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Sew Along #8 – Finishing up

16 Apr

So how did everyone get on making the real deal? Any problems with fit?



I made a few changes to mine, adding in some pink to break up the mad pattern. I also finished some of the inside edges with bias binding and inserted a little hint of pink underneath the arm too. All totally unnecessary right enough! I also put some shoulder pads in there too which I think probably is necessary. I just hand stitched them in place.



























Next time I do a sew along I will get it all done in one go before I post the first post.So you won’t have to wait 3 years for the finished product next time haha!

Let me know how you got on!



Sew Along #7 – Fitting your Toile

6 Jan

So we are now at a point where our toile actually looks like a jacket and you will have tried it on already. As soon as anything starts to become remotely wearable I will be trying it on. So that is pretty much after the shoulder seams have been sewn together! At that point it looked like an old Rainbows tabard that I hated with a passion. I hated Rainbows, I cried every time I went(all of twice). I wasn’t a brat I just knew what a liked and even then I knew that lemon yellow tabard was a huge no no.

Anyway you have tried it on what do you think? Does it need taken in at the sides? Maybe a little adjustment to the darts? It’s not very easy to put this in words and pictures but here goes nothing.

Lets say you need to nip in the waist slightly. This is an adjustment I make quite often. Turn the jacket inside out so you have access to the seam allowances inside. Put the jacket on in front of the mirror. Remember this will be going over a tee shirt or a jumper so wear what you might be likely to wear this with. Pull it in at the side until it fits better and pin in place.


No we have to transfer this exact adjustment over to the other side seam. Easiest way to do this is to line the side seams up and put some pins in the other side seam. Try to make them as equal as possible.


the rule is whatever you do to one side you do to the other. Now that the pins are in place on both side seams try it on again. Is it looking better? If so you have to sew up one of the seams and trim the side seam so that the seam allowance is 1.5 away from the new line of stitching. Now you need to change your paper pattern accordingly. The two pieces that will have to be changed here are the side front and  the side back. You may have to unpick these pieces in order to lay them on top of the paper pattern. Now cut the paper pattern until it is the same shape as the side back and side front that you have just altered. The piece of fabric that you cut off the toile should be the same shape as the piece of paper you cut off the pattern. Consider your pattern ready to go.

So that’s that!  Now that you pattern has been adjusted and you are happy with the fit we are ready to start this all over again with the real fabric!


Sew Along #6 Inserting the Sleeves

27 Dec

Has the suspense killed you yet? Sorry for leaving you all hanging for so long but Christmas is a mental time of year for me! I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and ate your weight in festive treats? Thankfully we have not got round to doing any fittings otherwise I fear I would be taking some seams out rather than in! So where are we – sleeves! Sleeves can be a bit tricky. You almost always need to ease them in which basically means stretch the fabric to fit however the Great British Sewing Bee have decided to gather their sleeves slightly which will make life a little bit easier anyway.

So instructions say “Gather between the notches” but you might notice that there is only 1 double notch(triangle things) how helpful! Instead I am going to gather between the circles. There is 3 sets of circles one I think it to tell you where the top of the sleeve is, I’m gathering between the two outermost sets of circles. Please excuse my terrible chipped nail varnish. I won’t let it happen again!

Unintentional rock and roll sign here

The book tell you how to gather by hand but life is too short for that so I will be doing it on the machine. Set your machine to a straight stitch length 4. This is a very long stitch. Small stitches will not work they need to be free to move like a drawstring. Stitch 2 stitches parallel to each other between the circles. It is really important to leave a nice long tail of thread at either side with absolutely no backtacking/backstitching.

Now separate the top threads from the bottle threads as shown below.

Pull one set of threads(top or bottom) to gather your fabric. Imagine it is a little drawstring if you are struggling. Gather this as much as you like as you will have to pull it out a bit when fitting it into the arm hole anyway.

With right sides together match up the double notches and start to pin in the sleeve from the underarm upwards. It is important to match the notches here in case you put the left sleeve in the right armhole!

Now start to pull the gathers out until the sleeve fits in the armhole. Put your machine back to a stitch length 2 and get stitching. You may have a removable arm on your machine which will make life a lot easier.

Once your sleeve is sewn in you might want to do the other one for practise but you don’t have to. I think my blazer looks like it would benefit from a wee shoulder pad so i’ll bear that in mind when making the real deal.

Try it on, how is it looking?

Sew Along #4 – Toile Continued

24 Nov

Your toile will start to resemble the real deal now so it only gets better from here on in!

