A selfish Sewing week!

I have finally put my foot down and, because I am still awaiting news on the Dimpsy front, have decided to dedicate some time to myself this week and sew entirely for me! Yay!!


So here’s the plan… starting on the top row, left to right we have 1. a pair of blue jeans, 2. a pair of black jeans, 3. a pair of spart-ish black trousers from a stretch Cotton Sateen, 4. a pair of crazy Coton Sateen print Cigarette Pants, 5. a nice retro t-shirt from Gerties book, 6. a 2nd 1940s Tea Dress, 7. a 3rd 1940s Tea Dress… deep breath… bottom row left to right we have 1. a unicorn Mimi Blouse, 2. a grey triangles (Primark Bed Sheet!) Mimi Blouse, 3. a retro beautiful woven vintage fabric Mimi Blouse with acid yellow buttons, 4. a tulip print Elisalex Dress.

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Lets get a little up close and personal with those fabrics shall we?

The Denim for the Blue and Black Jeans has a teeny tiny amount of stretch which I find helps both with the fit and the fabrics ability to ‘ping back’ and look lovely when you have been sat down. It also means it dries a little quicker and doesn’t need ironing. Double win! The Black Cotton Sateen also has a little stretch and I’m going to make a pair of simple Black work Trousers. I haven’t decided about the pocket shape on these yet. I definitely think I’m going to make a contrast pocket for all of the Trousers a la yesterdays Wordless Wednesday. The crazy floral Trouser fabric was a complete impulse buy and I’m seriously excited about it! It can’t wait to make up a Cigarette Pants Pattern and swan about all summer long in them! I’ve wanted a pair of floral Trousers since Lorna did hers on the Great British Sewing Bee and Fab Land (a.k.a. Fabric Land) have finally made my dreams come true!

The T-Shirt Fabric I saw as someone else was buying it and jumped on it because the roll was almost out! I think it’ll make a serviceable, pretty T-Shirt to go with my new Jeans.

I made my first 1940s Tea Dress a few months ago because of a Class I was teaching at the time and I just love it. I had to play about with the pattern a little- and still need to re-site the sleeve head on these next ones- but it makes up in about 2 hours and fits like a dream. I’m dead excited to have two more to wear to the studio, Happy days!

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So I’m going to make a cluster of Mimi Blouses! The Unicorn Fabric will have a contrast piping and buttons in a kinda Aqua colour to pick out one of the colours in the Unicorns and make it a little classier. The next is to be made from a Primark Bed Sheet- which is quite the done thing in Sewing Club at the moment!- it has grey triangles all over it and I’ve decided to make the collar black with black contrast piping and black buttons to make it less insipid. Finally there’s a beautiful Vintage woven fabric to be made in to a Blouse which photographs badly. It looks amazing with the Vintage Acid Yellow Buttons though, and will look fantastic with the Blue Jeans.

Last but not least is my first Elisalex Dress! Woop! I have decided to make this from a slightly crazy print but I think it’ll both suit me, make me happy and look amazing with Black (which is one of my favorite colours).

I’ve cut the Mimi Blouses, Elisalex and 1940s Tea Dresses out- boy do I hate cutting out!!- and I shall make them up in the next couple days I reckon. The Trousers and Jeans I shall make as I do the Sew-Along.


What are you guys working on? Are you ‘doing’ Me Made May? I may do a capsule collection week for that… I wear handmade clothing every day of my life but none of it’s wildly special so I feel a little odd about showing it off for a whole month!

Happy stitching!

Wordless Wednesday

1930s Informal Style; High waisted trousers and rounded shades

In honor of my Trouser Class right now, who’re sweating their Trouser Pattern as they fit, adjust and fit again (poor loves, but it’ll all be worth it in the end, I promise!), here’s this gorgeous 1930’s pic full of informal style, high waisted trousers and rounded shades… le sigh!

Happy stitching!

Notes from the Atelier

I recently noticed that I don’t really talk a lot about what I do, sew and create on a day-to-day basis. Well, readers that is all about to change!!

Welcome to the first ‘Notes from the Atelier’, a brief update of all things Midnight-y and just what shenanigans I have been getting up to in the week!

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This week I have been sewing up Spat orders for Etsy, working on my soon to be released Spats Pattern, sewing up a whole host of Eventide Corsets which will be on sale at the end of Corset Month, and stitching up a couple things for me to wear- which is always a little bit of a shock as I never seem to have time to do this really! I lament this fact almost on a daily basis… I teach so many people each week to make wonderful items of clothing and yet never make myself anything!!

