Pressing Matters

During one of my Making Your Own Clothes class we learnt all about pressing and how important it is. Our tutor showed us a tailor’s ham and how useful they are when pressing things such as darts. Whilst they are great, they do cost a bit, so I decided to make my own!

There are lots of free patterns out there for tailor’s hams. I decided to use this one which I found in a
guest post on making tailor’s hams and sausages on Tilly and The Buttons blog. I made this a while ago before I knew Tilly would be on the fabulous Great British Sewing Bee. It appealed to me as it would be great practice in making darts.

There are good instructions on the blog post, but the pattern piece gives you virtually all you need to know, so I didn’t really use them.

First I cut the pattern piece out on the fold:


I then used tailor’s tacks to mark the point of the darts (but forgot to mark where they went from – oops!), tacked them and sewed them.


I placed the right sides of both halves together and sewed most of the way around the edge.


Then I turned it the right way round.


I chose to stuff mine with wood shavings, which got a bit messy, but I just kept stuffing and stuffing until I couldn’t really fit any more in, and then hand sewed up the gap.

Ta Dah!


Since making this, I have learnt about notching which would have stopped the puckering around the seam.

This project left me with a useable tool, which would have cost around £10 to buy, just for the cost of the wood shavings (everything else was from my stash). It was also helpful as it gave me practice in using tailor’s tacks and sewing darts.


Vintage Style Apron

I haven’t had much time for crafting recently, but when I saw Sam and Heather from Live It Love It Make It were running a vintage style apron workshop, I had to book onto it. The venue was Norden Farm in Maidenhead, which is an arts centre where Sam and Heather have started running a monthly craft club.

The group was a nice size, consisting of five ladies (including myself) who had all brought their own sewing machine as requested. My machine wasn’t a happy bunny and kept jamming whenever it had to go over lots of layers of fabric, but luckily for me, we were given an unpicker as well as the fabric and matching thread.

Our first task was to make the ruffle for the edge of the apron. This took a surprising amount of time!


Do you like the fabric? I could choose between this or a cupcake print – both were lovely!

Then the ruffle needed sewing to the edge of the apron.


This is where my machine wasn’t playing ball. I ended up having to do it twice and I ended up behind everyone else. The next step was to make the strap. I managed to attach it before leaving, but didn’t have time to sew the pocket on.

At home the next day I commandered the dining table. I unpicked the strap so that I could neaten the raw edge of the ruffle.


Bias binding is my friend! Hopefully this will make it a bit more durable. I didn’t have any wide pink binding and neither did the curtain shop in walking distance, but this doesn’t look too bad. This is a step none of the others took, but I had the time, so why not?

All I had to do then was reattach the strap (going very slowly over the top of the ruffles) and sew on the pocket. Heather had kindly folded the edges of the pocket under for me, so that bit was relatively easy (although my machine didn’t like the rounded corners!).

And here it is:

The back:


And on:


Thanks to Mr M for taking the last photo.

Now I feel as though I should morph into a perfect 50s housewife, but I doubt that will happen!

My strange shaped body!

I tacked together the front and back of my top this week and tried it on. Well, that was a bit eye opening!

My whole class (luckily for me they are all lovely!) had to analyse the fit to see if any adjustments needed to be made. The most obvious one was the way it sat around my chest – it almost appeared to be gaping! I have an ample bosom and am going to have to put an extra dart in at the front to cope with this. I have no idea how I’ll cope with that when putting it back together. I think this is different to the FBA which I’ve heard of on various sewing blogs.

One shoulder didn’t quite sit right, so I’m going to have to sew it down slightly. My tutor said that my shoulders are wonky! Apparently it is common. She said you could see how one shoulder is quite square and the other is more rounded. I guess that’s why some bought tops slide off one shoulder!

Here it is pinned to show how much to take in on the shoulder:


I have a few other small tweaks to make it fit better. Other than my wedding dress, this will be my first made to fit piece if clothing!

I’m now see why people do muslins first!

