A week in the life of a Costume Maker!

The last week has been incredibly hectic, with not one but three huge Costumes being made in the Studio. The first was another for Celebrity Cruises who wanted the Evil Enchantress Costume I made up earlier this year in Blue…

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The Collar was again constructed by hand using layers of Crin, Net, Calico and Blue Lycra (the base fabric of the Costume) with the addition of those fab Laser Cut Butterflies.

Each Butterfly is individually sewn on, which as you can imagine take quite a while. Indeed, I had someone just on Butterfly duty!

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Front, side and back of the final Costume. The Skirt is separate for ease and a Quick Change. I’m not sure, but I think I like the version better than the Black one!

In total this Costume took about 100 hours and three people to create however; we only had three days so you can imagine how quick we were stitching!

The second order was two Georgian Dresses for a Media Ball. Again, a little bit of a rush job but with myself and my trusty seamstress assistants we just about managed it.

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One was a delicate and flouncy affair, with Silk Ribbons, gorgeous Linen Toile du Juoy Underskirt, delicate silken Pinked and Scalloped Ruffle and Satin Bows.

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The second was a darkly Gothic creation made from lovely, heavy striped Velvet with a dark Purple line which inspired the dark Purple Silken Pinked and Pleated Ruffle with Black Satin Bows and Black Lace detailing across the Bodice and Front of the Skirt.

With over 10 meters of Boning in each Bodice, over 20 meters of trim in each and taking about 80 hours to create these were managed in a 2 and a half day period as a last minute order. We stitched until the last possible moment, but these fair ladies made it to the Ball!

After a few days off to look after my Husband who has just had an operation I shall be back at the Sewing Machine on my next order… but also at the drawing board for a huge Costume Design Commission I will be building in the new year, eek!

Happy stitching!

It’s been a bit quiet…

… so sorry!

It’s been crazy times in the Atelier recently with 5 or 6 costume jobs being stitched up by my growing team of wonders. Most recently shipped off were these beauties for Celebrity Cruises production of Elysium.

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The Evil Enchantress

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Autumn Ballet

I’m sure I shall be sharing a little bit about the methods behind construction soon but before I catch my breath I’m off to get married this Wednesday! Eep!!

Can’t wait to start sharing more of my Sewing adventures with you soon.

Happy stitching!

Notions: How to Put a Garment Together

Look at this gorgeous Vintage article!

It talks of Basting (Tacking) and Pin Basting, which one can only assume is just… y’know, pinning. I feel so slovenly! They recommend that you Baste the entire garment, then fit and make changes which can be managed before Sewing up by Machine. This of course is the best way to make a garment however; I’m not sure a lot of us have the time! More commonly, a Toile is made up from a cheaper fabric.

The comments on Stay Stitching are invaluable. This really does help curves keep their shape when handling the fabric as you stitch the garment up. Ironing is another important tip, I have had it drummed in to me that each Seam should be Ironed three times… yes, three! Once flat, the opened from the front and the back. I promise that you’ll see a big difference in the construction.

Aren’t the illustrations darling! Thank you so much to Millie Motts for sharing this.

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Happy stitching!

Week III: Reproducing Historical Corsets

So, I have designed The Eventide Corset to be a ‘gate-way’ Corset Pattern, to introduce easily the magnificent world of Corsetry! If you have not made a Corset before, or want a challenging Sewing project then the Eventide is a wonderful choice however; I am sure you- like me!- have been lusting after the glorious Historical Corsets I have been sharing on my Wordless Wednesday posts.

It is more than possible to use the Eventide to start your journey in creating wonderful Historical and Historically inspired Corsets, indeed The Eventide is actually taken from an 1880s Corset but has been adapted both for the modern figure and ease of use. A great many of the processes don’t change all that much… the finishing does a lot though!

    

A small selection of Corset Books from my collection. Click on the image to read more/buy. 

You will need to have, or gain, a good grasp of basic Pattern Cutting principles, and the first book I would suggest you invest in is Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

It has an amazing selection of Historical Corset Patterns, taken from extant examples from the beginning of the 16th Century right up to the 20s. I have made many of the Corset Patterns up and they do need to be adjusted for today’s figure, wasp-waisted almost doesn’t cover it!

