Category Archives: Tutorial

Silk Statues, and swing cami dress tutorial

This dress skipped both the sewing and blogging queue. The sewing part was pure necessity because London has gone full heatwave (or summer is actually just starting for really-reals), and the blogging part just took advantage of this sweet golden morning light.

I’ve really got quite behind on blogging, because I bought this fabric on a recent trip to Hong Kong and I really expected to write up the fabric shopping situation there before sewing any of my purchases up! Anyway this is an absolutely gorgeous silk crepe de chine that I bought for about £7.50 metre in a treasure trove just off Ki Lung Street in Kowloon. The shop had a rainbow of plain silks and loads of my weakness, fun ‘conversational’ prints. It was unfortunately cash-only and one of the last places I stopped, so that hampered my buying a touch, but I’m very pleased with what I came away with, especially this one with its weird lady statuette print.


I decided to sew the fabric up rather impulsively, as I didn’t want to be too scared to use it and have it sitting around for ages, and silk crepe is perfect for aforementioned sticky heat season. I really wanted a chuck-on dress and have seen lots of this pretty square neckline around. The problem is this style is all but impossible to fit on me out of the packet. I look at people wearing things like the Tessuti Claudia dress in wonder: HOW is it not gaping at the top or straining at the bust?! HOW did your hips fit into that elegant column shape?! Pear-shape-hollow-chest problems. I knew to get the fit right I would need to go a self-draft/extreme hack route.

Here’s how I drafted the pattern. I used the Salme Double-Layer Cami pattern as a basis, which I had knocking round in PDF from ages ago (it looks like Salme have disappeared off the internet so no link, sorry); the True Bias Ogden would also work although it lacks darts.

1. Cut a line up the bodice front, stopping at the bust point. Also cut along the middle of the bust dart, stopping just before the first line so you have a little hinge point. (If your camisole isn’t darted, run this line all the way almost to the top of the front.)
2. Swing out the lower piece around this point until the gap at the bottom is opened up by around 2 inches. (Your final ‘swing’ will be 4x this measurement as it will be doubled on the front and back.) You might close the bust dart completely in the process, or just make it smaller.
3. Fill in the gap with paper, tape down and true up the side seam at the dart.
4. Add length, following the angle of the side seam and the curve of the hem. Mine is 32″ from underarm to hem. I would’ve gone a bit longer but this was all my fabric would allow.
5. Repeat these steps on the back, but take the vertical cutting line nearly all the way to the top and swing out from there.
6. Square off the neckline from the strap points to centre front. Fill in with paper.
7. Draft facings off the new front and back pieces. Come down about two inches from the underarm and curve up to the centre.
8. Make a toile! This is quite important to check the level of flare is good and that the front and back necklines are not gaping. I used my alternative construction method when it came to adding the straps and facings.


Annoyingly I found that even after a toile and making further adjustments, the front and back STILL gaped, just enough to be noticeable and annoying. My upper chest is very narrow and rather concave, so I can see why it’s difficult to encourage fabric to hug it nicely. I approached the solution differently on the front and back. On the back I nudged the straps inward by 1/2″ and shaved a bit off the side curve, which isn’t ideal as it doesn’t follow the line of my bra straps any more. On the front I sewed a strip of flat elastic into the facing seam, pulling it taut slightly. The result is a slightly puckered front neckline but it does finally lay flat. I’m not sure how I’ll fix this for next time. A narrow band across the top which is tightly eased-in to the bodice edge perhaps.

Outtake for ya to finish! Despite the minor neckline issues I’m thrilled with this dress and it definitely beat the heat today. Josh took these photos as my self timer has broken and I really like how they turned out. Much nicer to be smiling at my boyfriend than a screen… he’ll be delighted to have got the job I’m sure.

A wedding New Look

I made this a little while ago, wore it to a wedding, and completely neglected to get photos – but I dug it back out to photograph with no occasion whatsoever, as I think it turned out so nice it needs sharing!

I used New Look 6499 with a few of my usual little tweaks. I think it’s one of those dresses that looks rather fancy but was actually delightfully simple and fun to make, however I did put a bit of effort into preparing the pattern before cutting my fabric. I pre-empted some neckline gaping by rotating out a dart, which I converted into making the whole dress more flared/full than the gentle A-line as patterned. Here’s a quick video that I made of this process which I posted on my Instagram stories:


(Click through if you’re reading in a reader and can’t see the video above.)


I also added some side slits, and made a simple waist tie to draw in the fullness. All the tweaking was worthwhile as the fit turned out great and it was super comfortable.

