Technical Studies – A Samples Folder

When I was first at college, studying for my fashion diploma we had to produce a folder of samples. This served both as practice and reference and I have often thought about it and how useful it was for me as a beginner. The subject has occurred quite a lot in conversation so I’ve been prompted to put together a post of suggested practice pieces which might prove useful to anyone wanting to do the same. The important thing is to label everything well and to list the stages involved – either by including examples of each point or by listing the steps taken to reach the finished sample shown.

Stitch Samples

You will need: plain cotton lawn, medium-weight cotton, cotton jersey, coarsely woven fabric. All fabric should be plain – patterns make it too hard to see the detail of what you have stitched. Stickers and pen to label the fabric with. Tension should be set at between 4 and 5 unless stated otherwise. Match the thread colour to the fabric as closely as possible.

Stitch Length Exercises

Each machine will vary in the range of stitch lengths (mine are old machines and are incremented in 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30 stitches per inch) but for simplicity’s sake I will suggest sewing with 1, 2, 3 and 4mm stitch lengths although you may of course include samples for 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5mm if you wish to do so.

  1. Stitch length exercise – Topstitching:
    1. Fabric – a 20cm square of medium weight cotton folded in half and pressed.
    2. Sew parallel lines down the length of the fabric, each line in a different stitch length.
    3. Observe the finish and which seems to be neatest, which disappear into the fabric weave and which sit above it.
    4. Press them and label them. This may be repeated on as many fabric types as desired.
  2. Stitch length exercise – Seaming:
    1. Fabric – cut a 20cm square of fabric into four equal strips, cut each strip in half and press them. This will give us eight fabric strips 5 x 10cm. We will sew strips together in pairs, using different stitch lengths on each to show how it looks and behaves when pressed open.
    2. Take a pair of the strips and sew them along the longer sides, right sides together, using a 1.5cm seam and the longest possible stitch length. Repeat for the other stitch lengths and press all of the seams open and observe how each looks.
    3. Tug on the fabric either side of the seam and see whether the fabric appears stressed and likely to tear alongside the seamline.
    4. Press and label.

Seam Examples

Fabric – cut a 20cm square of fabric into four equal strips, cut each strip in half and press them. This will give us eight fabric strips 5 x 10cm. We will sew strips together in pairs, using different stitch lengths on each to show how it looks and behaves when pressed open.

  1. Open seam, pressed open, raw edges unfinished. Practice with sewing it pinned & also with it basted and compare.
  2. Open seam, pressed open and with raw edges turned under and stitched on both sides.
  3. Open seam, double topstitched.
  4. Open seam, raw edges pinked.
  5. Open seam, raw edges zigzagged.
  6. Open seam, raw edges overlock stitched (if your machine has this stitch).
  7. Open seam, raw edges overlocked (on an overlocker).
  8. Open seam, raw edges overcast (by hand).
  9. Bias bound seam.
  10. Hong Kong finish.
  11. Side-pressed seam – press seam open first, then press both to one side, raw edges unfinished.
  12. Side pressed seam, pinked edges.
  13. Side-pressed seam, overcast (by hand).
  14. Side-pressed seam, raw edges turned inwards then stitched down through all layers (looks like a felled seam).
  15. Corded seam – side pressed seam, topstitched through all layers from RS.
  16. French seam (straight seams only).
  17. Lapped seam.
  18. Felled seam.
  19. Tape bound seam (straight, using seam tape or ribbon).
  20. Bias bound seam (curved).
  21. Crossed seam – practice matching up seam lines where two cross.
  22. Piped seam – practice with and without piping cord.

Seaming and Hemming curves:

  1. Seaming a convex curve onto a concave one – will need to notch and snip the seam to get it to lie flat when turned and pressed. Use a tailor’s ham. Good practice for pressing princess seams and yokes.
  2. Seaming a convex curve onto a straight edge – experiment with where to notch and where to snip to get the seam pressed flat (over a tailor’s ham – good practice for pressing princess seams).
  3. Seaming a concave curve onto a straight edge – experiment with where to notch and where to snip to get the seam pressed flat (over a tailor’s ham – good practice for pressing princess seams).
  4. Piping a curved seam (gives strength as well as decoration).
  5. Binding a convex curve.
  6. Binding a concave curve (harder than convex, easiest to finish second side by hand if the curve is tight).
  7. Hemming a convex curve with darts (cotton fabric) & braid or bias binding.
  8. Hemming a convex curve with gathers (wool fabric) & braid or bias binding.
  9. Hemming a concave curve with facing or bias binding.
  10. Hemming a fancy (scalloped) hem.