The Victorian Corsets in particular have the most amazing seaming, as well as details like Cording and Flossing. Extant examples of similar Corsets can be found in many Museums, as well as online using resources from Museums like the V&A and The Met.

    

Images from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

As you can see, there are a few Corset Pattern and Construction Books out there. I have all of the above (and more, I’m addicted!) in my collection and these are the ones I would recommend. Waisted Efforts contains a lot of construction details and techniques whilst The Little Corset Book contains very simple to make Patterns, with a little construction advice, and was the inspiration behind The Little Book of Corset Tips. Jill Salen’s Corsets has Vintage and extant Corset Patterns with details on their original construction and The Basics of Corset Building is a How To Guide.

Almost all of these books will require you to Grade or Scale up the Patterns yourself. They all inform you on how to do this, and more information on this subject can be found here.

I shall be illustrating different methods of making Boning Channels in future posts however; one of the best on-line resources for Corsetry Construction is Foundations Revealed. I highly recommend them if you would like to research or read further in this area.

Whilst many of the techniques of Construction may be familiar, many too will be new. One of these will be Flossing- the decorative stitching at the top and bottom of a Boning Channel. By no means limited to Historical Corsets as it is an excellent way to reinforce and protect the fabric from the Steel Bone rubbing through and creating a hole.

Corset embroidery detail, 1895, Symington Collection, Leicestershire County Council. Black flossing on scarlet longline corset. Victorian Corset Detail by Verdaera.deviantart.com on @deviantART

Some examples of Corset Flossing from Pinterest, click the images for more details. 

As you can see, it can become incredibly decorative!

Cording, which you can see in the above right image, can be used to flexibly support areas of the Corset Boning may not be able to. It’s a simple technique however; I wouldn’t advise it without an exceptionally good domestic Sewing Machine or an Industrial Machine as it is a lot for the machine to sew over. Cording will give support whilst still allowing the wearer to bend and move, which is why is was used historically in predominantly in lower class Corsets.

A lot of this information can be found on-line in the pages of Farthingales, Foundations Revealed, and more. This article on alternative Boning was also a great read.

Well, I’m off to take some pictures of all my wonderful Boning Channels for you luck peeps- there’s so many ways to make a Boning Channel!- and to brush up on my Flossing skills.

Have a lovely afternoon and happy stitching!

Week 2: Inserting the Busk

So, today we’ll be seeing how to insert a Busk in to our Eventide Corsets! I love this bit of Corsetry, it’s when the Corset starts to look, well… like a Corset! It is also the first time we will be sewing with metal, which whilst not difficult, has it’s own set of rules.

The most important thing to remember is that your Sewing Machine is perfectly capable of sewing over the metal however; the Needle is not! I have clipped the edge of the Busk or Boning many times and the Needle not only breaks, it can fracture into small pieces which is not fun! It with damage the Fabric and invariable flies towards your face…

Firstly, you will need to select the Right hand Fabric and Coutil sections AS YOU WOULD WEAR THEM. To do this, lay the Fabric out, upside down as illustrated. With Right Sides Together, lay the Coutil on top then put the Left hand side to one side.

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On the Coutil side, draw a line 3cm away from the edge. As you can see from the Pattern, this is the Centre Front Line. If you have a Patternmaster this will be super easy as you can line up the 3cm line and simply draw down as illustrated.

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Place the Busk against this line, equidistant from the top and bottom, then draw either side of the Hooks. The two Hooks together go at the Bottom of the Busk, and the Busk should be laying as illustrated- with the Hooks against the Centre Front line.

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After you have marked either side of the Hooks, Pin the layers together. On the Sewing Machine, sew in between the gaps (as shown below, far left with a pink dotted line) remembering to reverse stitch at the beginning and end of each little seam. Try not to stitch too far in to the gaps or the Busk Hooks will not fit through.

