For a long, long, time now I have been seeing a particular skirt in a number of blogs and really liked it. I loved Carolyns, Winnies, Ruths, and about a gazillion others I have seen. It is a classic. It is simple. I wanted it.
However, I really didn’t want to buy another pattern for a very simple skirt that probably would need ‘tweaking’ to fit me anything like as well as my basic skirt block from good old Winnie Aldrich. Lets face it, if you have been sewing for any length of time you are going to have a basic skirt pattern that you like – and more importantly, that fits you well.
This skirt is made from the very basic pencil skirt pattern, but frankly any simple skirt pattern you have that fits well would probably work. By tracing a pattern you are happy with you can make your own pocket skirt pattern at very little cost – and save you money for that spectacularly complicated pattern you are coveting! No original patterns will be damaged – you can use your favorite pattern again as it wont be cut – you will cut your copy.
If you are using an a-line pattern then your pieces will look more like my red outside line. Simply decide how deep you would like the top of the pockets to be from your waistband and draw a line at right angles across the front and back from the center lines (Shown in red on my diagram). These lines should match at the side seams. Bearing in mind that you want the pockets to be wide enough to get your hand in through the gap, and deep enough so that things don’t fall out (but not so deep that you have to work too hard to get to the bottom – unless it is your turn to buy the drinks!) draw a square/rectangle of the size required, you can round the pocket corners off later. Cut out another pocket piece.
The pocket pieces are then added – one heading up on the skirt bottom section, and one heading down on the yoke section. I work without adding seam allowances to any of the patterns I make myself so the main thing to remember is to make sure you have seam allowances added to the sections that you actually cut!
Once you have the pattern pieces looking like those above you can go ahead and cut out your skirt. My pattern took just under 1m of 150cm wide fabric, but that would vary according to how long your skirt is. This is a pretty short version.
Once you have sewn the yoke onto the back section, and sewn the front by working a wiggly line around the pockets, you press the seams down (so you can put your hands down into the pockets),and you can go ahead and finish it off exactly as you would have done before you fiddled with the pattern.
The beige cord I used has been in my stash for longer than I dare think about, but it has finally been made into something I will wear frequently (and will probably make other incarnations of too!). I made use of all of my machines on this project – straight seams on Patience while I get my treadle action perfected, zip and other ‘fiddly’ bits on the faithful Pfaff, the overlocker did duty tidying up the seams (I’m afraid to say I didn’t do lovely bound seams like I have seen some bloggers make – maybe on a skirt I don’t need to line), and Molly made the buttonhole. A real team effort!
One of the regular complaints I hear from some of my clients about garments they have purchased relates to the buttons. How they have been sewn on to a garment isn’t something many of them think about until it is a difficulty for them. I recently resewed all of the buttons on a coat that were too tight to fit through the ‘turn of cloth’. That made me realise I have another ‘tool’ I use regularly that isn’t really a sewing tool – but is an essential part of my box. Step forward – the toothpick.
This little gem can be used built up to as many ‘picks’ are necessary to make a stalk behind you button long enough to accommodate the cloth. So simple, but another ‘You use what?’ moment for some of my friends.
I am very happy with my skirt. But, you know I did this adjustment to save buying and fiddling with another new pattern? I have been attending a kettlebell class at my gym and I have lost 1.5″ off my waist and ended up having to take the skirt waistband in! I’m not complaining, but honestly……
P.S. I was reading another blog today (Hi Robyn!) and read a fantastic quote which I have to share.
She said ‘Stash is like compost – it fertilizes your mojo, but it’s better if you turn it over once in awhile’.Love it! Robyn makes some fabulous garments – if you aren’t familiar with her work go have a look!
It is also the name I have chosen to give my Singer treadle sewing machine. Those of you with very long memories will remember her arrival from here. I was quite excited by her arrival – but knew I was going to take a while to sort her out. Not least because she was locked up solid. Absolutely SOLID! I couldn’t persuade the treadle to move at all and I knew I was going to have to just leave the oil to work it’s magic.
Well, after a long time the poor old dear started to look like this:
Yes, it is too good a dumping ground to waste. And since I couldn’t use the machine I dumped massive amounts of ‘work in progress’ on the top. The only way to stop was to get the old girl up and running.
The main problem (the lack of motion) had been quietly soaking in oil for months, but the cabinet and machine were both in need of a good clean. I have no intention of this becoming a ‘desirable antique’. All I want is a functioning machine so I got going with the well wrung out cloth and gently buffed away the muck of ages.
I was quite surprised at just how much filth came off, and just how good the decal looked when it was clean! It is well worn, you can see exactly how the person who used this machine most leaned in over the machine and rested their forearm on the base.
