Flared sleeve shirt refashion

I’ve always been a bit partial to a statement sleeve. And right now, flared sleeves, bell sleeves, and even gathered sleeves are just about everywhere.

I want to share with you a quick way to update an existing collared shirt, or any shirt for that matter. I started with a a basic white button up. Mine was purchased from Target for a grand total of $22, specifically with this project in mind. I toyed with the idea of sewing myself a shirt from scratch for all of five seconds. But as you should all know by now,  I’m not so in love with sewing basics.

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I started by cutting the cuffs off a basic shirt and with them, about six inches of sleeve. I then measured the circumference of the cut portion of the sleeve and used that as a guide to draft the new cuff.

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I drafted a new cuff (just a big rectangle) that measured 8.5 inches in width and 12 inches in length (including a 5/8″ seam allowance). The cuff width allowed for a three inch overlap, to line it up with the underarm sleeve seam when sewn in place. I then slashed and spread the cuff to turn it into a flared design. See the picture of the new pattern piece (below) to get an idea of the amount of flare. The pattern piece is cut on the fold and two cuffs need to be cut (one for lining, one for outer fabric).

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Because of the size of these new cuffs, I chose not to interface them, which turned out to be the best decision. I also played around with the position of the overlap/slit of the cuff and found it worked best (appearance and practicality) when it was positioned on the underside, with the back overlapping the front. This positioning suits the natural movement of the arm better.

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I’m delighted with my modified white shirt. I’m currently considering which other shirts in my wardrobe might need a similar update.

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DIY obi-style, jersey belt

I’m not quite sure what to call this “thing” that I sewed. I’ll call it an obi-style belt for want of a better term. The idea came from a friend, who sent me this photo.

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I believe it featured in a Tibi shoot. It wasn’t for sale though and only being used for styling purposes. How frustrating for people who don’t sew!

I could, however, look at the picture and appreciate that it would take me all of 30 seconds to draft (yes, draft… it’s Tibi after all), and then sew with one hand tied behind my back and one eye shut. It really was that simple.

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I used a beautifully soft, lightweight rayon jersey that I sewed into a tube with about 1.5 inches of negative ease. I then turned that tube out to the right side, keeping the lengthways seam to the middle, and stitched the short raw ends together. From the outside, your can just see a single seam down the centre-back.

The belt needs to stretch a little to pull the shirt in, but you don’t want it compressing your internal organs like a Kardashian. You want it to feel comfortable if you plan on wearing it all day! The width of my band is about 15 inches, so that makes it wide enough to be scrunched down as you see in the pictures. The diagram below shows exactly what I did. My seam allowance was 1/2 inch.

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I really love the way it looks paired with a crisp, white shirt. It is the perfect accessory for Fall. In fact, it is so perfect, that I decided to make another right away. A smooth, lightweight, merino jersey would have been perfect but I didn’t have any on hand. I did, however, have a small remnant of a wool/acrylic knit. It’s thicker than I’d like (since nobody really wants extra fabric around the waist), but it works out fine if I scrunch it a little less (and it will be super warm too!).

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I paired it with the same white shirt, and a favourite pair of pants. I made these thick cord culottes a few years ago. I wore them nearly every day during the Winter before last, which was probably why I couldn’t stand the sight of them last year. They were originally shaped more like a skirt. To jazz them up a bit and fall in love with them again, I bought the leg seams in (unfortunately this required a little more effort than planned… ie. moving the side zipper… but it was worth it). Now they have a more boxy, trouser-like shape. I also refreshed the dark colour with a bit of over-dyeing in the washing machine. I love them all over again.

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Esther SKORTS PDF pattern piece and tutorial

I’ve been asked quite a few times about a tutorial for this little skort. I decided to go one step better. I digitised the actual pattern piece that I created, with all the sizes graded out to suit everyone! It can be downloaded here. It should match up perfectly with the Esther Shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, but there’s no reason you can’t adapt it to your own TNT shorts pattern by adjusting a few minor details.

