Mrs Bowden’s top tip – Birthday Greetings

Felixstowe Sewing School

http://www.felixstowesewingschool.co.uk

Mrs Bowden’s 50th Birthday Greetings to one and all!
Without meaning to be overly sentimental I thought I would share my ‘Stitched Story’ with you.  I orignally prepared this as a feature for a Sewing magazine and thought you might enjoy it?

 

Here is MY COPY of the Golden Hands book first published in 1972 – I cannot tell you how many hours I spent drooling over the pictures deciding what I was going to make!

 

Both my grandmothers were keen crafts women and kind with their time.  My mother was a primary school teacher and an extremely creative woman, in her later years she became a City and Guilds embroidery teacher.  With a great insight into how achingly long summer holidays can be for children, she started a tradition of setting a big summer holiday project for me to do every year.  The range of projects was impressive and covered making quilts, clothes, toys, embroidered pictures – all based around sewing.  There were always threads, fabrics, stuffing, beads, sequins, buttons, string – whatever was required and her generosity in both time and resources was a precious gift from my childhood.
Here is my ‘herbie’ and the quilt I made when I was 9/10 years old.

 

I still have the first quilt I made when I was 9.  It was made from cut-off’s which you could buy at bargain prices from Laura Ashley, some of which I still own and often stroke when passing!  I also have a battered, but much loved, Volkswagen Beetle felt toy with my parent’s heads stitched into the side and front view windows which now looks rather medieval in perspective.  We didn’t have a Beetle but I really loved them, it was the pinnacle of Herbie’s career and I can’t help thinking that had a lot to do with me making it.
Here is Herbie in all his beetlish glory! x

 

As I entered my teen years I used to hop on a bus or a train and attend junior embroidery and craft sessions at the Embroiderer’s Guild in Hampton Court Palace or Battersea Arts Centre.  Sewing was an everyday activity growing up and this has continued to this very day.
Embroidered signage – impressive!

 

Another big influence in my childhood were the copious antiques and precious items from the past, these were treasured, admired and used.  I still have my first hand crank Singer sewing machine I was given when I was 8 and a set of Victorian blackberry pins I bought with my pocket money.
Fine glass ‘berry’ topped pins

 

On reflection, become a sewing teacher with a massive interest in vintage clothing was almost inevitable.  I carried this inspiration with me through my years studying textiles and collecting vintage fabrics and clothes.  My mother’s patience and kindness when teaching has inspired my own teaching practice.    Not to be overlooked however, is also the therapeutic effects of occupying the mind with craft.  With a significant family history of mental illness, being able to lose myself in sewing has helped me in times of illness and I recognise how very helpful it is for many of my students.  Sewing is a beautiful antidote to the pace of life and a skill that has enriched, supported and brought me so much joy and fun.  I just want to spread the love!
So Happy Birthday to me and I look forward to learning and making for the next 50 years.  Heavens to Betsy – I really will have to get a bigger wardrobe for all those dresses!

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – ruffles and how to apply them

Felixstowe Sewing School

http://www.felixstowesewingschool.co.uk

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – ruffles and how to apply them!
There is no need to get your feathers ruffled when adding ruffles.  I do like the look of this little chap…..

Following are a few tips that can really help when adding ruffles to a piece of fabric.  The way you gather the fabric being ruffled is key so here we go.

Picture one – stitching the gathering stitches either side of the seam allowanceSet your machine to the longest stitch length it has.  I also often change the colour of the top thread so I can easily see where I have added the gathering threads.
You are going to make ‘tram lines’ of gathering threads either side of the stitching line.  So, if your seam allowance is 1.5 cm you need to stitch along at 0.5 cm and again at 2 cm.  This creates a more controllable line of gathers to sew down later on.
Picture two – Marking the centres

Use a pin or create a little notch in the centre of the ruffle piece and the centre of the piece it’s being stitched to.  Pin the pieces with right sides together at the centre point.  This allows you to create the gathers from both ends of the the threads giving you more control and making adjustments easier.  If you are gathering a particularly long ruffle stitch the gathering in smaller sections so that you have less fabric to manage at each stage.

Picture three – pulling up the gathers

Grab the top threads and pull evenly to create gathers until the ruffle is the same size as the base piece.  You can then arrange the gathers evenly and to your liking knowing.  Repeat on the other half.  Remember to set your machine back to the standard stitching length and backstitch at the beginning and end of stitching.  You can then remove the gathering stitches by pulling them out – which is quite satisfying!

Here I am ready to leap into action and help you with your sewing.

