Draft your own simple top……A Simple Tutorial

Firstly, forgive the top of my head being lopped off in this photo. I’ve been experimenting with pin curls and hadn’t got round to taking them out when I took this picture. Secondly, yes Karen, you do recognise this fabric! Purchased at the Fabric Fandango, and mindful of Karen’s warning about how much it creases (oooooh how it creases!!) I thought it would be perfect for a simple project like this so as to keep future ironing as easy as possible!
Now, back to the subject in hand….pattern drafting. My toile for the Top Draftalong is FINALLY finished!!!! (More on that to follow) Which means that the design drafting element of the draftalong is imminent, and not a moment too soon in my view. ( Have I mentioned how much I detest fitting…?) Anyway, I thought I’d limber up my drafting muscles with a fun and, yes, easy peasy lemon squeezy, quick and simple “freestyle” drafting project that anyone could do. Seriously. You could draft AND make this top within a couple of hours. Faster if you’re not a slow coach sewer like me. Even if you have never put pencil to paper and drafted anything before in your life. Don’t believe me? Here’s how….

Start with a rectangle and calculate the length of the sides as follows:
A = Bust or Hip Measurement (whichever is the larger) + 2-3″ (ease) divide by  4 and + 3″
B = Required length of top + desired hemming allowance
Mark which is your side seam and which is your centre back/front line….

A = Mark a point approx 8″ down the side seam from what will be the top of your pattern. (This will be your armhole. I made mine 8″. Your’s may be slightly more or less depending on how big you want your armhole opening to be).
B = Along the bottom edge mark a point 3″ in from the side seam

Join these two points up creating a curve for the underarm…this will become your actual stitching line/side seam…

Now for the neckline:
A = Mark a point approx 2″down the CB/CF seam from the top (depending on how low you want your neckline to scoop this could be more but wouldn’t advise it being any less. As you can see from my top, 2″ has it sitting just at the base of my throat)
B = Mark a point along the top edge where you want your neck opening to finish. I used my bra strap as a guide as I don’t like to flash them!

Draw in your neckline curve either freehand or using a French Curve. Where the neckline curve hits the CB/CF seam needs to be at a 90 degree angle so as to avoid “peaking” when you come to cut out the pattern piece on the fold. I’d also advise a slightly less acute angle where it hits the top edge/shoulder seam too. I cut mine as shown here and it’s resulted in a very slight pulling at the point where the neckline hits the shoulder seam of my top.

Add a seam alowance to the underarm/ side seam AND the shoulder seam…

Cut out your new pattern piece. Then cut 2 on the fold out of your fashion fabric and with RS together sew together the shoulder seams and then the side seams. Finish seam allowances.  I also put 2″ slits in the side seams for a little extra ease at the hips, finished the neckline with self fabric bias tape,(see posts here and here) and just hemmed the bottom and sleeves with a narrow hem. Voila! Simple top perfect for layering under a cardi for the winter months. Go on! Give it a go! ( I’d love it if you’d let me know if you do!)

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Sewing Basics # 15 – Using a Bias Tape Maker

I’m sure that there are many good tutorials of how to use this little super gadget out there on the web. But since we have been on the subject of bias strips I thought I may as well follow up with a brief explanation of my own to round things off nicely on this particular subject….

Placing RS together with the top strip perpendicular to the one underneath, pin like so….

Sew diagonally left to right, (corner to corner if you imagine as a square, the area where the two strips overlap) at a 45 degree angle…

Press the stitching line, then press the seam allowance open, then press the seam on the RS too…

Trim seam allowance close to the stitching….

The RS……

RS down/WS facing up, insert one end of the strip into the widest end of the bias gadget ensuring the fabric strip is as central as possible…..

Gradually feed the fabric strip along until it pokes it’s little nose out the other end of the gadget (I found that the strip would sometimes get stuck a little way along so I gently poked the tips of my thread snips through the gap along the centre of the bias gadget to help move it along)…

Press the tip of the strip as it pokes through…

Then pin in place on the ironing board…

Take hold of the handle of the gadget and gently slide it along the fabric strip…

…bit by bit, pressing as you go….the first bit is the trickiest….

Keep going all the way to the end of the strip. Depending on how long it is you may have to shift it along the ironing board and re-pin it several times along the length of the strip…and there you have it…nice neat bias tape ready to use on your next sewing project 🙂

Toodle pip!