Once the outside was clean and dry I got inside and brushed away all the lint, dust, and rusted pins before giving everything that moved a little drink. I was able to undo the plate on the front and side but couldn’t move the cover from the feed dogs or back of the machine (despite a lot of lubrication and many unsuitable words of encouragement). Once all the dirt had been transferred from the machine to me I decided to leave the oil to work it’s magic and have a bath.
The following day I was able to gently try out the machine mechanism by hand (purred along beautifully with no ghastly noises) before refitting the treadle belt, which had also been given a drink of oil, and trying to move the pedal. Which moved! It is still a bit ‘dry’ sounding but it is now moving freely and operating the machine as it should.
This was the point I was able to replace the needle (which I had removed whilst I ‘fiddled’), thread up, and try it out on a piece of scrap cotton. After all the time this machine had been unused I was delighted to find that the stitch was pretty much perfect. A few snafus while I got my treadle legs going, but this old lady remembers how it is done. I can’t wait to give her a proper job. I think she really suits her new name, having waited patiently to come back into work.
Flushed with success (and I have to admit having just found the box again!) I put the Singer Auto-Pilot buttonhole attachment I bought on e-bay on my Janome 1580. This is the machine I use as a spare and I thought I could leave this attachment, which has plastic guides to create eyelet buttonholes, set up to use if I needed it. I hadn’t read the advert properly – I thought this would go on the hand crank machine – and it needs to be fitted to a zig-zag machine. It took longer to work out how to disable the feed dogs than to get anything else going – and I think the results are OK. But , I wasn’t able to shorten the stitch length despite fiddling for quite some time. I checked online for help (this box didn’t have any instructions so I am working in the dark here) to no avail. Sewing around the buttonhole several times helps, but some of the stitches just ended up spaced out, but on top of each other. Not quite the effect I was looking for. Does anyone out there know how I get a denser finish with this attachment?
But where did October go? Honestly, I have been working – it’s that time of year when my customers all seem to find that everything in their wardrobe for cold weather needs attention, or replace them with new garments. That need attention. I have been reading recently in magazines and online about how it would be nice to lose the ‘busy’ label and be more relaxed and realistic about our abilities. I think it is truly time for me to take this on board.
As a result of client work I haven’t done much for me but I did make time to have another play with the coverstitcher. Because I bought a binder attachment. Yes, I know I really need to get to grips with the plain machine, but I knew that this would be used major amounts once I had it sussed. So, lets get sussing!
I spent a good couple of hours just fiddling with the buttons and stitching flat fabric, and then decided to put the binder onto the machine. That took a little longer than I expected (it would have taken less if I had not wasted an age looking for a ‘part’ which turned out to be permanently on the machine. Doh!) but once on I was able to start making a mess pretty quickly. It was largely trial and error (mainly error) as the instructions printed on the inside of the packaging are sketchy at best. Help was at hand on You Tube, but in all honesty I just fiddled and saw what happened. I started with the gingham (woven and not too likely to move too much) which worked pretty well. Then the viscose jersey which is very stretchy.
This is more likely to be the sort of fabric I would use so I really wanted this to work. It would have been useful to have been able to buy an extra hand to enable me to hold/manipulate the strip of binding as well as moving the ‘garment’ piece. I think it is always going to be worth doing a sample before I use this on a garment. Despite being short of a hand I thought it worked pretty well so I went on to the garment I was making.
I used the Burda pattern from February that I knew fitted, only using long sleeves this time. When I say long sleeves I mean long – check the pattern before you cut these out because I chopped off 7cm. I cut the binding strips a little wider than the binder instructions (pffft! what instructions) because I knew that when under tension the jersey gets narrower. This worked well and I was pleased with the way the neckline finished. It even looks good on the inside. I did take a picture but it was blurry so I haven’t included it.
I am happy with the way this turned out, and I am looking forward to making more use of the machine. The problems were all with me. All ‘more haste, less speed’.I have unreasonable expectations of being able to just ‘sit down and do it’ with no practice which never works. Given time (and lots more experience) I can see this becoming a real time saver and very useful machine. Just not yet.
When I haven’t been sewing, and all the sundry other things we ladies have to do, I have finished another pair of socks. These are the ones for my mum and have been knitted almost exactly from the pattern. I say almost as if you had knitted both the same you would not have got a mirror image of the lace pattern on opposite socks. I puzzled for longer than was necessary to get the effect I wanted before realising all I needed to do was start the second sock pattern on row 11 rather than row 1. Sometimes the answers are simple.
