Monthly Archives: February 2013

Making Bias Tape

I never realised the value of bias binding tape until I started using it more and more over the last year. The tipping point for me was when I purchased a pattern from Megan Nielsen. She uses bias tape instead of facings. For the last couple of attempts at the Darling Ranges dresses, I used store bought bias tape. As I intend to use bias tape instead of facings more in my future projects, I thought it was about time I made some of my own. Not only is it much cheaper, but you can make it out of much cuter fabrics which will make the use of the bias tape more of a cute suprise inside the garment rather than an obvious omission of facings.

I followed the tutorial in The Colette Sewing Handbook, using a square of fabric which you turn into a parallelogram. I used a thrifted pillowcase and made a 46cm square. The lines I drew on the fabric were a ok but it sewed together a little wonky. I thought I lined it up correctly, but as I was cutting the continuous bias strip out I noticed that it got more and more out of line. This meant that I often didn't have a perfect 1″ strip at one of the seams. I also forgot to press my second seam open, which probably led to extra bulk at that point in the bias tape.

I made over 7 metres of 1/2″ bias tape from that one 46 cm square, which is more than I thought I was going to get and maybe more than I'm going to need. A problem with this method might be how many and how close the seams are in the bias tape, but I guess that depends on how large or small you make your square.


The next tutorial I was going to try was the one from Prudent Baby. It is very similiar but used a half a yard (~45 cm for the metric crowd) of fabric selvedge to selvedge. But as I made so much just from a small square, I thought I would give it a miss and just try the same method again with a slightly larger square, paying extra attention to matching up the lines and sewing it using a very narrow seam.

And then come the fun cutting part! (Not really, my hand ached after this.) The extra time I spent drawing the lines and then aligning them all was worth it, as I ended up with a fairly consistant width bias strip all the way along.

I have two different sizes of the Clover Bias Tape Maker; the 1/2″ or 12 mm and the 3/4″ or 18 mm. So I thought I would try making the 3/4″. I've had the 3/4″ tool for a while and I can't even remember why I bought this particular size, as it is such an odd one, but it might be better for using as facings on slightly heavier weight fabrics. We will see. Using a 23″ square, I made over 6 metres of 3/4″ bias tape.

I did notice one difference between the two methods was how wide they tell you to make your bias strip. In the Colette Sewing Handbook it tells you to use twice the final width bias tape you want, and Prudent Baby say to use twice the width minus 1/8″. I'm not sure as to the reason for the difference, but as my bias strip is less than perfect, I'll stick with double the width. When lining the marks up, remember to offset them so you get one continuous bias strip and not a bunch of loops. I also learnt that if you are likely to be interupted by your children don't use an air eraseable pen to mark your lines or when you finally get a chance and come back to it you'll find your lines are gone. Whoops! And use a hot steamy iron to press your bias tape, or you'll find yourself going over what you've done.

Next time, I might try making 1″ double fold bias tape using the pin in the ironing board trick as seen here on Miss P and here on Coletterie.




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Laura Ashley Skirt Refashion

I've been in a bit of a thrifting funk of late and I think there are many reasons for this. I've lost my refashioning mojo, I'm currently enjoying sewing a garment from scratch, it's hard to find any treasures, and often they're charging to much. I know that the op-shops/thrift stores/charity shops have slowly been changing around the world. I've read many posts by some great bloggers like 'So, Zo…' about this phenomenon. I try and view it from the environmental stand point that I'm saving these things from going to landfill, but I struggle to pay $3 in a op-shop for a worn t-shirt when I can buy a brand new one from Kmart for the same price. That being said, after sewing a few dresses this year, I'm starting to appreciate that $10 for a thrifted dress may not be too bad when you take into account all the fabric, buttons and notions that go in to making one. But I'm also trying to be more selective and fill my wardrobe with things that rate a 7 or higher.

I was almost going to stop looking for clothes to refashion altogether, but then I found Miss P and this shirt refashion. I was in awe, that a simple change produced such a fantastic result. So, with that shirt in mind, I went op-shopping, and I found this 90's Laura Ashley skirt instead. Hey, with op-shopping you take it as it comes.

