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Which Needle for What Fabric Demystified!

Ensure your outfits are perfectly stitched every time – use the right sort of needle! Problems with stitching are rarely caused by the wrong tension and more often caused by blunt or the wrong type of needle. Having the right sewing machine needle helps stitch evenly, prevents snags, unwanted gathering or visible needle holes etc. And blunt needles can snag fabric or cause skipped or uneven stitches. So here is my guide on which needle goes with which type of fabric.


Needle choices
There are lots of different types of needles to suit all types of fabric, from Universal needles for general purpose sewing of woven fabrics to specialist needles for fine fabrics, leather, jeans, stretchy fabrics and embroidery. They also come in different sizes (strength/thickness) to suit the weight of the fabric – ranging from 60-120 (or American sizing 9-20). The lower the number, the finer the needle. Most needle packs will have both the European and the American sizing listed.

It is important that the needle is changed regularly as blunt needles will cause stitch problems. If your machine is starting to sound a bit clunky – change the needle and clean out the bobbin race. This should be done every 8 hours of sewing or with every new project anyway.


WOVEN FABRICS

Use a general purpose Universal needle with woven fabrics such as challis, cotton, gaberdine etc. Choose a size to suit the fabric weight. So for a lightweight blouse or skirt, use a 70/9 or for a twill fabric use a 90/14.

Fine silks, voiles, chiffons
Try a Sharps –also known as microfiber needles, these have sharp tips and are ideal for sewing silks, microfiber fabrics and densely woven fabrics. They are also great for top-stitching and sewing buttonholes.


Denim, Canvas and heavy duty fabrics
Use a Jeans needle – these are robust, thicker shafted needles suitable for any type of heavy, dense fabric such as canvas, upholstery fabric and of course denim. Great when sewing thick layers too and as with other needles, they come in different sizes for the different weights of these heavier fabrics.

*STRETCH FABRICS *

Single Knit, Double Knit and Jersey fabrics
It’s important to use a Ball point needle with stretch fabrics. These have rounded tips designed for sewing, stretch knits, velvets and fleece. The needle tip parts the fibres, rather than pierces them. Using a universal needle on stretchy fabric can result in skipped or broken stitching. (the rich stretch velvet dress above from Vogue Pattern 1520 would need a ball point needle)


Two-way or four-way stretch fabrics
If you are sewing with stretchy fabrics that have a high content of Lycra or Spandex, such as lingerie or swimwear fabric, you will need a Stretch needle. These have a specially designed ‘scarf’ to help stitch two-way stretch fabrics evenly and neatly. Again if you use a universal or even a ball point needle you can get skipped or tiny bunched stitches.

LEATHER AND SUEDE

A leather needle has a chisel point to help penetrate real leather and suede and other non-woven materials. Take care though as the point can leave definite holes, so unpicking is not advised!

TOP TIPS

  • Use a new needle with every new project, or change it every 8 hours of sewing.
  • Make sure you insert the needle as far as possible, with flat part of shank towards back of sewing machine, and then tighten it with the screwdriver tool provided (which will prevent it working loose as you stitch).
  • Use a needle size appropriate for the fabric or number of layers. Generally small size (lower number) needles are for lightweight fabrics and larger size for heavyweight or multi-layers.
  • Keep a pack of mixed size universal needles in the workbox so you are ready to start whatever project you are working on. Universal needles are suitable for most woven fabrics, synthetics and knits.

Other specialist needles include:
Quilting – these generally have a longer sharper point, to pierce layers of fabric and wadding easily whilst maintaining a straight stitch. Use a quilting needle
if making a padded quilted jacket or coat and of course, when quilting.

Embroidery – the larger eye, sometimes with special coating makes these suitable for machine embroidery – which is generally a highly concentrated amount of stitching.

Metallic – these have a specially coated eye to cope with the metallic threads that can otherwise shred as you sew and bore a notch into the needle eye of a universal needle.

Top Stitch needles – again these have a larger eye, so are useful for sewing thicker threads and top stitching as the name suggests.