Seaming stretch fabrics

  1. Straight seam using ordinary zigzag (use a small stitch and a small zigzag).
  2. Straight seam using triple-stitch.
  3. Repeat for whatever utility stitches your machine is equipped with for stretch fabrics.


  1. Single-turn hem. Practice with sewing it pinned & also with it basted and compare.
  2. Double-turn hem.
  3. Faced hem.
  4. Bias-faced hem.
  5. Single-turn hem, neatened with bias sewn flat across raw edge.
  6. Single-turn hem, overcast edge (by hand).
  7. Single-turn hem, herringboned (by hand).
  8. Double-turned hem, slip stitched (by hand).
  9. Blind hem.
  10. Rolled hem, machine stitched.
  11. Rolled hem, hand stitched.
  12. Pin hem.
  13. Narrow hem.

Buttonholes & Buttons

  1. 2-hole shirt button by machine (with a stand).
  2. 2-hole shirt button by hand (with a stand).
  3. 4-hole shirt button by hand (cross-sewn, with shank).
  4. Metal shank button (using thread).
  5. Metal shank button (using eyelet & split pin).
  6. Metal shank button (using tape or fabric, sewn through eyelet).
  7. Handmade buttonhole (keyhole).
  8. Bias bound buttonhole.
  9. Faced buttonhole.

Darts, Gathers & Ruffles

  1. Stitching a straight dart.
  2. Stitching a curved dart.
  3. Gathers on different stitch lengths. Measure and mark 10cm distances across pieces of cloth and then, using a gathering foot, stitch across between the marks on different stitch lengths then re-measure and note down how much each one had ‘shrunk’ by.
  4. Ruffles on different stitch lengths and settings. Measure and mark 10cm distances across pieces of cloth and then, using a ruffle attachment, stitch across between the marks on different stitch lengths then re-measure and note down how much each one had ‘shrunk’ by.

Pleats and Tucks

  1. Straight pleats.
  2. Part-sewn pleats (sewn down for part of their length).
  3. Straight tucks.
  4. Pin tucks.
  5. Box pleats.
  6. Hemming a pleat.


  1. Patch pocket with rounded bottom edges.
  2. Welt pocket.
  3. Bound pocket.
  4. Flap pocket.
  5. Jetted pocket.
  6. Side pocket (set into a seam).
  7. Hip pocket (set into a shaped panel like a front jeans pocket).

Zips and Fastenings, Openings & Miscellaneous

  1. Faced opening
  2. Bound opening
  3. Continuous opening
  4. Sleeve opening (with tab end placket)
  5. Bias-faced V-neck
  6. Faced V-neck
  7. Faced round neck
  8. Faced square neck
  9. Closed-end zip sewn into seam (no underlap).
  10. Closed-end zip sewn into seam (with underlap).
  11. Closed-end zip sewn into slit.
  12. Invisible zip sewn in seam.
  13. Invisible zip sewn into slit.
  14. Open-ended zip.
  15. Zip set into a fly opening.
  16. Hooks and eyes.
  17. Press studs.
  18. Thread bars, loops & chains.

Copyright of the blog owner 2013

Making Clothes for Children – Agnes M. Miall

The author explains that this, the second edition differs from the earlier only in that a few minor alterations have been made and the index made more comprehensive. I mention this as often books are substantively enlarged and revised between editions, photographs and techniques being updated in line with changes in fashion and technology but as childrens’ wear changes little this is not the case here.

I must say right at the start that anyone wishing to see full drafts for contemporary fashions will be disappointed as this book supposes that the mother will buy a pattern, not make it so the subject matter is limited to the cutting out, making up and finishing only.

This should not be held against it though as the book has much to recommend it, containing many good tips not often considered today such as allowing for growth in the garment so that its usefulness is extended.

