Book Review – The Basics of Corset Building – A Handbook for Beginners

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

I came across this book at the corset making workshop we did back in November 2016. Instructor Kate Pinfold had it with her as a reference for the clients and then lent me it so I could get cracking with my own creation (a Dupion silk, strapless number that isn’t finished yet – you’ll be the first to see it I promise!)

Written by Linda Sparks this book literally contains everything you need to know to make a corset. Linda claims that as long as you know how to sew a straight line then you can use this book to corset success. She calls it building a corset because making a corset calls for more than just sewing skills. You’ll learn to work with tin snips, needle-nose pliers, hammers, eylets and all sorts of other paraphernalia. But don’t let that put you off. Linda covers in details the different steps involved and they are all well illustrated. She even helps with material choice and styling.

Her tone in the book is re-assuring and she explains everything in a way that makes it all very easy to understand. The only thing I felt was lacking was colour photography – it’s all black and white illustrations and photographs, but don’t let that put you off.

This is great, easy to use book that’s definitely worth getting your hands on if you’re new to corset making, or just interested in seeing how one comes together. Enjoy.

Available at Amazon and priced from £12 to £20 depending on seller.


Beginners guide to using commercial dressmaking patterns

Monday, November 14th, 2016

When you first start using patterns it may seem a little confusing, but like everything, the more experience you get the easier it will become – but you have to start somewhere, so find a pattern marked ‘easy’ or ‘great for beginners’ and get stuck in. Here I’ve given a bit of insight into what you can expect.

Commercial patterns tend to have three main parts – the envelope, the instructions and the pattern tissue or paper.

The envelope contains a raft of information including the pattern number and photos or illustrations of the garment and the different variations available (usually called views) – all of which are included in the one pattern.

The pattern envelope

The back of the envelope contains all the information you need to prepare for you project and should be studied before you buy any fabric. You’ll find the following on the back:

Suggested fabric:

This will tell you what the designer recommends you use and also gives advice on plaids, stripes and napped fabrics. There tends to be a number of options so you can choose something that suits your style or needs.

Fabric quantity chart:

This tells you how much fabric to buy, based on the width of the fabric and the size you’re going to make. It will also tell you what lining and interfacing you require and how much. Ask for help from the shop assistant if you’re unsure.

Notions required:

These are the buttons, ribbons, bias binding and anything else you need to complete the garment.

Finished garment measurements:

This section tells you the measurements of the garment at various points – hipline, bust etc. once the garment is finished, If this isn’t included on the envelope or pattern instructions, it will be on the pattern tissue instead. Make sure you’ve measured yourself before you buy then you can buy the right pattern for your size.

Inside the pattern envelope

The instructions will contain illustrations or drawings of all views and also pattern piece diagrams to show you what pieces you need and what they look like. Each piece is numbered and it will tell you what numbers you’ll use for the particular garment you’re making.

You will also have diagrams of the cutting layout – how to place the pattern pieces on the material – this helps get all them all on in the most fabric economical way.

On each pattern piece you’ll see instructions on how many of each piece you need and whether you also need that particular piece cutting out of interfacing or lining as well as the main fabric.

You will find all the information you need on how to make your garment on the instruction sheets – glossary of terms, list of pattern pieces, measurements, and of course step-by-step guides to making the garment. Many patterns also have sewalongs online and the information for these will also be on the instruction.

 If in doubt, take the pattern into your local shop as the assistants will be more than happy to help – at Sassy Sewing we’ll give you all the help and advice you need.




Book Review – The Great British Sewing Bee From Stitch to Style

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

So it’s been a while since The Great British Sewing Bee finished and what a great series it was. I secretly wanted Jade to win as I thought she had a lot of talent for one so young and had the sort of potential that winning could have helped her tap into. Hopefully she’s heading for greater things anyway.

I’ve been having withdrawal symptoms since the final so to re-live some of The Bee I’ve been having a better look through the accompanying book – From Stitch to Style.

It’s a really comprehensive book with a whopping 27 patterns in total. There are a handful of men’s and children’s patterns but most are for the ladies. Full price for this book is £25 but at Sassy Sewing we have it for £14.99 – which is a bargain if you think how much regular sewing patterns cost.

There is the obligatory introduction section covering sewing kit essentials, sewing machine basics, choosing a size, using the patterns, some common fit alterations, and popular sewing terms and hand stitching too.

