My first sewing-awl saddle stitch!! Pen roll strap

Over new year’s, I went with my parter to visit his brother in the US. While there, I happened to go to an art store and buy some pens… which I could not fit into the – frankly too small – pencil case I had brought along. So I went back ans bought a pen roll too!

Except the pen roll was so poorly made! The strap felt quite unpleasant and stiff to the touch, and the button was popping off and letting the roll unroll while in my bag!

There are few materials I like less than plastic trying to pass itself off as leather… yuck! So today, as my first project of 2017, I replaced that strap with a leather one.

I had a leather skin, with a convenient straight edge, which I followed to manually cut a mostly straight strap much longer than the one on the pen roll.

Then I had to unpick the bad strap without damaging the pen roll! Embroidery scissors came in handy.

And finally, I stitched it using a sewing awl I bought in Germany about three years ago. My first ever real saddle stitch!! It was very exciting and surprisingly not very difficult at all! I am glad I have a massive chopping board to hand for doing my leather work on, or the cutting mat would be looking like a needlepoint project by now!

Oyster card holder


So a couple of months ago I made an oyster card holder.

I had a tough commute, and needed to be able to find the oyster card more easily. And hold onto it better, because that little thing is very slippery!

This was made with two pieces of leather, very easily saddle-stitched with gold thread all around. Then I stitched the slightly longer piece back onto the blue one, creating a loop. 

I hadn’t expected to make the loop. It sort of just happened. And it has been very good!

Storing summer shoes

The seasons are changing and I am swapping out summer things for winter things, starting with the hardest things to wear: shoes. Everyone says you should put one pair in one box and stick a photo on it. But those people must have a home printer or a way to take expert photos on white backgrounds. And also, not that many shoes! 
I always consolidate my shoes into IKEA shoe boxes. This year, I added quick illustrations of what is inside so I would find things more easily if I needed them. 

Hand-drawn illustrations are faster to do that photo-print-cut-place. And given they only emphasise the salient detail making the shoe unique, it is easier to recognise the shoe from its illustration than from its photo! 

This is what my boxes looked like last night, before I put them up above the wardrobe. 

    

How to make a reversible shift dress

Recently, I have been making stretchy shift dresses. A lot of them. At some point I realised I needed heavier fabrics, in part because the weather is getting colder, and in part because: undergarment-lines!

But heavy stretchy fabrics are impossibly hard to find. So I settled on a double-layer dress. 

As I pondered making it, it occurred to me that if I am making two layers, and my dress is of incredibly simple construction, then I should be able to make it  reversible!!

Except I wasn’t sure. 

When I googled reversible dress, I found nothing useful. Maybe everyone knows how to do this? Maybe it’s impossible? Or maybe nobody has thought that a shift dress made of simple jersey is something you’d want a two-layered two-in-one of!

So I had to make a prototype. Naturally, the articulated mattel doll came out.    

My pattern making was rudimentary. (In fact I did not leave enough room for her head!)

    
And it was easy to cut four layers of fabric in one shot. It was a barbie-sized proof-of-concept! 

 
This is where the secret is. The order of the seams!!! I did them by hand because the dress was so tiny.

First, good-side-to-good-side of the front pieces (one of each colour).

Stitch  the neck and arm openings. 

Do the same to the good-side-to-good side of the back pieces.

  
Then stitch the side seams of a colour’s front and back pieces, good-side-to-good side. And then do it for the other colour too. 

You end up with a silly-looking tube. 

 
If you wiggle the tube at the shoulder seams, you can also stitch those down (good-side-to-good-side of each colour). It gets a bit tight, but not too much.

Then you’re ready to flip the dress like a sock!

And there we go. A double-sided dress.   
Shame she didn’t fit in it. But it’s ok. Because in exactly that way (plus several dozen pins) I made me a life-size one!!

The only difference: my front and back pieces are a different shape. So I made myself two pattern pieces of the full front and full back, and cut two fabrics (one of each colour) from each pattern piece. 

   
I pinned EVERYTHING like a madwoman. Thin jersey dances around like a jitterbug if given half a chance. It’s thin, slippery and stretchy! 

