Sunday, 21 April 2013

Patterns, Measurements and Maths

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen...

Let me firstly apologies for not blogging sooner... it's been two weeks since I shared with you my adventures but I do have a genuine was my birthday! I had a super weekend and birthday day thanks to my husbandy and friends. I was spoilt rotten which can't be a bad thing. I'm now back and spreading the love.

Since my last sewing blog, I have made a few other bits and pieces - primarily involving squares! But my skills were well and truly put to the test when I attended an all day sewing course that involved making an 'A' line skirt. In a previous blog on sewing, I mentioned a great website called 'The Thrifty Stitcher' which has lots of hints and tips to help with sewing projects. The Thrifty Stitcher is an friendly sewing school ran by Claire-Louise Hardie who was a consultant to the BBC2 programme 'The Great British Sewing Bee'. She runs evening, half days and day courses for all levels to try and de-mystify the art of sewing. So with all these exciting courses to chose from I selected the 'An Introduction to Dress Making - Making a Skirt' (link below). 

Fabric Made in UK
Once booked, an email came through of what to expect from the day and what to bring. The key items to bring were fabric, an invisible zip and thread to match the fabric. With these instructions I jumped straight onto the 'Ray Stitch' website where I clicked and examined all the glorious fabrics they had on offer. When it came to the actual selection I remembered the first episode of the GBSB and decided not to get a complex pattern or anything too lightweight! So I selected a truly stunning shade of royal blue in a medium weight cotton (made in the UK) with matching zip and thread.

Thrifty Stitcher HQ
Soon the time passed and the day arrived to head over to Thrifty Stitcher HQ in Stoke Newington. Travel links are simple and they are very, very clear on the website with great photos to help you locate landmarks. I traveled to Highbury and Islington station, hopped on a local bus and after 2 minute walk from the bus I was there.  I entered the building and was greeted by Claire-Louise aka 'The Thrifty Stitcher'. The room had a lovely set up with a big sewing table, sewing machines, over-lockers, samples, fabric, toiles - everything you would expect to see in a sewing room!  I was soon settled down with a cup of tea and chatting away. Some other sewing bees arrived (four in total and the maximum size class) and soon we were all examining each others fabrics. With the creative juices flowing the class began....

Now the plan is to split the day over a series blog. I had to take in a great deal of tips, hints and skills and to get the full benefit from it and not to lose you by reading streams of text, I will break them down into smaller chunks. So, this blog starts at the beginning by focusing on patterns and pattern cutting...

'A' line skirt pattern
The stitching aim of the day was to make an 'A' line skirt. This being my first pattern I have ever cut I was both a little excited and nervous. The skirt pattern is by Butterick (B4461). However before the pattern was released from the packet we needed to be measured. With Claire-Louise armed with a tape measure I had my waist and hips measured. Top tip: If taking measurements, take the measurements from the side of the person and not the front - it will save a lot of embarrassment when you have your face in a strangers crotch! 

Size guide

To select the size of the pattern look at the waist and hip measurements closest to your size (normally located on the back of the packet). If you like a snug fit, go for a size down or if you like a loose fit go for a size up. Top tip: Check the waistline on the pattern itself as it actually tells you how much 'give' it will have once made. A great blog that goes into more detail is by 'Tilly and the Buttons' called 'How to select your sewing  pattern size' (link below). Top tip: Don't worry of you make it larger - it is generally easier to take fabric away than add in. My measurements were a 30" waist and a 41"hip. After checking the guidelines we decided to follow a size 14 pattern (as I like a snug fit) and add an extra 2" to the waist.  To add the 2" to the pattern add 0.5" the front and back piece. (NB: this calculation is based on 2"/4 as you work on four pieces of fabric). 

Adding width
With the packet now in my hands, I opened it and started to make the personal adjustments to the pattern. I added a half of an inch to the front and back piece. To ensure it blended nicely back into the pattern I used a dress making curved ruler and a pencil. Once this was done I cut out the pattern - slowly and accurately. Once cut out it was now time to look at the length. As I wear 1950s/ vintage style clothes I wanted an on-the knee length. To achieve this 5" were added to the pattern. Now I thought this would just be added to the bottom of the pattern - WRONG! On the pattern there is a line that says
Adding length
'lengthen or shorten here' - this is where the additional 5" will be added. Tracing paper can be used but we used a dressmakers square patterned paper. The pattern was cut along the line and pinned to a sewing board that had inches clearly marked on it. The extra pattern paper was inserted and taped (using scotch tape). To ensure continuity a small side piece had to be added and again I used the dressmakers ruler to smooth the curve. The extra paper was cut off and ta-dah I had my finished pattern.

