Bound Button Hole Practice

Also known as, damn – I’m very proud of myself!

You all know I was swapping out regular old button holes for the glitz and glam slightly couture bound buttonhole.  There is no way on this earth that I was going to hack holes in my gorgeous wool and cashmere blend fabric without testing this brand new to me technique out first.

I’ve had Karen’s Bound Buttonhole eBook since she launched it.  I bought it as it was a technique I wanted to try out ‘some day’ and because I love reading her blog and wanted to support her self-published effort.  Being completely frank, without that little eBook there is no way this would have turned out as beautifully as it has.  If you haven’t done so already, buy her book. It will stand you in excellent stead when you want to use this technique.

Bound Buttonholes 1

Because the Milano Cape pattern by Papercut isn’t designed with bound button holes in mind, there aren’t any markings to help other than where to make a button hole.  So I needed to determine the width of the button hole myself.  Using the notes in Karen’s book I measured the width and depth of my button and added a smidge to determine how wide it should be.  I included the shank in my measurements and I’m not sure that I should have done.  Anyone with more experience than my one button hole have any advice on this?!

Even though this was just a practice I carefully thread basted my lines after marking them with chalk to make things easier (and whilst I photographed that step I haven’t included it in my collages – doh!).  I did deviate from the prescribed welt size as I wanted something chunkier.  Instead of cutting them 2cm wide (making each lip 0.5cm) I cut them 4cm wide so that each lip was 1cm.  I like these proportions better.

Other than that, I did exactly as I was told and I am seriously happy with the outcome.  To say this practice run has increased my confidence by a billion miles is an understatement.  I now know that my buttons will fit, that the fabric presses beautifully (and smells like wet dog whilst doing so – wool, I do love you!) and that I can totally and utterly make eight of these bad boys in the real thing (eek!).

Bound Buttonholes 2

Little win, big happy!

I’ve also got to recommend the button covering service I used.  I posted the cheque, order form and fabric at 22:00 on a Tuesday night and when I came home on the THURSDAY they were on my doorstep!  It cost me £8.00 to have ten of these dual dome buttons made which to me is an absolute steal.  In short, if you’re in the UK and want the most beautifully covered fabric buttons then I can’t recommend enough.

Next step in Mission Milano is pre-treat what feels like miles of wool/cashmere fabric which I’m too chicken to lob in the tumble dryer with a wet towel!  Anyone got any film or series recommendations that I can watch whilst I steam a mother load of fabric?!

And… Have you heard the By Hand London news? They’ve launched a kickstarter campaign to start printing fabric! I’ve made a pledge… It’d be great if you can help too. You all know that I have some serious love for those patterns (2 more rides and Flora is mine!).


Just A Little Bit Pleased With Myself

I just fully lined a dress.  Well, I fully lined a dress last night, but it was really really dark at 10:00pm so I couldn’t do photos until today!

I made the dress its self from a Prince of Wales check wool with a slight green element to it.  The lining is another dress made from (da dum!) lining fabric!

I applied a few tutorials in doing this – none of them specifically for fully lining a dress, but each with information that helped me suss it out on my own!

First up is the invisible zipper tutorial I have had the best results with from Pattern Scissors Cloth (I do use an invisible zipper foot though!).  It’s unusual in that it tells you to sew the seam below the zip before you insert it and it works, it really really works.

Then I stitched the lining to the zip tape a la the Colette Sewing Handbook.

I attached the neck of the dress and lining together using this Pattern Scissors Cloth invisible zip facing tutorial, which is the exact (or very similar) method Tasia uses for her Crescent skirt.

Finally, I attached the lining to the sleeves using Tasia’s tutorial from her Minoru Jacket Sewalong.  I cut the lining 1/4″ shorter than the sleeve and used a 3/8″ seam allowance so that the lining didn’t go right to the edge of the sleeve, when the sleeve’s seam allowance of 5/8″ was pressed back.

As I don’t have any green thread for my serger, the insides are all finished with bright blue thread!  To stop this being quite so glaring should anyone catch a glimpse of my skirt lining, I mock flat-felled the seams on the skirt lining.

As I said, pretty pleased with myself – it looks pretty inside and out!  Just the hemming to go…

And don’t forget the Sew Very Merry Christmas Fabric Swap – signup is open for just under another two weeks!

Side or Back Zippers – Which Do You Prefer?