    
I did all of my pinning of the arm and neck openings first. 

 
Then stitched them veeeeeery carefully, progressively pulling out the pins. Notice I set the pins perpendicular to the seam line, in case I needed to sew over them. 

   
Then I also stitched the long side-seams and shoulder…. Which I completely forgot to photograph!

After the dress was flipped, I had to puzzle out the hem. The one thing I could not be bothered to check on the doll!

Firstly, I let it hang for a few days. ALWAYS do this before hemming to allow the fabric to take its preferred position with respect to gravity. 

I have seen dresses retailing at £500 whose creators forgot to do that, and whose hems were crooked by the time I tried them on!!!

 
After it had rested sufficiently, I pinned it, folding excess fabric inwards and creating a folded flat seam. 

  
I then let it hang a bit longer. 

Eventually, I took it down and stitched the hem down with one neat zig-zag seam. I used black overlocking thread which is incredibly thin, so my stitch is near-invisible. 

I wore it last night to work and then out for the evening! But I don’t have any photos. There will be some later!! 

I am currently working on a lined dress with pockets using the same pattern and principle! Except the “lining” is very thin, and therefore I will never reverse the dress. 

two-piece two-seam jersey dress

This is a two-seam dress IF you have the guts to leave the armholes, neckline and hem unfinished. Some jersey materials lend themselves wonderfully to that sort of look. I personally wanted my dresses to be worn at the office as well, so I finished them carefully.

I cut the fabric on the floor because that was going to be easier than anything else.

The pattern is one I lifted from a knit dress I already own. I wasn’t sure if it would work in a jersey, but it did!

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I cut it very carefully to be sure the stripes would line up when I assembled it.

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The tools. Bernina B330, Guterman red thread (100% Polyester) and Prym metal bobbins.

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Being a bit OCD about lining up the stripes. The machine still made them slip around, annoyingly enough so it’s not flawless. But it’s damn close!

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I was supremely lazy with the armholes and neckline and quickly just rolled them inwards. I did use pins though, to make sure it was nice and neat.

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Ta daa… Easy jersey dress. Two pieces, 4 seams (2 sides & two shoulders) with 3 “holes” (arms & neck) and one invisible hem.

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I liked the dress so much, I have made two more like it. Here is another one, in jersey I bought at Liberty. Yes, it’s a liberty print!!

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Wearing it the next day.

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Pattern-lifting for a pencil skirt

New quickie project: a pencil skirt.

I have a jeans pencil skirt i adore, from a friendly independent designer. I love it so much, that when i was pondering what to make next while wearing it… I… Umm… Well that photo wouldn’t be SFW, but basically i very quickly traced the skirt’s pattern onto baking paper!

It was easy enough. Trick was to pay attention to noting the darts, and making sure i contoured all the pieces as they lay flat, as opposed to the whole skirt (because that was not fully flat).

Then i cut up the pattern pieces, had to redo the one with the darts (you need to cut the dart’s seam line, twist the remainder of the skirt, and redraw the contour line. This creates room for the triangle of the dart.), and i was good to go.

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There was a lot of pinning involved, then sewing with bernina’s super stretch (No.9) stitch using overlock thread (super thin, super strong).

The finished skirt was worn to work today!

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Three dresses in three days: sew-insanity

Several Fridays ago, i took my sewing machine to my partner’s flat. His flatmate was on holiday for two weeks, and in this narrow timeframe I am allowed to commandeer half of the dining room table for the machine and its little collection of gadgets.

I am insanely grateful for this because i have been wanting to make dresses for months, but my flat gets too hot for it. Temperatures reach 29C in my room (normal temperature in the summer in there is 27C, 3 to 7 degrees warmer than outside), the side effect of which is that the second i walk in, instead of digging for fabric, i remove hot clothes, lie on the bed, and launch netflix while trying to move as little as possible…. “Unbearable” is a word that comes to mind. I avoid staying at home these days. And am planning to move out, ahead of contract end, in march next year. I do hope that goes all right. That place is not liveable from June to September, and does not deserve the nearly £1000 of rent (all bills excluded) i pay for one of two rooms. Ok. So flat-hate rant over (it is impairing my productivity!!!!) let’s go back to dresses.

