was, and added an extra line of topstitching at the hem to really secure the lining. Finally, I had interfaced one side of my collar so was disheartened to see that the interfacing side was visible when I had my hood out (likely to be the case all the time for me), so before I finished the lining I basted some leftover lining material onto the offending section – worked a treat.

Skills learned: Woah – this was a steep learning curve of a project! Adding elasticated cuffs, installing lining (only done before on a Beignet) – um… making a COAT!

Anything to add? I think if I were to make this again I’d reduce the height of the collar a smidgeon, and perhaps use better quality corduroy. As it stands I’m well chuffed with this though. I felt for the first time that I was perhaps moving out of being a beginner and into a more intermediate skillset. A pattern like this is perfect if you’re itching to try something more complicated but need extra support – the sewalong is a massive help.

March Minoru hood

March Minoru lining

March Minoru

Completed project: Betty Blue Beignet

I’ve made my second Beignet…and I love it. God I love it. It’s the most gorgeous colour (teal) and material (corduroy). I’m delighted with it. I’ve unashamedly copied both Tilly’s bow belt and a touch of styling on the old stripey top (although truth be told there was nothing else that worked as well anyway with this skirt).

Betty Blue Beignet


With the bow I mostly followed Tilly’s instructions but I decided to make the bow removable just in case I wanted to do something else with the belt like use a buckle or something. So it’s stuck on with some velcro!

Hooray for the Beignet. Is there a more accessible or useful pattern out there? I’d love to know but as a beginner sewer this was fairly easy to follow (plus it’s marked as intermediate which makes you feel even better) and it’s so adaptable. Officially am in love with the Beignet.

P.S. Just adding a quick para to thank Handmade Jane for her tips on the belt loops. No way would I have been able to create those loops without her clever cheat.

Completed project: Bright eyes smock top

This is the third time I’ve used this pattern now – it’s getting to be a fave. Regular readers (oh my god I think there are some now other than my sisters – cheers sisters) will remember I copied a Zara top and made a pattern from it. I’ve recreated it in a green print and a black & white polka dot already. This time, I broke out the bunnies and pimped it up a bit.

Bright eyes smock top

I love peter pan collars so I decided to add one to this version. It was really easy actually – I followed the first part of Gertie’s video for drafting a peter pan collar and then freestyled it with my French curves, adding a half inch seam allowance. I didn’t use interfacing – the fabric is pretty sturdy as is, so I didn’t think I’d need it.

Peter pan collar

The fabric is from Fabric Tales – isn’t it adorable? The more I make my own clothes the more I realise I seem to like little animals gambolling all over me. Who knew?!

The trickiest bit was figuring out how to pin the neckline, the collar and the facings all together and working out what order they go in (don’t judge me – I find this simple stuff really hard!), but it worked out just dandy. Pressing it was a bit of a ‘mare though – I really need a tailor’s ham now… it’s on the sewing wish list for Christmas (sisters… take note).

Purple cuffs

For a bit of pizazz (is that even a word that people under 70 should use?) I added some bias binding I had knocking around to the cuffs.

OK I’m going to stop making this top for a couple of weeks. I promise to move onto something else, really. Or maybe just one more time…

Completed project: Slouchy autumn berries dress

Here we are. It was a bit weird putting tights on, on such a lovely day. But in the interests of complete transparency (which this blog is all  about ) I dutifully got the opaques out and the husband inside and got to work. So here’s the Slouchy Autumn Berries Dress (pattern is HP 1090) – on a real live  person.

Slouchy autumn berries dress

Slouchy autumn berries dress
Truth be told I was a bit worried about this dress. I wasn’t sure it was really me – I was concerned it might look too staid and a bit yummy mummy. But I think as long as I give it a bit of attitooood then I might be alright!

Slouchy autumn berries dress
Next up – I’m going to finish the Frankenstein Polkadot this week if it kills me  and then I’m going to cut out for my first Colette Beignet. I’m extremely excited about this skirt! Does anyone know of a good sewalong for the Beignet? I’ve been googling but haven’t found one. I’ve also ordered the Rooibos Dress  pattern from Colette Patterns – hooray! I think I’ll be too late to do the sewalong but it will all be there for great reference once I’m ready. Plus I can be  a bit of a cheat and watch everyone else before I select my fabric – it’s a win-win!

Tutorial #3: A superior posterior pad

It’s been a difficult week to get much sewing done here in London. I’ll not go into the details, I think the excellent blogs already out there from Tilly and Karen, plus the news coverage pretty much sums it up. I haven’t a) quite been able to pull myself away from BBC News and b) felt much like it. But last night and tonight, things have been quieter. So I thought I’d put together my tutorial for making a bespoke seat pad with piping.

