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A hidden travel pocket tutorial

We’re travelling to Mexico in a few weeks, and I decided I should probably have a money belt to keep my passports and spare cash secure while we’re there, especially since we’ll be staying in mid-range hotels and travelling by coach. But the money belts available to buy are all really uncomfortable-looking, made of either rough fabric that will get soaked by sweat, or plasticky fabric that will stick to your skin, and with chunky buckles that will dig in over the course of a day.

Since I’m sewing a bunch of bottoms for my trip anyway, I figured there must be another way, so I had the idea to draft up a simple zippered pocket that attaches onto the waistband and hangs discreetly inside. It can be accessed easily in a private place (like a toilet stall), but not easily seen or pickpocketed, and the zippered opening means its contents aren’t going to just fall out, either.

I’ve added this pocket into my recent travel skirt, leggings, and Hummingbird skirt already and I’ve worn these around London to test drive them successfully!

You can choose to either permanently sew the pocket into the waistband of your skirt or trousers, or you can use snaps to make it removable at the last step, like I did for my leggings.

It’s sized to allow a standard passport to fit through the zipper, plus some emergency cards and cash and other small items you want to keep on you at all times, but that don’t have to be readily accessible.

How to line the Burda peplum top

Peplums are a major AW12 trend and one that’s well within reach of most home sewists and high street shoppers. There are plenty of patterns out there, but one of the nicest I’ve seen so far is the cover design from the August 2012 Burda magazine, which is also available to purchase as a pdf download here (and you can look at the full instructions and layout diagrams on that site for free).

A lot of peplum dresses just feature a ring of excess fabric around the hips, but here, the curved waist seam plus the sloped hemline and bias-cut peplum on this particular pattern really sets it above the rest. I also like that it’s separates, so I can pair my top with a skirt, slim trousers, or leggings and get much more wear from it than just a single dress.

One thing I don’t love about this pattern, though, is that it’s unlined. Or rather, it has lined cap sleeves, a narrow bias edge on the underarms and a neck facing, but nothing further. It’s pretty straightforward to make lining pattern pieces from the shell and facings (see below), but the construction was more challenging to figure out. It is possible to do a nice clean finish almost entirely by machine (you still have to sew the hems by hand), but you have to do a bit of clever reordering of the construction…

Luckily for you, I made notes as I sewed so I can share my clever order of construction with you!

As mentioned above, you’ll need to modify your bodice pattern pieces after you’ve cut out your shell fabric. Place the neck facings on top of the bodice pieces (annoyingly, in this case they must be face-down so the shoulder seams and CB/CF edges line up), trace the neck facings onto your front & back bodice pieces and then cut these off before cutting your lining pieces. Remember to add seam allowances to these new cut edges, too!

Be sure to interface the facing pieces, then attach them to the lining pieces and treat as one for the rest of the construction.

Instructions for a clean-finish lining!

  1. Sew all darts, attach peplum pieces to bodice on the shell, and sew at shoulders (but keep it open at side seams and centre back!), ie: the follow the first few steps of Burda’s instructions, but stop before the zipper insertion!
  2. Do the same for the lining
  3. Sew the sleeve shell pieces & sleeve lining pieces together at the bottom edge of the sleeve. Understitch, then baste around the other (armscyce) edge
  4. Baste the sleeve onto the shell with right sides together (beware of excess ease!! Don’t skip this basting step!)

Running arm band pocket (with tutorial!)

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I wouldn’t mind making two prizes for the RDC Mission Impossible event this Saturday, and I knew it’d be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at drafting some arm pouches while helping out my crew at the same time.

Essentially, I reverse-engineered a Y-Fumble I own to figure out how they constructed it (no Y-Fumbles were harmed – I just thought about it hard and made a prototype first!). The only problem is that they’re available in limited colours and the lycra feels quite flimsy to me, so if I can make my own I have a lot more freedom in the fabrics used.

It’s an arm band that has a pocket on one side, with a simple fold-over flap for keeping things like phones, keys, travelcard, etc nicely inside and tight against your arm while your run. There are no closures – the band just slips over your wrist and up your arm and the stretchiness of the fabric holds it in place. I wear mine on my forearm to hold gels for long runs, but you can also put them on your upper arm, too, if you’d rather. Even though the back doesn’t contain a pocket, it’s still double-sided so all the raw edges are nicely contained inside.