Twin – one shank, two needles, which will stitch two parallel rows of stitching in one pass. Great for decorative heirloom, stitching or topstitching and creating tiny pin tucks, the gap between the needles can vary from approximately 1.6 – 6mm. Twin needles are also available as ball point, universal, stretch and embroidery needles.

Wing – these have wide wings on the shaft that are meant to leave little needle holes in the fabric as they stitch. They are best used on lightweight fabrics for heirloom stitching.

TROUBLE SHOOTING

  • If the machine sounds a bit clunky, change the needle – it might be because it is blunt.
  • If the needle breaks without apparent justification, try a larger size as it may not be robust enough for thick or multi-layers of fabric.
  • If the seam pulls up and gathers or leaves little holes as you sew, the needle may be too large, try a smaller size.
  • If Stitches skip, change the needle, it is probably blunt.

So now you are needle wise, get cracking on your next sewing project with confidence!

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No Sew 3-4 minute poncho

I’m a bit of a blogaholic today – with a second blog about some fabulous fabric I can’t wait to get my hands on. And fortunately as Geoff Rosenburg will be at the Knitting and Stitching show in Alexandra Palace next week (5-9th October) I won’t have to wait too long! Jenni, who runs Stitch Fabrics online shop for the Rosenburg’s has whetted my appetite with this no-sew poncho created from a ‘cut and wear’ panel. Costing £24.00 for the ‘panel’

The Cut & Wear is 50% wool, 50% polyester and 150cm wide. It is sold by the ‘garment’. Jenni told me “It’s a fantastic fabric that turns into an item of clothing within 5 minutes. One size fits all and it is the perfect gift. We will have them at K&S Ally Pally as well as on line.”

Jenni has also uploaded a video to demo how to cut and wear your poncho on their facebook page. Now I will have to decide which colourway I want to make. The vibrant pink or blue, or more classic grey and which of the variety of patterns.

To find them online, go to www.stitchfabrics.co.uk and click on Dressmaking then New In.

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Sew for Autumn

Sad to say, the nights are drawing in and it is getting cooler so I am definitely on the hunt for patterns to make something a little warmer! I’ve just finished making Butterick 6388, with a few amendments!

I had a metre each of a fabulous double knit jersey in pink and royal blue (I bought from Bloomsbury Square Fabrics) so have made the dress a two-colour dress. I cut the shaped side front pieces and sleeves in the pink and the rest in the blue. I did add the pockets to the front, but then decided to remove them as they don’t sit as flat as I’d like. So I just cut them off and sewed up the seam!

It has sewn together like a dream, the fabric doesn’t curl, so doesn’t need seams neatening and of course, because it is a double knit, there are no fastenings and fitting was easy.

Techie bit:
I did a full bust adjustment and added bust darts as I always have to. And because I left off the shawl collar, I have finished the neckline with bias binding turned to the inside.

I used a ball point needle, size 80/12 and straight stitch. I didn’t use a stretch stitch because the style is loose and doesn’t need to be able to stretch. I also prefer to use straight stitch, even on knit fabrics, for all vertical seams. It is only the horizontal ones I use a stretch stitch.


For the hems of both sleeves and dress I used a ball point twin needle with 4 mm gap – this neatly finishes the hem with a mock cover-stitch so looks like shop bought hems.

It’s so easy to do, just remember to stitch wit the right side uppermost as the twin needles stitch two parallel straight rows and underneath, the bobbin thread switches between the needle threads to form a sort of zigzag.

I always stitch circular pieces, such as sleeves, sewing from the inner side of the circle – such as on sleeves. To do this meant turning the garment inside out of course. It just ensures you don’t catch the rest of the sleeve edge underneath by mistake.

Minor adjustments
I did find that the back needed taking in (I have a sway back) so took in about 2 inches at waist, graduating back to the seam line above and below. I also took a bit out of the underarm and sleeves as I felt they were a bit loose on me.

Now I just have to decide what shoes to wear with it. I have pink boots and pink flat pumps!

