Category Archives: February

First Skirt Complete!

blanketskirt_1I’ve finished my first skirt on Saturday – YIPPPEEE! It’s taken weeks to turn what seemed like masses of fabric into this cute skirt.

To create it I followed the instructions on Tilly and the Buttons’ blog on how to make a blanket skirt. I searched online for guidance on how to line it but only found one mention of sewing the lining and skirt fabric together when adding gathering stitiches. So I cut the front and back skirt pieces out in the lining fabric. I say lining fabric but it was a pink polyester fabric bought for £2 per metre in Ridley Road, not the usual thin lining stuff.

When I had made up the gathers and pinned to the waistband the skirt was massive! Fullness of the skirt plus fullness of the lining made for quite a bulky skirt. It didn’t look nice.

So I cut out the lining as close to the seams as possible without disturbing the gathering stitches. As the side seams were already done I couldn’t cut the lining without unpicking the skirt. I really didn’t want to do this. I wanted to finish my skirt! As you can see:

blanketskirt_5Trimmed as close as possible to the stitching.

This does affect how the skirt hangs, sticking out at the sides, giving it a slight trapezium shaping (that’s an a-line skirt right?). I can live with that (and the small guilt of a job less than perfectly done), this is the first skirt I’ve ever made afterall!

Without the lining the skirt looked better but still too bulky so I chopped a lot off the bottom. Then I was happy.

I sewed buttonholes on my machine for the first time and it was easy! Only glitch was lots of looping (is there a technical term for this?) at the back but re-threading the bobbin and top thread fixed this.

Once done and twirling round in front of the mirror I see the checks don’t match. That the pattern doesn’t flow all the way round the skirt. Grrr! I hadn’t thought about this at all but far too late to fix. I can imagine what Patrick Grant would say.


blanketskirt_4 If its possible to line a gathered skirt let me know!?

The fabric is cotton, bought in Paris while on holiday there in September. I spent ages in the shop, unable to decide which colour to buy, I’m glad I went with this red-pink one.

What did I learn?

Made a placket and used the buttonhole foot for the first time
Made a gathered skirt that I can wear (yippee!). Although experienced sewists will spot the mismatch.
Next time match pattern fabric precisely for a more professional finish and maybe lower the waist, it’s higher than what I would usually wear and I kinda look wide in it.

It’s my first completed garment so I will always love it but the imperfections are niggling me. I love to buy skirts that fit really well and made from nice fabric so this is the first of many I hope. I will make this skirt again improving on this first version.

Enjoy your weekend!

Pattern Cutting Class: Week 4


It’s the penultimate week of my my course! One more Saturday morning sewing session left. Eeek! How much have I done? Not enough that’s what! Above you can see my African print cotton – mustard yellow, red curved lines and cherry pink swirls. It is a lovely pattern and (I hope) turn into a lovely dress for me to wear. Yep, I’ve opted for something that’ll stretch my skills i.e. sewing sleeves and using an overlocker for the first time. So far I’ve made the bodice and sleeves (to be attached) out of calico so I can test the fit. I want to attach a gathered skirt to the bodice but having done this before I won’t make a test piece in calico. The bodice fits really well. How exciting to make something completely from my measurements and it fits!?!

My thoughts about the course are mixed. I would have liked to spend more time on creating blocks but the  goal is to have a finished garment by the end of the course therefore more time is spent on construction than understanding blocks. I feel like I don’t know what I don’t know. Pivoting blocks to add darts in the correct place still confuses me. I think I’ll have to buy the recommended course book: Metric Pattern Cutting for Womens Wear by Winifred Aldrich to learn more.

What’s really nice is seeing what the students that started last term  are making and get their advice. The class gives you freedom to make whatever you like and get support from the tutor and class mates along the way. Knowing how to use a sewing machine or have an idea how one works is needed this course so not for absolute beginners.

Did you notice in the pic that the sewing machine is a Bernina? Threading this beauty felt so familar I must have used one similar when I was a school.

The class takes place upstairs in Bethnal Green Library and its a lovely bright space with large tables, surrounded by thick reference books and dark wooden furniture. I could work in there all day.

There’s a possibility of the class running again soon after half-term and although I didn’t learn a lot about blocks the dedicated time to sew on a Saturday morning is under serious consideration.

My plan is to work on the dress during the week so I’ll have minimal to do in the final class and think about when I’ll wear it for the first time *squeal*. Sorry, I am new to sewing and it delights me so.


Artist Textiles Exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum


At the end of last year Channel 4 showed a short fly-on-the-wall documentary series about Liberty – the high end luxury store established in the West End of London since 1875. The series gave an insight to its staff and preparations for Christmas. For me, the most interesting part by far was how the in-house design team (see a short clip) create the beautiful printed cottons and silks that Liberty is  famous for. Did you know that every employee at Liberty gets to have a print named after them? What a perk! *swoon* I’d love to have a print named after me.

Watching the programme I realised I hadn’t much thought about where print designs come from – be it florals, animals, fruit or geometric shapes and the colour combinations. Whether bought in an expensive shop like Liberty or the local market, the print design started off as an idea drawn by someone, somewhere. That’s obvious isn’t it? But not the first thing that comes to mind when fabric shopping.

I was again reminded of this when visiting the Artist Textiles Picasso to Warhol Exhibition yesterday after my pattern cutting class (expect an update on this next week) which has just opened at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, South London. The exhibition looks at the work of 20th Century artists (futurist, constructivist, pop, cubism, surrealism to a name a few tribes)  translated to fabric for garment making and centred on the post-war womens wear (mens clothing featured very little, 2-3 ties – I guess men didn’t wear ‘colour’ back then). with background jazz and swing music to match.

Post WWII, the British economy was in a poor state and trade needed reviving. The government supported the Cotton Board to increase exports of textiles. To help with this manufacturers commissioned artists like Henry Moore to create designs for printed fabrics. In France the same was done with Henri Matisse and the surrealist artist Salvador Dali did likewise for the New York based textile company Wesley Simpson. There are examples of their work and others such as the dress above (poorly captured by my camera phone, sorry).

Also on display are prints by well known artists Andy Warhol, Raoul Dufy, Pablo Picasso and fashion designer Zhandra Rhondes.

There is also a exhibition of the journey from an idea to printed fabric or greeting card by British textile designer Sarah Campbell. See how once briefed e.g. by Marks & Spencer, Sarah develops her ideas from drawings to test prints on fabric to the eventual final product sold in shops. This is one of her designs:


Is it worth a visit? I think so. I would have liked more detail, more history but perhaps that’s stepping into the V&A Museum’s terriority. It was good time thinking less about my sewing to do list and taking a different view of the fabric I stash and sew.

The Artist Textiles Exhibition is on until 17 May 2014.