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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:

A plum tulip top and seamed silver trousers

I’m finally over my post-wardrobe exhaustion and able to sew again, so I carried on with my March mini-wardrobe plans and made the seamed trousers from KnipMode Oct 2010 (#8):

(hmm, why are they covering the waistband in their only magazine photo?)

I also thought I was due a “quick knit top” so I pulled out Jalie 2806 (a gift from LynnRowe on PR!) so I could try out those fantastic tulip sleeves, with the thought of maybe using them on the spring/summer version of my Burda September cover dress

I had just enough of Ditto‘s wonderfully soft and supple plum bamboo/lycra jersey leftover from my plum and green lace top for this, so it was clearly meant to be! For the trousers I used the same Fabric.com stretch twill as in my navy riding trousers, though in different lights this goes from looking pale grey (nice!) to baby blue (not so nice!). But the combo of pale trousers and dark top feels very Spring-like to me.

How to use jeans rivets

I’ve sewed a bunch of jeans over the past few years, and with every single one, I’ve been disappointed by the quality of the rivets available to buy as a home sewers. I’ve tried the ones available in stores, like Prym, Hemline, etc and every single time they let me down. Even when they’re properly hammered into place, they move around and “jangle” a bit, they’ve been snagging my coat linings, and I’ve had several fall out under normal wear of the jeans. For my last few pairs, I haven’t even bothered using rivets at all. I’d rather not use any than ones that look and behave badly!

I’ve been keeping an eye out for quality rivets for a while now, and I’ve heard word that a man named Junior in Louisiana does excellent ones and will sell them in small quantities. So I took the plunge and bought a few of his high quality rivets
(and a handful of all-metal buttons while I was at it), even though it meant importing them from the States.

Seriously, these rivets are fantastic – they look just like RTW, are easier to install than the crappy ones, and once they’re in, they’re in!

Here’s the finished back pockets up my upcoming jeans:

I can never go back to crappy rivets again – for real, I’m tossing the others in the bin. So as part of my grand education scheme, I’m going to show you all how easy these are to install. Just say NO to crappy rivets!

How to install jeans rivets

You’ll need an awl (an ice pick may work in a pinch though), some pliers with a wire cutter, and a big ol’ hammer.

Here are the Rivets pieces. On the left is the nail, which goes on the underside of your jeans. On the right is the cap, with the right side shown at the top, and the wrong side (which connects to the nail) underneath:

Free kitty kicker pattern and tutorial

Do you have a cat? Does he sometimes scratch where he’s not supposed to?

Ours may look angelic, but Bosco’s certainly got a naughty streak!

Cats need to scratch with their hind legs or bad things happen. But we don’t really want them “bunny kicking” our arms to shreds, either! That’s where the Kitty Kicker comes in – your cat will nuzzle the felty, catnippy wonder to his face and kick at the body with his hind legs! And the offset end seams means it rolls really easily, giving kitty something to chase as you throw it around the room.

Download the pdf here!

Like with all downloadable patterns, make sure to print it at 100%! Unless your cat is very small, or utterly enormaincoon, in which case feel free to scale up or down. Also feel free to change around the felt piece – make it long and fringed, or spiked, or even replace it entirely with ribbons or yarn if you’d rather.

You will need:

1. Small piece of tough fabric like denim, twill, canvas, or home dec fabric (IKEA do great heavyweight fabrics for cheap!)
2. Small scraps of felt (optional)
3. Fiberfill, or scrap fabric for stuffing
4. Catnip!
5. Hand needle and thread

Instructions:

The first Jalie jeans

The ladies at the Walthamstow meetup got a sneak peek of my new jeans on Saturday, but now everyone can have a look at my (mentally counts…) sixth pair of jeans!

I wanted to try out the Jalie 2908 jeans pattern in cheap fabric before I broke out my good stuff, so I made these using some cheap stretch denim from Goldhawk Road, bought for £3/m. It’s papery and stiff and smells kinda like petrochemicals when you iron it, but it was taking up room in my stash and was good enough to try out the pattern (and good enough for wearing round the boat, too!).

I made the regular rise version (as opposed to the low-rise) and I knew these were bootcut, but wow, this has a VERY flared leg! But the fashion mags can’t stop going on about how flares are big for SS11, so I suppose I’m ahead of the pack with these. I think the rise here is good and comfortable, and the crotch curve, bottom, and thigh fit my “white girl pancake butt” really well. The leg length on these was almost perfect for me, too – I only needed to add 1-2 cm past their hem line (I usually have to add more for Burda trousers, and nothing at all for Knip’s).

A very beginning sewing lesson

On Sunday I taught a very beginning sewing lesson to three friends who all wanted to learn how to sew and have been begging me to teach them for months! I decided we would learn to use the machines and make a simple bag, and that would probably be more than enough for a first lesson. So I set up my little red machine, my everyday vintage machine, and made space for Veda to bring her new (purple!!) John Lewis mini machine up in the saloon…

The Sewing Machine Driver’s Test

After showing everyone the various parts of the machines, I put an old or blunt needle in each and I had them “sew” on the lines while the machine was unthreaded. The object is to get every single hole touching the line on the page, and when we did this in my home ec class in middle school, the teacher circled any errant holes (if we had more than three, we’d have to repeat that sheet). You start with straight lines, then corners, then a spiral, and finally wavy lines. My girls did great, but opted to redo the last two sheets to get some practice in!