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Don’t also forget that you can unpick at any moment if you are unhappy with the stitching.

Once happy, iron the Seam as follows… Iron the Seam out on the wrong side (below left), then wrap the Front around to the back so that on the Coutil side you can see a little of the Front fabric (below right) but none of the Coutil on the Right side.

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Push the Busks Hooks through the holes, then push the Busk up against the Seam and hold firmly in place whilst pinning. The Busk needs to be hard up against the edge so that, when sewn, it is not baggy. A baggy Busk simply wont do!

Push the Pin in, then scrape the Pin along the back of the Coutil until you can feel the edge of the Busk, then pin through. Pinning like this will make sure the Pins hold the Busk in place nice and tightly.

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When pinned, measure in from the edge of the Busk as as illustrated then, on the Sewing Machine, raise the Presser Foot and roll the Needle into the Machine. Place the measuring tape against the Needle, and use a Pencil to mark the Seam Allowance needed to stitch alongside the Busk.

Doing this makes sure that, above and below the Busk, you are able to sew in a neat line that is the same distance from the edge for the whole length. Marking with a Pencil means that you will be able to rub it off, alternatively you can use Washi Tape.

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When you have you Seam Allowance marked, stitch along the side of the Busk from top to bottom. You will need to attach your Zipper Foot to do this. Because the Busk starts and finishes 5 or 6cm after the start or before the end your Seam Allowance mark will come in handy to guide you in a straight line to sew next to the Busk.

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Voila! One beautifully inserted Busk!!

How easy was that? Join me tomorrow as I continue Corset Month with how to insert the Left side of the Busk.

Don’t forget, the Eventide Corset Pattern is available in a number of options including Instant Download here, and you can join in with Corset Month on FacebookTwitter (#corsetsessions) and Pinterest!

Happy stitching!

Week 2: Cutting the Eventide Corset out

Now, after a week of taking it easy it’s time to get stitching your Eventide Corset!

After having made any adaptations to fit on the Pattern, you’ll need to cut out the Fabric. Diagrams and more information can be found in the Eventide Instruction Book however; here are a couple of hints… … and dire warnings!

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After having traced off, adapted and cut out the Pattern, pin to the Fabric remembering to measure the Grain Line. Fold the Coutil in half, Selvedge to Selvedge and Right Sides Together (so you are pinning to the back of your Fabric), and lay it on a flat surface.

It is incredibly important that each piece of the Pattern is cut out ON GRAIN. The Grain runs parallel to the Selvedge, which is the woven, finished edge of the Fabric. Cross Grain, or Bias, runs at a 45 degree angle to the straight Grain. Corsets must be cut out DIRECTLY ON THE STRAIGHT GRAIN to ensure the Waist Line in particular maintains the strength provided by the Straight Grain. Cutting the pieces of the Corset even slightly ‘off grain’ will mean it will twist uncomfortably as you wear it.

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Now, dire warnings aside!, after you have pinned each Pattern piece you will need to draw on your Seam Allowance… which is 1.5cm.

To do this, use a Tape Measure to measure out 1.5cm from the Pattern piece, and mark with some Tailors Chalk or a Fabric Pencil in a contrast colour. As you can see, Tailors Chalk is available in a variety of colours and it is useful to have a selection. Continue around each Pattern piece, measuring out and making a mark every few centimetres or so. Use a ruler or Patternmaster to connect the dots.

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Cut each piece out, and before you un-pin it, make a little snip no more then 1cm deep at the Waist Line. This is called a notch and will assist you in sewing the Corset up. It is another important little detail!

Repeat for the Coutil.

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You may have noticed that each piece looks similar to the next, and you can choose to cut out some paper markers to Pin on to each piece. To do this simply write what the piece is on a little scrap of paper and pin to the piece BUT pin to the piece as you would WEAR it. To do this, lay the pieces out upside down so the top is closest to you.

And that’s it!

Don’t forget, the Eventide Corset Pattern is available in a number of options including Instant Download here, and you can join in with Corset Month on FacebookTwitter (#corsetsessions) and Pinterest!