The book itself is printed on good quality, silky paper and has aged very well with no sign of deterioration or discolouration at the edges and corners. The illustrations number 100 and are all greyscale photographs. While they are quite charming (lots of ‘Marcel waves’ in the figure shots, suggesting their origin a full decade earlier) they are quite dark and do not give such a clear demonstration as a line drawing would do.

The book is much more wordy than many but Agnes Miall writes in a confident and easy style and it is by no means hard to follow.

Agnes assumes no prior knowledge of sewing and helpfully suggests a detailed list of sewing items required and gives tips also on good working practices and the need for a well-lit spot and the necessity of taking regular breaks from sitting, especially when pregnant.

This book truly does start with the basics, including a basic education in the three different types of stitches – namely joining, hemming and edging – which will be encountered and reassures that the twelve stitch types contained therein will, between them, serve every purpose.

Having covered those stitches the book moves on to the first garments; the baby’s layette. Again expecting no prior knowledge, it gives a list of the average layette required:

4 woollen vests (bought or home knitted

4 nightgowns

4 flannel petticoats

4 dresses (daygowns)

1 large carrying shawl (bought or crocheted)

2 to 3 dozen Turkish towelling napkins (bought ready made)

3 pairs of bootees (knitted)

1 sleeping bag (for the pram)

2 bonnets (or crochet caps)

2 matinee coats

1 or more silk or muslin robes, with nainsook petticoats to wear beneath.

Chapter IV deals with cutting out and marking, emphasising the correct methods of pinning, use of the straight grain, tacking and arranging the pieces on the fabric, cutting out and marking the seam allowances through between the two pieces. It may all seem a little long-winded compared with modern methods but I can confirm from personal experience that time taken in careful preparation is never wasted as no number of flawless seams can salvage a garment which twists due to being cut slightly off grain.

The next chapter teaches what seams should be used to join the various portions of the garment and instructs on the matter of plackets, facings and bindings and how to construct and apply them although some of the suggested applications, such as a drawstring pulling in the full circumference of a wide neckline, would be frowned on now as unsafe so do please exercise some caution if using this book as a resource for making similar garments.

The garments covered in that chapter include flannel petticoats, a sleeping bag, day dresses, petticoats, matinee coats and bonnets. Suitable fabrics are suggested for each as well as the general instructions for making them up.

Chapter VI covers trimmings, including bias binding (home made), tucks, lace trimmings and insertions and finally hand embroidery. As previously mentioned the greyscale photographs represent the finished item rather better than the technique being employed but nevertheless the text provides perfectly good instruction.

Clothes for the Toddler covers some good ideas for making bibs out of table linen and face cloths; feeders (larger, plainer bibs), sleeping suits and rompers, knickers for either sex and finally leggings. The subject of correct pressing is also discussed here.

Chapter VIII deals with the subjects of growth and of fitting. In brief, extra turnings are suggested so that the garment may be let out as the child grows.

Very good advice is given on altering patterns, specifically on the subject of where and how to add the extra. The book warns that unless the alteration is a small one, simply adding to the seams will frequently just throw the whole pattern out of proportion. It advises instead to think of the body as a series of definite segments so that it is simpler to see where the extra needs to be added and apply it accordingly.

Hints are given as to placing hidden tucks which may be let down later and also of extra depth hidden up inside a yoke which may simply be unpicked and reset lower down when the need arises.

Finally in this chapter, a whimsical topic called the “Language of Pins”, used when fitting, which promotes the idea of angling pins according to a set formula – pins placed vertically along a hem means that the hem is too short between the pins; placed horizontally means too long and should be turned up deeper to the level shown by the pin; two pins pointing diagonally outwards means to let out whilst the opposite means to take in. Pins set in a cross show the exact position of a button or other fastener. That is the only one I was previously familiar with.

Dressmaking for Little Girls introduces some more advanced methods of facing and finishing hems, including the correct method of hemming a square neckline, the making up and setting in of collars, bands and cuffs and pleats. Some general guidance is given on the subject of Gym Tunics.

Trimmings such as frills and gathers are covered next, including some instruction in gauging, which is the gathering of the fabric in parallel folds such as is done when preparing fabric for smocking. Some practical ideas are given for decorative trims made from simple braid – ruching, shelling and box-pleated ruching – and the use of fur and fur fabrics is also given special mention and while the use of real fur has quite properly fallen out of favour in modern times the instructions given for the treatment and handling of fur fabric are still valid today.