Download my Sewing Machine Driver’s Test here! (Pdf, 200kb)

They all said that this really helped them to get comfortable with the machine and said the curves of the bag were way easier because of it!

The bag

Then we moved on to BurdaStyle’s (free!) Charlie bag pattern, and I showed them how to trim and tape the pattern pages together, then how to lay out the pieces and obey grainlines and learn how to find the selvedge.

I really didn’t like that BurdaStyle’s instructions have you trim off the seam allowances on the bag handles and then overlock them (wtf? What beginner sewer has access to an overlocker??) so I had my girls make a facing for the top of the bag. It got them to practice sewing curves, the importance of clipping the seam allowances, and flipping inside out! And I personally think it’s less fiddly than bias binding when you’re just learning.

Here’s the one I made earlier, to refresh your memory…

How to sew welt pockets

It may be FREEZING in London, but the heat is on for me to sew James’s fantasy jacket in time for his birthday on Saturday!

I’m calling it his “fantasy jacket” because he’s asked me to recreated a beloved unlined, simple, waterproof jacket that was stolen from a pub on the night he met me. So he recalled it from memory while I attempted to create an accurate tech drawing. Then I compared this against my vast pattern magazine archive and decided that BWOF 10/08 #134 minus all the bells and whistles plus a few different whistles and bells was the best starting point. The muslin went well, so this weekend I started on the final jacket, made from a very cool laminated linen from Mood in NYC, with bias binding made from some dark red and black tie silk bought in Dublin three years ago.

The rubberised coating on the fabric means any and all pin holes show, so I needed to treat it like leather – pattern weights and rotary cutter for the pieces, and since it’s unlined, I also needed to create metres upon metres of bias binding for the exposed edges. I used a continuous bias binding method for the first time ever and it was very quick, though not very intuitive.

(I wrapped the binding around a sunglasses case to avoid creases. And because it was handy. Let’s face it – I’m not going to be needing the sunglasses any time soon!)

After binding most of the edges, I then set to work on the front welt pockets, which were rather tricky on a fabric that requires a press cloth (I’m paranoid that the laminating will melt!) and can only be basted where it will never be seen. So I thought I’d document the process and give you all a little welt pocket tutorial.

This is also exactly how I do bound buttonholes, but because the scale is much larger here, it’s easier to try welt pockets first to get the technique down and then just do the same thing on a smaller scale for buttons once you get the hang of it.

How to sew a double welt pocket

My pockets here are 7 inches long (6” is standard but I wanted to make sure his big man paws would fit in), and the opening is a total of 2cm wide (1cm on either side of the centre opening line). So the welts I cut out were 4cm wide (folded in half, they’re 2cm wide so straddle the stitching line nicely), and 8 inches long (so I get some overlap at the ends). You’ll need two welts per pocket. I folded each of these lengthwise and machine basted close to the cut edges to keep them together. If your fabric frays or shifts in anyway, you may want to interface the welt pieces in addition to the area around the pocket opening.

Step 1
Hand baste the pocket edges and central line. When you’re basting (in general), never turn a corner with your hand stitches, but leave the tails free at the corners. Also, you should extend the short edges here two centimeters or so beyond the long lines. I haven’t here because the needle holes would show!

Navy blue riding trousers

Jacquie made these trousers as part of her recent wardrobe collection (she’s “dingyadi” on PR) and I instantly knew I had to make them, too. Like her, I was put off by how skin-tight these looked on the Burda model in the magazine, but in real life, they fit really nicely! Unlike her, I left off the front patch pockets, though, as I figured there was enough going on everywhere else!

They’re from Burda magazine 08/2008 #120A:

They’re great trousers, but there’s just so many freaking pieces, omg! And the topstitching!!

Take the front leg, for instance. On a normal pair of trousers, it’s one piece (maybe three if you have a pocket). On these, the front leg is comprised of three pieces before you even get into the pockets (so 6 in total for mine, or 9 if you chose View B with the added pouch pockets with the flap!). There’s a scooped pattern piece at the inner thigh in the front and back, and lots of horizontal topstitching across the knees in addition to topstitching pretty much every seam of the trousers, too.

Bridal bodice – boning

With the seams (mostly) constructed and all the seam allowances tacked down, it was time for the boning! Bridal Couture assumes that you’ve got a fairly standard princess-seamed bodice and so advises that you sew the channels to the centre of the underlining pieces at the very beginning before attaching the underlining to the fashion fabric. But my bodice has all sorts of crazy seams and the boning crosses over a bunch of seamlines, so I had to obviously apply my channels after the main seams were stitched, as Susan Khalje advises in this Threads article.

I was originally thinking to make my own channels with silk organza, but then I saw that the Sewing Chest had pre-made and seam-free cotton channels so I bought those and ended up going with that instead to save myself some time. And as Ms Khalje talks about using them herself, I figured it’s okay!

So I started a production line – first I sewed the end of the channel closed with the sewing machine, then I carefully pinned the channel to the bodice underlining where it was needed, then cut the end just before the seamline at the bottom of the bodice. Once all the channels were in place, I then catchstitched them all to the flannel underlining, keeping the bottom free to insert the boning.

Here you can see all the channels, minus the one going on the zipper tape (to be attached after the zipper is in place):

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.