Happy stitching!

Notions: Preparing to Sew with Difficult Fabric

For this weeks’ Notions, I thought I would discuss something which, whilst being relevant to Corsetry, is also good basic knowledge for using unusual fabrics for all types of projects.

There comes a time when we all would like to use something a little more adventurous! Preparing the Fabric well is half the task of sewing Lace, or Sequinned Fabric.

Lace Overlays

When using Lace for Corsets, you will need to consider the pattern of the Lace- is it large or small and do you need to take this into consideration when placing the Pattern Pieces? You will need to re-trace off your Corset Pattern (from your adapted Pattern) and add in Seam Allowance before cutting out. This will ensure you do not have to draw the Seam Allowance on to the Lace which can be difficult for a number of reasons- the Lace will move about and can stretch out of shape, it will also be delicate and should not be overly handled.

After tracing the Paper Pattern off, pin the Paper Pattern on and cut out as you would Fabric. If the lace is very delicate, you may wish to use Pattern Weights instead of Pins to ensure you do not damage the Lace. I do not worry about being overly accurate- as long as the Lace is cut out within 1cm of the edge of the Paper Pattern and all Waist Notches are marked you will be fine.

Once all Lace sections are cut out, lay the Fabric pieces of the Corset out, then lay the Lace sections on top. Double check your Waist Notches are all in line throughout the Corset pieces, and that you have a left and a right of each piece.

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Pin the layers together, pin carefully so as to not damage the Lace.

Tack each section together as illustrated. Use a contrast Tacking Thread, and try to keep within the 1.5cm Seam Allowance so you will not have to remove it. If, when the Corset is sewn up, you can see the Tacking Stitches, the contrast thread will help you to see where to remove them.

Once the pieces are tacked, you can trim back any excess Lace to the edge of the Fabric.

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Alternatively, and you may wish to Sew a couple Corsets having tacked them before trying this method!- you can pin the sections together as illustrated. Pin along the Seam Allowance as shown, and keep the Pins in until they are stitched up. Of course, whilst this method is quicker there are some obvious drawbacks! If you have to adjust the Corset or unpick it for any reason, these pieces will become separated and need to be pinned again, it will take a little more experience to be able to control the layers of fabric with just pins holding them together… you also use a lot of pins!!

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This is a technique I often use when manufacturing multiple Corsets.

Sequinned and Beaded Fabrics

Sewing with Sequinned and Beaded fabrics has another set of rules. Because you are unable to Sew over Beads or heavier weight Sequins, you will need to remove them from the Seam Allowance.

It is easiest to trace off the Pattern, and add the Seam Allowance as for working with Lace Fabrics before pinning in the Pattern and cutting out.

Using a Tape Measure, measure in 1.5cm (which is the Seam Allowance for the Eventide Corset Pattern) and mark with a line of Pins as illustrated.

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With a contrast Thread, tack along the line of Pins.

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When you have tacked a line of stitching 1.5cm in, you will need to remove all of the Beads and Sequins from the Seam Allowance. And yes, this takes ages!! I keep the Beads and Sequins I remove, in case I need to add a couple in again. The stitching which holds on the Beads or Sequins is actually a chain so sometimes a couple of centimetres can unravel when it is cut, and will need to be carefully sewn back down, or added in by hand.

I will insert the Busk by hand if I am making a Corset from Beaded Fabric so as to not disturb the pattern of the Beading at the front of the Corset.

Pattern Matching and using Patterned Fabrics

This tip for Pattern Matching Fabrics is enormously helpful however; if you are using a Patterned Fabric you may wish to select the sections you wish to use, or even Pattern Match the Front Panels so that the Pattern runs across them. This isn’t too difficult BUT please do try to remember to cut out a LEFT and a RIGHT of each Panel!! For this you will need to flip the Pattern Piece over.

pattern matchAs illustrated above, I have chosen which piece of the Pattern I would like to run down the front of the Corset. Folding the Pattern Piece back along the Centre Front line, I have matched it so that- when the Corset is sewn together- the Cyclist will pedal across the Bust!

