Pattern-free cowl skirt in African wax fabric

Cowl skirt front

I’m pretty sure I once said I’d never make clothes for anyone else. But owing to my rubbish memory I now seem to be making a habit of it!

Lucy is one of my beautiful returning customers. and I love the challenges she throws my way. It seems I’m happy making things for other people so long as they are not boring things, lol!

Lucy has a way more interesting social life than me and loves pinning her favourite styles on Pinterest for future reference. It’s a great way for us to share the possibilities of what she’d like me to make next. Most of what she pins, slightly terrifies me but I already overcame my fear of sewing trousers by making her a jumpsuit (which you can see here). She was so delighted with the outcome and that spurred me on to investigate the method of making a cowl skirt.

I’d seen them before, but couldn’t for the life of me work out how to set about it until I came across this tutorial on YouTube by Ruralafricanshop.

It’s a pattern-free tutorial that transforms a length of fabric like magic! Thank you Ruralafrican shop!

I set about making one for myself first. You know, just to test the waters (*read, because I really wanted one too!) and the great thing about sewing with African wax fabric is that it is so darned cheap you can afford to toile it and make one out of the same bolt. Which is clearly the best thing to do in order to see the results for real.

I found me some red and black, of course. It’s quite an unusual colour palette among the wax cotton shelves it seems. Everything else under the sun but not much red and black without other colour interference. I just love the sunbursts. It’s got a great graphic feel about it. And totes lends itself to this crazy sculpture of a skirt!

It cuts some pretty cool shapes with one little turn here and there:

cowl skirt by ooobop

It looks so elegant from the back.

cowl skirt by ooobop back view

And does it’s finest heart-shape impression in the wind!

cowl skirt by ooobop

The trial was a success. I added a few refinements to the instructions, re neatening seams, interfacing the waistband and inserting an invisible zip on a centre back seam. And I rehearsed using different lengths of fabric to see the difference in length of the skirt. The pleats were formed by eye rather than maths.




Lucy supplied her own fabric which was the chosen fabric for the event. And it was a little bit lighter than what I’d used so the pleats and the drape worked even better the second time around. And the border on the fabric worked beautifully on the waistband.

Lucy cowl skirt detail

She is far taller and way more leggy than me so I made sure the length was appropriate, and warned of the shortness of the front seam!

To be fair, she’d rock a potato sack but still, what joy to see her wearing another ooobop special… I was chuffed to bits when she sent me these photos!

Lucy wearing cowl skirt by ooobop

Lucy wearing cowl skirt by ooobop

I’m not stopping here. African wax fabric is such a pleasure to sew. And I’m ready for my next challenge. Bring on the party!

Other things I’ve made from African wax fabric:

Jumpsuit and baby dress

Self-drafted wax print dress




Leaf buckle fabric belt and how I made it

leaf buckle belt

One of the many selling points of a vintage-style dress is the addition of a matching or co-ordinated fabric belt with a cute buckle. But as much as I love the look, I’ve always gone for the belt-free view just to avoid the extra work. What a shirker!

Until now that is. Until I made the Sew Over It Joan Dress. Apologies up front for the lack of said Joan shots but Mr O has done a bunk again and left me void of quality photography services. She’s all class is Joan, and no selfie is going to cut it, I’m afraid. Hoping to nab some shots in the next few days, though.

I found this cute little buckle, at my first visit to the Hammersmith Vintage Fair a few years ago. I’m not entirely sure how old it is or what it’s made of but it’s a weighty metal, inlayed with tiny turquoise and teal mosaic pieces. Shamefully I don’t even know what kind of leaf it is. Sycamore, grape vine? Any Girl Guides out there? It’s not cannabis thank goodness. That would be far too tacky!

The eureka moment to use it came in tandem with another when I remembered the lovely jade green wool crepe I’d squirrelled away for a vintage Hardy Amies number that I (ahem) put into Karen’s (DidYouMakeThat) Sewlution Jar just as many moons ago. So what a result. A pattern gifted by the lovely Alex at Sew Over It, perfect fabric in stash plus the prize jewel of a perfectly coordinated buckle!

So here’s how I made it. . .

Materials:

Fabric (waist measurement plus 4 inches x width to fit in buckle, plus seam allowance)

A length of Petersham waistband stiffener, 1 inch shy of fabric length and width to match

Velcro

matching thread.

 

Instructions:

With right sides together, pin fabric along the length, marking a gap either side of the centre point for turning. Sew along length with a regular stitch and then change to a longer length stitch or basting stitch for the gap:

pin fabric along length

Trim seam but leave the full allowance along the basted section:

trim seam allowance

Roll the seam from the edge to the centre of the tube and press the seams open:

press seam open

Unpick the central basting stitches to open the gap:

unpick stitching at gap

Turn the tube right side out, pulling each end through the central gap. You can do this by attaching a safety pin at one end and pulling through or if you don’t have one already, I wholly advise you to get one of these loop-turners! You just clip one open end and push the fabric over itself, like so:

loop turner

Give a good press, making sure that seam stays open and pressing the gap closed too.

