My 2nd Sewing Bee challenge!

After having thoroughly enjoying the 1st Alteration Challenge from Week 1 of The Great British Sewing Bee, I waited with baited breath for the 2nd to be revealed. I was pleasantly surprised when Patrick explained the contestants had to make a new thing from a Childs Cotton Dress and a bright yellow T-Shirt. It immediately set my mind a-buzzing (which I try to stop so as to not have too much of an edge over the contestants!), and I scuttled off with glee to my local Charity Shop sure in the knowledge I would find my challenge goodies.

Readers, I was thwarted. I looked high and low in at least 8 Charity Shops and finally resorted to a Primark hunt but all to no avail. I put the conundrum to Sewing Club and we all agreed that if I could find no Cotton Dress I would get a Shirt and a yellow T-Shirt as this was equivalent fabric.

I couldn’t shop again until yesterday and lo and behold… oodles of Cotton Dresses. Hurrah! I ended up with this brightly coloured Aztec number, which I thought was quite jolly and went rather nicely with the yellow.

I hastily made my sketch and was off!

2gbsb1 2gbsb3

I still had it in mind that they are asked to drastically alter the pieces they are working with, so decided to make the Dress into the top of a new Dress and use the t-shirt for the skirt. As the GBSB contestants were allowed to use as many trims as they liked (an opportunity I think they all wasted!!), I decided on some matching… contrasting?… Ric-Rac and a Bobble Trim.


I first re-purposed the pocket by simply cutting it from the Dress to make it a larger size, then quickly drafted a Pattern (I don’t have a child’s mannequin so this was assumption and luck to be honest!), and cut out two sets of Fronts and two sets of Backs choosing the nicest parts of the pattern.

2gbsb7 2gbsb8

Sewing the Fronts and Backs right side together, then turning and sewing at the shoulder seams to create a lovely, lined and top stitched bodice! Took a couple of pins through the ironing board, but it turned out very neatly I think! I had to top stitch because I needed to close the holes where I had turned it out the right way.

2gbsb5  2gbsb10 2gbsb11

I then attacked the T-Shirt! Cutting the front and back into panels for the front and back of the Skirt of the Dress, then joining and gathering along the top. I curved the back panels for a little flair. I also sewed on the pocket at a jaunty angle! Quickly cutting some Bias Binding, I sewed this together in strips then attached to the bottom of the skirt… what you’re seeing in the last picture is me running out about 5cm from the end of the hem. Typical!!

2gbsb12 2gbsb13 2gbsb14

After sewing the Bias to the bottom of the skirt, I flipped it to the back and Zig-Zagged it on neatly. I like Zig-Zagging Bias Binding, it makes it look much happier! I then added my Ric-Rac, which made me so happy!

2gbsb15 2gbsb16

I cut and pinned the Bobble Trim to the bottom of the Bodice, tucking it neatly to the back…

2gbsb17 2gbsb18 2gbsb19

…then pinned on the gathered Skirt and top stitched it in place directly over my original top stitching! Very cunning, I was super duper pleased this bit worked as well as it did as May was right, joining non-stretch to stretch can get very interesting!


I suddenly realised I didn’t know how I was going to close the dress (doh!), so the Button Shelf came to the rescue and I quickly added in three pretty flower buttons that I think fit very nicely with the crazy print.

2gbsb22 2gbsb23 2gbsb25

And there you have it. Sewing Bee Challenge No. 2 complete! A darling little girls dress (4-5 yr old) made from a Cotton Dress and a Yellow T-Shirt. Happy, if slightly delayed, days!!

2gbsb31 2gbsb29 2gbsb27

I couldn’t resist, by the way, keeping the printed label from the T-Shirt in the side seam of the back! Can you see it, peeking out in the above, right hand picture? Tee hee hee!

Next week… Curtains! And I can not blooming WAIT! I have made dresses for myself from Curtains before now and I’m going to try and dig some pictures out so I can show you!

Happy stitching!

My Sewing Bee Challenge

Have you been watching this years Great British Sewing Bee? I love it and everyone already, I must stop being such a complete softie!

As ever, they covered such a vast amount on the first week from Pattern Matching to sewing Curves beautifully, Bias Binding and the correct application thereof (sorry Matt!) that it left my head in a spin! My favorite piece was Lorna’s Trousers. I loved the beautiful print laying diagonally across the fabric. Here at the Midnight Atelier there has also been much discussion of how nervous they all seemed, which is fair as it must be very stressful! Previous years must just have taken it all in their stride a little better, I’m hoping they settle in this week.

