Wednesday, 10 January 2018

A New Outfit for my Friend, Mr Joseph.

Every year I like to give my children something hand made for Christmas. I have made lots of different things over the years and this year is seemed to me that Mr Joseph needed a new outfit. First of all let me introduce you to Mr Joseph.


Mr Joseph is my son's teddy bear. He has been wearing an old pair of summer pyjamas for quite a while and they didn't fit him at all. I thought that it would be nice for him to have some new clothes for Christmas but I didn't have time to sew anything too complicated. I had had a turn out recently and sorted out a pile of outgrown, boys' clothes to take to the charity shop or to pass on to friends. Among these were several shirts age 7-8 and when I tried one of these on Mr Joseph I found that the neck was quite a good fit. This set me thinking and I wondered whether I could cut one of these shirts down to his size. This nice, red, check shirt had been a favourite so I chose this one as the base for Mr Joseph's new outfit. I was in a hurry to get this ready for Christmas and unfortunately I didn't take any photos as I went along but I have taken these comparison pictures so that you can see how the red shirt was altered compared to another one of the same size.



First I cut off both sleeves and put these aside. Then I put the shirt on Mr Joseph, buttoned it up and pinned the position of the armholes and side seams cutting off the excess fabric while making sure that the shirt would still be symmetrical. The original shirt had a patch pocket on the front but it was much too large so I just unpicked and discarded it.

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The sleeves were too long for a teddy but the cuffs were a good size so I decided to use the lower portion of the original sleeves keeping the cuffs intact. I measured the length of Mr Joseph's arms  and cut off the extra length straight across the top.


Then I measured the circumference of top of the sleeve and stitched new side seams leaving an opening just big enough to fit the top of the sleeve. I sewed the sleeve in and neatened all of the seam allowances with a zigzag stitch

Mr Joseph is short and round. I cut his shirt shorter at the front and dipped the hem at the back so that it would come down over his rather large bottom. I was able to keep the first three buttons and buttonholes from the original shirt.


I am so pleased that I have been able to use the original collar, cuffs and button holes. This saved me so much work and my teddy bear shirt has a really professional finish.


I had lots of ideas for making trousers that would accommodate Mr Joseph's shapely behind, but in the end the simplest solution was the best. I had a new pair of navy blue, jersey leggings that were too tight. I shortened the body, turning over a casing at the top for elastic, and trimmed the legs off to the right length finishing the hems top and bottom with a twin needle - just right for a soft, comfy pair of teddy trousers.


Then I threaded elastic through the casing at the waist and ankles and I made a pair of teddy tracksuit bottoms.


Underneath Mr Joseph is wearing a pair of minion underpants that my son grew out of some time ago but were not very worn. I took a bit of fabric out of the gusset to improve the fit but otherwise these were just the right size. Obviously they have been through the wash!!



My son was so surprised to find a present for Mr Joseph under our Christmas tree on Christmas morning and was very pleased to dress his favourite teddy in these smart clothes.

Mr Joseph wearing his new outfit
This has been a really good way to use a much loved shirt that will have happy memories attached to it in the future. I think this might be a nice thing to do with an old school uniform or special sports clothing to make a souvenir of a special event. Let me know if you have had any good ideas for up-cycling things to preserve happy memories. I have been wondering about making a patchwork quilt from striped shirts like one I saw on a craft stall recently


Friday, 5 January 2018

Two piece dress - an experiment with fabric


I have to confess, that I have a terrible weakness for buying remnants of material on impulse if they catch my eye. That is exactly what happened towards the end of 2017 when I spotted some beautiful fabric on my favourite stall in Leicester Market. The fabric is a medium weight, floral print scuba which started me off on a journey to create something that would really take advantage of this beautiful print.  


There were large areas of navy blue around each floral motif so I knew that I would need to place the floral design very carefully on whatever I decided to make. I was inspired by Ted Baker's online shop where there are lots of beautiful floral dresses that are way beyond my price range. This dress especially caught my eye because of the asymmetrical placement of the flowers. I wanted to make something similar using my lovely fabric.


Obviously this model is a lot taller and slimmer than me so I carried on searching for a style that I thought would suit me. I found a 1960s Butterick pattern on Etsy for a 2 piece evening dress that I liked.

