Tag Archives: Toile

Two for one on experimental sewing

This post describes two of my latest sewing experiments; Pattern Drafting and Sewing with Stretchy Fabrics.

1. Pattern Drafting

I’m building my collection of purchased patterns (commercial and indie) but there’s more to sewing than tracing the lines someone else created. I needed a basic pattern as a first experiment so I followed Mad Mim’s tutorial on drafting and sewing a maxi skirt. The only change I made after sewing up was to shorten the length by 2 inches. I haven’t changed my pattern piece because I think the weight of this jersey pulls it down so it may not happen with a lighter weight jersey – better too long than too short.

Blue Maxi Skirt 1

2. Sewing with Stretchy Fabrics

I did plenty of reading up on sewing with stretch knits and many experienced sewing blog writers make a convincing point that an overlocker is not necessary. I followed much of this advice buying a middle price range stretch jersey, cutting out using a rotary cutter and cutting board, using a walking foot and investing in some ball point needles.

From all the tutorials I read there didn’t seem to be a consensus on which stitch setting to use so I guess it’s a combination of personal choice, fabric and sewing machine stitch options. I trialed a few stitches on fabric scraps first but it was hard to tell which would work out for the best. In the end I used stretch stitch down the side seams and zig zag stitch around the waist band. Honest confession: I was glad I chose this way round because unpicking zig zag stitch when I attached the waistband to the wrong side of the skirt was probably way easier than unpicking stretch stitch. No harm done, after an unpicking session with peppermint tea and a chocolate biscuit I couldn’t see any snags in the fabric (must be the magic of a ball point needle!).

Stretch stitch seems more secure in attaching two pieces of fabric together but my fabric doesn’t have much stretch in the direction of down the body so it’s hard to know how this stitch would hold up across the body where more stretching of the fabric occurs. Zigzag stitch was easier to unpick because it didn’t give as strong a seam or look as neat on the outside but maybe this could be overcome by shortening the stitch length. On scrap fabric, I also played around with two faux overlocking stitches on my sewing machine. One of them would also have been a viable option for this fabric. I guess I’ll just have to test a few stitches for each new stretchy fabric I use.

Blue Maxi Skirt 3

I already had a twin needle for hemming and knew that it worked best on a long stitch length with low tension. I always experiment on a scraps before sewing pattern pieces and, for this fabric, the automatic tension setting worked best.

Blue Maxi Skirt 2

As experiments go I’m satisfied with this one even though I didn’t come to a conclusion on stitch setting. There’s still much, much more for me to learn with both pattern drafting and stretchy fabrics. I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up with a wearable skirt from this experiment, I only wish I’d chosen a more interesting fabric.

Now that I’ve had a try at sewing in elastic and sewing stretch fabrics on my sewing machine, I’m ready to start making my swimsuit for the swimalong!

Triple Toile Trouble for Sureau

I’ve been coverting the Sureau Dress by Deer and Doe for a few months now. Having seen in on so many blogs, it became really hard to choose my favourites but I managed to whittle it down to three:

I was so excited when this pattern was delivered but I’ve had a steep learning curve altering it to fit. I’m worried that all my novice alterations have changed the original features of the dress too much. Here’s my process (hours and hours worth) consolidated into one post:

1. I made the first full toile from the hideous fabric (which is now all used up!) using the pattern size that was closest to my measurements.

Sureau Toile 1

Two major problems were the excess fabric in the bust area and too tight round the waist.

2. At this point I switched to a gingham cotton scrap and just played with the bodice.

Sureau Toile 2a

I made a small bust adjustment (SBA) to the front bodice using Paunet’s and Moonbeam’s tutorials on this technique. At the same time, I made the legs of the dart narrower and widened the button placket to increase the waist. I then had to lengthen the bodice to keep the waist at the same level as before (SBA shortens the pattern). This was an improvement but it was still too roomy and a gape at the neckline had appeared. I made another SBA, shortened the distance over which the gathers are made and tackled the gaping neckline using Phat Chick Designs tutorial. The fit was now better but the dart came too far up and looked weird. I pinched, pinned and transferred these changes to the paper pattern according to Karen’s post on this technique.

