Make a Circle Skirt // Cut Your Fabric and Sew Your Side Seams

Have you got your fabric? Good, It's time to make it into a skirt! So I hope you wrote down your waist radius from the Circle Skirt App and the length of your skirt? Well in case you didn't I have added the link again, it can be handy to have this open too while you cut so you can see what cutting layout they recommend. If you are making a half circle skirt or a quarter circle skirt you will only need to draw your circles once, but if you are making a full circle you will need to do it twice. Either way the idea is exactly the same.

So fold your fabric according to the apps instructions. To help you understand how to cut your fabric my waist radius is 12cm.

In the correct corner of your fabric (mine is folded at this corner but yours won't be if you're doing a quarter circle). Then take your tape measure and your dressmaking pen (or chalk if thats your thing) and measure your radius from the corner. You can see I have made a mark at the point that is 12cm away. I have then made other marks that also measure 12cm away in different directions. Do this to yours too.

When you have enough marks, join them up to make a curve:

Then repeat this step for the bottom of the skirt. This time the measurement will be your waist radius (i.e 12cm) PLUS the length you want your finished skirt to be (61cm) PLUS seam allowances (1.5cm) to give a total radius (64.5cm).

Use this measurement to draw the curve for the bottom of the skirt. Now cutting stretchy fabric is a little tricker than cutting wovens because it stretches as you cut. So if you have a rotary cutter then you can use that to avoid this problem. For those of you that don't have a rotary cutter (probably most of you) you can just use your normal dressmaking scissors. Since you have drawn the cut line on the fabric you don't need to worry too much about stretching it because you can just cut along the line. Just try to keep your scissors as close to the cutting surface as possible rather than lifting it up as your cut.

Now is a good time to remind yourself of what to do when sewing with stretchy fabrics.

If you're making a full circle skirt sew up one side seam, if you are making a quarter or half circle skirt you can skip this step because there is only one side seam. Once you only have one side seam left to sew, hold the skirt up around your waist. You'll find it stretches quite a bit and overlaps some. You will need to trim down one of the edges to allow for this overlap, other wise your skirt will fall down when you wear it! (Sadly photographing this step proved too tricky so I can't show you :( ) Make sure you account for your seam allowance to leave about 3cm of overlap.

Finally sew up the other side seam. And…. um….. wow! It's starting to look like an actual piece of clothing! I love that step, every clothing project has one, the moment that it changes from some random pieces of fabric to something that actually resembles an item you might wear.

All there is left to do is to sew a waistband and hem your skirt (come back next week for this). No need to finished your edges because they won't fray on stretchy fabrics! Winner. See you soon. Zoe xx

Full Midi Circle Skirt Love Affair

I am in love. When thinking up a project that would be easy for beginners to make but also really wearable I settled on a circle skirt (you can now see the instructions here). I love my half circle skirt and wanted to make myself another one but also they are SO FLIPPING EASY to make I couldn't think of anything easier. The tricky part of course for a skirt is the fastening, both zips and buttons tend to freak beginners out, so to make it the easiest project ever it doesn't even have a zip or buttons. That's right you heard me correctly, it's a stretchy skirt with no zip or buttons. This, I think, is why I am so madly in love. It is so comfortable and I love how it looks so I can't lose.

Also it's crazy fun to twirl in, I could do this all day when I wear it:

Well truthfully I tried spinning in it to make a gif of a spinning circle skirt for you guys but got so dizzy it left me unable to do anything for the rest of the evening. So when you have made one try to limit the spinning a little.

I have a few others things to share with you before I go through how to make one of these beauties so you'll have to sit tight for now. If you fancy making one though and haven't already, get to know your sewing machine a little by going through the first few session in Sewing School and then you will be all set to make one too.

Ciao for now, Zoe xx

Make A Circle Skirt // Buy Your Fabric

It's time to start the second of my 'step-by-step' beginner sewing projects. The first were these cushions but I know many would-be sewists would really prefer to make their own clothes than their own decor. This project is great for beginners because

1. It doesn't have a Zip or Buttons
2. It's very easy to wear
3. There are different options for what shape and length so you can adapt it to your own style
4. There is a handy 'circle skirt app' to work out how much fabric you need and how to cut it up

PLUS there are loads of stretchy fabrics out there that would work well for this skirt. This first step is instructions for which sort of fabrics will work well, and which will be easier to work with for beginners. Working with stretchy fabrics can be very easy but only if you buy the right kind of fabric. So without further ado let's see what you need to look for.

