Putting my self-drafted leggings to the test

Janene is posing sideways, standing on one leg with the other leg straight out and arms forward. She is wearing her snakeskin print leggings with high heel boots and a black rollneck top

I remember quite plainly saying I did not see the point in making my own activewear. Where’s the fun? It’s just boring and functional. And let’s face it, there are plenty more interesting and fun things to be sewing up!

But never say never! I did a rain-check on the RTW pieces I already own – after one pair pretty much disolved, despite various fixing attempts – and realised not one single pair of bottoms actually fit me properly. Mostly the rise is the problem but also the waist elasticity.

I spent the best part of an afternoon perusing patterns online. There are heaps! And I’m sure most of them would work a treat. But I would undoubtedly have had to make adjustments to said patterns and so I figured I may as well draft my own if it wasn’t going to work straight out the packet. 

I followed instructions from Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear – a firm fave in the sewing community. And it didn’t take long at all to draft the one single basic pattern piece.

Flatlay of drafted leggings pattern piece, drafting tools, note book and pattern drafting book

In fact it took longer for me to decide how to finish the waistband!

I sewed up the leggings in a lightish weight very stretchy lycra. Took minutes on the overlocker with 4 threads. I didn’t even need to substitute stretch needles.

flatlay of partially finished leggings. Just awaiting the waistband.

A quick try-on confirmed the fit was OK apart from quite a lot of ease at the waist – the back waist in particular. I didn’t really clock the excess at the thigh at this point. I was poised to take the waist in, before making a casing and threading elastic through – that totally would have been the quickest waistband solution – but then I visualised some gathering at the waist where the elastic waistband would have cinched it all in. I didn’t like how it looked (in my head!). So I set about another solution.

I measured the depth of the waistband from one of my existing pairs (10cm) and then measured the circumference of the leggings, 10cm down from the natural waistband. I halved that measurement to make a rectangular pattern piece that would ultimately be cut on the fold of the fabric.

I marked top edge, fold and side seam on the pattern piece.

To avoid all the gathering at the waistline I marked 10 equidistant slash lines from top to bottom and closed up the top edge until the top now-curved edge measured approximately 80% of the bottom curve.

I then traced the now-curved rectancle onto another piece of paper to add 1cm seam allowance all round apart from the fold edge.

Flatlay of the drafted pattern pieces, one with and one without seam allowance, for the waistband. a tape measure and a pair of scissors are positioned next to the pattern pieces.

I pinned the pattern to the folded fabric and cut 2 fabric pieces. With each piece right sides together, stitched the short edges to make 2 circular bands.

I placed one band inside the other, right sides facing, and stitched along the top (inwardly curved) edge.

I remeasured the top seamed edge of the waistband and cut some narrow (7mm) elastic to that same measurement with no overlap allowed so it would be a wee bit tighter still.

I then overlapped the elastic by 1cm and sewed the ends together to form a circle. I made quarter point markings along the finished top edge of the waistband. And with corresponding marks made on the elastic, I pinned and lightly stretched to fit as I zigzagged the elastic to the seam, making sure the edge of the elastic didn’t go past the actual seam line.

I trimmed 9cm down from the top of the natural waistline of the leggings (to leave 1cm seam allowance) ready to attach the waistband.

Before attaching I gave a quick press to the waistband, right sides out, to shrink the elastic a bit and make sure both pieces were aligned accurately. Then I attached the bottom two edges of the waistband to the top of the right side of the leggings (right sides together). I aligned the seam of the waistband with the centre back seam and clipped the band all round the top of the leggings. There was no need to stretch to fit this time because both measurements were the same. The clips worked a treat by the way, because the pins kept catching on the fabric.

The waistband of the leggings is clipped in position with some colourful plastic clips.

A quick zoom round on the overlocker, and it was clear that all that care taken for accurate positioning paid off.

Now I wouldn’t normally volunteer a photo of my rear end, but I’m so chuffed how those two centre back seams lined up and how nicely that deep waistband hugs my hips and dips into the small of my back!

View of Janene's bottom! She is holding up her top a few inches to reveal the back of the waistband and show how it fits very snugly.

The last thing to do was hemming. Believe it or not I found this bit the most tricky! With everything else going to plan and so quickly, I decided to get the twin needle out and do it properly rather than employ my usual lazy zigzag treatment.

I dug out my barely used Millward stretch twin needle and rehearsed a twin stretch stitch on a scrap piece of the fabric. Took a while to perfect before I sewed for real. But then it messed up before I finished the first round. Sooo annoying! I dug out the manual to see if I’d set it up wrongly and the only thing I did was not to use the needle supplied with the machine, doh!

So I changed up the stretch twin for a regular Brother twin needle and tried again on some scraps. Again, seemed ok until I went to sew the real hem and the same thing happened again. It just got jammed and sucked into the feed dog with the bobbin threads all tangled under. I unpicked and managed to re-sew over the last bit but still, sooo annoying!! I’m totally sticking to zig-zagging next time!

Side view of Janene wearing her handmade snakeskin print leggings and high heel boots. Her head is cropped out of the image.

First test of the finished leggings was at my Zumba class. And I was so chuffed that they didn’t end up round my ankles. However I could feel how loose they were from the knee up the inner thigh and I really didn’t like the wobble factor as I was dancing! I’m so much more used to sturdier fabrics holding me in place!

I’m going to take them in but decided to shoot them as general day wear with heels as inspired by @paulalovestosew! They are entirely fine as… well, tights really!

Front view of Janene wearing her handmade snakeskin leggings. Her feet are slightly apart. There are some small wrinkles on the knees.

And now I am on the hunt for some heavier stretch fabric. Thank you to everyone who have given some brilliant suggestions. I now appear to have too much choice!!

From not wanting to ‘waste time’ making my own, I can see how making these will quickly become addictive. So… absolutely… never say never!

Image of Janene doing a high kick in her handmade snakeskin leggings. She is also wearing high heel boots, a black rollneck top and a pair of black rimmed glasses.

Posed photos by Daniel James

Rouleau loops made simple

Rouleau Loops made simple. Title image

I struggled to make a satisfactory rouleau loop for years and dodged any sewing patterns that involved spaghetti straps, button loops, ties and such decoration. Determined to get the technique nailed for my Vogue Liberty silk dressing gown, I rehearsed the following method with great results. I hope this works for you too!

STEP 1: First make a paper template (or you can mark directly onto the fabric.) Your strips should measure 2.5cm/1” wide and however long you need. 

Cut the strip(s) on the bias grain.
  • STEP 1: First make a paper template (or you can mark directly onto the fabric.) Your strips should measure 2.5cm/1” wide and however long you need. 

Cut the strip(s) on the bias grain.

STEP 2: With right sides together, fold your strips in half length-wise and pin in position. Even if you are not using slipery fabric, the bias strips will have a will of their own!
  • STEP 2: With right sides together, fold your strips in half length-wise and pin in position. Even if you are not using slippery fabric, the bias strips will have a will of their own!
STEP 3: Sew a quarter inch/6mm seam along the pinned edge, removing pins and stretching the fabric slightly as you sew.

TIP: start sewing a little way in from the edge so the fabric doesn’t get chewed up by the feed dog (fig 1) Sew to end and then turn your work around, working over the last couple of stitches and sew to end. (fig 2)

Leave a long tail of thread at the end (about 10cm/4”)
  • STEP 3: Sew a quarter inch/6mm seam along the pinned edge, removing pins and stretching the fabric slightly as you sew.