In my last post (so long ago) I did mention a new Patrones magazine that I would review. I haven’t forgotten, and it has now been joined by the new Burda and Threads magazines, so I will make a point of doing that this weekend. Sorry for the delay!
Yes, I know I said I loved my coverstitch machine on Monday. And on Monday I did.
But I have been trying to do an alteration to a running top for my daughter and things have not gone well. At all. All I have made in all the time I have been trying to do this is a mess. The seams have all got skipped stitches. Not good news on a coverstitcher. I did think it may be a needle problem as the fabric is 100% polyester but with a good stretch, although I wouldn’t describe it as a jersey.
New needles were sourced and posted to me, arriving this morning. Not the needles – the machine is still skipping stitches with great abandon. I have given up for now and will try again next week when I have had a weekend away (with the daughter – I had hoped to take the top but it isn’t to be) and my brains cool down.
The Management is confident that once the pressure is off the problem will be easily solved. I wish I shared his optimism.
The Management asked for more PJ’s, being so pleased with the helicopter trial pair I made so long ago. Unfortunately I still haven’t found any sensible fabric to make them in so he had these made today.
So…..John Deere tractors this time. Good fun, but still not going to be suitable should he ever have to go into hospital! I really do have to look out for sensible pj fabric. Having said that, this is a wonderful soft, brushed cotton. They will be fabulously warm through the winter.
As I was spending time on something for ‘family’ I took the opportunity to experiment a bit. I used some of the techniques learned in the recent Janet Pray Craftsy course which speeded things up significantly. I also decided to use the chain-stitch function on the coverstitch machine to attach the waist elastic to the pants. Not the neatest job, but I didn’t even trial this. The stitching looks a bit loose when the elastic isn’t stretched but is perfect under pressure. I had to replace the elastic in a pair of Jean Muir trousers (sadly not mine!) recently which made me think how much easier it would have been just to be able to pull the chain-stitch thread loose, which is why this was so appealing. The whole procedure was very quick too. I love this machine!
I used the coverstitcher a couple of days ago to hem a jersey dress for a client. Blogger SDBev has a wonderful site called the 900CPX Cookbook in which she shows all sorts of wonderful things she has been doing with her coverstitcher – and explains how to go about getting the same results yourself. She very recently made something and used the seam guide that Janome intend to be used with this machine. Being a
cheapskate thrifty dressmaker I thought I would try other options before I spent any more money on accessories.
The first option is well known to many dressmakers. Cheap, move-able, and easily available. Yes, the post it note makes a great seam guide.
The second option was the edge guide that is included with the accessories in my Pfaff machine box. It fitted perfectly well into the screw hole on the CPX presser, and could measure out a good few inches before becoming unstable. Although I didn’t try it I am sure this would work to the left of the foot too. I suspect this will be the method I will be using for a little while yet.
I have an alteration project to do for my darling daughter which needs the actual coverstitch function – but I need to work out precisely what I need to do first. I will report at a later date.
Hurrah I hear you cry! About time – Hood has finished her jacket. Yes, this has taken far longer than it should have – but I am pretty happy with the result. It would be good to know how long it took to actually sew it, rather than how long it has taken because of life getting in the way.
Now that the jacket has buttons on, and the total impression is given, I am not too concerned about the ‘correctional facility’ orange. It is pretty bright – no escaping that – but it will be fine if it is worn with a more subdued colour. The buttons (not studs as I had intended) look very good, and the buttonholes were beautifully worked by the old Singer hand crank machine with buttonhole attachment. Beautifully. Better than my computerized Pfaff would have managed despite costing way more than the old Singer.
As I had the Singer out I decided to try the top stitching (with the upholstery thread I used) with the old girl. I did the jackets topstitching on the spare Janome machine I keep as I couldn’t get a really good tension on the Pfaff and needed to adjust the bottom tension to get a good(ish) finish. Even having spent a fairly significant time messing with the tensions on the Janome to get the result I wanted I really wasn’t 100% happy. As a result I am afraid I did get a little slapdash, so the topstitching doesn’t stand up to really close examination. Step up the old Singer. Without doing anything to the tensions (and I only changed the needle because I couldn’t physically get the thread through the eye!) the result was amazing. Truly amazing. I am never going to topstitch on another machine again. I know that Melissa had made a comment about the quality of topstitch she got from her old hand crank machine in her jeans post. So what did they know about building machines then that seems to have got lost?
So, what did I get out of this Craftsy course?
- I don’t need to pin the bejaysus out of everything. I now have the confidence to use many fewer pins, even if not going ‘pinless’.
- Rotary cutters are much more useful than I thought. And a gift to sore joints.
- Frixion pens are wonderful. Really, really wonderful. A great new tool in my armory.
