Wearable Toile ?

I’m making these jeans semi-properly, on the chance that they will fit without too much alteration. There’ll be a bit of skimping and short-cuts in case they’re waaaay off and end up as dusters.

The zip went in à la Shoben and Ward. It’s inserted with the pieces flat, and gets done first. Thanks to a comment on Catherine Daze’s blog I learn that there’s yet another flat insertion method, featured in Threads .

I like to have a zip guard though. Maybe it would be easy enough to add one, but I’m not sure about the extra bulk of interfacings on each side of the fly facings. In a heavy denim would you want this?

And, thanks to a forum member at The Sewing Place, I’ve just watched a video with another flat zip insertion method . This one, I’ll try one day, also her way with front pockets, not the same as mine below.

Front pockets after the zip.

Pocket Facing Stitched

Snipped and Understitched

I cut the pocket/corner front as one, in the mauve fabric. In heavy denim it’s usual to make the pocket in a lighter cotton, but this saves a stage.

Pocket Self Neatened

Stitching the pocket WS together with the pocket facing, then clipping, turning and stitching again as a french seam gives a nice strong, neat edge to the pocket.

Back Pockets next

Back Pockets

The yoke provides the shaping that would otherwise be in a waist dart.

Plain Seam at Side

Time to try them on

Toile Fit

Not as bad as expected, but the 1cm at the waist was on the optimistic side. Time to revise the pattern.


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Jeans Again

Its been a while since I made jeans, and I need to check if my jeans block still gives me an acceptable fit. I’ve compared measurements with my rtw pairs. It’s fairly close. The rtw have no ease on my hip measurement, but they’re made in stretch denims. The block has a couple of inches which should be about right.

The questions are – will there be too much length in the back crotch curve, and will there be enough space in the front waist, both changes which don’t show up in basic measurements but need a toile.

I’ve some remnant strips of pale mauve furnishing cotton with a woven pattern in stash, and a second hand zip . Do you rip zips and buttons of old garments before chucking them? This one’s a bit mauled, but the colour isn’t bad and the length is ok.

I’m cutting them at urchin length, or possibly pedal pusher length.

The Battered Zip

The chalk line you can see at the top of the piece on the right is where I’ve deviated from the pattern on a hunch. 1cm is added to each CF waist to accomodate the weight I’m still hoping to lose. Will it be enough? Hmmm.

You’ll have spotted that I’ve cut a grown on fly.



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Now What?

The quilted jacket is done -hooray! It started well, with that buzz you get when starting  something new, but having to walk out on it before the quilting was finished turned it into a bit of a penance. I relied on that initial impetus to carry me through swinging the needle round all the tight curves in the design.

I only had four of the buttons you see on it. Why does a button box never have the right number of buttons in it for whatever you’ve almost finished? One of life’s little mysteries.

It’s got a couple of pressstuds closing it below the last one, and if, by some lucky chance, ‘Auntie’ has still got some left on the market stall next time I’m in London, I’ll give it a fifth.

Those buttons come from Myrtille in Lorient.I bought them thinking they’d be ok, but they didn’t cut the mustard. (Myrtille is a large warehouse type fabric store.  Happily I resisted the not inconsiderable temptation to add to the overblown stash problem.)

The inside finish is below par. If I were examining myself for a City & Guilds I’d give it a fail.

This is it, part done. The binding is somewhat uneven, the pockets ad hoc, the facings so so. As I said, the buzz buzzed off. On the plus side, I picked the right depth of padding, and I will do another quilted jacket sometime. Also, it fits,  is comfy and pretty.

Pockets are in the side seam.

Quilted Jacket

Now what? I need a straightforward, quick and necessary make. There’s plenty to choose from in that category, but I’ll go for sorting out my jeans pattern. I went off jeans making. They can be bought cheaply but I have fabric and need some. The time is right.




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Reorganising Sewing Area

I love seeing photos of customised sewing areas, with purpose built units and storage, but I can’t emulate them here. Maybe you have less than ideal conditions?  This  post’s about what has turned out to be a successful workaround  for me and what needed a rethink. Have you perhaps discovered a good solution for storing and quickly accessing the plethora of equipment we need? This jay’s happy to pick up any shiny bright ideas she can, so please comment.

I have a room about ten foot square, and feel pretty lucky, though it isn’t blank slate. Some awkward aspects can’t be changed. The lighting and electrics are a problem. Despite being my most luxurious area yet, it’s not big enough to have a full size drafting/cutting table, plus an area for machines, and space to store a fabric stash, books and notes, patterns, blocks, related equipment and threads, elastic, ribbon, tape …. you know, all the necessary junk.