A superior posterior pad

A while ago I wrote a blog about finding some old and unloved chairs on the street. I confess – I am a total skip-dipper. I can’t pass one without having a nosey. I sanded down and painted the chairs about a month ago and what better way to set off their fresh new look than a bonny new seat pad! I asked you guys what fabric I should plump for and you picked the rather fabulous vintage (60s? 70s?) pink curtain that I picked up in Bethnal Green at a Vintage Fair last year.

Which fabric goes best?

Okay – here’s what you’ll need.

Essentials:

Foam pad – enough to cover the area you want

Fabric – I use hard wearing cotton or linen, old curtains, etc. How much you need depends on your seat pad width and length, whether you’re using the same fabric to cover your piping, whether you want seat ties etc… but half a metre or so should cover it. You’ll need:

1. Three pieces sized roughly the same as your foam pad (the trimmed size – see below)

2. Two matching strips roughly 1.5″ x 16″ for your seat ties and one strip roughly 1.25″ x the circumference of your seat pad for your piping (or you can use a contrasting piping for more of a funky look).

Notions: Matching thread and enough piping to go round your seat pad – a metre should cover it.

Nice to have:

Electric carving knife. Yep – that’s right! Seriously – cutting foam is no joke. Scissors  and stanley knives are tough-going and make the edges ragged. Get yourself one of these beauties and you’ll be the home furnishings equivalent of Edward Scissorhands. I got mine for less than £10 on Amazon and use them solely for this but bet if you ask your mum she’ll have one knocking about.  Alternatively you can get ready-made foam pads for seats but I find that one size rarely fits all.

Piping foot: I suppose this could theoretically be a ‘nice to have’  as you can use a zipper foot but I wouldn’t like to attempt piping without mine – it removes all pain and frustration and makes your world a happy, happy place.

Let’s get started

First thing is to get a sheet of newspaper, tracing paper or pattern paper and lay it on your chair. Mark out the general shape of your pad, trying to make it as symmetrical and even as possible . Cut out and lay the paper on top of your foam pad, trace an outline with a marker pen or chalk – and cut! So here’s the finished foam insert. Like so.

Finished foam insert

At this point take your piping and wrap it round the circumference. This measurement, plus a couple of inches will be how much piping you need, and the length of the 1.25″ fabric strip I mentioned above. If you’re short on fabric length then just sew a couple of strips together at the ends until you get the desired length. The joins really won’t stand out on the finished fabric, I promise.

Measuring piping

A word about seam allowances here. I don’t add extra seam allowance to the fabric pieces, because every time I have, they’ve ended up a bit loose and wrinkly. And what I really want is a tight, professional looking finish. So I cut the fabric without seam allowances, but sew with a seam allowance of about 3/8″, meaning the cushion cover is ever so slightly smaller than the foam. Then I just  stuff the foam in and sit on it until the foam flattens and it looks fabulous. But that’s just me.

So anyway, take your paper pattern and cut out three pieces from your fabric. Cut three because one will be your top and the other two will form an overlapping envelope opening on the bottom side. If you’re using a patterned fabric it’s nice to ensure all patterns face the same way but to be honest you can get away without worrying about this too, because it’s on the bottom anyway.

Take your two pieces that will form the envelope opening, and place them side by side. Piece one is on the left and piece two is on the right. Now trim about a quarter of the material away from the right hand side of piece one and do the same on the left hand side of piece two. Does that make sense? Here’s a pic.

Creating envelope fabric pieces

Now you’ll want to finish your three fabric pieces with a zig zag stitch about a 1/4″ in, all around the edges, to prevent fraying. If your material is heavily woven then I’ve heard pinking shears will do the same job. Don’t worry about the strips for piping and straps – they’ll be fine without it.

Again taking your two bottom pieces of fabric, press 1″ under  on those sides that you trimmed and sew a straight line about 0.75″ in from the edge to secure. This will give you a nice finish on your envelope opening. See?

Finished edges

Now let’s make the piping. Tuck your piping cord into the middle of the 1.25″ strip (right side on the outside). Using your piping foot on your sewing machine, stitch as close as you can to the piping itself. As I said above I use a piping foot for this (which tucks the cord underneath part of the foot) but you can use your zipper foot as well. Sew all the way along the cord. You should hopefully have a little border of material right the way along which is 3/8″ – the same seam allowance as we’ll be using on our seat pad. So that’s your piping done!

