Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Lined Tote Bag Tutorial

A tote bag is one of those things that one always needs. They can be used to carry absolutely anything, and they are also really easy to make! I’ve created a tutorial on how to make your own tote bag, with a lovely contrast fabric strip at the bottom and the opportunity to use a lovely print to make it fully lined. I have made so many of these as gifts, and I use mine all the time.

You will need:

  • About 1/2m of main fabric (to make into the straps and for the main body of the bag.)
  • 1/2m of lining fabric
  • Fabric for the trim around the bottom
  • Colour co-ordinating thread

Cut out your fabric for the front and back of the tote (fabric a) the trim around the bottom (fabric b) and the lining (fabric c). Your pieces will need to measure:
Main Fabric: 2- 12.5" x 15"
Contrast Fabric: 2- 5" x 15"
Lining Fabric: 2- 17" x 15"
For the straps: 4 - 18.5" x 2" (You can make these longer if you would prefer)

Sew together the trimming fabric and the main tote fabric to the front and the back pieces. Press open.

Top-stitch 1/4" around the seam (this is optional, but I think it gives a neater, more professional finish.

Pin, rights sides together, the front and back pieces of the tote. Sew down the two sides and the bottom. Repeat for the lining, but leave a 4" gap along the bottom edge.

Box the corners; to do this, press open the seams, line the side seam and bottom seam up (push the side seam flat), measure 1", mark a line and stitch around the line. Repeat for both corners, and for the lining. If you've never boxed corners before, you may find this tutorial useful.

With right sides together, put the front of the tote into the lining. Pin around top edge.

Sew around the whole edge. You should be catching two layers. Be careful not to sew the opening shut!

Pull the front of the tote through the hole in the lining. You should have something which looks like this:

Sew the hole in the lining shut - and by the way, isn't my lining fabric the best fabric ever?!

Press any creases, and then push the lining into the tote bag. Press around the top to get a neat, crisp finish, and topstitch around the bag. Note: this will show in the lining as well, so make sure you have a matching bobbin. 

Onto the straps! From your four 18.5" x 2" strips, sew two right sides together, leaving a gap at the bottom. Turn right side out, and press the opening closed. Repeat with the other two strips.

Topstitch the whole way around both straps using a colour co-ordinating thread and a constant seam allowance.

If you used a 1/4" seam allowance, your straps should now be 1.5" wide. Pin your straps so that they are 1" down from the top of the bag, and the end is 5" from the edge of the bag (as shown in the photo). If your bag doesn't quite measure that, then place the straps at an equal distance from the edge. Make sure that they line up on the front and back.

Sew your straps onto the bag in an 'x' shape.

Press your bag and... it's done! Your very own tote bag!!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Skirt of Dreams


I think that this is one of my favourite ever makes! Unusually for me, this one was extremely spontaneous. No real planning, no fabric purchasing, just a vague idea that someday I wanted to make a button down denim skirt. I've wanted (and still do want!) a blue denim button down skirt for absolutely ages. I contemplated buying a pattern, for example the Pauline Alice Rosari Skirt, but what I really wanted was a skirt with panels. Plus, patterns are expensive, and when this is combined with fabric and notions, the price really starts to build up. So I decided to have a go at drafting my own pattern to make my skirt. I looked at a few YouTube videos, and decided to use this one to help draft my pattern. I didn't actually end up relying on it much though, and made it up a bit as I went along! I wasn't sure if it would turn out well, so I decided to use an old pair of my Dad's jeans for the fabric.

Here is what is left of the jeans after I destroyed them! Really annoyingly, I forgot to take a photo of them at the start, but it isn't too hard to picture a pair of men's black jeans. I literally used every single piece of fabric. This is my second re-fashion (my last one was also using an old garment that belonged to my Dad, you can see the finished top here). I love the freedom of using an old garment as your fabric. Had I been using expensive denim that I'd bought, I probably wouldn't have drafted the skirt, worrying that it would go wrong and that I would waste the fabric. As it was, I wasn't at all worried to make mistakes because at the end of the day, I was using an old pair of jeans that otherwise would never be used.