Until then,

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

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Mrs Bowden’s top tip – playing about with ric rac

Felixstowe Sewing School

http://www.felixstowesewingschool.co.uk

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – playing about with ricrac
Some of you may know how much I like ricrac and there is sew (!) much one can do with it.  This week’s top tip guides you through some decorative techniques which can be utilised to elevate this humble braid.  As you can see I have been embroidering ric rac birds amongst other things!
Here we have a set of basic applications.

1. Show the standard single line of stitching to apply ricrac to a base fabric.  You can see the line of stitching falls between the curves as there is a straight line in there!

2. You can create a different effect sewing two lines of ricrac close together and then applying a length of ribbon over the top – if you use close colours it looks as though you have a very fancy ribbon – contrasting colours will give a super look too.

3. Sewing multiple lines of ricrac together can give a strong edge.

4.  Applying ricrac over ribbon emphasises the curviness of this braid,

Why wouldn’t you have a row of wading flamingoes around the bottom of a top or decorating some table linen?
There are so many variations it will surprise you I am sure.  How about a dainty bunch of cherries?
If you have a desire to create lots of lovely effects with ric rac and use them to make a few little products such as a corsage or sampler needle book why not join me for a ric rac day on……Saturday, 17th June 2017.  Do contact me if you are interested or book on line via the website www.felixstowesewingschool.co.uk.

Until then,

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – the origin and application of ricrac

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – the origin and application of ric rac
I do love a bit of ricrac and find it immensely cheerful.  It’s very easy to use and actually far more versatile than you may initially imagine.  I’ve had a bit of a pootle around the ‘tinternet to find out a bit more and discovered that apparently it was first called Waved Crochet Braid. A little bit of  a mouthful and personally, I feel that ricrac rolls off the tongue in a more satisfying manner.
Depending on how old you are, if you say ‘ricrac’ to a sewer they may fleetingly reminisce about brown, orange and green ricrac applied to almost everything between the years of 1972 and 1977!  However, it has got far more in it than that!
Look at this divine 1950s evening dress.  The white ricrac has been used so cleverly to create a vine effect – I think it’s stunning!
There are three types of ricrac; cotton, polyester and nylon.  The cotton version is able to withstand laundering and is a good option if you are applying it to garments or items that require frequent washing – e.g., a child’s toy.  The polyester version is widely available but usually has a higher lustre and can be a little stiffer – very good for crafting but be cautious when ironing.  The third type I have mentioned is the nylon version.  This is excellent for general paper crafting and card making but melts almost as soon as you look at it so it is absolutely to be avoided when using with fabric if the item needs any kind of pressing.
I associate ricrac with a bit of a peasant/Mexican vibe and have often used it to decorate my dresses.  You can see here the addition of ricrac to a pocket and hem on my Birthday gypsy dress last year.  There is also an example of a sewing purse I made where the ricrac has been added to create a ‘crazy patchwork’ effect.  This example of a Gypsy top is from a reproduction clothing company and shows how beautifully a top can be jazzed up a bit very simply.  I’m teaching a Gypsy top workshop on Saturday, 6th May and I am in the process of producing cute samples to show how the ricrac can be used creatively.

I think the ricrac application on these garments is superb but also thought it would be helpful to go through how it can be applied and how you can vary the application too so keep your peepers peeled for the next top tip!

Until next time,

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – hemming with crinoline

Felixstowe Sewing School

www.felixstowesewingschool.co.uk

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – horsehair

What a lovely pair

What a lovely pair

One of the reasons we often are drawn to Vintage fashion is the lovely silhouette often seen on dresses from the 1950’s.  There is no better feeling, in my opinion, than swirling about in a full skirted dress.  I think we sometimes overlook the foundation garments worn at the time to help achieve that nipped in waist and we don’t tend to wear corsets and starched petticoats every day.  There are plenty of good petticoat manufacturers around….I am a big fan of Lindy Bop petticoats www.lindybop.co.uk as they are available in a wide variety of colours and lengths as well as having a very comfortable lycra inner lining to protect your legs from scratchy tulle.

lovely petticoat from www.Lindybop.co.uk

lovely petticoat from www.Lindybop.co.uk

This week’s top tip is about adding fullness to a hem to help boost the outline of the garment.

Crinoline braid

Crinoline braid

On a full skirted vintage garment stiffening was often added to the hem for support made out of horsehair.  We use a synthetic alternative now to add crispness and body to the hem, it reduces wrinkling on a curved edge and also makes the fabric stand away from the body giving a fuller appearance to the garment. It is also available in a variety of colours and depths to suit the garment you are making.