So what’s been going on?

Saturday, I made a dress.
Sunday, I made a dress.
Monday, I made a dress.
Tuesday, I wore Monday’s dress to work and then to meet friends for dinner.

On Wednesday, I was going to dinner with colleagues, ostensibly to talk about work and taking over the world. So no sewing. And no new dress.

The fun thing is that for two of the three dresses, i made a pattern from scratch. The Sunday dress, i used an old faithful i love. And i didn’t finish it, i am still missing the zipper and hem…

For the Saturday dress, a bamboo jersey maxi dress with a button placket (that was the dumbest idea…), i measured myself and plotted the basic half-torso pattern pieces. One for the front, one for the back. (The back one is 10cm narrower in the bodice part, and 4cm longer in the skirt part)

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There are no photos of the finished dress…. It aggravated me too much.

Turns out bamboo jersey is like liquid mercury! A slithering little devil that tries to break your machine! I don’t think I have a single straight stitch on the entire dress! It was very difficult to work with, kept snagging, breaking threads, warping, wiggling, moving at different speeds under the foot….
I got super angry. But then two days later i wore the dress around the house….

So I will try again with two changes to my strategy:
One: teflon sewing foot so things glide nicely.
Two: masking tape! Apparently one way to make sure slithering fabric stays straight is to put tape next to where your seam will be! I’ll be trying that.
I already have jersey needles. What i might do is buy some thinner thread. Maybe my plain cotton one wasn’t right for the uber-lightweight stretchy fabric.

About sewing feet. DO NOT BUY THEM ON AMAZON IF YOU OWN A BERNINA 330. I bought 4 sewing feet compatible with my type of machine. Except one nearly broke my machine when the needle hit the foot, and on all the others, the needle also hits the foot, it doesn’t go through the hole. That would be a good £35 i have thrown away. And i still cannot apply bias tape or put in an invisible zipper. More money needs to be spent. Don’t make that mistake!!

Sunday dress was a pleasure to work with. I had bought the fabric in the winter, a lovely half cotton half viscose blend, with a brushed side that felt soooooo soft! (The other was a bit shiny) I bought it in two colours, and worked with the pink one this time. Stitches were perfect. Thread was perfect, everything just worked. One of the perks of working from a pattern and with fabric that resembles muslin (imagine lightweigt bedsheet fabric).

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And here is the dress I wore to work and then to dinner. It was fairly quick to make. Just one evening.

Beach bag with 50x150cm and 60min

Last week i went on holiday. I’m Greek, and love the greek islands (best sea in the world!), so it’s where i always go for my summer sea & sun fix. This year, it was Crete.

The night before my sparrow-fart flight, at about midnight, i realised i could not find my beach bag. Maybe it’s at my parents’ in Athens. Maybe it’s under my bed. Go figure. I needed to get to bed pronto, because my alarm would go off at 4:30am. So. What to do?

I could not wager on finding a beach bag on holiday. I know the gift shops down there. You can get olive oil soap and wooden salad stirrers easier than a fabric bag. I looked at my collection of generic fabric bags (many thanks to London Fashion Week, IKEA, SPSS, Mathworks, and many others) and thought “no. And where will the towel go?”

My options:
– go on a beach holiday without a beach bag.
– make a beach bag. Quickly.

I had fabric. Cath Kidston’s London landmarks print. Barely 50cm of it, but full width (150cm).

I knew i wanted thick handles, so my sunburnt shoulders wouldn’t be cut into, so i cut out two strips of about 20cm width each (of the 50cm height). I folded them, stitched them into tubes, and flipped them to make handles. I did not stitch them down again, i did not want them flat.

Then i cut a strip of about another 15cm (again 50cm high), and split it in half. This yielded 2 pieces of 15x25cm which i proceeded to turn the edges on so they could become patch pockets. Ah. Yes. A feature of my favourite beach bag of all time were two outer pockets, one of which carried a bottle of water, and the other sun lotion.

The rest of the fabric was my bag. I had about 95cm left (by 50cm height).

Here is a rough sketch of what the “pattern” for slicing up the fabric looked like.

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First, i folded in the top edge and stitched it down.

Second, i applied the patch pockets and also stitched them onto the bag.

Third, i stitched the side seam of the bag, to make it into a nice tube. I did a french seam on that (sew wrong way together, then right way together, to get a tidy and stronger seam).

Fourth, i stitched the bottom. I also made a modification. Instead of sewing a single line bottom, i made a T-seam, so the bottom would be wider. Think of the Longchamp bags. That seam. This was a bit tricky to do on the fly without measuring, but i was aiming for speed, not precision.

Fifth, longest, and last step, was to put on the handles. I wanted a narrower top, so i stitched them folded into the body rather than flat against it. Imagine having the bag pinched around the handle rather than the handle flat against the side of the bag.

This is the bag finished! (I am gutted that i was too rushed, tired and stressed to think of taking more photos of the work in progress!)

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And here it is in use, on the amazing beach of Elafonisi in Crete.

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Overambitious…

Many many months ago, I bought a most excellent book about draping. I almost immediately started plotting a pattern on my dressmaker’s doll… Where it stayed until last night. It must have been a solid 6 months on that doll. So long, in fact, that some of the green Sharpie marks I had made on the baking paper (who needs specialised pattern paper?) have begun to wash out from light exposure. The thing to learn, clearly, is that green sharpies are not lightfast.

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I took the marked pieces off the doll, laid them out on top of 2-way stretch jersey, and cut. With my new fiskars tool! Think pizza cutter, but with a razor-sharp disc, which cuts through layerS (the capitalisation is intentional) of fabric.

I have assembled nothing yet. I only cut the fabric last night! Curious to see what will come of it.

Meanwhile, I did use the rolling cutter to make my traditional shift dress, in turquoise this time. It was SO much easier to follow the curves than it is wi scissors!! I wish I had known about these cutters earlier, they are a godsend.

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I have no photos to post of the finished dress. Messed up there. And it’s in the laundry by now.

How about some changing room selfies that i will be using for inspiration in my (very near) future projects?

First up, a Roland Mouret dress.

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A bit of Dior (the dress) and Chanel (the bag), which i may also attempt to make variations of. I’m a big fan, with a small budget than i would like, and an appetite for craft!

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I went to RegentTweet 2014!!

RegentTweet is a one-day treasure hunt meets marathon event happening on Regent Street, for professional bloggers. Apparently, I am one of those. I have been blogging since the late nineties, and running my SeamstressSophie blog since 2008. A few years ago i also added a blog to my main website (eurydice13.com), just because I wasn’t busy enough, clearly!

What happened….
The day started at Zedel, the french brasserie hiding under piccadilly… Sort of. It used to be a hotel, then things got bombed and it closed down… Only to be finally artfully restored and reopen barely two years ago! Speedy service, very good food, and the most old-world glamorous decor I have seen in a long time.

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I happily discovered through twitter that a friend was also attending, and as soon as we had registered, we snuck off to Godiva for some breakfast strawberries.

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That was a most excellent idea, because we then had to pose for the photographers…. And doing so on a stomach with strawberries in is a much better experience!

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The rest of the day was a blur of running from shop to shop, trying things on, discovering new brands, talking to shop owners, personal shoppers, sales assistants, and more. Here are some highlights, including the cutest miniature Paris Brest that goes with the “café gourmand” at Zedel.

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We finished the day at illy, at the north end of regent street. I love that caffe. It has inspiring and uplifting decoration, delicious coffee, excellent service, wifi, and huge windows that allow the light in. Heaven! Oh. And to die for sandwiches.

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And, lastly, thank you RegentTweet for all the wonderful things I got to take home on the day. I think my top three favourites have got to be the Brooks brothers non-iron shirt, the bootcut GAP jeans, and the illy art collection espresso cup! (the one thing not in the photo). I loved all gifts, these are just the three that I will most definitely keep forever and use the most.

A special mention should go to Karen Millen for the surprisingly well packaged yellow purse, and to Hackett for the wonderful monogrammed luggage tag. I LOVE it!!!

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