Sunday, 18 March 2018

Beginners Dressmaking - Pattern and Fabric Suggestions

If you are just starting out dressmaking it can be hard to choose a pattern, there are so many to choose from.  The same goes for fabric so much choice can be exciting but also confusing !

Here's my tip for beginners

1.  Fabric
I would suggest a woven cotton, or woven viscose rayon for beginner projects.  These fabrics are easy to work with they aren't too slippy, they don't fray too much and they don't roll.  These fabrics also press well which is very helpful too.  

Woven Viscose Rayon
Look for Viscose/Rayon Challis for a smooth soft draping fabric, or crepe which is not as soft and has a slight texture and can be finer.

You could use quilting weight cotton fabric or a smooth cotton lawn. Cotton will not drape like viscose bear this in mind when picking your pattern.

2. Patterns
Making a simple classic design, practicing it and making that pattern really well can really build your confidence.  Most patterns tell you the level of sewing experience required by a rating like Easy, Average, Advanced.  Patterns refer only to the sewing element of dressmaking though and really you need to consider the fitting element too.  

Fitting a garment can be hard and making pattern adjustments can be confusing and frustrating for beginners. Patterns that are less fitted are therefore easier.  You can tell by looking at a pattern if it's fitted or not but also the pattern should tell you the body measurements and the finished garment measurements, the difference between these two measurements is called ease, and obviously the more ease the looser/less fitted the garment is.

Cutting out
The number of pattern pieces also gives you an idea of how long the garment is going to take to make.  If you have 15 pieces to cut and sew together it might be easy but it won't be quick.  If you want some quick makes to start a handmade wardrobe or simply because you don't have a huge amount of sewing time spare bear this in mind.

Here's a few of my recommendations for beginner patterns.

1.  The Shift Dress/Top 
This pattern from Sew Over It London for a very classic shift dress is semi fitted with bust darts and a "set in sleeve" - a set in sleeve is something quite handy to learn.  There is no zip in the back just a hook and eye fastening, or you could use a button.

There is the option for no sleeves, and also an option to make a top rather than a full dress.

Changing the fabric really changes this dress and it's a great pattern to showing off a beautiful print.

I love this sew over it pattern and found the instructions and fit excellent I would highly recommend for a beginner.

It's available to purchase here 

There's also a similar free pattern here 

I made this shift dress pattern top (the pattern has a line showing where to cut for the top version), I also changed the pattern for short sleeves.  This is made from viscose challis which I got from weavedee (online store), I think they still have some left.  

2. Salme Kimono Top
This is a very simply yet classic design.  No sleeves to insert as they are what is called "grown on" i.e. they are just part of the fabric.  You need a fabric with good drape like a viscose for this to work.  There are neckline facings and cuffs on to finish the sleeves.

It's available to purchase here

This is my version in a very smooth viscose challis

You can see the cuff detail here which means no stitching shows on the sleeve edge.


4. Simple Summer Top
This free pattern from Colette patterns is really well written.  It has bust darts so it's semi fitted and also have bias bound edges on the neck and arm, which can be tricky, so good to master. There's a few different options all free to download to pdf.  I've made a couple in cotton lawn and they are lovey and cool in summer.

5. A Pleated Skirt
Slightly more advanced with pleats a waistband and concealed zip, and lining so a slightly longer make but still a beginner level pattern.  This one from Sew Over it is a great classic design.

You can purchase this here 

6. PJ Bottoms
If you want to make trousers then a good starting place is PJ bottoms with an elastic waist.  There's lots of patterns online including this free on here

7. Off the Shoulder Top
These are a great beginner pattern as the elastic makes fit really easy. Different fabrics really change the look.  

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

New Look K6344 Pattern Review

New Look 6344 

I received this pattern free with Dressmaker Magazine.  I've never made or owned a top with pleats around the neck line, and it looked good on the pack so I was keen to try it out.  

I decided to make view C and use a soft viscose challis.  I found this lovely black and white polka dot fabric on Minerva Crafts here, which is really super soft, and only £4.99 a meter ! Viscose varies this is a loose weave, slightly heavier very soft one with lots of drape which is what I thought would work.   I must say because it's so so soft and the weave is on the loose side it the pleats do pull at the fabric.  (Remember to pre wash viscose as it does tend to shrink a little on washing). 