Aah, the trials and tribulations of a professional seamstress and occasional Costumier!

Spats have been super dooper popular this week, and I have finally started work on a new range. I am calling them Drainpipe Spats as they do not have the graceful curved turn down of my original Spats. I think they look a little more Victorian because of this, and I can’t seem to stop myself putting rows of Buttons down them… no matter the pain of that many Button Holes!

Here’s a sneaky peekie of the Eventide Corsets! As well as these awesome fabrics (I’m so in love with the below left!), I am working on a beautiful Sinful Red Satin Waspie as well as a Black and White Stripe Satin Corset to die for! I love each and every one, and can’t wait to share them with you all!

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If you fancy making up your own Eventide, check out the Kit here.

I have also just received my very first piece of Shop display equipment! A lovely dress form, she’s so pretty! But she needs a name so watch out for a little competition coming soon. In other news, The Eventide Corset will soon be stocked at Vena Cava Design, which I am over the moon about! They’re a company I have ordered Corsetry equipment from for years, and I am super proud that they have chosen to stock me.

So, all in all, it has been quite an exciting week at Midnight Atelier. Long may it continue… I’m off to write this weeks series of posts for Corset Month. It’s all about boning, yay!!

Happy stitching!

Snippets from Pattern History

So, I thought I’d talk a little about the early history of the Dressmaking Pattern this week because, even through we are learning to make our own this month it is interesting and leads nicely in to tomorrows Tutorial all about scaling Historical and Vintage Patterns up.

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Facsimile of the pattern pieces, Front instructions and Back instructions for Butterick pattern No.5688 (a skirt for an evening dress), circa 1919. Darts, stitching lines, etc. are indicated by perforations of different sizes and patterns (here represented as dots). From Wikipedia here.  Click on the images to enlarge. 

Ebenezer Butterick’s Wife is widely credited as inspiring the first commercially graded- and therefore much more usable- Pattern. Until 1863 we had essentially been using Blocks which only came in one size and it was down to the skill and ‘eye’ of the home Dressmaker herself to scale up the pattern, then make any and all adjustments to fit necessary however; looking a little closer in to the history one stumbles upon Ellen Curtis Demorest who appears to have been a most remarkable woman!

 Published in 1872 to promote the inventor of the paper pattern - Mrs. W. Jennings Demorest

Left: 1865 Demorest Publication found here. Right: 1872 Demorest Publication found here

Demorest had the same flash of inspiration Butterick did over ten years later: on witnessing her Maid cutting out a dress from wrapping paper she realised that she could mass-produce the idea of copied paper Patterns of fashionable garments for the home sewer. In 1860 Madam Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions, a Pattern Catalogue, was introduced and Demorest established what sounds like a wonderful company- employing both Black and White women workers as she was an ardent abolitionist (those offended by her politics were asked to ‘shop elsewhere’!!). Having devised a ‘mathematical system’ to print Patterns in various sizes, this was understandably popular and by 1865 Demorest had a small empire which ten years later was distributing over 3m Paper Patterns!

I was stunned to discover this and really wondered why the name Demerest was not well know today. It would appear that the Demorests’ did not Patent their idea but tailor Ebenezer Butterick- who started producing Mens and Childrens Paper Patterns in the mid-1860s but who had expanded into Womens Wear by 1867 and whose empire by 1974 was larger that the Demerests’- did, and Buttericks’ Patterns billed as “guaranteed to make a perfectly formed garment” remain one of the leaders in Paper Patterns today.

Don’t feel too sad for the Demerests’ though as it would appear that Butterick advanced the technology needed to truly mass produse Patterns. Initially folded by his wife and family and packed in boxes of 10 each, Butterick sold his patterns throughout New England. These patterns proved to be hugely popular, and Butterick could barely keep up. Finally Butterick invented a process, and a machine, that allowed him to cut stacks of paper patterns, which enabled him to produce his patterns in quantity and Butterick’s business grew to epic proportions. It’s reported that in less than a year he went from his humble tailor shop in Fitchburg, MA to opening the NYC office with The Butterick Publishing company producing nearly 6 million patterns a year.