TIP: start sewing a little way in from the edge so the fabric doesn’t get chewed up by the feed dog (fig 1) Sew to end and then turn your work around, working over the last couple of stitches and sew to end. (fig 2)

Leave a long tail of thread at the end (about 10cm/4”)

STEP 4: Trim your seam, close to the stitching line.

Tie the long tails of thread to the eye of a longish needle with a big eye or a bodkin and push up through the tube – eye first – to turn right side out. Cut the threads from the needle.

And there you have it . . .
Rouleau loops made simple!
  • STEP 4: Trim your seam, close to the stitching line.

Tie the long tails of thread to the eye of a longish needle with a big eye or a bodkin and push up through the tube – eye first – to turn right side out. Cut the threads from the needle.

And there you have it . . . Rouleau loops made simple!

Do let me know if you found the layout of these instructions helpful. I sometimes struggle with photographed instructions and I find illustrated steps are easier to follow but that might just be me!

Seven useful tips for a rocking pair of M7726/M8168 shorts

M7726 shorts handmade and modelled by Janene @ooobop

I was inspired to make a second pair of these McCall shorts (see here for first pair) by the lovely checked suiting fabric I saw and snapped up in the Crafty Sew and So sale and was then spurred on by the #magamsewalong #rocktober instagram challenge hosted by @suestoney and @sewing_in_spain, themed by @salixsews.

close up of M7726 shorts handmade by Janene @ooobop

I’m still a bit scarred from that loose weave fabric I used last time, but oh the rewarding joy in using a more stable fabric. I did however underestimate the time and patience in cutting and matching those checks though.

TIP 1: Cutting out

I laid out the fabric in a single layer and cut all the pieces individually, using a rotary cutter for more accuracy. I find the fabric moves less and you can get consistently close to the edge of the curved sections.

I flipped the first set of cutout pieces onto the remaining fabric and pinned it in position to cut the corresponding pieces so the checks would line up. And most importantly I marked ‘WS’ (wrong side) on each piece!

detail of front section of shorts overlaid and pinned onto fabric to match checks

TIP 2: Marking the pieces

I know we are constantly reminded to do this. I’m lazy and often don’t – just marking as I get to the correlating instruction, if I feel I need to. But in the case of these shorts it’s crucial to get those marks on, and visible.

I used a combination of tailor’s chalk and tailor tacks and made sure to distinguish the small circles versus large circles, not forgetting the squares and the centre front line versus the fold lines! It seems like such a faff but you’ll thank me later!

TIP 3: Finishing the seams

I overlocked all the edges of all the pieces, after I sewed the seams but I finished the fly section before I added the zip.

I never paid any attention to finishing when I first started out sewing but learned quickly when my favourite memade shirt literally fell apart at the seams!

Also advisable to finish your seams in a matching thread. This doesn’t always matter but read on to tip 7 to find out why.

TIP 4: Tacking is important

When you have such a large and noticeable check pattern, or any pattern tbh, any slight stretch or movement of the fabric can lead to a mis-align of the design. So hand tacks, in a contrasting colour, are a really great way of keeping things in place while you sew.

Believe me, I always try to dodge this bullet thinking I can go quicker without and even this time I tried simply pinning the pleats in position before I sewed and twice had to unpick because the line of the checks formed a ‘step effect’.

TIP 5: Tying up loose ends

To finish off the topstitching neatly, leave a longer thread than your automatic machine cutter might allow for. Take a hand sewing needle and thread it with the loose thread on the right side. Push the needle and the thread through to the wrong side and tie together a few times with the bobbin thread. Trim a few mm’s away from the knot.

detail of how to tie up loose ends with threaded needle sticking out of the front side of the fabric

TIP 6: The roll-up

I used a strip of fusible interfacing to sandwich in the middle of the rolled up hem. The suiting fabric I used was a little sturdier than the last fabric I used but still very soft and I didn’t want the cuff to flop down. It was a good way to use up those little scraps of interfacing too – I hate throwing them away! I also did a blind catch-stitch about a cm inside the top edge of the roll up to keep that cuff in position. Just for good measure!

I wanted a slightly bigger roll up than I did last time but the positioning of those checks played a big part in how much and where I pressed that last fold. As a result the pocket bags have a tendency to show when I’m seated. Slightly annoying and not a biggie, except that’s where I first used non matching (white) overlocking thread. I thankfully changed it up when I remembered that the side seams were going to be visible on the roll-up!

Janene standing with hands

I wore these shorts 5 days straight after I made them – I love them so much. And I think that’s largely due to the time and patience I invested in making sure those details were on point. I even matched the belt loops for goodness sakes!

They are so comfortable to wear, lovely and warm with tights and I love styling them with boots. Its given me a great opportunity to test them out with all my different tops (breaking all the ‘rules’ for pattern mixing) so I’ll be sure to share that with you soon, too.

I do hope these tips come in useful, for this project or any others you’ve got on the go. And please share any additional ones you might have in the comment section. One of my favourite things about sewing is the prospect of it always being a work in progress. There’s more than a lifetimes worth of tips and techniques to keep us busy and sharing them is half the fun!

In the meantime I’m pondering my next project. Could be an actual jumper, a work-out piece or a self-drafted dress. Decisions, decisions…!

Postscript! I’ve since found out that this McCalls pattern has been rereleased under M8168, Taylor McCalls

Other shorts I’ve made:

Self drafted Turtleneck knit top

black rib knit top worn with plaid shorts

The last thing I made was this turtleneck rib knit top. Most probably up there with some of the most boring things I’ve made, but actually a top that ticks a lot of boxes.

I self drafted it for one and learned something new in the process. I’ve self drafted a fair few patterns for woven fabric to date, like this Liberty Lawn summer dress, a few shift dresses like this batik one, and more recently my handkerchief hem dress  to name a few. But I’ve never thought to self draft a knit pattern. Why would I? Its akin to reinventing the wheel as there’s so many great basic knit patterns out there. But I do love a challenge. And also have another agenda in the shape of some very special stretch fabric that is still waiting to be made into a well fitting dress so if I master a moulage in knit then I’ll be one step closer to designing a knit dress, right?

Black ribbed knit top flatlay

The process was actually very simple. In a nutshell removing the darts and any ease to create a close fitting shell that stretches around the curves of the body. I used my self-drafted woven moulage as a starting point and made the adjustments from there. I found a great lesson on Craftsy, by Suzy Furer and also referred to my favourite sewing book: Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Joseph Armstrong.

knit sloper pattern pieces

I tested it first on some nasty nylon fabric. To be fair I don’t know what the fibre content is but I’m certain there’s not an ounce of natural anything in it! Looks kinda cool with its graffiti design though. But I messed up royally on the turtle neck itself. Such a stoopid mistake. I made it 10% smaller than the neck opening which was fine. Sewed it in a circle to check it would go over my head which was fine too. Then stretched it as I sewed in place, much as I would sew a binding on a scooped neckline. Realising I had excess (as a result of over stretching) I cut off about an inch and a half, maybe even 2 inches more to make it fit. And that was where I went so wrong. I can just about get it over my head but its akin to being slowly strangled if I’m wearing it for more than half an hour!

toile of knit top in a synthetic graffiti print fabric

Everything else was just fine, though. Just made a massive note to self to not mess with the collar piece!

