Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Fun Projects for the Holidays

The Summer holidays have begun, and in our Colchester and Felixstowe fabric and haberdashery shops have already noticed families coming in for supplies. We always love helping people out with their projects, and it's always especially nice seeing younger people enter the world of sewing, knitting and crafting. We sell handy little packs of bunting, or beginners sewing kits in the shop and would encourage anyone near Colchester or Felixstowe to pop in for a visit.

However we like to help people all over the world as well. The web shop has been down for a stock check and will be up and running soon. Until then we have our blogs to give you ideas for fun sewing projects to keep the kids (or you) entertained over the holidays.

How to make a carrier bag holder. This project is very simple to make. The tutorial explains how to make a  French seam, you don't HAVE to use a French seam but it's a handy thing to learn. It also has a very strong environmental message. You can recycle old fabric to make this project, which then helps you recycle your old carrier bags.

How to make a Kindle or Tablet cover.Many people seem to be getting all sorts of high tech gadgets. This projects teaches you how to make a protective case for kindles, tablets and other gadgets. It's also a fantastic introduction to the effects you can make with a padded case.
How to make a petticoat or Tutu.  Petticoats are not only great for a dressing up box for your own  fairy princess. Petticoats and tutu's are becoming "must have" things to wear at music festivals this year. This project teaches you how to make a petticoat which can be layered and built up over time. You can also make a VERY quick petticoat as well.

A non sewing cushion cover. Sometimes it's encouraging to make a project that is useful and beautiful without having to learn sewing first. This cushion cover just needs fleece and scissors. You can make the cover in any size, so if you don't have a cushion pad at hand you can use an old pillow. Ever wanted to get boys interested in sewing? Mix the colours of the fleece to match a favorite football or formula one team.

How to make a circle skirt.  A circle skirt does not always require a pattern. This tutorial shows you how to make a custom made circle skirt (that would fit perfectly over a petticoat). Circle skirts are fun and easy to make and show how you can use maths in the real world.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

How to make a Circle Skirt

In our last blog we showed you how to make a sarong. In keeping with the Summer theme today we present how to make a circle skirt.  I like nothing more than combining my love for sewing with my love for performing magic. (Trust me I am going somewhere with this). In magic a magician will take a trick that is mechanically easy to perform, and then use it to practice presentation. By not worrying about complicated hand movements a magician can focus on other details. It is much the same when sewing. A circle skirt is fundamentally an easy garment, which makes it the perfect garment to practice new techniques with.

The basic pattern for a circle skirt is very simple. Our blog on how to make a petticoat begins with making a very short circle skirt.
I often use brown wrapping paper or pattern making paper for my projects. However I have some wrapping paper that's been getting in my way at home, and so decided to use this for my circle skirt pattern

As with our "how to make a petticoat" tutorial we begin by making two quarter circles on the paper. The radius of the first quarter circle is the hip measurement divided by 6.28 (check out the petticoat tutorial for an explanation of the maths)

The second quarter circle is the length of the skirt from the waist circle. (the third circle in this picture was just an alternative skirt length I was playing around with).

We now have a very sparkly pattern.
Fold the fabric in half and place the straight edge of the pattern on the fold of the fabric.  On the other straight edge of the pattern add a seam allowance. This will give you the front  half of your skirt.

Place the pattern again onto the fabric, And cut out a second panel.

Right sides together pin the two panels together along the straight edges and sew.

 You now should have a full circle which will lay out flat on the floor.

All that is technically needed is a waistband and a hem.

However here is an opportunity to improve on your skills of sewing. The skirt has raw seams which we can now tidy up with bias binding.

Press the seams open, and the wrap bias binding ribbon around the raw edge of the seam. Carefully sew the ribbon onto the raw edge.

We now have beautifully bound seams. These seams not only look neater but ale stop the seam fraying, greatly increasing the lifespan of your garment.

The waistband needs to be as long as the final hip measurement you used for the circle skirt, in my case 125 cm long. Cut out a strip of fabric to this length and make it four times the width you'f like the waistband to end up (I use my metal ruler as a guide).

