DIY Dress Form

After my marvellous success with the beautifully fitting Jade Skirt I decided that maybe it was time to make a foray into dressmaking.

One of the things that has put me off in the past is that I’m a totally bizarre size. I’m not much taller than 5ft but I have long legs for my short stature. Because of that I’m incredibly short waisted and I’m also blessed (?!) with a larger than average bust. Throw into the mix that I’m a bit overweight and that I have no stomach muscles (one invasive abdominal operation and three pregnancies will do that to a person!). You get the picture! Off the peg clothes just don’t fit me.

This really put me off trying to make my own clothes. I was too worried about wasting money on fabric that would never make it into something wearable. I didn’t think I had the skills to adjust patterns and I really couldn’t afford a dress form, no matter how much I wanted one! When I came across a tutorial on how to make my own specific dress form using duct tape I got very excited. Cue a trip to the shop for lots of duct tape, a tight top that I didn’t mind losing to the cause and one willing helper in my mum to tape me up!

After a lot of faffing about we seemed to get into the swing of things. One of the most awkward things I found was trying to cut the flippin tape. Our scissors got gummed up after a few cuts and it was really hard to keep cutting without cleaning the scissors off. Especially annoying when we discovered that working in short strips was the way to go. Lots more cutting so lots more frustration. It didn’t help that I am rather squishy and a bit lumpy bumpy in places. The whole thing would definitely have been a bit easier (and we’d have used a lot less tape!) if I was a bit skinnier!

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All that tape felt a bit Fifty Shades!

If I had half a brain I would have rechecked the tutorials before embarking on my mission to become gaffer tape’s new pin up. Tips on covering my neck would have been helpful. As it was we used spare scraps of material that were a bit unweildy. Cling film might have done a better job!

Anyway some time later we emerged mostly successful. We managed to cut the duct tape form off with only a slight injury to my trousers and I could see it was definitely holding shape, even if it did look a bit deflated. I spent the evening trying to tape it back together which was harder than I thought it would be. Definitely keep a helper handy for this if you can!

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Like me, but not!

Then I stuffed it. And I stuffed it and stuffed it and I stuffed it! Three old pillows later and a couple of copies of the Sunday Times and I had a reasonably solid form. Again a helper would be, well, helpful! I had put a clothes hanger inside my form before stuffing so I could hang it up when it was finished. Unfortunately I was a bit heavy handed when stuffing and I managed to break the top of my hanger when I was half finished. There was no way I was taking all my filling out to start again so I found an old brush shaft (thankfully my husband is as bad at throwing potentially useful rubbish out as I am!) and shoved it into my form and stuffed around it. A couple of red bricks with handy holes in the middle have been used to hold it up since I have no actual stand.

I found newspaper great for filling out the form but polyfill (raided from some old pillows) really helped smooth out all the lumps and bumps and gave a nicer shape. I cannot stress enough how much stuffing this thing took. I kept going until I literally couldn’t jam anything more in there!

I was a bit too lazy to try to make a cardboard bottom so I carefully taped it up and filled up with more polyfill. Eventually I was left with a pretty successful version of myself. The measurements all seem to be right and I found an old plant stand to put her on so she’s a bit more movable but now she’s at the same height add me which is marvellous! The whole way through my form was definitely an “it” until I finished. She’s now firmly lodged in my brain as a “her”; with those curves she couldn’t be anything else! She’s not the prettiest but she’ll do to help me get into this whole dressmaking lark. Now to figure out what to make first!

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Miss Polly was a dolly....

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Suits Into Bags!

Some years ago, when I was new to this whole sewing lark, I was browsing the Internet for ideas. I needed easy sewing projects that wouldn’t break the bank. One of the most inspiring I found was this clutch bag made from the sleeve of an old suit jacket. I loved the look of it and I knew my dad had an old sports jacket that I could cannibalise. Eventually I didn’t make the clutch but I made this bag instead.

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My first bag!

This was the first bag I ever made and I pretty much just cobbled it together with no knowledge of bag making but it turned out really nicely and it’s still one of my favourite ever makes. Unfortunately I gave it away as a Christmas present because I really did love it!

My sister was also quite enamoured with this bag so when she had an old suit that she loved but it no longer fit she came to me to see if I could work some baggy magic. She sourced some awesome fabric with camera film for the lining (from Plush Addict if you’re interested but long out of stock!) and I got to work. I wish I had thought to take a photo of the suit before I chopped it up but it was from Reiss and was something like this.

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Unfortunately I was very pregnant when I said I’d make this bag and in the intervening year and a half I’ve been a bit busy and a bit distracted! However now I’m sewing again and with her birthday on the horizon I thought really I should get a move on and get her bag finished.

The bag was a pretty basic design. The shape was more or less the same as my Totally Reversible Tote, although I put a recessed zip in the top and a flush zip pocket in the lining.

