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. 

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.

20140704-134759-49679370.jpg

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!)

20140704-133153-48713926.jpg

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

20140704-134231-49351213.jpg

20140704-134230-49350919.jpg

oyster card holder v2.0 (more pocketses!)

After having done it once, and seeing that the two pockets I’d made weren’t enough for the cards I was starting to need to carry (driver’s license, M & S card, oyster card, credit card, some cash and a few business cards), I decided to make a second version with more pockets. I’d especially liked the diagonal pocket, so I made two of them.

I cut out the pieces carefully, even though I didn’t bother measuring them.

IMG_0287

I then pinned the edges of the pockets so I could get nice angles on them.

IMG_0288

This side will have one full-length pocket in which I will hide the oyster. See it never needs to be removed to be used, it can work through the oyster card holder’s fabric, which means I can put it in the nearest-to-the-outside pocket, and hide it completely from view quite safely.

IMG_0289

After stitching all around the flipped “innards” of the holder, I cut the edges closer to the seam with crimping scissors. This means that when I flip it inside-out, the edges will be less poofy. (what do you mean, “poofy” isn’t a technical term?)

IMG_0290

Ta daaaa!

As I was making it, I decided to add a strap. I cut a length of fabric about 5cm wide in the diagonal of the fabric to make sure it will have some extra stretch, and stitched it inside-out along the long edge. This made for a tube, which I trimmed close to the seam and flipped inside-out to get a simple strap. I then anchored the strap between the “innards” (green pockets of the inside) and the blue rip-stop canvas outer, and made sure it stayed put when I stitched around the edge.

IMG_0291

This is the oyster card holder v2.0 in use.

 

20130529-221752.jpg

20130529-221833.jpg

20130529-222837.jpg

Oyster card holder in 30min

A few weeks ago I was handed a cute oyster card holder from some guys advertising specsavers at waterloo station. Having moved back to london more or less that week, i took one and started using it. Yesterday, it split in two and became unusable.

In the few weeks i’ve had it, i’ve discovered that if i add my cafe loyalty cards and a credit card in there (and sometimes my driver’s license for picking up things at the post office) it becomes my “pop to the shops” or “night out with a teenie handbag” wallet. So when it broke, i was left with a bigger problem than i had imagined an oyster card holder could create.

My immediate thought was, of course, “easy, i’ll make one”. So i did. Here are the photos of me making my first ever – and slightly wonky – oyster card holder in about 30min. Complete with sewing machine deployment and re-tidy. Yes, speed was essential. I was going out.

Step one: my big fat canvas backing

I forgot to take a photo of that… I underestimated the length of canvas I would need and cut it way too short! So I had to go back and cut a nice long strip again for the entire back of the oyster holder. One doesn’t realise quite how long two oyster cards can be!

Step two: ok, so i’m not going to iron these into shape… Ah! Let’s sew them on the flip side!

I originally thought I would sew the pieces flat onto the canvas. Then I realised I’d want nicely trimmed / rolled edges, to I tried rolling them under the edge and pinning them down. That didn’t work. I would have needed to iron them. Or have fingers a large as a newborn’s. Neither were going to happen, i’m 34 and was in a rush. So I just sewed them together as you would a little pouch, inside out, guaranteeing myself a nice even finish once I flipped them.

IMG_0217

Step three: i should’ve done it on one big piece…

As an amusing replay of the canvas being too short, I didn’t think of cutting one long piece of the green fabric to make the inner backing of the folding oyster holder. So I had to stitch the two halves together before placing the long piece with flipped pockets onto the canvas for that final stitch around the edges.

IMG_0218

Step four: niiice and easy

This last stitch is the most visible piece of the oyster holder. I also, bravely for someone in such a rush and refusing to use a ruler, decided to do that in yellow thread. I had to be very very very careful when running that last stitch! I also used a longer stitch length, which makes the stitches themselves more visible and more decorative. (they look more like dashes than like a dotted line)

IMG_0219

Step five: ok, it’s a bit wonky, but it works!!

So here it is. Completed and used. I ran out of the house about 5 minutes later and was flashing it to a bus driver’s yellow oyster sensor a couple of minutes after that.

IMG_0223

IMG_0221

The one thing I forgot was to add some kind of marker for which side to have facing me, so I would know which side the oyster card is on. It’s important, as that’s the side you want to touch to the oyster NFC sensors (near field communication) in tube stations and buses. But hey, it worked!