I really love my white version. It is the second pair I’ve made and it’s seriously one of my best Summer staples ever. The front overlay adds a little formality and cover to a standard pair of shorts. I dress mine up with a blazer and heels. I also wear it out and about with Birkenstocks and a singlet. It’s a style that is very versatile.

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As I mentioned, my version is based 100% off the Esther shorts pattern. I made a straight size 8, but I did shorten the legs by two inches (whilst maintaining the original hem shape). To achieve the same proportions as me, you’ll first need to shorten the legs of the front and back Esther pattern pieces by two inches. If you want to add this overlay to the longer, unchanged length of the Esther shorts pattern, simply lengthen the skort overlay by two inches at the lengthen/shorten line (included on the skort pattern piece).

The steps below will help you put together your skort:

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1. Cut out your overlay fabric: Outer fabric, right side facing up. Lining, wrong side facing up.

2. Prepare the overlay: right sides facing, pin the overlay fabric to the overlay lining. Stitch a 1/2 inch seam along the two angled bottom edges and the left side edge. Remember, the diagram below shows the skort overlay as you look at it in front of you, so the left side (as you wear it) will appear as the right.

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2. Trim seam allowance and turn the overlay out to the right side. Press. Baste remaining raw edges.

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Now it’s time to put together the rest of the shorts. I’m just going to summarize the order of construction here. If you need more details, refer back to your actual shorts pattern, but keep following this order of construction.

3. Stitch the left leg seams. First, insert zipper in the side seam of the left side, between the front and back leg. Complete the stitching of that seam. Then stitch the inner leg seam of the left leg.

4. Now onto the right side. Sandwich the side seam edge of the overlay between right front and right back leg side seam. Wrong sides of front and back legs facing the right sides of the overlay. Stitch. Finish raw edge.

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5. Fold the overlay piece up so it’s not in the way, and sew the inner leg seam of the front and back leg.

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6. Keep the overlay piece folded in and out of the way. Wrong sides facing, inner seams matching, now sew the crotch. Finish raw edge. Turn the shorts out the correct way. Press.

7. Unfurl the overlay piece and straighten out the waist edge so it lines up with the front waist edge of the shorts. Baste in place.

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Now, simply continue as your original pattern instructs. Attach the waistband and hem your new skorts. I usually serge the raw edge of the hem and then fold it up to the point at which the overlay ends at the side seam.

I hope you enjoy your Esther Skort as much as me!

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DIY draped cardi wrap

Firstly, I want to send out a big thank-you to everybody who commented on the coat in my last post. I hope you realise how much I love to read them all. I’m afraid to admit that sewing trumps replying on occasion (oh, and it probably trumps kids too at times… is that bad?). However, I’ll always do my best to answer any question thrown my way – anything to encourage and inspire people who sew! 

Now we can talk about this garment. I’m actually not sure what to call it. It’s not really a cardi, or a poncho, or a wrap for that matter. It’s really just a big rectangle with holes, but it does make for such a nice Winter cover up. I’m going to call it a wrap.

The idea for this wrap came from a gorgeous cashmere RTW cardi I tried on recently. It looked amazing on. I twirled in front of the mirror a few times before I realised exactly what it was… a giant rectangle and nothing more. So I held it up to my body, took a few mental measurements, and went home to make it myself.

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I didn’t have any cashmere on hand. A stable wool knit would have worked beautifully but I didn’t have that either. What I did have was a very large length of pure wool cream suiting that I’d picked up from a garage sale for just 50 cents (it was discounted from the original price of 75 cents – bargain!). I could see that the fold lines of the fabric were discoloured with dust and light (with a few tiny holes in those areas as well) so my plan was to wash it quite aggressively when I got it home. I knew the hot wash and dryer would change the texture of the wool, but I was ok with that because a wool suiting, once felted by the washing machine, is still quite lovely and perfect for casual loungewear and kids clothes. As expected, the wool ended up with a very slightly fuzzier texture than before. It’s not actually fuzzy, but it no longer has the sleek, smooth feel of a suiting anymore. A by-product of the aggressive pre-washing also means that the fabric is now machine washable, dryer friendly, and pretty indestructible.