Sureau Pattern Adjustment

Returning to my original hideous fabric toile, I replaced the newly adjusted pattern pieces and continued with construction. The sleeves required a 7cm reduction down the whole length but this seemed easy in comparison to the bodice.

Afterwards I had a complete lack of confidence to cut my fashion fabric for fear that I’d missed something crucial or hadn’t copied my changes to the tracing paper properly. I embarked on a third toile, cut fresh from another fabric from my “for toiles” pile. Cutting a fresh toile from new pattern pieces is a labourious but worthwhile task. It highlighted that I also needed to transfer my changes to the facings and it restored my confidence.

Sureau Toile 3

Unfortunately, cutting my fashion fabric and sewing up will have to wait for another weekend.

I can’t express how helpful the Sureau Sewalong was (even though I’m a year and a half late!), I’m sure there would have been more rounds of toile trouble without it.

Sureau Sew-along

The hideous fabric toile cry for help…

Simplicity 2360 is my first dress pattern, selected because it seems relatively simple for a beginner make (no zips!) and some beautiful creations have been blogged about by the online sewing community. My top three for this pattern are:

1. Green Apple’s variation for Autumn
2. A Coloured Sugar Party Dress by Boo Dogg and Me (she also made a cute linen one with sleeves)
3. Sew Bold  (who has a new blog home at Staying Steyn) executed a fantastic pattern adaptation to make a summer top

All I had to do was decide which hideous polyester (think the old-style polyester, static, cheap, non-breathable and that’s before you see the print!) was getting the Simplicity 2360 toile treatment…

destined for toiles

Overall making the toile was easy, I understood every instruction that came with the pattern and I could see how the dress was going to come together (so no pattern revelations like I experienced with the facing for my practise New Look 6483). The fit around the bust  and body is as good as can be expected for an over-the-head-dress with elasticated waist. I am now sure that I do not suit large bold patterns or see-through fabric, but it really brings out the colour my dummy’s complexion, don’t you think?!


I’m going to add a little length to the bodice pieces as the waistline is slightly too high on me but I can take a couple of inches off the skirt which is too long. I will also omit the pockets which ruin the line of the skirt.

And my cry for help? Well I have a few problems that I’m hoping some more experienced sewers can offer me some guidance on:

pointy sleeve

The sleeves on my toile stick out at an odd angle. Could this be because the hem on the sleeve makes it too stiff to drape? The fabric will not hold any crease or shape no matter how much I press it. Despite this, I can’t get rid of the crease down the centre of the skirt and the sleeve isn’t floppy at all.

bias binding fail

The bias binding on my Berry Sorbetto was easy… or maybe  just beginners luck because on this dress it has led to an unsightly sticking up affair. Did I do something wrong? Or is this just the result of not being able to press the bias tape away from neckline? Would attaching the bias binding as a facing resolve this issue?

And finally, I have a silk-cotton blend for my fashion fabric so any tips on working with this type of fabric?


If it’s free it’s for me: Colette Sorbetto

The wonderful things about blogs are the sharing of ideas, links and makes. After much browsing, sewing bloggers had me convinced that the Colette Sorbetto is a simple beginner blouse pattern (appropriate for my skill level) that is quick to make, highly customisable and a veritable wardrobe staple.

Some of my blogged favourites include:
1. Jenny of Bobbins and Whimsy‘s cheerfully bright version with the perfect colour of piping and binding.
2. Shona’s funky floral number blogged on Shona Stiches.
3. A crease-free personality version the fourth Sorbetto by Karen of Didyoumakethat?

sorbetto toile 2

Unfortunately this lovely lemon lining fell into the ‘stained’ category of my acquired stash – I couldn’t get the pink staining out in the wash. Never mind, it was destined to be a Sorbetto toile. Spot the shoulder seam mistake?

sorbetto toile 1
As many others have mentioned an extra 1-2 inches in length is needed – I added this before cutting. There were fewer mentions of tight armholes, until I searched for this problem specifically. To combat this I lined up New Look 6483 with the Sorbetto pattern pieces at the shoulders and traced the underarm line on both back and front pattern pieces. There was a fair amount to be cut away but the result is much better fit around the arms.

sorbetto armholes