How to sew a narrow bias edge

I had a busy yet productive weekend – not only did I finish my Colette Patterns Beignet skirt, but I also made the Patrones 292 sleeveless bias cowl top, too! I didn’t have enough time for a photoshoot over the weekend, but I did remember to finally document my favourite way of finishing the edges of thin blouses like the cowl top so I can finally share this with you.

This technique is great for necklines and armscyes on sleeveless tops, and is my preferred way to finish any kind of blousey, lightweight fabrics like silk satins and the viscose (rayon) you see here. You get a thin, finished edge that looks good inside and out with a minimum of fuss, and you don’t have that awkward problem of facings flipping out or anything, either. As long as you’re okay with a small amount of topstitching on the right side, this is the technique for you…

So before we begin, sew one of your seams so you’ve got a C-shape. If you’re finishing a neckline, this means you sew one of the shoulder seams. I’m finishing the armscye of a sleeveless blouse here, so in this case I’m sewing both shoulder seams, leaving the side seams free.

Step 1


Cut out a bias strip that’s the length of your opening edge, plus a few centimetres just to be sure. For the width, I prefer a finished facing of just 1cm, so my width here is 1cm + (2× 1.5cm seam allowances) = 4cm.

My bias silk 40th birthday gown

Happy 40th birthday to me! Since it’s a big birthday year I kinda felt like I just had to celebrate big, too! So we rented the whole of a private members cocktail bar near Kings Cross, invited a bunch of people, laid on pizzas, and let the rest just happen! Every year I like to make myself something special to celebrate my birthday, and I felt like I should sew a big, glamorous dress for myself to feel like a total star at the party, too.

I happened to have four meters of gorgeous copper-coloured silk satin (charmeuse) in my stash which I’d bought from Truro Fabrics back in 2015 with the intention of sewing a gown for the World Transplant Games gala dinner in Argentina. But I didn’t quite have enough time to sew it before we left, and the silk has been in my stash ever since. I still had the receipt in with the fabric, too, and the price reflects the incredible quality of this silk – I’d paid about £75 for it.

A floral bias top

Happy Friday everyone! I like to buy souvenir fabric whenever I’m travelling, and when I was in Malaga last summer competing in the World Transplant Games I bought one meter of a lovely floral poly satin at a fabric shop we stumbled across in the centre of town.

I’m not usually a floral woman but this digital print really spoke to me for some reason, and now that the weather has warmed up it felt right to cut into it – and what better way to showcase the beautiful photo print than with a little bias top pattern I’d already tested? So I pulled out Burda 6501, which I’d made last summer in a viscose print and worn loads since.

The “Sew Your Own Activewear” Split Shorts

Let’s pretend we’re in summer and talk about the Split Shorts design from my “Sew Your Own Activewear” book this week! I really wanted to make sure the book included designs for all four seasons and as a runner myself, I know the perils of finding a pair of running shorts that don’t ride up as you move.

It took me months and months of development work to come up with our Threshold Shorts pattern, so I took my learnings from that and designed a pair of shorts for the book which have an almost infinite amount of movement in the front leg and won’t restrict movement or ride up in the inner thigh (a very common problem with RTW running shorts and retro “athleisure” designs). During early development these were called the “Petal Shorts” as the overlapping front pieces look like the petals of a flower, but ultimately “Split Shorts” won out as it’s more descriptive of the design!

Elastic edges three ways

Today I’d like to show you how you can change up the look of your “Sew Your Own Activewear” Vest Top by simply changing the way you finish off the neckline and armhole edges. Elastic edges are super important in activewear as they hold the fabric close to the body, reducing the risk of chafing, but also making it less likely to get caught on things (a real safety risk when climbing!), or exposing yourself accidentally (hello downward dog!), and also to keep contents from falling out of your pockets, too.

These methods are great ones to have in your sewing skillset as you can also use them on the Crop Top (which we’ll be looking at more next week!) as well as my XYT Workout Top pattern. All three of these methods can be done on your basic sewing machine, and once you get the hang of them, you’ll find all sorts of uses!

Brighton & Bank holiday sewing

We had a long weekend here in the UK this weekend, and I’m pleased to report that I made the most of it! On Saturday, James and I made an impromptu trip down to Brighton, and we stopped off at Lewes on the way down. Our main objective in Lewes is always the Harveys Brewery shop, but I also discovered The Stitchery just across the road upstairs in the Riverside Centre, which stocks a wide variety of fabrics, embroidery floss, yarn, and haberdashery. I checked my handy “sewing shopping list” on my phone, and bought black waistband elastic and trouser hooks, both of which I needed. Very sensible of me, I know.

But the real temptation was walking right past Ditto in the North Laines in Brighton, and I told myself I was only allowed to buy ONE fabric there, so it’d better be a good one! In the end, this gorgeous butter yellow floral silk charmeuse won out over a similar yellow coloured, textured, ex-Blumarine crepe.