I especially loved that it was all sewn on the overlocker save for the hemming, so was super quick to whip up. One very important thing gleaned from sewing knit tops before is to stabilise the shoulder seam to stop it stretching out. I used some Prym iron on stay tape (aff. link) for the first time and it was so easy to apply in a straight line. Its been subject to a few 40 degree washes since and it’s still totally intact. Definitely no going back to sew-in tape now.

So then I made the black one with ribbed knit I bought in the Minerva sale for a snip! And I love it. Its so versatile – goes with all my skirts and shorts and also is a great under-layer for some of my self-drafted dresses, on a chillier days. Topped with a cardi for an extra layer its a definite win win win!

It’s just so classic, with a nod to retro too and has already had soooo much wear that it will probably wind up being the most sustainable item of clothing in my wardrobe for that reason alone.

I’d love a couple more of these. A leopard print one for sure and perhaps a red one … predictable much! But first I have to make something a bit more exciting. And I’ll tell you all about that real soon.

In the meantime, here’s to boring practical clothes that go with absolutely everything and for a quick sew fix too!

Are you sewing much over lock down? I’m struggling to get as much sew time due to work pressures – everything is taking so much longer so I feel like I’ve lost so many hours in my day. But all things considered, it could certainly be much worse!

Wishing you all well in any case.

Janene x

The English Tea Dress #013 by Simple Sew

Simple Sew English Tea dress

This was exactly the kind of pattern I was looking for when I was actually hunting for something else! I’d put it aside (read, under the sofa) as a not-so-taxing project for when I got a few hours down time. The back cover blurb was all-encouraging of this, too.

Like many other sewing people, I’ve been on a mission to work through my stash fabric before buying anything new, in the name of sustainability and also the hope of gaining some floor space in my bedroom!

Simple Sew English tea dress

And this dress pattern is perfect for all those 2m lengths I purchased. It requires 1.90m of 60″ fabric for all sizes 8-20 – sleeves and all – which is pretty damned economical really.

Love Sewing Magazine and English Tea Dress sewing pattern

I had 2m of what I believed to be 45″ wide cotton fabric and that almost fitted the bill. I just had to shorten the skirt by 2inches to fit all the pieces on. Especially as I then found out that it was only 43″ wide. I’m guessing it shrunk in a prewash – better to have found out at this stage of the game though! But still I had to count my chickens that all the pieces fitted considering the direction of the design. Upside down shoes would have been disastrous!

All went swimmingly but I’m amazed at the lack of notches on the pattern pieces. There was one to mark the front sleeve placement and ordinarily that’s pretty crucial but in this instance the sleeve pattern folded near enough symmetrically so it wouldn’t have made a spot of difference.

Simple Sew English Tea dress

But that was it on the notch front! Piecing the front and back facings together had me thinking, which is a bit lucky as it prompted me to place over the bodice neckline to check I was sewing the pieces together the right way round. It would have been so much more helpful to have a marker on each of the shoulder seams.


TIP#1

Mark notches on the facing pieces so you remember to sew them the correct way round

facing instructions

And if I’m being picky (moi?!), the side seams of the skirt would have benefitted from a notch or two. They are bias-cut and hence a little stretchy so a midway marker would help prevent a potential pucker! I’ve marked mine for future use.


TIP #2

Align skirt pattern pieces at side seams and create notches for more accurate alignment


Adding to the facing part of the story – it was very useful and imperative actually, to include the snip at ‘X’ –the point of the V-neck. It did press nice and flat but I included 2 additional stages here:


TIP #3

Under-stitch the seam allowance to the facing to prevent it from rolling out at the neckline.


and then:


TIP #4

Hand stitch the facing to the shoulder seams to secure it in position stop it from popping out.


I’m being picky again. I know. But from past and bad experience, I can’t stand a flappy facing!

So all went well, despite lack of notches until I got to the sleeve section. And of course I wasn’t content to sew the options illustrated on the packet or in the accompanying issue of Love Sewing magazine (issue 15). Not only because I’m contrary but the 3rd non-illustrated nor photographed option was the best IMHO. The 3rd option being a half length, cuffed variety!

But, forgive me for being old and slow (and of course picky)… but how would you interpret these instructions?

cuffed sleeve instructions

Especially when the cuff was near enough the same length as the bottom of the sleeve. And yes I did double check I’d cut the correct sizes!

cuff piece next to sleeve
Bottom of sleeve not much wider than the cuff piece.

I spent way to much time thinking about this stage and then went off piste with this tip:


TIP #5

Measure your arm circumference, comfortably, just above your elbow and add 1.5cm seam allowance to each end. Trim cuff piece to this measurement. Press in half horizontally to crease the centre/ (ultimately the bottom) of the cuff. Gather the bottom of the sleeve as stated and sew right sides of the gathered edge to the right side of one raw edge of the cuff piece.

cuff piece pinned to sleeve
Cuff piece pinned to sleeve along raw edge. See the crease in the middle.

cuff sewn to sleeve
Cuff sewn to sleeve. Spot the deliberate mistake!

Gather the sleeve head as instructed – although, having said that, it’s not really instructed from where and to where on the pattern piece, so I just mirrored the notch to the back and gathered between the two points. Sew the underarm sleeve seam all the way down to the bottom of the cuff. Press sleeve seam open. Press under 1.5cm on the remaining raw edge of the cuff and then fold the piece to the inside of the sleeve along the pre-pressed fold. Hand-stitch to the inside seam line to form a binding and finish the cuff. Remove gathering stitches and press.

Having worn this dress and seeing how the cuffs have curled, I might also use  a light fusible interfacing to stabilise the cuff next time.


I hand finished the hemline of the skirt, of course. Just because a machined one would irritate me having invested so much time to go lazy at the last hurdle!

So where do you suppose I might have worn my English tea dress as soon as I made it? No prizes for guessing of course!

Enjoying a vegan cream tea
Vegan cream tea at The Ginger Bees cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames

Mr O and I went to The Ginger Bees cafe, Kingston-upon-thames riverside, for the most delicious vegan cream tea. Well, mine was vegan – Mr O went full on full cream!

Mr O and his cream tea
Mr O enjoying his full on full cream, cream tea!

I booked the day before on recommendation and we were not disappointed. The lovely couple who bought the café just a year ago have something very special going on here. Thank you so much Gavin and Beth for looking after us. It was such a treat and the perfect occasion to showcase my new tea dress!

Beth and Gavin, owners of The Ginger Bees Cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames
Beth and Gavin, owners of The Ginger Bees Cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames

ooobop’s 20 ways to boost your SEWJO!

20 ways to boost your sewjo

You know how it is. One minute – all guns blazing, knocking out capsule wardrobes like they’re going out of fashion, the next – it’s all gone. Just like that. At the drop of a hat. You know – that thing that’s sent to try us – our sewjo!

So how DO we kick start the enthusiasm that was? Read on for some inspirational ideas to get those feed dogs chomping at the bit and hungry for more!