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But, let’s get back to the making of this wrap. The two diagrams below should be all you need to make your own. It’s the easiest sew up ever!

STEP 1: Measure your fabric according to the instructions below.

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The length of fabric I used was 180 cm, or approximately my height. For the width, I measured from my mid-section (mid-sternum) to the tip of my fingers. My chest width was measured in the front, from shoulder point to shoulder point.

My fabric was a woven, with no give at all, so I used 11 inches for my armscye gaps. In a knit, I’d probably shrink them a little to have them fit closer to the body. If I had bigger pippies, I could have easily increased the width of the armscye.

The centre line is where the seam line needs to be, and where you need to leave holes for the arms. To make a longer wrap (ie. to fall below the hips), you could widen the bottom panel. Keeping the top panel the same would maintain the original front drape.

STEP 2: Sew the two pieces of fabric together, wrong sides facing, and leaving gaps at the two positions you marked as the armscye. (The stitches are represented by the dotted line below.) And that’s pretty much it.

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The last thing you need to do is finish the raw edges nicely. If you chose a fabric that doesn’t fray (like boiled or felted wool, or some jerseys) you could leave the edges raw and just reinforce the stitches around the armscye. The RTW version I fell in love with had been narrowly hemmed on an overlocker. Because I was dealing with a woven, I double turned all my edges and sewed a narrow hem. It would also be possible to bind the edges for a pretty contrast.

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I’ve been wearing mine loose as well as belted. It’s hard to believe that such a simple rectangle can be transformed into a cool Winter outfit! Let me know if you decide to make one. And if you’re on IG, I’d love it if you tagged me (@lilysageandco).

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Tutorial // adding a flounce to the Wonderland Skirt

And here it is. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had the idea of turning the gathered section of the Wonderland skirt into a flounce. I’m going to show you how to do it. It’s a very simple modification once you know what to expect.

1. Fit and sew the yoke (in it’s entirety). The design of the yoke is very, very subtly A-line. It’s possible to peg it in a little, but be sure to record those changes on your pattern pieces first, so you can draft your flounce correctly.

2. Once you have the yoke fitting as you’d like, you are ready to draft the flounce. On the bottom of the back and front yoke pieces, draw in the 5/8 inch (16mm) seam allowances (I’ve used red in the diagram) for the bottom and the centre back (CB) of the back yoke. There’s no need to worry about the centre front (CF) on the front yoke because it was cut on the fold (without a seam allowance).

3. On a large piece of paper, trace the bottom seam allowance (in red) of the yoke. This will become the top seam line of the flounce. It makes sense that you’d want the top of your flounce to be exactly the same length as the bottom of the yoke because you will want your seams to match up when you sew them. Wonderland flounce2-01

Pay attention to the CB and CF seam allowance. In the original pattern, the Front Yoke is cut on the fold. The Back Yoke is cut as two pieces. If you want to cut the back skirt on the fold too, you will need to subtract 5/8 inch (16mm) from the red line you draw. This might depend on how wide your fabric is.

4. Line the ruler up with the bottom of the yoke and use it as a guide to smoothly extend the side seams and CB/CF seams of your flounce. Imagine you are just making the yoke longer. Decide how long you want the flounce to be and extend the side seam and the CB/CF seams all by the same amounts. My flounce is about 14 inches long (but this might still come to below the knee on some).

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4. Draw in the bottom of the flounce. Try to mimic the curve at the top of the flounce and measure along the way so that the entire flounce is the same length. It’s also a good time to draw in the top seam allowance (then join it up with the side seams – I haven’t joined mine up in the diagram). Also make some markings on the pattern pieces (they are a bit oddly shaped so do this before you forget).

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If you attached the pieces you have just drawn, you would have a straight (ever so slightly A-line) extension of the yoke. However, we want a flounce, so now we need to add some flare. You can add as much or as little flare as you like. I’m going to show you what I did.

5. Use a ruler to draw two straight lines, vertically down the flounce pieces, to make a division of three. Space them an even distance apart, but you don’t need to measure.