To cover the ‘style’ part of the title there is a summary of common body shapes and tips on what styles would suit you best.

Then the book splits into three sections – Foundation, Inspiration and Exploration and all the patterns fall into one of these.

As part of the instructions of each project there is core skills section, which goes into more detail, so it’s great for the novice dressmaker and if you’re more advanced it makes it easy to skip the bits you don’t need.

The patterns are full size and come in a separate pack. You’ll need to trace off your size as the pattern pieces are overlapped and printed on both sides. It can be a bit tricky to find the sheets you need as they aren’t labelled when you slide them out the pack. But all in all this is a minor irritation.

My favourite pattern from the book is the asymmetric skirt (or Japanese Bunka) which featured on the show. It’s an interesting shape and goes together a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. You may remember that the contestants struggled with it a bit as it does take some thinking about – and of course they were against the clock, which doesn’t help matters much.

If you want a book that has some really good instruction and tips and also provides inspiration and lots of patterns, then I’d recommend you get your hand on this – it certainly ticks all the boxes.





Relax and unwind at a Sassy Sewing retreat

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

Sassy Sewing has teamed up with The Elm Tree, a luxury boutique hotel in Hundleby, Lincolnshire to bring you The Sassy Sewing Retreat, A chance to have some ‘you’ time, enjoy the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds, eat gorgeous food and of course sew lots – with other like minded folk and a tutor on hand too. Day tickets for the Saturday are also available if you don’t want to stay over. The retreats are run from Friday late afternoon until Sunday lunch time. Full details below. For more information or to book day tickets then please contact us on 01507 524566 or email me at 

To book a place on the full retreat please call Jonathan at the Elm Tree on 01790 753534 or email:

First two retreat dates are 12th August – 14th August and 2nd – 4th of September
@ The Elm Tree , Hundleby, Lincolnshire
Working together, The Elm Tree and Sassy Sewing are offering you the chance to sew in luxury on a peaceful weekend retreat! With luxurious rooms to relax in overnight, by day you can work on existing projects or start something new with tutors on hand to assist, guide and develop! Fabric and haberdashery will be available to buy in case you need anything and if you’re not bringing your own sewing machine you can use ours – reserve on booking please

INTRODUCTORY OFFER – Priced at £375 per person

To include …..
On arrival – High tea served in the breakfast room or on the terrace
Chance to meet the tutors to discuss what you want to achieve over the weekend
Light supper and sew until bedtime!

Elm Tree Breakfast
10am – 12.30pm – Sewing with the tutors – sit and relax in the bar area, outside on the terrace, in the breakfast room or in the intimate dining room
12.30pm-1.30pm – Buffet Lunch
1.30pm- 4pm – Continue to sew!
4pm-7.30pm – Chance for you to relax and unwind or just continue to sew!
7.30pm –Three course dinner served in the formal dining room

Elm tree Breakfast
10am-12.30pm – More sewing with the tutors to guide you all the way if needed
1pm – Depart after you’ve enjoyed a light lunch!

Any further questions then please get in touch with Jonathan or Sassy Sewing
Please note only one of our four rooms is a twin – so if coming with a friend you will have to share!n
Call Jonathan on 01790 753534 or email:
Day tickets (£40) for non-residents available at Sassy Sewing on: 01507 524566

Elm tree

Elm tree 2

Em tree 3


New Sewing Clubs at Sassy Sewing

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

So here we go! Details of our new Sassy Clubs – we’re so excited!
Our two clubs are open to all, no matter what level of experience and will offer the opportunity to sew in a relaxed and friendly place with instructors on hand to help you if you need it. You can come to as many or as few as you wish – you don’t have to attend every one.

Club number one, The Sassy Sewing Club is for all those of you who want to sew – dressmaking, quilting, crafting – whatever you’re in to. Bring a new project or finish something you’ve already started. – it’s entirely up to you. These will run every two weeks on a Tuesday evening from 6.30pm – 8.30pm. First dates are 24 May, 7 June (TBC), 21 June, 5 July, and 19 July and each session is £10.00.

Club number two, The Sassy Quilting and Patchwork Club is for everyone interested in this fascinating craft. Bring your own project, big or small or we can work on one together from start to finish if you’d prefer. This club will run one Tuesday per month from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. First dates are 28 June and 26 July and each session is £10.00.
You can bring your own sewing machine if you like but it must have a current PAT test – let us know if you need help finding someone to do this for you. Or use one of ours at no extra cost. Numbers are limited and so booking and paying in advance is required to guarantee a place. Please call the shop on 01507 524566 or email me at for more info or to book. Sassy Sewing is in Horncastle, Lincolnshire.