Hand embroidery fills the whole of the next chapter but because this is such a ubiquitous subject I shall not waste words on it here. Suffice to say that the usual stitches are covered – lazy daisy, smocking etc.

Chapter XII covers tailoring for little boys. Boys’ clothing is generally covered less comprehensively than clothing for little girls so any mention at all is worthy of especial notice.

Knickers are the name used for what we would more usually call shorts these days and these are the first item mentioned. I concur with the author that these are very simple and quick to make and I love the ideas she gives for fastening them onto the ‘bodice’ (or shirt, in modern terms). All very sensible for keeping a child neat and trim at the waist yet allowing for easy and quick access when changing a nappy or potty training. For the slightly older boy, instructions are given for the making up and setting in of pockets and fly-fastenings. Pyjamas and shirts are also covered in this chapter although remember that no patterns are given; it is simply the order of making up and the appropriate seams and finishes which are covered here. Hand-sewn and bound buttonholes are introduced here and the introduction of gussets into the end of the cuff opening placket and the bottom of the side seam where the shirt tails commence.

Chapter XIII, trimmings for boys’ clothes, admits in the very first sentence that it is a very short chapter, as boys whose clothes are over-trimmed will soon be teased by their peers so the author quite rightly urges restraint. She suggests that up to the age of three the clothing may be as ornate as the mother chooses and even up to the age of four or five rompers may possess small amounts of smocking or laid pleats are acceptable but in today’s society I would advise that these age limits are shunted downwards quite considerably! Some of these details have survived better than others though: whilst I cannot think of having my son have smocking at any age, pintucks and laid tucks I would be perfectly happy to introduce in a linen or cotton shirt at any age up to about seven or eight. The author suggests that while hand embroidery is ok up to the age of four or five, much less should be used than on a garment for a girl of the same age and neat topstitching, tailored details and belts, collars and cuffs trimmed in a plain, contrasting colour is a better choice for little boys. Unexpectedly, embroidered buttons are introduced at the end of the chapter.

Dressing the older girl introduces the subjects of darts, flimsier fabrics, french seams and methods of supporting the fabric when sewing flimsy fabrics such as chiffon.

Chapter VI covers another of my favourite topics, that of mending and cutting down of clothes.

Preventative mending is covered very well, with suggestions for almost imperceptible reinforcements to stockings, socks and jersey elbows and the seats of pants. Also suggested is the use of linen tape behind any area receiving strain from buttons and the suggestion to reinforce by extra stitching any button or fastener in a bought garment, making certain to include shanks and suitable reinforcement. This makes it much less likely that the garment will suffer damage from a button pulling free or the bother of having to find a match for a lost button.

Patching and darning are covered well, including how to pattern match the patch to the surrounding area.

Cutting down of garments is covered quite briefly here and it is pertinent to note that it is covered much more comprehensively in “Home Dressmaking” by the same author.

Fancy Dress commands a whole chapter and challenges the mother to look afresh at all manner of household items to see whether they could be utilized as costume. The author recommends a “Costume Trunk” into which can be thrown any old garments which would lend themselves well to being adapted to theatrical purpose as well as scarves, curtains, beads, woollen skeins and ribbons. Photos are given for a highwayman, a nun and an Arabian as well as instructions for making a wig out of wool and various ideas for curtains, pillowcases and old sheets.

Finally there are chapters dealing with baby equipment and nursery furnishing. Trimming a baby’s cot and providing the bedding is straightforward. More interesting to the modern reader is the idea of making the baby’s own mattress at home from a flour bag filled with chaff, this being – it is insisted – easy to wash and renew as well as being cheap to make and comfortable besides. Another cautionary word though: instructions are given for making an adorable wadded quilt, similar in looks to the satin eiderdowns so popular during the 1930s and 1940s. Modern childcare advice is to avoid the use of quilts on the bed of infants under the age of one; ours being an age of central heating the child would risk overheating and small babies can neither regulate their own body temperature nor kick off the excess layers. Instructions for making a larger one for an older child are also given and this would certainly be fine to make today as the size given (4ft long by 2ft 6 inches wide) clearly equates to a small single bed.