It’s Starting To Come Together…

My first ever clothing sewing project is starting to come together. I’m sure experienced sewists wizz through at lightning speed compared to me, but I’d prefer to do this relatively well and learn techniques along the way.

After my last class I did a little work at home. I removed the pattern pieces from all the pieces I cut last lesson and did tailor tacks to mark the tips of my darts. I also cut out the interfacing and ironed it to the relevant fabric. I didn’t want to do any more as that involved sewing!

At the class I stay stitched around the neckline on all four pieces. I then sewed my darts. Whilst relatively simple I was actually quite proud and pleased with these!


The joys of a small pattern means sewing lines will be fairly well hidden – I doubt you can see them in this photo.

I then sewed together the back. I pinned it, tacked it and then machine stitched. The pattern advised finishing the seam and one method they gave was to zigzag. Stupidly I zigzagged over both together, which didn’t sit well. The joys of a 5/8″ seam allowance meant that I could cut this off and zigzag over the edges separately. That sits a lot better!


This isn’t sitting flat as you can tell from the middle, but it will do so happily. It even looks like the back of a top! I also had time to sew together the front, but I haven’t finished that seam yet.

When I wasn’t sewing, Jenny, our tutor went through a few things. I’m amazed that I’ve never noticed the dent in a machine needle before. I now have notes on what size needle and length of stitch to use with a wide range of fabrics.

I also learnt about a wide variety of types of seam. I’d heard of French seams, but didn’t know about mock French seams or channel seams or lingerie seams and more. Luckily I have a handout with instructions on as otherwise I’d never remember how to do all the demonstrated techniques.

Finally, I’ll share a snippet which I will use. Mr M has commented that I do more ironing for sewing than I do day to day. Well I was told in my class that pressing is not ironing, so next time he makes such a comment I’ll tell him I’m not ironing!

It’s slowly starting to come together…

Chop Chop!

As you probably know, I’m a teacher. As part of that role I set homework for my students. When I was at school I wasn’t too keen on homework. I did it, but unless it was something which really interested me, I usually did it last minute and could probably have put more effort in.

So, why mention that now? Well, my Making Your Own Clothes class is on a Monday night, and the evening after my first class I was cut out all of my pattern pieces. Two days before my second class I had even finished my wrist pincushion. Do you get the impression that this is homework I want to do?!


I wish I could share lots of progress with you. Everyone spent our second lesson cutting out their fabric. Some needed to cut their pattern pieces first, but they still were cutting out fabric by the end. I soon spotted that most people folded their fabric in half and then pinned and cut out their fabric. Mine was a bit more complicated!

The main body pieces of Colette’s Jasmine are cut on the bias. Placing the first ever pattern pieces that I’ve cut on the bias, along with flipping them over, seemed tough, but with a bit of help I did it. I’m glad I’ve figured it out though, as surely this will mean that I can cut most patterns?!


Now most of the others seemed to have a much lower number of pieces to cut than me. One only had three! Here are some more bits I cut:


(some of these are folded slightly and obviously I still need to remove the pattern paper)

As you can see I went for patterned fabric. I do think this pattern would work in a plain colour, but I fancied a bit of a pattern, but thought matching it might be hard, so I went for something small. Here it is in close up on one of the tie pieces:


I’m thinking this maybe a good spring/summer top 🙂

My plan now is to do some tailor tacks to mark my darts – is there anything else I need to mark? I also plan to cut out and iron on my interfacing before my next lesson.

Wish me luck!

Wrist Pincushion

During my first session on Making Your Own Clothes my tutor showed us a pincushion she wears on her wrist whilst dress making. It means she always has pins to hand and doesn’t have to scrabble around. She gave everyone a copy of the pattern and here is my version:


and on my wrist (well a bit further up my arm!)


The pattern is fairly self explanatory and can be found here.

The pattern calls for soft and stable to stiffen the band. I don’t have anything that thick, so used sew in interfacing from my stash. I cut interfacing half the width of the band fabric (2″ rather than 4″).