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6. Now you are going to slash and spread those lines to create a flounce. Cut along the black lines from the bottom to the top, BUT stop just before you cut through the top. The top will be your pivot point.

Place some paper underneath your pieces and spread them by as much as you want. I spread each slash by about 1.5 inches (16mm). You could spread them by more than this or add an extra slash to make your flounce more dramatic. Tape the spread pattern pieces onto the paper. Because of the curved shape of the yoke, the front and back flounces will look quite different.

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7. Draw in smooth curves for the top and bottom of your flounce pieces.

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Congratulations! You now have flounce pattern pieces that will perfectly fit the yoke of your skirt.

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White linen pinafore and Vogue 1347: DIY (a sort of tutorial)

So I stumbled across this amazingly simple, yet stunning white top on The Man Repeller the other week. I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I decided to make it! I made the linen pants too, Chado Ralph Rucci V1347, modified for use as pyjamas, post photo shoot. But I’m not here to talk about them, other than to say they are a fabulous, wide leg, elastic waist pant if that’s what you are after. I’ve made them before. They make the best PJ pants ever, especially in linen. Like my last version, I simply skipped the pockets and the lining, and cropped them A LOT.

I’m also not going to talk much about the fabric, other than to say that I won’t be buying this particular linen again. It’s Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen Blend in white from Fabric.com. It’s ok. Their service was great and the description reasonable. But I have to say that I was still quite disappointed when it landed on my doorstep. It is lighter than I expected and blended with rayon (how did I miss that?). Personally, it isn’t really of a quality I would be happy to use for outerwear, but lining it certainly helps. I should also say that I think I’ve been incredibly spoilt for quality with the linens I’ve used in the past, mostly from Tessuti Fabrics and sometimes from The Fabric Store. Linen is a very tricky fabric to purchase, especially unseen, because of the vast differences between one type and the next. You really do need to see it and feel it in person.

 
 
But let’s get back to this top and talk about how it can be made. My brain doesn’t picture pattern pieces well right off the bat. For new-to-me or unusual designs, I need to drape calico onto my dressmaker’s dummy to better understand the shape of the pieces and for my head to figure out how they will come together. Then I take my rough marked calico to the floor or the cutting mat, to modify and make further adjustments from there.
I began creating this top by draping it. I knew the design was going to be simple, but it was even more basic than I could imagine. So basic, in fact, that I was also able to work backwards on the design, to show you how it can be done even easier. Forget about draping! All you need is a basic T-shirt, woven or stable knit (without darts), to use as a template. Grainline’s Scout Tee also comes to mind as a suitable pattern that you could modify. To give you an idea of fit, you can see me wearing the T-shirt I used here.
I’m going to explain the pattern pieces in this post. I’m pretty sure most of you will be able to put the top together with just this. But if you need more instructions, just let me know. I’m planning another top already so I can photograph it through the construction stages next time if I get enough interest.
The top itself consists of three main pattern pieces: the front bodice, the side drapes, and the straps. You can probably already see how you would put it together.
Front bodice: cut 2 on the fold (one piece is the lining)
Sides: Cut 2
Straps: cut 4
So to work out your measurements, start with a basic T-shirt. Lay it nice and flat with the front facing up. You’ll need some tracing paper and long piece of calico.
Lay the tracing paper on top of the T-shirt. You need to trace around half of the front piece. I forgot to photograph this stage, but you can easily see what I did below. Mark the CF, the neckline, the armscye, and the side seam. Also mark the length, as this can be useful in identifying where you want your new top to sit.
I’ve laid my finished pattern piece on top so you can see how I modified my original lines. How you change yours is entirely up to you. I would recommend doing the following:
  • add a seam allowance to your shoulder seam (see how my pattern piece extends over the top)
  • keep the side seam line where it is (don’t add a seam allowance, you are just using it as a guide
  • lift the underarm seam (bottom of the armscye) by 1-2inches, depending on how your original T-shirt fit. Mine was quite loose to begin with.
  • re-draft the neckline and shoulder seams to fit the shape you want. It doesn’t matter how wide or narrow you want those shoulder seams to be either.