And of course the star of the show: my beloved Singer from 1919. Such a joy working on that every time!!

 

IMG_0220

Replacing handbag lining

After my misadventure with the TopShop flimsy lining, I decided to re-line my handbag. Why? Because it’s cute, and looks small, but fits an amazing quantity of things, including an A5-sized page-a-day yearly moleskine diary. Yes, the big fat black one. And a massive wallet. And all my other clutter necessities. So. Here’s how I did it.

  1. Remove old lining. I left a 1.5cm “fringe” of the old one, as I wasn’t sure my machine can stitch through leather. I sewed most of the new lining onto that “fringe”, and am considering cross-stitching on top of it to a) make a prettier edging and b) ensure the new lining stays on by securing it to the leather.
  2. Cut piece of new lining wall (with possible 2nd piece for reinforcement)
  3. Cut pieces for pockets
  4. Put pockets together (gives a better finish)
  5. Affix pockets to the bag.
  6. Add zippered pocket if you wish (the best tutorial for that is from u-hanblog)
  7. Sew new lining to the bag, going all around the edge
  8. At this time I also stitched the “TopShop real leather” tag onto the lining. Thought it’d be a cute touch and memento of where the bad lining came from.
  9. Sew down the side to form a tube and close the lining up
  10. Cut the bottom piece(s). I used a second piece to reinforce this too, even if it won’t be under much strain.
  11. Sew the bottom piece as far as you can (from the back, to get a clean finish) using the machine.
  12. Finish sewing the bottom piece by hand (good side of fabric to you). I was rushed (wanted to go out in 10 min and use it) and did it very quickly and it’s not pretty, but you know what? It’s at the bottom of the bag, in the darkest recesses of my daily clutter-carrier, and I don’t really care 🙂

I also chose to take this opportunity to add a magnetic closure at the top of the bag, as none had been provided and the bag was infuriatingly left gaping at all times. In a city like London, this is an open invitation for peeking, and less desireably, pick-pocketing too. Adding such closures is the easiest thing in the world, and I recommend it to anyone who has trouble closing their bags. Mind you, you do need access to the space behind the lining in order to secure it in place, but a small opening should suffice.

Halloween Witch: The purple taffeta skirt

Purple WitchHalloween 2009. I didn’t know what to dress up as. Or rather. I was invited to a Goth Halloween party, so my original idea of Leeloo (from the 5th Element) wasn’t going to cut it. I went for the classic: Witch.

Step 1: The hat. I already had that.

Step 2: The wig. Not a requirement, but as soon as I saw this one I fell in love. The multi-dimensionality of the purple and black in the wig made it look amazing. The price tag? £10.

Step 3: The corset. Because this witch likes to look good. I had one already, in convenient black. In the picture I’m wearing a pink top and a black jumper under the corset. At the party I just had the corset for a lighter, more streamlined look.

Step 4: What to wear underneath!! I decided to make me a skirt. Thankfully our tiny Singer fabric shop had a roll of looooovely purple taffeta that fit the bill flawlessly. I took it home and in less than an hour turned it into a skirt! I must’ve gotten at least 5 compliments on the evening from random people absolutely loving the skirt! Not bad for an hour’s work 🙂

What you’ll need: 70cm of taffeta fabric, 150cm wide. Thick (3-4 cm) elastic band, 10cm less than the size of where you want the skirt to sit. I took 80cm, as my upper hips are 90cm. Thread that matches.

How to make it: Take the 70x150cm piece, and fold it with the good side in so you end up with a 70×75 piece. Sew along the 70cm length, to create a tube of fabric. This will be your skirt. Flip it so the good side is outside. Take the elastic band, and put it along the fabric’s looped edge, on the inside. Roll the fabric over it, creating a tube along the top into which the elastic can stay. Sew the fabric down. You will be sewing 3 layers of fabric, without touching the elastic. Bottom-most: the bad-side-to-you actual skirt fabric. Then the rolled inwards fabric for the channel, then the folded in (before it gets rolled under) fabric for the channel. If you can imagine this making a figure of “6” with the loop to the right, you’re sewing at the point where the loop meets the branch, and you’re sewing the loop bit flat onto the branch, with a little chunk of it rolled under. Once that’s done all around, you have a skirt. I used a rolling foot to finish the edges of the skirt in a straight line, but you could hem it properly if you prefer. I just couldn’t be bothered 🙂

Well that’s it. Great compliment-to-effort ratio!! I think the secret was in the colour of the skirt, and in using taffeta. I’d highly recommend making one of these to wear under a corset or narrow top for the festive season. Maybe in green or red? Hmm… Maybe I’ll make me one too 🙂

Blue jersey dress: DONE!