Pattern Info
Butterick 6388 comes in sizes XS – M (4-14) and L-XXL (16-26). it is an easy design to make and includes in the pack the dress I’ve made, plus gilet with waterfall front, top and pull on trousers. It’s available from www.sewdirect.com

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Big Vintage Dress - Mark 2

I just can’t get enough of the Big Vintage Sewalong selection so have made a second, full skirted dress, this time from Vogue 2093. It has a choice of wide V-neckline or a fuller yoke to make the neckline less open (and for me, more suitable for day wear).

The princess seaming on the dress and skirt made this easier to fit as I could just add a little to the seamlines of the fronts and side fronts to accommodate my fuller bust – the easiest way to increase the bustline on this type of dress. Having taken my bust measurements and compared then with the finished garment measurements, I divided the difference between the four pattern edges (side front 2, centre front x 2) and added that amount just at the point I needed to. Then, I pinned the pieces together rand tissue fitted to check before cutting into my fabric.

The trickiest part of the dress is the yoke, facing and sleeves so it is worth reading the construction notes carefully in advance before tackling this. The sleeves are set in, but only partially stitched to the dress at the under arm, then to the facing/yoke. It does all come together, but needs bold clipping and lots of pinning to get the pieces together smoothly. I also took out quite a large section at the back to fit my narrow back.

Understitching
I also did some understitching on the facing to hold it neatly in place and preventing it rolling out. To do this, stitch the facing to the garment right sides together, trim seam allowances and press them towards the facing. Then open out facing away from the garment and stitch on the facing, close to the previous seam line, catching the seam allowances in place as you go. I tend to work with the wrong side uppermost so I can see the seam allowances although patterns tend to tell you to stitch with the facing right side uppermost.

All zipped Up
I love the way the zip in the centre back seam doesn’t go to the top – it is inserted a little way down as the neckline is wide enough to fit over the head, so it doesn’t need to zip right up. This means that you have a lovely neat top and avoid any difficulties with matching the top edges! I did choose to insert an invisible zip as is my preference, which meant sewing the zip in before completing the centre back seam (I’ll blog my super fast invisible zip insertion method another day). Also I didn’t have the right zip length to do so, so shortened it – see below!

To shorten the zip

To shorten a zip, simple mark the position you want the zip to end then bar tack stitch across, by stitching over and over again at the mark to create a new stop. Then cut off the rest of the zip, leaving about 1.5cm zip tape as you normally get on a zip. I also cut out the unwanted teeth below my new bar stop.

Hemming
The skirt on this dress is very, very full, which means it has a curved hemline. Also it definitely needed to be hung for 24 hours before hemming as the side seams did droop (they are bias cut) so I then straigthened the hemline before ease stitching 6mm from the edge. Next step was to turn up a narrow 13mm hem allowance, pulling up the ease stitching a little to gently ease in the fullness of the circular hem. I then tucked the raw edge and ease stitching in towards the first fold, pressed and pinned ready to top stitch from the right side. Voila, a lovely neatly turned up curved hem without ripples or gathers.

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Big Vintage Sewalong – Tea Party Dress

I love the whole vintage vibe and have been wearing big full skirted dresses I’ve made from Vogue, Butterick or McCalls patterns and worn with net petticoats for a few years now. They are flattering for a fuller busted figurer because when belted, they give the illusion of a nipped in waist and the full skirt hides any hip or tummy issues beautifully! And they are fun to wear.

So my choice from the fabulous selection of the Big Vintage Sewalong had to be another design that I could wear with a net petticoat! I chose Butterick 5209, sizes 6-20 (it actually comes in two size packs, AA (6-12) E (14-22)).

I decided to make the view with the raglan sleeves as being more practical for our British weather. Because the bodice is fitted, the first job is always to check bust measurements – and for me that means taking high bust measurement as I am over a C cup! I then use this as my bust measurement and then because of the combination of bodice, midriff and raglan sleeve pattern pieces, I was able to cut out the tissue pieces without the usual full bust adjustment I normally make.

