Pin wars!

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Pins. Not needles. Just pins….and pins and more pins. The measure of a good day at Sassy sewing is the degree to which our floor is glimmering at the end of a workshop. To you and me these tiny steel sabres are the most precise of precision instruments, the teeny-tools that make all this magic possible. But to those who turn up at the end to transform our workspace back into a shop (by which I mean the ‘thoughtful-not-stoic’ Mr Sassy) they seem to act as a prompt to run through his repertoire of second-division swear words.

Today’s piece of memorable grumpiness was about how ‘Isaac Newton would have discovered gravity a lot sooner if he’d worked in a sewing shop and had to pick up all those flipping pins’ . And this was followed by something about how ‘If Tata Steel made sewing pins at Port Talbot, then Wales would be as wealthy as the Middle East.’

So, to keep him quiet I’ve made Mr Sassy a deal. From now on he can keep all the swept up pins in a jar and when it gets full he can take them to the scrap merchant and spend the proceeds on beer. That should keep him happy.

Pins pic

Sewing with lace fabric

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Lace is such a dreamy fabric and with the summer just around the corner we’re going to see more and more of it in the next few months. It never goes out of fashion and is so versatile. Of course if you’re a brushing bride-to-be then lace is probably on very much on your mind right now.

There are lots of different types of lace with wide ranging price tags. You can get poly lace from as little as £5 per metre which is great for day to day wear or smaller items. Or  expect to pay £300 plus per metre for the best top quality lace – great for those very special occasions.

Like a lot of specialty fabric, lace is a little trickier to handle than say cotton, but armed with a bit of knowledge, everyone can enjoy this lovely treat.

There are lots of different types of lace, here are the most popular of 2016:

Chantilly Lace – a heavily corded lace, often used in bridal wear. It is on tulle, if often beaded and as an ornate edge. Most commonly comes in black, white and ivory


Alencon Lace – this all over lace has a design incorporated into a tulle background and it may or may not have a decorative border. It’s an easy lace to work with and comes in lots of colours


Guipure Lace – a heavily embroidered lace with no tulle backing, but open spaces. This lace is really in fashion at the moment and also comes in lots of colours


Cutting Lace

The pattern on lace runs across the fabric, selvedge to selvedge and because the selvedge is often also a decorative border, it needs to be cut with the grain line at 90 degrees to the selvedge (or border).

Use the border as the finished hem of the garment if you can as that will look fab. But if you are making a garment when this just won’t work (a circular skirt for instance) then the border can be cut off and sewn back on later. It’s worth taking a good look at the pattern on the lace before you cut and cut in a single layer to make sure you have the pattern where you want it to be – avoiding large motifs on the bust or bottom for instance. It’s also just a lot easier to cut single as it can move quite a bit when it’s folded double, even when you’ve pinned it.


Darts can be sewn just like regular darts. If you’re making darts in the lace only, to reduce the bulk and make it look a little tidier, sew another row of stitches 3mm away from the first and trim off the surplus fabric.


Sewing seams

If you decide to mount your lace onto another fabric, such as silk or even cotton, then the two fabrics can be treated as one with no special requirements.

If you want to have the illusion of lace you may need to be a bit more careful. When sewing a seam just in the lace, if you’re working with lace with tulle backing your machine may be OK with stitching through the lace. Make a regular plain seam and then gently press open using a pressing cloth – it will be hardly visible. But, the tricky bit is stopping the lace from disappearing down your feed dogs. To help with this, start on a piece of freezer paper, or stitch and tear paper and run the lace on to it. You can then tear the paper away without any damage.

Seams on Guipure Lace can be more troublesome as the seam won’t blend too easily when stitched. A good option is to sew the seam as usual then wrap bias binding around the seams – satin or poly-cotton. Although it will be visible through the holes, if you choose the right colour it will blend in nicely and make a very strong seam too.




Sewing the Tilly and the Buttons Orla

Monday, April 4th, 2016

I love Tilly and the Buttons’ patterns. Inspiring designs, clear and easy to follow instructions and more help online if you need it. What’s not to like as they say.

So I was very excited to get started on my Tilly and the Buttons Orla shirt. Well I call it a shirt but it’s in fact a top, which can either be long or short sleeved and made with or without a snowdrop collar. I went for the long sleeved version and the collar too in a plain brown viscose as I wanted something to showcase some of the subtle design features, which I’m not sure a patterned fabric would do quite so well. This top suits fabrics that drape nicely so cotton lawn or silk or crepe-backed satin would have done a good job too.

This is a semi-fitted top with curved French darts at the front for shape and shoulder darts at the back to give a good fit. I really like the little pleat at the shoulders. The hemline is gently curved and finished with a facing, a technique I don’t tend to use too often so I was keen to see how this one worked out.

Tilly’s patterns aren’t sized in the regular way – instead she has sizes one to eight so it’s imperative that you measure yourself carefully to choose the right one. Get some help with this if you can cos measuring yourself accurately isn’t always the easiest thing to do. She makes it very clear what size will fit which measurements so don’t be worried about this. If your measurements land between sizes always go for the bigger one.

Out of all the Tilly patterns I’ve used so far (which I think is them all now) I would say, for inexperienced sewists, this one could possibly be the most challenging. I’m not saying it’s overly hard because it’s not. But it just has more techniques to get to grips with. I think the two things that need a bit of experience to complete are the collar and the exposed zip. The collar needs a bit of precision sewing to get the curves equal (drawing in the sewing line will help with this) and the technique used for the exposed zip is possibly one that could be a little tricky for some. When I make this again I’ll probably try a different way to do the zip. The facing on the hemline gives a nice finish but I’m not sure it works as well as it could on the viscose as I think it just makes the hem a little more visible when wearing it. Also I chose not to draw the sewing line for the collar and consequently, it’s not quite right. I have to admit to sewing this is a hurry too, so it’s not my best make – sorry Tilly! Must try harder.

I would highly recommend trying this pattern and it’s such a versatile garment. If you’re not massively experienced, just take your time and read the instructions carefully. As always, Tilly has online instructions too so head to her website if you need a little bit of extra help.

I’m looking forward to making another – going to try patterned lightweight cotton this time and might even try one of these fancy zips too (see pic). They look pretty and are easy to sew as they sit on the outside of the garment – a different kind of exposed zip.

Have fun everyone.




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Here it's not just about 'how to' but also 'why not?' We're not experts, more like curious enthusiasts and this is the place where we can all learn to be successful at sewing together. Helpful (hopefully), inspiring (ditto) and we promise not to take ourselves too seriously. Let's put some fun into fabric.

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