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A Most Delightful Pattern Hack

The French Dart Shift | Button Back Tutorial

The French Dart Shift is possibly the most versatile pattern you will ever sew with and I have another little pattern hack to share with you today!

 

I originally made the Indigo Moon spot sample for The Festival of Quilts as I wanted to showcase the Corozo buttons that Mr.M had sourced. Corozo is a natural, sustainable product that works in harmony with the rainforests of Equador, and as it is an excellent alternative to plastic buttons so we felt it was an important message to share.

The sample and the buttons proved to be very popular and there were lots of requests for a tutorial on adding a button placket. The buttons and buttonholes are functional, but you don’t need to undo them to get the top on and off. I’ve added the buttons down the back of the garment, you could just as easily use these instructions and have them down the front instead. I’ve made this French Dart as a top but you could make a button through dress version, just be aware of how much ease you have in the hips and bum area – too little and your buttons and buttonholes may strain or pop open when you sit down! I made the top sleeveless – it was the height of summer here in England – you know that 3-day window where the sun shines consistently before normal British weather resumes when dressing involves sunglasses, factor 50, a cardigan and canoe, because who knows, but best be prepared?!  I made no alterations to the pattern to make it sleeveless, just left the sleeves off and bound the armholes.

| HABERDASHERY for a top|

For all sizes | 1.5m of 150cm wide fabric (you will have enough fabric to cut out short sleeves if you don’t want a sleeveless top).

Indigo sample | Indigo Moon Fabric, 7 Corozo buttons – 24 ligne (15mm) || white linen sample | the linen was found in Ikea bargain corner, 7 Agoya shell buttons in natural – 24 ligne (15mm)

TOOLS | French Dart pattern, paper, scissors, tape, buttons, lightweight interfacing, buttonhole foot, and the usual sewing stuff!

ABBREVIATIONS | CB: centre back | CF: centre front | WS: wrong side | WST: wrong side together | RST: right side together | RS: right side | SA: seam allowance

| THE PATTERN |

First, you’ll need to alter the pattern. As always when altering a pattern trace off a copy so your original stays intact (if you have the PDF version you can always print another). Copy the collar, back and front but don’t cut them out yet.

I left out the back darts to make it a slightly boxier shape.

Decide on your length. I made the CB finished length (the length when it’s all sewn up and not including any seam or hem allowance) 60 cm and added a hem allowance of 4cm (pattern length including hem and neck SA – 64.6cm). No need to overcomplicate this bit, I just measure up from the hem in several places and draw a new line before chopping off the length. The only things to be aware of are;

  1. make sure the new line intersects the CF and CB lines at right angles to stop weird pointy angles.
  2. make sure your side seams are the same length and run smoothly around the body, again to avoid weird pointy angles.

| ADDING THE BUTTON PLACKET |

 

Working on the BACK BODY of your copy pattern, mark the CB line in a red to make it clear (the original ‘cut to the fold line’ is the CB).

Draw a line 1.5cm away and parallel to the CB line, creating a button placket. This will be the folded edge.

Draw another line 4.5cm away and parallel to the fold line, this makes the back facing.

*I used 15mm buttons. If you are using bigger/smaller buttons you can adjust the width of the placket and facing to accommodate your buttons and buttonholes.

When the facing folds back into place it should be the same shape at the neck and the hem as the main body. Fold the facing along the fold line so it sits in place, pin to hold and cut through both layers of paper. Make sure the neck and hem intersect the fold and CB at right angles. When you unfold the facing it will be exactly the same shape as the body. Make a notch in your pattern on the fold line at the neck and hem.

Fold up the hem in the same way before cutting out to make sure it is the same shape as the body when folded into place.

| COLLAR | 

As we have extended the CB by adding 1.5cm for the placket, we need to add the same amount to EACH end of the collar so it still fits. (Don’t worry about the seam allowances as they are already on the pattern, just add the 1.5cm.) Remark your notches.

| INTERFACING | 

Cut a strip 5cm wide and the length of your CB pattern and press onto the WS of the facing. By making the interfacing slightly wider than the facing and you’ll be able to press a nice sharp fold in your fabric.

| CUT AND MAKE |

Make your French dart according to the instructions.

