Amber’s Pillowcase Dress

On Friday last week I got to spend the day with nine year old Amber. Not only did we make this little fellow:

We also made two more pillowcase dresses. Today Amber is my guest blogger and is going to tell you how we did it.

At the start I chose 2 pillowcases and I gave the white one with the flowers to Alison and I got the brown one with the flowers on.

Then I got 2 quarter of a circle templates and I drew around them in a dark colour to make a mark.

Then I cut around the quarter circles and that made the armholes to put your arm through.

Even though you can put your arms through you can’t put your head through, so you cut the top off the pillowcase.

Then you need to fold over the top twice and pin together.

This is where the elastic needs to go.

Peggy got in the way a lot!

Then you need to sew up the folds that you’ve made.

Then you cut a 18cm piece of elastic and then you put a safety pin at one end and push and pull it through the channel you just sewed.

Now you need to get 86cm of binding and pin and sew it as your sleeves.

Ta Da! I like my finished dress a lot and I hope someone wears it that is 9 years old like me.

Thank you for a lovely blog post, and a lovely day Amber!


Trick or Treat?

A little while back I made a mask for a friend for Halloween. Ian wanted something along these lines.

He gave me a hessian sack and a very large and heavy zip, and off I went to be creative!

I’ve got some ‘step-by-step’ photos, which are more for comedy value than to be of any use…

Firstly, I needed to work out where the eyes and mouth needed to go. As I was home alone, I decided that the only way to do this was to use my own head. So on the sack went.

I'm smiling, can you tell?

It was only at this point that I realised photographing myself with a sack on my head was a slightly silly idea, but I kept going anyway and after about 10 tries I managed to get me in the frame AND in focus!

The next step was to pin on the zip in the right place for a mouth. Trickier than I had anticipated (wait till it gets to the eyeballs…).

Looking good!

Finally, I needed to mark where to cut the eye holes. No easy task when I couldn’t really see anything from where I was sitting. Putting one finger where my eye was, I gingerly moved in with a pin in the other hand to mark the location.

Photographing this proved even more problematic, so I randonly aimed the camera at my general face area, and eventually caught a rare sighting of a pin in this shot (you can just see the tip on the right-hand side).

With everything now marked, I took the mask off and set about sewing. I cut a slit for the zip and used my machine to attach that from the inside (only broke one needle, bonus). I then cut the eye holes and sewed round them with black embroidery thread.

Here is the finished mask.

And Ian in his full costume – scary eyeball!!


Betty’s Blouse

Last weekend I made a trip back down to Sussex for a friends 30th, and popped in to see my nan and grandad while I was there.

Since starting this blog and learning to sew, people seem to have been digging around in their cupboards and giving me all the things they don’t want anymore. This is definitely not a complaint, more an observation – I love getting all these things!

One of the things my nan gave me was a shirt she didn’t wear anymore.

At first glance, this is a shirt I would never wear – not only was it a good few sizes too big (not sure why as my nan is much smaller than me now 🙂 ), but it also had shoulder pads and just wasn’t very ‘me’.

The fabric however was nice, and only a few days before a friend had sent a link to a shirt refashioning tutorial on another blog. So guess what I did?

I unpicked the sleeves and collar, turned the shirt around, took it in at the sides, added a couple of new darts and a new neckline, and had a new top!


We’re over half way!

Aside from making Big-Dinner-Trousers and reversed shirt tops from my nan, I have also managed to make eight pillowcase dresses this week. I am keeping them plain from now on as I have three pillowcase dress parties coming up over the next few weeks where people will be able to make them as pretty as they like!

The grand total of dresses is now 28 – only 24 to go and I have a pile of nearly 20 pillowcases waiting for me in the spare room!

Pillowcase Dress 21

Pillowcase Dress 22

Pillowcase Dress 23

Pillowcase Dress 24

Pillowcase Dress 25

Pillowcase Dress 26

Pillowcase Dress 27

Pillowcase Dress 28

You can see these dresses and the others in the Pillowcase Dress Gallery, or have a look at my Pillowcase Dress Challenge page to find out how you can get involved!

Trying Trousers

In the grand scheme of things my week obviously hasn’t been too bad, but in sewing terms I have found in quite trying!

As it’s half term I had set myself all these tasks I wanted to complete as I had lots of free time. I was excited at all I was going to achieve, and how good it was going to be, and how much I would have to show for the week. As I’m sure you can guess, that’s not quite how it turned out!

