Notes from the Atelier

A little late, I know, but I thought I would share a couple images from the Gimme Shelter! Vintage Fair I had a stall for last Sunday. It was first Market this year, and got things off to a great start!

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New products for this Market included the already popular Reversible Tote Bags, Head Scarves and Appliqué Cushions (quite honestly, who wouldn’t want a cushion with ‘Golly Gee written on it?!). All of my customers were happy and chatty, and although I started the day with a migraine, I had a lovely time.


I will be at the next Gimme Shelter! Vintage Fair on 7th September… with my Sewing Machine!! You can have anything you buy from Jayz Bags altered in a trice for free, or for just £5 from any other stall on the day (I’ll be taking any more complicated alterations away, this service will be available from £10).

I shall also be premièring a new range of Vintage Dresses, Up-Cycled Dresses, Dresses made from Vintage Fabrics, Jackets, and all sorts! I am quite excited about it, watch this space for more information and to see glimpses in to the Midnight Atelier and what I shall be bringing…

Happy stitching!

Studio Snippets

Today I thought I would share some images of some gorgeous Medieval inspired Costumes I Designed and Made Up a couple months ago. I think I am in love with quilting again, and intend to make up some Bolero Jackets and Spats featuring this rather elaborate technique…

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This is a technique I have employed before for Historical Costumes. Not only is it accurate (-ish, I do it by Machine), it is a cost effective trick to create a brilliantly elaborate piece!

I first made a Paper Pattern for the Doublet, then drew the Quilted Design on to it to make sure it would work, and that I liked it. It is very easy to become a little too intricate so drawing out the pattern is a very good exercise! I then- somewhat free hand- drew the Pattern on to the Jerkin with tailors chalk, making slight adjustments to ensure it matched both sides because there were to be eyelets and lacing down the front and a seam at the back.

I backed the Blue Linen with very thin wadding and a lining- cut about 10cm larger than the Linen as there is to be expected some amount of movement when machine quilting- then started in the middle with the circles and worked outwards. When employing this technique I use a medium large stitch on my sewing machine and just take it slow. The whole jacket took about 7 hours to quilt in full but I am so pleased with the results, and can’t wait to see pictures of it in action!


Above is some fabric I created for a Dark Queen Costume around the same time as the Doublet. I made it up on to a Waspie for the Costume, which looked just fantastic.

I worked with some Black Coutil for the base, then placed two layers of Gold Lace, a layer of Matt Black Sequinned Lace on top. I then Machine Stitched in Gold to outline the Pattern of the Sequins. This looked simply gorgeous and I fully intend to create a full length, Victorian Corset using the technique. It only took a couple hours because tracing around the outline of the Sequin pattern was done semi-freehand.

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I think I am becoming a little ‘known’ for my Machine Embroidery techniques!!

This above is a sample of some freehand machine embroidery I created for Dark Queens costume. I adapted and echoed the pattern from the Sequinned Lace and added in my own embellishments to create this piece of fabric which was ultimately cut up in to little strips!

Whilst machine embroidery is a relatively quick technique- which is why I use it so frequently in my Costumes, as if done correctly it can look like Medieval style hand embroidery or Black Work- it can still take time and I think I spent about 20 hours Quilting and Embroidering for this commission! I was quite content though, and adore the out come.

If you like the look of Machine Embroidery, why not check out Bristol Sewing Club to learn? I am also working on a handy little Zine full of hints and tips for the budding Machine Embroiderer too. I think it is a wonderful thing to master and can be used so many different ways.

Happy stitching!

Notions: Lapped Zip

Lapped Zips were a hot topic on this weeks episode of The Great British Sewing Bee. I know them mainly as a Vintage technique, and my Vintage Sewing Books are stuffed full of ways to work them!

The following Tutorial is taken from McCall’s Complete Book of Dressmaking (which is delightful!). The important thing to remember when inserting Lapped Zips is to baste/tack at every stage. If rushed, the fabric can slip so that the Zip is exposed, or wrinkles. For the beautiful finishHeather achieved, remember to finish the final step by hand. This will hide the zip beautifully.

Make sure that the Placket/zip opening is 1.5cm or 5/8″ longer (not counting the seam allowance at the top if inserting in a Skirt), than the length of the Zipper teeth.

Pin back both edges of the seam 1.5cm or 5/8″ (which should be the seam allowance in the pattern), tack/baste the seam in position and press.


Place the Zip with the stopper just below the point of the opening. Pin as illustrated.


Working with the seam edge of the back, put the folded edge right up to the teeth. Tack/baste and stitch close to the metal using the Zipper Foot on the Sewing Machine. You may need to slide the tab of the Zip down to stitch past it.

Close the Zip, and place the other seam fold over it so that the metal is hidden. Even swing it over a little more so that it laps over .5cm or 1/8″ at the top. Tack/Baste the open the Zip and start stitching down from the top by hand.


From the back, push the needle through the fabric and then, a couple of threads away push it back through the fabric. The smaller the stitch back to the other side, the neater and more beautiful the finished Zip.

And there you have it, happy stitching!

Pattern making as Art

If anyone is in any mild confusion as to why I am so obsessed with Patterns, this should help clarify. This is what you can do when you know how to flat Pattern cut, when you know the subtle nuances of fit and fiber, and when passion and creativity take over and elevate you from the norm.

This is what I do, to a slightly lesser degree and sometimes in a vary different fashion because I am a Costumier, but this is what I do. In making a Costume I will go through every stage you see here, the careful planning and cutting, the delicate ironing and shaping, and the constant, obsessive checking. And boy, do I love every minute!