For the last couple of years I prioritised being able to walk around both sides of my cutting table. This is a door on legs by the way. Cutting out and most drafting is easier if you can get to both sides, but squeezing through the narrow space to get to the sewing table by the window or the shelving, while tripping over the obstacle course of overflowing fabric and scraps became a disincentive to actually entering the room.

I’ve sacrificed cutting convenience now and moved it against one wall. The room feels much more spacious and workable and the floor space is big enough to spread a full width of fabric for the occasional asymmetric kimono cut pattern that won’t fit on the table.

When the furniture shifting was done, I realised I’d have room for a floor cushion. So when I want to flick through magazines, or break out the crochet I can sprawl.

Room to Slouch!

Annie flagged up the ever present problem of losing stuff. So many little pieces of equipment are used in sewing and they do wander off, don’t they?

My solution is to strip out all the stash fabrics from the shelving units and divide the space into activity areas – just like Primary School really. Those infant teachers know a thing or two about organisation.

The areas I’m aiming for are Patterns and Drafting; Sewing; Embellishment, Knitting and Crochet; Design Sources and Historical Costume ; Hats.

Patterns and Drafting takes a whole unit and some overflow.

I’ve kept the hanging space for blocks, and a magnetic bar and hooks on one side for long rulers, paper scissors and the main set squares. Also retained is my current storage system for commercial patterns. These are in plastic magazine holders on top of the unit. A notebook with the pattern numbers and a rough line drawings indexes them. Realistically, this collection needs pruning. I don’t need 120 patterns.

Self drafted patterns have been through umpteen systems. I re-use some but throw out others after one rendition. I’m just folding them into a folded slip of  A4 paper, quick sketch and size on the front, and hit on cutting up the cardboard boxes that come with DH’s medical supplies to fit the shelf height exactly. These each hold several patterns neatly and are easy to slide in and out of the shelves. There’s an index book for this too.

A large chest of drawers houses fabric. The top was piled high with projects. In the spirit of trying to get the room welcoming I’ve prettied it up.

Zen Corner!

The folder with my personal blocks sits there. The Japanese paper wrap came round a kimono. I use these blocks frequently and have kept the cotton toile in there as well to make it easier to adjust them if they stop fitting.

Personal Blocks Folder

My pattern magazines fit on the shelf unit, with the textbooks, the folder with the worksheets I used when I taught drafting, downloads, Stuart’s* brilliant swimwear and stretchwear info, and anything that get’s referred to in drafting like measurement charts. There’s also an A4 envelope for stray pattern pieces. Neat freaks may wonder at this, but I’ve learnt  to build in systems for when the systems fail. (there’s also a box for patterns not yet filed, a box for pretty bits and bobs I might use sometime, a dish for buttons, beads, fastenings unhoused, and downloads waiting to be filed are in one of those three tier letter racks). Know thyself, especially where thyself might mess up.


One shelf will have pens, pencils, curves, tracing wheels, sticky tape, glue, and a foam sheet to protect the table when wheeling through. One pattern hook is for perennially useful pattern shortcuts like a side seam pocket shape, and cards with cup size info and an aide memoire for ease allowance.

Patterns overflowed on another shelf unit. I put the pattern sheets from pattern magazines in ring files with the working drawings some time ago. I’ll pretty up these files some day as they’re repurposed from offspring’s studies and still have teenage drawings and stickers on them.

Pattern Sheet File

Sewing is sharing a shelf unit with Embroidery, Knit and Crochet. Books, Threads and Anna are here, more of the medical boxes cut to shelf depth house zips, elastic and tapes. Other shelves have essential haberdashery.
Before I had a room, I made a portable container from a ten litre paint pot, covered in some vinyl fabric scrap. This is still brilliantly useful. One side has pockets for sewing machine feet. How I love this! A card is tucked in with each foot to remind me of the machine setting to use. Pockets on the other sides hold scissors, tweezers, gadgets for marking fabric, and turning rouleau. The tray in the top holds pin boxes and cushions, needle threader, and other bits and pieces. Inside are fastenings. The plastic tub with a hole in it, btw, is for broken needles and bent pins, and the china elephant holds cocktail sticks for guiding tricky bits under the machine foot.

Gadget Tub

Hat making gets it’s own corner, on a unit which also has design materials and reference and historical costume books.

Fabric storage is largely unsolved. There are two large boxes under the cutting table, where a couple of machines sit. Three shelves in another unit also house fabric. The obvious answer is to make it into stuff asap and not buy more! Also living under the table is a large zipped plastic bag holding mending and part done projects. These used to clutter the sewing table, but having them visible didn’t make the jobs happen any faster.

