Sewing blouse Birds in Shoes: cutting the fabric

I lay down the paper pattern with weights (my rulers). I pay attention to grain and I make sure no circles or flowers or dots or round bird faces are at the place where my nipples are.
The zipper is there to give me some idea how it will be.
CF is not a straight line, it moves back a bit at the top. On my body is is a straight line though. I’m a bit nervous how this will look in patterned fabric. This is an experiment.

I add a 2 cm allowance all around and mark it. With ball point. Ball point doesn’t wash out but it’s on the raw edge.
I cut very precisely and when sewing I use an old fashions distant-keeper, at 2 cm precisely. That way I always sew right at the seam line.

The bust dart I mark in the seam allowance and then I take not of how far from the cutting edge the legs should extend:

The shoulder cap is too difficult to find the seam line by only using the cut line as a guide. I mark the sewing line itself. In pencil, on the WS of the fabric. 14,5 cm from the cut edge:

Little tailor tacks to indicate where the vertical darts end and have their widest point:

“Sorry. You’re done cutting. Actually, not sorry at all.”



Green skirt in progress: misunderstandings

I marked out where the zipper was going to end. I’ve determined the waist band will be 3 cm wide, just over an inch. This is how it will sit and where I’ll stop sewing at the bottom.

Following Corinne Leigh’s tutorial at youtube Craftovision channel about sewing an invisible zipper. I did fine. Put it in:

Sewed shut the side seam. Noticed error.

Clearly I had not understood the tutorial well. The white “lips” of the zipper are peaking out from the seam.

Here’s where I did something wrong. Corinne says to start sewing the side seam as close as you can to the point where you stopped sewing the zipper. I must have misunderstood where that’s supposed to be exactly.

I took out a bit and tried how it was supposed to look before I sewed it like this:

Much better!

But now I had been a tad enthousiastic and sewn a bit more higher up than supposed to. The zipper will boink into the stitching and not into the zipper stop at the bottom of the zipper. It’s only a question of 1 mm but still enough to harass that stitching, especially that one lone stitch:

It needed some fortification. I took the left over thread after I snipped it after sewing and thread it through a needle and whipped it through a couple of times. Only through the white zipper fabric, not the green fashion fabric.
It’s a zipper stop of some sorts. Just enough to fortify that lone stitch at the picture above.

Here you see it from the inside:

Next. After fitting I saw that the fit was good. So I pressed open the seams.
No need to finish them, they are already finished.
The first side seam shows I’m still getting used at working with broad (= 1/2″) seam allowance. Here I was squeemish:

At the other seam I had grown bolder:

Next: the darts.
My projected darts would work fine: both front and back would have two darts, each 3″ from the centerline.
Front darts would each have 1/2″ in width and 2″ in length.
Back darts would have 3/4″ width each and 4 1/2″ in length.

I located them, drew them, pinned them, sewed them.
Then this.

The silk had not stayed close to the fabric. Not at the point of the dart.
I tried the skirt on and though the width is ok, the darts end in ugly puckers now that the actual fashion fabric doesn’t receive the start of the dart in a smooth curved angle.
So these have to come out.
And I used a tiny stitch width to make for extra nice looking darts…

in progress: Green skirt with pocket

When I bought this cabin it came with all the stuff that was already in it. Furnishings, old calendars, gnomes. And lots of ’70s bedlinen.
I’ve treasured my favourite for years now and today I’m making one of its pillow cases into a skirt. With a pocket.

For this I used video’s from Corinne Leigh of Craftovision to draw up a simple pattern and to understand the sequence of steps. I threw in some haute couture sewing techniques and some things I learned from the previous skirts.

Corinne Leigh explained measurements and I drew them on my folded pillow cover and just cut two panels out in one go. Afterwards I amended the topline of just the front panel.

This really is a pillow case! Look at the backside of the left over after cutting:

I hope to use this left over fabric for a pocket. The left over on the long side (on the left here) will hopefully give a waist band.