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Zips!

I love the recessed zip. You can have the bag closed and secure but you can still see the awesome lining! I’m definitely going to incorporate this feature into my future makes. It was a little fiddly but worth it, I think!

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Bag closed, lovely lining on display!

The front of the bag is made from the front of the jacket. You can see some of the lovely tailoring that I have tried to keep as some nice detailing on the bag. The back was taken from the legs. There wasn’t really enough fabric in the back of the suit jacket for the back of the bag. Plus there were pleats, many panels and I manage to rip the wrong seams! There really isn’t enough fabric in a size 10 suit jacket!

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The devil's in the details!

I made an adjustable shoulder strap made from the legs of the suit. I’m regretting not interfacing the strap a bit but I suspect I might be the only person to notice! Thankfully everything came together quite nicely. I now have one WIP dealt with and all the associated guilt of not finishing a job for someone is gone! Plus my sister now has a pretty snazzy bag. Everyone’s a winner!

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The finished article. I'm pretty pleased with myself!

Now onto my next bag. I have some suit jackets just waiting to be sliced into but I have some bunny pouches to finish first!

Sewing Love

I forgot just how much I love sewing! Up until recently I had been concentrating on crochet (which I really love too!) and sewing had taken a bit of a back seat in my crafting life. I think a combination of small children and a very cold sewing room have seen me curled up more and more in the living room with a hook and a ball of wool. Crochet thankfully doesn’t take up much room and more importantly it’s quiet so it’s really easy to get on with in the same room as a sleeping babby! Anyway the point was that I haven’t had my sewing machine out as much over the last eighteen months (since Babby was born) as I would have liked.

With the advent of my friends’ new fabric & crafty shop I’ve had the incentive to get my bum in gear and start sewing again! As I posted before I love making bags but recently I’ve been super inspired to try my hand at dressmaking too. In the past I’ve cobbled together a few bits & pieces. Easy maternity clothes were a firm favourite! I love wearing stretchy clothes so getting to grips with knits had been very high on my list of priorities.

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Stretchy!

Next on my list is possibly the Camellia top from Sewing Avenue. I think I’m going to try it out with some cotton poplin in grey with white stars. However the invisible zip foot I ordered has just arrived so I might tackle the Clemence skirt from Tilly Walnes book Love At First Stitch. I have a nice black linen look cotton for that. Hmm… Decisions decisions! I’m so indecisive! What would you go for first? Keep your eyes peeled because all my makes will be appearing here to keep me motivated to sew more and hopefully sew better.

Pattern Review – Jade Skirt by Paprika Patterns

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I first spied this skirt in my Instagram feed. Someone had made it with the most awesome fishy fabric but what really grabbed my attention was the construction. I couldn’t work out how on earth those layers at the front were made but I needed to know! Thankfully the poster had linked to the designer of the pattern, Lisa Kievits of Paprika Patterns, and I was able to rush off to her website to buy it. To my dismay I discovered that I was a bit too big for the sizes the pattern was made for and I’m definitely not confident enough at stitching clothes yet to take on the necessary modifications!

Regardless I kept one eye on the Jade Skirt pattern with the hope that one day I’d lose enough weight to fit into it however my willpower is weak so I wasn’t really holding out much hope! Imagine my delight when I discovered that the pattern was being re-released, and not only had it been rejigged but it was now coming in BIGGER SIZES! To say I was happy was an understatement and doubly happy because with the re-release I got a chance to review the pattern!

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The finished article

My major problem with this pattern is a totally personal thing, but I’m really not a fan of PDF patterns. Unfortunately it seems like they are a necessary evil, especially if you want to get your hands on patterns from indie designers. Personally I’d much rather buy from small designers and support the other crafty people out there so I suppose I’ll just have to suck it up. If we had a local printers I would definitely have paid to get it printed out on one A0 sheet rather than printing on A4 and sticking it together myself.

There is a choice of two views, either a mini or a midi skirt. Although I’m a shortie at 5 ft I opted for the midi length. I do love a good mini skirt, especially in winter with heavy tights and long boots but I have two small kiddies and mini skirts really aren’t practical for me at the minute. My skirt comes to about knee length although I wear it on my waist rather than just below. The fact that it’s made from jersey means there is loads of movement in it and it held up well to a day of running around after my kids and because it’s fully lined it doesn’t ride up which is a definite bonus.

This skirt is really a work of art in fabric origami. The front is made up of a series of horizontal pleats. This had the potential to be a serious pain in the bum if it were not for Lisa’s very helpful video showing you how to fold it, and of course the pattern is marked very clearly with exactly where the folds need to go. I marked the fold points on my fabric with little stitches of different colours. It meant that I was able to practice the folds until I was 100% happy with them and I didn’t have to worry about pins falling out.