Two-Piece Evening Dress

I was sure that I could create the look I was searching for using patterns that I already owned. I began by making a pencil skirt with my tried and tested pattern from The Maker's Atelier.  It is the third time I have made a skirt with this pattern since I received the book as a present in the summer and each one I have made seems better than the last. I  cut out the pattern pieces individually so that the floral motif would fall in the same place on the back and the front of the skirt. 

Three little pencil skirt all in a row!
Next I looked for a simple t-shirt pattern with short sleeves for the top portion of my dress. I decided to try the pattern for the Silk Woven Tee in the Great British Sewing Bee book, Fashion with Fabric. I hadn't made this pattern before and I was sewing with scuba not with a woven fabric but this t-shirt had the boxy style I was looking for and seemed straightforward to make. The pattern calls for a side zip but since I was making my t-shirt from fabric with a slight stretch I omitted the zip and I am pleased to say that it pulls on easily over my head.

Yet again I was very careful with the positioning of the floral design and I cut the fabric out as a single layer so that I could see where the pattern would fall on the finished garment. I am very pleased with the placing of the flowers on the t-shirt. I love the way that the flowers tumble over my right shoulder and continue down the right sleeve whereas the left sleeve is quite plain.



On the back I wrapped the floral design across the shoulders and I think it looks very effective. 

With hind sight I wish that I had made the top first and then made the skirt to match. I think I would have arranged the flowers higher up on the skirt, similar to the Ted Baker dress where they tumble down from the waistband. But, I made the skirt first because it was the easier pattern and I haven't got enough fabric left to make another one. I am still really pleased with the overall effect. 



I have worn the skirt and top together as a two piece dress and it is smart and comfortable. As an added bonus I have also worn the skirt paired with a jumper on a cold day and the top looks great with jeans and boots. Three outfits from one project can't be bad.


Happy New Year and Happy sewing!



Saturday, 30 December 2017

How to Make Christmas Bunting


I always like to have some handmade decorations at Christmas and this year is no exception. I had bought a selection of Christmas craft fabric so I decided to make some bunting. I used four different fabics all with a red, white and green colour scheme, but quite varied. 


I cut my triangles 7 inches wide at the top and 7 inches long. These dimensions allowed me to cut a 7 inch wide strip of fabric and then to cut alternate triangles so that nothing was wasted. 


I stitched two triangles right sides together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. I have noticed that a lot of commercially produced bunting is only a single thickness or has the raw edges showing but I like to have a neat finish. I trimmed the seam allowance at the point to allow the triangles to turn out neatly and then pressed them before attaching then to the binding.

For this bunting I purchased a packet of red bias binding. Christmas is always a busy time so I decided not to spend time making my own bias tape. The length of the binding dictated the length of my bunting. My binding is 98 inches long which allowed room for 13 flags to be attached. 

Once all of the flags were sewn, turned out and pressed I pinned them inside the folded bias tape at regular intervals. When  the flags were pinned onto the tape I top-stitched with matching thread along the open edge of the bias binding removing the pins as I stitched. As you can see the stitching is almost invisible.

Top-stitching along the binding

For me, the most important thing was to balance the colours and since two of my fabrics were red I made 4 green and gold flags (A); 4  white, robin flags (B); 3 red, reindeer flags(C) and only two red, Christmas tree flags(D). I placed the flags in the following order - C,ABD,ABC,ABD,ABC

My cutting out technique worked really well for the random designs of the robins and the golden holly, when it didn't matter which way up the triangles were. However, The red, reindeer design and the Christmas trees were directional patterns. I hate to waste fabric but I cut the red triangles the right way up until I came to the last 2 reindeer flags. Then I found that I would need to cut a second 7 inch strip and I couldn't bring myself to do this, so I used two upside-down triangles for the backs of the   flags at each end of my bunting. 

The front and back of two reindeer flags. 
As a result I have to be careful which way round I hang it but I always intended to hang this strip of bunting against the wall where you can't see the wrong side. 


I am really pleased with this string of Christmas bunting. I love the colour combination, which is very festive. I am sure that I will keep the bunting and get it out year after year when we decorate the house for Christmas. My decorations stay up until 12th night and then this bunting will be stored away in a box in the loft until next year. It won't take up much room and if it gets a bit creased in storage a quick iron should make it as good as new. What more could you ask of your Christmas decorations?