The pattern instructions were really clear.  I cut a size 12 , I would normally be between 12 and 14 for tops as I have wide shoulders but the measurements put me at size 12 and because it's loose fitting I was confident I'd prefer the 12.  The neckline is bias bound which I assume is because view d has lace shoulders so you couldn't have a facing as it would be visible through the lace.  I do prefer neck line facing especially as my viscose was soft I think some interfacing on a facing would have helped the neckline over time with lots of washing.  I also would have preferred no top stitching showing around the neckline as the stitching cuts across the pleats which I don't think looks as soft.

Here's my finished version, I shall wear with a black jacket or cardigan through winter so I think it will be perfect.   I've already worn it and I'm delighted with it just need to think about what fabric to use for my next one !!

I put a hook and eye in the back instead of the button suggested on the pattern, actually I didn't need to open to put over my head so could have done the back as one piece.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Pattern 8222 Skinny Jeans Review

As you will know if you have been to one of our classes I'm a huge Mimi G fan and I always recommend her youtube channel and blog to anyone starting out in sewing/dressmaking as she has such great clear tutorials.

I saw this pattern (Simplicity 8222 - widely available online) , on her blog ages and ages ago but I wasn't sure if my machine could manage sewing denim too well....but then I decided I needed to try ! 

FYI - I have a Bernina Activa 220 and it didn't mind the thick seams although I did hear the needle pull a little in places, and it refused to do the belt loops although I think I could have made some with less layers of denim than recommended.

I used a Schemtz denim needle size 16 with Gutermann sew all thread for the seams and a Schemtz topstitch needle in size 14 with Gutermann poly topstitch thread (this was so thick 30 weight never put anything to thick in my machine but it coped fine).

Mimi G has a amazing video tutorial for these jeans where she goes through everything so clearly and even though I've been sewing for years I found it gave me the confidence the jeans would turn our looking professional with the topstitching and machine bartacks in the right place.   Here's the link to her channel on part 1 there's 5 videos in total.  Honestly I cannot recommend enough FAB FAB instructions.

So here's my finished jeans.. the pattern is just brilliant I kept putting my favourite jeans against the pattern pieces just to check the shape was ok for me, and they are fairly close to my fav - UK Next Lift and Shape although they don't come as high or curve as much as those at the top.  

One of my errors is that my denim doesn't stretch as much as the pattern calls for (I mis heard I think on the video) I think mine said 12% stretch and the pattern recommends 25% cross grain.   The denim has washed really well (definitely pre wash you don't want those perfect jeans to tight), hardly any dye has come off.

The denim was from Ditto Fabrics - they have a great range I just need to select a more stretchy one next time just because that is what I prefer.

Here's the back - I played really safe and used the same colour top stitch thread ! I know very dull of me !

You can still see the chalk pencil for the fly even though I've washed them again I think I over did it - hopefully next wash it will come out !  As they don't stretch I need to extra fabric on the knees or I would have taken in but then I wouldn't be able to bend my knees !

If you are not sure if your machine can sew layers of denim you can often get samples online first.  I would 100% recommend this pattern can't give it and Mimi G's tutorial enough praise !

Friday, 16 June 2017

Mimi G No pattern Maxi Dress

I was looking for a new maxi dress pattern online and came across this great no pattern tutorial by Mimi G over on her blog.  She has a full youtube video tutorial to go with.

It was really straight forward to sew the only problem I have with the design on me is that is was falling off my shoulders but I have a sew some navy ribbon at the back v neck which I have seen done before on dresses like this.

I used plain woven viscose from Minerva Crafts, and it feels really nice and cool. So many maxi dresses are knit fabric and I much prefer woven fabrics.  I didn't cut the skirt as full as the tutorial instructions and then I added slits on both sides to allow for running about after my children, and not tripping over !

I've 100% recommend this tutorial for beginners the fabric was £4.99 per meter so a great way to start sewing with viscose and practice. 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sew Over It - Pussy Bow Blouse Pattern Review

Sew Over It  - Pussy Bow Blouse

Having seen the lovely Lisa Comfort from Sew Over It some beautiful versions of this pattern I was excited to try this pattern

I found some lovely viscose Challis - Black with redflowers on ebay - OhSewCraftltd for my first version this fabric was brilliant a really lovely weight viscose lovely drape and really soft.

I loved the first version so much I quickly ordered some more viscose this time from The Textile Centre, this was a finer viscose challis and seemed to crease very easy but was still lovely for the finished blouse.