As I mentioned before when I wrote about fabrics there are two ways that a fabric can be stretchy. The first option is 'knitted' fabrics. These fabrics are formed with non-stretch threads that are then combined together in a way that makes the finished fabrics stretchy. This can be an excellent option for beginners because they tend not to be too stretchy. Look out for terms like 'double knit' if you want something thick and heavier or 'single knit' for something on the lighter side. They should be made from 100% cotton (or other non stretchy material). My skirt is made from a double knit. I have been able to wear it through the summer but it's warm enough for autumn and winter too when I wear it with tights.

The other kind of stretch fabric is made from stretchy materials. They are usually made up from a combination of cotton and lycra (the brand name we commonly use for elastine or spandex). When starting out you will need to find something with a small percentage of lycra, 3-5%. This will give you enough stretch to pull the skirt up over your waist but small enough that it won't fall down again. Plus small stretch means its easier to sew with. Be careful though that you don't confuse the percentage of lycra with the 'stretch percentage'. The stretch percentage of a fabric is how much bigger it can be stretched to and then go back to its original size. Also try not to get something too thin as this also makes the sewing more difficult, not to mention you'd be able to see your knickers through your skirt, oo-la-la!

How Much
The only question left remaining is how much fabric to buy? You will need to decide on what kind of skirt you want to make, 1/4, half or full circle (my red one is a full circle) and what length you want it to be. Then when you have decided head over to the By Hand London Circle Skirt App and pop in your details. All you need to know is you waist measurement and then pick your options. They will tell you the radius of your waist (write this down for later) and the length of your skirt (write this down too). Then buy your fabric and when you have it home WASH IT!

I know there is no need to shout, but seriously wash it as soon as you get it. Stretch fabric is particularly prone to shrinking so you really must prewash it and the sooner you do it the sooner you'll be ready to start cutting and sewing.

Exciting stuff. Come back next week and we can sew it together (It's so quick you'll be done before yo know it). This is what you can expect:

1. Cut Your Fabric and Sew The Side Seams
2. Sew on a waistband and hem your skirt

Thats all there is too it. See you then. Zoe x

Sewing School // 3 Tips for Sewing with Stretch Fabric

If I am honest I avoided projects that require knit (or stretchy) fabric for quite a long time. I was nervous about it. I didn't want to add an extra complication into my projects. I was a pretty competent sewer before I braved them at all and then totally messed it up (I didn't then know the 3 things I am about to tell you). But recently I have made a few things from stretchy fabric and I have had much more success. I found them so easy I don't know what all the fuss was about before. In fact I now love these items most out of all the clothes I have made for myself so far. I want to share with you the few tips of sewing with stretch fabric, because really there is nothing to worry about.

Number 1 // Use A Ballpoint Needle
If you want to have any success sewing with some stretch fabric, you will need to invest in a ball point needle for your sewing machine. These inexpensive, less pointy needles are designed so that they will push through the spaces in the threads of your fabric rather than making a new hole, this prevents your fabric from having little holes all the way along the seams, something you definitely won't want.

Number 2 // Sew With a Zigzag Stitch
On a normal sewing machine, a straight line of stitching won't stretch. If you do this on a stretchy fabric then you are fighting a losing battle, the fabric will stretch but the seams won't. To overcome this you can simply sew with a Zigzag stitch instead. This way your seams have the same flexibility as your fabric. There are other stitches that work too but a Zigzag stitch is the simplest.

Number 3 // Don't Stretch the Fabric as you Sew
When you feed your fabric into a sewing machine, the fabric will be pulled through automatically. When you are sewing with stretchy fabric this can mean it stretches on its way in unintentionally. This results in a really uneven edge- bummer. To avoid this try and hold your fabric up level with the needle and feed it in with you hands. It is actually pretty easy to do this once you have had a little bit of practice, so just test it out on a sample bit first.

These three things are the only 'rules' for sewing with knits. But there is something else I would say if you are only just learning. Look out for something that is not too stretchy. This is kinda tricky if you are buying your fabric online. But next week when I start going through how to make a stretchy circle skirt I am going to talk about what kinds of fabric to look for for your first few stretchy sewing projects, why not have a go with me? Zoe x

A Simple Stripey Summer Dress (Just As Autumn is About to Arrive)

This past weekend we had a weekend camping near the beach, at the end of last week I was frantically sewing to try and finish off this summer dress. I've been planning on making one like it all year but only came across this single knit cotton a few weeks ago, just in time for Autumn of course. I think I need to learn a thing or two about sewing for the right season.

Anyway, I used the plantain tee pattern (it's free to download) and then adapted it to make myself a dress. I wanted the skirt to be circle skirt style but I didn't want to have to sew a waistband. So I just extended the top pattern down into a circle skirt dress:

I just did this free hand, I used the front piece as a template for the back skirt and then after sewing up the side seams, according to the pattern instructions, just trimmed it a little to make it hang straight all the way around.