I did find the instructions given to add the little sleeve flounces disappointing. Firstly you are instructed to hem the highly curved edges using a 3/8″ hem allowance: LOL NO, not going to happen. I overlocked the edge and used that as a guide to turn in once and make a baby hem which only just worked out ok with a judicious use of steam. For a nicer finish I think it’d be a good idea to self-line the flounces, especially if the fabric has an obvious wrong side like this one does. Also the flounces are just tacked on by hand at the end of the sewing process; I think it’d be neater if the corners were extended a little and they were caught in the seam that joins the strap to the bodice. I’ll do that next time. However this does mean I could unpick the flounces if I get bored of them!

The fabric is my buy of the year so far: it was from a random little shack-shop (with a kitty!) on Ridley Road market in Dalston and was a ridiculous £2 a metre. I bought six metres in excitement and passed some on to Amy. It’s a heavy polyester crepe and I’m in love with the swishiness and print (which is not dissimilar to my Atelier Brunette Cassiopee!). Wedding season seems to be over for us now, but I’ll definitely dig this back out for future occasions.

A hacky Named outfit

A new little summery outfit of two simple separates, both of which are hacked from Named patterns that I’ve sewn before.

The trousers are the Ninni culottes, sewn up in a lush indigo crinkle rayon that the Fabric Store kindly sent to me. The only thing I changed from my first pair was to convert the pockets from side seam into front yoked. I just can’t stand the way side seam pockets add bulk and flap around, and these yoked ones are actually much easier to prep and sew so it’s win-win. Here’s a quick tute; you can prepare paper pieces or cut these straight onto your fabric.

1. Cut a rectangle for the pocket bag/facing, approximately 16″ wide by 11″ long. The width will be 2x the width of the final pocket bag and the length will be the final length of the pocket.
2. Lay the rectangle on top of your front trouser piece, right sides together and matching the side seam and waistline to the rectangle edges. Cut a curved or straight line through both pieces at the trouser side seam edge. This will be the pocket opening. Mine starts about 3″ in from the edge at the top and is 7″ long.
3. Sew this pocket opening seam using a small (5mm or so) seam allowance. Clip if necessary to release curves, press seam allowances to the pocket facing piece, and understitch.
4. Fold the pocket bag in half, lining up with the trouser waistline and side seam. Sew and finish the bottom edge of the pocket bag, then baste the top and sides to the front trouser leg. Construct the rest of the pattern as written.

The blouse is a rather more extreme hack of the Reeta shirt dress. I wonder when a pattern stops being a hack and becomes essentially a self-draft?! To make this kimono-sleeved blouse from the dress pattern I:

· Merged the back yoke onto the back body piece
· Altered the shoulder seam so it wasn’t forward-facing (took some off the back piece and added to the front)
· Extended the shoulder line to create grown-on cap sleeves
· Drafted a new back facing piece to finish the back neckline
· Left off the collar piece as I did with my previous dress
· Rotated/closed the front bust dart down into added ease, which I then trimmed away from the side seam
· Cut the body and facings off about 14″ below the underarm

I’m considering this a wearable toile, as this space-print fabric (from The Textile Centre) was an impulse buy that isn’t really in my usual style stratosphere but I just couldn’t resist it. Next time I’ll raise the kimono sleeve line an extra half-inch or so as they’re a little bit snug. Otherwise I think this hack came out rather cute, and it didn’t take very long despite the amount of steps. I was sort of more in the mood for drafting than sewing so it was a nice project to try out some advanced hacking.


Ogden camis, and a different construction method

It’s been deliciously warm in London this last week, with more nice weather forecast. A good chance to dig out the True Bias Ogden cami pattern and make use of some remnants I’ve bought lately.

I first made this dress version in some great stretch cotton-viscose that I bought from the Cloth House Camden warehouse shop just this last week. I got the last metre on the roll which was just enough to lengthen the Ogden into a mini dress. To do that I just extended the side seams down by about 9″ (the total length armsyce to hem is 24″) maintaining the flared angle. I’ve been after a basic black slip for ages and I think it’ll work well with a tee underneath when the weather inevitably dips again.

I made another one pretty quickly in this adorable cat-print polyester remnant that I got in Tokyo. I refined the fit a little bit around the top; basically darting out a bit of gaping on both the front and back. I also came up with a revised construction method which I think is a little faster and easier than the the instructions, so I took some photos and wrote up how I did it below. It’s quite similar to my facing tutorial in that the front and back are constructed before sewing them into the ’round’. Here we go – sorry the photos aren’t very good but shout if you have a question.

Complete steps 1-3 to staystitch and create/baste the straps. (…Except I don’t staystitch or baste, because I am a REBEL.) Now instead of sewing the side seams next, pin and sew the front facing to the front bodice across the top edge, securing the straps in the process.

Trim, clip and understitch per the instructions.

Now, lay out and layer up the pieces as follows: back facing right side facing UP; the loose strap ends (attached to the front bodice) right sides facing UP; back bodice, right side DOWN. Again you could baste the straps to the back only here first but I just deal with all three layers at once.