I’ve just made two dresses in the space of about two weeks. If this rain EVER stops I’ll be able to take some photos for the posts that are already written and just waiting for the images…

In the mean time though, I thought I’d ask what you think about zipper location. I’ve been thinking about this since Sunday now (I know, I’m weird). Both of the dresses I’ve made have back zippers and I happily followed the instructions in the pattern inserting them in the back seam.

But, fitting and dressing with a centre back zipper is another matter. I need to be zipped in and out of both dresses. In effect I can’t dress or undress myself and this is really quite frustrating.

I ended up tying a length of string to the zipper on one toile so that I could get in on and off with my limited contortion skills. If you’ve ever worn a wet suit with a zipper with the pull tag on, that’s what I did. The second dress involves an invisible zipper. In the end the toile was made with the centre back seam sewn up and I just wiggled it on and off for fitting. Yes, I did get stuck on a couple of occasions but furious (including language) contortions meant that I extracted my self eventually.

So the good thing is that I’ve rediscovered a love of dresses that I probably lost around 20 years ago. Gingham polyester summer uniforms anyone?! The bad thing is that I like to be able to dress myself, particularly for day wear. This has led to the zipper placement obsession.

From Gertie’s Side Zipper Tutorial

The solution for me seems to be to put the zipper in the side seam. A lot of vintage dresses have side zippers which are usually lapped and modern invisible zippers should work as well. I couldn’t fully understand why zippers aren’t inserted into side seams so did a bit of research and came up with some potential answers:

The side seam is often curvier than the centre back seam. This bias element makes it more comfortable when you wear the garment as it has some give and flex. This also means that the seam is more likely to twist and warp when you insert the zip. The centre back however is often on the straight grain so is much more stable.

So, the solution may be to stabilise the seam – perhaps with organza cut on the straight grain? Sunni has a great tutorial on inserting a zipper into a bias seam and I can’t see why those principles shouldn’t be applied to a side zipper where there is an element of bias.

As the centre back is on the straight grain, it doesn’t necessarily need stabilising. It’s also a nice straight and pretty much flat seam. In contrast the side seam can be quite curvy (think of a fitted bodice into a pencil skirt) so the application is probably tricker. As well as contending with the curves you’re also inserting it into a seam that is closed at the top and bottom. When it comes to RTW production lines and the costs involved, a side zipper is likely to cost more.

For me thought, I’d hand pick the zipper. This would give me the control I need and prevent difficult fabric wrestling at the sewing machine. This is unlikely to be an option for most RTW as hand sewing is an expensive process.

A theory based in history is that zippers were more likely to fail when they first appeared. Covering a failed zip would be much easier in a side seam with the judicious use of pins and an arm to cover it! Centre back it would be there for all to see. As they’re much more reliable now, the ease and cost savings of using the centre back seam becomes possible.

A final possibility is that side seam are under more stress than centre back. Particularly with fitted styles. At the back, the seam only deals with motion in pretty much one plane (forward and back or side to side). A side seam deals with both these plus a twisting motion. It’s possible for it to deal with all three at once! Therefore the zipper is potentially under much more strain. Due to the bulk that a zipper can add, it may also mean that the side line or silhouette isn’t as smooth as it could be.

Basically, at the moment, I can’t find a good reason why my handmade dresses shouldn’t have a side zipper; particularly if the item is for every day wear. A slinky evening gown where you want a sleek line would be a good reason for a back zipper. Plus I don’t mind asking for help for occasion dressing!

I fully recognise the added difficulty and costs that would be involved in a RTW production line and how this may explain the shift to centre back. But for a Me Made item it seems logical to move it to the side seam.

I wonder why pattern companies still put them in the centre back – is it so the finished item is more RTW in style and finish? Or are there drafting considerations? It may well be that not cutting the centre back on the fold leads to more economical use of fabric. This would save costs for both RTW to Me Made items.

The pattern Sunni is using for her shirt dress sew along, Simplicity 1880 (I’m going to do the wrap dress), has a side zipper. Is this driven by the design, or a conscious choice by the designer to make dressing and undressing a little easier? I suspect it may be the first…

Going forward I intend to change my centre back zippers to side ones on dresses I intend to wear day to day (unless it’s a jewel neckline! My head’s got to fit through the neckline for this to work!). Converting from a centre back zipper to a side zipper should be fairly straight forward:

  • Cut the back piece(s) on the fold having removed the seam allowance at centre back
    Insert the zipper in the side seam (usually a 14″ zip)

Gertie and Casey both have great tutorials on side zipper insertion (both of the lapped variety).