The main problem with using an old item of clothing as fabric is that it will probably be worn out. The fabric on the front of the jeans was very faded, so I decided to make the wrong side of the fabric the right side. This included un-picking and then re-sewing mock-felled seams, but it was definitely worth it as the fabric looks lovely and new. Also, the jeans weren't quite wide enough, so I did have to add an extra strip of fabric for the button band, but it isn't a problem. The only other problem I faced in terms of using old fabric was the fact that there was a hole in the fabric. This was solved by sewing a strip of fabric which consisted of two fabrics sewn together on top of the hole.

The lovely strip of fabric is for me the wow factor of this skirt. It was my Mum's idea, and at first I wasn't sure. The pink and green floral fabric is one of our absolute favourites, but although I thought it would look gorgeous, I was worried it would be too bright. However, paired with a slightly wider strip of grey spotty fabric, I think it looks perfect! I love this detail so much, I'm so pleased that I decided to give it a go. Furthermore, as mentioned above it covers the small hole, which is an added bonus. I used the same buttons that I used on my Rosa Shirt - I absolutely love these brass jeans buttons, I think that they add a lovely extra touch.

As well as the appliqu├ęd fabric and the buttons, there are a lot of nice details on this skirt such as the mock felled seams (down the centre back and two at the front) and the waistband. I saved the waistband from the original jeans, and then unpicked it and sewed it back on. I love the look it. I also kept the belt loops, and although I haven't worn this skirt with a belt yet, it's good to know that they are there and I also like the touch they add. So overall, this is absolutely the skirt of dreams! It started off as a bit of a tester project, but ended up as something that I know I'll want to wear again and again. And to think that it started off as a worn out old pair of jeans!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Needlecord Rosa Shirt

I know I've said it many times before, but I absolutely love the Tilly and the Buttons Rosa Shirt pattern. I've already made a shirtdress and a shirt, but I really wanted to make one that would be perfect for autumn. I picked up this gorgeous jade-green needlecord from Stoff and Stil, and knew that it would be perfect with brass buttons! I had actually originally intended to make a shirtdress out of this fabric, but I actually only just had enough to make the shirt. I have a habit of always buying the minimum amount of fabric possible, which although sometimes works out as better and cheaper, it often means that I am limited with what I can make out of it. Lesson learnt - buy more fabric than you think you will need!

Adding a contrast facing is something that I love about this pattern. I used a really pretty green Liberty fabric that I already had for the inner collar stand and button stand facings. To be honest, I wasn't that happy with the shirt once I'd sewn it all together. Something just didn't feel right about it, and I was quite disappointed. I was tempted to leave it a while before sewing the button holes, but I think we all know that when a project is stalled with the intention of being picked up in a weeks time, it won't be touched for a long time! So I was determined to finish the shirt. I bought these lovely brass jeans buttons which are just perfect and I am so much happier with it. The shirt really needed the buttons, with them the picture that I had in my mind is complete.

I think that the style lines are what really make Tilly and the Buttons patterns something special. I just love the back yoke detail! Once again, I did two rows of topstitching, using a almost matching thread to make it stand just enough, but not enough to count as contrast topstitching. Overall, this shirt is definitely growing on me. I enjoy wearing it, love the buttons and the fabric is perfect for this time of year. Although it's my third Rosa shirt in a year, I definitely won't be making any promises that it's my last... One for each season seems reasonable, right?!

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Kaffe Fassett Exhibition

A couple of weeks ago I saw a wonderful exhibition on Kaffe Fassett's work at a National Trust house. The rooms displayed mainly quilts, but also knitwear and embroidery using the designers stunning fabrics and patterns. It was one of the most vivid and colourful exhibitions I've ever seen, the fabric are absolutely stunning! I was also very much in awe at the intricate embroideries. I managed to take a few photos, but I would definitely recommend seeing his work in real life if you ever have the opportunity, the colours are simply impossible to captivate!