Now fold in half along the length , wrong sides together and press with an iron.
Open the fold and use the crease as a guide to fold the outer edges of the strip into the middle.

Fold it back in half again and press, this gives you what looks like large bias ribbon (but it is not on the bias).

Pin the waistband onto the circle skirt, sandwiching the circle skirt in between the fold of the fabric.

When the two ends meet stitch the strip of fabric together and THEN fold them over the circle skirt. Then stitch the waistband to the circle skirt, leaving a small gap to thread the elastic through.

Now all that remains is to hem the skirt. Circle skirts can be hard to hem however as there is always more fabric on the hem as there is just above the hem, so you have to pleat the fabric slightly as you hem.

Another option would be to use a roll hem foot. This is a sewing machine foot with a curl set in it which the fabric is fed through. This creates a tiny hem, only a few millimeters wide.
However in this case I decided to use the bias binding ribbon again. Wrap the bias around the hem and top stitch in place. Bias binding can actually bend around the curve of the hem. And much like the seams this hem will be very long lasting.

And so we have a very neat inner view of the skirt. We have taken a simple pattern and used it to try out new techniques and to improve our sewing.

And behold a very simple and flattering circle skirt. Simple to make and a great project to get to grips with a roll hem foot or bias binding. You will be able to make up one of the skirts in no time. Half the battle is in making the pattern. Once you have this you can make a skirt to match any top.

Remember to enjoy your sewing and to keep on learning.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

There are Sarongs and then there are sarongs.

As I type this we are in the middle of a mini heat wave. We've been reminding all of our customers to stay hydrated and to be sun aware. In such weather a sarong or wrap can be a perfect addition to your wardrobe. There are two main styles of sarong, a large rectangle which many people just  wrap around thier waist and tie up, covering the legs, and then there's the "Mundu" style sarong. This is a tube of fabric, about 60 centimeters  larger than the wearers chest or waist measurement. it's then worn like a skirt around the waist, or around the chest with the excess fabric tucked in.
Both of these sarongs are very easy to make, you either need to hem a rectangle of fabric or sew a tube of fabric and hem it.  So I thought I'd talk about measurements and fabric choices.

The classic rectangle sarong is 1.8 metres by  0.9 metres. This will give you the "cover up" style sarong which will cover the upper body as well as the legs. It can also be folded in half and used just for the lower body.

To make the full length 'Tube' style sarong you will need to measure from under the arm to the floor (or from the waist to the floor if you're making a mundu) and the chest (or waist for a mundu).
 Typically the under arm to floor or waist to the floor will be the same or less than the width of most fabrics. To work out the length of fabric you need take the chest or waist measurement and then add 60 cm or so.

Top make a tube style sarong or mundu simply sew the short sides together and then hem. This is a good excuse to practice your french  seams however so you may want to adapt the sewing instructions for our "carrier bag holder" project. The sarong is then placed over the body and the excess fabric rapped and tucked into it's top.

There are many fabrics suitable for a sarong. Ideally the fabric should be light and free flowing. If you wish to use cotton we'd suggest a cotton voile or a very light weight cotton. A light cotton lawn should be ok but a printed cotton or a craft cotton will be to stiff and heavy and not flow right.

You can also use a cotton blended with Viscose (or Rayon as it is other wise known) or even silk. Viscose is a strange fabric, it is not strictly speaking a man made fiber as it is derived from wood pulp normally. It has a light "hand" and tends to be smooth and soft and rather silky. For a  project such as this  a viscose voile or a cotton and viscose blend would be ideal.

Pure silk can make a beautiful sarong if it is light enough, a silk chiffon would be ideal.

Most linens tend to be too stiff for a sarong, however linen much like cotton can be blended with other fibers. A lose weave linen and viscose blend will again offer a cool and floaty sarong.

Sarongs are great ways for both men and women to keep cool this summer.

Most fabrics only offer a SPF (or Sun Protecting Factor) of around 5-10. So please wear a high factor sunblock under your incredibly fashionable sarong. 

Now we know everyone is itching to see the author of this blog (a 20 stone Welshman) demonstrate how to wear a sarong, however this YouTube video will have to do :)