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Sewing Basics # 14 – Easy Peasy Bias Strips

I don’t know about you, but the prospect of accurately marking out and cutting narrow strips of fabric on the bias seemed a bit too fiddly and a bit too much like hard work for my liking. So for ages I relied on my stash of ready made bias tape for projects. Then I had a minor brainwave and tried out the basic idea here. What d’ya know…it worked! Alot of you seemed to think it was a pretty neat idea, so I thought I’d share my  bias strip technique in a little more detail in case, like me, you can’t be arsed to faff about 😉

I used one of these bias tape makers to make my bias binding.  This particular size requires strips of fabric 1″ wide. So I got me some 1″ wide low tack masking tape (masking tape comes in several widths in our local hardware shop. If I need 2″ wide bias strips I just use 2″ wide masking tape)…

The easy way to make bias strips at www.makery.uk

The fabric pictured is cut in a perfect square. (See here for an easy way to do this. The technique applies the same way to fabric as it does for paper!)  Now for a little geometry. Bias tape needs to be cut at a 45 degree angle to the grainline. On a perfect square, from point to point diagonally across the square, is exactly 45 degrees. So the strip of masking tape below, marks out a 1″ wide strip of fabric at a 45 degree angle…

The easy way to make bias strips at www.makery.uk

Every subsequent piece of tape lined up against it will therefore be at the perfect 45 degree angle too. I just kept adding strips of tape either side until they became too short to be of reasonable use. (For zero waste, the resulting corners/trianges left over at the end.could go in your scrap pile until you’ve enough to make some bunting)….

The easy way to make bias strips at www.makery.uk

Leaving just enough gap between each strip of tape for your scissor blades…

The easy way to make bias strips at www.makery.uk

…provides a super accurate cutting guide and stabilises the fabric whilst you are cutting (bias by it’s nature is prone to stretching) this is especially useful on fine and/or slippery fabrics….

The easy way to make bias strips at www.makery.uk

You end up with a load of strips backed with masking tape. Exactly the right size, with poker straight edges and cut precisely on the bias….

The easy way to make bias strips at www.makery.uk

Square off the ends….

The easy way to make bias strips at www.makery.uk

…and there you have them. Lovely neat bias strips. Ready to use to make your own bias tape. (I’ve been making up more than I need, then peeling off the masking tape as and when I need the make some bias tape up. Otherwise I leave the masking tape in place to keep them stabilised and store them for future use)

The easy way to make bias strips at www.makery.uk

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

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A Little Christmas Tipple…..

Being a thrifty kinda gal, I love a good freebie. Mother nature is generous indeed and if you know where to look, when to look and what to look for…..then hedgerows, woodland and fields (so long as you’re not trespassing!!) are great sources of fruits, herbs, berries and more.  The whole foraging thing is such fun to me and an area I really want to learn more about. For instance, when it comes to wild mushrooms? I see them all the time but wouldn’t have a clue and knowing my luck I’d end up picking something hallucinogenic, or worse! Some berries can be toxic too. So I err on the side of caution for now (I have a few foraging books on my wishlist!) and stick to what I know. My favourite summer tipple is to make Elderflower champagne. OMG, if you haven’t tasted the stuff before, oh how you have missed out. It’s heavenly on a summers day and oh so simple to make. Alas, I totally missed the boat this year.

Our weird seasons this year, meant that the Elderflowers came out much earlier. There was so little sunshine (essential to release the fragrance) and they went over so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to gather my supplies and free a space in my day to make it. So, I decided instead to wait patiently for the subsequent berries to ripen and try my hand at some Elderberry Wine instead. So when my step mum was visiting at the weekend we picked these (with permission of course) from our neighbours tree. Just look at the colours……..

As luck would have it, my step mum used to be an avid winemaker so knew just the right technique to get the berries off the stalks……

Even the bare stalks are gorgeous to look at. I love this time of year for it’s stunning colour palette…

Eventually you end up with a bowl of  beautful shiny Elderberries (pick out any remaining stalk)

This is the recipe I’m following….

Elderberry Wine
There are any number of recipes for elderberry wine, but this one can be drunk either hot or cold.
  • 1 kg (approx 2lb) elderberries, stripped from stems
  • 4 1/2 litres (one gallon) of water
  • 454g (1lb) of raisins
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Six cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of wine yeast (eg, Burgundy)
  • 150 ml (1/4 pint) of brandy
  1. Rinse the berries in cold water, and place them in a large plastic container. It’s essential to remove every last piece of stalk, which can impart a bitter taste to the wine.
  2. Boil the water, pour it over the berries and leave it to stand for 24 hours.
  3. Press the mixture through a muslin cloth.
  4. Put the juice and all the other ingredients, apart from the brandy and yeast, into a preserving pan and simmer gently for an hour, skimming when necessary.
  5. Allow the mixture to cool and, when it is lukewarm, stir in the yeast. Transfer it into a fermentation jar, top up, fit an air lock and leave to stand in the dark for two weeks.
  6. Rack off into a clean vessel and add the brandy. Then siphon off into clean, corkable wine bottles.
This wine is best if allowed to mature for a few months – so Christmas is a good time to bring it out.
It’s all “blup-blup’ing” away in the Demijohns as we speak. I shall let you know how I get on. It’s either going to be really really gorgeous…..or really really bad head inducing. We shall see..;)
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