The final project suggested is a loose cover for a small armchair, one of which is often found in the nursery for the child’s use and I conclude that anyone who completed all the projects contained in this little book would clearly be very competent by the end of it!

Copyright of the blog owner 2013

Customizing a Tailors Dummy (Padding Out)

Approx 1m 8oz wadding
1m 4oz wadding (optional)
4 large dishcloths or roll of stockinette
1 bag of toy stuffing
Curved needle
3 reels of upholstery thread
Approx 1.5m heavy calico or ticking
Approx 10m narrow, black cotton tape

My dressform has always been a source of deep dissatisfaction to me because it just isn’t possible to get it to represent my shape.  I have a narrow back and chest, next to no bum and a full bust.  Oh, and the nasty, loopy, plushy nylon fabric gives me hangnails.

Another big annoyance was that all the places I wanted to place a pin were represented by gaps.  Centre front, back and side seams all gaps, not tapes.  There was no point in buying a Stockman or K&L as I would be paying for something which represented the average form, which I was not.

So I decided to modify my existing dummy.  The first step was to cover the existing dummy in stockinette so I had something easy into which to anchor some stitches.

Dummy covered in stockinette

Next I placed one of my bras onto the dummy, secured it firmly and stuffed it out with toy stuffing.  A full cup bra is best for this.  I then covered the bra area with another layer of stockinette and padded out any gaps.  I used some tape to hold down the stockinette close to the body.

The next step is to encase the whole dummy with layers of 8oz wadding, cut in a sort of princess line to mould around the bust.  I drew up the pieces tightly and stitched them together to form a tight casing.  Using a curved needle I sewed small stitches across the whole surface of the wadding, drawing it in flatter, compressing the fibres and giving a springier, firmer base into which I could pin.

Sewing down the first layer of wadding.

Extra contours were built up with patches sewn on, added to and drawn down with stitching until the correct shape and dimension was reached. It is essential to keep measuring so that you’re sure that the inches are going on the right places. An extra inch may not need to be put on all around. I made a mistake with mine in that it just looked, at one stage, much, much too barrel shaped. I am quite slender from the side and this wasn’t.  Realising I had overestimated my ‘mummy tummy’ I took some off there and added the extra to the sides of my waist instead.

I created the mummy tummy by sewing on a circular patch, leaving the top edge open and stuffing with toy stuffing before sewing the pouch shut at the top. This was then stitched down and formed just the right bump.

Once I had the wadding all in place I added a second layer in 4oz wadding, lightly secured in place at the seams.  Unlike the first layer it does not need to be compressed by stitching across it.  This is because the first layer was intended to give a springy but substantial layer into which I could drive pins but this second layer was to smooth out any unevenness and create a looser, more spongy layer that could easily be compressed by my ‘tight lacing’ the outer shell.

This second layer should leave the dummy an inch or two bigger than the finished size.  This is necessary because the cover will be drawn in and stitched very tightly, pulling the form in a little further so if it is not to end up too small, it must reach this stage slightly too large.

This in place, progress ground to a halt while I made some decisions about how best to approach the outer shell.  Traditionally the method for this style of dummy is to wrap loads and loads of wadding (kapok,or cotton wool) around the dummy, make the shell as a tight toile fitted to the body and then padded out with more kapok to make it solid.

I have instructions for this method in an old needlework book but the finished item features a flattened mono-bosom rather than the cross-your-heart, lifted and separated silhouette I needed for mine.  I make a lot of v-neck and cross-over garments so it is vital for me to be able to see where my sternum lies if I am not to end up with garments gaping at the neck.

I had to find an alternative method and this caused me a lot of headaches.  Firstly, I wanted to cover the bust as two independent hemispheres with the sternum drawn down tight.  I decided to base the cover on a princess line as I could then shape the panels to cope with the bust issue.  I started by drafting a basic bodice block according to my measurements.  My bust is large so requires much wider darts going into the waist seam than those which go from waist to hip so I always draft my bodice block to the waist only and do from waist to hip separately, as a skirt block.

Using my own measurements gave me a very odd armhole which I had to override and redraw according to common sense and after the first toile I also moved the bust point and shoulder dart.

Sometimes you just have to use some common sense.