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.




All about interfacing

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

When to use interfacing

Need some extra stiffness in your garments? Interfacing is probably the answer. Whether it’s giving some strength to a buttonhole, reinforcing your jersey fabric to help keep its shape or adding stiffness to a collar, adding a little interfacing will always do the job. It can also be used to retain your garment’s shape if you don’t want to add weight or stiffness. Any fabric cut on the bias can stretch a little when you sew it, but adding a little interfacing helps give some definition.

How to choose interfacing

There are two main types; fusible and non-fusible. Fusible interfacing is applied using an iron to the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric, whereas non-fusible is sewn into heat-sensitive fabrics that can’t be ironed or fabrics with a loose weave where the adhesive in fusible interfacing would weep through to the other side.

Once you’ve decided on the type you then need to choose between woven, non-woven or knit interfacing. Non-woven is the most popular because it has no grain. Woven interfacing has a grain – similar to fabric – and so the interfacing should be cut according to the grain in line with the fabric. Knit interfacing has some built-in stretch and is used for interfacing knits and jersey fabrics.

The final decision is the interfacing weight. There are three choices; light, medium and heavyweight. The simple rule is that weight of the interfacing should be roughly equal to, or a bit lighter than, the fabric.

Working with fusible interfacing – easy peasy

Put your fabric on an ironing board with the right side facing down.

Place the fusible side of the interfacing on top of the fabric. The fusible side has a roughness to it, while the non-fusible side is smooth.

Put a damp cloth onto the interfacing (otherwise you’ll end up with the interfacing stuck to your iron) and then place a hot iron on it for 10-15 seconds (depending on the weight of your fabric). Don’t move the iron on the fabric or you’ll end up with a glue-ey mess.If your interfacing is bigger than the iron plate, lift up the iron and apply it to the rest of the interfacing separately.

Know this:

  • Adding an extra cloth underneath the fabric protects your ironing board cover should the interfacing move.
  • If you do get interfacing on your iron unplug it and allow to cool. You should be able to peel off most of the interfacing.

Inferfacing pic

inferfacing pic 2

Our pattern drafting workshop

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Last Sunday at Sassy Sewing, a gaggle of keen sewists and instructor, fashion designer and seamstress Kate Pinfold huddled over calculators, paper, rulers, measuring tapes, calico and a whole host of other essentials. This weekend we were pattern drafting for a woman’s shirt. Pattern drafting is the art of making a pattern from your own measurements – so it’s as good a fit as a pattern can ever be. Once you’ve got your basic pattern, you can then go on to design whatever shirt you want – even a Vivien Westwood copy if that’s your thing. It’s very addictive because it’s just so fabulous being able to design something from scratch. Now I love commercial patterns too, don’t get me wrong but pattern drafting is so exciting. Your design may start out as one idea, then a tweak and a twiddle here and there and your finished garment may be quite different to what you had in mind – it’s a very  creative process. All our workshop attendees went away with a pattern for a long sleeved shirt with front and back yokes with gathers at the yokes. Some had fashioned a collar with a neck stand (one or two very pointy collars amongst them) with a Peter Pan collar being an option for others. We learnt so much on this workshop but here are six things that stick in my mind the  most:

1 When drawing a curved line, its easier and more accurate to draw it in such a way that you are pulling the curve towards you, not pushing it away.

2 When making a shirt from your own pattern, ditch the usual 1.5 cm seam and use a 1cm one instead – less is more to avoid bulk.

3 When marking the right spot for your bust darts, remember it needs to point upwards towards the middle of your bust not downwards. It’s much more flattering this way and will make you look perkier than you are if you need that kind of help (many do).

4 It’s great to be excited by pattern drafting, but there are maths involved so be prepared to concentrate. My first attempt at a collar looked like something made especially for one of the Bagpuss mice!

5 The measuring tool called a pattern master is a very useful investment

6 Winifred Aldrich is the goddess of pattern drafting and her book Metric Pattern Cutting is a must have if you really want to get serious about this. Yes the illustrations look like something out of the fifties, but the advice is invaluable. It’s an oldie but a goodie – available from Amazon.