How to apply.

Mark the hemline using a tacking stitch, tailor’s chalk or fabric pen.  Trim the hem allowance to 1cm (3/8”) on a cotton poplin or lightweight fabric, on a heavier fabric trim to 1.5 cm (5/8”).

applying crinoline to the hem of a skirt

applying crinoline to the hem of a skirt

Now, horsehair braid is extremely stretchy – even more so than a bias binding – so the trick to using it is NOT to overstretch it when applying it or the depth of the braid will change around the hem and finishing neatly becomes an issue.  Pin vigorously!  With the right side of the fabric uppermost, line up the edge of the trim with the edge of the fabric – allowing for a 2 cm overlap.  Using a slightly longer machine stitch, use the edge of the presser foot as your guide and stitch the trim to the fabric.  Sew the trim ends together.  Using a low heat setting on the iron, press the trim to the wrong side of the garment and pin into position.  You can decide if you wish to catch stitch the trim in place or machine stitch a parallel line on the upper (non-stitched) edge of the trim to secure in place.

hemming with crinoline

hemming with crinoline

The picture shows a stitched hem but if you want an invisible finish you will need to do this by hand.

Twirl away!
In stitches,  Amanda x

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – mending a pocket

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – mending a pocket
The gutwrenching sound of fabric and stitches ripping as you damage a pocket is so unwelcome! This week’s top tip takes you through mending the pocket – it’s a technique that can be applied to many emergency mending situations.
Apply an egg shaped piece of fusible interfacing to the back of the fabric where the tear has occurred – make sure it is bigger than the rip to help fortify the fabric around the area.
Create a triangle stitch at the corner to hold the top of the pocket in place.
As you can see the pocket has been restored and all is well!

Until then,

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – velvet comfort

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – velvet ribbon waistband
This is just a little tip as we are rather busy at Felixstowe Sewing School preparing for the Big 4th Birthday Bash Charity Sewathon. It made me realise the importance of comfortable clothing when one is up against it and jolly busy.  So here is this week’s little tip.
You can use this technique when you have made a garment with a waistband; skirt, trousers or culottes.  Measure the length of the waistband and add 3 cm for turning.  Pin the ribbon to just cover the seam where you attached the waistband to the body of the garment.  Turn the ends of the ribbon under by 1.5 cm and slip stitch in place.  Having this velvety loveliness will not only be comfortable, it will cover up any unsightly seam turnings that may dwell below!

Until then,

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – using a tailor’s ham

How to use your tailor’s ham

 

This time last year I blogged about making your own Tailor’s Ham – a very useful piece of equipment in the armoury of any dressmaker.  I thought it would be useful to give you some ideas for how to use the item when you are making your garments.

Let’s just talk about the anatomy of a Tailor’s Ham.  On one side it has been made with a double layer of cotton – this side should be used for pressing cottons, linens and fabrics where a high temperature is required.  The other side is made using pure wool and is for pressing using a cooler iron – for example if you are working with wools, silks or viscose/synthetic fabrics.

Many of us know we can use a Tailor’s Ham for pressing a dart as it allows the curve that’s created by sewing the dart to be maintained.  Use different parts of the ham which suit the shape you are trying to create and you will get a much nicer finish on the garment.
Use your ham if you are also pressing a curved seam.  This picture shows the side seam of a very shaped 1950’s jacket.  It’s all about maintaining the shape you are creating when you are pressing.
Here we have a useful way of pressing the sleeve head – just insert the ham into the garment and it gives the curve of the ‘arm’ to press against and achieve the shape you desire.
This is for swanky snazzy work.   Using the ham for pressing in pleats.  This shows the knife pleats being reinstated on an altered hem.   As the ham is stuffed with sawdust it is great to pin into if you need to leave something to dry after heavy steaming.  The pins can then be removed and the pleats should hold in place.
Hope you found the above helpful and I very much look forward to seeing you soon at Felixstowe Sewing School.

Until then,

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – adding embroidery

How to plan embroidery ….

Beautiful vintage embroidered dre

 

 

There are so many lovely ways we can augment our clothes and embroidery can feature beautifully by using cloth which is embroidered to add texture and interest.  Or, we can add our own embroidered motifs and/or designs.  I love adding embroidery to garments and find it extremely therapeutic.  This week’s top tip deals with how to layout your design.

Presently I am working on a special Birthday dress based on Butterick 5880.
Decide where you want the embroidery to feature and use the outline of the dress on the garment instructions sheet and trace over or photocopy and draw your design out if you don’t feel confident about free hand drawing.  This will give you an idea of the scale and placement for the pattern.
Knowing where to put the embroidery and deciding what the scale should be is often tricky.  As you can see I have sketched where I would like the embroidery to go so I’m prepared to transfer my idea to the pattern piece.    I have based this design on a flow of Lily of the Valley which is the flower for May, the month in which my Birthday occurs.
Lay the relevant pattern piece on the fabric and either use tailor’s chalk to mark the outline or tack around the edge.  Make sure you mark in any relevant information such as darts, pocket placement, pleats, drapes etc as you will need to build these features into the design of the embroidery.  Then tack the rough outline shape of the design – you can see I have done this in white thread to show against the cornflower blue crepe.  Make sure you consider the seam allowances so you exclude these from the embroidery.
Do not cut the pattern piece away from length of fabric.  Instead cut a border to allow for the fabric to be mounted into a hoop and tensioned before sewing. You can see here that the sweep of embroidery is bigger than the  hoop which means moving the hoop as I go.
There are various options for transferring the design.  If you are drawing free hand – as I am in this case I am marking the stem and leaf position with a temporary fabric marker – these are brilliant but very fleeting in their mark so you need to draw and stitch PDQ!

You can also use predesigned transfers which are ironed on – always do a little test piece on a spare piece of the fashion fabric to establish what temperature is required.

Here is my birthday dress from last year which featured a heavily embroidered pocket and midriff section.  You can see it in action when Mr Tim and I went dancing.

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – upper arm adjustments

How to avoid unpleasant pinching across your upper arm!

Here she is strong and stylish

Here she is strong and stylish

This is Rosie the Riveter, an American cultural icon from the Second World War.  Rosie represented women who worked in factories and shipyards throughout the states, many producing arms and munitions. Rosie is the epitome of strength and style from this period.  I dare say she also had well-formed biceps from heaving all those items around which neatly leads me to this week’s top tip; upper arms!

A much more pleasant description!

A much more pleasant description!

I have no urge to refer to the part of the anatomy we are dealing with today as b**** w**** and I’m not sure if I prefer to use the term ‘salt cellars’ as seen in this charming exercise advice from 1915.  Putting exercises to one side, when we are making garments with sleeves, pulling can occur across the upper arm which is unsightly and uncomfortable.  Let’s take steps to deal with this issue.

Ask a friend to assist you in measuring your upper arm.

Ask a friend to assist you in measuring your upper arm.

Accurate measuring around both your upper arm and the pattern is helpful so you know what you are dealing with!

It is much easier if you can ask somebody else to measure around your arm.   Make sure your arm is comfortably hanging by your side and that the tape isn’t pinching .

Bustpoint, waist, hip and bicep mark on commercial patterns.

Bustpoint, waist, hip and bicep mark on commercial patterns.

You may notice on your pattern a circle printed with a cross through it.  These are printed on patterns to show the waist, hip, bust point and mid upper arm position.

1940 Day dress

1940 Day dress

Work out the difference between your arm measurement and the pattern measurement. Consider how you want the sleeve to look – how drapey or close fitting.  You should now have a good idea of how much extra you need to add to the pattern to make the sleeve fit comfortably.

Draw in the horizontal and vertical lines through the bicep point

Draw in the horizontal and vertical lines through the bicep point

Find the circle with the cross in it and draw a line across the sleeve going through this point.  You can use the grainline to establish a right angle.  Now draw a line from the head of the sleeve down to the bottom.  This needs to go from the head of the sleeve which is marked with a tailor tack circle or notch.

Create hinges on the vertical line

Create hinges on the vertical line

Cut through the vertical line from the bottom of the sleeve to the top.  Then cut from the centre to the sides of the sleeve leaving a little hinge at the edge (you can strengthen this with a bit of sticky tape).  Now widen the pattern pieces until you have added the amount you need to.  This will mean you overlap the paper on the horizontal line.

Make the adjustment by overlapping the vertical line

Make the adjustment by overlapping the vertical line

Stick the overlap down and measure it as this needs to be added to the head of the sleeve.  For example, if you are overlapping by 2 cm you need to add this to the head of the sleeve.

Add the 'overlap' to the head of the sleeve

Add the ‘overlap’ to the head of the sleeve

Mark a 2 cm line about the head and mimic the curve already there blending in at the single notch on the front and double notch on the back. Remark in the head of the sleeve with a new notch. Now you can alter your sleeves to fit – it is always a good idea to create a toile (fabric mock-up) to test your alteration before going to final fashion fabric.

Until next time,

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x