1. RTW window shopping

Have a wander round some local high street fashion stores and remind yourself why handmade and slow-fashion refashions are a far better way forward. Dodgy hems; crap fabric; poor fit; not forgetting the ethical issues… need I go on? But do take what IS on offer: Clock the styles you like, the colours and the closures, note the shapes, the trims, the sleeves, and burn them to your memory or better still, take a cheeky picture of two and store for future reference 😉

2. Pinterest

It’s an old fashioned concept in a digital format and it’s used by millions. Just search for inspiration and there’ll be a board ‘with your name on it’. I made a board called #inspirational fashion to post every thing I’d love to make, or be able to make! Make your own mood boards to pin or repin your favourite fashion finds, tutorials or sewing tips. And have a nosey on other peoples boards. But do be warned. This activity is highly addictive!

3. Movie Makes

Chill out! Where’s the fire? Remember it’s a hobby and the only deadlines imposed are callously created by you. So relax. Watch a movie. One with a prominent wardrobe! I personally like the oldies. As aforementioned, Shirley Maclaine in The Yellow Rolls Royce; Pick an Audrey Hepburn movie, Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s in fact any one you like or Marilyn if she’s your thing: Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch are my faves. And Madmen is always flavour of the month. There’s a reason my Joan dress came about! The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City, Titanic…. there’s an endless supply and Netflix is mostly your best friend.

4. Glossy Mags

What do we look for first in a glossy mag? The fashion, of course. I confess that I rarely part with hard cash for a hard copy but a sesh at my hairdressers or any other waiting room becomes such a treat when theres a pile of them for your personal perusal. Vogue, Elle, Grazia, Marie Claire, all those high-end, sharp-edged glossies don’t scrimp when it comes to drool-worthy styling and photography. Dior, Chanel, McCartney and McQueen… they’ve got a top-paying ad after every article to fund fund them so no expense is spared. Re-snap those shots, Instagram them, Pin them, take notes in Evernote. You will feel the fire burning in your belly with every click! (I will have this dress!)

5. Meet up for real

Plan a meet up with sewing blogger pals in real life. It is so good for the soul and infinitely good for your sewjo. (I feel it prudent to warn about online safety issues but I’m assuming we are all grown ups) Like-minded sewing people understand. Friends and partners and children do their best. That’s the difference. Last Wednesday I spent the most pleasurable lunch hour with the wonderful Jax Black aka Mrs Bee Vintage. We talked without breathing, about a gazillion things sewing-related and I went home a far happier and inspired bunny. Most recommended – I swear by it!

6. Rummage and marriage

When was the last time you had a proper rummage in that fabric stash of yours? I mean a proper one, whereby you take every last piece out of every single box – one by one – spread it, stroke it, love it, admire it with a tilty head, ponder for a while, fold it up, and put it back again? Try simultaneously matching pieces with patterns in your collection and see if you can marry them together. I guarantee there’ll be a match made in heaven, you’ll see.

7. What’s on in your area?

Check out any exhibitions or fashion exhibits at local museums. Any period, any style, it really doesn’t matter. Better in fact to make a small departure from your usual comfort zone to trigger something afresh. And just take the time to study, properly. Close up and personal. I am so priviledged to have the V&A, The Fashion and Textile Museum at my beck and call. Handmade Jane and I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Fashion and Textile Museum, there in our white gloves inspecting the guts of such beautiful designer dresses as Chanel and Dior and Balenciaga. The workshop was Couture Inside Out –1950s Paris and London. Art galleries too: National Portrait and Tate galleries for instance. There is just as much fashion inspiration in a renaissance painting as there is on a glossy centre spread. (Just Google ‘renaissance paintings’, o ye of little faith.!) I love the silence of such places, the calm and the space. And more importantly how you get stripped of all niggling distractions the minute you walk through the door. It is proper therapy, I’m telling ya! And you will return to your machine, renewed and inspired.

8. Read all about it!

There’s a world of inspirational reading out there. Finding it is sometimes tricky. But when you do and it lights that spark that was struggling to flicker, the feeling is priceless. I have a few titles I’d like to mention: The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby as recommended by Didyoumakethat; Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood, totally recommended by me; The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham (very soon to be screened in the UK) and Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico as recommended by Dolly Clackett. Outside of the autobiographies and stories, you may want to seek inspiration from some of our favourite household bloggers: Tilly’s Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking, Gerties Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book: A Modern Guide to Sewing Fabulous Vintage Styles, Lisa Comfort’s Sew Over It VintageAnd when theres no ‘Bee’ on the telly, Claire Louise Hardy’s The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric feeds us some great challenges instead. I confess it’s been a shamefully long time since I set foot in my local library but the craft section is usually a cosy corner worth visiting and you get all that eye candy for free! But if finding time to read is tricky as it often is for me then Audible is definitely the way forward. This wonderful app has made it possible to me to listen to a book on the tube, at work, whilst jogging, in bed, in fact whereever and whenever you bleedin’ like!

9. Podcasts

A podcast is effectively an independently made radio show. And I always forget how good these are. My first intro to podcasts was Threadcult. Christine Cyr Clisset of Daughter Fish has such a natural interviewing technique and her content is varied and always inspiring. Tilly recommends Modern Sewciety. I love hearing how others got started, what fires them up and how far they’ve come. Seamwork Radio is a relatively new one but Sarai is a natural! Just like Audio books, you can listen on the go.

10. Join the club!

My first and my best and still my most favourite go-to sewing community is Burdastyle. I tentatively posted my first project on there before I knew anyone or very much about sewing. And I never looked back. The support and inspiration you get from such a world is amazing. Free patterns, great inspiration from other sewing people of every sewing level, the ability to interact and get feedback –and for FREE – is worth every minute invested. Other groups that spring to mind are Sewing Pattern Review, which does exactly what it says on the tin. A great place to check out a project before you get stuck in to your own; WeSewRetro which is my favourite resource for vintage and retro submissions and more recently The Foldline, a new, exciting and rapidly growing community of which I have recently signed up to. Join me here!

11. Fabric heaven

Take a trip to your local fabric store(s). No online store substitutes the therapy induced by real-life feeling and stroking and stretching (only in secret) and sniffing of fabrics. What? You don’t do that? Only me then! Allow yourself time. Wander slowly. Looking up, down, left and right AND behind the counter. AND move the front rolls to get to the back rolls. That all important fabric is waiting just for you. For that all important garment that you know nothing about just yet. But when it happens, its going to be jaw-dropping, show-stopping, envy-inducing. All you have to do is browse and let your imagination do it’s stuff.

12. Old news is good news

Who throws old copies of sewing/crafting magazines away? Not me! And I’ll take a wild guess at not you either! Put the kettle on, slip into your favourite jammies, blow off the dust and pile them at your feet. A cuppa and a browse of a Burda Style mag or two is guaranteed to inspire an idea or ten. If you are one of those less hoardie types I’m sure you don’t need a nod, but there are a gazillion great mags on the shelves of Smiths lately. SewLove Sewing, Sewing World, and Threads to name a few UK titles. Sign up and look forward to that monthly thud on your doormat. And then you can have piles like mine!

13. List lovers

Keep a running list of projects you’d love to make. Either digitally or the old-fashioned pen and ink way. Even if looks like you’ll never get a minute to yourself to follow through. You just never know when that moment will happen and when it does you will be prepared to seize the day with an inspired to-do list. Keep it on your person for when you are perusing the aisles of your favourite fabric store. It’s a penny-dropping moment in the making! If you’re bored of seeing the same old, same old on your list then rub it out and add something new!

