Thursday, June 30, 2016

Teacher Gifts 2016 Edition with Sew4Home Patterns

For the last few years I have sewn gifts for teachers ...... purely for selfish reasons - on a balance I would prefer to spend my time deciding between fabrics rather than deciding between chocolates or mugs!!


When I need sewing patterns for gifts, one of my favourite sites is The picture for the Airstream Travel Bag turned up in an e-mail from them very recently and it seemed like the perfect teacher gift. It's particularly suitable for my son's teacher who has told the class about some of her trips to Dubai & America.

My fabric and ribbon choices are very different to the original, and I made some alterations to the pattern.



Firstly I added a flower brooch to the outside. This brooch is a pattern I have been testing and proof-reading for an English translation 'Sew Snappy' of a Dutch sewing pattern book 'Zo Geknipt' which will be launched in Oct 2016.


I omitted the piping from the pattern, which if you have time, is a good addition as it helps provide structure to the bag. Instead, I topstitched the inside binding to the outer curves, with stitching on the outside and this worked perfectly.




The third main change was to fully line the inside. The pattern indicates that the base and zipper portion should only be lined, but it is very straightforward to cut extra front and back pieces and then bind them inside.


The ribbons are stitched on the fabric as indicated in the instructions. These are two different stitched ribbons from Jane Means.




My daughter had 3 teachers this year and I wanted a pattern for their gifts that would be faster to sew. Her year had two teachers who were job-sharing and then another who just did maths with her class. Interestingly this worked very well, better than what could be imagined. The pattern I chose is also from



The Roll-up Make-up Brush pattern is one I have used a few times before. Because it is so easy to sew, you can have fun with fabric and ribbon selections.




Most of the fabric, binding and ribbons are from my stash. The outer corduroy is from a European fabric company Stenzo. The bindings are Japanese from (a shop with all things Japanese that I wish I had shares in!) and the 'chocolate and turquoise' spotted ribbon is from Jane Means.


The top inner fabric is a laminated cotton 'Parson Gray' and the quilted cotton pockets is from Patty Young.


I can't describe fully how easy this gift is, to sew. The most time-consuming part is sewing the lines for the pockets.





Another version of the same pattern, this time with a flower brooch ( I enthusiastically sewed a few of these brooches, in my testing of the Sew Snappy pattern!)


All from my stash, the outer fabric is also a Patty Young fabric, the binding is Liberty of London and the striped ribbon is Jane Means




The inside fabrics are an oilcloth bought locally and the quilting cotton pocket fabric is Heather Bailey.










I would sew these for all the teachers every year if it was possible, but the children sometimes have teachers for more than one year. Maybe if I passed them off or label them as pen holders or pencil holders or cutlery holders instead of Make-up Brush holders, it might work!!!


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Friday, April 29, 2016

A Ribbon-trimmed Fifi Camisole/Slip

Last summer Sew Crafty Online held a Facebook competition with a huge prize package. I couldn't believe that I won and was speechless when the incredibly generous prize arrived in the post. All of Tilly and the Buttons sewing patterns, with fabric, a carrier bag and a neat measuring tape were included.


It really is about time I sewed something from that wonderful parcel...


I picked the Fifi camisole pattern (extending the length), some beautiful AnnaMarie Horner voile fabric (from my stash), soft blue denim and sage gingham ribbons from Jane Means ..... et voilĂ !



This pattern was a very pleasant surprise - excellent & detailed instructions, easy to sew, neat finishing techniques, bias-cut and gently fitted shape. I hadn't expected these details from Tilly's patterns. My perception (inaccurate) was that her patterns were basic and mostly unfitted/loose as some of the earlier ones were.



I both simplified and complicated the sewing process. Using ribbons made it easier to create the straps, but making them adjustable needed a little more brainpower! I attached ribbon loops at the back and threaded the ribbons through. This was an easy alteration to make, and would be very useful if making the Fifi pattern as a gift with nobody available for fitting.


A soft ribbon like this denim ribbon is recommended as I was able to press it into shape, to conform to the curves of the pattern. Good pressing technique is crucial to make ribbons work for this pattern, and it is worthwhile for the time it saves in creating bias strips.




Not wanting to lose length at the hem, I sewed a tiny seam covered with gingham ribbon hem to preserve as much length as possible.

It was necessary to get very creative when I realised I was short a few cm of ribbon for the hem. I turned to another favourite ribbon company of mine, Farbenmix and added a woven patch and a short piece of one of their fun woven ribbons to cover the gap.