If you are following the book instructions too then we are on number 6. The next step is to construct the facing. Take the back facing and the two front facings and sew together at shoulder seams as shown below.

The book talks about stay stitching. This is a technique used to prevent pattern pieces skewing out of shape. Any curved edge or edges cut on the bias can stretch right out of shape really easily so putting a nice line of stitching within the seam allowance will help the pieces stay in shape and be easier to work with. You don’t have to stay stitch though – I only ever do it if I am working with a difficult fabric.

Press shoulder seams open. You can also press the bottom edge of the back facing under to the wrong side by 1cm and the non lapel side of the front facing inder by 1cm also. See photo below if you have no idea what I mean! You can stitch this in place if you like but it is probably not necessary at the toile stage.

Find your upper collar piece. With right sides together pin this to the neck edge of the facing. Now here is where it gets complicated because it starts talking about big dots and wee dots and surprise surprise all the dots are the same size! Thankfully I have sat for 10 minutes working out what way the collar goes on so listen up. Your upper collar has a long edge with two double notches. This is not the edge you are sewing to the neck of the facing. You will also see that this upper collar is going to have to be stitched round a corner. If you snip the facing at the corner it will make life a lot easier. You should also have about 5cm of the lapel facing that has nothing sewn to it at all. This is correct!


So how is everyone getting on? let me know on here on on the facebook

Sew-Along #3 – Construct the Toile

18 Nov

So we are all cut out and ready to get sewing!

The first step is to stitch the side back pieces to the centre back and one side front to each front piece. Remember your seam allowance is 1.5cm(where mine is 1cm so dont worry if your seam allowance looks bigger than mine) If you don’t know what piece is what(because the print out doesn’t tell you) use the diagrams on page 172 and 173 to determine this. Match your notches and slightly stretch the fabric until it fits if need be. You will find that the side front and front pieces are not the same length, this is fine.

On the back press your seam allowance towards the centre back and on the front pieces press your seam allowance towards the centre front edges.

sew confident the great british sewing bee

Press seams towards centre back

Now you can attach the front and back pieces by the shoulder seams and press open.

sew confident the great british sewing bee

Press shoulder seams open

The next step in the book is about the pocket. We are not going to worry about this on the toile so I will skip this step.

Now it starts to get a bit tricky. First we need to stitch the two under collar pieces together and press the seam open. Once you have done that you need to attach the under collar to the lapels of the front pieces. I have made a little video of this part because it is too difficult to photograph. Apologies for the bit in the middle where you can’t really see what i’m doing. This is literally the first video I have ever made so bear with me!

Once your under collar is in it will start to resemble a blazer!

sew confident great british sewing bee

Looking good!

Sew-Along #2 – Cutting the Toile

11 Nov

You should by now have your toile fabric. If it is creased give it a wee press to make it easier to work with. Find the  selvedge of the fabric. This is a the tightly woven edge of the fabric that stops it fraying off the roll on the shop. Sometimes it has the fabric designers name, sometimes it has some little dots. Either way it looks slightly different from the rest of the fabric! Below is an example of two selvedges, one with writing and one plain.

sew confident the great british sewing bee


When you are folding your fabric in half you fold it right sides together(pattern sides – some fabric don’t have a right or wrong side in which case don’t worry about it) with opposite selvedges coming together. So you should have a folded edge directly across from your two selvedge edges. I am using a curtain for my toile so it has no selvedges – Waste not want not!

On page 175 of The Great British Sewing Bee Book is a layplan or cutting diagram. This is the most economical way to place your pattern pieces but you don’t have to follow it. You MUST however make sure that any instructions on the pattern piece are adhered to such as’ CUT ON FOLD’ and all arrows on each pattern piece are parallel to the selvedge.

sew confident the great british sewing bee


You might have noticed that a few of my cut on fold pieces are not at the very edge. This is because I need to add some extra space onto the back of my pattern. I have completed this pattern before and would like some more room this time so I can wear a few layers underneath. I wouldn’t advise making any adjustments to your at this stage but if you do remember if adapt one piece you will have to adapt other pieces or they will not fit together.

I have flipped some of my pieces over to fit them in better, this is fine an common practise. You don’t have to do the pocket and the cuffs at this stage. You usually do the bare minimum with toiles.

You can weight your pieces down with tins from your kitchen cupboard or pattern weights if you are being fancy. You can then chalk round your pieces and cut them out. If you want to cut corners you can pin your pattern pieces to your fabric and cut round them.