14. Fashionary fashion

This is a fabulous little thing that I just love to have in my handbag at all times. It’s effectively a book full of naked croquis (body outlines) for you to create your own designs. Bring it out in your lunch hour; Have a go on the tube; whenever inspiration strikes sketch a garment on a pre drawn croqui. After all, that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Drawing the croqui, that is.  I got mine from the V&A shop. Amazon stocks a slightly different version too. Or if you’d rather spend your money on fabric you could draw and photocopy your own croqui by tracing a photo of yourself, preferably in your undies so that you have a true representation of your silhouette. You could then photocopy multiple pages to form your own very personalised Fashionary-style book!

15. Party time!

Do you have an exciting event coming up? A birthday party, perhaps; a wedding; anniversary or just a blow out with a mate next month? Then picture yourself making your entrance in that amazing outfit you’ve been making in your head for months. The reception is raptuous and your pride is bursting at the seams. So do it. You can. And you will have that dress. And boy it will feel good.

16. Up the Tube

You Tube is a fabulous source for tutorials. My go-to for sure. If your sewjo is ever stuck in a rut because you can’t solve a problem, there’s a wealth of knowledge and selfless help out there just for you. And it’s mostly visual – no reading – which is always a win for me. I’m forever grateful that someone, somewhere in the world has hit upon the same issue and has the answer, a visual one. One I can pause and watch again and again, till it totally sinks in! You can subscribe to your favourite channels and keep up to date with your favourite teachers. And its all FREE!

17. Sign up

Join a class. Improve your skills. Learn a new technique. Meet some like-minded sewing people and make new friends. Have a look at your local authority adult-education classes, they’ll be the cheapest, or Google some private classes in your area. There’s plenty of classes in London  but feel free to add any from your local area in the comments below. My London suggestions are: Thrifty Stitcher, Sew Over It, London Fashion and textile Museum, Morley College, Badger and Earl, Tilly and the Buttons… If the going out bit is the issue there are plenty of brilliant online courses on offer too: Try Craftsy, Burdastyle Academy, or Angela Kane for starters.

18. Bloggers delight

I know this sounds blindingly obvious but actively follow the posts other sewing bloggers. Read about their experiences. Ask them appropriate questions. Tap into their enthusiasm and build yours. It’s what we’re here for!

19. Better to give…

If you are stuck for something to make for yourself, make someone else’s day! I’m all for selfish-sewing but once in a while it’s a great fix to make for a small child or a rellie or a neighbour instead. And it doesn’t have to be a garment. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries… there’s always an occasion for a quick fix crafting project. Or just rustle up some stand-by pressies for the hellovit! A quick Google gets you any amount of free patterns. Bags, ties, toys, aprons, napkins, headphone cases, purses, hats… I could go on!

20. Never let go

Be your own inspiration. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come, why you sew and what you do it for. Was it the fit? The relaxation that ensued? The social side? Or the endless possibilities for the most amazing wardrobe of garments ever?! Just take a moment to reflect on the best thing you ever made. How did it make you feel? What more did you want to achieve then? Just do it, why don’t ya? Or take a break. You can do that too. Because as scratchy as we get, we’ve come so far there’s actually not much chance of going back. Sewing just gets hold of us by the short and curlies… and never lets go!

I do hope this post has been a helpful nudge in the right direction. Please share any of your other ideas by commenting below and by reposting or Tweeting to any fellow sewing people who’s sewjo may be in need of a boost.

What are your favourite movies, your best books or your most recommended courses? Where do you go to get your fashion fixes? We’d all love to know please!

Happy sewing my lovelies! x

 

Using Evernote to catalogue patterns & fabric stash

vintage sewing patterns

In my head, I’m a very organised and methodical person. In reality I’m not!

Actually, that’s not entirely fair. I do put things in piles labelled ‘to action’, ‘to file’, ‘to put away’ and I have even been known to put things in boxes but there remains an ongoing issue with finding things!

My precious sewing patterns, new and old, are safely filed put away in boxes. I love to get them out and look through them every now and then, just for that warm fuzzy feeling. And sometimes I even put them to work. But with the ever growing tower of pattern boxes it is true to say that I often forget what I’ve got.

But last week I discovered Evernote! I cannot claim to be the authority on this app because, by all accounts, it does so much. However, I can tell you how it has revolutionised the organisation of my sewing pattern collection.

How Evernote works for me

  • Firstly, it’s on my phone which means when I find myself in a fabric shop, I can instantly find out how much fabric/what notions I need, or if a particular fabric is suitable for the job just by scrolling through my instantly available files.

Evernote screenshot
How my sewing pattern list appears on my phone screen

  • Equally if I’m in a charity shop and there’s an amazing remnant of fabric shouting out I can see if it matches up to the requirements.
  • I can instantly check to see if I already own the pattern or not – Despite my tower of patterns equalling my own height, I still get a little buzz from an Ebay bargain!
  • You can share your ‘notes’ on social networks or via message or Email which will be a handy way of me creating a new pinboard on Pinterest or consulting fellow sewists via Twitter or Facebook.
  • You can also print straight from your device. Assuming you’d need a wireless system for that though.
  • You can tag the patterns making for a brilliant search system. I generally tag mine with: size, bust-size, era, garment style, pattern name/number and exact date of publication if I can find it.
  • You can also stack notebooks. So for instance:
    1 ‘note’ effectively consists of front and back of pattern envelope plus any notes I’ve made from previous experience.
    ‘Notes’ are grouped together to form a ‘notebook’, for instance one ‘notebook’ could be titled Vintage another could be Modern.
    ‘Notebooks’ can then be stacked under a title of Sewing patterns.
    I am currently just putting all ‘notes’ (individual patterns) in one ‘notebook’ called Sewing patterns and tagging them for easy searching. I like being able to scroll down a long list.
  • You can view each pattern as a thumbnail with it’s title alongside. It’s a little bit diddy, even on a larger than average phone screen but it syncs perfectly online and I find this is an easier way of viewing and editing from the comfort of a desk and the luxury of a larger screen.

Evernote online

And the best thing about Evernote?

  • It’s absolutely FREE! I haven’t felt the need to upgrade to a premium version yet. The benefits of which include: more space allocation, an offline editing option, multiple author permission, and pdf search facility. But even if and when I feel I’m ready to upgrade, its only about £35 per year!

Evernote is so easy to use

To upload a pattern I simply take a photo of the cover using the inbuilt camera and then take a ‘document’ shot of the back cover text. This text can be enlarged for perfect readability even on a tiny screen. I then give it a title: The pattern company and number reference. And then I tag it so It can be searched for. I currently only have the one notebook titled, Sewing Patterns and I make sure they live in there but if you had other notebooks you’d just have to check it’s in the right place.

Evernote phone screenshot
This is what the pattern cover image looks like within a ‘note’

 

Evernote screen shot scroll down
This is what the screen looks like when I scroll down for further info

Evernote zoomed in
This is what the back cover info looks like, zoomed-in on my phone

Teething problems with Evernote

I have only come up against a couple of teething problems. No biggies but worth bearing in mind to save you from pulling out your hair!