Yes, I did this after dark (which is not hard at this time of year)! The interfacing is 1/2″ shorter than the fabric, but if I was to do this again I’d probably leave a bit more as 1/2″ is not much when split between both ends!


I then folded both in half length ways, and ironed the fold to make the creases more visible.


Then I placed the interfacing in the fabric and folded the fabric over the edge so it was like a v shape. After unfolding I used the creases on the fabric to help place the Velcro. If I’d been able to have the machine out I’d have sewn the Velcro using it, but I sewed it by hand which took a while.

Today I used my machine to sew around the strap. I started at the end and went over each end three times before doing both sides. I also sewed around the circle, leaving a gap to turn through.


I trimmed around the circle using my pinking shears before turning it the right way around. I only left a small gap which made it quite difficult! To save you stabbing yourself whilst wearing the pincushion you are advised to insert a circle of plastic at the bottom of the pincushion. I used the bottom of a pot noodle pot left after one of Mr M’s late night snacks. It’s virtually the perfect size!

To make the stuffed circle into a flower you draw your thread through the middle of the pincushion and around the edge and back through the middle. Initially I tried doing this using sewing thread, but when you pull on it to make it as tight as you want, it snaps! The pattern does actually say to use crochet thread, and luckily I found some in a charity shop last year. After initially trying with black thread that you couldn’t see, I quite like the contrasting thread.


So, ta dah! I will take this to my next lesson on Monday. I wonder if anyone has made one? I guess I’ll find out soon…

This is another stash busting make. I used buttons the same when making my owl softies and I first used this fabric when making a needle case before I started blogging. The iron on interfacing used to strengthen the base of the flower and the sew in interfacing in the strap were both bought in to make clutch bags. It is quite nice to not have to go shopping to make something. Do you have a stash of crafty bits? Are you trying to make a dent in it? I’m still growing mine, and being able to make things straight off is one of the reasons I justify having it!

Dress Making Basics

Tonight was lesson one of my Make Your Own Clothes course. I got slightly lost getting there, but arrived with a minute or two to spare, and wasn’t the last to get there!

I will be spending my Monday nights with seven other ladies, which is actually quite a nice group size. There was the important filling out of a few forms at the start including a Personal Learning Plan! I will also now be texted if the course doesn’t run for a session.

We started off with the get to know you and what do you want to achieve bit, which revealed to me that quite a few of the people on the course did a short getting to know your sewing machine course just before Christmas. Hopefully I know enough without attending that! Some people are making clothes for themselves, whereas a few others want to be able to make kids clothes. One lady even said she wants to make her daughter’s wedding dress. I think Jenny, our tutor, was quite relieved when she then told us that her daughters have no marriage plans at the moment!

After gathering as a group we were given a list of sewing tools and equipment we may need. She went through why and what everything is needed for, and for once I think I have everything (well maybe apart from a small screwdriver). When talking about pincushions she showed us a flower shaped wrist one she uses, which looks like this:


The pattern is free here and a few people said they would make one before our next class. I need to figure out what “soft and stable” is though if I’m going to do it. I also need some Velcro!

Our first challenge of the evening was to see if we knew meanings for some dressmaking terms and techniques. I knew what selvedge, interfacing and bias meant, but was a bit clueless on some of the others, such as nap, grain and ease. We did discuss some as a group, but were relieved when Jenny went through the list and then gave us her answers on a printed sheet. Then it was the dreaded measuring of each other in pairs. I now have a sheet of my measurements 😦 Apparently I do fit in Collette patterns, just!

Are you wondering which one I’m going to make? Well I ummmed and ahhhhhed, but I had to make a decision. I am going to make:



After we were shown how to layout a pattern pieces using the pattern, and the all important measuring of the pieces before you decide which ones to cut, I just about had time to do a tiny bit. I ironed my pattern, roughly cut the pieces for the view I was going for, and measured them. I may need to add a teeny bit of room around the boobs (no big surprise to me there!) but it all seems doable.

Roll on next week when I can get a bit more done 🙂