Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


You Want Two Sleeves?

Most of us have two arms and therefore our shirts generally require two sleeves. When Vogue 9162 asks for 2.4m and you only buy 2m and then use some of it for pocket linings or a waistband facing or some such then you’re left with 1.7m or thereabouts, fitting the pattern onto the fabric can be a bit of an issue. Added to which this Kathryn Brenne pattern is for an oversized shirt – and I mean oversized! The model in the Vogue picture has clothes pegs used for fitting the shirt and jacket at the back! Def sure of that as I used to work in advertising. Anyway, back to real life…….with a pattern that is too big for your fabric.

So you start to edit the pattern to get the pieces to fit onto the meagre amount of fabric – maybe lose the front pocket, perhaps shorten it a bit, maybe narrow the width, instead of concealed button closing just make it normal – and so on until it doesn’t resemble the original pattern at all. Ultimately, I managed to fit the fronts and back on without any editing, the pocket hardly took any fabric at all and the concealed button closing was part of the front anyway. The real problem lay with the sleeves. It never fails to amaze me how much fabric sleeves need – quick guess at 1m?

So, here’s what I did to get two sleeves for both my arms – and you can do it too even if you need to or not…..

Fit the top of the sleeve pattern onto the remaining fabric and cut to suit the available length. We now have the shoulder seam and armscye and when sewing sleeves they are the Very Important Things and demand capitalisation.


I folded the pattern up for the first cut, then unfolded and repositioned on the crossgrain  scraps for the lower (and generally less important) half. Remember to allow for 1-1.5cm seam allowance. There are no cuffs in this pattern so one less thing to worry about. Join these two pieces together and lo and behold – a whole sleeve! With added design features!

To keep the inside sleeve neat and tidy I actually sewed these two halves wrong sides together! Then I cut a bias strip from more scraps, which is always impressive in a striped fabric, pressed the raw edges under and edge-stitched this onto the right side to hide the wrong side seam. Still with me?

And now it looks like a deliberate and well thought out design element that hides all raw edges.

Recently I’ve been following some French sewing blogs – I say following but I really just look at the pictures as French is not my first language – and they have this wonderful thing called De-Stocking! Nothing to do with bedroom antics but in English (specifically North American) it means de-stashing and the pledge is to sew at least one thing a month from your stock / stash / hoard / treasure / investment or whatever euphemism you choose to describe the metres and metres of fabric you own. I haven’t pledged anything primarily because I don’t know what my school-girl French might be translated into by Google but this grey and white striped poly-cotton was delivered over a year ago and I’m only getting round to sewing it now. So I count this as a positive de-stocking!

I’ve already made the Vogue 9162 trousers and this is the matching shirt.


Told you it was oversized although I might have made a bigger size than I needed. Anyway, I added a few ‘patches’ around the shirt either to compliment or disguise the hacked together sleeves and balance out the rather large breast pocket. My sleeves in the end product are longer than necessary and are usually worn pushed up or folded back.


My label was sewn in and I only do that on things I really like or that I am inordinately proud of.

The neck buttoning is stylish with a loop and not a bog-standard hole. I have worn this shirt open-necked and it is just as wearable.

Personal style opinion: such a large shirt looks better with narrow trousers or skinny jeans.

And as the camera was running out of battery, and we all know that feeling, I snapped a few out of focus pics that at least illustrate the overall look.

The remaining garment to be sewn from this single pattern is the jacket and yes, I do have a de-stocking fabric that is most suitable – a raspberry boiled wool – yum. I know it’s officially spring and the sun may break through the clouds on occasion but our temperatures are low and I might just get a few wearable weeks during May.

Talking of which – Me-Made-May launches this weekend. It is an online celebration of hand-made and home-sewn clothes. Personally, about 90% of my wardrobe is now home-made so I don’t have a choice for May or any other month for that matter but you can pledge and promise to wear your unique and beautifully crafted wardrobe every day of May, or every other day, or once a week – whatever suits you. Isn’t that the whole point of making our own clothes – suit yourself!


BoHo 4 Gore


After one week of intensive tutoring, marking, checking and re-marking, cajoling and encouraging I was really ready for something different – I needed a release. So I went into the sewing room this afternoon (Friday, I reckoned I’d earned some time for me) pushed the exams papers to one side and got to work.

 A few weeks ago Frabjous Couture posted about boho skirts. Now these ones are expensive – YSL no less and I’m guessing made in silk or other luxurious type fabrics, all I had was a fine printed cotton stashed from the winter. I love long, flowing skirts – I think I’m having a hippy revival or else having my hippy moments now in middle age! Amazingly, I didn’t have a skirt pattern that was plain enough or hippy enough for this look, so I made my own. I like a semi-fitted hip and waist on my skirts, gathers just don’t work for me, but I also like a big flare, so this self-drafted pattern fits the bill.
Pay attention! Here comes the details so you too can make a Boho skirt. This one has 4 panels all exactly the same so it’s real easy. No darts but you do need a zip. I’m going to release my actual measurements – so NO JUDGEMENTS please. 