  • Stay tape the neck – for the back neck use half the given measurement and add 1.5cm, or finish the tape at CB if you forget as I did 😉
  • Close and neaten French darts, shoulder and side seams. Leave out the back darts for a boxier shape top.

| COLLAR |

Press 1cm SA on the long edge to WS (STEP 14 in the instruction booklet) and pin in place.

Mark the midpoint between the SA notches.

Keep the 1cm SA pinned in place and fold collar RST in half at the midpoint, align the SA notches.

Close CB collar seam with 1cm SA, keeping 1cm SA folded in place and 6mm SA hanging free below.

Trim top corner to reduce bulk.

Turn through to RS and press seam so as not to roll to either front or back but to sit right on the edge.

| FACING |

If you haven’t already, apply your interfacing to the facing.

Neaten (overlock or zigzag) the edge of the facing. Press facing to WS and pin to hold at the neck edge.

| ATTACH COLLAR |

Place collar RST with body aligning the 6mm SA edge with neck edge. We are just attaching a single layer so keep the other side of collar free. Align notches and place the back seam of collar flush with the folded edge of the facing (you don’t want a step!). Stitch collar to the neckline with 6mm SA.

Trim corner of SA to prevent bulk.

On the WS of garment bring the free edge of the collar to the neckline to cover the stitching by 3mm and enclosing all the SA. Tack and then stitch in the ditch from the RS to finish. This is the same as our usual method of attaching the collar – we are just enclosing an end.

| HEM |

I allowed a 4cm hem allowance. I pressed it to WS by 4cm and then pressed the top raw edge under by 1cm and topstitching it at just under 3cm making it a clean-finished hem.

TOP TIP – Make sure your backs are EXACTLY the same length now before you start buttonholing.

| BUTTONS & BUTTONHOLES | 

I’ll only briefly explain how I mark my buttons and buttonholes because that could be a whole post by itself!

I always mark my button positions first (on the side of the garment to be buttonholed) and then mark my buttonholes around them to get the correct spacing. My first button was 1cm below the neck seam (my buttonhole foot wouldn’t sit any closer to the seam) and I had an 8cm spacing between each button.

I did my top buttonhole horizontally and started it 3mm to the right of the CB seam to allow the button enough space to sit on the CB.

The other buttons were all vertical and positioned centrally to the button positions on the CB line.

Once the buttonholes are made and cut, I pin the back bodies WST and push a pin through each buttonhole…

… and mark a dot on the other side to show where to sew each button.

And there you have it…yet another garment from the French Dart Pattern!

 

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A tip from Mrs M!

I posted this on Instagram the other day and was genuinely surprised how popular it was.

So here is another of my random little tips. I do hope you find it helpful!

Ever get confused which line to follow when chopping out a pattern in your size? You do too?

There is a simple solution – mark it with a highlighter first. No cutting the wrong line here!

And while you’re at it – circle those dots so you mark the right one for your size and don’t forget any of them!

Then use your screw punch hole and notchers to finish the job. Ta-Dah!

✂️✂️✂️

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The Good Times Skirt | Hong Kong Finish Binding Tutorial

The Good Times Skirt | Hong Kong Finish Binding Tutorial

We have a few different methods of finishing the Centre Front and Centre Back seams for the Good Times Skirt. One of the seam options to use Hong Kong binding. You could also use this method to neaten the bottom of the waistband which gives a very professional look to the inside of your skirt (or any skirt!). This method is often used to finish the inside of jackets and dresses when you want the inside to be as pretty as the outside

Hong Kong binding is a very versatile design detail. You can make it pretty by using a small print…a bit of Liberty print anyone? Make a graphic statement with a contrasting colour or use a tonal fabric for a subtle stripe. You could use up your scraps of loved fabrics, just keep them of similar weight and fibre content for a cohesive look.

BUT WHAT IS IT? | What’s the difference between regular bias binding and Hong Kong Finish binding? With the usual bias binding method, all the edges are enclosed but with Hong Kong Finish the underneath edge of the binding is left raw and unfinished to reduce bulk.

FABRIC CHOICES | Hong Kong binding works best with a stable lightweight fabric, cotton lawn or a similar weight is perfect, but nothing too thick as you don’t want to add bulk to the seam. You can use pre-made bias just press it flat first.

CUTTING | the Good Times Skirt has optional Hong Kong Finish binding pattern pieces included in the ‘print at home’ pattern ready to cut and use to finish the waistband, Centre Front (CF) & Centre Back (CB) seams. If you are using this tutorial to bind a different garment (hello & welcome!) binding strips should be cut 3cm wide x the length needed plus a little extra for good measure. You can of course use ready made bias binding that has been pressed flat.

TOOLS | binding, standard machine presser foot, zipper foot (optional – see the tip below) iron and the usual sewing stuff!

ABBREVIATIONS | WS: wrong side | RST: right side together | RSU: right side up | RS: right side | SA: seam allowance

A TIP BEFORE YOU START SEWING|

I prefer to do the binding after closing the seam for accuracy and I’ve found using a zipper foot makes it a smidge easier (and that is is how I’ve written the instructions).

But, the binding can be attached BEFORE you close the centre front or centre back seam. It’s really a personal preference and in fact, it is slightly easier to stitch it first BUT you need to make sure you stitch it the right way for when the seam is reversed. Because the seam is reversed it’s very easy to stitch it the wrong way up – go on, ask me how I know….!!!

If you decide to attach it before you close the seam, be very accurate attaching it and very accurate again when you go back and stitch the CF/CB seams closed with the correct seam allowance. Potentially the extra thickness or width of the binding could mislead you and you could lose or gain a few millimetres per seam. That doesn’t sound a lot but they all add up if you lose a bit here and a bit there, and then your skirt is a bit tight!

SEW |

Close the seam and press with the SA open. I’ve already bound one side in these photos…

Take one side of the SA and push all other layers out of the way and with RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER (RST) align the edge of the binding with the raw edge of the SA.

TIP | At the bottom edge, if you want a neat finish with all the raw edges enclosed, fold over the binding over to the back of the seam. You may not need to bother with this step if the end of your binding/seam will later be hemmed, finished or caught into a facing.

Attach binding with 6mm SA – this will be finished binding width.

TIP | When binding the Centre Front & Centre Back seams you may find this step easier if you use a zipper foot.

Press the binding away from the seam. Note the (optional) neat finish at the bottom edge.

Fold the binding over to the WS of the SA, enclosing the raw edge of the seam. Make sure the binding is snug against the edge of the SA.

Press binding flat, take care not to stretch the seam.

With RSU stitch in the ditch through the binding and the SA only (use the zipper foot again if that works for you). Press again.

The binding will be raw to the underside of the SA and can be trimmed down closer to your stitchline if too wide for your SA.

You can ignore this step if you are just binding a seam but for The Good Times Skirt CF and CB seams, stitch in the ditch a second time, this time through ALL the layers to hold seam allowance flat against skirt. And you’re finished!

 

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The Good Times Skirt | sewing denim

The Good Times Skirt | tips for sewing denim

I like practicality and utilitarian in my design work so denim has always been one of my favourite fabrics. I like the way the fabric ages to tell a visible story of wear and history.

Denim is a very durable, strong fabric, traditionally woven in a twill weave and made from cotton with indigo dyed warp (vertical/lengthwise) threads and white weft (horizontal/across) threads that gives denim its characteristic look. In the last 20 years or so fashion and technology have had an impact on denim with the addition of other fibres such as elastane and Tencel to give a different feel and finish. Some of these fabrics will not be as hard wearing as traditional denim.

Denim comes in many weights but for The Good Times Skirt, you are looking at using 9-12oz denim, with around 2% elastane (lycra/spandex) for a bit of comfort stretch. Try and be thoughtful and intentional about the fabric you choose, the aim is to produce a garment that can be part of your wardrobe for years to come.