 

give a good press

Insert the Petersham belt stiffener by attaching a large safety pin to one end and feeding through the central opening to one end. Repeat for the other end.

insert petersham belt stiffener

Ladder stitch the central and end openings closed and give another press:

ladder stitch

Top stitch on the right side. I find the stitch-in-the-ditch foot works a treat for this:

stitch in the ditch foot

Take a moment to admire said top-stitching. It’s the little things, you know! 😉

topstitching

Fold over and hand sew one end to the buckle. All buckles differ but same in principle:

attach one end to buckle

The next step is totally unsympathetic to any vintage techniques but I make no apologies because it works for me. I hand-sewed velcro to the other end to make it adjustable:

attach velcro

It’s foresight you see. There’ll be a few Christmas dinners before the year is out and I’m erring on the side of caution. Should have been a Girl Guide!

Hope you found this tutorial of some use I’ll be back soon to show how it in situ, on Joan!

TTFN x

 

Make a PINsentry card reader case

 

Barclays PINsentry case

It’s one of those annoying but imperative things that live in the bottom of my handbag. Forced to live there because I need it, always: The PINsentry machine. But the trouble is, there’s all sorts of other stuff residing at the bottom of that bag too: bobby-pins, small coins, powder-puffs, crumbs… you get the picture. And these things are not conducive for a healthy device. It’ll get sick and at somepoint refuse to recognise my card at the most crucial time. Two previous ones have already met with their demise. In justified protest, no doubt.

So after all these years, I decided to do the honourable thing and replace the obligatory deflated bubble-wrap protector for something slightly more glamourous. And I have decided for the good of the nations PINsentry card readers to detail each step in the making so you can give yours a better future too.

Please note that this size fits the regular Barclays Bank PINsentry machine for other sizes you will need to adjust the template.

Materials:

  • 2 small pieces of fabric each measuring at least 320mm x 160mm
    (1 kind for the outer, 1 contrasting piece for the lining)
    I cut mine from Cath Kidston fat quarters
  • Small piece of wadding (final size: 212mm x 137mm)
  • Choice of closure: velcro, button or press stud
  • Matching thread

Step 1

Print out the template from the link here: PINsentry_machine_case_pattern (making sure you print it at actual size) and cut the following pieces from your fabric:
1 x case outer in main fabric
1 x case lining
1 x wadding piece
1 x flap outer in main fabric
1 x flap lining

pieces for pinsentry case

Step 2

With right sides together, sew flap pieces together with 1.5cm seam allowance, leaving the top edge open as shown in (A) below. Trim the edges close to the stitching (B).

 

Flap construction

Turn the right side out and press. Top-stitch a quarter inch from edge, all round, excluding top edge.

flap topstitched

Step 3

Position the flap with right sides facing to the outer fabric piece as shown below. The flap should sit 20mm in from the left side. Sew along the top, inside the seam allowance. About quarter inch from the top edge.

flap to outer

Step 4:

Now to make a ‘sandwich’ of all the pieces! Following the image below, first place the wadding on the bottom, then your outer case piece with the flap attached, and lastly your lining piece, face down on top.

Stitch all pieces together along the top edge as shown.

fabric sandwich

 

Fold back the lining piece  and give a good press.

top edge sewn

Trim the wadding so it doesn’t extend past the fabric edges. And also trim the wadding close to the stitching on the reverse seam as below, right.

trim the wadding

Step 5

Fold the assembled pieces over – right sides facing – to make one long tube with lining at one end and the wadding at the other as shown below.  Make sure the central seam matches:

fold over assembled pieces

Now stitch all round, leaving a gap to turn through in the bottom of the lining as shown by the black line below:

stitch all round

Trim seams all round, close to stitching but don’t trim the fabric above the opening (C).

Clip and then ‘box’ the corners of the end with the wadding, as show below (D). Just sew diagonally half a cm or so in from the point.

trim leave opening

Step 6

It’s getting exciting now! Turn through, give a light pressing and sew the open end of the lining closed. You can slip stitch by hand or just machine stitch over the end as no one will ever see inside!

turn through and close end

Push the lining inside the outer case and admire those box corners!

right side out

Step 7

All that’s left to do is to hand sew some velcro or closure of choice and snuggle your PINsentry machine safely inside.

velcro finish

 

Sure beats a dilapidated placcy bag!

PINsentry machine

Little things like this make me smile and this little thing is no exception. There’s something quite cleansing about stepping away from the larger projects (I’m looking at you, Boer War Jacket) to get a sewing hit from the smaller ones.

But don’t worry. I’m not ditching the bigger stuff. Oh no! Just procrastinating…. just a little! 😉