I thought that the set-up of the exhibition was really well done. There were four rooms that you could walk through, and each was colour-coded, which I really liked. The walls were painted either green, pink, blue or yellow and the creations inside the room matched the colours of the walls. I don't have any photos of the designer's classic white and blue colour scheme, but you can find more photos of each of the fabrics on his website. Above is a photograph of a quilt which was in the 'yellow room', made from lots of really vivid prints, perfect for Easter. The bright colours didn't match the grey weather outside, so it was nice to imagine being in summer after seeing the quilts!

The pink and blue rooms were my favourite. While I always veer towards cooler colours in dressmaking, I love how bright pinks can look in a quilt. The one above caught my attention because of the stunning fussy cutting of the flowers. The black frame reminds me of a film. It isn't visible on the photo, but each flower is intricately hand quilted around the outline, giving the quilt a very lovely 3D and more realistic effect.

I enjoyed looking at the knitwear as well as the quilts. I still plan on knitting a jumper someday, but for now I will just admire knitted clothes from afar! I think that this pattern in particular is lovely, and the colours are so strong. I like the quilt it's hanging next to too, the fabrics look stunning together.

On the subject of knitwear, here is another jumper made from one of Kaffe Fassett's designs. Again, I think that the intricacy of the pattern is incredible, it doesn't seem possible that someone was able to knit such a detailed design!

The embroidery completely took my breath away, not just how difficult the designs seem, but also the scale of it! Just imagine how long it must have taken to embroider the fabric for this chair. There were a lot of links to produce in the 'green room', including a whole embroidered quilt as well as some cushions.

I personally love these, and had it been more affordable would have bought the kit to make one! I love the colours of the purple and green, and the vegetables just look so realistic. It was really interesting wandering around the rooms, as each contained something slightly different. It was truly a wonderful exhibition, and I would love to either do an embroidery of one of Kaffe Fassett's designs or make a quilt out of some of the stunning fabrics. And who knows, maybe one day I'll be able to knit one of his jumper patterns?!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Megan Nielsen Brumby Skirt

It has taken me a ridiculously long amount of time to photograph this skirt considering I have worn it a lot, but here it is! My Megan Nielsen Brumby Skirt. I love so much about this skirt, from the gorgeous deep pockets to the amazing contrast zip. I bought the fabric and pattern to make this skirt when I went to Guthrie and Ghani (you can read my posts about the fabrics that I bought here). The pattern includes 3 versions, I decided to make version 1. What I love about the different versions of this skirt is how different they look made out of different fabrics. I chose quite a stiff denim to make my skirt in, and although it has worked well I think that I would like to try it again in a more lightweight fabric such as a chambray.

I love the colour of this denim, as well as the metallic zip that I bought to go with it. The overall look is exactly what I was hoping for. I actually ended up doing the topstitching twice... I had originally decided to topstitch the skirt in gold, but found that I just wasn't in love with it. I don't know if it was that the colours didn't match or if I just wasn't in the mood for some gold topstitching, but I unpicked all of the topstitching and then re-sewed it in a matching colour thread. It took a while, but I'm happy I did it as I think it looks much nicer, and I really like the subtle effect that the matching top-stitching gives. I sewed a double row of stitching 4 cm apart at the hem as well as a double row down the centre seam. I really like how this looks, I think I've said before how much of a fan I am of small details like this!

I'm also a big fan of secret details, which is one of the reasons why I love the pockets... as well as being amazing, the pockets also give you the option of sewing the pocket lining in a contrast fabric. I bought 20cm of Liberty fabric at the Birmingham rag market very cheaply (for Liberty!) at the same time as I bought this one. I absolutely love this print, and I feels very special to have it lining the  pockets. I also used it to line the waistband, which makes me smile every time I put the skirt on. This is why secret details are the best! This was my first time using a Megan Nielsen pattern, but it definitely won't be the last. As well as being beautifully packaged, her patterns are all stunning and it's so tempting to make a whole wardrobe full of them.