Remember to fold the Pattern Back along the Centre Front line, then match on the Fabric. As you Pin the Pattern Piece on to the Fabric you can un-fold it and pin it down.

Matching along the Centre Front line is incredibly important because- and you’ll see this from the Instruction Book– the Fabric beyond the Centre Front is used as a Seam Allowance when inserting the Busk, so any pattern will be lost.

By the way, this awesome Fabric is available from Spoonflower, and I may just have to snap up a bit!

Don’t forget, the Eventide Corset Pattern is available in a number of options including Instant Download here, and you can join in with Corset Month on FacebookTwitter (#corsetsessions) and Pinterest!

Happy stitching!

Week 1: Recommended Tools and Equipment…

… to help you make the Eventide Corset, and for Corsetry in general, these Tools and pieces of Equipment come highly recommended.The full list of supplies, with recommended Suppliers etc comes in the Instruction Book with the Eventide Pattern or can be found in The Little Book of Corset Tips.

recommended tools and eqt for corsetry

Later, I shall be discussing how to adjust and alter the Pattern to fit! Don’t forget to join in with Corset Month on Facebook, Twitter (#corsetsessions) and Pinterest!

Happy stitching!

Sewing Bee Snippets Week 1

As previously discussed, here are my insights in to construction details, tips and tricks, and practices used on The Great British Sewing Bee this week.

The contestants were really put through their paces this week sewing each basic staple fabric- Cotton, Wool and Silk. Their Cotton Tunic Tops displayed a very wide range in construction details- and finishing techniques!- and this week I set myself the task of making a Simple Tunic Top to remind myself of some of the basic, subtle techniques needed in a Seamstresses repertoire. Sewing something simple but very well is a fine art, and not to be sniffed at! I was not surprised that a few contestants ‘fell’ at this first hurdle, but managed to complete far harder tasks later on. In simple sewing projects, a lot of the sewing can be seen, and finishing- as May Martin said- is incredibly important to the final garment.

I chose to make Colette’s free PDF pattern ‘Sorbetto‘, which I have had on my makes list for quite some time now. Having fallen in love with a great Cotton Print fabric which was a little bit Mid-Century modern, this was the perfect excuse!

It differs from the Sewing Bees top in that it has a simpler Bias Bound Neckline but what do you think?

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 I am completely in love with it! The scoop neck is just right, the armholes and straps fit wonderfully- they’re a pretty interesting shape to be honest (I had to make an extra dart in the bust which didn’t help!),  and the fit and flair of the side seams is just perfect. I decided to Self Bind, meaning I hand made Bias Binding from the same fabric to finish the Neckline and Armholes however the hem is simply neatened and machined. Simple, and all sewn up and hand finished in under two hours!

As I said, this is a free PDF Pattern and I highly recommend it!

The essential tricks needed for a simple top like this are basic machine skills, good ironing and some simple hand stitch knowledge. Any top like this will only have two pieces- a front and a back- so a lot of the work you do will be in the neatening of the raw edges about the armholes, neckline and hem. Facings are one way to go however; Bias Binding is a another choice which I feel can make the garment look a little more unique. You can choose to Self Bind as I have, use a contrast, satin or even a lace edged binding!

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Pin, and stitch the Bias Binding Right Sides Together on to your garment (Colette’s pattern instructions for the Sorbetto take you through this step in detail). Lay flat, and push the Seam and Bias Binding away from you as illustrated above right.

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 Fold the top of the Bias Binding down by the amount of Seam Allowance you have (normally 1.5cm/5/8″), and pin. Then fold again to lie next to your original Seam. Pin parallel as shown.

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 Thread a needle with thread twice as long as you need. Fold in half. Thread the loop through the Needle, and pull longer than the other threads (above left). Take a stitch through on of your machine stitches, and a small amount of the Bias Binding (above right) and, before the thread has been pulled though entirely, thread the needle through the loop and pull tight. this will anchor your thread.