The fabric is, as close as I can determine, a silk dupioni, I couldn't find the fabric content tag anywhere, so this is just a guess. It was a simple wrap skirt with four button closures, so by moving those buttons, was able to get a good fit quite easily. Next was the length. I cut it off at the knee and as I couldn't be bother either hand sewing the hem or getting my machine out to do I blind hem, I used iron on hemming tape. I'm sure that is a sewing faux pas, but, oh well.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, but I'm still searching for that perfect shirt.


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Turquoise Darling Ranges

I thought it was time for another attempt at the Darling Ranges dress after all the lessons I have learnt in the last few weeks. I'm sure you're sick of this pattern by now, but it was one of my sewing New Years resolutions to make many versions of the Darling Ranges to learn how to utilitise a pattern to its fullest. I'm also using this pattern to learn about improving the fit of a garment. After realising, from trying to make the chambray shirt, that I needed to increase the seam allowance on the shoulder seam to 3 cm to fit the sleeve in the XS size I decided to pin the shoulders on my wearable toile to see how everything looked. The first thing I noticed was that this brought the bust dart up to where I needed it to be, and it also raised the waistline to almost the correct place.

This meant that the last few adjustments I made to the pattern were unnecessary, hurrumph! So, I thought I would go back to the original pattern, trace off another copy and add the appropriate adjustments to minimise any errors I had introduced in all the adjustments I had made to date. The changes I made this time were; add 4 cm to the length of the bodice pieces, removed 1.5 cm from the shoulders on both the back and front bodice, raised the neckline by 2 cm, increased the length of the bust dart by 2.5 cm, included darts on the back bodice to reduce ease, and remove 2 cm from the center of the back bodice piece. I also increased the length of the sleeves. In the picture below, the red lines are the original pattern lines and the purple lines are the modifications.

The fabric I used was some turquoise polyester from my stash. The fabric wasn't the nicest I have, but I didn't want to use a good fabric when I was still working on perfecting the fit. I bought some semi opaque white buttons from the op shop. I didn't have any thread the right colour, so I figured if you can't match clash! I used a dark magenta thread I had to sew all visible stitching and a pale blue for everything else.


All in all, the fit is close but I'm still not 100% with the sleeves. I realise once I started putting the bodice together that I forgot to narrow the neck opening, so it is little wide for my taste. I think I might try something else next, as I don't want to waste too much time and energy fitting a bust that changes on a daily basis, thanks to breastfeeding.

Final tally: Fabric – $1.50 (from op-shop); Buttons – $1.15 (from op-shop); thread, bias binding and hemming web ~ $1 (from stash). So for $3.65 I have another dress to wear, however, I only wore it here for the few minutes it took to take the photo as 100% polyester and 34 degree weather aren't really friends, so this dress will have to wait for cooler temps.


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Dollhouse stuff part 1

For Christmas last year (2012), my dad built my daughter a wooden dollhouse. The house is home to a Sylvanian Honey Fox family and a bunch of mini lalaloopsy dolls and my daughter loves it! Every week (or couple of days) she asks me to make her dolls something that they absolutely need. Like a fridge. A cardboard box some aluminium foil, paper, tape, and a toothpick later and here we are.


Two weeks ago it was brooms, mops and a vacuum cleaner. I made the brooms from bamboo skewers, paddle pop sticks (craft sticks or whatever you want to call them), white craft foam and my glue gun. The vacuum cleaner is made with; a straw, string, cardboard, felt, bottle cap and buttons. I don't know why my daughter was so eager to play 'cleaning up the house' with her dolls, as she never wants to do it had home. But I am glad to see that the Dad does the vacuuming in that house, just as he does in this one.

Last week it was a medical kit. Milly specified a stethoscope, medicine, a medicine spoon, needle and bandages. I used wire, craft foam, tape, gem stickers, a straw, a toothpick, a tissue, a pony bead and hot glue.

Yesterday it was money, so Mother Honey Fox could go shopping. That's something I could sympathise with, and of course a purse and handbag to carry it in. We used paper, pencils, string, silver card and hole punches.

I'm sure there will be many more things my daughter will think up in her busy little brain, so stay tuned.