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My stitches were well within the seam allowance (you can just see them if you look hard at the picture above) so they didn’t show up on the outside of the skirt and they all ended up trimmed off in the end. Even if my stitches were still in place you’d not be able to see them because of Lisa’s clever construction, all raw edges are encased within the skirt.

Before the waistband goes on there is a chance to alter the fit a bit and good instructions on how to do this. I found this invaluable because mine needed a bit of tweaking to fit but now it’s possibly the most comfortable thing I own!

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All in all I loved this pattern. It was clear and easy to follow. I’ll definitely be making another! Next I might try making myself amini version with the added zip detail in the hope that I might get a night out.

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Hard to make our the pleats but they're there!

My Totally Reversible Tote Tutorial

Friends of mine have just opened a fabric, haberdashery and craft shop in my home town and being such wonderful people they agreed to stock some of my little bags. You can find them online on Facebook or Twitter.  Share the love and give them a wee like or a follow!

Being even more amazing they have asked me to come down to give some classes for beginners so I’ve made up a tutorial on how to sew a lined tote bag that would be perfect for a bit of shopping, going to the library or if you make a wee bit smaller perfect for a kiddie to carry whatever random things they like to carry around!  I know my two love carrying stuff around in bags!!

So here you go, my first ever bag making tutorial.  I hope you can follow it.  Let me know how you get on!  For my bag I used quilt weight cotton.  You could use heavier fabric but your machine might struggle a bit with some of the thicker seams like over the straps.

Materials

  • 2 x Rectangles Patterned Fabric 14 x 15 inches
  • 2 x Rectangles Plain Fabric 14 x 15 inches
  • 2 x Rectangles medium weight fusible interfacing 13.5 x 14.5 inches
  • 2 x Rectangles Fabric 4 x 22 inch (either matching or contrasting)   OR  2 x 22 inch lengths webbing

Method

Attach the interfacing to the patterned fabric following the instructions given with the interfacing.  You can get away without the interfacing but I like a little bit of structure in my bags!

  • Ensure you apply the interfacing to the WRONG SIDE of the patterned fabric so the interfacing will be on the inside of the bag
  • Also be sure that the gluey side of the interfacing is facing the fabric before applying the iron or you risk fusing the interfacing to the iron or the pressing cloth (if you are using one). The gluey side is the rough side due to all the little dots of glue impregnated in it!
  • It is helpful to have the interfacing a bit smaller than the fabric you are applying it to so that you do not fuse the interfacing to the ironing board beneath
  • Once the interfacing has been applied to the fabric it should not be sewn for at least 20mins to give the glue time to cure/dry. If you do not do this you risk getting a sticky needle and broken thread.

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Construct the straps (if not using webbing)

  • Take one of the two 4 x 22 inch pieces of plain fabric
  • Fold it along the middle of the long edge wrong sides together (WST) and press along the fold
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  • Open it rectangles out and fold one edge towards the middle crease WST and press along the fold
  • Repeat this on the other side
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  • Fold both sides towards each other along the original middle crease and press again
  • You should now have a length of material that is folded over on itself four times and measures 1x 22 inches
  • Pin along the length of the strap and topstitch along the length on each side
  • Repeat this with the other length of fabric
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Construct the main body

  • Take each of the pieces of patterned fabric and cut a 2 inch square from each bottom corner
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  • Place the patterned fabric right sides together (RST) and sew along the side seams and the bottom seam. DO NOT sew around the edges of the cut out squares
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    Obviously this is the plain fabric sewn together, but you get the idea!

  • Press along the length of the seams you have sewn then press the seams open
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Seams pressed open

  • Pinch one of the cut out corners at the bottom of the bag, match the raw edges together and make sure the centre of the side seam lines up with centre of the bottom seam.
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  • Press this if necessary, pin it and sew along the raw edge
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  • Repeat this with the plain fabric

Attach the straps

  • Turn the bag made from the patterned fabric right side out (RSO)
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  • On both sides mark four inches in from each end of the bag
  • Line up the end of the strap with one mark. Match the raw edge of the bag with the raw edge of the strap.
  • Pin in place.
  • Line up the other end of the strap with the other mark on the same side of the bag
  • When the strap is pinned in place it should be pointing towards the bottom of the bag.
  • Either machine or hand tack the strap in place close to the edge and remove the pins
  • Bar tack the straps for strength 3/8 inch from the raw edges. To bar tack set the sewing machine to zig zag stitch, middle stitch width and very short stitch length, nearly at zero.

Join the bags

  • Insert the patterned bag RSO into the plain bag wrong side out (WSO) and match the raw edges
  • Make sure the side seams line up for a professional finish and pin around
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  • Sew the two bags together with a 5/8inch seam and leave a three inch gap for turning

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Turn the bags RSO through the gap

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Press the bag & pin the gap closed

Topstitch the bag to close the gap

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And TA DAH! You have a totally reversible tote bag with box corners for a bit of room in the bottom. All your raw edges and seams are hidden inside the bag too so it’s nice and neat. Perfect for a bit of shopping, or your latest work in progress.