These are the measurements I used and I did them all in inches, just because Corinne did so too and my measuring tape has both centimeters and inches:

  • a quart waist = 8 5/8″ (this includes 1/2″ ease and 1/2″ dart)
  • a quart hip = 9 7/8″ (this includes 1/2″ ease)
  • length between hip and waist = 6″
  • the CF dips 1/2″ under the original horizontal line. CB should be raised half an inch but I didn’t want to waste the fabric.
  • total skirtlength 22″ (if you run straight down from the hips you’ll need a split or a vent. Or flare out a bit)
  • I know from previous skirts my front darts need to be no longer than 5 cm/ 2″
  • the back darts can be 10 to 12 cm (4 to 5 “)
  • I cut everything with 1/2″ seam allowance

In Dutch and centimeters:

  • kwart middellijn = 22 cm breed (met 1,25 cm dart en 1,25 cm ease)
  • kwart heupbreedte = 25 cm
  • hoogte tussen taille en heup = 15,25 cm
  • CF ligt 1,25 cm lager dan @sideseam voor voorpand. CB juist 1,25 cm hoger
  • voordart niet langer dan 5 cm, achterdart kan wel 10 cm lang
  • bij dit patroon zit nog geen naadtoeslag/seam allowance

I took the front panel and cut it again in pongé (habutai) silk as a lining/facing. Pillow cases from the ’70s tend to be see through…
I did the same for the back panel.

This time around I’m a good little sewer: I’m pressing! I bought a small, light weight iron (HEMA, 10 euro). Still got no iron board here but some old sheets on this Ingo table from IKEA will do. Ingo withstands the heat well.
Only thing is: he’s a bit low. Ingo makes for back pain when pressing. Here one panel is still not pressed:
Either way: nice materials to work with. Pressing does make for nicer sewing.

Next, I sewed the silk to their respective panel. Using an extra sharp silk needle (microtex, a thoughtful gift from my friend Marianne) and a very small sewing allowance, just 1/8th of an inch or even less.
I pressed the seams but didn’t fold the cotton, only the silk.

This is a prelimenary step and now I will treat the double-fabric-panels as if they’re made of one fabric. This is all a trick to have a nice seam finish on the inside later on. That’s a good thing when you’re working with silk.
Here are the two panels. Still separate. One is turned right side out, the other one still wrong side out so you can see how small the seam allowance is I used.

Isn’t this fabric GREAT?

Before I go further I need to refer back to the video because Corinne put in a stay seam at the top (clever couture technique!) but I don’t remember in which phase she did this.

Next steps:

  1. put zipper in sideseam. The teeth of the zipper will protrude above my panel top because there will be a waist band added which will match the zipper in height. Have to decide about height of waist band before determining where the zipper will end in the side seam.
  2. sew the two panels together at the sideseams, leaving a split at the hem for movement and on one seam a split of the zipper at the top.
  3. fit. If fit then estimate wether darts will be correct both in width and length. Press side seams open.
  4. sew and press darts.
  5. waistband: cut it, press it, sew it.
  6. fit. Estimate hem length. Mark it. Think about where the pocket will be and if reinforcement is needed. Attach this now if it’s needed. Soon the interior will not be accessible anymore.
  7. fold, press and sew hem.
  8. make pocket and attach it

I have my eye on a fun little pocket! With a knotted entry.

Couture Dress: thank Bob for wide seam allowances

Having slept a night on the problem of cutting the wrong side of the fabric and spending hours basting it to the lining I thought I might try something before ripping out the basting, sewing the dress wrong side out or just chucking everything in the dust bin.

Unpin the muslin pieces and reposition them the right way, see if there is enough seam allowance to harbour the pieces the right way down. Switch side pieces left and right with one another if necessary.


There is. Now I’m not paying attention to the carefully placed basting lines. I will have to sew the pieces together using the muslin edges and lines as guidelines. I am going to pin it crazy and then use a different coloured thread and carefully baste it by hand. After fitting I’ll sew it for real with the machine. Then remove all bastings.

At least I might be able to use this fabric. Sometimes it comes close though. The muslin is folded ON the seam line so that small piece of lining right there at the apex of the bust is all the seam allowance this piece is getting. Better stitch it sturdy.


Couture Dress: cutting the lining

Then cutting with a wide seam allowance.

After this I’m using the pieces of the lining to cut the fashion fabric, again with wide seam allowance.

Then comes basting them together. By hand.

But first I’ve got to lay down again. Such a drag.

here’s the picture of what you see on the right side once you rip the seam after you’ve marked it:

Summer Dress: altering the neckline

I raised the neckline without tapering it down and now the dress stood agape at my front. So I inserted two darts. They are pretty long but it’s what my fitting told me:
When I was satisfied with them I inserted them into the lining as well. Now I had to remake the neckline into a coherent line and restitch the lining to the fashion fabric and finish it with understitching.

Stitching lining and fabric together, securing the darts and creating a new fluent neckline:
Trim the bits and nick the fabric before turning it over:

turn dress so that I can redo the top stitching: stitch very close to the existing seam securing together the lining and the seam allowance of both lining and fashion fabric:

result! No picture of it but it looks good. All it needs is a bit of pressing but the new neckline on this half is good.

now the other one: stitch lining and fabric together creating a new fluent line. Looks good from where I was stitching.
but when I flipped it over:

Unacceptable. For one: it missed one of the nicks that were already in the lining. This would fray with wear, I fear.