Fitting a fuller figure
I made full use of the multi-size cutting lines to create the right size and shape bodice pieces by cutting from one cutting line to another so at the fullest part of my bust, I was using the size 18 line, then grading down to the 16 then 14 as I cut towards the arm seam and neckline. Again for the raglan sleeve pieces, I cut from the 14 at the neck edge, down to the 18 at the under arm. For the midriff piece, I cut the side from 16 (for my less than tiny waist) to 18 along the top edge to cope with the fuller bust. I then tissue fitted by pinning the midriff sections to the bodice and raglan sleeve to the back to check for size before committing to cloth. This saved me making up a toile. Although I also always cut and stitch the lining which is in effect a kind of toile!

My chosen fabric is very cute (well I think so!). It is pale pink with dressforms, sewing machines, tape measures and other haby items all over it – so very apt I though! It is a lovely crisp cotton so very easy to work with. I made up the lining for the bodice and tried it on.

All was well, although I did need to pinch a bit of the seam allowance in the side seams of the midriff – so a good thing I had cut my notches OUTWARDS! I always do actually – old habits and all that. But I find it better to cut notches out so that should you need to decrease seam allowances for a little bit more room in the garment, you can do so as you’ve not got missing bits where you’ve cut in notches!

My only deviation from the pattern construction was to insert an invisible zip in the side seam, not a centred zip insertion. Whenever possible, I do use an invisible zip as I much prefer the look (or lack of look cos of course it is invisible!) and I think it is far easier to insert. This did mean not sewing that side seam until the zip had gone in, but that is a minor change.

So dress done, teamed with a bright pink net petticoat and little shrug and worn at some of the Big Vintage Sewalong classes I’ve taught in shops around the country. I’ve another one of the Vintage dresses made in a lovely digitally printed cotton (Vogue 2093) which I’ll blog about another day and I’m busy making Butterick 5880 in an animal print cotton.

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Fabulous Dressmaking Shears

I’m often asked what I consider to be essentials for a sewing kit and of course, one absolute essential has to be a really good pair of dressmaking shears. But thinking about this right now was inspired by the Kickstarter promotion that Ernest Wright are running– so find out more about that once you’ve read and digested their useful tips on maintaining your shears!

Ernest Wright and Son Limited is a family company who have been hand-making the finest scissors and shears in Sheffield, England since 1902. Of the highest quality, and with a life-time guarantee, their scissors and shears are still hand made in Sheffield using traditional skills passed down from generation to generation. I have a much-used pair from Ernest Wright which I love. Although the handles are not ‘soft touch’, they are shaped and are actually very comfortable to hold and use for prolonged cutting.

One of my often repeated pieces of advice to newbies is to ensure that their dressmaking shears are guarded and tucked away from the family and ONLY use them for dressmaking. Not as a friend did, borrowing her daughter’s shears to the bacon (and then drop them behind the cooker!) That being said, the next thing is to maintain them and keep them in pristine condition

One of the other things I particularly like about Earnest Wright scissors is that they come with an information sheet on how to look after these precious shears which I will share with you here – as good maintenance will not only prolong their life, but ensure they cut superbly every time!

1. After use – wipe scissors clean and dry, and store them away from any water, salt or humidity. It is preferable to store these wrapped (or encased) in dry cloth, dry leather, or a dry cardboard box, to protect them from airborne moisture.

2. To properly wipe scissors and shears clean and dry, use a clean soft dry absorbent cloth such as microfiber and with the scissors wide open, wipe all the insides you can get to, especially close to the screw area. Work the scissors a few times and repeat. (Obviously as the blades are sharp, take care not to cut yourself as you do this.)

3. Close the scissors and buff the outsides with the same (possibly now oily) piece of cloth, and finally give them a really good clean dry wipe all over with a clean dry piece (or area) of cloth.


4. Occasionally if they are getting stiff, it is worth trying a proportionally small drop of household or machine oil, aimed to get deep inside the screw area between the two halves of the scissors. Work the oil in really well by opening and closing them many times. A couple of drops/ attempts may sometimes help. Then repeat a very good wipe again, as explained above. Watch out for any tiny oil leakage from the screw with your first few cuts… especially before you start on anything precious! Any oil seepage will not last, but it is important to watch out for at first!