Being my first item made from a pattern I was surprised at the amount of preparation it took even to make the pattern the correct size. I took for granted that a pattern was taken out of the packet, attached to fabric and that was it - boy, was I wrong. Even making sure the pattern fits correctly by adding extra inches to the waist and length takes time but I suppose it's like all things - make sure the preparation is correct and the rest should be easy (well, you will have to wait for the next bit!). Next time I'll look at the fabric and starting to make the skirt!

Top tips:
  • Equipment: Pattern, dress makers ruler (or a long ruler), hemming ruler, tape measure pencil, scissors, calculator and a cutting mat. You may also need additional dressmakers paper and scotch tape depending if any alterations are required
  • Take body measurements from the side and not the front - it will save a lot of embarrassment when you have your face in a strangers crotch!
  •  Don't worry of you make it larger - it is generally easier to take fabric away than add in.
  • Check the waistline on the pattern as it actually tells you how much 'give' it will have once made
Useful websites/ blogs:

I'd would like to say a massive thank you to Claire-Louise and to all at The Thrifty Stitcher for a wonderful creative day - I will definitely be back for the dress making day! 

Happy Pattern Cutting x

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Shower Cap... Circles & Thread

Hello Ladies and Gents,

Over recent months I've started to use dry shampoo and can't believe I've only discovered this wonderful product now. So with my new found love of dry hair shampoo, the need to wash my hair daily has decreased so I thought a shower cap would be a great sewing project. I did my usual world wide web search and found these great blogs by Junie Moon - One Yard Adventure: Shower Cap Tutorial and SewDelish - Some Sewing - How to Make a Shower Cap - Tutorial - links below:

I assembled all my equipment and started to make the shower cap (see tutorials above for this information). The first challenge was how big was my head?? I got out the tape measure and measured it - it was around 22" (is that big??). After reading the tutorial to calculate how much fabric I'd need I added a buffer of two inches to this to ensure there was enough fabric to fold over and still fit my head.

Tools for the circle
Circle outline
The second challenge was how do I make a perfect circle? After thinking about what I had in the house, I got a large piece of paper, string and a pen. I folded the paper into quarters, cut the string to 12", tied the string around the pen and drew the circle. I then cut the circle out of the paper and laid this on top of the fabric and used my rotary cutter to go around the fabric. I did this for both the waterproof lining and outer fabric.

Paper circle on fabric
Cut fabric - ready to stitch

Pinned fabric
After all this prep I was eager to start I followed the instructions and basted the material together in order to keep the fabrics from slipping. So after basting the fabric together, I went to the ironing board, ironed over about a quarter of an inch and then a further inch - when sewn this makes the pocket to thread the elastic through. As I ironed over the fabric, I pinned it down....and this is when I started to wonder if sewing a circle was such a wise choice after all...anyway I had got this far so I persevered. 

All pinned and ready I went back to the sewing machine and started to sew...this is when my patience was well and truly tested. At first I could not understand how to follow the circle - I kept having straight lines! So after a lot of unpicking and re-ironing I started again. This time, I realised I had to nip in little bits as I went round in order to make the circle. I was very pleased with myself that I had worked this out! So feeling confident, I was merrily sewing when disaster struck.... I ran out of thread - how could I run out of thread????


With no thread my shower cap project came to an abrupt end -  I couldn't get over how annoyed at myself I was so top tip: always have a spare thread!

A few weeks later, armed with mountains of thread, I carried on with this project... I had mastered how to do the circle and went around the one inch hem (leaving a two inch space so the elastic could be thread around) and stitched around the outer edge. I cut the elastic to 20 inches long, put a safety pin at the end and thread it through. At this point I found it tricky, so I will explain how I overcame the challenge.