What do you think about zip placement? At least this way I’ll be able to dress myself – and massive kudos to anyone who is able to deal with their own centre back zip!

Oh my, CB zips seem to be getting some serious love! If anyone has any tips on how they manage to get them done up on their own, please let me know!!

Huzzah, Marcy has shared the secret (how dumb am I?!) and I can get both dresses on with out any help! I still think I may give side zips a go though, just for the challenge and experience. I may still love them, and its good to have options…

A Pressing Matter

I have wanted / needed a pressing ham and a seam roll, well since I started sewing and realised FBA (full bust adjustments) were going to be a necessary and regular part of my life.  Princess seams are curvy, FBA’d princess seams are super curvy and don’t like being pressed on a flat board!  In fact it was just plain frustrating and led to me nearly steam-burning my fingers.  Big ouch.

One of Sunni's Beautiful Tailor's Hams. Click on the photo to visit her shop!

I have loved Sunni’s pressing aids for a long time.  Particularly when she did a mix and match option when she had her Etsy shop.  I loved mixing and matching my wool and cotton options and at $40US they were reasonable too.  But $30 shipping to me here in the UK was just ouch.  I can understand the cost, believe me as these are quality goods stuffed with sawdust so there’s some heft to them.  And shipping heavy things costs more than shipping light things.  But it’s still the same result: a little too much to make it a reasonable option.  Sigh.

So I investigated what was available locally and it wasn’t pretty, or of a quality I was willing to accept for the price demanded!  So that left me with two options, continue to have a frustrating curve pressing experience or make them.  Bet you can guess what I chose to do!

If you Google search for a tutorial on how to make a ham or seam roll you’ll get loads of results.  This is what I did though.

First up was a visit to Sewing Princess to get hold of her free tailors ham and seam roll pattern.

I used the green line as my template.  I cut two pieces of calico / muslin, a piece of wool and a piece of cotton for the ham and the same for the seam roll.  I’ve tried to co-ordinate my wool to my cotton, but I didn’t want them to be exactly the same, hence the different prints.

A Ham and A Roll

Now I have to be honest, this has been on the to do list since about April, maybe earlier?  What’s been holding me up is the acquisition of the wool I needed for one side of the roll.  I just couldn’t bring myself to spend a lot of money on a short yardage for this.  And I was concerned about the accuracy of the fibre content description on some eBay listings.  In the end it was Etsy who came good.  Some wool samples were being sold and for less than £5 I got half a dozen almost A4 sized bits of pure wool, or wool and cashmere fabric!

To construct my pressing aids I layered and pinned as follows:

Calico/muslin, Cotton with right side up, twist of ribbon with raw edges towards raw edge of fabric and loop towards the middle, wool right side down, calico/muslin.

I stitched around the edge, using my presser foot as a guide, leaving a gap of 1-2” at the end opposite the ribbon.  This is to turn it all the right side out and so that there’s somewhere to stuff the stuffing in.  I backstitched at the beginning and end of my stitching, as well as over the ribbon.  I then pressed to set the stitches.

Turning them the right side out was, erm, interesting.  If I were to do this again I would leave the gap in the seam roll on one of the long edges, probably somewhere towards the middle.  This was a lot harder to turn out than the ham, and having the ribbon at the opposite end made the process easier as there was something to get hold of and drag through the gap!  I used the blunt end of a knitting needle to help get the corners turned.  Then a bit more pressing!

Next up was stuffing.  Mine are filled with sawdust, provided by a friend who manages a boatyard where they restore old wooden boats.  This means cutting lots of lovely new wood and he provided me with a box of clean (ie no varnish or glue etc on the cut wood) sawdust.  He thought I was mad mind you, asking for a box of sawdust!

My bright and cheerful seam roll

I made a crude funnel out of card and used a wooden spoon to feed the sawdust into the funnel.  The first few were a bit of a challenge as the fabric naturally wanted to lay together.  Once the first few were in though, squeeze and tamped down with the handle end of the spoon, it got a lot easier.  Once it was full and tamped down firmly there was still a bit of a gap, but I couldn’t get any more sawdust in.  Because I wanted a really firm roll I added some pillow stuffing in the last ¼” of the roll before slip stitching the hole shut.