The beautifully neat, inside finishing details are, very impressively, all included in the pattern instructions. Usually I would have to figure out how to include these details myself.



Adding a ribbon to the hem is not included in the pattern instructions, but gives a little extra weight to the hem and also finishes it neatly - as seen from the inside.


All the inside seams are French-seamed and the inside back view shows how well the pattern is designed and styled for a closer fit at the back.


I love this pattern and have a bias-cut, ivory bamboo silk version with gingham bias trim and straps cut and ready to sew.


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Monday, March 28, 2016

A 'Drapey' Japanese Bubble Dress

When I read about Japanese Pattern Sewalongs there is often a related increase in my sewing, and it was no different when Celina from and Mie from wrote about their year long sewjapan series back in January.

This is the Japanese pattern book I chose as the dress on the cover is one of my favourites and sewn (& blogged) many times - a sweet version in ladybird corduroy & a pair of bubble dresses for twins.
This time I chose a drapey, pre-pleated fabric from my local fabric shop, though I had doubts if it would hold the 'bubble' effect of the fabric.

When it was sewn up, the fabric gave an a-line shape to the dress. My daughter who had wanted a more fitted dress was happier with this.
This bubble dress is easy to sew, and the Japanese instructions are easy to follow because of the detailed diagrams. My one issue with this pattern is the joining of the lining and the outer fabric which leaves an exposed seam.
As usual, I prefer a clean finish with all seams hidden, something that is particularly important for children's clothes.
For this version I cut the back pattern piece in two, rather than placing it on the fabric fold. (I listed the sewing instruction steps in this post). This allows the dress hem to be pulled out through the back seam and sewn so that it is hidden when the dress is finished . I then sewed an exposed zip and attached the lining at the same time to finish the dress.
The finish is so clean that the dress could almost be worn inside out.
The 'bubble' effect allows for the imagination of an active 9 year old!
We felt the solid colour of the fabric needed something else, so settled on adding ribbons to one of the shoulder seams. We decided that this brown stitched ribbon from would work. These can be left untied or tied in bows. Interestingly, after this was sewn, Burdastyle included a girls dress pattern in the March magazine which had wide ribbon on both shoulders!

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Monday, February 29, 2016

How to Sew a Notebook Cover with Ribbon Bookmarks

Notebook covers are one of the most useful and easily personalised gift ideas. I have sewn them before for teachers gifts.


Fabric can be chosen depending on a recipients hobbies, work & interests. When my animal-loving daughter wanted a cover for her homework journal this year, she was thrilled with cats (seen here in an Instagram picture).


For this tutorial I chose a colourful laminated cotton fabric for a recipe journal into which I've been writing our new favourite gluten-free recipes.


The difficulty in writing this tutorial is the huge variety of book/journal sizes, so it is written to show you how to sew a fabric cover for any size of notebook. My favourite part of sewing these covers is being able to add bookmarks and it is an easy way to use up shorter lengths of ribbons.



Firstly chose your fabric:

  • Outer fabric (medium weight cotton, quilting cotton, laminated fabric, upholstery fabric,
  • Lining fabric (this can be a lighter fabric & it won't be seen when the cover is in use)
  • Pocket fabric (medium weight cotton, laminated cotton, interfaced light cotton)
  • Interfacing (medium, the cover will look & function better if it has some structure)
  • Ribbons for bookmarks (use up short lengths of ribbon I chose a selection striped and spotty ribbons from janemeans)
  • Elastic to wrap around the book for closure


Secondly measure the book/notebook/journal that you want to cover.

The 3 main measurements are:
  1. Height (from top to bottom and add 6cm to this - 6cm includes 2 x 1.5 seam allowances and .5 for turning fabric and .5 so cover is a little bigger than the book/journal)
  2. Width (from the edge of the front to the edge of the back. It is important to take this measurement when the book is closed to ensure the cover fits. Add 6cm to this measurement for above reasons.
  3. Front width only (And add half front width to full front width measurement - this is for the inside pocket and elastic)
Thirdly cut out fabric pieces. You may wish to create pattern pieces first with the measurements you've taken and the following directions:
  • Cut 1 x Outer Fabric (Use Height & Width measurements with 6cm added as above).
  • Cut 1 x Inner/Lining fabric (Exactly the same size as Outer Fabric piece).
  • Cut 1 or 2 Interfacing pieces For the Outer Fabric and/or Inner Fabric depending on the weight of your fabric (same size as Outer Fabric above).
  • Cut 2 x pocket fabric (Using Front Width Measurment above with half added for width of pocket and add 6cm, use height of Outer fabric as above. These pieces will be folded in half to form the pockets).
  • Cut elastic (double the Front Width measurement above & add 6cm, may need less if your elastic is very stretchy).
  • Cut a selection of ribbon lengths (eg 1 for a book/novel cover, 2-3 for a journal cover, 4+ for a recipe journal) 7cm longer than the Height of the book/journal.

Fourthly follow instructions and sew the cover:

  1. Add interfacing to the Outer Fabric and depending on fabric weight, to the pocket fabric and the Inner Fabric also.
  2. Fold the pocket pieces in half lengthwise and place on the Inner Fabric as in the picture, baste or pin together

  3. Place the ribbons in the top centre of the Inner Fabric and baste in place (sew with a long stitch)
  4. Sew the two ends of folded elastic to centre front edge of Outer Fabric.

  5. With right sides together place the Outer Fabric on top of the Inner Fabric (and pockets and ribbons). Ensure the ribbons and elastic are carefully tucked inside so they won't be caught in the stitching. Take your time with this step to ensure the tops of the Outer and Inner fabrics are put together and that the fronts also are placed together.

  6. Pin or baste inside the seam allowance all around, leaving an opening for turning. (You can turn through the cover at this stage, especially if you are unsure that pieces are correctly placed from Step 5).
  7. Sew all around using a 1.5cm seam allowance, and leaving a 7cm opening for turning. You may wish to reinforce the corners with an extra line of stitching.
  8. Trim the edges of the fabric closely and carefully, and cut across the corners.
  9. Turn the cover right way around by slowly and carefully pushing the cover through the opening.
  10. Carefully push through the corners, flatten out the cover and press.
  11. Hand stitch or top sew the opening closed.

  12. Insert book/journal cover into the pocket pieces and enjoy!












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Friday, January 29, 2016

How to Add Ribbon Bookmarks to Any Hardback Book

Coeliac diagnoses for most of the family last Sept/Oct has meant a lot less sewing and much more cooking and baking. Of course blogging also took a backseat.


Information on the Internet about Coeliac disease is very helpful, with lots of advice and suitable recipes. However I found I also needed to buy some new cookery & baking books as most of our food now needs to be cooked from scratch. Tearing bits of paper to mark and keep track of recipes quickly became futile as well as being very untidy. So I wanted a neater way to bookmark recipes that wouldn't fall out of a book when it was opened!


ThIs idea for adding ribbon bookmarks was one of those 'lightbulb' moments and is a perfect solution when a book doesn't include a bookmark.


What you need: book length measurement, narrow ribbons (0.5 to 0.7 cm), wide ribbon (1.5 cm), sewing machine (could also be hand sewn, or even glued)

-This method of adding ribbons to a book will work for any hardback book which has a spine.

-Measure the length of the book and add 10cm.

-Cut ribbon lengths in suitable colours. I selected 3 narrow ribbons (janemeans narrow stitched ribbon, Janemeans narrow gingham ribbon and a yellow ribbon from my stash).

Overlap the ribbons making sure they will fit neatly inside the width of the wider ribbon.



-Cut a 12cm length of 1.5 cm wide ribbon, making sure that the ribbon will fit inside the spine of the book. I chose a teal wired ribbon from Jane Means. This ribbon will be placed inside the spine of the book, so the colour will not be seen.

-Fold the wide ribbon in half lengthwise over the bundle of narrow ribbons, making sure the ends are tucked under. Sew around the ribbon as in the picture. This reinforces the ribbon and makes it easier to push into the spine of the book.

-Open the book and carefully push the sewn ribbon down into the spine.







Now just safely bookmark all the fantastic recipes that you want to try.

As a book like this can get a lot of wear and tear, the ends of the ribbons should be sealed by holding them carefully over a lighted candle.

I predict a lot more of these in my future, especially once I check my sewing books & see which need bookmarks!



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Monday, August 31, 2015

From Refashioned Men's Shirts to Children's Clothes


Sewing during summer holidays needs to be in short bursts, so refashioning fits in with what little sewing time I have. Previous shirt refashions that I've blogged are a dress & waistcoat, a sailor dress, a denim dress, waistcoat and a knit top & skirt, all children's clothes.


The inspiration for these recent remakes is The Refashioner 2015 series by Portia at the Makery blog.



I started with this shirt as I loved the fabric. This is the only shirt I've upcycled for an adult to wear!