I did get excited when I saw the ‘Location’ entry box. But longitude and latitude won’t help me to find where the actual pattern is so I guess I will have to add the location to the file name (ie box 1 etc)

For a short while I didn’t understand how Evernote randomly selected an image to use as the cover thumbnail. It doesn’t select them according to first in the list, moreover the largest image.
So just make sure that the cover image is larger than the back cover document image. I do this by taking a close up of the pictorial cover and holding the camera a bit further away when I shoot the back cover. When using the document shooting facility it will naturally crop into the document text area and automatically exclude external background content, which keeps it smaller.

Using Evernote to catalogue fabric mountain

Once I’ve finished cataloguing my sewing patterns, I’m thinking of filing my fabric stash too. By taking a photo of the fabric and adding some notes and searchable tags relating to size, fabric content and potential usage. But one thing at a time, hey?!

Has anybody else tried Evernote? Are there any features I’ve missed? Or do you use another filing system?

For anyone interested in getting this app, you can either download it from the App Store or let me know, and I’ll Email you a link. Another great feature is that if you recommend a friend you earn points to upgrade for free! So once you are signed up for the free app don’t forget to recommend Evernote to your friends too.

Footnote: This is not a sponsored post, despite my enthusiasm. It is an honest review of a product that works very well for me and my purposes.

ooobop’s top 40 tips on how to be an awesome sewist

top 40 tips

I had a little trip down memory lane yesterday, looking back at old projects and it was a real eye opener as to how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned. There’s plenty more I need to learn and – hoping I’m not teaching too many grandmas to suck eggs, here – I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned so far.

 

1. Never sew when you are tired

It’s a tough rule for those of us who can only sew late at night but really it’s a no-brainer and don’t say I never warned you: Seam allowances will be forgotten, sleeves will be sewn to neck-holes (Ring any bells, Rosie?!) and insides will become outsides quicker than you can shout ‘dunnit!’

2. Measure twice and cut once

I had it said to me all my life by my mum so now I can share this irritating but seriously useful tip with you, my sewing friends. BTW she used to say it in a really squeaky irritating voice too so I’m hoping that will chew into your head as much as it did mine, soz!

3. Invest in a good machine

If you are lucky to inherit a good one then great. But advice from the mother was not to spend anything less than £200 for a newbie. It needs to be heavy enough not to dance all over your table with a reliability factor from a good brand. No fancy stitches needed. Just the usual forward, backwards and zigzags will do. Most have a buttonhole stitch and and a few fancy stitches for that price range too.

4. Learn from the mistakes of others

Stands to reason that you will learn from your own. You will only ever sew a sleeve on back to front once (twice perhaps). You will only ever forget to add seam allowance on a Burda pattern once (well maybe three times). But seriously, before you start sewing from a commercial or indie pattern, or if you are trying a new technique for the first time, have a scout round and see what everyone else came up against. You can always post a comment on a sewing blog and ask how they resolved their issues. Sewing bloggers are always your best friends.

5. Make notes

Either on the pattern piece itself, on a notecard in the envelope or digitally documented if you are that super organised, you will thank yourself later for keeping notes about what you changed from the original. You might think you have the memory of an elephant, but believe me, fellow sewists, I speak the truth when I declare that we have the memory of a goldfish when it comes round to sewing a repeat project. Or is that just me?!

6. Practice, practice, practice. . .

It’s how anyone gets good at anything they are good at. In fact it is the only way. Nobody is born great at anything. But everyone has the opportunity to be brilliant at something if only they practice enough. All you need is the passion for it. It’s not a tough call. Just keep sewing!

7. Change the needle

The word out there is to change your needle after every project. I admit to being a one-needle-two-project rebel but I do change it all the same. It needs to be an appropriate needle for the fabric too. Generally speaking:

70/10 universal  for light/ sheer fabrics
80/12 universal for light to medium cotton/linen/wool/polyester
90/14 universal for medium to heaver cotton/linen/wool/polyester
100/16 jeans for heavy denims or for hemming jeans

And a good idea to take note of the size of the needle that you last left in the machine, or put it back in a box (marked used) so you can remember what size it was. Impossible to tell otherwise.

8. Don’t skip the stay-stitching

It’s tempting I know, but just think how much you will be saved from the embarrassment of a saggy neckline, or a droopy waistline. Don’t even wait for an instruction. Any area cut on a curve or on the bias will need some stabilising or else it’s going to stretch all over the place when you come to sew it. Sew, using a regular stitch, about 1cm or 3/8 inch from the edge of your fabric, within the seamline. Stay-stitching is most effective when sewn from outsides to insides. Ie from shoulder to centre neckline or from side waist to centre waist. Repeat for the other side.

9. Read those instructions

Obvs! I’m going to put my hand up right here and confess to skip reading instructions. I always think I’ve got it. Mostly I have but I’ve also come unstuck by not paying attention. What I tend to do nowadays is take instructions to work, read them on the train, read them again in my lunch hour. Make the garment in my head on the journey home or in the shower the following morning. That way I know ‘exactly’ what I’m doing when I come to make the actual one for real!

10. Be precise in all that you do

I’ve mentioned the ‘measure twice cut once rule’ Ooops there’s that squeaky voice again. But precision is the key to perfection. Cut out your pieces accurately. Make sure your seam allowances are 15mm or 5/8 inch all round. Transfer your pattern markings accurately. It pays off, I promise you!

11. Mark the wrong side

The light in my house is not that great. Even during the day. And the times I’ve sewn right sides to wrong sides is too many for sure. In fairness, sometimes it’s really tricky to tell right from wrong even in broad daylight. It could be argued that in that case it doesn’t matter, but all the same, if you want the consistency, mark the wrong sides with a chalked cross as soon as you have cut the pieces.

12.  Don’t watch the needle

In order to keep that seam allowance at a consistent 1.5cm 5/8inch, align the edge of the fabric to the marker on the foot-plate. There will be various markings on there and if you keep the edge of your fabric lined up against it you will guarantee a consistent allowance. If the markings on your machine are not clear enough, stick down a strip of masking tape to define the guide.

13. Tie off your darts

Never back-stitch at the point of a dart. You will get nipples where you never thought possible! Instead, run the stitch past the end of the point and leave the ends of the thread long so you can tie them together with 2 or 3 knots. Trim the remaining threads to no shorter than an inch.

14. Use a press cloth

Unless you like the scorched and shiny look, always use a press cloth. I generally use a piece of white muslin but a velvet press cloth can be used for velvet so you don’t upset the pile (thank you Scruffy Badger!). A wool cloth will hold moisture and is therefore great for pressing wool that needs a good steam. Silk organza is great because you can see through it. Especially useful when pressing pleats (thanks Karen!)

15. Ditch the blunt pins

Get rid. They only exist to ruin your work. The minute you feel one resisting when you push it through your fabric, throw it away immediately. Don’t just put it at the end of your pincushion, earmarked ‘the end for bad pins’. Yes I’m looking at you, ooobop! OR if it’s not too late, invest in an emery pincushion. What’s one of those? I hear you say. Ever seen the tomato/strawberry pincushion combo and wonder why? The small strawberry counterpart is filled with emery, an abrasive mineral that will sharpen those bad ass pins as you push them in. You can buy a Large Tomato Pin Cushion-With Emery Strawberry from Amazon. And if you crafty sewers fancy making one yourself you can buy the White Emery For Pincushions-4 Ounces especially to fill said pincushion. That way, I guess it doesn’t have to be a tomato or a strawberry if you don’t want it to be.

16. Back tack, back tack!

If only I could incorporate all the silly voices my mum used to do! It’s very duck like, that’s all I can tell you! But yes, Back tack, back tack, beginning and end to secure your stitching… But NEVER at the pointy end of darts!

17. Trim and clip

In the past, I’ve worried that if I clipped the curves, the stitching line would come undone. (yeah right, more like worried about having to do something extra!) So I’ve left that bit out and suffered the ugly, bulky mess as a consequence. It doesn’t come undone. I can assure you. If you trim the seam allowance to about half, snip the curves close-to not in-to the stitching line and give it a good pressing you will have a perfectly neat and professionally finished curved seam. If the curve is on a neckline for instance you have further reassurance if you stay stitch the seam allowance to the lining or facing.

18. It’s not a race

More haste less speed! Another of the very annoying mum comments, sorry, but nonetheless important. You can say it anyway you like but it’s true. It is impossible (unless you are hugely experienced) to get a straight line of stitches when your foot is down to the floor. And there are no prizes for finishing first because you are the only contender! Think each stage through before racing on to the next bit. It’s all to easy to miss a crucial part of the process if you are steaming ahead.

19. Needle position

Don’t forget to move the position of your needle when you change feet. particularly when using a zipper foot. It frightens the life out of me when the needle inadvertently hits the foot!

20. Needle security

Which brings me onto another scary point. Every time before you sew, make sure that needle is securely fastened in the shaft. Turn that screw nice and tight. I’m sure certain stitches make it work loose and I know for a fact that my side cutter foot wobbles it around enough for it to come loose. I’ve taken to checking the needle is secure when I’m using this foot even during a project. An airborne needle tip is a very hazzardous thing!

21. Press and cool

I was very lucky to spend some time with a lovely tailor friend last year. I learned so much in such a short space of time and one thing of the many things I took away with me was this fabulous pressing tip: After steam pressing, use a wooden block to press down on your crease to take the heat away quickly. Don’t move the creased section until it has cooled. Akin to setting ones hair in rollers I guess!

22. Baste away

Hands up who bastes? No takers? Well actually not me very much either. But we all know we should, don’t we?! So let’s do it. Especially if it’s a shiny fabric that’s going to move. Especially if you’ve invested your hard earned dosh in this lavish piece of cloth that is going to be your signature gown. Escpecially if you’re going for Chanel over Primani! It makes sense.

23. Bobbins at the ready

Have a selection of bobbins pre-wound in your most used colours. Particularly black, white and a neutral colour. There’s nothing more irritating than having to stop, mid-flow to wind a bobbin. There is however, great joy in delegating the task to a small child if you have one of those floating around. In fact one of my smalls bought me a fabulous Side Winder – Portable Bobbin Winder for my birthday and still lays claim that it is her job to wind my bobbins. I’m not arguing!

24. Pins pointing in

It’s still not second nature and I still have to make an effort to think about how I am pinning things together. It’s important NOT to sew over pins (broken needles, wonky seams, need I say more?) and so it’s just as important to pin those pins in a way that they are easily removed as you sew up to them. Remember that the bulk of your work is on your left and the seam allowance will be on the right as you sew. Pin along the edge of the seam allowance at right angles to your fabric with the points of the pins facing into your work and the heads of the pins on the outside edge so they can be easily removed as you go. Pinning parallel to the edge means you cannot otherwise sew as close to the pin and if it happens to be in the wrong direction you are at risk of a pin point down the end of your fingernail… and you don’t want that!

25. Trace your pattern pieces

Particularly if they are vintage. They’ve lived this long and don’t deserve the abuse of pins and rips! I learned the lazy way and lived to regret trashing one of my favourite patterns. Half an hour would have been enough to duplicate and would have also been a perfect record for any adjustments. I have no qualms about scribbling on or slashing and spreading a duplicate tissue. Even modern patterns need to be preserved. If they are multi-sized, you’ll kick yourself if ever you needed to return to a smaller or larger grade. More so if you cut the wrong size to start with!

26. Keep distractions to a minimum

Easily said. Especially if children, small animals and musician boyfriends are at large, so choose your sewing time carefully. Interruptions so easily disrupt a chain of thought. Keep the radio to an acceptable level and don’t try to watch Madmen when you are figuring out something tricky!

27. The rotary cutter

Not just for quilting, the rotary cutter and a large self-healing cutting mat are the perfect buddies for cutting fine or slippery material. Add to the equation some decent pattern weights and you can avoid any amount of movement as you cut your delicate fabric.

28. No gathering unravelling

Have you ever suffered the nightmare of gathering up some fabric only to inadvertently pull the whole thread through? Or have you ever struggled to gather a length of fabric to a set length? One way to solve this is to pin a pin at one end of your gathering stitches and wind the ends of the thread around the pin before you pull up the gathers. I sew two parallel lines of long stitches to get even gathers and then when I pull them up to the desired width, I pin another pin at the end and wind the excess threads around that one too. It helps to keep everything in place when for instance, I sew a gathered skirt to a bodice.

29. Handy tip for hand-stitches

I’ve learned to enjoy hand-stitching. It’s taken a while. But I get it now! It’s no longer a chore, more of a treat. But there’s something that makes it just that bit more pleasurable and that’s the nack of having a thread that doesn’t tie itself in knots halfway round your hem. Beeswax is the answer to a gliding knot-free thread. Just run the thread across the block so it becomes coated before you sew.  The lovely Claire over at The Thrifty Stitcher also advises to make sure your thread is no longer than arms length plus half your chest, to avoid the same.

30. Snip loose threads

If you are going to take the time to make something of quality, snip those loose threads. It’s actually quite satisfying if you have a quality pair of Snippers. And your garments will thank you for looking all the more professional.

31. Find your style

Ask yourself why you started sewing. Was it because you wanted to save money? Well you might have got a bum steer there! Was it just because you had hours to fill. I doubt that! Or was it simply because you wanted something original and well-fitting in your wardrobe that nobody else would have? Think about what you like and what you want before you dive headfirst into any old sewing project. Will it suit you? Will you wear it? Where will you wear it and how often? There’s no room in a wardrobe for wasted hours and unworn clothes. Ask yourself ‘is it you’. And if it is . . . go to it!

32. Help 24/7

You are never alone. Never! In those small wee hours in the morning when you are stuck on your final stage or you really cannot for the life of you remember how to use your buttonholer, Google it, go to YouTube, Tweet your problems, ask a blogger on the other side of the globe. You have every learning resource at your fingertips, 24/7. How exciting is that?!

33. Lock up your scissors

Make everyone in your household aware that your fabric scissors are to be used for cutting paper on pain of death! Never use fabric scissors on paper, NOT EVEN PATTERN PAPER. It blunts them and quality tailors scissors are not cheap to sharpen. Have a separate pair of scissors for paper cutting. You will see just how quick they are to blunt. But a quick tip to sharpen paper scissors is to ‘cut’ round the neck of a glass milk bottle or similar. Strange but true!

34. Leave your comfort zone

It’s very easy to stick to what you know. And you might be very happy in your comfort zone but if you want to learn more you need to leave that cosy space and give yourself a little push. Don’t be afraid to tackle things you’ve been too scared to try. You can line a vent, you can bind a buttonhole and there’s no need to be afraid of the big bad welt! Think of all the new possibilities that could grace your wardrobe. Its also a good idea to make for someone else. You learn to gain new fitting skills real quick when you’re aiming to please someone other than yourself! Just remember that nobody knew how to do anything before they learned. And then they practiced and then they got good at it!

35. More than one way to skin a cat

It took me a long time to realise that there are no set rules in sewing. For sure you need some guidance in the beginning but you will quickly learn to trust your own instincts with the more experience you gain. Some methods of instruction can be ridiculously complicated with unnecessary added stages. It’s up to you and your common sense to make life easier for yourself and work in a way that suits you. You only have to Google the methods of inserting a zip to realise how many different ways of simply doing that!

36. Invest in a few choice books

Whilst the internet will deliver everything you will need to know about everything, there’s nothing quite like a collection of inspirational books to hand. Some of my favourites include a New Complete Guide to Sewing: Step-By-Step Techniques for Making Clothes and Home Accessories (Reader’s Digest), a 50s pattern cutting book, Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking and a Fit for Real People: Sew Great Clothes Using ANY Pattern (Sewing for Real People). There’s nothing quite like a sit down with a cuppa and a good read! It’s a good idea to check out your local library (if you still have one :-/) or if you are feeling like splashing out, Amazon have some good deals:

37. Prewash your fabric

I know. I’ve been there. Heat of the moment and all that. You just want to get cracking and you really can’t wait another day for the fabric to wash and dry. But I can assure you. If you don’t pre wash your fabric before you sew it, you stand a good chance of not getting more than one wear out of your lovely new dress. Cotton will shrink. It’s a fact. So will wool. Undoubtedly. Even viscose. In fact most fabric will change in some way after a launder at any temperature. So don’t skip the prewash!

38. Don’t trash your scraps

I can’t bear to throw even the tiniest of frayed cut-offs in the bin. Breaks my heart, it does. I cling onto every last piece struggling to find a use. So only the tinyest of pieces meet their demise. I keep hold of decent sized pieces for tops or knickers or scrapbusting gift ideas (that mostly never get realised) but smaller patchwork sized pieces or remnants that I honestly wouldn’t use to make anything else with, get donated to my local after school club. The children love it when I bring in a sack. And it’s so lovely to see all their collages and creations around the classroom when I go to collect my daughter. So check out your local school and ask if they could use your scraps. It’s lovely to know that it doesn’t go to waste.

39. Sewing in the dark

If you have black or dark fabric to sew, save it for a daytime project. Unless you have some seriously good lighting, it truly is a nightmare. You really don’t want to be unpicking black thread from black cloth under substandard lighting. It is not fun. I have got round this of a fashion by sporting Mr O’s camping head torch. It works to a degree but I’ve ended up with a bloomin’ stiff neck before now, where I’ve tried to focus the light on one spot!

40. Love what you do

Not really a tip. More of a reminder to relish every moment of each and every one of your projects. Sewing is therapy. It will keep you sane when everything else is driving you mad. It will bring forth a beautiful wardrobe hand made by you. It will fill you with pride and teach you about ethics and if it hasn’t done already, it will soon lead you to meet some of the most amazing like-minded people that you might never have met otherwise. So savour every stitch and love what you do because you have something really special and that really is all that you need to be an awesome sewist!

Feel free to Tweet, pin, reblog and share. Thank you always, my awesome readers. x

Should I stay or should I go?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMaE6toi4mk&w=420&h=315]

As with regards all things cushty and uncomplicated in my life, the little crazy in me feels an uncontrollable urge to mix things up a little!

And so my friends, I am toying with the idea of going self-hosted. Why? Well I am still asking myself the same thing, really. But mostly because I like the sound of more control!

I am planning on leaving the safety net and support of WordPress.com to go it alone with WordPress.org.

I want to have more fonts at my fingertips and mix my own colour palette. Can you hear that frustrated graphic designer banging her head against a brick wall! I did a coding course a year or two ago and it seems a shame not to put my hard learned knowledge into practice too. Perhaps a little online shop further down the line. . . Really getting carried away now!

This isn’t an imminent operation but I am close to pressing that export button. My massively main concern is that I may loose some of my wonderful WordPress followers in the process. Not the Email subscribers among you, you are safely nestled in my adoring arms. But apparently there is no function that will export the WordPress followers list which is such a shame. I so don’t want to leave you behind.

It is of course the comments and support of you, my fabulous followers that keep these posts coming, that inspire new work and encourage me to take on bigger challenges, learning so much more in the process. And for that I can never be grateful enough.

So just as a heads up, if you would like to hang on to your ooobop! notifications (unless of course you want me off your back!) then please add me to your Bloglovin’ list or whatever other blog reading service you might use or indeed subscribe by Email as I believe that will transfer.

And please, please, please, you got to let me know, if you have any advice or wise words of experience to spur me on… or put me off!… please do. I’m going into this a bit blind and so worried I’ll ruin everything.

Thanks in anticipation for sticking with me, kids! I’ll keep you updated as and when I press that button (this indecision’s buggin’ me!) xxx

Shedding some light on a dark subject

Head torch
I am time-starved. Especially when I get home from the office. Even more especially when it’s dark and my energy levels have dropped through the floorboards.

It’s frustrating mostly because I function fully from morning to afternoon, busily beavering away, designing, revising and artworking books like there’s no tomorrow. At lunch, I compose lists on Post-it notes. Lists of what I fully intend to do when I get home. Sewing projects mainly. Finishing off WIPs, drafting new ones and watching YouTube tutorials but then, as I walk through the door, adorned with Sainsbo’s bags, check on the homework, prepare the dinner, feed the masses, wash up and put the children away… someone or something sneaks up behind me and blatently steals my ‘get up and go’!

I find myself making excuses to myself. My best one is: “These damned energy efficient lightbulbs are rubbish. I can’t see a thing!”

I offloaded this woe to a work colleague on Wednesday and she suggested a head torch. Genius! Bhavini always has the best ideas. (Apart from Helen who invented #TuesdayCheeseDay!)

By Thursday I had completely forgotten that my half-circle skirt had already taken 5 evenings. And I had nearly forgotten that I had to unpick the hem already because I stupidly didn’t level it before stitching. Even when I did try to level the hem, apart from the light failing and it being virtually impossible to see where I was marking on a black fabric, the dress-form was slowly sliding downwards every time I twisted it round. So by the time I got back round to the first pin, I was pinning higher and higher! I said nearly forgotten!

Because thanks to Bhavini and her brilliant suggestion, Mr Ooobop’s head torch worked a treat. I could now see what I was doing, without a care that I looked like a complete fool, and that self same evening, my perfectly levelled half-circle skirt was finished.

working with head torch

I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the displeasure of a bias-stretched hem – honestly, two and a half unnecessary inches longer at the front more than the sides! – but I will never ever wing it again.

To get it right, I first measured the length I wanted with a tape measure from the waist, down the side seam to the hem and placed a pin. I then measured up from the bottom to the hemline, using a metal rule and continued pinning the new hemline all round. I rotated the whole dress-form instead of twisting it on the pole this time!

I then marked with tailors chalk, 1.5 cm all round, below the pins and once I’d double checked the markings, I cut off the offending excess.

I used black bias tape to complete the hem. Worked a treat!

I don’t have a shot of the finished skirt to show you as yet – I’m hoping to persuade my trusty photographer to take some at the weekend. But I do have a handy new device in my sewing box… hoorah!