Saturday, 16 February 2013

Designer Beginnings

I have recently enrolled myself in an online TAFE course to study pattern making and fashion design. The course is a Certificate 4 in Applied Fashion Design and Technology. I made slow progress through the first couple assignments on health and safety and measurement systems, and have now made my way to the first of the pattern making tasks. I'm so proud to have accomplished my first pattern drawn from scratch that I had to write about it. It is a basic yoked shirt pattern with short sleeves. Nothing too amazing, but I feel that I have done well.

The finished product is a shirt that I would never wear, I doubt anyone would, but it is entirely, pattern and all, my own handiwork. (It reminds my of my school blouse, except the school blouse didn't choke me at the neck!).

Humble beginnings to my fashion design aspirations, but I have to start somewhere!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Blue & White Baby Dress

It's great having friends who produce children that I can sew for because today I made another baby dress. The time the little girls' name is Laura. I designed this dress specially for her, even drawing up the pattern myself. The dress has a simple bodice with tie off shoulder straps. The skirt features two large box pleat at both the front and the back. As well as a border of patterned fabric at the bottom, I ran two rows of pin tucks around the lower skirt to add some interest to the white skirt section. The bodice is finished off with two small bow and rose ribbons in blue. This dress should fit a baby   1-4 months.

Materials I used:
- 1 metre fabric (I used white and a blue flower print)
- 2 blue bows
- sewing machine and all the usual sewing equipment
- Pattern pieces

Process I followed: 
1. Draw up the pattern. I used the base of the previous baby dress I wrote about and changed it to suit my new design.
1. Pattern pieces for Laura's dress.

2. Cut out the bodice, straps, skirt and bordering fabric.

3. Turn the shoulder straps right side together and sew down the length and one end. Turn the strap through and press flat. I then cut the length of the shoulder ties to 10 inches as they were a bit long.

3. Press the shoulder ties flat.

4. Place bodice pieces right sides together and stitch the side seams. Press seams open and turn the right way. Follow the same process with the bodice lining fabric.

4. Sew side seams and press open.

5. Pin the shoulder ties in place on the bodice. Stitch them down with a narrow seam allowance. Place bodice lining over bodice and stitch right sides together around the neckline and armholes. Make sure that the ties don't get caught in any seam except the shoulder seam. Clip corners and turn the right way, pressing the bodice flat.

5. Pin shoulder ties in place.
5. Detail of shoulder tie attachment.

6. Fold skirt border in half and press flat. Stitch right sides together to the bottom of the skirt section. Fold the bottom up and stitch over the seam to hide away any loose edges. Sew centre back skirt seam.

6. Stitch to skirt bottom.
6. Finished skirt bottom.

7. Sew pin tucks into the skirt now. I chose to make mine large (about 0.5 cm wide) and about 2 cm apart.

7. Sew pin tucks.

8. Form pleats in the front and back sections of the skirt. Make sure they are evenly placed across the bodice. Pin and sew skirt to bodice section, right sides together. Make sure lining is not caught up in the waist seam. Top stitch the waist seam with seams facing towards bodice.

8. Stitch skirt to bodice.

9. Hand sew ribbon bows and roses to the bodice front. I placed mine at the point where the pleats began. Hand sew the bodice lining down inside the dress, making sure to use hidden stitches.

9. Hand stitch lining in place.
9. Hand stitch bow and rose in place.

 10. Give the dress a final press and enjoy the finished product. This dress could be changed in many simple ways such as; adding a frill around the bottom, adding a ribbon around the waist and using gathers instead of box pleats. Be creative with your sewing!!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Creating Ladies Fashion the Old-fashioned Way!

Vera Dress - Review
So few women in the 21st century have the ability to create their own clothing. I'm not saying that they lack  the intelligence or even the desire to do so, but they certainly have a lack of practical designing and sewing skills. Sixty years ago, it would have been rare to find a woman who had no sewing experience. Sewing was taught to girls in school and used widely in most homes for the creation of clothing! Almost every woman from the 1950's would know how to sew basic clothing and home decorations and yet almost no women in my own age group even know their way around a sewing machine. This terrible lack of knowledge and education gives the fashion industry the upper hand! Young women have no choice but to find clothing in the shops because they don't know how to create it even if they want to.

There are many benefits to learning how to sew well. These include being able to copy styles of clothing seen but to expensive to buy, making clothing that is not commercially available and having a great skill and pastime! By sewing clothing, I am not advocating the sewing of underwear, singlets, t-shirts, cardigans and the like. These items can all be found stress free and quite cheaply in the stores. I am talking about the sewing of couture items; dresses, blouses, skirts and jackets. Items that are expensive and need to fit well. Items that are not so cheap and easy to come by in the commercial fashion market.