Once all of your pattern pieces have been cut out you need to transfer any marking from the paper pattern to the fabric. This includes notches and little circles. Marks can be made in chalk and notches(little black triangles) can be snipped into the fabric. You have a 1.5cm seam allowance with this pattern do snip in by about 5mm.

sew confident the great british sewing bee

Snip notches

Next up – lets put this bad boy together!

Sew-Along #1 – Getting Started

4 Nov

So if this is the first Sew Along you have ever done then DITTO!  I don’t doubt there will be some teething problems on my side but we’ll get through it!

The size chart can be found on page 77 of the sewing bee book.

Sizing Guide

Measure your bust across the fullest part, your waist along the smallest part(usually just above your belly button) and your hips at the widest part. I suggest measuring yourself in front of the mirror so you can make sure your tape measure is straight.

If you are between sizes I would usually go for the biggest size. You will be making a toile anyway so you can make adjustments before moving on to the real deal. A toile is a mock up made from cheap fabric where you have the opportunity to make mistakes and adjust the pattern. I strongly suggest everyone makes a toile as there is nothing worse than wasting money by making a garment that just doesn’t fit you.

You can use calico or cotton sheeting for your toile. You will need 2m of fabric that is at least 150cm wide.

For your main fabric the book suggests wool, worsted(like a suit fabric) linen, heavy cotton or gabardine(a tightly woven fabric used in suits and coats). I will be using a medium weight woven wool fabric because Scotland is freezing, haha! You don’t have to rush out and buy your main fabric until you have made your toile so don’t worry.

You will need:
2m of your main outer fabric(again at least 150cm wide)
20cm of a contrasting fabric for the cuffs
2m medium weight fusible/iron on interfacing
1 button

No one can ever be bothered pre washing I know but fabric can shrink in the wash making your jacket a size too small! Either pre wash it or make it dry clean only. You don’t have to pre wash your toile fabric.

Your Pattern
When printing the pattern make sure your printer settings do not automatically shrink your pattern to fit. It will throw everything off kilter and your sizing with be all wrong! Print the pattern to actual size.

One you have printed it(all 1 million pages) it is time to piece it together. This will go together like a jigsaw. Match up the numbers in the corner of every piece of A4. I used masking tape to stick mine together. Now you can cut out your size. Keep your fabric scissors away from paper cutting jobs! You don’t want to make them James Blunt.


You will need everything in this kit at some point. You can get yourself one here

You will also need a sewing machine which believe it or not you can also get from me wahey! They are here I also have free postage on all sewing machines at the moment with the code SEWALONG

So that is all we need! Get your sewing machine out, dust off your sewing bee book and lets get started!

The Long Awaited Sew Along with Sew Confident!

29 Oct

Not only have I been saying for ages that I would get a sewing bee started(see previous post) I have also been promising a sew a long on my blog. Many things have stood in the way, like being mega busy, moving flat, having to watch every single episode of Breaking Bad… The last excuse was a weak one I know but it is so so addictive!! I also lost my camera in the move only to find it in one of my handbags which in hindsight should have been the first place I looked.

So I officially have no more excuses and I am gearing up to get a sew along started. So what is a sew along I hear you ask? My definition of a sew along is a group of people sewing the same item in bitesize chunks. So every week we can all do the next step in the pattern, you guys can ask questions, and hopefully blog about it yourself? You can send me pictures of your progress and ask questions if you get stuck. At the end we should all have the finished item. I think it works better if we all do it at the same time or near enough. That way we can get a bit of a dialogue up and the tricky bits will be fresh in my mind for when you ask questions.

I have been swithering on starting an easy pattern or a hard one. I think I am going to go with a difficult one purely because I have a lot of my old school intermediate students dying to get started. I promise I will also do some easier ones afterwards.

The first pattern I am going to do is the Hacking Jacket from The Great British Sewing Bee Book. If you have this book you can download the pattern here: If you don’t have the book it is really worth buying and it is only £10 on Amazon. You can buy one here

Wild Hacking Jacket


I have already tried this pattern out as you can see…in a questionable fabric admittedly. I will be making another one from scratch and photography everything along the way. The trickiest part is the collar but I can help with that.

So who is in? If you would like to receive email updates every time I post another part of the sew along then send me a wee email and i will pop you on a special mailing list. My email is Jenny[at]
Alternatively you can keep upto date via the facebook page

If you think you are not capable remember you can(and should) make a toile first out of cheaper fabric so there isn’t much to lose!