James McCall, another tailor, started his company McCall’s patterns in 1870, with Vogue also in the picture by the 1890s and Pattern Companies had by this point started to sell Patterns in envelopes with directions. McCalls started printing cutting, marking and sewing lines on their patterns in 1921, which brings us slightly closer to the Paper Patterns we use today. Previous to this a Pattern included pre-cut but blank pieces of Pattern Tissue with numbers or letters punched in to them. A cutting diagram was included and from this one could ascertain which piece went where so I for one will always be forever greatrful to McCalls for starting the trend of printing information- such as the Grainline, number, quantity to cut etc- on the pieces!

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McCalls c.1880s Sewing Pattern found on Ebay for a Ladies’ Sack Nightgown Pattern No.8193

During the 1910’s and 1920’s we start to see the rise of Ready to Wear Clothing which means home sewing starts to wane a little however; in America The Women’s Domestic Institute, is founded and soon led by Mary Brooks Picken, whose books are still an excellent resource today and can only have aided the production of Sewing Books from all the major Pattern Companies amongst others. I have the Womens Institute Underwear and Lingerie Book and it is just gorgeous!

In the 30’s The Depression hit America which gave rise to one of my favorite little snippets in Pattern History: the humble Grain Sack. Sewing doesn’t seem to have made the resurgence you would have expected during a time like this- unlike our most recent ‘Depression’- and it would appear that people simply made do with less however; Women did began to sew with feed or grain sacks- the colourful cloth sacks that held staples like Sugar, Grain and Flour. By 1939 this form of sewing was being promoted and companies start to print designs and projects on the sacks to be made at home.


Left: A Flour Sack printed with an Embroidery Pattern. Middle: and example of the beautiful patterns Flour Sack companies started to print. Right: Two women wearing Flour Sack Dresses from a wonderful article on Etsy

There are various, wonderful Blogs on-line which talk about all of this at much greater length, and more detail than I have done here however; I really love the feeling of rivalry and excitement which must have been palpable as these companies were being formed and discovering new ways of producing such a useful commodity  It’s not something you hear about too much these days but I think it is just as exciting as other moments in the Industrial Revolution!

You can read more about why it took so long to get around to designing Paper Patterns here, and there’s a great article over at Burda which talks a little more about the social history here. I also liked Sew Retro’s take on it all which can be read here. Delving through Wikipedia can also be rather interesting and their article on Demerest was a great read.

As I said, I shall be posting a tutorial on how to scale up Historical and Vintage Patterns from articles, magazines and books hopefully tomorrow. I am still a little wobbly from my tussle with the ‘flu! Please also watch out for the 2nd part of my Toile Tutorial where I shall be discussing fit and further Pattern adjustments to the Basic Block.

Finally, have you read last Fridays Pattern Making Musings yet? Head on over there now and comment to get your name in the hat to win an IN-HOUSE Pattern and get ready for this Fridays Musings with Sarai of Colette Patterns.

Happy patterning!

Notions: Add a Waistband to a Skirt

This is a great technique to know & can be used for Up-Cycling Vintage finds- cut the top off a Vintage dress if it doesn’t fit but make a great Skirt for instance, or if you are making a Skirt, or re-sizing a Skirt.

Once you know the Skirt fits, you can construct & attach the Waistband.

Cut a band 10cm longer then the top of your skirt, & a corresponding piece of light weight fusible Interfacing. First, iron on the Interfacing to the back of the Waistband, then Iron the Waistband in half. Finally on one side Iron under 1cm as illustrated.

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Using a nice, hot Iron fold the Waistband over & Iron along the fold. It should lie completely flat. Use your tape measure to measure the 1cm turn up as you Iron. When completed it should look like the lower illustration. 

When you are happy, attach the Waistband to the Skirt. Find the Centre Front of the Skirt by folding in half, place a pin there to mark it. Fold the Waistband in half & place a pin at the half way point of the Waistband. Match the un-ironed side Right Sides Together to the Centre Front of the Skirt as illustrated. Continue pinning all around the Skirt until you have the Waistband completely pinned to the Skirt from Zip edge to Zip edge.

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Pin at a right angle so that your sewing machine will sew straight over the pins. Leave the excess fabric at the end, do not cut it off yet!

Sew, with a 1cm Seam Allowance, from one Centre Back Zip opening the other. Remember to go backwards & forwards at the beginning & end of your seams so they don’t fall open.