A rather zingy tailor's ham

I repeated the process for the tailor’s ham, and this was easier to fill initially.  Filling the corners at the wide end was more of a challenge and I ended up pressing sawdust into the corners with my fingers.  Some pillow stuffing also went into the end as well before I slip stitched it closed.  I wonder whether having the gap on a long side would have made the filling easier.  It may just be that it’s one of those fiddly jobs that you’re only going to get good at through repetition.  Not something that’s likely to happen here!

So, a bit of research and a little effort and I now have a set of pressing aids for the princely sum of about £5.  Factoring in my time though would make them a lot more expensive, but I had fun making them and learnt a few things.  And that’s one of the reasons I love sewing; I’m always learning.

Pins and Needles in My Arm!

Actually, there isn’t.  All because of my rather lovely pin cushion cuff / bracelet!

After wrangling the yardage of fabric a couple of evenings ago for my circle skirt, I decided to finally do something about my pins.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I need to put a pin in, or take a pin out my pin cushion is always in a slightly or very awkward place!  So, the solution seemed to be a portable pin cushion.  One on my wrist to be precise!

So I did a bit of Google-mooching and couldn’t find any that I liked that were for sale anywhere.  I couldn’t even find anything on Etsy that was what I wanted.  I then stumbled across a free tutorial from Keyka Lou.  I like Keyka Lou, I’ve bought a number of her bag patterns and they’re all very good and her pin cushion cuff tutorial was just the style I was looking for.

I did make a couple of alterations though.  The first being to add a small disk of plastic in between the calico and patterned fabric of the pad so that the pins couldn’t poke me in the wrist whilst I was using it, rather than putting the plastic in the cuff.  The hole in the centre of the plastic was to allow me to bind the pad with the embroidery thread.  My fabric is 3″ diameter and the circle is 1″.

Plastic circle ready to go into the empty cushion pad

The other was to add a layer of calico to the wrist strap to give it a bit more body.  I also didn’t top stitch it either as I sewed the pad on through a layer of cotton and calico, leaving the layer next to my skin free of thread or knots.  This meant that I needed access in thought the hole that I turned the cuff right side out.  I slip stitched the gap on the cuff shut once the pad was sewn in place.

And here’s my finished cushion!  I tried to photograph it on, but my arms aren’t long enough and all I could get in focus were my finger tips, so you’ll just have to admire it as it lounges on my sewing machine.

Finished wrist pin cushion

This used hardly any fabric and was made from some scraps I had lying around.  The stuffing is from an old pillow, and again hardly any was needed.  All in, it was a really quick thing to make and will make using my pins and therefore my sewing a little easier.

And on a completely unrelated note, you should pop over to So, Zo… as she has decided to give away the amazing refashion she did for Miss P’s blog.  If you’re a 30″ waist and a 40″ hip then the amazing pencil skirt she made could be yours!  Ah, my hips would fit, but not yet my post baby waist.  So, go.  Ask before Sunday night and maybe Zoe will provide you with her skirt!

Peg Bag Tutorial

This is my old peg bag.  It’s looking more than a little bit sad!  It’s had a busy life and it’s even busier now we have the little person, but as it was only a few £s in Sainsbury’s several years ago it has done very well.

This is the fabric for the new bag!  Bright and cheerful and from Ikea – I’m sorry I can’t tell you what it’s called, it was part of a bundle of remnants bought on eBay.   It’s a home dec weight material and has a soft canvas texture.  The lining is going to be  some plain red cotton that I’ve got lurking in my stash.

The design is quite simple and similar in shape to the old bag with a few tweaks, the biggest being that it is going to be lined.  This is going to be a luxurious bag for the pegs to live in when they’re not doing their peggy thing!  I’m hoping it’ll mean that it lasts a bit longer too…

I’m going to make it a bit bigger too as I want a larger hole to get the husband sized hands in and so that I can get more pegs into the bag.  We have an insane washing machine that will wash 9kg of laundry per wash, which is a lot, and our line will hold two of these washes!  If it’s all towels and sheets, that’s fine.  When it’s all socks and pants that’s not so good because you need a LOT of pegs, so a bigger bag is the way to go…

I’m also going to square off the bottom of the bag as I like the depth it will add, this is personal preference though and completely up to you!

