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. . . . . . A place to contribute, exchange tips and ideas and find further info on the LDC group on Meetup.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Ham, Sausage, hold the Egg

Hello everyone,

No you’ve not accidentally stumbled upon a foodie blogpost, I love my food but I'm not talking about that kind today, haha…. Ham means a whole different kind of thing to anyone who does any kind of dressmaking, as the tailor's ham and sleeve roll are important pieces of kit in the sewing arsenal, aka, the ham and sausage/sleeve roll.  Here are mine…



They are essential for pressing out seams properly. The tailor's ham is used on curves such as darts, sleeve heads and princess seams;  to get to the seams inside sleeves, the sleeve roll. They're available to buy ready made, but me being me, I had to make my own. If you'd like to do the same here's what I did. 

They’re a basic egg (or ham!) shape so you can draft your own but I decided to use this one by Doja
I added a seam allowance to this template.



They are traditionally made with two types of fabric, one side is wool and one side is cotton for the ironing at different temperatures and fabric types, then they are STUFFFFFFED with sawdust until they are as firm as you can possibly make it. Some tutorials out there use fabric scraps but the sawdust is the traditional version as it helps with the firmness and the moisture from the steam but your choice.


I used a wool tweed and some scrap curtain lining from my stash but choose whatever you want. Do avoid synthetic fabrics and mixes so that you can iron at high temperatures as necessary.

I cut out an additional layer for the inside as a precaution of any sawdust leaking out, so for mine I cut 3 in cotton and one in wool. I sewed it up in two separate layers then put one inside the other, but if I did it again, I would sew all four layers in one go; I added a hanging loop too.

I used wood shavings intended for pet bedding, I bought mine from Wilko, 50p for a small packet and used the whole lot.  Some people use sawdust from DIY or timber merchants, but personally I wouldn’t because I think they cut MDF and the dust would be all mixed up. MDF dust is not safe due to the fine particles and the toxic factor from the glue. (MDF is basically wood particles glued, compressed and re-cut, think of it as the wood equivalent of burger chain fries)



It’s a MESSY job and was more tedious than I had thought it would be so be patient. You stuff it bit by bit and then squish it down as you go, bashing the sides to compress it sideways.

I did this in the garden, in a wide plastic container to reduce mess and rolled up a funnel out of card which I inserted into the ham and poured the shavings into the funnel from the packet. This proved to be the least messy way compared to spooning it into the funnel or directly into the ham/sausage. Sorry for lack of pictures but I got engrossed into the stuffing and thought it not a pretty process. Stick the funnel together and not do as I do, I had to roll it up after each time I put it down…

This is where I would advise against sewing the two layers separately as I got sawdust in between the layers and got little lumpy bits, which were a pain to get out,  otherwise I would not have the nice smooth surface I needed for ironing… sigh, live and learn! The funnel helps direct the sawdust aswell, I think using the spoon got it between the layers. 

Stuff. Bash. Stuff. Bash. Keep compressing the stuffing down, in hindsight I should have done more side bashing aswell as the poking down on the ham as it's not quite as firm as the sausage. Once stuffed all the way, I stitched the opening by hand and stuffing more into it as I closed it up. The thing compresses more as you use it so the harder and fuller you can make it, the better. 

If you decide to have a go, here's a summary of my tips.
  1. Use pet-bedding for stuffing
  2. Use four layers and sew them all in one go to avoid getting the stuffing in between the outer and inner shell. The additional layer also gives a slightly smoother surface I think.
  3. Use a funnel to help with the filling. Roll some paper or card into a funnel shape and stick it together
  4. Compress the stuffing as much as you can. Bash the thing against the table or use a wooden spatula (or any other kitchen implement!) as you go.
  5. Stuff up until the last stitch, there is always room for a wood shaving more
The whole make took a few hours from beginning to end but I like mine as they’re a bit bigger than ones you can buy. I think you may not need to add seam allowance to the sleeve roll, it might be a bit big if you decide to make any slim sleeves for knits or perhaps children's clothes.
I hope you find this post useful if you decide to make your own.  If you don’t, well, you’re probably putting your time to better use making a beautiful garment instead of stuffing and bashing these odd looking things…

Happy sewing everyone 😊











Thursday, 31 August 2017

First Dress and all the other firsts.

Hi everyone,

I’m Juls and this is my first ever blog post on Blogland… Thank you to Giselle for trusting me to put my spiel out there.

Today I’d like to share with you my first dress and other sewing skill firsts. 