Once the Waistband is attached, fold back on itself & line up the pre-ironed fold with the freshly stitched one as illustrated. On the left hand opening cut the excess Waistband fabric down to about 2cm. On the right hand opening cut the excess down to 5cm. Pin both as illustrated, & so that each centimetre Seam Allowance fold is up/back.  Stitch each closed. The Left opening stitching should run parallel with the Zip. The right approx. 3cm away from the Zip. Cut excess fabric & clip the corner.

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Try to line up the Seam Allowance folds accurately as illustrated above left. Once trimmed place at least two pins in to hold everything securely as you stitch. Remember to go back & forth at the beginning & end of each little seam! Trim & clip as illustrated above right so that when turned out a sharp point will be formed. 

Turn the Waistband out the right way, making sure the corners are sharp, & start the pin the Waistband down along the Waist every few centimetres.


Match the pre-ironed fold to the stitching around the top of the Skirt & pin. Try to match this as exactly as possible- do not pin too high or too low. 

When the Waistband has been completely pinned down as best you can, sew along the edge to hold in place. Normally I would do this by hand with a regular Slip Stitch however; for this example I have done the more commercial Machine Top Stitch which; when performed neatly, provides an excellent finish.

You will need to attach the Zipper Foot to the sewing machine before proceeding, this will enable you to stitch as close to the edge of the Waistband as possible for a neater finish however; if you do not have a Zipper Foot just use the regular Foot & be aware you need to watch carefully as you stitch to get as close as possible to the edge.

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Be aware this may take a couple of goes to get right, keep your Quick Unpick close! As illustrated in the first picture above, line the fold of the Waistband up with the Machine Stitches already sewn & pin. Then- & this is where the Zipper Foot comes in handy, because you will be able to see what you are doing- sew along this edge neatly. The finished effect should be that of the centre picture (back), & the right hand picture (front). 

Now, if you’re anything like me you’ll be off to your favourite Thrift Store to find some pieces to Up-Cycle for the Summer! Contrast colour Waistbands are super cool, if there isn’t enough matching fabric, as are contrast fabric weights- try Velvet with Lace for instance.

Hope this has inspired you, happy stitching!

Notions: The Language of Patterns.

No doubt the sketch of the design on the front of the envelope will catch your eye first.

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

McCALLS Understanding Patterns 1   McCALLS Understanding Patterns 2

A beginning seamstress may feel Einstein’s theories are as easy to understand as the intricacies of a first pattern. Here is a place where first steps should be taken slowly […] &, whether you are a beginner or an experienced home-sewer, every pattern should be carefully studied before you lay out your pattern & start to cut.

A pattern […], not only gives complete instructions for constructing the garment, but also suggests the proper fabrics to use & provides basic information on preparing fabric, adjusting the pattern, cutting, marking & sewing techniques.

No doubt the sketch of the design on the front of the envelope will catch your eye first. On the back of the pattern envelope there is quite a bit of information to digest. Beginners may wish to avoid certain design features such as gussets, long button front closings, complicated collars & intricate darting. These features may not be clearly shown in the sketch, but will be noted in the description. Use this information to judge whether the construction of the garment is within your level of skill.

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

Other useful information detailed on the Pattern Envelope is a section on Suggested Fabrics. Here the manufacturer has listed what fabrics would best suit the pattern such as light weight cottons for dresses & shirts or heavier weight fabrics for jackets. It is incredibly important to follow these guidelines as they will have taken into account things like the drape &  fall of the fabric to best suit the design & silhouette of the pattern. If you do decide to use a different fabric you may create a silhouette which is entirely different from the one intended.

Once you have decided upon your size using the measurements you have taken, you can use the Yardage Chart to buy the right amount of fabric for your design. By reading down the column from your size, & across from the widths of fabric listed, the exact yardage/meter-age needed is listed. I always tend to buy a little more to be on the safe side. This enables me to make things a little longer if needed. When interfacings or linings are required the amounts will also be listed according to your size.

There will also be a section for Notions. A strange word, I’ll grant you! Notions covers any Buttons, Hook & Eyes, Zipper, Ribbons or Ties, & any other items you may need to complete your design.

You will save time by buying everything at one time, & it’s easier to match colour of thread, zipper, buttons & trims if they are all purchased at once. Be sure to buy all the notions listed. It’s frustrating to have to interrupt  a sewing session just to run out & pick up a forgotten item

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

Don’t you just love these Vintage sewing books for their pithy & helpful yet slightly rude advise? Brilliant, & so very much more to come!!

Also, check out our publication Understanding Vintage and Modern Patterns, available now on Etsy!

Happy stitching!