Denim is not a very difficult fabric to sew but it can get a bit bulky, so having a few tricks in your sewing arsenal can make sewing it a smidge easier.

PRE-WASH YOUR FABRIC | 

Denim will shrink, and the indigo dye on the darker denim will run. Wash separately at 30° with plenty of room in the machine and you can pop a cup of white vinegar in the wash with your denim to help fix the colour. I tend pre-wash dark unwashed denim twice to avoid blue fingers while sewing. Denim also frays quite a bit so consider neatening the raw edges before washing or sewing into a loop first. Washing your denim with room in your machine for the denim to move (don’t pack it tightly in!) and ironing whilst still damp will help prevent white lines appearing on the surface.

I prefer not to tumble dry anything, ever, as I think it breaks down the fibres (especially lycra) and that can’t be a good thing. That fluff in the tumble dryer must come from somewhere. I don’t actually have a tumble dryer anymore (but I also don’t have small children and I work from home so can time the washing for a sunny day – I’m in England and laughing as I write that optimistic statement) but if you’re likely to throw your denim in the dryer later it’s probably best to treat it the same way at the pre-wash stage but it’s advisable to check the wash care instructions for your cloth first.

There is, of course, the denim purist method of not washing and wearing denim for 6 months to a year and popping in the freezer occasionally to kill off any bacteria. I read that the other day that the freezer idea is under debate, but hey ho!

TIPS FOR SEWING DENIM |

  • Use sharp scissors or a rotary cutter with a fresh blade.
  • Denim can be quite sturdy and bulky, test interfacings on your denim to make sure you are happy with the result, many sewing decisions are just down to personal taste.
  • Facings are best cut in lightweight cotton, to help reduce bulk.
  • Use a Jeans needle – size 90/14 for lighter denim, 100/16 or 110/18 for heavy denim
  • Test topstitching and stitch tension on scraps of fabric before you start.
  • Topstitch with a slightly longer stitch than you usually use, around 3mm, but do a test to see what’s good for your machine.
  • Think about topstitching colours and weight of thread. Do you want your topstitching to stand out or blend in?
  • Topstitching with your usual weight in a matching or tonal colour thread gives a subtle look.
  • Consider using a heavier weight thread to make a feature of topstitching, use either Jeans or buttonhole thread and your usual thread in the bobbin. 
  • If your machine has an extra spindle on top can also use ordinary weight thread for topstitching but thread the needle with a double thread to give the appearance of a heavier thread.
  • Press as you go and use lots of steam.

BULKY SEAMS |

Reduce bulky seams by trimming and grading seam allowances. For very bulky corners and seam junctions, tap the area with a hammer! Protect your garment with a piece of folded denim below and cover with another scrap and just gently tap until it softens. A very useful tip for the corners of the waistband and if you are hemming jeans.

LEVELLING FOOT/BUMPER/HUMP JUMPER | honestly, I’ve heard all those terms so not making it up…

So what often happens with thicker fabrics like denim is the back of your presser foot isn’t level with the front when you sew (or vice-versa at the end of a seam). That’s when you get problems with uneven topstitching because the fabric is not feeding through evenly. It happens when your hemming jeans at the intersection of the seams or anywhere there is a lot of bulk to stitch over, and your stitching looks a bit messy with different length stitches.

All you need to do is fold a scrap of fabric and place behind or in front of the thick bit you’re stitching and under the machine foot to keep it level as you sew over thicker areas. You can buy a special gadget or use a piece of card, but I like a bit of fabric so I can fold it to the right depth.

My new machine has a levelling presser foot with this screw thing you can push in to keep the foot level. (I’ve got a Juki). It’s sometimes useful, but not always, so lo-tech scrap of fabric is still winning.

FINAL TIP |

Take your time! You can literally crank the wheel by hand and go one stitch at a time if necessary, especially over those thick tricky bits. Happy sewing!