Here are some shots of the day. We were a messy lot!







Choosing wool fabric and pre-shrinking

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Well true winter has finally arrived and it feels, well positively cold outside and this can mean only one thing. It’s time to get the wool fabrics out to make those winter essentials we all need. A lined winter skirt in my case. Although I do fancy a winter cape as well. One thing at a time Julie, one thing at a time!

Wool is one of my favourite fabrics – it’s natural, breathable, easy to work with and doesn’t crease (result). There are a number of different wool fabrics on offer in most sewing shops and it can sometimes be a bit confusing to match the right one to your intended project. So to help, here are five of the most popular and what they are most commonly used for.


Wool coating:

This is a heavy weight fabric, which creates lots of structure so choose your project accordingly – if you’re after making a drapey skirt, this won’t do at all. It can be difficult to press the seams open as coating doesn’t respond to pressing too well, so bear this in mind. You may want to work with a smaller seam allowance to help with this.

Wool challis:

This is a lightweight wool which drapes nicely but frays easily. When you sew with challis it can help to think of it as a sheer fabric, using the same techniques as you would for those lovely chiffons and georgettes.

Wool flannel

Flannel is a durable fabric and is mostly used to make suits although it’s also a good fabric for soft jackets and skirts. It’s not itchy like some wools can be, so it isn’t always necessary to line it.

Wool boucle

This is a textured, mostly heavyweight fabric, which is good for lots of projects and particularly winter coats. It can unravel quite a bit when sewing so take care and try not to get frustrated with it – the result will be worth it. When using boucle its’s usual to use a lining too.

Wool crepe

This is a great wool to work with and it has lots of texture and drape. It’s ideal for lightweight projects and is easy to handle.

Pre-shrinking your wool

Most wool fabrics will shrink when washed (if washable) or cleaned so it’s advisable (well vital to be honest) to pre-shrink it, for which there is a simple technique. And that’s steaming and it’s something you can easily do at home – it just takes a bit of time and patience.

Use a table or an ironing board, preferably with a cotton cloth or ironing board cover as this takes up the steam pretty well.

Open out your wool to single layer and lay on the flat surface. Take a steam iron and set it to wool, which is usually the last setting before you lose the steam. Using a sprayer, spray the area of wool on the board with water. Now it’s time to dry it. Some people hover the iron just an inch or so above the wool and move it backwards and forwards across the piece but I actually prefer to put the iron on the fabric and dry it directly. Be gentle though, you don’t need to press, particularly on textured wool – you’re just gliding the iron from one side to the other. On some wools you’ll actually see the shrinkage happen, but you may not, so just keep going anyway. Wait until the patch of fabric is dry before you move it as pulling it across the board to start on the next part could stretch it out of shape if it isn’t dry. I told you you’d need some patience! But it’s worth it as good quality wool fabric can be expensive and it would be a real shame to ruin your newly constructed garment when it shrinks on the first clean. After steaming I usually leave the fabric for a day or so before using just to make sure it’s fully dry.

My biggest piece of advice is not to let the pre-shrinking routine put you off sewing with wool. It really is a fabulous fabric to work with and it’s worth just that little bit of effort to get the fantastic results available to you.


Wool 2

My current favourite sewing book

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

OK, I’ve had this book for a while now but have only just got round to having a really good look – and I love it. I am such a fan of all things vintage and this book, the second from Lisa Comfort has managed to fill me with inspiration to sew even more ‘old style’ stuff. Called ‘Sew Over It Vintage’ it’s packed full of great projects – dressmaking, accessories and beautiful things for the home. All are inspired by the fashion of the 1950s and 60s – two great decades.

There are no patterns with this book, it’s all done by drafting your own and Lisa starts the book by giving lots of instruction and advice on how to do this. Some projects are done from scratch and others are up-cycled. All levels of sewists are catered for and beginners are encouraged to move from one project to the next, gathering skills and experience as they go. The book has dozens of lovely photographs and easy to follow illustrations to accompany the instructions. All very fabulous.

I love every single project in this book and I can’t wait to get stuck in. I’m going to start with the 1950s capelet which is right up my street, then I’ll have a go at the 1920s kimono dressing gown – very Downton Abbey.

I would very much recommend this book – it’s £15 (although shop around for the best deal) and it’s available from good bookshops and Amazon of course.




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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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