I hope you can follow my tutorial and please let me see any bags you make! Plus I’m here or on Twitter @jubublian to answer any questions you have!

I had my first two students this morning and they had next to no sewing experience. They both managed to make their bags within two and a half hours (and that included a bit of practicing on scraps before we got stuck into the bags) so this is the perfect beginners project!

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No Sweat! My very first crochet jumper!

For Christmas I got a book that had been on my wishlist for a while. Everyday Crochet by Doris Chan.  It had popped up on Amazon as something recommended for me based on the other 500 craft books I’ve bought! First of all I wasn’t too sure if it would suit me because I wasn’t that great at crochet yet but I did want a book on how to crochet clothes for myself so it went on the wishlist.

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When I looked through the book I knew it was a good choice. There are loads of great patterns and I definitely think there’s something for everyone. I loved all the pullovers but my favourite was No Sweat. This winter I have been all about cosy jumpers and this looked perfect.

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My favourite is the green sweater

In the book Doris goes into loads of detail about the different types of yarn you can use and gives examples of what she used for each garment. I had fallen in love with Stylecraft Special Aran with wool in Blue Heather some time ago and had been waiting for the perfect project to use this gorgeous yarn. Also it was at the chunkier end of yarn weights recommended so I knew I’d get a nice snuggly jumper!

It took a lot of reading and re-reading the pattern to work out what I was supposed to do but once I had it figured out I found it quite easy to follow. All Doris’ patterns in this book are worked top down in differing patterns of shell stitch. It’s definitely not the easiest method of construction for a noob crocheter but thankfully I’ve come on somewhat since I added this book to my wishlist and after I got the hang of it I was able to follow the pattern with very few problems. I don’t think I’d recommend it to a beginner though! Saying that there is a Ravelry group dedicated to Doris Chan and her patterns and it’s a great place to get help with any issues you might have.

The absolute best thing about this method of construction is being able to try your garment on as you go to see how well it fits at various points and you can lengthen or shorten as needed. As a curvier girl I also loved the addition of short bust rows to give a bit more room in front!

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All in all I loved making this jumper and I can’t wait to make something else out of the book! There is something immensely satisfying about wearing clothes you have made yourself. I think 2015 will see my homemade wardrobe increasing & multiplying 🙂 Do you make any of your own clothes? Would you like to? Let me know!

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Oaty Banana Pancakes

I love a sweet and bread based breakfast, whether it’s toast with chocolate spread, pancakes, croissants, pastries… Mmmm! The list could go on and on! I am a big fan of carbs, sugar & caffeine in the morning despite knowing how unhealthy it is.

Recently I have got into the habit of making crepes for breakfast at the weekend and we will all sit down as a family and eat. I really love this but I’m pretty sure all that butter, whole milk and white flour can’t really be good for me so I’ve been thinking about going back to fluffy pancakes filled with fruit and oats.  My favourite recipe was a simple one by Jamie Oliver. I’d usually make it with wholemeal flour, grated apple, blueberries or mashed banana and a handful of oats thrown in. I reckoned that made it healthy enough to use as an easy breakfast for the kids! Unfortunately it seemed that I enjoyed them more than anyone else in the house so I ended up having to eat them, ye know, because I couldn’t possibly waste them!

Anyway I fancied trying to make some really quick and easy, healthy pancakes with a minimum of weighing and whisking and after a bit of searching I came up with these oaty banana pancakes. They are light and delicious and super quick to make!

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Perfect with a little maple syrup!

OATY BANANA PANCAKES

This recipe makes enough for me! Scale up as necessary. I’d say treble the amount if you were going to make enough for two small kids and two adults.

INGREDIENTS

1 large, very ripe banana
1 egg
1/3 cup of porridge oats
1tsp almond butter – totally optional, I added it because I’m an addict!
1/4 tsp baking powder
A small amount of oil or butter for frying

METHOD

Put all the ingredients into a suitable jug or bowl and blend until smooth. You can use a blender if you’re making a lot!

Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil or butter and add a dollop of the batter. I use an icecream scoop so my pancakes are similar sizes!

Fry for a few minutes on each side until they are cooked through.

Serve warm with your favourite toppings!

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As you can see these pancakes went down a treat with the littlest member of our family and her big brother was a fan too. They were received a lot more favourably than my usual offerings so I’ll definitely be giving them another go!

Edited to add :

I just made this with a drop of vanilla essence and some chopped up chocolate mixed into the batter before I cooked then. It was amazing! It only took a tiny bit of chocolate (I used one square of Lindt 70% dark chocolate) to make them really chocolatey and the wee hint of vanilla really sweetened them up.