Sewing the piping

If you’d like to use chair ties (those little ties that secure your seat pad to the chair spindles) then let’s make them now. Take your two shorter strips and press them in half lengthways. Then on each side of your pressing line, press in half again lengthways. Basically you’re making bias binding.  Then sew a straight line of stitching down one edge to secure. You could do both edges and the ends if you like but life is short and time is money and noone will EVER look at this and judge you. Really. Here it is in pic format:

Making the seat pad ties

OK now we are ready to put the thing together! Lay your piece of fabric (that will be the top of the seat pad) right side up. Arrange your piping around the edges with the piping cord on the inside and raw sides together. Round the corners it’s worth making snips in the seam allowance of your piping every couple of centimetres or so – just makes curving it so much easier.You’ll find that you have an overlap of piping, right? Here’s what to do. To join your piping and make it all nice and neat, unpick some of the stitching (about half an inch or so) on one side of the piping and open up the fabric casing. Take the other length of piping and trim it so it joins your first bit of piping inside the opened fabric case. Then just tuck your opened fabric casing around the piping again and turn the end under so there are no raw edges. Voila.

Joining the piping

Now fold your little strips in two and lay them on top of the piping, equidistant from each side, making sure the open ends are facing inwards into the cushion.

Pinning ties in place

Now take your two ‘envelope opening’ pieces of fabric and lay one on top of the left hand side and one on the right hand side with the fabric facing the wrong side up. They should overlap by a couple of inches. Now pin all your pieces together, making sure you’re securing your ties at the back with your pins.

All pieces pinned together

Again, using your piping or zipper foot, sew all around the edges with your needle as close to the piping as you can possibly get, feeling your way along through the fabric.

Now turn it out – see?

Seat pad right side out

It’s all magically come together! Stuff your foam insert in. It will feel tight and seem like it’s never going to fit and you will curse me, but pummel it, punch it and squeeze it until it fits. Then check out your fine work by plopping your posterior on your superior seat pad and having a nicecupofteaandasitdown.com. In just a few hours of use the foam will have worked its way into every corner and evened out, giving you a lovely smooth finish!

Finished seat pad

Finished seat pad ties
If you do decide to make this, then let me know how it goes and whether I’ve missed anything vitally important! I basically wrote the tutorial then followed my own instructions so I hope it makes sense. Happy sewing and sitting xxx

Finished project: A whale of a time blouse

Last week I purchased a charming vintage Simplicity pattern on eBay and I’ve been dying to try it out ever since. I was also looking forward to using my rippled whales in pink fabric that I bought from Fabric Tales about a month ago. I thought a blouse as sweet as this deserved a fun fabric, so it got one.

Simplicity pattern 3558

The pattern wasn’t a difficult one per se, but as a beginner in all things dressmaking it was a steep learning curve. I set in sleeves for the first time and learned how to do buttonholes! Can you believe I have had a sewing machine for at least seven years and haven’t ever used the buttonhole foot? What fun it was! I’m going to put buttons on everything now. Cushions will be transformed! Bags will be secure!

I did have some trouble figuring out the pattern instructions for the front  of the blouse. A narrow piece had been removed from the original pattern so I wasn’t sure if I needed to cut out the blouse front including  it or whether that was just for interfacing. In the end I left it as was and it seemed to work out ok. Here it is!


A whale of a time blouse

I think you can see from the pic that my peter pan collar ended up ever so slightly uneven, but it’s more pronounced here than  it is in reality, so I’m going to live with it. Also you can see that one side of the blouse is out of line with the other side in terms of the whale pattern. Again, I’ll live with it – I’m just so pleased to make something I like and would willingly wear! When it came to fitting, my new mini-me came in tremendously useful. So much better than sticking pins in one’s derriere by mistake. I had to take in the seam lines by a half inch through the arms and the sides.

I think this blouse will go beautifully with a pale blue denim I bought from Walthamstow market. It’s very ‘seventies mum’ and will be perfect for another new project – the Colette Patterns Beignet Skirt.

Keef came in for a snoop while we were taking pics so I let him join in.

Keef gets a pet

I’d definitely use this pattern again but I’ll have to remember to snip a half inch off everything. I’d love to add piping to the collar for an even more retro feel. The pattern also came with these gorgeous letter transfers (you can see them in use in View 2 on the pattern envelope). How sweet! I wonder if it’s still possible to use them? The instructions say to iron the transfer onto the fabric, and then simply embroider over them. So sweet…

Transfers that came with the pattern

In other news, I know I promised a tutorial aaaaages ago on how to make a seat pad and I promise I mean to do that this week. I’ve just been getting caught up in clothes. Dressmaking is so much more complicated and intensive – for me anyway – that it kind of drains you of energy to work on anything else! But rest assured – it’s coming soon.