Pin, sew, and trim/clip/understitch the top edge just like the front. Turn right side out and give it all a good press – you’ll have a funny side-seam-less cami joined by the straps as above. Now is a good time to finish the lower facing edges – I just pinked mine – and to add a label to the back facing, as otherwise it’s hard to tell which way round to wear it!

Now to finish the side seams: open up the facing again so the right sides touch. Pin and sew the bodice and facing as one long side seam.

Finish the seam as desired, snip a notch where the facing and bodice meet to reduce bulk, and press seams open.

Turn out, press and ditch-stitch the facing down to the side seam to keep it in place. Alternatively, you could also treat the facing and bodice as one and do a French seam, catching both layers and meaning the facing gets anchored into the side seam. Hem the bottom and you’re good to go!

Wear-in your handmade jeans in five minutes

I’ve got a bit of a confession. I’ve got quite the stock of handmade jeans now – Gingers, Safrans, more Gingers – but they don’t tend to get worn as often as my trusty RTW pairs. The reason was always they they felt too crispy-new, too uniformly-coloured, with none of that lovely age (or slightly less lovely artificial ageing/distressing) of my favourite vintage or store-bought pairs.

So why did nobody tell me how fast and easy it was to get a lovely soft, faded, subtly-patina’ed finish on brand new handmade jeans, with nothing but a bit of sandpaper and five minutes of elbow grease? I’ve just turned three pairs of handmade jeans from meh to dreamy in a weekend.

Here’s how I did it. I got some fairly heavy-grade sandpaper out of our DIY cupboard and wrapped it around my hand. A sanding block would probably do the trick, too. I put the jeans on and simply started buffing away at the areas I wanted to fade and distress. I started around the front pockets, fly and waistband, then took long strokes down the inseam and outer seams. Then I crouched down (this is where you start to feel pretty silly) and rubbed the paper down my front thigh, down to the knees and calf. Finally I took it over the back waistband, back pockets and centre back seam.

The trick is to start with a little pressure and build it up. Hold the fabric fairly taut where you want a smooth fade and let it wrinkle and bunch a bit where you want whiskers to form. You also may want to put some paper or plastic sheeting down before you start as you’ll get indigo ‘rubbings’ falling off.

Finally, you can take the jeans off, check over for any bits that don’t feel uniform and scrub away a little more. I hung the jeans over the edge of my ironing board or over a tailor’s ham for this bit.

Here’s the same thing on my Cone Mills denim Gingers. This effect might not be for everyone, but I know I’m going to get a lot more wear out of these jeans now they feel soft and worn-in.

Tutorial: non-flipping facings

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I’ve developed my own little way of doing facings that works really well for me, so I thought I’d share it. I haven’t seen it instructed anywhere else or included in a pattern, but for me it removes all the pain points of facings – the flapping out, re-wrangling into place after laundering, awkwardness of sewing them in the round to a neckline – and leaves a nice clean, smooth finish that doesn’t budge.

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It works well for any sort of simple shallow-ish crew/jewel neckline with a CB zip or without; I don’t think it’d work so well for a deep scoop or V neck. It also works better on lighter weight fabrics because it adds a little bulk to the armsyce seam. I’m demoing on a new Sudley dress I’m making this weekend – here we go…

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1. Draft the facing pieces. Basically you’re tracing off the neckline and shoulder area of the front and back bodices. To get the depth, measure down about 2″ from the centre of each neckline. The back piece is cut straight across to the armsyce, and I’ve curved the front one gently up a bit as it reaches the armsyce.

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2. Cut out from the fashion fabric and from lightweight interfacing; fuse on the interfacing. Finish the lower raw edges of each piece, by pinking or overlocking.

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3. The facings are sewn on individually before the shoulder seams are sewn. Pin and sew the front facing to the front neckline and the back to the back, right sides together, using the pattern’s given seam allowance.

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4. Grade, clip/notch and understitch both the front and back as usual.

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5. Now we sew the outer shoulder seam and facing shoulder seam as one. Right sides facing, pin front bodice to back bodice shoulder seam, and continue along the facing shoulder seam, taking care to line up the seam intersection in the centre. Sew at the pattern’s given seam allowance.

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6. Trim (no need to finish the raw edge, I just like trimming with my pinks) and clip a triangle out at the seam intersection to reduce bulk.

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7. Press the seam allowances in opposing directions to help it lie flat. Repeat for other shoulder.

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8. Fold facings to the inside and give a good press. Looking good!

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9. Finally, smooth out and pin the facings to the bodice and baste in place along the armsyce, inside the seam allowance. Now you simply treat the facing and main bodice as one when you sew in the sleeves.

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All done, a nice flat facing that will never flip out of place! I think it looks really smart and pretty inside and out.

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For invisible zips again sew the facings to necklines first (the back being in two pieces in this instance rather than on the fold), then insert the zip, then follow the other steps. What’s your favourite neckline finish? Any questions on this technique, just shout.