Take for example the beautiful dresses and skirts made by Review. These are luxury items that can't be found commercially with a price tag less than $100 (often substantially more). They are not, however, complex items in design or fabric. There are many patterns available from sewing shops such as Spotlight that have almost identical design lines. Many of Review's lovely 2012 Summer season dresses are made with princess line bodices and either pleated or gathered skirts. Well fitting and simple to make!

Lottie Dress - Review
Daisy Flock Dress - Review

Both of the dresses shown above can be made easily with a little knowledge of pattern making and careful fabric selection. The Daisy Flock dress has a princess line bodice, waist band, pleated skirt and a simple round neckline. The Lottie dress is a basic sun dress pattern in satin.

 The patterns shown above are readily available in sewing stores and are extremely similar to the Review dresses. Newlook 6910 dress A is almost identical (cute fabric flower and all) to a hot pink number on the Review website.

Now the purpose of this blog post is not to discourage business for the beautiful Review fashions or to encourage women to knock off dresses that belong to other designers. It is to encourage creativity and to show that fashion is not impossible for the home sewer. With a bit of care and creativity, it is possible to sew a fabulous dress for so much less than $100. Be inspired ladies, take some sewing lessons and start practising your dress making skills! You could be the next designer for Review!!

How to Make a Men's Tie... Properly

My husband recently bought some new business shirts but was unable to find a tie that matched their colours. I spent a long time searching the Internet for clear instructions and information on the proper construction of men's ties but was able to find very little (there is plenty of info on how to make a simple version of a tie, but not much on the couture techniques). In desperation, I finally unpicked an unwanted tie to discover the secret of its lovely corners and wonderful shape holding properties. From this information, combined with a free Internet pattern, I was able to come up with a tie that is constructed just like those in menswear shops.

- 1 metre fabric (as ties are cut on the bias)
- fusible interfacing
- light wadding/heavy interfacing (for shape holding part of tie)
- iron & ironing board
- sewing machine
- tie pattern (click on the link)
- lots of patience!!


1. Cut out the fusible interfacing and lay it out on the fabric (on the bias). Iron the fusible interfacing to fabric and then cut around it to cut out the fabric. This stabilises the slippery satin fabric (or whatever fabric you choose). Cut out the lining pieces for the tie ends and the tie holder (long rectangle of fabric).

2. Place the lining over the bottom of the tie, right sides together. As you can see in the pictures below, place the lining 2 cm off centre. The sides of the point should match up, but the lining is pulled back down the tie fabric by 2 cm. Stitch one side first. Then carefully pin the other side in the same manner. You will have a small peak in the tie fabric, but the lining fabric will it flat. See second picture.

Match the lining and tie fabric 2 cm off.
Lining stitched to tie leaving a peak in the tie fabric.

3. Fold tie in half with lining on the inside and tie fabric on the outside. Sew across the tie, at right angles with the folded edge of the tie. The fold for this stitching line can be seen where my first finger is pointing on the picture below.

Tie folded for stitching across the pointed corner.

4. Turn the tie right side out and press the point corner carefully, making sure that the lining layer sits inside the tie fabric layer at the bottom. You can see this best in the brown tie. See picture below.
Lovely point created with this method of sewing ties. (Hidden lining)
The point of my green tie.
Both ends complete

5. Do the same with the lining of the small end of the tie.
6. Join the tie sections together to form one long tie piece. Make sure the you stitch them the correct way so the your edges match nicely. Press the seams open and flat.

Joined tie.

7. Lay the tie out flat and lay the wadding or stiff interfacing inside the centre of the tie. Carefully iron the sides over the wadding/interfacing to farm the shape of the tie. Make sure that you press this very well so that the tie will hold its shape properly. Iron down one seam allowance on the right side of the tie so that when the sides are both closed up, the neatened edge sit on top. Make sure that the interfacing is covered all the way own the tie.

Lay the insert inside the tie.

Iron the edges over and the seam allowance on the right side.

8. Pin the tie carefully down the centre back, closing the tie up. Make sure that the seam is centred and even. Make the tie holder and pin it in the seam at the back. Using hidden stitches, close the seam at the back, going through the interfacing layer to catch it in place inside the tie, but avoiding coming through to the front.

Tie pinned, ready to stitch  up the back.

Pin the tie holder in place.

9. Open the tie holder out and stitch the sides down so that it will hold the tail of tie securely when worn. Press the tie once again and enjoy the finished product!

Open the tie holder out and stitch flat.

My completed green satin tie.