It was my first attempt at sewing a stretch neck line too and I think I did pretty well:

It isn't quite even all the way around but it lies really flat. Plus you wouldn't have noticed that it wasn't even unless I had pointed it out to you right? Well I am going to keep telling myself that because I am actually really proud of the results. My only regret was not making it earlier in the summer to wear during the really hot weather.

Well at least I made it in time for camping and could wear it for one sunny day at the beach. I'll be sewing a lot more with stretchy fabric though from now on, its much easier than I first thought. More about sewing with stretchy fabric coming later this week. Zoe x

Patchwork Cushion // Let's Make a Cushion!

The final step of these cushion is definitely the easiest, and also probably the most useful because you can use it to make any simple cushion (you can find all the other parts here). In fact all the cushions in the above photo are made in this way. So you can make some to match (or not match like mine) to go with your fancy patchwork, ooh la la.

To finish off the cushions I used more white fabric but you can go with anything you like, more patchwork, the same fabric as the front, or go crazy (well within reason) and use something totally different.

Cut yourself two rectangles of your backing fabric, they need to be the same width as your cushion top and several inches longer than half the length. This will mean when you put them on the back of your cushion top they will over lap to make your opening for the cushion pad without showing off the pad when you use them.

You need to 'hem' one of the longer edges of each rectangle. Hemming is a seriously useful technique and you will use it again and again. To hem the long edge, turn your iron on to the hottest heat your fabric can handle, test it first on a bit you won't be using. Then fold over about 1cm, towards the wrong side of your fabric, of this long edge and press it down with you hot iron, then fold it over again 1cm and press again. Pin this down and then sew along the edge of the folds on both backing rectangles:

Then you can put the 'right side' of your backing fabric rectangles onto the right side of your cushion top. You'll need them to overlap with the hemmed edges in the middle like this:

Then you can pit it in place. Now sew a straight seam all the way around the edge, use a 1/2" seam allowance this time, make sure you put you needles down in the corner to turn around and remember to sew a few 'back stitches' at the beginning and end to make it extra strong. Now 'finish' the edges of your fabric with either zig zag stitching or pinking sheers.

Finally turn your cushion cover out the right way through the hole and press the edges. Stuff it with your cushion par and Tada! You make a cushion!

Wow you actually made something with your sewing machine and it looks amazing! Well thanks for sticking with me for this step-by-step sewing project. I hope you have found it helpful. Over the next couple of weeks I will show you a few other things I have been up to and then I am going to go through another step-by-step beginner project to make a skirt. Yipee. Looking forward to it. Zoe xx

Patchwork Cushion // Sew The Lining To Your Patch Work Cushion Tops

A little later than scheduled (I know you are probably all weeping over the extra wait so sorry about that ;) ) but for today's tutorial we are going to be lining our cushions tops (that we made here and here). We need to line them so that the seams, which are unfinished, will be protected from fraying. You'll need to get your lining fabric ready for this. You should have one metre of fabric, it won't be quite a metre square as the width will either be 115cm or 150cm. You need to cut this length of fabric in half, make sure you cut starting on the shorter side, so you end up with 2 rectangles of lining fabric 50cm by either 115cm or 150cm.

Each of these rectangles will provide enough fabric to line the cushion cover and make the cushion back (this part will be next week). Let's start with lining the checkerboard cushion cover. You can put this cover onto your lining fabric, lining up one side of the checkerboard with one short end of your rectangle, and cut yourself a square of lining fabric the same size as the checkerboard.

When you have two squares, one your patchwork checkerboard and one your lining, put them together with the 'wrong side' of your lining fabric and the back of the patchwork with all the seams on the inside. Pin them in place.

Take them over to your sewing machine and stitch a line down the centre seams, in between the patches. We call stitching along the seams 'stitching in the ditch'. It take a little bit of practice to get it nice and straight but it doesn't matter too much of you stray over. When you have done the centre seam, work out towards the edge of the cushion 'stitching in the ditch' along every other seam until you get to the edge.

Then turn your cushion top around and again starting in the centre seam, stitch in the ditch along all the seams in the other direction. When you are down the lining side will show all your stitching but from the front you won't be able to see much of it at all.

Repeat these steps with your 'half square triangle' cushion top. Stitch in the ditch along all the seams, you don't need to sew the diagonals on this one. Start in the centre and work
your way out towards the edge.

When you have done both you are all ready to start making your patchwork cushion tops into a cushion cover. The final part of these tutorials will cover how to make it into a simple envelope cushion so come back and have a look. Zoe x
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