Monday, 26 March 2012

How to Make A Cushion-cover

Every so often you need new cushion-covers (pillow-covers) either because you've redecorated your living room, or because your old ones are looking their age. We need some new ones too, so I'm making some. I've opted not to use zips, because I don't want the pull to damage the new leather sofas. So they're going to close like pillowcases.

You will need:

  • 1 metre of fabric approx. 42" wide (that's what mine is)
  • Scissors or Rotary Cutter and Mat
  • Ruler
  • Thread
  • Sewing Machine or a lot of patience for hand-sewing

Step 1:

Remove the selvedges. From one layer of fabric, cut a 16" square. This will be the front of your cushion. This includes the seam allowances. Having your cushion cover a little smaller than your cushion fill will make your cushion "fatter".

Cut along the rest of the width, keeping at 16" deep.

Step 2:

Fold the wider fabric in half and cut along the fold, giving you two nearly square pieces. These will be the back of the cushion.

Step 3:

Hem the two back pieces along one raw 16" edge.

Step 4:

Place the front piece of your cushion cover face up on the table. Place on back piece face down on that, raw edges even, and the other back piece face down on that, raw edges even.

Step 5:

Sew all around the cushion with a 15mm (5/8") seam allowance, starting along on side and overlapping your stitches when you get to the beginning again.

Step 6:

Cut across the corners as shown to make the corners look better when you turn the cushion cover RS out.

Now turn the Cushion cover RS out and insert a cushion! (TIP: it is easier to put the cushion pad in if you do so at the same time as turning the cushion cover RS out.)

 This is the cushion cover turned RS out (I haven't made the cushion pad yet) along with the scissors I used to poke the corners into shape.
The is the back view.

And that's how you make a cushion cover/pillow cover.

Until next week, Happy Sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner

Saturday, 24 March 2012

How to Make a Dress Part 12: How to Make and Insert the Inset and Hem the Dress

This is the last post in this series. All that is left now is to make and insert the inset and to hem the dress.

How to Make the Inset

Get your two inset pieces and put them RS together. Sew along the top edge (in this case the one with the slightly concave curve). Press flat then open.

The piece without the interfacing is the facing in this case. (For blouse fronts etc. the interfacing goes on the facing.)

Clip into the seam allowances. Press the seam allowances to the facing side (the one without interfacing).

Sew the seam allowances to the facing. This is called machine understitching.

Fold the pieces into the finished position (see below).

This is what it looks like facing side up.
And this is what it looks like front side up.

I haven't done so in this photo, but it helps with the next step if you baste the layers of the inset together.

Also, you should zigzag the raw edges to stop them from fraying.

How to insert the inset
This is where it gets tricky.

Pin the inset in place by lifting the collar up as in this photo and pinning through all the layers.

Now firmly baste in place by hand with cross stitches and then stitch one side by machine under the collar so that it's inconspicuous. If you think the inset is in place, repeat for the other side.

Note: You won't be able to stitch all the way down, so just go as far as your judgement suggests.

How to Hem the Dress
This dress has a 3cm (1 1/4") hem allowance. I pinned the hem level.

Clip into the seam allowances at the hem level to give a better edge.

When you have pinned all around, turn up the hem so that the pins are right on the edge. Then, holding the fold in place, remove the pin and pin the hem allowance down.

Now hand sew running stitches in the hem allowance only, and pull so that the hem allowance lies flush with the dress.

Baste the hem allowance to the dress.

This is what I call a hand coverstitch. It's basically an overcasting stitch where you catch one thread of the dress. Then you just repeat all the way around. If you need to start a new thread, secure both your old thread and your new one on the hem allowance.


Congratulations! Your dress is finished!

Until next time, happy sewing and Merry Christmas!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner, 41 Market Place, Hornsea, HU18 1AP, UK

Monday, 19 March 2012

I have nearly finished my blouse

I had to re-draft the collar - the first one was a disaster. It stuck up when it was supposed to lie flat. I don't know why. It didn't draft it as a standing collar.

My New Collar
Anyway, I also used sew-in interfacing with my second collar which I think helped a lot. As you can see, this collar is turning out quite well.

I drafted it using the instructions in Pattern-making for Fashion Design 5th Ed. by Helen Joseph Armstrong. I like that book for everything but the basic bodice and skirt. As far as blocks go, I find the ones in Metric Pattern-cutting for Women's wear 5th Ed. by Winifred Aldrich, chiefly because I don't have to measure the front and back separately and there is a table of measurements for parts I can't measure myself.

I am at the boring stage of sewing now -- removing the basting threads. It is taking days. You don't know how many times the thought has crossed my mind to just leave them in. But I'm making myself take them out, bit by bit.

Front View of My Blouse
Once I have done it, I can sew the buttonholes and buttons on. At the moment the blouse is just pinned closed. And no, I haven't pressed it yet as I ought to have done. But I will. I don't want the carbon paper's tracing lines to seal into the blouse, you see, so I'll have to be very careful when I do press it, going just where I want it pressing and perhaps pressing it again properly after I wash my blouse.

Back View of My Blouse
When I tried my blouse on before trimming the seam allowances and sewing the collar, it didn't seem to fit right. But I think it will fit quite well when I have finished.

I think I might have to add a self-lining for modesty's sake, but I'll wait to try it on first when I'm finished.

I may even make a patch pocket and embroider it with my initial by machine and flowers and things by hand. Of course I would use interfacing, and then line it with self fabric.

When I have finished my blouse I'll send a photo to my Auntie Dulcie -- I have to reply to her letter, and I'm waiting until I have finished my blouse. I hope I will finish soon because I don't want to keep her waiting too long!

Until next week, happy sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner

Monday, 12 March 2012

My Self-drafted Semi-Couture Blouse in the Making

I have finally got around to making a blouse from my master pattern, which I drafted using the block in Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear, with one difference: I drafted the sleeve cap to have very, very little ease (I was trying to get no ease, but couldn't quite manage it). It's the sleeve that's giving me trouble. Maybe I'm just too used to knit tops.

Anyway, this is a bit of the fabric I'm using. It's a soft, pink Broiderie Anglais with a scallop border. It looks much prettier in real life than it does in the photo.

I didn't cut the fabric in the usual manner, i.e. pin it carefully then accurately cut along the seam allowance. This time, having watched Gertie's and Susan Khalje's Classes on Craftsy, I traced the seam lines onto the fabric using carbon paper and my tracing wheel.

After that I machine basted the stitching lines. I used Gutermann Cotton 30 Sulky thread, which makes a lot of fluff in your sewing machine. I also found out one of the reasons it is good to have adjustable presser foot pressure (which I don't) on your sewing machine: one layer of Summer weight cotton fabric is not held down properly on a sewing machine with set presser foot pressure.

My basting stitches made the fabric wrinkly. There could be several reasons for this (one may be the presser foot pressure), for instance, I used thread that was apparently too thick for the fabric.

Another mishap was that I accidentally cut two identical front pieces. It wouldn't have mattered but the scallops look different on the inside and I will not have my blouse look like I put it together in the dark. Fortunately I have plenty of extra fabric so I cut another one.

I drafted a shawl collar (not a real one, basically a Peter Pan collar in a different shape) onto sew-in interfacing. I forgot that I was supposed to overlap the shoulder points by 1" (not 1/4") so I am hoping that it will look alright. It'll be worth seeing anyway and I can always unbaste and try again. : )

Tracing the stitching lines meant that I could cut the fabric rather sloppily with wide seam allowances, and it allows me for "wiggle room" for matching the scallops at the hems (especially on the sleeves which I must have accidentally cut a little off grain, because they don't match.) Why do we ever cut with set seam allowances? This way is so much better!
Update: I've changed my mind; collars and such things turn out much better if you have set seam allowances on the outer edges.

At the moment I'm basting everything by hand. I tried to use gussets on the sleeves but there doesn't seem to be many tutorials for inserting them into set-in sleeves. There certainly aren't any instructions in my sewing books. Do you know any tutorials for drafting and setting gussets into set-in sleeves? Please let me know if you do!

How will I sew the darts if everything is basted you ask? Well, when I get the darts, I flip them out of the way and then sew the other side of them, like they do in couture. I've done the same when the seams cross. It's so easy and practical.

So that's how far I've got. I think the fit should be alright, but this is the first thing I have made from this pattern.

You know one of the things I love about sewing right now? You can have a few patterns (dress, top, skirt, trousers, maybe jacket, bustier dress) and easily alter them for countless looks! When I first start learning something, I sometimes think things must be a lot more complicated than they actually turn out to be, rather than using common sense. When I just started learning pattern making, I for some reason thought there must by a lot of maths for each different style, but like everything else, it turned out that there were some basic principles that pretty much solved everything else! Isn't that great?!

Well, I think that will do for now.
Until next week, happy sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner

Monday, 5 March 2012

How to make a roll and whipped hem using your satin stitch foot

Did you know that you could do that? I found out while looking through the instruction book for another sewing machine. It's actually quite easy, and it's quick and neat. This is what it looks like on light weight wool.

As the title of this post suggests, you will need your Satin Stitch foot (which on my machine is foot N).

Put the fabric to be hemmed under your presser foot with the edge standing up between the plastic bit on the toes. I think I have it a little too "tall" on this photo, but I hope you get the idea. : )

Sew with a zigzag stitch about 1.4mm long and 3.5mm wide. If you would like a satin stitch hem, you can shorten the stitch length, but these are the automatic settings on my Brother XR6600 sewing machine so I just used them. : )

The hem may be a little uneven, especially at the start, but I don't think even hand rolled-and-whipped hems are perfect, and this way is a lot easier and quicker.

As far as fabric goes, it works best on fabrics like the one in my sample. You can also use it on fabrics like muslin. I think if you are using tricky sheer fabric like chiffon you ought to spray starch it first because it is very unreliable otherwise. I tried a roll-and-whip hem on some double georgette and it was okay for some of the hem, but it varied. It really does work out better on medium weight materials. NOTE: it's not much good on Chinese Brocade. I've tried.

Here is a video of my making a rolled-and-whipped hem on double-georgette:


When sewing flimsy fabric you have to hold it taut as you sew as I did in the video, otherwise your sewing machine won't feed the fabric through, and may even "eat" it. You can sew with tissue paper underneath when you sew just about anything but a roll-and-whipped hem, and that helps tremendously with the fabric feed, but tissue paper underneath doesn't seem to be much good with technique. (If you have any tips I would be glad if you shared them in a comment below!)

Isn't it great when you find out your sewing machine can do something you didn't know it could, and without buying anything extra?!

That will do for this week, I think.
Until next time, happy sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner, Hornsea