Honestly and accurately measure the widest circumference around your hips – in my case 40″.

Next measure your waist, or where you want the top of the skirt to sit. I went for a hip bone height, even though I haven’t seen them in years. For me this was 37″.

Now measure the distance between these two points, typically 5-6″.

Divide the hip and waist measurements by 4. Let’s take my hip measurements ’cause that’s easy.

40/4 = 10″ + 1″ for seam allowances. 1/2″ either side.

I’ve found paper table cloths make the most wonderful substrate for home made patterns. They cost very little, are huge and you can buy them in supermarkets.

Decide on length and amount of flare you’d like on your skirt. Remember, the flare will be multiplied by 4. If you’d like a guide, mine has 25″ around the bottom on the single pattern piece, so that’s 100″ hem!

On your tissue (tablecloth, whatever) draw a long grainline to match your chosen length – remember to include hem allowance. I suggest a deep hem as you’ll need a bit of weight at the bottom to make the skirt hang well. I went for 3″. Everything will be measured from this grainline so leave enough space either side for the skirt flare.

Draw a perpendicular line from the grainline, half the measurements on one side and half on the other. Using my hips, I marked 5 1/2″ either side. then measure up from this your 5 or 6″ to the waistline and draw in the top of the skirt. Once done, curve the centres of the pattern down by 1/2″. You don’t need a fancy French curve to do this you can mark it in by eye. This skirt is Core Couture by SewRuth, not YSL couture!

Measure from your hips to where you’d like the flare to start from. In my case I choose high on the mid thigh which was about 8″ below hip and draw another line. From this mark draw an angled line to the required length, aiming to have both sides symmetrical. 

You should end up with a pattern piece that looks something like this.
Now fold your fabric selvedge to selvedge and double over so you have four thicknesses. This really only works for fine fabrics. If you are working with thicker then cut 2 and another 2.
Here’s mine on Doris to see what the end result might look like.
Now the easy peasy bit. 
Sew the centre fronts and centre backs together. They’re both the same so it doesn’t matter at this stage which is which. 
Sew the right side seam.
Your skirt should start to look a bit like this.
Mark on the left hand side seam the length of your zip and close the remaining seam. 
You could opt to put in a back zip, just do whatever you feel comfortable with.
Insert the zip. I did a lapped zip as I happened to have a normal cream zip in the bits box, but an invisible zip may be the best option. I was sorting hoping for 1970s originality when invisible zips hadn’t been invented yet – that’s my excuse.
Make a band long enough to go around the top of the skirt about 4″ wide. Technically this should be on the bias but I cut mine on the straight of grain and it worked just fine. Go for the cross grain for an inbetweeny effect. Press in the seam allowances on the long edges of the band and press in 1″ at either end. Attach the band to the top of the skirt catching the skirt’s raw edges inside. Leave the ends of the band open – do not sew closed.
You may notice that I lined my skirt. I usually line all my garments – it’s my thing – and may not be necessary for your fabric. I used a very fine cream muslin which doesn’t detract from the shell fabric’s drape. If you are lining your skirt, just make a second one in the lining fabric from the same pattern piece. This waist band hides all the raw edges.
With any fabric scraps make a tube to fit through the wasitband long enough to go round your waist and tie on the outside. Using a safety pin, thread the tie through the waistband. This will act as extra safety at waist and gathers in very, very gently any excess fabric as we didn’t add darts for shaping. 
Hem the skirt and wear!

Boy, did I need that!

This took less than 2 hours to draft and sew.

If you do make this, I’d love to see your versions. If you have any questions or would like some bit explained better, just leave a comment. I’ll be more than happy to answer.

E-mail me your postings or pics of your skirts and I’ll showcase them.

 The old ballet classes still have influence!

 I’ve notice that the cat seems to be creeping into more and more photos. I could start a “Spot the Cat” competition. What do you think? Patterns as prizes?

Thanks for reading. Ruth


Denim Tips 4 – Fly Zip

Hot Patterns Boyfriend jeans – Fly zip.
I am somewhat disappointed (and confused) with the instructions included with this pattern. At some points there seems to be an assumption that you know what you are doing and some steps are glossed over or left out completely. Other instructions (measurements) are just plain wrong and it seems no one proof read them first; 1 1/2″ is NOT 6.25cm. There’s even a sentence that refers to the SKIRT!
It doesn’t help too much either that the diagrams are only line drawings with no shading to show you right side or wrong side of fabric. So I’ve made this photographic rendition of the steps involved in inserting the zip and making the fly front in the hopes that it will help some of you who are making jeans for the first time or, like me, just not too sure.
Step one – Sew the fronts right sides together just below the bottom of the fly for about 2″ towards the point of the front crotch.  Make a smile.
1. Machine tack (baste) with a large stitch (4mm) the fly openings from the end of the first stitching to the waistband and press open.
Hand tack (baste) the zip to the fly shield along the left hand edge of both. The zip top should extend further than the shield, it is cut off later. After attaching the waistband I noticed that the right side is not long enough to catch the shield so remember to cut the waistband 2″ longer at centre front for a more professional finish later.