Well, this is all very well and good you may be thinking, but why am I prattling on about it? It’s because I have decided to challenge myself! Each week I shall be giving myself the same time limitations and re-creating the Alteration challenge right here at The Midnight Atelier and, having completed one already, I have to say it’s amazing fun!

I know I have a slightly unfair advantage in that each week I shall have longer to think about what I am planning to do simply because I have to go out and buy the supplies however; I am hoping you’ll forgive me as I intend to auction off the final pieces at the end of The Great British Sewing Bee for a local Charity. My time limit is also technically a little shorter as I have to make the piece as well as take pictures as I go so I think I’m making amends!

The minute Patrick revealed the Denim Shirt last week I thought ‘Red Gingham’, so mu so that I was very surprised no-one else did!! I blame my ultimate decision to make a Retro themed Beach Set on my new Class Schedule planning as I have lingerie on the brain… but what do you think?


I draped the whole thing on the Mannequin super quick to get an idea of the curves, then used the Cuff for the front of the Bikini, and parts of the Sleeves for the rest as I used the Front of the Shirt for the Front of the Shorts- cut so that the Buttons and Button Holes lined up to create a feature!- and the Back of the Shirt for the Back of the Shorts. Ta daa!!

So, without further ado, here’s the whole Photo Story…

gbsb2 gbsb3 gbsb4

I don’;t know who it was that said it, but making a little sketch right at the beginning of a timed challenge is super helpful

gbsb5 gbsb6

Draping the Shorts from some scrap lining fabric, and marking where I wanted the buttons, pocket etc with a felt pen.

gbsb7 gbsb8 gbsb10

Placing the Pattern Pieces on the Denim Shirt, then lining them up before I cut to make sure the Buttons and Button Holes lined up. I had to add in a Button Hole but all others worked out beautifully!

gbsb11 gbsb16

Re-sewing on the Patch Pocket at a cheeky angle! the shorts are nearly finished, just some Lingerie Elastic for the Hem!

gbsb13gbsb14 gbsb15

Draping the Bikini from the Cuff! I was so pleased about this! after I draped the Front, I marked the pieces with pins on my Dress Mannequin then traced over them to cut the real piece. Quick as anything!! I draped the Gingham insert then Cut and Spread to make the Gathers.

gbsb17 gbsb19 gbsb20

Pinning the Order of Sewing on to the Mannequin… then sewing! The Bikini took about twenty minutes to drape (and I was worried for a split second) but then only about five minutes to sew up! Voila!! Just some Ribbon straps and Gingham Ties to  finish!!

gbsb27 gbsb32

I finished with about five minutes to spare… and look at the devastation something like this wreaks upon your work space!!


gbsb25 gbsb29 gbsb28gbsb33 gbsb31 gbsb24

Such fun! I love the final outfit, and can’t wait to see what I’ll be up against tonight… eek!!

Catch up with The Great British Sewing Bee here, and don’t forget my new Class Schedule will be out on Monday and ready to book. There’s so many treats and fantastic Classes coming guys, I’m so excited!!

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!

Notions: Hemming by Hand

I am afraid I am one of those dreadful bores of a teacher who insists that Hemming is done by hand! It just looks simply beautiful, & gives a truly professional finish to a garment that has been carefully stitched together, by hand.

I have taken this Tutorial from my Simple A-Line Skirt Tutorial because this subject has come up a lot lately and I thought a refresher was a good idea… see, I told you I was a bore about this!! 

Turn up and pin the hem 1cm (3/8″). Iron. Then turn up & pin the hem 2cm (6/8″). Iron again, then set to Herringbone Stitching!

48 49 50

51 53

Measuring & pinning the Hem up a further 2cm, then ironing. There will be slight puckers which need to be ironed plat as small pleats, to be Hand Sewn down. This will help the fabric manage the curve, whilst remaining flat in front. 

With the Hem still pinned, & nicely ironed!, start Herringbone Stitching it down…

MCCALLS Herringbone Stitch

Illustration from McCalls Sewing in Colour, 1960. 

I know this seems complicated but I use Herringbone Stitch for all my hems. I first got taught this technique when I was working at the- now sadly closed down & sold off for parts- BBC Costume Department in West London.