Monday, 23 October 2017

An English Paper Piecing Project

I somehow haven't shared as many English Paper Piecing projects on here as I would have liked; I think it's due to the fact that as the process is much slower, projects take much longer to finish than dressmaking. However, I would like to write more about English Paper Piecing as it is something that I really love doing. If you aren't familiar with it, you can read a great post all about what English Paper Piecing here, written by Flossie Teacakes. Her blog is actually how I discovered what English Paper Piecing is (which I will shorten to EPP from now on as it is infuriatingly long to type!) so if you don't know what it is and would like to find out, I would highly recommend reading it. I started EPP about 1 1/2 years ago, and I loved it as soon as I started. I find it's such a relaxing thing to do, and it's perfect for evenings spent watching TV. It's also much more transportable than dressmaking (obviously!) and I can bring everything that I need for a project away with me in an empty chocolate tin or ice-cream tub.

I always have a lot of EPP projects on the go, but the one that I am currently working on is a very simple one, which uses hexagons, probably the most basic EPP shape. What inspired this project was the large number of scraps that I accumulate from fabric from leftover dressmaking projects. Scraps that are the worst size possible - those which are too small for another garment, but too big to throw away. This is why EPP is perfect, as it means you can use small scraps of fabric.
Fortunately (in some ways), my handmade clothes nearly all follow the same colour scheme - blue and grey! This means that although there isn't a lot of variation to my wardrobe, all my scraps from my dressmaking projects go well together. I selected 7 different fabrics and cut out hexagons from them. The main thing that I wanted to make sure of was that I was only using pieces of fabric that couldn't have been used for much else, and I left any larger pieces alone. You might recognise some of the fabrics from my pineapple trousers, my pineapple top, my black Arum top, my Dad's shirt, my navy blouse, my grey Arum top and my Rosa shirtdress. I think it's fair to say that I've succeeded in my mission to use just leftover scraps!

Like with a lot of my EPP projects, I'm not entirely sure where this one is taking me. You can see from the photo at the top of the page that all I'm really doing is just sewing hexagons together. I don't know if at the end I'm going to frame it like this one, or I might make it into a cushion. I like that I don't actually have to do anything with it, it's not following a pattern so there is no end to it. For now, I'll just enjoy sewing it all together!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Teal Linden Sweatshirt

I have yet another Linden Sweatshirt to share today, and it's also another that I've made for my Mum! This is her favourite pattern for me to sew for her, you can see the other Linden sweatshirt I've made her here. It's pretty much exactly the same as the last version: I sewed view A minus the cuffs and hem band, and with 3/4 length sleeves.

I really love sewing things for my mum! She plans each project herself and she bought the fabric for this when we were on holiday. It's a really gorgeous teal jersey fabric from Stoff 2000, it was so lovely to sew with. Adding little details is always my favourite thing to do with plain fabrics, and I love how much simply adding a wide double hem changes the finish of the garment.

My Mum really likes this jumper, and as I've mentioned before I love seeing her wearing clothes that I've made for her! I've now made her three garments that she wears quite regularly. My only regret is that I didn't buy some of this fabric too... I really want one for myself now!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Bell-Sleeve Gingham Top

I have my latest and one of my favourite makes to share with you today: a gingham top! I have seen so many clothes made out of gingham recently, and when Talia from Craft Cotton Company very kindly asked me if I wanted to sew with some of their gorgeous fabric I jumped at the occasion to make something out of gingham for myself. The pattern is self - drafted, and it is the same as this top, although without the zip. The only change that I made other than that was to add the main feature of this top - the bell sleeves!

I didn't realise how much a ruffle can add to an outfit - and how much I love it - until I made this top. It turns out that ruffles are amazing! I've been wanting to add bell sleeves to a top for ages, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. To do so, I used this tutorial, which is very clear. I did use a slightly different gathering technique though, I simply sewed two lines of basting 1/4" apart and then pulled the threads to gather it. I'm so pleased with this effect, I now really want to add them to all the garments I make.

Another detail that I really like is the closure. Gingham is quite busy, so I didn't think that a zip would be a good idea. I really like the effect of having a hole in the back (sorry, I'm not sure what the proper name is?)  and I closed it with a rouleau loop and a lovely black covered button, which I'm very happy with. This was also my first time sewing with gingham, and I am very proud of my pattern matching along the centre back seam! It was definitely not easy...