Next, I created a second block based on this but with the armhole dart closed and pivoted into join the waist dart.  I chose to swing it here rather than split it between shoulder and waist as because of my bust size my waist is comparatively close to my bust line so an exaggerated dart would be very helpful for gaining the close fitting silhouette I desired.

I then created a princess block from this draft and married the skirt block into it so I ended with eight hip-length panels plus a little extra to turn under and take a drawstring for closing it under the bottom edge of the dummy.  Then I cut out the pieces and stitched them together, leaving one of the side seams open which would be hand stitched once the cover was in place on the dummy.  I would then hand-stitch the other seams again with a curved upholstery needle and strong, upholstery thread, pulling the cover tighter by so doing.

I wasn’t happy with the central, waist section – I had adjusted the shoulder and neck quite a bit so whilst the length was fine at the front it now needed a little extra length at the back.  So rather than go out and buy more calico and start again I cut the cover in half at the waist, moved the bottom half down a little and then added a new section around the middle and stitched and shaped it into place.  I had to do quite a lot of yanking and dragging and strong stitching and my panel seams were far from the perfectly even ones you see on the professional dummies but I kept the stitches small and closely spaced and eventually my little Frankenstein’s Monster came together.

I have added narrow black cotton tape to the construction lines so that I can pin and drape with confidence.  My dummy resembles me in proportions, in dimensions and most important of all, in balance front-to-back.  At last I can model garments on the stand which I can personally wear.

The finished dummy.

Front close up.

Back of the dummy.

Side view of dummy.

Copyright of the blog owner 2011

Dragonflies & Embroidered Ric-Rac Toddler Outfit

I’m afraid that this project was done in a bit of a hurry.  That doesn’t mean that the quality was stinted upon but it does mean that I was not able to stop and photograph each stage.

Some of the extra time spent on this was on account of having to travel to get fabric and further time was spent drafting basic blocks for a three year old and from them drafting patterns…all the while dealing with the very eager intervention of a 33-month-old child!

The finished outfit

The outfit was designed for a little girl’s third birthday.  She was born eight weeks premature and is quite short and petite so whilst I knew that a standard size 3 clothing would almost certainly swamp her I wanted to design something which would fit her both now and through the forthcoming summer and be versatile enough for all of the seasons in between.

So, with this in mind I decided to make a tunic-style pinafore, slightly flared at the sides.  It is sleeveless, is short enough to serve her well as a short pinafore over tights and a long sleeved t-shirt yet when she grows taller can also be worn as a sleeveless tunic over the matching cropped trousers I have made in the same fabric.  To add one last piece of versatility to the outfit I made a simple skirt in a contrasting fabric and picked out the colours from the main fabric in rows of embroidered, ric-rac satin stitch sewn in parallel bands around the hem.

The three pieces can be worn together (the ric rac embroidery is fully visible below the level of the pinafore hem) or in any combination.   It is all very reminiscent of some favourite “mix-and-match” separates which my mother bought for me when I was about four.  The colours were shocking pink and white, both as plain fabrics and as a sort of chequered tartan pattern incorporating both.  I had a tunic top in the pattern, a pair of white trousers and a pink skirt.  Before you question my mother’s sense in putting her tomboy daughter in white trousers I must stress that this was 1970 and the fabric was crimplene!

I ummed and ahhhhed for a long time over fabric.  The little girl is half Indian, half white british so has café au lait complexion, huge dark eyes and hair which though very dark brown shows, in sunlight, the most gorgeous auburn highlights.  Her mother quite rightly shudders at the preponderance of shocking pink, mid pink, lilac, sugar pink or all shades pallid in girlswear and opts where possible for strong, jewel shades, especially reds and oranges.

The fabric which caught my eye had bright dragonflies in jewel shades and this really seemed to reflect R’s personality but then came the choice of backing shade as it came in several, most of them strong such as orange, yellow, turquoise and ultramarine but the dragonflies seemed dull against these strong shades and I opted instead for the cream background which really showed them off best.  I then selected a plain cotton in a contrasting shade with which to line the garments and add accents.  I chose a strong, egg-yolk yellow of a shade and intensity only usually seen in free range eggs or Birds Custard Powder when mixed with that first tablespoon of cold milk.