- My vision is worse than I thought! Thank you Janet Pray for bringing the magnifying visor to my attention. I have used these on a number of jobs since I had them delivered, and I can’t imagine being without them now. I no longer care about walking the house looking like an alien.
If I hadn’t learned anything from the sewing side the new knowledge about the Rolson magnifyer, and the Frixion pens alone would justify the cost of the course for me. I have sewn since childhood, but always ‘domestic’ methods, so it was good to see the way that Janet batched the processes so that you worked more efficiently. The booklet with the pattern gave most of the information needed to work in this fashion, but the video lessons were great. For anyone who is fairly new to sewing (though I think a certain amount of knowledge would be helpful) this is a great course. Even dinosaurs like me learned new tricks from it.
A little while ago I enrolled on Janet Prays ‘Sew better, Sew faster: Garment Industry Secrets course on Craftsy. It took me a little while to make a start on this as I was a bit peeved to have to pay VAT+Post Office charge on the imported pattern. I should have known that I would have to at some point – but it was galling that the Post Office handling charge was more than the tax to pay. As I bought the course while it was on sale I really have no cause for complaint.
Anyway, I have been threatening to make something for myself for a little while but someone else always seems to jump ahead. I justified this as research. I traced off the size I wanted to use rather than cutting the pattern as I may want to make a different size later. Rather than using the size I thought I should, from my body measurements, I have cut according to the amount of ease I wanted using the finished garment measurement. The size I thought I needed would have ended up with a massive amount of ease!
I have been spending tea breaks and such watching the online classes, and have bought a couple of things that I think may be useful. The first was a Rolson Magnifying head torch thingy from Amazon. Janet uses a professional standard tool called an Optivisor, but this was a fraction of the cost and included a torch on the visor. I have used mine today to unpick some tiny stitches on a linen garment for a client – I think I am converted. This has already proved its worth.
The other thing I bought was a pack of FRIXION erasable pens. Janet uses these frequently to fine line mark points on the garment. They can be erased with a hot iron, but obviously I will need to test them on my fabric before I go wild.
You may remember I recently bought a pair of Gingher shears which I have been very happy with. I was intending to use these to cut out the jacket – but Janet uses a roller cutter with mat. I have used mine just for cutting strips for bias binding and such but never thought they would be very good for an entire garment. Well, some things you just have to try. WOW! I was amazed at how quickly I got used to the pressure needed to cut both layers of cotton twill, and how to work my way around curves. I can’t say I am never going to use shears again but I am seriously impressed with how easy this job was. Like many dressmakers of many years experience (NO, not OLD dressmakers!) my wrist and hand does ache after cutting out and this really did seem to help.
I decided I had done enough tonight so I will cut the interfacings out tomorrow and see how far I get then. I still have reservations about the colour of this jacket but it is a way of trying out this system without being in the least concerned about cost . Or making a cattywompus (which after hearing Janet use the word today is one I will be adopting and making as much use of as I can!)
Whats difficult about that I hear you say? NO problems with that exercise. Though sometimes the fabric doesn’t want to feed evenly when you turn that corner. So I give you….. the beer mat solution.
By putting a beer mat (free from most public houses – just buy a drink!) behind the fabric, to support the foot, the feed dogs work well and can feed your work evenly through the machine without that ‘bunched thread’ that sometimes happens when you try to do this. It also helps when crossing a seam that has lots of bulk.
The mats can be stacked up to the height needed to cope with whatever thickness your work is – and they are kinder to your needle if you happen to catch them than a commercial ‘hump jumper’.
And the commercial product (the grey gizmo on the left) is no good for putting your end of day reward on!
Do you have any ‘non standard’ gadgets in your work space that you couldn’t do without?
Intrigued by a thread on the Stitchers Guild site titled ‘Mystery tool’ I had to look. I was amazed to recognise a gizmo given to me by a friend after her mother died – I hadn’t tried to do anything with it so the comments on the thread made me dig it out and try it. Sadly there are no instructions – or it was considered so obvious at one time that none were needed.
It seems to have the pieces that Pina shows – but also has two needles which resemble hyperdermic needles (hollow centres) and a long needle threader. This has been in a drawer for at least 5 years so it was well overdue for investigation. With a little effort (and the help of a threaded loose needle) I was able to get the thread down the tube and within range of the threading aid. With the needle pushed onto the tube I just pushed it through the fabric and left a loop on the back before pulling the needle back. I think if I had repeated the action it would have given a more secure marking but it really does leave a tailors tack!
With a little practice I think this could be useful !
I have just checked You Tube and there is a video of an old commercial – this thing could be really useful – check it out. (P.S. Mine is not for sale!)