The pattern is 'pattern k' a lovely fitted blouse from Sato Watanabe's Basic Black by Tuttle Books. I previously sewed this asymmetrical top from the book.




I removed the collar, and stitched the collar stand, so it looks like the stand-up collar in the book. I cut the sleeves off at the armhole, shortened them, reshaped the armholes and the sides and added front and back darts for shaping. It still needs hemming, but is a now a perfect shirt for Autumn.




Then I got a bit more creative. It seemed that there should be enough fabric in a shirt to sew a boys pyjamas, but I needed to find a way of avoiding buttons, so it would be comfortable to wear.





This is what worked - After cutting off the sleeves, I folded the shirt in half, half the front and half the back and turned it upside down. The pattern I used was the Oliver&S Bedtime Story Pajamas / Pyjamas pattern because it has a one-piece leg pattern. The pattern fit easily on the shirt fabric.


Cutting a shirt this way would also provide plenty fabric even for some adult-sized shorts.



The waistband was cut from the yoke, though not on a fold, so it had to be pieced.


The legs were cut from the sleeves without I picking the seam and using the lower part of the leg pattern as a guide only, to get the length correct.








I sewed the pyjamas, mostly following the pattern instructions.

The leg had to be pieced together and I didn't want that inside seam to be uncomfortable. The simple solution was to sew the seam on the outside and cover it with ribbon. The ribbon is a vintage blue stitched ribbon from janemeans, which was a perfect match for the shirt fabric.

Not a perfect pair of pyjamas by any means, but not bad for zero fabric cost and a quick sew. There's also a 10 yr old boy who loves that these were sewn especially for him!











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Monday, July 27, 2015

A Japanese Pattern Book for Beginners - Sewing For Your Girls


Sewing For Your Girls by Yoshiko Tsukiori is much more suitable for beginners than most other Japanese books that I've sewn from. It was originally published in 2011 and is one of the recent English translations by Tuttle Books.




It provides 8 basic patterns for dresses, tops and shorts with 7 variations. All patterns, except one (which is easily drafted) are included as full-sized pattern pieces in a pocket inside the back cover. The patterns are for girls, though the shorts and overalls could be sewn for boys, and the sizing is based on height - approximately equivalent to age 2 to 8 years.





This Japanese pattern book would be perfect for a beginner at sewing. As well as pictures of the clothes and instructions for all of the patterns, most of the book is devoted to photo tutorials on how to sew.


Many Japanese Pattern books are not generally suitable for beginners. They rely on detailed diagrams to illustrate sewing instructions, so include much shorter descriptions of sewing steps. The other book of adult-sized patterns by this author that I sewed from, would not be as useful for anyone beginning sewing.




The three photo-tutorial sections are

  1. Basics of Dressmaking,
  2. A detailed Step-by-Step to make one of the dress patterns and
  3. Basic Sewing Techniques.


1. The Basics of Dressmaking is very well-presented. It includes descriptions of the fabrics used in the book and emphasises the importance of prewashing. Basic equipment is described and detailed pictures on Tracing a Pattern, Cutting out Fabric, Marking Symbols and Using a Sewing Machine are also shown.

2. There is a fully illustrated, complete photo-tutorial on how to sew the first pattern in the book and it includes techniques like creating bias tape, reinforcing pocket edges, and neatly finishing the armhole and shoulder frill. Every one of the numbered steps is pictured in detail.


3. There are 33 pages of tutorials on Basic Techniques which thoroughly illustrate all the steps needed for sewing techniques to sew the patterns in the book. Everything from facings, collars, hand sewing, plackets, invisible zip, pockets and shirring are covered.



I sewed two dresses from this book. The first was a sailor dress from Applied pattern 7 where I repurposed an old shirt for the fabric.



The second dress I sewed was Basic Pattern 5. This is the only dress where a pattern has to be drafted. But it is very straightforward as it utilises 2 rectangles which are based on the child's measurement.

It is a number of years since I've used shirring and it's as easy as I remember. There is a photo tutorial on how to shirr fabric which a beginner would find very helpful.




I used ribbon for the straps as I had a perfectly matching vintage stitched janemeans ribbon, but the steps needed to create straps are also given in the book and are easy to follow.





This dress was a very easy and quick make and would be a very convenient way of using a half-metre of fabric from your stash. Before I shirred the dress, my daughter thought the fabric looked like a curtain, but that didn't bother her too much once she tried it on!



(Tuttle Publishing sent me this pattern book free. All opinions are my own. I have been happily sewing from Japanese language pattern books since 2009)



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