 

You can see how the entire pattern piece looks below before you add a side seam. You can also see where my pieces have been basted together.


Use the side seam you marked from your T-shirt (purple dots) as a guide to measure your new seam from. In my finished top, my side seam was cut parallel and 6″ from the original side seam.

Cutting it straight like this means that your new side seam will hang on a diagonal when you are wearing the top. I don’t mind the angular look of this, but I’d prefer my side seam to hang straight up and down, perpendicular to the ground, so I’ve drawn a new side seam for my next version. It will be about 4″ from the original line and run on a diagonal (marked in black).

It’s not essential that you mark your side seam in exactly the same place as me. The nature of the top is that it drapes and the fit is pretty flexible. But as a guide, if you are bigger than me, you may want to increase the distance to your new side seam a little, and if you are smaller, then perhaps narrow that distance a little. Also keep this in mind for when you draw up the side pieces and straps. FYI my bust measure is 35″ and my waist is 27″. I am 5″10 or 178cm tall.

 
The next step is to decide on how long you want the top. Mine was 22″ in length along the side seam including a 1″ hem. This measurement determines how low the top will sit in the front.
The side pieces simply extend straight out from the front bodice. You could just make this a big rectangle. I sloped my top edge up a little so it finished 2″ higher at the far end. My side pieces are about 34″ in length. How long you make this piece will depend on how long you want it to drape down at the back.
Finally, to draft your shoulder straps, just line them up with your bodice shoulder seams to determine the width. They can be as long or as short as you want them to be.

I made mine about 20″ in length. The seam allowance I used in making this top was 5/8″.

I sewed the bottom of my shoulder straps straight onto the top but you could attach yours with buttons. You could also close the back seam up if you want, by overlapping it, or sewing a seam down the middle. I might try doing this next time to make a dress out of the pattern instead.

Inside information on Miss Six’s dress pattern: another sort-of-tutorial

This is a follow up post from the one I ran yesterday. Thank you for all the lovely comments, especially if I didn’t get a chance to reply. I have to admit, that I’m more than a little bit in love with this dress myself, so I can totally understand why many of you want to know more about it. I thought I’d share my process of creating the pattern.
Firstly, here is a picture of the dress laid flat. You can see the buttonhole in the bodice and how the back strap is connected as one piece. The ‘bow’ is to the right.

The portion of the back strap that I’m holding between my fingers is the amount that passes through the buttonhole. 

The fabric I used for this dress was a thick cotton sateen (doubled up both ways because of self-fabric lining). My bow was also quite wide. The bulky amount of thick fabric that needed to wrap around the bow fabric on the outer side of the buttonhole meant that I needed to allow for 2-3 extra inches of length in the back strap. If I was using silk CDC (a thinner, lighter fabric), I could have shortened the strap.

And now for how the pattern pieces look, and how I created this design from a basic bodice sloper. In the picture below, I’ve overlapped the seams of a basic front and back bodice piece. This is what I started with.

I made the basic dress sloper up in a muslin first to see where I wanted the top of the bodice to reach to. I then drew up the new shape of the bodice. I found that I had to bring the sides in slightly for the new (strapless) design.

To work out how long the straps needed to be, I employed the use of some seriously scientific guesswork. I basically just did what you can see below. I measured from the shoulder strap to the middle of the buttonhole in a line that I imagined the straps would naturally be pulled into. As you can see from the pattern piece below (my first draft), I initially failed to take into account the portion of the strap that would extend past the buttonhole to wrap around the bow. I ended up lengthening this pattern piece by about 1.5″ for the final dress version.

And that is all there is to this design. It’s really very simple, but also so very cute. And I’m very confident that a certain person would have absolutely no problems in modifying a certain Two Fruits dress into a Mummy sized version.