Second: on one side the stitching doesn’t end in the little trench of the existing stitching line. It misses it by a mm:
This will give a nasty fold. Which will show on the good side as this stitching involves both the lining and the fashion fabric. Unacceptable.
Take it out, please.

Much better!

Perfection even. Look how nice it runs into the existing stitching line:

Let’s have a look to the other side:
it missed the ‘ear’ of the dart.
Take it out please.

your wish is my command:

I folded the ‘ear’ the other way and restitched that part:

let’s look at the other side:
It messed with the lining, creating a fold. It won’t be visible while wearing but still…

time for some chocolate and a little lay down. This needs to come out and be redone.

Sewing the Dress: on to the bodice

I checked out the skirt and it lines up with the bodice bust darts acceptable. Certainly for a first dress!
The French seams look great!
I haven’t pressed them yet. Neither did I do the darts yet. I plan to use them to fine tune the ease.

I sewed the side seams of the skirt. Stopping halfway on one side to allow for the zipper. This presents with an interesting problem further along the line: how attach a zipper when votre seam est Francais??
I’ll figure that one out once it’s zipper time…

for now: the bodice.
I pressed the lower seam of the lining. Put the right side together and seamed the neckline and the arm holes, keeping track of the 1,5cm seam allowance along the way. Only on the fashion fabric though. The lining is so thin and flimsy than I cut it roughly.

Now I’m here to remember what ‘understitching’ is.
I think it’s when you fold over the stitching -after you’ve trimmed and notched the edges to be enclosed- and then you sew it a bit from the right side but so that the lining doesn’t show. Me, I would use my darning tool to make that crisp fold again but I would make it ‘askew’ so that the fashion fabric is a bit higher than the lining fabric.
I believe I saw an example of understitching in the dress my mother made me:

you see some at the arm hole: the fashion fabric extends beyond the lining, when looking from the wrong side. And some that could be improved in the front: the lining is visible from the right side.

Have scissors, will cut

I now have good scissors, I’m ready to cut the fabric pieces from last time!

But first: mark fabric properly.

See how ragged the line had become with the blunt scissors? I’m not even going to sharpen them, I’m just going to chuck it.

So these are my thoughts about marking:

– do it.

either with the seam allowance attached as is custom with most US patterns. Carefully trace around the pattern piece. Take it away. Cut the fabric, just inside the line you drew.

Or mark the fabric while adding the seam allowance. Most European patterns do not have the seam allowance attached so you can decide for yourself how broad you want it. I like this. You could even trace where the stitching needs to be which will give a more accurate line than with the US patterns where you have to measure first to take away the seam allowance.

There are some nifty tools to add a seam allowance of your chosen width. There’s a metal thingie which looks lovely ‘engineer’ to me. And there’s a plastic thingie that gives some standard widths. They showed it to me at the fabric store this afternoon but I had already paid for my stuff and people were waiting behind me so I got flustered and ran away before buying or taking a picture. It looks like a cut up credit card.

Now I cannot find one online because the Dutch word for it is the equivalent for ‘buddy’ and the Dutch word for ‘sewing’ is also slang for ‘breeding’ (very much like ‘screwing’ is in the English language) so the search results for ‘maatje naaien’ aka ‘screwing buddy’ were not the results I expected… I’m so naive! adorable.

oh look, I found a brain cell: just search for “seam allowance tool”

this Swedish blog shows one like I saw today.  I don’t think I should steal her picture and her band width. The blog is in English and she knows all the names for that plastic tool! I’m going to buy one next time.

This blog shows the engineering metal one. Ha! She sews for relaxation and has a degree in Urban Planning! Just like me! Only I am an absolute beginner….. And I have not found the relaxing part of sewing yet. Although I expect to find it in the fine execution of things, in using good fabrics and tool and in enjoying colours and hand eye coördination. Pretty much like in knitting, crocheting, spinning, embroidering and wood carving and wood block printing and Japanese brush art and probably also in ironing and baking.

hmmm, I could be reading these blogs all day long. Better stop. I want to do some sewing today.

For marking, I used a dress makers chalk (my, isn’t that a crumbly thing!) or just a pencil. I’ll be cutting on the inside of the line so the markings will not be on the fabric you use.

I have now trimmed my pieces properly, using the chalk and a pair of good, micro serrated scissors.

And I have cut lining fabric (also known as an IKEA curtain in soft cotton found at the thrift store)


I’ll be heading over to the sewing machine now!