There are 2 Versions to make 1 - Keyhole neckline 2- lower v neckline 

The instructions for this pattern were really excellent so clear and well explained.  The only tiny thing to take care on was the seam allowance for the neck-tie were different to the rest of the pattern, so do keep checking seam allowances.

I liked that the sleeve gathers into a thin cuff,  I didn't use interfacing and I thought it was fine without.  There's a fabric loop for the button maybe to help people avoid button holes?  I think it's quicker to do a button hole but I did do the loops as I'd already cut the cuffs before I read this and would have needed to extend the cuff for a button hole.

Overall 10 out of 10 from me for this pattern.   I think I need a white version for my spring wardrobe next !

I made size UK 12  &   Version 2

For Rayon/Viscose Challis fabric as well as the ebay shop and The Textile Centre I've also shopped at Minerva Crafts  and they currently have some lovely Viscose Fabrics I've got my eye on some for a Maxi Dress.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Sew Over It Cami Pattern Review

Sew Over It had some lovely sewing kits and they worked out as really good value because you got the paper pattern, and the fabric for less than it would have been to buy them individually, so I had to have one !

I had been looking a Cami top pattern to make some ready for beach holidays in the summer.

This viscose fabric was really lovely and smooth and great to sew with, ( think it's now run out but they do have some lovely new viscose).

It was really quick to make I didn't do a test run or pre wash because it's loose fitting I just made sure there was extra ease for some shrinkage on the first wash.

I'm delighted with this little top perfect, I may raise the neck line although I'm sure it would look fine with a tan !

It was the first time I had ever come across a all in one neck line and arm facing and I was impressed with how lovely the inside feels when the top is on, because it's also got french seams at the sides.

For the all in one neckline and arm facing I used Lisa's youtube video  which I had already seen and remembered, I did refer to it a few times as at first I was confused but it's a great tutorial.

French Seams as above are especially good for me as I do not own, an overlocker.   My machine does have a nice overlock stitch but I love french seams !

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Zipped Pouch Tutorial

At our beginners workshop we normally make a zipped bag with boxed corners, so I thought it would be helpful to pop a tutorial up on our blog for reference for anyone who has been on the class or might come across our blog.

I do apologise that the photos are not great it's been so grey over the past for weeks and although I did purchase some photography lights they are very yellow so I need to find some better whiter lights asap !


2 x Outer fabric 11" by 8"
2 x Interfacing if using lightweight fabric (like in this example)
2 x Lining fabric

1 x 10" Zipper 

In the photos I've used a quilting cotton fabric and iron on interfacing.  If you use curtain weight fabric or canvas you would not need to interface.  I only used interfacing so that the bag will stand up on it's own.

Step 1 
Cut out and apply interfacing

Step 2
Pin or clip zipper to one piece of your outer fabric, note the zipper pull should be facing the right side of the fabric.

Step 3
Using your zipper foot sew your zip in please.  Remember that the zip foot edge should be on the right just by the zipper teeth and the needle should go down just inside the notch on the zipper foot.

Step 4
Repeat for the other side

Step 5
Add your lining fabric as shown, so the right side of the lining is facing the wrong side of the zipper. Pin/Clip and sew in the same way as for the outer fabric.

Step 6

Now the zipper is attached to lining and outer fabric, iron or press with your fingers so that the fabric is pulled away from the zipper teeth on both the outside and lining.

Next topstitch close to the zip edge.  I like to use my normal foot for this and just line up to the edge of the zip teeth.  I also change to a topstitch cotton 40wt thread and make the stitch length longer to look nice and neat.

Step 7
Open your zipper so it 1/2 open (this is so we can turn the bag the right way out later)

Next clip or pin the outer fabric and lining together and sew around the edge leaving a 3"-4" gap along the bottom of the lining fabric.

Use a 1/4" seam allowance or if you don't have a 1/4" patchwork foot the edge of your presser foot will be fine, just take care near to the metal zip stop.

Hopefully you can just about see the gap here

Step 8

This is optional only do if you would like boxed corners on your bag.

Mark 1 1/2 " from the sewing line as shown on the 2 photos below

Then cut the corner off and open up the hole as shown 

Pull together the 2 seams and place the seam against each other with the seam allowances going in opposite directions as shown, and sew across using the same seam allowance.

It will then look like this ...

Step 9 

You are almost finished, turn your bag the right way out and push out the corners by putting your hand in the gap we left in the lining.

Sew the lining closed by pulling it out and top stitching to close the gap like shown..

So then the lining is neat and your bag is finished :-)