Because the pattern is busy and the little girl small, I elected for as simple a design as possible.  Sleeveless, slightly flared and with a “Norman Arch” shaped neck front and back.   The back and front were completely plain.

The tunic was fully lined in the plain cotton.

The trousers were cut with the lining extra long, with a whole extra section grown on which would fold up onto the right side and then be hemmed and topstitched in place to form a deep, contrasting cuff.  As usual the Singer 201k did me proud with its tiny, evenly tensioned stitches, its superior feed and clear view of the stitch line.   I have yet to tire of marvelling at its ability to sew slowly and consistently even though it is teetering on the edge of uneven layers.  I also used it to understitch and top stitch the sleeve and neck edges of the tunic – this topstitching was less than 2mm from the edge and was faultless.

The ric-rac embroidered skirt was made from some cream twill.  I used my Bernina 830 Record Electronic to do the embroidery and as usual it was perfect.  Even so, I went back to the 201k to do the French seam.  It seems to treat the fabric with more respect – less punchy.

Incidentally I used the smallest of my back-clamping hemmers to do the hem on the pinafore and its lining.  The hems were slightly curved and I wasn’t entirely happy that the rolled hem foot would deal nicely with the thickness of fabric.  The back-clamping hemmer was wonderful.  Like the rolled hemmer the fabric still needs to be guided or fed into the foot as the hem is being formed but because the hemmer feeds in the fabric much further in advance than the rolled hemmer it was much easier to control this and get it right.

The finished outfit.

The trousers and underskirt.

The lined tunic.

The fully lined trousers.

The underskirt with ric-rac embroidered hem.

The ric-rac hems on the underskirt and pinafore linings and the small hem done with the hemmer.

Close up of ric-rac embroidery.

Close-up of topstitch quality on trouser turn-ups.

Copyright of the blog owner 2011

Kate’s Pinafore

I have finally finished the little pinafore ensemble I have been working on as a present for my friend’s daughter who will shortly celebrate her first birthday.

The Finished Outfit

Just to recap, the fabric I chose was a cotton velvet in a cool green shade and some matching glazed cotton to line it.

I did, in fact, make the garment reversible so all of the construction stitches are hidden by bagging out the lining and main fabrics and joining the two at the waist seam which is then concealed by braid or ribbon.

The Pinafore skirts are formed from four identical, rectangular panels pleated and set into the bodice.  First of all, I prepare the skirt sections by sewing the fabrics right sides together along the side and bottom seams, leaving the waist seam open.  I do the same with the bodice sections, sewing up the side seams, the shoulder seams (fronts and backs are later slip-stitched together invisibly and covered in braid/ribbon) and down the neckline and centre front.

You will, at this point, have four identical bodice sections and four identical skirt ones.  Trim the seam allowances close to the sewing line, turn the pieces right side out and press.

Now, set the pleats.  I do this mainly be eye, with a tape measure to help me get them exact.  When I’m happy with the way they are sitting I pin them in place, trim off any excess which sticks up above the top edge and sew along close to the sewing line to fix their position.  I then set this top edge of the skirt section up in to the bodice section, turning the bodice seam allowance up into the inside and pinning it in place.  I then sew the two together and repeat these same steps for the other three sections.

The pleats set out ready for stitching

Skirt section pinned into bodice ready to sew

That’s just about it for the pinafore.  The rest is just decoration.  I chose a dusky pink velvet ribbon which I sewed around the neckline, the shoulder seams and along the waist seam.  I hand stitched a whipped running stitch in vintage DMC Perle cotton to add a seaside-rock pink accent and stitched some hand embroidered flowers and foliage along the ribbon at the waist.  The sections are caught together where the ribbon meets and the front and back are embellished with a hand made button whipped with the same DMC threads as are used in the embroidery.

The matching bloomers and optional skirt frill are worked in the same glazed cotton as was used for lining the pinafore and are trimmed with the same velvet ribbon.


Optional skirt frill

Close-up of embroidery

Front detail

Splayed out to show sectional construction

Close-up of bodice

The finished outfit

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Pinafore Progress

This is coming along well, although as is usual with me it is developing rather than progressing towards a pre-conceived conclusion.  This is undoubtedly why I’ve never bought a pattern in my life – I can’t rigidly follow a set of instructions as I am too fond of inventing improvements along the way.