Making neatly curved patch pockets with interfacing instead of lining: a tutorial

There are lots of ways you can sew and attach patch pockets to garments. When I sewed this little wool tunic recently, I encountered a small problem when I set about to putting lace, patch pockets on it. I felt the cotton voile lace was a little too delicate to withstand the daily force of small hands, but I didn’t really want to line it, and I definitely didn’t want to lose the pretty upper lace edge.

As always, I failed to take photos when making these pockets, so I’ve recreated the tutorial with some yellow, cotton scraps. Basically, all I did was to interface the pockets instead of lining them. The best way I can describe what I did is with photos.  

1. Cut a piece of interfacing to the same size as the pocket

2. Here they are lined up side by side. The fabric is yellow. The interfacing is white.

3. In this example, I folded over the top of the pocket towards the wrong side and stitched it down. In my lace pockets, I left the pretty edge raw.

4. Measure on the interfacing where you would like it to end on the underside.

5. Cut off the excess interfacing

6. This is where it gets interesting. Pin the interfacing (lining up the bottom raw edges) with the outer side (non-glue side) facing the right side of the fabric.

7. Stitch

8. Trim. Some people notch a curved edge. I find I get a smoother curve if I trim very close instead.

9. Turn the pocket in the right way. The glue side of the interfacing is now facing towards the wrong side of the pocket. Press. This will fuse the pocket fabric to the lining so it will be as one.

10. Look at your perfectly round and strong patch pocket, all ready to be sewn onto your garment. Obviously, yours will look better than mine. I tend to rush things.

11. This is the underside. You’ve turned in all the curved edges without any fiddling and it is perfectly secure and ready to be attached neatly. For an even better result, trim the edges of the interfacing/lining by 1-2mm before you start, and then continue on with all the steps from the beginning, lining all the edges up perfectly as you go. This will make the outer fabric roll inwards towards the underside so that there will be no chance of the lining peeking through at the sides.

Butterfly Badminton set for Miss Four and a little on turn-of-cloth

Here’s a little deja vu for you. It’s not only a repeat of Miss Six’s Badminton skort and top, but I’ve managed to use up a lot of the remaining scraps from my Butterfly Maxi dress. I was left with several long, thin lengths of the Gorgeous Fabric after making that dress, but they were awkward lengths that weren’t wide enough for any adult stuff. I had just enough width in them to make a teeny, tiny pair of shorts, a gathered skirt and the little top you see.

I made a size 5 skort for my taller than average Miss Four, with exactly the same modifications that I did for Miss Six’s version. I chose to make a size 6 for the top, but I could have easily stuck with a size 5 here too. Sometimes I overestimate the size of my little whippet. This time, I left off the front band and tie.

Unfortunately, the only suitable contrast fabric that I had on hand was some yellow cotton sateen which is much heavier than I would have liked for the yoke. It is a bit structured in feel now, but it will do. Next time I’d also take the time to add that front band. I think it adds a little special something to the top.

As to the virtues of those shorts beneath the skirt. Miss Four was determined to show me proof of their workings with some serious twirls.

Sadly for me though, she has now decided that shorts (even if hidden beneath a skirt) must only be worn with ‘running shoes’, so whenever we see her wearing her lovely butterfly silk ensemble, she is also wearing a big clunky pair of less than pristine, hand-me-down sneakers that are still an inkling too big for her, with her white socks pulled up to mid calf of course. There’s a good visual for you!

Once again, I can only sing praises for Oliver + S patterns. However, I would like to point out a wee little finicky thing to do with understitching and ‘turn-of-cloth’ that you are bound to encounter in this pattern. When I understitch a seam, I lose length on the fabric because it rolls towards the lining when pressing the facing/lining under. Obviously, this is what you want. You don’t want any chance of the lining rolling out to be seen on the outside when you are wearing the garment. I’ve tried to demonstrate this below.

White fabric and yellow lining

White fabric on the left has been cut a little longer than the lining. The seam has been stitched (crookedly…sorry!). You can see the excess white fabric on the left. The lining and fabric line up perfectly on the right.