I was invited to a wedding and my friend had decided on a white theme with all the guests to be in white (or shades of). Sounds unusual but on the day it looked so beautiful, quite ethereal, the amazing sea views and beach club were a perfect match with all the white. Even the groom and all the male guests were in white.  It was gorgeous! Since the groom was Indian, many of the family and friends wore white saris and with all the intricate embroidery, such fabulous outfits were in abundance!

I usually have difficulty wearing dresses, the waistline never sits in the right place for my body shape and so I was dreading shopping; plus the fact that my friend preferred me to be in a full length gown, this compounded my woes. I didn’t hold out much hope in finding a white dress that didn’t look bridal.

I am very new to the world of sewing/dressmaking and at this point of deciding to make my own dress, my sewing endeavours to date are a blind, a pair of pj shorts and the infamous Sorbetto top.  I don't know what possessed me to think that I could sew a wearable first dress ..... and all for a special occasion, just a bit mad ambitious! 

I have previously shied away from dressmaking on the basis that my sewing ability would be well below the standard of what I want to wear. I’ve tinkered with a craft project or two and only decided to buy a sewing machine to attempt to sew some blinds (still incomplete).

My original planned dress pattern was chosen 4 months before the wedding (Butterick 4343) but I  constantly put off starting it. The pattern said it was fast and simple, but the prospect of fitting and sewing princess seams in 6 panels in total, plus lining, made that 12 seams into a tight fitting dress, plus an invisible zip GULP! I was intimidated.


Then late on a Sunday night, just 10 days before the wedding, (ok yes I procrastinate) I changed tack and fished out New Look 6119 pattern from my extensive pattern hoard.


I bought fabric on the Monday after work and by the weekend I had made the muslin. Never having sewn a commercial pattern, I wasn't sure how my size compared to their sizings so I chose one based on the finished garment size. This pattern has 5 inches of ease! FIVE!!!! I did chose correctly for the bust, but also took the waist in a tad more. 

Just to add to my “first dress challenge” (eye roll), I made some changes not in the pattern, I added a lining and also a central split up the centre front, just for a bit of added va va voom. I ditched the neckband and sash belt in favour of sewing a chiffon scarf and sash. I was going for the floaty dreamy look, (which is probably where my head was when I decided to do this dress….) So I attempted roll-hemming two lengths of two metre chiffon for the first time (at 3am in the morning – crazy chick!) But.... it all went fine! No tears or chewed up chiffon swallowed by the machine... 

My version was in a light crepe with a bemberg lining, chiffon neck band and belt sash. I took a big risk with no back up outfit, I had no idea if it would suit me, or if all the modifications would work etc. Literally blood went into this (stabbed myself with the needle securing the gathering at the neckline whilst wearing but thankfully it marked on the inside, phew) It was do or die (of outfit embarrassment)

I also pondered over ways to do the channel for the neck band and attachment for the lining for a while and just decided on doing it between the lining and outer fabric. The original pattern used wide bias tape and narrow tape around the armholes both of which were no longer appropriate because of the lining.

My deadline was running out fast and I sewed into the night until 4am because I had to fly out the next morning and had yet to pack… (Panic!) I flew out with the garment needing a lot finishing to do.  I had also bought some very pretty diamante trim from MacCulloch and Wallis as it was a simple dress I thought it would enhance it.


Whilst I was away I hand sewed the hem and split (on the flight), and the diamante detail on the neckline finishing on the morning of the wedding!

I was pretty pleased with the final result, much better than I thought it would be. I like the pattern and my dress, more so than I anticipated when I bought the pattern, it’s actually really versatile and can be reinterpreted in so many different fabrics. I would make it again if I need another special occasion dress. I can imagine this in an evening dress fabric. 


I learned a ton doing this dress pretty much everything was new to me and now I think I may really be able to take on sewing and dressmaking.  

It was Martina of LaDulsatina who finally inspired me to take on dressmaking, by my standards she bravely took on projects with great success when she first started and she has now progressed into drafting her own gorgeous garments. 

For now, on this dress the seams need tidying, learning the overlocker can wait and I didn’t like the suggested seam finishes (my fabric is quite see-through). The hemstitching kept snagging on crystals on my shoes even though I tried to keep them in the fold, but they were not as small I would do normally as they seemed to show on the front despite only catching a couple of threads so I will have to redo this.



Thank you for reading my first ramblings…sorry if I bored you with the background of it all. 
Now, I need to sew more and read less about it... a little more action and a lot less procrastination! 

Happy sewing everyone! 😊





Saturday, 17 June 2017

Once upon a time in Jaipur- Part 3 The Balotra ghaggra.