When threading the elastic, pin one end at the opening. Use a safety pin on the
Pinned ends
other end of the elastic and thread it all the way through. When back at the start pull the elastic through, safety pin the two ends together and spread the material around over the elastic (by doing this you will be able to see if you need to trim the elastic). I did need to trim the elastic and took off a further 4 inches. With the safety pin now holding both pieces together I hand stitched the ends together. Once happy the ends were secure I undid the safety pin and machine sewed over the top to ensure the elastic was secure...and ta-dah, one finished shower cap!!!

I was so pleased at what I achieved making this. It may seem simple and the tutorials are detailed and easy to follow, but for someone who is new to the sewing bug it used lots of different skills and own initiative to complete this. My next project involve zips so lets see where this takes me!

Hint and tips

  • Equipment: Paper, string, pen, iron, cutting board, rotary cutter, water-proof fabric, fabric scissors, pins, safety pins, needles, THREAD, elastic and a sewing machine
  • Check what you have in your sewing box...I double check everything now so I don't run out of thread again!
  • Research - find a tutorial that works for you
  • Patience - I do mention this every time, but it is important. I did take me a good 3-4 weeks to carry on with this project, but I'm so pleased I did as I love what I've made!
Enjoy and take your time!

Happy Stitching x

Finished shower cap!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Minnie Moons and Seamed Stockings

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

My vacation started with a bang (or should I say victory roll) by having a successful and fabulous trip to Rockalily Cuts. So how was I to match this on day two? By going to What Katie Did and having a moonicure by Minnie Moons of course! The last event I attended at What Katie Did with Lipstick and Curls was a real delight so when I saw 'Vintage Manicures with Minnie Moons' advertised I just jumped on it. I've always wanted my nails like this as it was a big part of the 1940s/ 1950s look. I've looked at many websites and blogs for inspiration - a great blog is Fashionable Forties: The buildings of a 1940s wardrobe (link: ) so without hesitation, I looked what was on the menu and went for the 'Full Moonicure (extensive cuticle work, buffing, shaping and painting with half moons/tips)'. With this in mind, I started to grow my nails and look after them like they have never been looked after before.

Nails on my honeymoon (2008)
From a young age my nails have had a battering - the main reason was netball. I started playing netball at the young age of 10 and continued until I was 25. Netball being an alleged non-contact sport required short nails otherwise they were deemed as a lethal weapon (well, they are the way we played in the West Country!) so at the beginning of each game out came the nail clippers and snip snip they were gone. With this and the added bonus of having weak nails my nails have been constantly ignored. The only time they have looked any good was when I got married...and they were not even mine! Anyway, I thought I would treat myself and have these adorable nails done and embarked on growing them for two weeks.

Nails a slipper
The day arrived, so with my new hair, I left my home wrapped up to keep away the arctic hurricane and went to What Katie Did, Portobello Rd. Now, as you all ready know, I totally love this shop. It just sells the finest vintage lingerie, well fitting and beautiful stockings, glamorous Besame make-up, stunning Bernie Dexter dresses and now Miss L Fire shoes as well - I don't think this shop will ever stop pleasing me. I arrived at the door and was welcomed in by the friendly staff. Sharon from Minnie Moons was there - so I went in and started to have my nails beautified.

Sharon from Minnie Moons
Before starting on my nails, Sharon (aka Minnie Moons) discussed what colours I would like on my nails. There was a wide range of colours from red to green, but as it was my first time I went for the classic red (OPI Big Apple Red) and silver moons. Once the selection was made Sharon dipped, creamed, buffed, cuticled and filed my little nails before starting to paint. As she was doing this we talked about everything and anything from foxes to nails (obviously)! Sharon told me some great tips about how to look after my nails - none of them which I do but from now on I will! 

Red with silver moons
After an hour in the hot seat my nails were complete... gleaming and sparkly in all their moonicure glory. Now comes the hard bit - not to touch anything to stop them from smudging - and I'm pleased to inform you I was a good girl and did not smudge any of them! On my way out I was handed a little goodie bag of some What Katie Did black seamed stockings and a Lindt Easter egg - perfect!

I'd like to say a massive thank you to Sharon of Minnie Moons and to all at What Katie Did for a wonderful morning. Please, please, please get together again, I will be first to book. 

Happy Moonicures x

P.S. I'm writing this 4 days on and they still look as good as when they were done!!