1. Fold the right front of the jeans under the left but leave the fly open.

2. Match the free edge of the zip with the centre front.


3. Turn the zip and shield over and  tack (baste) the basted edge to the right hand edge of the fly only. Aim to match the top of the shield with the top edge of the jeans and the bottom with the bottom of the fly.

This is to prevent the metal zip teeth cutting into your tummy when wearing, so apart from comfort, it also adds colour and a professional finish.


4. Sew this basted edge by machine through the fly only – NOT the front of the jeans. Sew close to the zip teeth but watch you don’t hit the metal teeth or you’ll lose a needle! Jeans zips generally have wide tape so you may not need to change to a zipper foot, this means more grip when using your usual sewing foot.


5. Trim off the excess from the fly front and overlock or zig-zag to neater the edge and stop fraying.


6. Fold the zip right way out and pin through the fly, shield and zip tape.

Sew along this line of pins.

Zip and shield folded back in place.


7. Let the zip fall naturally to the left and pin as it lies against the left hand fly. Hold the shield out of the way. Sew this line but just the zip tape and the fly – NOT the front of the jeans.

8. Trim off any excess and overlock the edge if you want.


9. Turn the jeans over and mark up the outside stitching line. This should catch the left hand zip tape and curve round at the bottom to hold the end of the zip.
Move the shield out of the way and stitch by machine. This is seen by the public so take your time. Use a larger stitch 2.5mm or so and you can stitch again for a double top stitching look. Take care at the bottom as you may sew over the metal stops or teeth – better to hand turn the needle and sew slowly – or you’ll lose another needle.

Give it all a good pressing and rip out the tacks (basting stitches) at the centre front.
After you sew the waistband on you cut the extra off the zip, so don’t worry that it’s hanging out at this stage.

There – that’s better than a line drawing isn’t it?

Next time……. Construction Order

Hope this helps and thanks for reading. Ruth


Denim Tips 3 – Pockets & Waist

Hot Patterns Boyfriend Jeans

Changes to cutting out of the pockets and waistband.

Home made jeans are great because you can use a quilters cotton or any thing else that takes your fancy for the pockets, fly shield and waistband facing so that they look good from the inside. It also adds a personal touch and colour, to say nothing of uniqueness.

Taylor of TaylorTailor made his wife a pair of jeans and look what he chose for pocket linings. His wife is a great home baker so what better way to personalise a pair of jeans!

I had an old bit of navy/white flowery cotton kicking about so I used this. Next time I’m going for psychedelic colour and pattern!

To cut the waistbands, cut left and right with the denim right side up and your lining wrong side up.
The right hand side is not long enough to catch the fly shield when attaching it so cut this piece 2″ longer now – you can always trim off later. I only noticed this flaw after the jeans were practically completed. Better to get the fix now.

 The front pockets.
Below are the two pieces that make up the front pocket. The top piece is cut in denim while the bottom piece is cut in lining or cotton for the inside pocket. Now, that joining seam that you see below is probably the hardest seam in the world to sew well – a perfect curve – it’s difficult even pinning the pieces together when they are this shape – an exaggerated princess seam! Also, it means there would be a raw seam on the inside of the jeans.
So here’s my solution to easier sewing and a better finish.

Pin the pocket lining piece onto the cotton and then match up the vertical and horizontal edges of the pocket facing (1/4 circle piece). Cut as one.

 Instead of having the pocket lining looking like the paper pattern shape you have a shape like that on the right. One other thing, these pockets are not too deep, so you may want to add an extra 1″ or so. Do this in the middle of the pocket lining.

Now cut the pocket facing (1/4 circle bit) in your denim. I didn’t remove the seam allowance, just cut off the notch. You can finish the curved edge with a zig-zag or overlock stitch now. Position the facings on the WRONG side of the linings, matching the vertical and horizontal edges again. This means that when you fold the pocket linings up the printed side of the cotton is shown on the inside of the jeans and not hidden inside the pocket.

Stich the now flat pieces together along the curved edge of the facing. I did a straight stitch to fix the facings in place, then I zig-zagged for extra strength and to stop fraying.

Now you have smooth pockets on the inside of your jeans and an easy time sewing.

Hope this helps and thanks for reading. Ruth

Next time – the fly zip.