While in Jaipur, visiting the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, I was introduced to the means of divining the status of a native of the area of Balotra by the fabric of the traditional clothes that they wore.
Anokhi are a company who aim to promote, support and encourage traditional means of creating fabric designs, both in historical and contemporary styles.   At the Museum there were fascinating displays of fabrics, both old and new, shown as lengths of cloth or made up into clothing.  Craftsmen demonstrated the making of printing blocks and the printing of fabric.  Exhibits explained the often very complex techniques used to create multi-coloured fabrics.
Of course there is a museum shop selling fabric, clothes and the beautiful paperback books that Anokhi produce about various aspects of traditional fabric.  I bought "Balotra, the complex language of print".  All these books have marvellous photographs and actual fabric samples in them.

 Included  in the book were instructions on exactly how to cut a ghaggra skirt.

And, amongst the hand-printed fabric in the shop, was the very design illustrated.  Immediately I knew that  I wanted to make this skirt.  Traditionally the skirt is full length and requires at least 5 metres of fabric but I knew that this was not practical for me so I decided on just below the knee.  With the help of the shop staff  we worked out that I needed 3 metres.

The various fabric designs convey different messages about the status of the wearer.  Some can only be worn by young unmarried girls, some only by married women, some only by widows, others are worn only by natives of a particular tribe of the region and some only by people of a certain trade- potters, iron workers etc.  Thus you could look at the clothes worn by a woman and see that she was a widow of a particular tribe.
The fabric shown above can be worn by any woman but it is the decorative edging that conveys their marital status, the wide red border with yellow piping means that the wearer is a married woman whereas a very thin red border meant a widow.  I am not married but do have a long term partner but there appeared to be no traditional way of communicating this via fabric.
The way the fabric is cut gives very little wastage, needs no pattern and only requires cutting in straight lines.  First the fabric is cut into sections the length you want the skirt to be, this is the stage shown in the picture above. Each section is folded in half selvedge to selvedge and you make a diagonal fold across the fabric a short distance in from the corner.  Then you cut down that fold- see below.

  From this folded section of cloth you will get 4 kalis (panels) as you see below.

These are then sewn together with the narrowest sections at the top.  Below are the four joined kalis from one section of cloth. You can see that an interesting chevron pattern is formed at certain points.
In total I had 16 kalis to join, below you can see 8 of them shown from the wrong side.  The carpet was the only place I could find where there was enough room to spread it out.

The waist is formed by creating a channel through which a cord can be threaded, drawn up and tied at the side of the ghaggra.  Traditionally this is red and I found a lovely bright red at Wimbledon Sewing and Craft Superstore- thank goodness I live not far from this shop.  I simply stitched a length around the waist, folded it over and stitched it again to create a tube.  The drawcord was made from some yellow, red and black striped ribbon in my stash.  To stop the ribbon disappearing into the channel when not tied I created loops of beads and red dyed bamboo from my stash and knotted these to the ends of the ribbon.  I had seen examples of the end ties of such skirts being embellished with beads in some of the museums that I visited in India.

I pondered as to how I should indicate my status and decided to create my own symbol, which was to put 3 lines of red top stitching just above the hemline.  This also saved me hours of hand stitching the hem.
So here are some more photos of the finished result.

You can get carried away with twirling!
If anyone would like to make a skirt in this manner I can send a better copy of the brief instructions, just ask in the comments section below.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Once upon a time in Jaipur... Part 2. Making the jacket.

While in India I had seen slim jackets, made from block printed fabric, that had been quilted with closely spaced parallel lines of machine stitching.  I liked the look but wanted something softer to wear as the close stitching made these jackets a bit stiff.  I decided to make an edge to edge jacket with no fastening and with more widely spaced quilting lines on the body but none on the sleeves, which I wanted to be very flexible.
 For my jacket pattern I needed only three of the eight pieces copied from my Myanmar top (see Part 1).  As I intended to bind the edges I ignored the seam allowances to the front edges and neck I had added to the copy.  The original garment had facing but I intended to fully line my garment and did not require these.  Here are the three pieces; as you can see (just about about as the photo is dark) the shape is very simple and has no darts.

I had printed three pieces on the short, narrow lengths of cloth we were given but, unfortunately, when I went to collect my washed and dried fabric only two of the three pieces could be found.  However, the back and front pieces of my copied pattern just fitted on one of those pieces and the sleeves, extended to reach wrist level as they were only three quarter length on the original garment, on the other piece.  It was a real squeeze, any less fabric and I would have had to have a shorter jacket and sleeves and not the lengths I really wanted.  This back piece is only a little smaller in width than the width of the fabric.