Hope you’re all having lovely weekends. xxx

A corsage to bring the happy back

After an intensive week of sewing and seam ripping on my polka-dot cloned dress, I decided to take a break and concentrate on something a little simpler, a little quicker and a whole lotta fun.
Introducing… the abundant felt corsage of happiness!
The abundant felt corsage
This cute felt brooch caught my eye first on one of my favourite sewing blogs, No Big Dill so I tracked down the tutorial to Holidash.com, an American site dedicated to gifts and ideas for high days and holidays. This was for Mother’s Day but hell, I’ll wear it any day.
A sideways look
Isn’t it sweet? It was super easy to make – I used wooden pegs from the local 99p shop to keep the petals closed while the glue set. I really love this soft dark pink colour. I wonder what it would look like with contrasting shades and even more petals…I already had the felt and the fabric glue so this little baby cost just a pound or two to make.
I will go back to the polka-dot, but I’ve decided to draft my own peter pan collar and my own ¾ length sleeves instead of using what I drafted in the class. A larger collar will be easier to stitch in and I’m hoping I’ll learn a new skill in creating my own sleeves that can be used again and again. In other news, my sewing woes and frustrations with the project have compelled me to finally purchase a dress form. I just can’t fit clothes while wearing them – it’s absolutely impossible, and leads to rather uncomfortable pin-related injuries. Can’t wait to take delivery of my new mini-me! Question – does one name one’s dress form? Have you done it? ‘Fess up!

Getting down with upcycling

Well sewing peeps, I’m afraid there is little to report from the sewing room this week. Mostly because I spent the weekend at ATP’s I’ll Be Your Mirror at Alexandra Palace, and spent the following two days recovering… I’m too old for this palaver you know.

Highlights from the festival (ooh too many to mention but I’ll give it a go) included a storming performance from PJ Harvey who looked like some fabulous medieval folk witch, an extremely noisy set from Liars (have you ever felt a drum beat reverberate in your belly? I can safely say I have now…) plus dreamy schwoozy indie pop from Beachhouse.

But I digress. Back to sewing. I did manage to get some more work in on my cloned polka-dot dress on Sunday morning but found that whilst I’d traced my darts correctly (bravo) I’d failed to add the necessary extra four cms to the width (for shame). And I’d already cut out my bodice material and lining. Oh the waste. But I have plenty of spare fabric left so will just have to do it again. Or lose a rib or two. And maybe a lung.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is going to be a sloooow project as I’m so nervous of making clothes. I don’t know why. I can approach a cushion or a tote bag fairly confidently now but I’ve still got the ‘dress stress’. Anyone else get that feeling? Excitement, apprehension, quaking fingers, a sense of impending doom and failure? Or is it just me?

So in the absence of a completed made-from-scratch project to show you, I just thought I’d share some ‘easy’ upcycling jobbies I’ve been doing on my wardrobe. Much less stressful than creating something from scratch and so nice being able to get more use out of things you never thought you’d wear again.

Monsoon dress

This was a very fine dress from Monsoon, bought for the ballet a few years ago and never worn since. It was just that wee bit too long and formal for work or play. All I did was raise the hemline by about, ooh, seven inches or so and added a bit of rick rack to the bottom. Now it’s just a pretty little dress I can wear anytime.

Upcycled cardigan

This is one of my favourite upcycling projects. I bought the cardy from a charity shop in Muswell Hill for £6 (I know – steep for a charideee shop but hey it’s Muswell Hill dahling) as I wanted to do some serious cutting. Inspired by Casey’s tutorial on reshaping knitwear I made the long sleeves ¾ length and added a vintage lace trim round the cuffs and edges. I love this cardy so much I’m in danger of over-wearing it. So sorry I haven’t got the before pic for you but I’m sure I’ll be tempted to do it again, perhaps to a scarlet version. I would definitely recommend giving it a go if you have some old knitwear lurking in the back of your wardrobe.

Upcycled dress/jumper

Finally, this dress was worn just twice and never again – the frill felt a tad too girly for me. So I chopped off the bottom and did a rolled hem. Now it’s a cute and perky jumper – perfect for autumn (or July, considering the London weather recently). I had to forcibly restrain myself from adding more rick rack though. That stuff is addictive. Word.

What about you? Any upcycling gems you want to share? Or do you have any tips for the dreaded ‘dress stress’? I could do with some reassurance that it’s not just me.