Monday, 25 July 2016

Seam Allowance Guide - one of the best sewing gadgets

Hi all,

I thought it was time for another of my favourite sewing gadgets - the Seam Allowance Guide.  This would be my second favourite gadget, outside the essential sewing tools.

So what is this gadget?  It allows you to add or subtract to any pattern that needs adjusting.  You just set it to the required width and by following the black ring instead of your scissor blades and you are automatically cutting the extra you need.

This tool enables you to add to side seams if you need some extra room, add longer hems, or seam allowances to patterns that don't have them included.  It is also great for adding seam allowances when you draft your own patterns.  Very quick and accurate!

Another of my favourite uses for this gadget is when a pattern only includes 6mm or 9mm seams.  I'm not a fan of those narrow seams as there is no room to adjust the garment after it is constructed.  I prefer 15mm seam allowances which are more forgiving.  Especially handy when wardrobe shrinkage occurs between seasons  ;-)

Another nice feature is that the Seam Allowance Guide is Australian made.

If you want one of these super handy little tools you can get them here:


Friday, 24 June 2016

Scissors ain't Scissors Sol!

Those of us "of a certain age" will remember the old motor oil ad which immortalised the saying "oils ain't oils, Sol!"  The same goes for scissors.  And that's important for your sewing!

Scissors are some of your most important tools in your sewing kit, so you need to have the right sort of scissors and make sure you buy good ones.

As a minimum, you should have 2 pairs of scissors - one pair of dressmakers shears (around 8" long) for cutting out your fabric and a smaller pair (around 5" long) for all your trimming and clipping.  The smaller pair are much easier to handle and you are less likely to slip and overcut something.

You should buy the best scissors you can afford and test them before you buy them.  A good pair will cut smoothly and right up to the very tip.  Fortunately, these days an excellent pair of 8" dressmakers shears can be bought for around $60.

There are also various styles of scissor handles available from the old style metal handles to various moulded plastic styles.  This comes down to personal preference and comfort.

My personal preference in scissors is for Ginghers.  They are Italian made and beautiful to work with.  Gingher make a wide range of styles so there are plenty of shapes to suit any task.

Two pairs of my Gingher scissors

The other brand I find is popular with my students is Kai.  They are Japanese and have a plastic type handle.  The handle seems to suit ladies who have small hands better.

My Kai scissors

You will, no doubt, have heard that using your sewing scissors to cut paper will blunt them.  That isn't really true as paper is no worse than fabric.  While I certainly advocate that you should only use your sewing scissors for fabric, the way I see it, your scissors have a certain number of cuts in them and you just don't want to waste those cuts on paper.

What's your preference in scissors?  

If you have any questions about scissors please feel free to ask!

Monday, 23 May 2016

An Interesting Exhibition

Hi all,
Just wanted to share some photos I took at an exhibition we visited during our trip to Washington State to visit Connie Crawford.  It was a display of contemporary Salish wool weavings at the Suquamish Museum.  The Suquamish are the local indigenous tribe.  The lady who produced the weavings is Danielle Morsette.

I think you will agree they are beautiful and exquisitely woven.  Enjoy!

This garment is made with plant material as well as wool

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Sewing Tip - Hat Elastic Can Cure Gaposis

Hi everyone,

I want to share one of my favourite fixes with you.

Ever made a top or dress thinking all was good with the fit, only to find the neckline or armholes gape? There is plenty of advice out there on ways to avoid the problem before you cut the pattern, but none tells you how to fix it after you've made the garment! You don't want to waste all your good work but how can you fix the problem?

Hat elastic is the answer!  Hat elastic is a single core elastic - only one strand of rubber (or whatever they use these days).  You thread a piece of hat elastic though the channel of the neckline or armhole seam and gently ease it in until the gaposis is gone.  Tie off the elastic with a reef knot when you have the easing just right.  A reef knot should not come undone - a granny knot would not stay tight.  If you don't know what a reef knot is, have a look here:

You want it to pull in the excess fabric, but not so much that you cause the neckline to gather up. it is quite surprising how much you can reduce the size without seeing any gathers.

This technique works really well with ready-to-wear too.  Often RTW garments don't have darts where they should and that can make the armhole gape.  It's also great for jumpers,  if you feel the neckline is unflatteringly low or wide.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

I'm back!

Hi everyone,

I wish you all a happy new year and hope 2016 has started well for you.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in quite a while.  The reason is that for the last 8 months I have been acting as project manager for our home renovations, and that has been a very big job!

I have been able to maintain my teaching programme, but everything else (including a social life and any personal sewing!) has been on hold.  The reno's are nearly finished and I seem to be getting my life back.  Any of you who have undertaken major renovations will understand how all-consuming they can be.

I actually had a great time being project manager and assisting on the site as a trades assistant to the main builders.  Have learnt so much and had great fun too!