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Chambray Darling Ranges Shirt

After I finished all the modications on the Darling Ranges bodice pattern pieces, it was time to try it out again. But this time, I decided to modify the pattern to make a shirt. I keep seeing chambray shirts every where, and as I conveniently had a mens chambray shirt in my stash to be refashioned, it must have been an omen (hopefully a good one and not The Damien kind).

I drafted new shirt pattern pieces from my recent versions of the Darling Ranges bodice, lengthening them and omitting the button placket as I’ll be keeping the original one from the shirt. Then, I de-constructed this shirt and it soon became the sum of it’s parts.

I cut the front shirt piece on the fold of the buttoned up shirt front and the sleeves and back from the reciprocating parts of the deconstructed shirt. The original shirt had flat felled seams on the outside like many denim garments, although after looking into this type of seams, the original ones weren’t true flat felled seams. I felt that this feature was one that showed the difference between an obviously homemade garment and a professionally made one. So I decided to give it a shot as, this year, I’m all about improving my skills as a sewer and hopefully making better looking garments. I started with the shoulder seams, then moved one to attaching the sleeves and this is where all the trouble began.

The flat felled seams on the shoulders went ok and I decided that I would try and sew the sleeves in flat, and not as set in as the original pattern called for, so I could continue with the flat feled seams. But after a couple of attempts at the sleeves I had to put it down and walk away. The sleeves and the armscye just didn’t match. The armscye was too large and I kept ending up with this.

I came to the conclusion that I would need to make the armscye smaller by making the seam allowance larger at the shoulder. I tried again, and seam ripping and pinning and sewing, and finally got the sleeve to fit. Then there were other issues and I decided this was a failed project.

I realised I didn’t give myself ease aroud the hips, and the all over fit wasn’t right. Later, I did a search on the internet for fit issues with the Darling Ranges sleeves and found that I wasn’t the only one. I’m so thankful for Roobeedoo’s posts on her two attempts at this dress. She had the same issues I had and in the end made almost all the same alterations to the bodice pattern that I did. Roobeedoo increased the shoulder seam to 2.5-3 cm to compensate for the larger armscye and that fixed her problem with the sleeve. So, although this was a failed project, I have learned alot. I’ll try and make another toile/muslin with all my alterations and the added seam allowance at the shoulder and see where we go from there.

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Wearable Darling Ranges Toile in Review

A few weeks ago I finished this dress, my first wearable toile of Megan Nielsen's Darling Ranges Dress. Although it wasn't perfect, I was quite proud of my achievement. I wrote about this initail toile and this wearable toile on my Tumblr blog.

Changes I made from the original pattern, after the first toile, were; Adding 5cm to the length of the bodice,adding about 1.5-2 cm to the width of the neckline, including darts in the back to reduce the ease allowing me to leave off the ties at the back. I also made this version sleeveless.

What I learned initially from making dress was that the 5cm I lengthen the bodice by was too much and I have since removed 2.5cm from the added piece, so hopefully the next one will be perfect. Also, if I insert the pocket about 7.5 cm from the top of the skirt pieces. This should be the perfect height for them once I use the correct bodice length. I used a light weight fabric for this dress so I thought I should interface the front placket. I was feeling lazy so I used a strip of iron-on hemming web in the placket as a sort of cheats interfacing and it seemed to work quite well.

But after wearing it a few times, I have noticed a few more adjustments the pattern needs for me to get the fit I'm after. I noticed that the bust dart was a little NQR (not quite right), so I pinned the dress in a few places to try to improve the fit and then transfered those changes onto the pattern piece. In the end I moved the dart down by 1/2″ and extended it towards the center by 1″. (Yes, I'm aware that I keep chopping and changing from metric to imperial but I found reading many blogs and older or American patterns, I need to easily understand both.) I had notice that the back of the dress gaped a bit. I'm not too sure how to fix this but I pinned a section down the middle of the back bodice and tried it on, and that seemed to fix it slightly. So, I removed about 1″ from the center of the back bodice pattern . After so many changes, my pattern pieces started to look like this.

It was time to bring out my daughters roll of craft specially designed pattern drafting paper and re-draft these pattern pieces. Now they look like this.

Now, I'm ready for my next attempt.


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