Florals really aren’t my usual fabric choice (and I would’ve never bought it from the terrible photo on Ditto’s site), but in real life, I was just captivated by it, and I’m thinking I’ll need to pair it with some edgier like jeans or my leather skirt to diffuse the twee-ness.

After our big day on Saturday, on Sunday we didn’t leave the boat at all! I spent most of the day doing sewing stuff, starting off with fusing all the interfacing onto James’s reversible smoking jacket pieces. I find fusing interfacing to be really boring at the best of times, but it’s beyond teeeeedious with a mini ironing board and mini iron! Once that was all fused, I then moved on to hand basting all the pocket placements (it’s a fantasy jacket, so there are five pockets!) and then basted the bound buttonhole placements, too.

Black Beignet skirt and a bias cowl top

It feels like I’ve been talking about sewing the Colette Patterns Beignet skirt for ages now, but it’s mostly because I’ve just been so busy with life (running, socialising, wedding planning, the boat, and my garden, mostly) right now that I’ve been sewing in tiny increments here and there! But it’s finally complete, and I even managed to sew up the bias cowl top from Patrones 292 (#19) to wear with it!

Even though these go so well together, I’ve actually got no shortage of other things in my wardrobe to wear with either, so there’s no “orphan coordinates” here! And I managed to sneak some mustard and navy into my wardrobe a bit earlier than I’d planned, too!

A steel grey Zadie jumpsuit

I’ll admit it – I thought jumpsuits were going to be a passing fad when I started seeing them popping up a few years ago (Brazilian pattern magazine Manequim was definitely at the forefront of this!). But it’s been several years and they don’t show any sign of stopping, and I even made myself one a few years back. I didn’t wear it much, though – not for being a jumpsuit, but for having an overly long crotch that irritated my thighs – and it’s since gone into the great charity shop bag in the sky.

I share all this only to illustrate that I’ve got a checkered personal history when it comes to sewing jumpsuits. But when the Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit pattern was released, I knew I wasn’t done with jumpsuits just yet. It had all the right details – a flattering wrap-style bodice that made it easy to get in and out of, big pockets, and a casual-yet-dressy vibe that I just couldn’t shake. And that my girl Sanchia was the model for it was just the cherry on top!!

So I bought it, followed quickly by some fabric earmarked for it – this heathered rayon/viscose twill from Mood Fabrics, which I brought back in my suitcase from the States last month. In total this fabric cost me $50 (about £40), which seems reasonable considering the final garment and the wears it’s gotten already.

A Japanese print day dress

I can’t start this post today without first sending out a massive, massive THANK YOU to everyone who’ve commented and gotten in touch on all forms of social media to say congratulations on my book deal. The response has absolutely exceeded my expectations and I’ve been overwhelmed by the love, enthusiasm, and confidence you all have in me. Thank you.

Over the last few months, I’ve been working on the book full-time, putting all my energy, thoughts, energy, and even my dreams into the book (no, really – a solution to one of my design problems actually came to me in a dream!). But I know it’s easy to get burned out in a project like this so I try very, very hard to Keep Weekends Sacred and not work on the book. But I still want to do a little bit of sewing here and there (not just sock loom knitting!), so I’ve been doing quick little weekend projects unrelated to the book that I can clear out of my sewing room in time for activewear sewing during the week.

Last month’s issue of Love Sewing magazine included McCalls 7381 free and I thought it looked like a nice little dress to make up over a weekend (if you’re in the States, this pattern’s on sale through the end of today, just fyi!). My stash is absolutely at capacity with fabrics for book samples, so I wanted to use up something I already had and found a Japanese print cotton that my friend Alex brought me back from Tomato in Tokyo last winter. Ideally, the pattern should use something less structured and more flowy than a quilting cotton, but I don’t tend to buy many fabrics like that, so I figured it’d be fine for a casual summer day dress.

An ice blue running gilet

Last weekend I was overcome by the desire to make something.

I didn’t want anything long or involved, so I grabbed some ice blue soft shell I’d bought from Plush Addict and thought I’d make myself a gilet to keep my body warm when I go on long runs and springtime cycle rides. But I’d only bought a half meter to test out the fabric since they don’t have samples and it cost like £3 for the half meter. When it arrived, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting (so I’m glad I didn’t buy the full yardage!) but the fabric itself was too nice not to use for something. It’s got a dense, tightly woven exterior with a very slight stretch and the inside is a soft microfleece. So it’s both water resistant and warm, and I thought it’d be great for wearing over a base layer for the upcoming transitional weather.

But I was impatient, and made lots of mistakes. I planned to use a block I’ve been working on (but cut a size larger to account for less stretch than I’d drafted for), but the fabric was so short it only came to an inch or two below the waist. “Fine”, I thought, “I’ll just have a cropped gilet or add a hem band or something!” and merrily cut away. It was only then I realised that I’d cut the Front on the fold, forgetting in my haste that I wanted to have a front zipper or snap placket and I’d now not given myself enough room.

So rather than cause further damage, I opted to step back, put it aside, and come back to it later when I was less of a liability.