I’m plannig to re-use the hanger from the old bag but you could always use a child-sized hanger.  Asking in your local supermarket (if in the UK) if they’ve got any destined for the bin is always an option if you don’t have stock from your own small person, or ask someone who does have a small person if you could have one of theirs (hangers, that is…)!  You can buy small hangers, but it makes sense to recycle them where possible.

What I used:
Focus Fabric
Lining Fabric

If you’re using lighter weight fabric for the focus fabric on the outside of the bag, you may want to use some interlining to add some strength.  I’d suggest a medium weight woven fusible one.

  • First, decide on your bag size, this depends on the hanger width and how deep you want the bag to be, plus the seam allowance. 
    I wanted my finished bag to be 10″ by 14″ (before I square off the bottom) and my seam allowance is 1/2″, so I need my pieces of fabric to be 11″ by 15″.  
  • Cut two rectangles of this size from the focus, and the lining fabric.  Decide on which will be the top edge and mark the centre.  Make two further marks 3/4″ either side of the centre mark – this will be the gap where you thread the hanger’s hook through, so adjust as necessary!
Outline for my hand hole
  • Pin one of the focus and one of the lining fabrics RST (Right Sides Together) and then draw an oblong where you want the hole to be, making sure that it is centred and square. 
    My oblong is 2 1/2″ down from the top and 3″ from each size.  I’ll have a hole that is 4″ by 5″.  I’ve used disappearing marker to draw on the fabric.
Outline stitched and envelope pattern drawn, ready for cutting...
  • Next, stitch along the line you’ve just drawn as the oblong’s outline and iron the stitches to set them.
  • Then draw an envelope type pattern inside the oblong and carefully cut along these lines up to but not through the stitches around the edge. 
    I also trimmed out some of the excess fabric, making sure to leave at least 1/2″.
Lining pulled through and ironed
  • Push the lining fabric through the hole you’ve just made so that the focus and lining fabric are now WST (Wrong Sides Together).  Manipulate the edges of the hole so it’s lovely and neat and iron so you have a nice crisp edge. 
Top Stitching around the hole
  • I then pinned the two pieces together at the edges and top stitched about 1/4″ from the edge of the hole to help hold the layers and add some strength.
  • Pin the second piece of lining fabric to the first RST.  You’ll need to hold the focus fabric out of the way as you stitch the two pieces together:
    Starting at the right hand side of where the gap will be for the hanger hook to poke through, stitch around the edge of the fabric in a clockwise direction. 
Can you see the longer stitches after the back-stitching?
  • On the bottom edge after stitching a couple of inches of the bottom seam, back-stitch a little then lengthen your stitch length before sewing about 3-4″.  Shorten your stitch length again sew a few stitches, back-stitch then carry on along the bottom and up the side and across the top, back-stitching again just before the hole for the hanger hook.  Iron the seams to set the stitches then iron the seams open.
  • Square off the bottom by pinching the bottom corner flat so that the bottom and side seams line up.  Pin to hold this in place.
Measured, drawn and stitched to make a flat bottom and a 3D peg bag
  • Measure 1″  up from the corner along the seam and then draw a perpendicular line to the seam at this mark.  Sew along this line and cut away the excess fabric at the corner.  Repeat for the other corner then cut away your long stitches in the bottom seam.
  • Pin the second piece of focus fabric to the first, RST.  Make sure the lining is out of the way.
I'm pointing at the hole for the hanger's hook - don't stitch between the pins!
  • Starting at the right hand side of where the gap will be for the hanger hook to poke through, stitch around the edges of the fabric in a clockwise direction.  Back-stitch again just before the hole for the hanger hook.  Iron the seams to set the stitches then iron the seams open.
  • Square off the bottom of the bag as per the lining and clip the top corners of the focus fabric.  This will make sure you have sharp corners when you turn it the right way out.
  • Turn the bag the right way out by reaching up through the gap in the lining and grabbing the outer bag through the hole for your hand.
  • Slip stitch the gap closed in the lining.  Keyka Lou has some really good instructions on how to slip stitch.
  • Poke the lining fabric through the hole where your hand will go to grab the pegs and arrange inside the outer bag so it’s nice and neat.
Threading the hanger through
  • Put your hanger through the hole and thread its hook out of the gap at the top.
A funky new home for my pegs!

Ta Dah!  One very plush place for your pegs to live!  Believe it or not, this has the same number of pegs in it as the old bag so I’ve got lots of room to add more…