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 Continue down the length of the Bias Binding, taking stitches through the machine stitching and edge of the fold of the Bias Binding. Do not worry about making them teeny tiny, even lengths are better and mine are normally about 1cm or 2/8″ long. When you come to the end or need to re-thread simply thread your needle through the loop of a stitch to tie a knot.

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 And there you have it, a nice simple Slip Stitch to finish any garment beautifully.

Pressing- not ironing!- is also essential and I have found a wonderfully demonstrative article on why ironing should be a firm part of your Sewing knowledge here. She makes quite the case doesn’t she boys and girls?!

A few notes on pinning and why even this jaded Seamstress still does it… … it means you often don’t have to hand tack pieces together. It is also a great way to keep things in place as you sew that may alternatively slip out of place. You can use Pins to easily control ease in a garment. They’re gorgeous, have you seen Merchant & Mills selection recently?! They’re invaluable when sewing darts and finally, they are often what helps a beginner or intermediate Sewer create a more professional garment. About the only time I don’t use pins is on straight seams I am piecing quickly. Having said all of that, use pins wisely as they can mark delicate fabrics- so pin in and parallel to the Seam Allowance- and sewing machines can snag on them.

Finally, to Under Stitching. A sadly neglected art I am afraid, and even I am guilty of ‘doing’ a Julie and simply pressing the Neckline down! No more! Here is my Tutorial to make us all Under Stitching superstars!!

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 Pin the Facing to the Neckline and stitch the seam according to your Pattern Instructions. If you pin at a right angle the sewing machine will happily sew over the pins- especially useful when sewing curves! Remove the pins, and clip in to any curves.

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 Fit the Zipper Foot on to the sewing machine and, on the Facing side, and making sure the clipped seam lies underneath the facing, stitch round nice and close to the edge as illustrated.

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 The Under Stitch will immediately make the Facing ‘roll’ towards the back so that, with a little press, the facing will sit invisibly behind the front. Lovely!

The image to the far right clearly illustrated the technique of sewing the Seam Allowance at the same time at the Facing.

There was no discussion on hemming the Tunic tops however, I normally like to hem by hand.

I think these have been the most popular subjects raised since Tuesday however; I shall cover quick fix Skirt alterations in the next couple days just to make sure you all will be so up on your stitching knowledge you’ll be sewing in your dreams!!

Don’t forget to take a peek at Laura After Midnight on Pinterest, I have a great collection of free patterns and sewing projects over there from all corners of the globe!

Happy stitching!

Simple Pattern Drafting: Pyjamas!!

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Who wouldn’t want a gorgeous, hand made pair of Pajamas? Over the years I have whipped up a few pairs to give as gifts, so I thought I’d share how to make them up Pajamas, without having to buy a Pattern!

I have sorted out the following, super simple printables’ for you all to follow, which illustrate how to make up your own pattern (from just two simple measurements!), how to cut them out and then full instructions at the bottom to sew the Pajamas up… all you really need to worry about is which fabric you’re going to choose first!!

If this is your first foray in to Pattern Cutting take a peek at Pattern Month. You may want to load up on some basic supplies too like a Meter Ruler or Pattern Master and some Pattern Paper however; you can make do with Baking Paper and a Tape Measure just as well too!

Click on the images to enlarge, and print.

Easy Pattern DraftingPyjamas

Pyjama Pattern Page 2

Pyjama Instruction Sheet

Wasn’t so difficult was it?! I like to simply buy nice, plain t-shirts, tank tops and lacy vests to match the fabrics I have chosen to serve as Pajama tops, which can be great fun if you are making for someone else!!

For all my old school followers the conversion of inches to centimeters is 1″:2.5cm, but there is a handy conversion calculator here.

When choosing fabric for your Pajamas, remember that they should be soft and lovely so fabrics like Cotton Flannel, Brushed Cotton and Winceyette are perfect, as are printed cottons. Anything silkier or satin-y can prove a little too static inducing for my liking, and fleece a little heavy and hot. Why not have a trawl through the wonderful world of Spoonflower for something truly unique… or even design your own?!

Don’t forget to share your makes with me over on Facebook!

Happy stitching!