In the case of this, the two main “improvements” are reversibility and expandability.  The first I am still undetermined over; much depends on my coming up with a design which I am happy with although again as I write this I think I have reached a conclusion about that.  The lining will be embroidered in blue forget-me-knots I think.  That will give a completely different ‘look’ to the main fabric which is a cool green velvet, trimmed with dusky pink velvet ribbon and whipped running stitch in a glossy, cotton ‘Perle’ DMC thread in seaside-rock pink.

I cannot settle on any of the buttons I have but have have an idea which involves washers so I must head into town today in search of fibre washers.  We will have to wrap up very warmly though because it is snowing here in North Yorkshire and I think I will be grateful for the sensible boots I bought on Monday.  Ugg boots would be a complete waste of money for me; I spend too much time tramping through mud and dampness so these are like an extended galosh; rubber foot section extending up to mid-calf with a draw-string cordura upper and as they are fleece lined they are every bit as snug as an Ugg but practical for puddles and snow and much easier to walk in than wellies.

Right, I’m off to make a shopping list.  I also need a tiny crochet hook.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Mix and Match Separates

Today’s project is the beginnings of an outfit for a dear little girl who will shortly celebrate her first birthday.  It has to come out of my existing stash because I can’t afford any new fabric at present and because 90% of my stash is creams, beiges and white linens and cottons this is a bit of a challenge as I really want to make something which is pretty but also practical and warm.

I’ve decided on a deep jade glazed cotton and a matching cotton velvet and want to make a little mini-dress length pinafore in velvet, to be worn with matching cotton knickers, a little ruffled skirt, or both.

The green is a very pretty, cool shade but as it is quite a strong colour nevertheless I will be tempering it with some cool, mid pinks in my hand embroidery to add a bit of ‘prettiness’ and notch up the good-taste a little but without altering the overall practicality of the garments.

I will post some progress, together with photos, as I get the chance to move forward with this.

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A Little Cotton Shirt

This is the little cotton shirt I made for a friend’s baby boy for his first birthday present. The fabric was cream poplin, the buttons were vintage linen laundry buttons from my stash.

The pintucking on the front bodice section.

Shaping the front neck by eye.

Shaping the back neck.

Piecing the shirt.

Pinning and basting the collar.

The finished shirt.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Embellished Wedding Shoes

Here are the shoes I embellished for my wedding. With the help of hand stitching and a glue gun I secured pieces of guipure lace across the tops and the tongues of the shoes, added a few tiny little clear and pearl beads and added some colour accents in pale salmon pink Pearsalls silk floss from my step great grandmother’s stash.

My Wedding Shoes

The shoes with a small drawstring bag I made to match them using tulle over wide satin ribbon, organza ribbon and more of the lace, embroidery and beading.

Detail of the lace, embroidery and beading.

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A Handmade, Linen Christening Outfit

This is my son’s christening outfit. It was totally handmade from approximately a metre of pure, white linen, ten matching mother-of-pearl baby buttons from my grandmothers stash (Dad’s side) and embroidered with ivory and grey Pearsall silk floss from my step-great grandmother’s stash (Mother’s side).

The shirt is made entirely from squares and rectangles, the sole exception being a slight slant put on the shoulders. The shoulders themselves have a yoke, from which hangs a placketed front and back bodice worked with pintucking, fastened with small rouleaux loops and tiny, mother-of-pearl buttons. The collar is, like the bodice, exactly the same front and back and is set across the shoulders to fold back down upon itself across them. The sleeves are square set, with diamond gussets to allow the arm some movement and there are small, triangular gussets strengthening the bottom of the side seams also. All visible seams are made by the French Seam method. Top stitching was done as a whipped running stitch in embroidery floss.

A little pair of shorts with turned-up cuffs decorated with whipped running stitch completed the outfit.

Being dunked in the same font as Grandad gives a boy an appetite to match.

View of the back of the bodice.

Side view showing the yoke.

Wider side shot showing also the triangle gussets at the bottom of the side seams.

Basting the placket openings and the collar pieces. The underarm gusset is clearly visible as is the whipped running stitch on the bodice and tucks.

close up of pinning and basting the collar.

Sewing the rouleaux into the placket front.

The completed outfit.

The cuff buttons.

The finished neckline and collar.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010