I decided a while back to join my first sewalong with Colette Patterns and their Clover trousers. I managed to make a muslin (practice pair to work out alterations etc) pair a week or so ago, but against the very clear instructions I made them from calico, rather than a similar stretchy fabric to the final fabric I had. This wasn’t a deliberate ‘I know better’ decision, more a cost related one as I can’t really afford to buy two lots of good fabric.

So, I made the muslin, and then made the alterations to the pattern using the sewalong help, and what I’ve learnt in my pattern making class. So far so good – I was feeling pretty pleased with myself!

That was until I had spent another two days making the trousers out of the proper fabric, using all my carefully calculated alterations, broke two needles, one of which nearly went in my eye, didn’t have the right zipper foot so had to go and buy one, and ran out of cotton so had to make ANOTHER trip to John Lewis – only for them not to fit and actually be about two sizes too big!

A few tears were shed, and a few cross words were said (sorry Dave). I felt like the biggest sewing failure in the world!

I did however wear the too-big-trousers out for a yummy meal at Abeno Too. They don’t look so bad in the pictures, but the inside is a disaster and I can definitely make them fit better. By sitting down and standing in a particular way I have managed to make them look better than they are I think!

After a sleepless night trying to work out if it was best to just start all over again, I decided I would put the trousers aside for the rest of this week and tackle them again when I am a little less cross. Instead, I need to bear in mind the positives:

– I made a pair of trousers
– They don’t look that bad
– I learnt, successfully, how to install an invisible zip for the first time
– I made a pair of trousers
– I am still a beginner, and am only going to learn by trying things out
– I made a pair of trousers

My Favourite Dress

Since I somewhat bashfully announced to you all that I own 52 dresses, a few of you have been asking to see these dresses. While I could do a post a week for a year, some of them aren’t really worth a whole blog post (which probably means I should be making a trip to the charity shop with them!).

Instead, I thought I would choose some of my particular favourites, and especially ones that have more interesting stories behind them.

This is my most favouritest dress that I own.

Some of you will have seen the picture, and indeed the dress, before as I wore it to a friends wedding earlier in the year.

I found the dress in a vintage clothes shop in Camden Passage, Islington (have tried looking it up, but can’t seem to find the name anywhere – it’s not Annie’s, I have another one from there 🙂 ).

These shops are often quite pricey, but some of the buttons down the back of this dress had almost been ripped off so it had been reduced. After trying it on, not only had I fallen in love with the colour, but also with the drapey, scarfy, tassley thing round the neck and down the back! It was a bit of a risk, but one I’m glad I took as I was able to repair all of the buttons so that you wouldn’t notice the damage.

I especially liked the dress as I had only recently seen Joan in Mad Men (Series 1, Episode 12) wearing an amazing blue dress with a scarf that fell down her back! So for this highly scientific and accurate reason I am guessing my dress is also from the 1960s-ish!

Obviously I don’t quite look like Joan in mine, but one can dream!

The story doesn’t end there – this is the label inside the dress.

Having done some searching, Ciolina still have a website:

According to this, the brand Ciolina was started by Italian Joseph Ciolina.

In 1833 Ciolina was granted permanent residence in the city of Berne, Switzerland. At this time Ciolina was a partner in a millinery and fancy goods business called Ciolina Bros.

The company offered “beautiful silk fabrics and merinos from Lyon, foreign linen and furniture fabrics, the latest shawls from Paris, feather-light scarves, soft fichus and veils, and the very finest stockings and petticoats”.

The business was a success among the fashionable ladies of the city. The business moved to larger premises, and expanded to off-the-peg clothing. This meant that fashion was available to more than just the upper classes.

During the First World War materials became scarce, but Ciolina, now in the sole ownership of Franz Cantadore, managed to survive.

Following the death of Cantadore in 1923, his daughters took on the company which was then lead by Hans Cantadore from 1932.

Ciolina also survived the difficult times of the Second World War, and exhibited in Paris for the first time in 1966 (maybe this is when my dress put in an appearance!).

In the early 1970s Ciolina developed Florence and Milan as it’s key focal points. From what I can make out, Ciolina had a department store in Berne, as in 1978 the fabrics department closed down. In its place ranges by well known designers such as Versace were sold. From then until 2005, Ciolina seemed to focus quite heavily on selling the work of others in the department store, as well as developing their own fashion lines.

The website hasn’t been updated since 2009 from what I can gather, so not sure what that says about things…!

Image Sources 

Another decorative technique: fagotting

Today I’m going to attempt to explain a technique I learnt last Friday in my Decorative Techniques class – faggoting.

Try as I might (I honestly did have a very good look in the last five minutes, sitting here in my PJ’s!), I can’t find anything about the history of this oddly named technique – if anyone else knows I’d love to hear from you!

Fagotting involves bringing two pieces of fabric together with open stitches that are usually criss-crossed. Here are a couple of examples.

And here is how I did twisted faggoting.

You need two pieces of fabric that you wish to join, a strip of card or thick paper, embroidery thread and a needle, and a lot of patience.

Fold under the raw edges of the pieces of fabric that are to be joined.

On the card, draw two parallel lines. Mine are about 4mm apart, but this distance should be the distance you want between the fabric.

Place the folded edges of the fabric along each of the lines, and sew to the card. Preferably do it a bit neater than I did, but as you will be removing these stitches it doesn’t really matter!

Next, using a ruler, mark a series of points along each side at even intervals, about 2mm from the folded edge. They should not be parallel to each other on each side, but offset.

Now take some embroidery thread, and split it in to two or three strands.Tie a knot in the end of the thread, and start sewing by bringing the needle from back to front on the first point you have marked. Take the needle across to the next marked point on the other side and stitch from front to back (you don’t sew through the card, it’s just there to keep the space correct).

As you pull the needle through, sew through the loop that has been created with the thread from the other side. Pull the thread tight, this catches the loop.

Now, stitch from front to back at the next marked point on the other side. Again, as you pull through you need to be coming through the middle of the loop of thread.

And then start again. Hope that vaguely makes sense!

Here is the finished effect, with the card removed from the back. It would look much nicer using thread the same colour as the fabric.

If you want to give it a try, but this is clear as mud here are a few instructions other people have done –

By hand:

Using a satin foot on a machine:

Right, I’m off to collect some more pillowcases – have a good day everyone!

Image sources

Seam Finishes, and the mum’s make some dresses…

Having cut out my skirt fabric what seems months ago, I still didn’t get to start sewing it in my Clothes Making class last Monday. I have been assured I will be able to after half term though (tee hee, I’m on half term – it’s properly like being back at school!).

In the meantime, we were taught a couple more seam finishes, which admittedly will be useful, but are not nearly as exciting as starting to make the skirt I started making FIVE WEEKS AGO!!!! (People from college reading this – I promise I’m enjoying it, I’d just like to get going now 🙂 )

So, here are a few more seam finishing options which follow on from the couple I told you about last Monday. I will be using one of them when making my Clover trousers this week, so they have definitely been useful to learn.

For the first seam finish, place the left side of the machine foot next to the seam line.

Sew a straight line parallel to the seam. This line of stitching is called stay stitching, used to stabilise the fabric and stop it from stretching or distorting.

Next, sew a line of zig zag stitch along the raw edge of the fabric – the stitch should just fall over the side of the fabric. This catches the raw edge and stops it from fraying.

Ideally the stay stitching should be much closer to the zig zag stitching, but I made a little mistake with the positioning of my needle. Oopsie!

The second seam finish is even simpler, and is just the zig zag stitch along the raw edges.

I don’t think either of these look as nice as the first seam finish I was taught the week before, but these are less bulky so might be better to use in tight fitting garments.


32 TO GO

When I was growing up, I remember my mum making clothes and nighties for me and my sister, and it was from her that I started to learn to sew. My mum has been behind me and my pillowcase dress challenge from the start (as have all of you!), and I’m in danger of her making more dresses than me I think!

Last Saturday she met up with Dave’s mum, and these are the first four pillowcase dresses they made. There are plenty more to come as my mum has planned a whole day of dress making fun with her friends in a few weeks time!

Pillowcase Dress 17

Pillowcase Dress 18

Pillowcase Dress 19 - I love this one, and I'm sure I remember using it in a caravan once on holiday!

Pillowcase Dress 20. Apparently I tie died this pillowcase when I was at Brownies!

In case anyone is thinking I’m slacking and getting everyone else to make the dresses, I have been steadily prepping squillions of donated pillowcases, and they are all ready for me to sew up in half term!

You can see these dresses and the others in the Pillowcase Dress Gallery, or have a look at my Pillowcase Dress Challenge page to find out how you can get involved!