Here's a couple of photos of me "on the tools", as we say in the building game ;-)


We are very happy with the results which include a revamped studio and a private sewing room, just for me.  I know I am spoilt to have a second space but it was a bit tedious having to unpack and repack my own projects all the time in between classes.  Now I can just walk in, do a bit or a lot and leave it all there til the next opportunity arises.

I am really keen now to get into some sewing and the first thing will be adding a couple of items to my winter wardrobe.  I know it's still summer but next month I will be visiting Connie Crawford in Seattle USA for more training, so my winter travel wardrobe must take precedence.

The plan is a to add a couple of items to the wardrobe I took last year - a long line vest and a new winter tee and new trousers.  This is the pattern I will use - Connie's Metro vest and pants - B5473

Here are the existing items I made last year.  They all mix and match so it's a very useful wardrobe.

B5538 blouse
CS1207 T shirt, B5261 Jacket and MX 8002 pants

CS1207 t shirt and B5301 pants
B5999 top
my overcoat B5689
coat showing dragonfly lining and button

So as life returns to normal again, I am looking forward to getting a lot more sewing done - for all seasons!

Friday, 24 April 2015

New Connie Crawford dress pattern

Hi all,

Just wanted to show you one of Connie Crawford's new patterns.  A very pretty dress that will be getting a lot of work in my wardrobe!  This pattern will be coming out in May this year.

I love wearing dresses in the summer - so cool and easy to wear.  I think this one would look nice using some mesh fabric as the overlay.  I have a few pieces of mesh in the stash and can never decide what to do with it!

How would you use this pattern?

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Time with Connie Crawford

Steven and I have just returned from a trip to Seattle USA where I was very fortunate to spend 10 days working with fashion designer and pattern maker Connie Crawford.  For those of you who don't know Connie's work, Connie is a highly respected figure in the home sewing arena.  Connie designs patterns for Butterick and has her own pattern line as well.

Connie's patterns are exceptional and the main reason for this is that they actually fit properly!  As most home sewers know, it is difficult to get patterns that actually fit us properly.  Most of the patterns we see today are designed for skinny 18 year olds and no one else.  The pattern companies do offer larger sizes, of course, but the fit is atrocious!  Not so with Connie Crawford's patterns.  Connie has 35 years experience in designing and pattern making in the "ready to wear" fashion industry where she learnt her fitting skills, and now has brought those skills to the home sewing arena.  We are truly blessed to have Connie "on our side" now.

Jason (Connie's son) at the expo booth
I got to work with Connie on her booth and assist in her lectures at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo at Puyallup just south of Seattle.  While most pattern makers and companies will tell you "oh yes, our patterns will fit you", Connie proves it by actually fitting anyone who comes to her booth.  Connie's range has 52 sizes and at the expo, had blouses in every size for ladies to try on.  Sometimes small adjustments are needed, such as letting out the side seams over the hips but rarely much more.  I helped Connie fit over 80 ladies and we did not have one lady who could not be fitted!  It was a joy to see the delighted looks on ladies' faces when they were standing there in a blouse that fit them perfectly.

Another happy customer!

Connie fits everyone in their correct t shirt size as well.  A couple of ladies said the have never had a t shirt pattern that fit them properly.

I also got to assist Connie in the 5 lectures she gave at the expo.  In those classes I learnt more about fitting, sewing like a pro, skirt and trouser drafting and jacket construction.  I learnt heaps!

It was a privilege to be able to learn Connie's methods and I will be bringing her fitting method to Australian sewers in the near future.

Steven and I were also invited to spend some time with Connie and her husband Wayne,  at their lovely home in Hansville, north west of Seattle for a few days.  During that time I saw the process of developing a commercial pattern from the very beginning, and learnt even more from Connie about her patterns and fitting.

Connie in her office
Connie's assistant Jackie marking up patterns

Connie and Wayne were very generous hosts and showed us around the north west part of Washington State, where they live.  It is a beautiful part of the world!

Point No Point Lighthouse

A while before we left for the USA, I decided to make myself a new travel wardrobe to wear while working with Connie, and I chose all Connie Crawford patterns.  I made 6 tops, 2 pairs of trousers and 2 jackets in a very short time!  The main reason it was so quickly completed is that once you have figured out your size, it's just a matter of "cut, sew and wear"!  No faffing around, trying to figure out
"why is the hem kicking up at the front?"  or "what is wrong with this armhole???"

Do you really have enough sewing time to be able to waste it dealing with fit issues?

So I can say, from personal experience, that Connie's patterns do fit and look great.  So if you want to be able to just "cut, sew and wear" instead of endless fiddling with patterns, then you need to try Connie's patterns.

Here is Connie's website, so please have a look.  Connie also has a Facebook page and there you will see some videos she has made showing her methods.

This trip was such a privilege and I have learnt soooo much from Connie.  I am looking forward to sharing it all with you too.


PS I did get a bit of time to have a look around at the expo too - it was fabulous!  I also did some serious credit card damage at Marcy Tilton's fabric booth.  Marcy sells the most gorgeous fabric and I am now the proud owner of quite a few metres!