Then one of the most important bits of advice: Never let anyone ‘play about’ with or ‘adjust’ the screw – ever! It is fixed in place for a reason; moving it could even eventually cause your scissors to fall apart.

And a favourite reminder that is on the Ernest Wright information sheet –

Finally, if you ever have a problem with your scissors and none of the above is helping (or even if you cut through a pin, drop them, leave them in the garden etc) – you may always send the pair back to us and we can look after them – possibly at the same time as re-sharpening and re-setting them like new! Warranty manufacturing faults will naturally be rectified free of charge.

It’s nice to know that this sort of support is there. I have just cleaned mine thoroughly and put a drop of oil on the joint as recommended, buffed them up and they cut like a knife through butter again.


KICKSTARTER campaign
The aim of Ernest Wright’s Kickstarter project is to re-introduce their elegant yet practical ‘Kutrite’ pattern of all-purpose stainless steel ‘kitchen scissors’. I think this is a great idea, not only because they are really nifty scissors (see below) but also it means the rest of the household will stay away from your precious DM shears!

“The Kutrite is a pattern we originally produced through the 1960s to 1980s. It’s a contemporary design that was retired far too early – and a pair of scissors we think more people should be able to get hold of again, and love!” said Nick Wright. It is a crowdfunding campaign with a target of £60,000 that is well on the way to success.

So a little more about these scissors “Our kitchen scissors are often kept in your kitchen drawer – hence their name. They will obviously cut most types of food, even reasonable bones if you ask them to. They will also open some pretty tough packaging. They will trim card, cut fat, snap twigs and part pizza. They will help you with wrapping your Christmas presents. They will fly through foils and hard plastic casings. They will probably end up ‘de-foliaging’ some type of plant or tree (or even animal fur) for you at least at one point – we’ve heard lots about those sorts of capabilities too. And then they will just go straight through the dishwasher, and get all cleaned up, and be ready again for you waiting for their next adventure” explained Nick. “That toothed gap between the shanks is a twist-lid bottle opener, and that hook (or ‘shark’s fin’) is a cap-opener or ‘priser’. These scissors particularly feature one serrated blade to grip those more slippery items you’d ever wish to cut. And they honestly cut very well indeed. With a little occasional care, you may consider these your lifetime-lasting ‘household’ multi-tool” he added.

Take a look on ernest wright and click on the Kickstarter project to see a little video clip about how scissors are made that is fascinating too.

So now you know – how to maintain your favourite dressmakers scissors, and what to buy for the rest of the house to use!

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Fabulous Embroidery Threads

I have recently had the pleasure of trying out some new embroidery threads that Anne Roche, one of my regular students had bought to class and found superb for free motion machine embroidery on a bag she was making. So of course, I had to have some and have a go myself! The threads are by Simthread and distributed in the UK by embroideredjust4u.co.uk.

They are sold in a pair of packs, one containing 32 reels of vibrant coloured polyester embroidery threads in toning colours plus four standard size bobbins and the other 31 reels of thread plus four bobbins filled with basic colours, 3 filled with white bobbinfill and one spare. Each of the fabulously coloured reels holds 200m and there is the thread retaining ends to help prevent the threads unwinding and becoming tangled during storage.


I took my new boxes along to the Creative Sewing Weekend I was running in June and allowed (very bravely I thought) my students to dip into the boxes to use the threads for the decorative stitching they were doing as part of the project. They loved them – and indeed, I was constantly reminding them to put them back!! The colours are luscious and the thread stitched beautifully without any breakages. We used them for a variety of decorative stitches, some simple, some concentrated satin stitches as well as for twin needle stitching.


I also took them to Create and Craft TV for a recent show where I was demonstrating the lovely Brother Innovis 90E embroidery machine. I used them to stitch out a number of designs and again, had no problems and love the results. The colours are vibrant, and the number of toning shades means there really is every colour you could want.