Both pieces have been understitched identically

And now they have been turned to the right side and pressed. You are looking at the yellow lining. See the tiny bit of white fabric rolling towards the lining on both pieces. This is what you want! But then look at the bottom. I overestimated the turn-of-cloth when adding a little to the white fabric length on the left, but it’s easy to trim it off, and much better than it not reaching the edge at all.

And from the top side. I didn’t adjust for turn-of-cloth with the white fabric on the right. See how the fabric doesn’t meet the lining anymore.


So the amount of fabric length you lose is pretty much related to the thickness of the fabric. A silk CDC will have a very tiny turn-of-cloth and you will hardly lose any length (although there still might be a few mm difference). A thick wool would make a considerable difference. Where you run into problems is in matching up the bottom of the lining with the outer fabric. Suddenly you have a difference in length of between 2mm and 1cm, and this can cause problems. If my pictures don’t do it for you, there is also an excellent article in Threads Magazine that explains turn-of-cloth beautifully.

An easy solution is to simply lengthen the lining pieces slightly, rather than keeping the lining and fabric pieces the same. In this pattern, the lining pieces for the waistband and the yoke are the same as the outer fabric (no surprise really), but the pattern does specify understitching. The first time round, I ended up having to narrow both the waistband and the yoke in order to adjust for this as I was sewing. The pattern still worked fine with the narrower results, but not everybody likes to problem solve on the fly. With this version, I added a few mm to the width of my lining pieces and voila, perfectly matched fabric edges and seam allowances throughout. It’s a much more pleasurable sewing experience when all the edges line up!

A tutorial: marking darts for lazy sewists

I’ll admit it, I can be a lazy seamstress. I’m often more intent on realising my vision, than I am with using couture methods. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to sew like a couturier. I do! But it doesn’t happen very often.

I’m also completely self-taught. Over time, I’ve learnt many traditional ways of doing things, but I’ve also made up my own way of doing things. I’m not always sure if the way I do things is the way that everybody else does.

This, for example, is the way I mark darts. I’m pretty sure if it is the conventional way of doing it (given that tailor’s tacks and chalk are what you hear most about in books), but I find my way of making darts to be a very quick, simple, and precise way, particularly when dealing with slippery silks that morph into all kinds of shapes as soon as you move them. So this is how I do it.

1. Take your pattern piece, still pinned with the fabric. If it is a slippery fabric like silk, don’t move it at all. You can see the dart marked on the paper. The fabric is pinned beneath it.

 
2. Take a silk pin and carefully insert it through the dart apex. Slide it through the paper and all layers of the fabric carefully, taking care not to move the fabric.

Here, the pin has been pushed through all layers of the fabric.

 
This is the underside of the fabric. But at this point, you shouldn’t be moving the fabric back to see it!
 

3. Next mark the base of the dart at both points. I use a fabric marker (on occasion, I’ve been know to use a permanent marker because it is within the seam allowance anyway). Did I really write that? Mark it now because you are about to move the fabric, which could morph it out of shape!

 

4. Now to mark the dart apex. Open up the fabric layers of fabric carefully. You will see where the pin has come through the wrong side of each fabric piece.

Place a tiny mark on each piece of fabric where the pin is coming through. If you are worried about marking your special fabric, you can also place this tiny mark a few mm below the pin, so that you sew over it when making the dart.

 

See all my little purple marks, transferred perfectly from the pattern paper to the fabric. If you wanted to, you could now chalk up the rest of the dart lines, before pinning them together evenly for stitching.

5. Now sew your darts.

6. Don’t backstitch at the apex, and remember to leave long thread tails that you can tie off by hand. And you’re done! Easy, perfect darts!

 
And just to share one last tip with you that I read a long time ago, but it has made a big difference to my sewing. In commercial patterns, darts are often, if not always, pictured as straight lines. I don’t know about you, but there aren’t any straight lines on my body. I’m not even a curvy lady! The normal human body is made up of curves and gentle wavy slopes. Don’t be afraid to re-draw those dart lines with a slight curve that better reflects the curves of the body.
 
Forgive my badly drawn example. The first picture is of a normal dart. The second dart has been curved slightly.