This is still a WIP, but so far I’m happy with the changes.

*Sadly I don’t think the website is up anymore


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Back Later

Amazingly, the stats wordpress gives show that people are still popping in to this blog, despite the dearth of posts. So the least I can do is proffer excuses. I was away for RL emergencies for a few weeks, came back the slow and relatively luxurious way of Brittany Ferries and then promptly came down with one of those colds that laugh in the face of Night Nurse. During this time, of course,  rampant brambles entwined our shrubs, sprouting multiple shoots that leapt from one plant to another creating an impenetrable cage. Prince Charming where are you when I need you ? How do brambles do this anyway?  The lawns grew calf high too. When the tap in my nose eventually ran dry I spent a few days in bionic gardening gloves weilding the shears, strimmer and lawn mower, and another couple of days nursing back ache and picking thorns out from exposed flesh.

The pockets I forgot in the quilted jacket are finished in a fashion. Note to self – don’t stint on the unpicking next time. It actually takes longer, doesn’t it, to wheedle pieces in to a partially unpicked seam than it would do to bite the bullet, rip the lot out and do things in the proper order. So why do I resist doing this ? Probably incurable optimism, the mental picture of how easily the job will be done overtaking common sense. I got several pins stuck between the layers in the process. You know how long it takes to manoeuvre a buried pin out through a half inch space ? The jacket will get finished, and pictures eventually,  but it’s definitely gone cold on me.

In the belief that uninspiring sewing jobs would get done quicker if the working environment was less of a tip, the sewing room is getting a reorganisation. Aims are:-

  1. make it look pleasant
  2. put stuff in logical groupings, rather than throwing it where there happens to be space
  3. remove items that aren’t useful
  4. get to grips with the dust





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Quilt Progress

It’s looking as though I’ll have to rush off again in a few days, but, happily, I was over- thinking the quilting. A microtex needle and an open toe foot is dealing with it.

I made a couple of samples machining various versions of quilt plans and settled for the obvious – follow the main lines and motifs. More time and more spare fabric might have thrown up some nice free motion lines that would work with the pattern, that’ll have to wait for another project. I bought some of the only wadding available in the local fabric store, and decided to split it in half through the depth. Have you ever done this, was it completely crazy? The full depth sample had a touch of  the duvet look. Half as thick it’s still quilted, but more subtle.

This is the back pinned to quilt.one In case you’re wondering here’s how I found pinning versus tacking. On the sample, tacked, the toe of the open toe foot had the irritating habit of picking up a tacking stitch and pulling up the fabric. Some of the motifs have tight curves, so whilst concentrating on keeping the stitch to the correct line the foot would grab a tacking stitch. On the full back piece I decided to try pinning only. This was ok as far as holding the layers, but the pins further from the bit being stitched tended to fall out as I swung round the curves, probably because the piece had to be rolled up to pass through the machine. After doing about half of it with pins only, I tacked again. This time not using the classic slanted stitch but straight lines. Better.


Here’s the back again mostly quilted, main bow shaped lines and single motifs picked out.


On scraps I tried stitching close to the motifs, framing them, working the lines, and adding short vertical lines. This piece has the full depth wadding in it.

I decided to seam the bodice part before completing the quilting, in order to be able to enclose the seam allowances. The wadding was trimmed off beyond the stitching line and the lining turned in and hand stitched.


This photo is with the main bodice seams done and some of the quilting complete, but ….. in my haste to get this together before leaving, I forgot to insert the pockets planned for the side seams. I hope to wangle these in at a later stage without too much unpicking.

The sleeve to bodice seam is going to be bound,  the jury’s out on which technique to use for the underarm sleeve seam.


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Quilted Jacket

I was given a length of fabric at Christmas.

fab1The background is a warm grey, with a matt finish, textured with bumps created by the long floats of metallic gold in the woven pattern. This is what the reverse looks like.

fab2The gold is almost a rose gold, a warm colour. The fabric is supple, the metallic threads haven’t made a stiff fabric.

I’m planning to make a hip length jacket in a very basic style, but quilting the fabric, aiming for a top layer warm enough for cooler Spring days. I’ve cut a pattern with princess seams from the front armholes and a back with waist darts, high neckline to have a mandarin collar (or similar stand up style). The drafting was quick – as luck would have it I found that I’d already drafted and saved a jacket and sleeve adaptation of my bodice block. I’ve cut it out with wide turnings, and extra hem length in case I change my ideas!

No decision yet about the quilting, but some excellent advice from Stitchers Guild members. I know what I don’t want – a stand up all by itself garment, a Michelin man look, quilt stitching fighting with the pattern or breaking up the gold threads. Some samples are in order.


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