I love them and will use them for all sorts of projects, including top stitching decorative stitching and of course, machine embroidery.

www.embroideredjust4u.co.uk has a whole load of different thread packs on offer and the service from Doris was exceptional and I have every intension of shopping there again! And the final word from Doris “I am proud to have been given the opportunity to supply these threads here in the UK. They are the same quality threads supplied to many US embroidery websites and are available in singles in 64 popular Brother colours. The threads are 120D/2 High tensile polyester with a lovely sheen usually found only in rayon threads and come on 200m (220yards) reels”

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Evening Elegance for the final show

It’s with a little sadness that I start this final GBSB blog – it’s been a rollercoaster of a ride for the plucky contestants and a joy to watch as they tackle a range of, let’s be honest, quite tricky challenges from the word go, but last night was the last episode. Big Sigh! But it didn’t disappoint as the remaining three Joyce, Jade and Charlotte had to construct a man’s dress shirt with pin tucked front, lined yoke, collar and cuffs with professional plackets. No easy task, especially when working against the clock!

However, you will be delighted to know that there is an easy way to create the pin tucks – by using a twin needle and pin tuck foot. The twin needle ensures you stitch two perfectly parallel rows of straight stitch. Hemline have a range available, with different gaps between the needles. A 2.0mm gap is perfect for pintucks (Hemline 110.20). Also increase the tension to 8-9 which will help the bobbin thread below pull tighter to create the little ridge/tuck between the needles as you sew.

The pin tuck foot has a number of grooves on the underside, so that once the first tuck is stitched, it slides easily under one of the grooves either side of the centre opening as you sew the next tuck and so on. Do make sure the needles are in the centre position, so they are in line with the centre opening on the foot, which in turn will make it easier to position previous tucks in the grooves of the foot.

Of course you can sew pin tucks without the special foot, but this entails drawing parallel stitching lines – so do use a washaway or fadeaway pen for this such as Hemline 295 or 296. Just remember, to wash away the mark or allow it to fade before pressing with a hot iron which can set the marks otherwise! One more word on pin tucks, I prefer to see odd numbers – ie 3, 5 or 7 tucks – somehow they always look better like that!


Final challenge
The final challenge was to create a full length evening gown – and wow didn’t they do well. Evening gowns usually mean luxury fabrics, which can be stable medium weight satins, soft and fluid silks, crisp taffeta, napped fabrics such as velvet or textured such as sequinned fabrics etc. Whatever you wish to use, make sure you have a new needle that is suitable because you really don’t want to snag delicate expensive fabrics! It really is a good idea to change your needle with every project or every 8 hours of sewing. A universal needle is fine for most special fabrics, just choice the size/thickness to suit the fabric, such as 70/10 for lightweight silks, or an 80.12 for medium weight fabrics. If in doubt, a Sharps/Microtex needle is perfect, again available in different sizes, a pack of mixed sizes will give you all the options you might need (Hemline 105.99).

Depending on the fabric and style of dress, you might want to stabilise shoulders with a cotton tape to help the garment hang better, for this Hemline has cotton tape in different widths, but 540.12 is ½ inch and perfect for the job.

Hemlines are often challenging on full length gowns too. I like to add a ribbon or bias binding to the hem allowance, rather than just double-turn the hem which can show through to the right side and produce a ridge. A bias binding, such as the Hemline 520 range can be sewn to the right side of the raw hem edge then turned to the inside, so that just a single layer of the fashion fabric is turned up and the binding acts as the fabric edge. You can then hem with a blind hem by machine or hand.

Charlotte was crowned winner – a very difficult choice I think because all three finalists had equal highs and lows. I loved Joyce’s Butterick costume of corset top and bustle skirt. Jade’s elegant orange dress looked stunning but of course could have been finished better – with more time and the blue silk of Charlotte’s dress was gorgeous – just a shame about the zip! (Actually I would have inserted an invisible zip, having stabillised the seam with strips of fusible interfacing – but that’s another story.

For now – it’s time to make another vintage dress or two!