Friday, 29 December 2017

Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men

I have been away from sewing and from my blog for a few weeks now due to some health issues and  work and family commitments. I can't believe that it has been 2 months since I last wrote a post and in that time I have done very little sewing in comparison to what I had planned. I was reminded of the quote from Robert Burns' poem that I have used for the title of this post. 

"But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,

In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!"


Robert Burns wrote these famous lines in his poem after he allegedly turned up a mouse's nest while ploughing a field. My plans have not ended quite so badly as the mouse in the poem but things certainly haven't gone smoothly.

Rainy airport on a cloudy morning
As I wrote in my last blog October was a very busy month. November began with a work trip to Aberdeen, which I was dreading because I don't like being away from my family overnight, but in the end I really enjoyed it. I flew from Birmingham to Aberdeen airport on a rainy, grey day, which was an experience for me. Flying high above the clouds, in the sunshine, was amazing. Because I was travelling on my own I met some fascinating people along the way. People talk to you when you are on your own in a way that they don't when you are travelling with your family. All the people I met were kind and helpful and shared their stories with me.

Gateway to Dyce Airport, Aberdeen
After the flight above the clouds, one of the highlights of my trip was to cross the station bridge at Montrose railway station and to suddenly see this amazing sunset over the lagoon.

Sunset over the lagoon at Montrose  
I had a good time on my trip despite my reservations but I was glad to be back home again.


Just one week after I came back from Scotland I started to have problems with my right eye. I was experiencing bleeds from my retina that looked just like skeins of black embroidery silk, which formed and dispersed within about 10 minutes. After a visit to eye casualty at the local hospital I learned that I was experiencing a "Posterior Vitreous Detachment". This happens when the jelly inside the eye becomes more liquid with age and looses its structure falling forward away from the retina. It seems this is a common occurrence as you get older affecting many people by the age of 75, but I had never heard of it happening to anyone, and I am nowhere near my 75th birthday! I had expected certain things to change as I got older, my hair has changed colour, my waist is not so thin but I never expected my eyes to start falling apart!! It was very scary to think that I might risk loosing my sight if my retina became damaged but it was also upsetting to be confronted with the fact that I must be getting old. Until this happened I had been dying my hair, rushing about and probably deluding myself that I was still young.

The doctor I saw at A&E told me not to do any bending or lifting for 2 weeks and as a result I put my sewing plans on hold. I often cut out on the floor and I bend forward when I am sewing by hand. I was frightened that this might bring back the symptoms I had experienced. In addition to this he advised me to sleep sitting up to encourage the floaters in my vision to settle and I found it very difficult to sleep like this. My eyes were just too tired to sew. 

Just as my eye seemed to settle I caught a virus that was going round at work. I have had a terrible cough for weeks which I am just beginning to get over.

All this co-incided with Christmas, one of the busiest times in my year...

So now you know why I have been away from my computer and my sewing machine for so long, but I am now feeling much better. Christmas has been a great time with my family. Our tree is up...



The turkey has almost been eaten. (I am making soup with the bones as I write this post)

Everyone had lots of presents and we are looking forward to the New Year.

It even snowed in December, which is really unusual in the UK.

Our garden in the snow

So Happy New Year to you all and I look forward to sharing some more sewing adventures with you in 2018.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Pencil Skirt Pattern Hack - The Maker's Atelier


I have now made three pencil skirts using Frances Tovin's pattern in the Maker's Atelier book. I have written about my first pink floral version here, you can see the black sparkly version here and the blue one is yet to be blogged.


This is proving to be such an easy, versatile jersey skirt pattern that I can see I will be making more. It is a great stash buster but also provides a good pattern to make a quick shirt to compliment the other things in my wardrobe.

I needed a new black pencil skirt for work. I have been wearing the same RTW skirt for years. I shortened it some time ago to keep up with modern fashions and it is now a bit tight and getting rather worn. I had already bought a length of black suiting and some lining to make a replacement but I decided instead to try the pencil skirt pattern hack. This line drawing shows exactly how the skirt is put together.


I bought a length of textured, black jersey in a medium weight. I was drawn to this fabric by its interesting textured surface. This has been difficult to photograph on such a dark fabric but hopefully the picture below gives you some idea of the texture.


The instructions for the pencil skirt hack were simple and easy to follow. Using the original pencil skirt pattern, Francis tells you to trim a 9cm strip off the side seam. I made another pattern in newspaper, moved the pattern over by 9cm all the way along and cut along the curved edge.