Happy patterning!

Enlarging Vintage Patterns and Using PDFs

I’d like to talk a little on alternative methods of Patterning i.e. Scaling up Vintage Patterns either from a print out or book or dealing with PDF Patterns.

The internet presents rather an enormous resource for free Patterns, if you know how to deal with them. Often they are simply illustrations with measurement guidelines and it is intended that the user scales them up to size, then makes any fit adjustments necessary before making up.

I love Pinterest for free Patterns. I have a very specific way of dealing with them which is somewhat time consuming however; I find that the process informs me on different methods of patterning, design and simply furthers my knowledge so I rather enjoy it! The following method can also be used for Vintage patterns in books such as The Cut of Womens Clothes and Corsets and Crinolines however; these illustrations have usually been drawn to a scale which is enormously helpful!

Firstly, find a pattern you like the look of. I adore this c1940s Overall Dress so I am going to illustrate using this. You will also need a Tape Measure, Pencil, Ruler or Patternmaster and Pattern Paper.

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If you take a close look at the Pattern I have chosen you will see that there are measurements written on every single line which is a great start however; the first thing I will need to do is draw a scale grid across the entire illustration. The reason for this- which seems a little like I am making work for myself- is that it will be invaluable in showing me the correct angle of pieces like the Armhole, or Collar.

How I decide the scale of the grid I need to draw is this: I measure one of the lines which has a definite measurement on it. In this case it’s the dotted line from the Armhole to the Bust Dart which on the illustration measures 3″. I measure this in millimeters then divide the millimeters measurement by three to ascertain how many millimeters an inch is. Turns out it is slightly awkward: 3mm! Never mind, I like the Pattern so much I am more than up for drawing a grid 3mm x 3mm all over it! Now I know that every box on my grid will measure 1″ in real life which is ideal as Dot and Cross Pattern Paper is in inches!

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To actually draw the grid I find a straight line on the Pattern and extend it, then draw a line at 90 Degrees to it as illustrated above left. This forms the start of my grid, which it is important to make as ‘square’ as possible. Next, I start marking 3mm dots at the bottom, then the top of the Pattern as illustrated in the middle. I will then repeat this step at the 90 Degree angle- or ‘going the other way’- then join all the dots to make the grid, as you can see in the final illustration above.


Now, a whole bunch of measuring ensues!

I mark point (1) on the Pattern then measure across then down to mark point (2), and join them with a dotted line to form the Shoulder. Using the measurements annotated on the Vintage Pattern I can mark points (3) and (4) easily. Counting grid squares down I can mark point (5), then join the three points to make the Bust Dart.

Proceeding in this fashion I slowly work across and down until I have marked up the whole Pattern.

Scaling Patterns really is relatively easy if you are willing to take time on the laborious job of marking your grid correctly. The final stage will be to re-size this Pattern to your measurements but this can be made a little easier if your draft of the Vintage Pattern is placed on top of your Basic Block. I would strongly advocate a Toile be made up of all Vintage Patterns which have needed to be scaled up not simply because there may be slight errors in the scaling but because Vintage Patterns were drafted to fit a very different body type that we have today, and are often very small.

The other form of Pattern popping up more and more frequently is the PDF Pattern which also requires a little work before it can be used however; much less that scaling!

PDF Patterns are great value for money, with the majority of the smaller Pattern companies offering them at a lower price because you print them out. They have essentially been ‘chopped up’ in to A4 pieces, which you print then stick together using the instructions provided. Some offer the options to have a file type which will be recognized by your local Printers. In this case you can pay a few pounds to have the Pattern printed onto A0 size paper much like a commercial pattern.

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PDF Pattern from Bettsy Kingston. 

The most important thing to remember when printing a PDF Pattern is to never ‘fit to paper size’ or tamper with it in any way which may effect the sizing. This can be avoided by carefully observing the scale the Pattern needs to be printed at and following the manufacturers guidelines. Every PDF Pattern will also have a ‘Test Square’ drawn on it somewhere which, when measured on the printout, should measure as indicated.

There are some amazing free PDF Patterns out there including Colette’s Sorbetto, and some pretty amazing free Dresses and Skirts from Burda among others. Vivat Veritas has a great article with links to many, many Vintage PDFs too.

Well, what’s stopping you?

Please also don’t forget to comment on my interview with Sarai of Colette Patterns to win fabric and notions to make your very own Sorbetto! Come back tomorrow for another stunning Wordless Wednesday and visit later this week to find words of wisdom on Fitting and transferring Fitting to a Flat Pattern. There will also be another pattern making Musings and give away on Friday!

Happy patterning!

Pattern Month on Pinterest

For an awesome selection of Vintage, modern, free and many more Patterns please take a look at Pattern Month on Pinterest. I’ve also made sure there are a great little selection of tutorials on how to re-size Patterns and how to deal with PDF printable Patterns. These are my favourites…

Panelled Slip Draft Pattern from Complete Dressmaking in pictures published by Odhams. 1950       Overalls

A 50s Slip, complete with Pattern information and advice, and 1940s Overalls complete with Pattern. If you know how to scale Patterns up- which there will be a post on in the near future- the Pattern world really is at your feet. I just adore those Overalls!

Lots of skirt block modifications

Have you tried making up your Basic Skirt Block yet? If so, why not trace the Block off and try splitting it as above for some truly gorgeous skirts!

There are further Patterns on the Pinterest page, scaling advice, hints and tips so be sure to check it out!

Happy patterning!