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Beautiful Beccles Big Vintage Sewalong

I had the great pleasure of spending time in Beccles, Suffolk yesterday, meeting and teaching a bunch of lovely ladies at a Big Vintage Sewalong class. Organised by Steve and Sue Taylor of Beccles Sewing and Handicrafts shop the class had to be held in the local village church hall in order to accommodate the large group! But it was great as we had space to work, plenty of tables and a ready supply of coffee, tea and glorious homemade cakes!

The ladies came armed with patterns and queries for a lovely afternoon sewalong. We covered pattern sizing and fitting tips. Hopefully I dispelled the myth that you just make a size larger when sewing patterns! Unfortunately, it is true that you are probably a size or two larger than your ready-to-wear high street sizing as pattern sizing is not the same as high street. But what is vitally important is to take your own measurements and make the size that most closely follows those – don’t worry about what ‘size’ that is. Indeed, for most of us, it will be a different size at bust, waist and hips!

I showed how to take high bust/chest measurement for those that are over a C cup as patterns are designed for B cup with a difference of 2 ½” between high bust and bust measurement. Thus if you are a fuller cup, you will need to alter the pattern. You use the high bust measurement to choose your size and then do a Full Bust Adjustment just for the bust area – this way the garment will fit much better at shoulders, chest and back!

I also showed how to insert an invisible zip quickly and easily. It’s my favourite kind of zip and the type I use on almost everything (except fly front trousers!). It is so easy when you use an invisible zip foot. Once shown how, at least half the class then had a go and inserted this type of zip into their garments. Fortunately lovely Claire, daughter of Sue and Steve was on hand to nip back and forth to the shop to get the required zips, patterns and other useful haby we all needed. We used Brother sewing machines for the demos – which were a joy to use (and of course are sold by Beccles Sewing and Handicrafts shop.)

Sadly the day came to an end all too quickly. I had fun, and I think the ladies did too. I certainly didn’t need to stop on the way home to eat – having been provided with lemon drizzle cake and coffee! Thanks also to Charley, another daughter of Sue and Steve who took all the shots of the day. Hopefully one day, I’ll be back….

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Going continental – The Great British Sewing Bee is inspired by international fashions

The first challenge of the week, a Chinese styled top with asymmetrical frog fastening and invisible side zip is not one for the novice then! Already the challenges are getting harder, and let’s be honest, they weren’t easy to start with. When I look back at the very first series, I honestly don’t think that most of the contestants then would have coped with some of the challenges this plucky bunch are facing each week! (That’s just my humble opinion of course).

The Chinese top is such a classic, with the same style often seen as a dress too. Oh, and just to remind you, if you have been following my blogs, you won’t be surprised when I say that this top is – in the book! As indeed is an African inspired peplum top and pencil skirt – so the third make of the night is also represented.

But what techniques and handy haby do you need to achieve this week’s pattern challenge? Well invisible zips are my absolute favourite and I will always use one whenever a zip is called for – except for a fly front trouser zip of course! In my view, a concealed/invisible zip is the easiest to insert, providing you use an invisible zip foot which has 2 deep grooves on the underside through which the zip teeth feed, as you sew almost underneath the teeth. Hemline invisible zip foot H162 or the combined invisible and roller foot, H163 are pretty universal and can be used on most sewing machines. The H162 is for low shank machines – which encompasses most modern sewing machines and H163 has adaptors for high or low shanks so can be used on sewing machines and the higher priced sewing/embroidery machines, and indeed any with clip on feet. Having the roller foot section as well helps it glide over sticky and difficult to feed fabrics too. What a gem!!

Frog fastenings make an attractive closure too, but also needed for the Chinese top are snap fasteners, a hook and eye and some readymade bias binding. You’ve guessed it – Hemline have all these in their range! These are also good staple items of haby it is worth having in your workbox – nothing is worse than getting along swimmingly with a project, only to get stuck for want of a snap fastener or hook and eye. Or is it just me that likes to make something to wear tonight?!!

If you are tempted to have a go at inserting an invisible zip, do check out my youtube clips using H162 or H163.

SARI CHALLENGE
I’ve also attached an image of the Sari challenge that I did for the Great British Sewing Bee book. I had longer than 90 minutes of course (!) but I am pleased with the result. The how-to instructions are included in the book.

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