The side panels are each made from a rectangle 20 x 75cm.

I cut out the pattern pieces quickly and in no time at all I had made up my new skirt. Yippee!


I like the added interest of the princess seams on this plain fabric and I am glad that I tried this variation rather than just making another plain pencil skirt. The elasticated waist band is very comfortable to wear. I have generally found that a zigzag stitch is the best stitch to finish the elastic casing around the waist and a twin needle is better for the hem. I tested out each stitch on a fabric scrap before stitching the finished garment. The stretch fabric makes this narrow skirt easy to walk in, but it still has a flattering silhouette.  

This skirt is a very useful addition to my wardrobe. It goes with lots of tops that I have already made so here are two more that I have tried.

Worn with my flutter sleeve blouse
The back view paired with my long sleeved striped T-shirt

Looking very pleased with myself wearing yesterday's T-shirt with today's quick skirt
This pattern is so easy. It hasn't challenged me to learn new skills and it can't really be described as an interesting make. The secret of its success for me is that I can run up a skirt so quickly to suit any occasion. This black skirt is an understated, wardrobe basic but if I choose a beautiful fabric I can also make something more dramatic for a special occasion.

Do you have a pattern that you love and have made over and over again. Please leave a comment below and share your recommendations.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Striped T-shirt - Another Butterick 6258

October has been a very busy month for me, which has had an impact on my sewing and my blog, but after a break of several weeks here I am again, and its good to be back. At the beginning of the month both of my older sons went back to university for the new academic year. They are both studying on the same city and after a family day out involving two car loads of belongings, they are both settled in well. The house seems very quiet without them around and I have gone back to using my smaller pans to cook. There is also significantly less washing to do but this doesn't seem to have freed up much more sewing time. 

On 12th October my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a small tea party for friends and family. They received a card from the queen to congratulate them for reaching this amazing milestone. 

Almost immediately after the anniversary party it was half term here so we went away for a short break in Somerset with our youngest son. We stayed in a lovely cottage on a farm near to the small village of Bicknoller. The UK caught the tail end of storm Ophelia while we were away. We travelled down to Somerset with an eerie orange light in the sky and initially had very mild weather followed by some rain but despite the uncertain weather we have a really good break.

Now that things are back to normal I have resumed sewing and have lots of projects panned as usual. While I was out doing a pre-university shop I was tempted by some interesting striped fabric that I thought would make a nice long sleeved T-shirt. I liked the burgundy stripe and I didn't notice at the time that this was a border print. The coloured stripe is green on one side of the fabric graduating to burgundy. I had just enough of this fabric to use the green stripes around the bottom of the T-shirt front and back,  but not enough to include green stripes on the sleeves.


I used Butterick 6528, which I have used twice before to make long sleeved T-shirts, here and here. It is a simple and reliable pattern which sews up quickly. The Reindeer T-Shirt hasn't been worn so much over the summer months but my Aqua T-Shirt is a good friend that I  wear all the time.


I used lots of pins to make sure that I matched the stripes when I was cutting out the front and back pieces on the fold and I cut the two sleeves separately to make sure that the stripes matched. I pinned through each of  the narrowest white stripes to ensure a good match at the seams before stitching them and this worked well. I am especially pleased with the way the stripes match on the sleeve heads. This will never be exact because the top of the sleeve is larger than the armscye, but this is good enough for me. There is a very good tutorial on sewing with stripes on the Tilly and the Buttons website, here, which I would highly recommend if you haven't tried this before.


All of the internal seams are stitched with the overlock stitch on my sewing machine. I used white cotton inside the shirt for a neat finish.


The shoulder seams have been stabilised with another piece of the seam tape that my grandmother gave me many years ago. She was a very talented seamstress and I always remember her when I incorporate something of hers into a garment.


I top stitched all of the hems on this T-shirt with a twin needle. I used black cotton for the top stitch details. This is only really visible around the neck where the stitching crosses the stripes. The rest of the top stitching is hidden against black stripes around the sleeves and the shirt hem.


I am very pleased with this top and am sure that I will get lots of wear out of it. These photos unfortunately don't show the colour of the contrasting stripes very well.


The sleeves on this shirt have been shortened to a 3/4 length. This is my favourite length. I am always pushing me sleeves up in the kitchen and at work, so a slightly shorter sleeve suits me better.