Had the third piece come to light I would have used this to create the edge binding.  However a trip to the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycraft show at Excel in April provided the extras I need. At the Lili Fabrics stall I found a cotton print with toning shades of blue.  Now the jacket is finished I think this looks better than the dabu print would have done and it is a thicker cotton so will make a harder wearing edge.  At another stall I found the thin wadding I needed.  I could not decide between the polyester type, which the stall holder advised, and the cotton wadding, which seemed to me to be more flexible, so I bought both. After pre-washing them I realised the stall holder was right.
For the lining I raided my stash and used some supple polyester in dark blue with a small white motif, a cheap buy from Walthamstow Market a couple of years ago. The lining was cut out using the same pattern as for the outside of the jacket.
I quilted the outer fabric body pieces before stitching the front and back pieces together at shoulder and side seams. When I bought my sewing machine it came with a walking foot and a quilt guide that can be attached to it.  I had not used the guide before and was delighted to discover that it made stitching parallel lines so easy.

Once you have stitched the first line you set the quilt guide at the width apart that you wish your next stitching line to be and place it on your first line of stitching.  If you make sure the guide follows that line as you machine then you will have a perfectly parallel line of stitching next to it.  Without this I would have had to measure out and mark each of the lines so it was a time saver as well as an accuracy aid.


  The original top had two pockets but I did not want to disrupt the pattern on the exterior front so I put a pocket on the inside lining instead.  Once the lining was made up I secured it on the inside to the inside of the jacket at the shoulder and side seams and then pinned and tacked lining, wadding and outer fabric together all round the outer edge to keep it in position when applying the binding. I played about with various widths for the edging and decided the effect that I liked best was to have the edging of the hems broader than that of the neck and front edgings.  The edging was first machine stitched to the outer side of the jacket and then folded over to the right side and hand stitched to the lining.
I am so pleased with the end result.  Here's the back view.



And the side view- (go back to Part 1 for the finished front view).

Someone made a comment to me that "It looks as comfortable as a cardigan but smarter" and it is.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Once upon a time in Jaipur ... A Dabu jacket- Part 1.

This is the story of how this jacket came into being.

Actually the tale begins four years ago in Myanmar in this weaving shed.

Having been trekking in the hills in the North where there was no time or opportunity to wash my clothes- any water requirements meant a trek to the village pump-


so my rucksack contained only dirty laundry and I longed for something clean to wear.  Hence my purchase there of this rather boring looking hand woven top.

It has been my constant travelling companion ever since.  It can be worn as a blouse (loose and cool in hot countries) or layered over a t-shirt or wool sweater (depending on how cold the weather gets), has pockets and doesn't show the dirt.  I have been meaning to copy it for some time and the recent Club "Trace your favourite garment" Sewalong gave me the impetus to do so.  I used tips from this video  by Ana of CocoWawa Crafts on Youtube.  Watching it really helped me to approach copying in an organised manner, especially the advice to make a list of all the pieces you need to trace before you start.  I used my current favourite tracing material, horticultural fleece, to trace off the pieces; I describe my method on this blog previously here .  Using this method I could pin the pattern pieces together after tracing and check the fit and whether the seams were true.  Right first time!- Thanks Ana.
The story now moves to Jaipur, March 2017, where I joined a delightful group on one of the textile holidays organised by Jamie Malden of Colouricious
This holiday focused on Block Printing using traditional carved wooden pattern blocks.

 We enjoyed a number of workshops at different venues trying out block printing methods.  One of these was dabu, a mud-resist form of printing that has been in existence since at least the 7th century A.D.  A thin paste is made from a mixture of mud, gum, lime and wheat chaff and the wooden pattern block dipped into this and applied to the prepared fabric- just like this:

Next sawdust, of which there is plenty from the making of the wooden printing blocks, is sprinkled over the printed fabric and it adheres to the wet sticky paste.

The fabric is then left to dry in the sun.

Once dry it is taken to the indigo vat for dyeing.

 The area covered by paste and sawdust resists the indigo dye.  You can see the areas of resist clearly on these cloths that have just been removed from the vat and spread to dry.  The dabu still remains on the cloth.

Subsequently the cloth is washed to remove the paste and reveal the lighter design.  This is a simplified explanation of the technique (much more complicated designs can be achieved with multiple dyeing) but this is exactly how I made the cloth for my jacket.

Coming in Part 2- the making of the jacket.  In the meantime I leave you with some pictures of fellow sewists in the village where we went to do this type of printing.
A tailor making a shirt :


A woman stitching a quilt: