‘Tra-what?’ I hear you say! All will become clear, I promise.

Friday is one of my favourite classes, Adventures in Decorative Techniques. It is only six weeks long, but each week we will be learning a number of different techniques that can then be used on garments.

Last week we learnt trapunto! (I think it benefits from the exclamation mark, don’t you?)

We started by creating a mood board of images that we liked. Here are a few similar to the ones on my mood board.

'La Gerbe', Matisse - 1953

Madeleine Vionnet dress

'Garrowby Hill', David Hockney - 1998

From the mood board we then designed a simple line pattern to create using trapunto(!).

Trapunto(I’ll stop now) is a technique that uses three layers of fabric – a top layer (in this case we used red silk), a middle layer of stuffing or wadding, and a bottom layer which acts as a backing – you don’t see this.

Layers of fabric for trapunto

Having drawn your design on to tracing paper, you pin or place this paper on to the top of your layers of fabric.

Using a sewing machine, you then sew over the pattern on the tracing paper which transfers it on to the fabric. Finally you tear off the layer of tracing paper.

The layer of wadding means that the pattern is created in relief.

Trapunto detail

My final trapunto design (the white bits are tracing paper that I haven't removed yet!)

Image sources


Straight skirt pattern

Thursdays bring my Pattern Cutting class, and last week we produced half scale patterns (or blocks as they’re known in the trade!) for a slim straight skirt – much like the one I made after my first week.

As I didn’t take pictures as I went along last week, I think it would be a bit tricky to try and explain what I did. So here are the finished pieces!

Everything is measured to a size 12, and then reduced down to half the size for this exercise.

Across the top of the photo is the waistband, with the centre fold, side seams and centre backs marked to make it easy to match it up to the right places on the skirt pieces. There is also an allowance on the left end for some kind of fixing, maybe a button or a hook and eye.

The piece on the left is the front of the skirt with one dart, and the piece on the left is the back of the skirt with two darts.

When creating the block I used a few different pieces of equipment. Firstly the Pattern Master (I hear an American film voice over in my head whenever I say that, don’t know about you?!).

The Pattern Master allows you to create perfect right angles, which are essential when creating a pattern. It is easier and more effective to use than a ruler, although a set square would also do the job just as well as a Pattern Master.

After you have drawn and cut out your block, you mark certain information so that it can then be transferred on to your fabric. To do this you use a pattern notcher, and an awl.

The pattern notcher marks things like the ends of dart legs as shown here.

The awl creates a small hole for things like the point of a dart, as you can see here by the number 18.

I’m not sure what today’s class is going to bring, but I will be sure to let you know!

Matchstick Men

Good Morning! I’m feeling very summery today with the sun shining AGAIN, and I’m wearing my new Sorbetto Top!

Wednesdays are my Fashion Design class, and it seems these might be the most entertaining blog posts as it involves showing you my attempts at drawing!

Last week we started to understand how to draw the fashion figure. Now, the fashion figure I’m sure you can guess has little resemblance to a ‘normal’ figure. She has impossibly long limbs, is incredibly confident, and stunning. This was my first attempt at creating this vision of beauty:

Pretty spot on I think you’ll agree – I am particularly fond of her body builder shoulders!

To be able to draw using the correct proportions we were taught the basic shapes that make up the body, and where to place them using the numbered grid you can see. We were also given the diagram below to help understand the sizes of body parts in relation to each other. From a practical exercise I undertook when I got home last Wednesday, I’m pretty sure my foot is not the same size as my head.

As we kept practicing our drawings and tried out different poses, I do think mine improved slightly – this was the last one I did:

In tonight’s lesson we learn how to flesh out the figure to look something like these two stunners:

We are also being encouraged to find our ‘own personal drawing style’. I took this book out of the library to try and practice my drawing at home, but having looked through it I was far more interested in some of the clothes!

First published in 1970, I love the retro designs and it would be great to use them as inspiration later down the line.

Sunny Sorbetto

After a not particularly nice visit to hospital this morning, I decided I needed to do something to cheer me up.

Months and months ago I printed off the pattern for the Sorbetto Top by Colette Patterns. It is quite a summery top, but the weather in London looks to have decided it is finally summer so it seemed the perfect pick-me-up.

Thankfully Peggy was on hand to guide the way when cutting out the pattern…

I had been planning to use the fabric below for the top, which I bought from an antiques shop in Portland, Oregon, USA.

I thought this would be the perfect time to use this fabric as Colette Patterns is run by Sarai Mitnick, who lives in Portland. Having followed the Colette Patterns blog for quite a while, on my recent trip out there I was lucky enough to meet Sarai and even go on a fabric shopping spree with her. You can read about it here.

So you see, the fabric is perfect! Apart from one minor detail – it’s too small! Try as I might, and using all the skills I learnt yesterday in my clothes making class, I still couldn’t get the pattern pieces to fit. It was very sad.

Again, Peggy came to the rescue and showed me that all was not lost. Also in my stash I had some beautiful Liberty cotton that my friend Sally gave me.

So, with the emergency over I settled down at my sewing machine, and after a couple of hours I had made the Sorbetto top. I felt altogether more cheery than I did this morning!

Here is the finished piece, what do you think?!

Me feeling slightly silly!

I used a contrasting biased tape around the neck and arm holes

Detail of the pleat down the front

Easy to sew?

Today I am off to my Clothes Making class. Each class I do is three hours a week, and in Clothes Making this term we are learning how to make a simple skirt from a commercial pattern.

This means we are somewhat limited in the patterns we can choose from, and predictably all the ones I liked were the most complicated! This is the one I went for in the end:

The 'Easy-to-sew' Simplicity 2258

Our chosen skirt had to have an elasticated waist – not the most flattering on anyone as far as I can tell. This pattern uses a belt and a bow to cover the elasticated part, so hopefully will be a bit nicer.

Last week we learnt how to adjust the pattern to fit our bodies. Faced with a daunting array of gobbledygook that I normally try my best to ignore, I decided that as I am nearly 30 I should make the skirt a little bit longer than it is in the picture above – far more grown up!

The gobbledygook!

So I measured down from my waist to my knee, and added the amount needed to the pattern by inserting extra paper.

When selecting which size to make the skirt, you have to use your hip measurement to ensure that you can actually get it on and off OK (I hadn’t been taught this when I made my first skirt!).

Where to take your measurements from

You also have to allow for ease. And what is ease? Well… According to my handy handout that I have nicely filed in one of my new folders (love getting new stationery!):

“Wearing ease is additional fabric added to a pattern to allow for body movement and comfort.”

Typically you should add up to 2.5cm ease for the waist, and up to 5cm ease on the hips for a straight skirt.

You then do some mathematical wizardry which I’m afraid I can’t quite remember (I promise I will get better!), and work out which pattern size to use.

The best part of last week was going and choosing the fabric to make my skirt from. As it is definitely getting a bit chillier now, I thought something heavier than cotton would be better.

I am waiting for the postman to deliver More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina, and once I have that I will hopefully be able to go in to a bit more detail about which fabrics I am using. I know that the light brown is a linen cotton blend, and the purple one is purple….

I will be using the purple as the main part of the skirt, and then hopefully the brown as an accent colour.

I’ll find out this afternoon what happens next!

Welcome to Peggy’s Pickles!

Named after my crazy cat Peggy, and the fact that I often seem to find myself in little pickles, I hope to use this blog to record all of my sewing adventures!

Peggy when she was a baby cat

Having left my job earlier in the year, I recently went back to school to learn how to sew. My mum taught me to sew when I was growing up, and although I have sewn a few nice (and plenty of not so nice) things, I tended to make them up as I went along as I didn’t really understand the pattern instructions. Who knew basting is not just something you do to a Christmas turkey?! I wanted to use the time away from work to learn how to do things properly, and who knows where it may lead…

So, I registered myself on lots of different sewing courses at Morely College in London, bought myself a brand new pencil case, and have so far survived two weeks without any mishaps. I have even made a skirt. A skirt which didn’t fall apart when I wore it. And people didn’t point and laugh. And I even felt a little bit pleased with myself when I was wearing it (a minor detail that I didn’t put a slit up the back so that I could walk ‘freely’ shall we say, but hey, I’m a beginner)

The start of Peggy’s modelling career!