The reason it was being used on costumes was twofold… firstly it doesn’t show from the front (at all!) and secondly, it’s super strong. If your heel gets caught & rips one stitch the rest don’t immediately unravel because of the way Herringbone Stitch is worked.


Often called Catch Stitch, as you can see from the above diagrams, it is a version of Back Stitch, in Cross Stitch form.

Firstly, thread the needle in a complimentary colour, then stitch a couple stitches ‘on the spot’ to start. This stitch is worked backwards so the first stitch you take will be through the main body of the fabric. Take a stitch from right to left but only take a thread of the fabric. This stitch should lie directly above the hem fold as illustrated.

Secondly, and roughly 1.5cm to the right of the first stitch, take a larger stitch through the folded part of the fabric. Do not go all of the way through to the front. Move to the right again and take another stitch through the main body of the fabric, as illustrated, and only taking up a thread. Continue until the hem is complete or you need to re-thread.

The examples above I have completed in black & white, so you can imagine how the stitches disappear when executed in a complementary colour. Click here for the original Tutorial.

I like to put on a good movie and settle in when I have a Hem to do…


Detail of the Herringbone Stitch, & the completed Hem!

Happy stitching!

A-Line Skirt hack!

Hello lovelies! Having been very inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee a couple weeks ago, here is my A-Line Skirt Hack based on my super duper popular Patternless A-Line Skirt Tutorial to make an Inverted Box Pleated Skirt as they did.

The original Tutorial is amazingly simple, and I highly recommend it if you are learning to sew or want a quick make for a cute Skirt. You need just 1 and a half meters of fabric for the A-Line version, but you’ll need 2 meters for this Pleated version, which will make a knee length Skirt just as beautiful as Tamara’s was!

pleats 1

Firstly, you will need to make up the Pattern for the A-Line Skirt. In the original Tutorial this is simply drawn on to the fabric after taking a couple basic measurements (a la Chinelo!) however, for the Pleated Skirt you will need to make it up on Pattern Paper.

Once you have your Pattern, divide the waist line and hem in to three, and draw a dotted line between the markings as illustrated. Cut up these lines to separate the pieces, the tape the first piece on to another piece of paper. Decide how deep you would like your Pleats- the Great British Sewing Bee had 8cm, and I like 12cm- then measure from the first dotted line out by this measurement… i.e. 8cm. Measure and mark out along the whole line, then tape the second piece along this line, effectively moving it 8cm away. Repeat for the third piece.

pleats 1 pleats 2 pleats 3 pleats 4

Mark a circle at the top of each of the the dotted lines. This is to mark where you will need to make Tailors Tacks which will help you see where the Pleats are to be made, and keep the Skirt the same size as it is made up.

Fold your Skirt Fabric Selvedge to Selvedge (so you get a long, thin folded piece), then lay the Pattern on the Fold, pin the pattern and cut around. Move the pattern down, flip over and lay next to the Selvedge as illustrated and pin and cut again. If you have an obvious print, you will need to match it.

cutting diagram pleat skirt

Before you un-pin each piece, place Tailors Tacks on each mark. Tailors Tacks are a great way to mark your fabric without resorting to a pencil or snipping the fabric as you can with Notches.

pleats 5 pleats 7 pleats 8

To make the Pleats, fold the fabric, right sides together, so that the Tailors Tacks lie on top of each other. Pin, then press the Pleat flat, distributing the Pleat evenly each side…

pleats 9 pleats 17 pleats 15

pleats 2

… thanks to The Great British Sewing Bee for that! Once pinned, you can follow the rest of the A-Line Skirt Tutorial and sew the Skirt up.

Alternatively, and this word strikes fear in to my classes because they know what I am going to suggest will probably be exciting enough they want to do it but difficult!, you can sew the Pleats down before continuing to sew up the Skirt! I love this technique, it makes the skirt incredibly flattering, and distributes the flair about the Hip and not the Waist (which is great if you aren’t stick thin).

pleats 10 pleats 17 pleats 15 pleats 16

Fold the Pleat so that the Tailors Tack matches as before. Place the second Pin 12cm down. Using the Tailors Tack as a guide, sew straight down (for example, if you have done 8cm Pleats, you will have 4cm Seam Allowance at this point and will need to sew 4cm away from the edge from top to bottom) until you reach the Pin marking 12cm. Remember to reverse stitch at the top and bottom. Distribute the Pleat evenly on each side as before, pin and then Top Stitch down each side of the Pleat on the Front as in the last picture.

Once you have pinned your Pleats, or sewn them down, you can continue to sew up the Skirt at in the A-Line Skirt Tutorial. You can choose to sew it up with the Simple Zip method included in the Tutorial or use an Invisible Zipper, or a Lapped Zip as in The Great British Sewing Bee.

As ever, I’d love to see your makes! Happy stitching!

Great British Sewing Bee: Week 3


Well, what did we all think about week 3? Poor Julie, I shall definitely miss her. She brought a wonderful normality to the Bee!! Click the above lick to watch…

This week the Sewers tackled Leggings, T-Shirt Up-Cycles and sewing Jersey dresses. Which was all a bit the same really, and I found myself zoning out a little to be honest! Probably because I sew a lot of Historical Costumes I don’t sew much stretch, don’t worry though, I have tracked down some helpful links and tips for you and some even more helpful tips if you don’t own  an Over Locker/Serger if you’d like to work with stretch fabrics.

First things first. I find that when tackling a new fabric or technique it is important for me to be stitching up something I really like, or want! I’ve been on the hunt, and there are some lovely patterns out there from some great Independent Pattern Companies which should get anyone excited about sewing with stretch.

stretch patterns

From left: Sewaholics Pendrell Blouse, Jamie Christina’s Mission Maxi and IN-HOUSE’s Kimono Tee.

For help stitching up the above, you should really check out The Thrifty Stitcher for some greatTutorials for using stretch fabrics. The Burda Style Blog is also worth checking out for a great no nonsense tips for Sewing Stretch Fabric without an Overlocker video tutorial. The Papercut Collective also have a some Knit tips, and and article about sewing with Knits without an overlocker.

As with anything, take your time and stitch up some samples to get used to your fabric if this is your first time working with Jersey. In my experience, each and every Jersey fabric is different and contains its own unique properties and samples will help you understand and manage it to the best of your abilities. A super neat trick to remember: if you like it and your garment sews together well, buy more Knit fabric in a different colour and make the same thing again! This applies to most things to be honest however; Knits are easy to wear and a little more versatile than some styles.

That’s about it, told ya I zoned out didn’t I?! If you would still like a bit more help Sewaholic has put together this exhaustive list of many varied Tutorials on the subject! Hurrah!!

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!

The Great British Sewing Bee: Week 2


Well, it all felt a little calmer this week didn’t it? All of the contestants seem to have settled down with the idea of the time limits, and we saw a lot more finished pieces! Yet again however; I feel I have been sent upon a whirlwind of Stitching terminology and techniques!

It was all about pattern this week. Matching, using, working and up-cycling with… stripes, florals, patterns!!

First up they made a Box Pleat Skirt in the Pattern Challenge however; they Inverted the Box Pleats which is infinitely more flattering. Matching those patterns across the pleats proved a challenge for many of the contestants, and I shall be addressing a couple tips on this later on in the week as well as sharing how to adapt the Simple A-Line Skirt Tutorial in to a pleated skirt.

During the second challenge- to take two Men’s Shirts and use them to create something new- Chinelo stunned me with her cute Summery top, with sculptural Bow. Patrick was quite right- to have the vision both Chinelo and Tamara had to see something that different was fantastic.

Chinelos wonderful bow!

During this week they also inserted a Lapped Zip, Top StitchedSlip Stitched– which was how Julie finished her Waistband off on the inside instead of Top Stitching- Stab Stitched, attached several more Patch Pockets, stitched up Button Holes in a trice, and stitched on Buttons even quicker, and Piped those Pyjamas in the final challenge to within and inch of their lives.

I am being well and truly put through my paces as a Seamstress here, and I can only imagine how their heads must spin after their Sewing Bee days!! If you fancy making yourself some Pyjamas, see my Tutorial here. It’s a great introduction to simple Pattern Making and, made well, Hand Made Pyjamas are a luxury and a great gift! They’re far simpler than the Pyjamas the contestants attempted however; watch out for Tutorials over the next week which will cover Piping, Lapped Zips (a great Vintage technique, which I shall be sharing from my stash of Vintage Dressmaking books), Stab or Hand Pricked Stitch, making the Perfect Bow, and Marking Fabric.

As ever, click the link above to watch the show which will be live for two whole months!! Follow along here- don’t forget to sign up for my Monthly Newsletter in the side bar which contains exclusive offers and info- PinterestFacebook and Twitter.

Happy stitching!