Category Archives: Tutorial

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.

Better Pictures Project + a quick editing tutorial

Hallo! If you read Gillian’s blog, Crafting a Rainbow, you’ll have seen she asked me to contribute to her Better Pictures Project this month on the subject of taking better indoor photos, especially in winter. I was flattered when Gillian asked me to share some tips because I don’t see my photos as particularly great; in fact I often feel bad that I don’t get outside to shoot more often. I usually feel too self-conscious to shoot in public, plus it’s so much faster and easier to control conditions and get a variety of detail/angle shots indoors, which is what I like to see when I’m reading blogs myself. So it’s likely you’ll be stuck with my fireplace and sewing room wall some more this year, ha ha.

Edit blog photos

You can read the post over on Crafting a Rainbow for details of my photography setup, and I’m sharing a bit more detail here on my typical editing process, which I believe makes up a large proportion of getting a decent indoors shot. I’m using Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on my iMac – I’m afraid I can’t advise on other software solutions as I only use Photoshop!

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Here’s a typical photo straight out of my camera. It’s not too bad, but my typical adjustments to make a shot like this a bit better are to correct the light levels and cropping.

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Because I use a wide-angle lens and my light source – the window – is coming in from the side, I often get vignetting: darker corners compared to the centre of the image. To brighten them out I use the Dodge tool. Select a large, soft brush on the top toolbar, set the Exposure to 20-30%, and gently brush on the dark areas until they brighten up. I might also brush on other areas that have got a bit shadowy like my face or darker areas of the garment.

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The bottom half of my images are usually dark and shadowy so you can’t see the details of the garment properly, so I even this up too. Enter Quick Mask mode by hitting the little ‘dotted circle inside a rectangle’ icon near the bottom of the left toolbar, or shortcut: hit the Q key. Now select the Brush tool and paint over the dark patch with a large, soft brush. The mask is painted in red – that’s just temporary so you can see it!

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Then I press Q again which exits Quick Mask and turns the mask into a selection, outlined by a dotted line. The mask actually selects the inverse of what you painted, so hit cmd+shift+i to invert the selection.

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Then I use the Curves tool (Image > Adjustments > Curves or cmd+M) to bump up the brightness of the selected area – it will just affect the bit that was masked, and because we used a soft-edged brush it will tone in with no obvious edges. I don’t really understand how Curves works, but by pulling up the middle of the line I find it creates a nice even brightness-punch without blowing out the colour or detail.

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As I say in the post I wrote for Gillian, I try to reduce things poking into shot as it’s visually distracting. I haven’t shoved my coffee table out of the way enough so I’m going to clone it out. Again use the Quick Mask to brush over the thing you want to remove.

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Invert it, right click on the selection, and hit ‘Fill’. Make sure ‘Content Aware’ is the contents type and hit OK. The selected area will be filled with a sampling of its surroundings so it disappears. PHOTOSHOP MAGIC. I may also use the Clone Stamp tool to brush out smaller distracting details.

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Finally, I’ll straighten and crop the image using the Crop tool. Make sure ‘original ratio’ is selected so you have uniform image sizes and drag and rotate the handles to a nice composition. You’ll see gridlines come up dividing the image into thirds and it’s nice to try and have the image’s focal points sit on one of the gridlines for a pleasing composition (the rule of thirds).

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Finally, I may apply a couple of filters – I find these help my images have a cohesive ‘look’ to them. I save these as Actions so they can be run instantly across every photo in the set. You can find lots of free filter actions online: try DeviantArt. You’ll probably want to tone down the result by setting a lower opacity on the Layer palette. When you’re happy, merge down all the layers and save.

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Done! This process takes me under five minutes per image, and I think it’s worth the small amount of effort. I hope it was helpful, and let me know if you have any other questions or tips about indoor photography or photo editing. Are you participating in the Better Pictures Project? Are you a fan of indoor or outdoor shots on sewing blogs? Should I suck it up and get outdoors sometimes?