For these prize versions, I used leftover red bamboo jersey from my Donna Karan dress so they’re nice and soft, and should resist bad smells, too.

For those of you who are interested in my thought process, here’s the sketch I used when working out what pieces I’d need, and then how I’d construct it all together:

Golden silk asymmetric blouse

From a total loser of a silk blouse to a triumph of a silk blouse, all in one afternoon! After the Burda FAIL, I turned around, cut into my gorgeous butter yellow floral silk charmeuse I bought at Ditto in Brighton last weekend, and sewed up this blouse in about two hours flat!

The layout of this blouse is really cool, and the entire blouse is just one piece, with only one side seam (and two shoulder seams). I took a photo of my fabric when it was laid out on the floor, and I added some annotations in pink (below) to help show where the drapey side comes into play. I hadn’t realised it from the diagram, but the CF neckline is on the straight grain, and the CB neckline is on the cross-grain, with the only side seam on the bias. Very cool, and the design feels quite Bunka.

I used the leftover silk in the bottom left corner to make several bias strips about 4cm wide, as I prefer a narrow bias edge on my silk blouses instead of finicky facings. I also left off the shoulder bow, as I felt there’s enough going on in this blouse already!

We were very lucky to catch the “golden hour” on Monday evening, which just makes this silk come alive in these photos! I’ve paired it here with my grey leather skirt to try and give an edgier look to the twee floral of the silk.

PSA – Freezer paper and laser printers don't mix!

This is a bit of a Public Service Announcement, but as I couldn’t find this information easily myself, I thought it was really important to get it out there to save some other poor sod the frustration and money I just spent.

Freezer paper stencils are great – fast, fairly easy, you get good results, and you can reuse the stencils a few times. Search for freezer paper stencil tutorials online, and you’ll get tons of results, all saying you can either print directly onto the freezer paper, or lay your design on top of the freezer paper, and trace around it with an exacto knife.

The latter is what I’ve always done in the past, but for my upcoming RDC refashioning project, I have a ton of stencilling to do, so I thought if I could cut out the step of taping the paper layers together, it’d go a bit quicker.

Only thing is, clearly none of the well-meaning tutorials out there own a laser printer. Laser printers use heat to print. Freezer paper uses heat to bond to the fabric. You see where this is going…?

DO NOT PRINT DIRECTLY ONTO FREEZER PAPER WITH A LASER PRINTER!

Coverstitch binder attachment tips & tricks

Way back when I was making my first muslins of my new running gear, I realised that the methods I’d previously used to finish knit necklines (elastic, FOE, serged bindings, etc) were just NOT going to cut it on slippery exercise lycra. The results were awful and sloppy, so I allowed myself to be convinced by Pattern Review that a coverstitch binder was the way forward.

At £80 a pop, they’re not a purchase to be taken lightly, and they’re probably about the most expensive thing you can buy for your sewing room, short of a machine or a dressform! But I wanted to ensure the most hassle-free experience, so I went for a brand-name Janome attachment rather than one of the cheaper, much more hacky eBay jobs. I bought mine from Jaycotts and Janome shipped it directly to me:

Unlike a lot of the eBay binders, this comes with everything you need to get started – the big metal plate, the shorter foot, and a big set of instructions on top of the binder attachment itself. So it’s expensive, but you don’t need to then go and buy all the non-optional bits separately – but I can understand the allure of just buying the binder for your second or third if you’ve already got the plate, foot, and instructions!

A better elastic waistband finish – tutorial

While I await a photoshoot on my new Papercut Ooh La Leggings, I thought it’d be nice to share with you what’s become my go-to finish for elastic waistbands. Oftentimes pattern instructions will tell you to create a casing, leave an opening, and thread the elastic through it. I totally hate this! You end up with uneven bunching of fabric, plus the waistband tends to fold up and twist and generally get really uncomfortable to wear.

Over the years, I’ve developed this method which a) attaches the elastic directly to the fabric, and b) protects your skin from direct contact with the elastic. I find it’s much more comfortable than the casing method, looks much neater, and also gives you the added option to have greater stretch in the back if you need it (swayback/bootay ladies, listen up!).

Finished leggings:

Step 1


Step 1 – Place the elastic around yourself where the waistband will lie, making sure it’s snug, but not tight (you may want to pre-stretch the elastic a bit first). Mark the overlap edges with a pen, and trim so the edges overlap by an inch or so. With your sewing machine, zigzag the crap out of it so it’s not going anywhere!