Blue Jersey dress: DONE!

Blue Jersey dress: DONE!

Hemmed it last night by hand, put it on, and had a friend who’s staying over snap a picture of me. The first picture was with the night-darkened window as a backdrop, so the dress didn’t show quite as well. Had to move to the wall. Those prison guards know their business!

I’m very excited about wearing it out and about next week.

Also, last night, I made 2 little pouches for runes. My friend is studying them and needed pouches for 2 sets of them. They came out quite professional (even though they’re still missing a ribbon) and I’ll be posting a tutorial for them soon. They’re incredibly basic, and quite possibly the best place to start if you’re only now learning how to use a sewing machine.

For now, open the “Jersey Dress tutorial” image to see the tutorial for making a sleeveless or strapless version of the dress in the picture. It’s very basic, and you’d have to try quite hard to mess it up. The only thing you really need is stretchy jersey fabric (£7/m and you only need 120cm), tailor’s chalk, and a tape measure. Scissors and a sewing maching are kind of a must, too!

Jersey Dress tutorial

Jersey Dress tutorial

3-tiered skirt

Muslin 3-tiered skirt

Muslin 3-tiered skirt

This is a tutorial on how to make the most basic of all skirts: the 3-tiered / gypsy / etc… skirt. It’s a classic staple to be found in every woman’s wardrobe at one time or another. In mine, it’s generally for the summer. Although now i think of it, it’d be very handy to have in a winter fabric as well. And possibly quite warm… hmm… Well, while I think about that, here’s the instructions!

1 – Decide on where you want your skirt to sit (waist, hip, etc…) and how long you want it to be. Measure. In my case, I wanted it to be on the green dotted line below the waist (as opposed to being at the waist) so I measured that, and the widest point at my hips. For length, I wanted it to my ankles.
I ended up with: w = 1.05  h = 1.10  l = 1

So I bought 145cm of fabric (of 150cm width) and cut it into 3 strips:
– 1st tier – 76 x 110 (this would be folded over to make the waistband and double up the thickness of the topmost layer so as to hide my underwear better). The fabric being 150cm in width, you’ll have a 66 x 40 piece left over. Keep it.
– 2nd tier – 33 x 150
– 3rd tier – 33 x 190 (I made this by using the full width of 150, and attaching the a 33×40 piece I’d cut off from the first tier)Notice that the width of the tiers starts at the width of your hips, and then increases by 30 to 50% for each new tier.

Step 1 – Fold over the 76×110 piece so it becomes a 38×110 piece. Along the length of it, where it is folded, place the elastic for the waistband. This should be at least 3cm wide. I used 5cm. It should be 105cm long. Sew along the elastic to create a channel in which it will be placed. As you sew, pull the skirt fabric so it is gathered over the elastic, so you will always know exactly how wide you need to make the channel. Pin the elastic on one end with a safety pin.

Step 2 – Take the 2nd tier piece and using a needle, sew some thread along one of the long sides (the top one if your fabric has a pattern) using very loose spacing. Tie the thread at both ends so that its length is 110cm (the length of the tier above). Gather the fabric evenly, and lay tier 2 over tier 1 on a table, good sides facing each other, with the bottom of tier 1 level with the top of tier 2. Loosely hand-sew tier 2 to tier 1, while making sure the fabric gathers evenly. Sew it on the machine.

Step 3 – Repeat step 2 but with tiers 2 and 3. Remember to create tier 3 first (sew the 40cm piece to the 150cm piece on the machine)

Step 3b (optional) – Sew a small strip of lace to the bottom of tier 3. I used a small strip of crochet lacing in a triangular edge pattern, and it gave my skirt a better finish.

Step 4 – Skirt is almost ready. Gather the top of the skirt and pull the elastic through so it’s coming out from both ends. Sew it to itself, in a waistband loop, on the machine making an x shape in a square with the thread.

Step 5 – Flip the skirt “inside out” and sew along the back seam, straight down. Careful not to sew the elastic. Hand-finish the waistband so the elastic is properly encased.

Step 6 – Find the hem length for your skirt, mark it, and either hand sew it or machine sew it. If you did step 3b, this is no longer required!

Congratulations. You have a new skirt!

Download the instructions in PDF format: SeamstressSophie-3_Tier_Skirt