Step 2


Step 2 – Make the overlap the Centre Back, and mark the opposite side with a pin as the Centre Front. Mark midway between these two with pins as your side seam marks (or offset towards the CB if you want more stretch in the back). Place your elastic against the inside edge of your waistband, and serge/overlock the elastic in place, taking care to not cut the elastic with your serger blades! If you don’t have a serger, that’s cool, just sew near the top edge of the elastic with a narrow zigzag and very short stitch length. Stretch the elastic as you sew/serge so all your pin markings line up.

How to finish a cowl neckline

As promised yesterday, here’s a really cool technique I used to sew the shoulder seams and get a clean finish at the neckline of my MyImage cowl tee (M1152 from the Fall/Winter 2011 issue) all in one go.

It’s a variation of “the burrito method”, and you can use it on any top where you’ve got a facing on one side, and a folded edge on the other. So it doesn’t have to be cowl necks, it’ll also work for surplice or wrap necklines with a self-facing, too!

This comes fairly early in the construction of your garment, but by this point you should have already sewn your facing (in this case, my back neck facing) to the body of the garment (the back here), right sides together. You should also stabilise your shoulder seams, either by using Vilene bias tape like I have, or with strips of knit interfacing or clear elastic – whatever your preferred method is!

In my example, I’ve got a back neck facing which is a separate piece, and a folded (ie: integrated) facing on the front.


Step 1. Pin the shoulder seams together from the shoulder edge to the back facing stitching line, right sides together. Keep the front facing and the back facing out flat (ie: don’t pin them!)

How to buy Lekala patterns

First of all, congratulations to #9 Rebecca, #13 Olga, #17 RuthieK, #14 Clair McLaughlin, and #20 NancyK who were the winners in last week’s Lekala contest! I picked these using Random.org but you’ll just have to trust me that I did so without any favouritism (Seriously, if I was faking it I would’ve picked a few numbers from the beginning and the end of the list, too. Funny how all the picks were in the middle this time around…)! Each of these ladies received a Lekala code good for 2 credits, so if you’re one of the winners, skip ahead to step two below to activate the code I just emailed you.

Since Lekala use an ordering system different to what any other site uses, and the English isn’t 100% perfect, I thought it might be good to go through the steps on how to purchase patterns on their site. Please note that I do not work at Lekala, nor do I have any affiliation with them, nor have I been paid in any way for this post! If you need help from Lekala, please email Lekala customer support.

If you just want to try their custom sized patterns without buying anything you can enter in your measurements on the limited set of free patterns here. Or if you happen to be their special example size (165h/84b/74ub/64w/92h in cm) , you can download all their patterns for free in those set measurements by clicking the pdf link next to “FREE DOWNLOAD Pattern on fixed size” anywhere on the site (so if you’re a total grading wizz then I suppose you could always grade that size to match your own, though it’d be a fair amount of work!).

Step One – Buy a code

Before you decide which pattern to purchase, you first need to purchase a code. The idea is kinda like those Pay As You Go mobile phone cards, or top-up mass transit tickets – you purchase the code, which contain credits, and with each pattern, credits are deducted from your code. So you only need to purchase the code, not the individual patterns.

Lekala cowl top instructions and giveaway

You’ve seen my version of this fantastic cowl top, now’s your chance to make your own and show me yours!

As you’ll recall, the above is made using Lekala 4020, but I’ve created sleeve bands on the back to echo the ones on the front, so our first step is to alter the pattern for this.

Here’s the (unaltered) tech drawing:

Lekala give full pattern pieces rather than placing some patterns on the fold, so the first thing I like to do is fold the front and the back in half. If you’re altering the back like me, then cut the back piece in half along this foldline (at the CB).

To echo the sleeve bands/yokes on the back, first lay the front sleeve band/yoke piece onto the back, and mark the corresponding widths at the back shoulder and the back side seam, so the two bands will align nicely when sewn together. Then, using the front yoke piece as a guide, draw a nice curve to join the two points, trying to keep the width of the yoke even. Lastly, draw a double notch somewhere in the lower half across the line, so you’ve got the notches on both the back piece and your new back band piece. Then cut along the line and treat as two pieces.

You’ll end up with something like this: