Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Everyday Pants Pattern is here!

It's taken a while (life threw a few curve-balls my way), but the formerly "nearly-a-pattern" is now an ACTUAL pattern. A finished one. Wow. 

In line with my whole "teach a person to fish" philosophy, I wanted to make a pants pattern that is a base for teaching sewing techniques with a focus on tips for a better finish, which is infinitely variable with design details and fabric choice.  

These easy-fitting pants have a fly front, hip pockets and an optional jet pocket on the back. 

I've made them in crinkly, crumply fine linen (which was possibly not the best choice for my original cover shot...).

I've made them in drapy tencel, various wool blends and brushed cotton, and I've made them in heavier (still crumply) linen. They work for all seasons and everyday occasions. 

And of course, I tweaked the design and made lots of other versions. I used them for the base pants in my book The Savvy Seamstress. In the book, I show you how to change or remove the pockets and how to change the fly front for a discreet invisible zipper on the side or back, and even how to remove the waistband and replace it with a facing.  

The patterns are divided into two sizing groups - Sizes 6-14 and Sizes 12-20. The pattern is available in paper and pdf versions.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Blog Tour Wrap-up

If you've followed me on Instagram or Facebook this week, you'll have seen daily posts about The Savvy Seamstress blog tour and all the giveaways on various blogs and Instagram accounts.  The winners will be drawn tomorrow (or the day after that, for the USA blogs), so there's still time to do the rounds and get your name in every barrel. (Some giveaways have more participants than others, so the odds might be in your favour if you look for the smaller barrels...! ;) )

Here are the links...

If you take a look through the blog posts on the tour, you'll get to see what others have made and learned through using The Savvy Seamstress, and you'll get a better idea of what it's about.

In case you've missed what the book is all about... It's about altering design features on your existing sewing patterns. For example, the above two photos are other variations of the little blouses I blogged last time (and they're the same size blouse, only on different sized kids). Yep - techniques for adapting the designs of collars, necklines and sleeves are all in the book - from patternmaking to sewing instructions.

Pants (above) can be made with infinitely variable pockets, zippers (fly front or side/back invisible or lapped zippers) and the waistband could be removed and replaced by a facing - instructions for all those things are in the book....

The version below (straight, angled hip pockets, fly front) is actually going to be a finished You Sew Girl sewing pattern soon. Watch this space!

Thanks to all the bloggers, Instagrammers and to my publishers for participating in the blog tour.  And good luck to all who are in the draw for a free copy of the book.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Collars, Facings, Necklines and a Blog Tour

The days of having a four-year-old in the studio to model for me are long gone (she's in secondary school now!), so I had to make do with a clothes line.  Still, these little blouses swinging in the breeze looked sweet and made me happy today.

They're all made from the same base pattern, with the collar, necklines, sleeves and facings altered to vary the design. You guessed it... using the patternmaking and sewing techniques from my book The Savvy Seamstress.

We launched the book at Can Do Books in December, but until recently, I haven't had much time or brain-space to to promote the it (you might have followed my "why" on Instagram ).  However, now I'm all about the BLOG AND INSTAGRAM TOUR.

You can see what other people have made and sneak a few more glimpses inside the book if you follow along. There will also be givaways, so you might like to hop on board.

The tour schedule is as follows:

And now, a closer look at those little blouses...

This is a simple little button-fronted number with cap sleeves and a round neckline. It has a full neckline facing that also covers the button area. (The book will also show you how to make this design detail on a pattern that originally had a zippered back and no front opening, or on one that previously had a collar.)

An easy alteration from here is to change the shape of the neckline (and maybe the arrangement of the buttons into 3 sets of 2...?).

Alternatively, you can add a Peter Pan Collar. This one has a simple binding on the neckline and a folded facing.

Or you can raise the neckline and add a collar. This one (below) has a higher neckline and a slightly higher "roll" on the collar. It also has cute little 3/4 sleeves (..ahem... because of a "design opportunity" that arose when I cut two sleeves in the same direction from the small amount of fabric that I had, and then arrived at my local fabric store half an hour after the last on the bolt was sold... and I had a deadline.... Aargh...).

And it has cuffs on the sleeves. Aren't they cute in a kids' size 5?

And just like this one, it has a Convertible Collar style finish (with a neckline facing on the garment front).

(But this one has full length sleeves.)

The same kinds of alterations can be made on dresses, shirts and blouses, and all these patternmaking and sewing techniques are included in the book.  

Please note that this blouse pattern is one that I use in classes and is not yet developed for sale. There was a plan to have this done before the book was launched, but life and its curve-balls got in the way.... It's on the to-do list!  

So - watch this space, and watch the blog and instagram tour. There'll be more Savvy Seamstress news and opportunities to win yourself a copy.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Savvy Seamstress - It's a real book!

This box of books arrived a couple of weeks ago. A slight glitch behind the scenes means that it's taken this long to post about it here. But here is The Savvy Seamstress.

As I've mentioned before, the concept behind the book is that once you have a pattern for a garment, you can keep changing design features on it to make it into many different garments.

For example, a casual short sleeved shirt (or pyjama top) can become a classic long-sleeved shirt with cuffs, collar stand and button placket. These are teeny little boy's shirts, but the same could be done for mens' or womens' garments.

It's the way I make most of the clothes that get made around here - for myself and for my girl - and the same processes can be used for tweaking designs from basic blocks/slopers.

I've already used my book a few times to help explain things to my Fashion students... which is how I originally came up with the idea of writing it.

All the processes are broken down into baby-steps, with cheat's methods for getting a better finish. It's not about couture - more of a blend of industrial fashion production sewing and handmade techniques, which is how I sew when I'm sewing for myself.

I've included simple processes to get beginners started - pockets and closures - but I've included a few more advanced methods, like draping new necklines and making classic shirt collars.There are lots of diagrams and photos to help you through...

It's a strange thing to write a book... to work so closely on a document that you can no longer actually 'see' it. Trying to turn off my critical eye is a tricky thing. But I'm the author and that's what authors do. You are the audience, and I hope that you like it and find it useful. 

Go forth and tweak those patterns. Make beautiful garments!

BTW - my critical eye spotted a little mistake (which makes me feel a bit sick...).
Page 45, Step 1: inside brackets should read "or fuse a strip of interfacing" instead of "sew stay tape". Not a big one, but still... that critical eye. I'm sorry that this slipped through the multiple edits and checks that were made in the making of this book. We did our very best.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tutorial: Roll-Up Shopping Bag

Gosh, it's like old times... me doing free tutorials on my blog! It's been a while...

This shopping bag is simple enough for relative beginners to sew, and is a quicker alternative to the Zip-Away Shopping Bag (although not as fancy!).  It is made to roll up, so that it can be carried conveniently in a handbag.

I'll be demonstrating how to make this foldaway shopping bag at the Spotlight Inspiration Space at The Royal Melbourne Show on Wednesday, so I thought it best to have the back-up of the process written up as a resource for everyone to tap into.  If you're going to the show, you can find me there at these times. I'll be adding tips and tricks and lots of chat to these basic instructions, so do come along - you might learn something and you'll make me feel a bit better for having an audience!

(My apologies for the quality of the photos in this tutorial. Limited time during daylight hours and an AWOL digital camera resulted in these being shot on an iPad at night time. But you know... it's who's complaining...?)

Simple Foldaway Shopping Bag


3 x fat quarters 2 x matching, 1 x contrast
35cm x 6mm or 12mm elastic
35cm double-sided fusible Peltex / Legacy Fuse And Shape / Fast2Fuse
1m x 15-20mm fusible tape with paper backing or vliesofix cut into strips
A tailors awl/stiletto


Matching Fat Quarters
2 x Length (parallel to selvedge) of fat quarters (about 50cm) x 50cm. Tidy up to make all edges straight and all corners 90-degree angles.

Elastic - 1 x 20cm 1 x 15cm

Contrast Fat Quarter –
Straps – 2 x Length of FQ x 10cm
Base – 2 x 37.5cm x 15cm

Double-sided Peltex/Legacy Fuse and Shape / Fast2Fuse - Bag Base – 34.5cm x 12cm, with the length running parallel to the side edges of the Peltex, as it comes off the roll.


1. Fold the bag body in half lengthwise and snip a small notch top and bottom to mark the centre points of both edges.

2. On the top edge, measure and snip notches 9cm and 11cm from the centre notch on both sides of centre. On the bottom edge, measure and snip notches 17.5cm from the centre notch on both sides of center.

3. Fold and press the straps to make a 4-fold strap.

4. Topstitch the strap with four or five even rows.

5. Fuse the Peltex between the two layers of the base fabric, leaving an even seam allowance around all four edges.

6. Fold the base in half lengthwise and widthwise, snipping a notch to mark the centre on all four sides.

7. Fold elastic in half and stitch the raw ends to the centre notch on one of the short ends.


1. Seam the side seams of the bag body. (I like to use a French Seam, but you could equally plain seam with a 12mm seam allowance and overlock or zigzag the edges.)

To sew a French seam:
a) Place the two bag pieces wrong sides together and stitch the side seams with a 4-5mm (a very scant ¼ inch) seam allowance, backstitching at both ends of the seam.

b) Press the seam allowances open.

c) Turn the back wrong side out. Press the side seams flat, folding neatly along the seam line.

d) Stitch the seam with a 6-7mm (a generous ¼ inch) seam allowance, backstitching at both ends of the seam.

2. On the bottom edge of the bag, find the centre notch and align it with a centre notch on one of the long edges of the bag base, with the right side of the bag fabric facing the side of the base that has the elastic on it. Pin the centre notches together with the pin at a right angle to the edge of the fabric.

3. Align the bag fabric to the long edge of the bag base, matching the notches on the bag fabric with the ends of the Peltex within the bag base. Pin them together exactly at this notch point, with the pin at a right angle to the edge of the fabric, as shown below. There should be 1.5cm seam allowance overhanging beyond the pin.

4. With a 1.5cm seam allowance, stitch between the outer pins (without crossing over them) to attach the bag to the base along the long edge. Repeat steps 2 to 4 to attach the other side of the bag to the base.

5. Snip at a 45-degree angle from the edge of the seam allowance to the very ends of the backstitched seams.

6. Match the unattached part of the bottom edge of the bag to the base, aligning the centre notches on the base to the side seams of the bag. If there is any excess fabric in the bag, smooth it into a tuck at the side seam, so that the fabric sits smooth and flat at the corner points.

7. Backstitching at both ends of the seam, stitch across the short ends of the bag and base with a 1.5cm seam allowance.

8. Overlock/serge or zig-zag around the four sides of the bag base, catching all layers of fabric in the stitch.

9. With the bag fabric to the top as you work at the machine, fold the seam allowance on a long edge of the base to match its outer edge to the seamline.  Use an awl to help hold the fabric in place, and stitch the edge of the seam allowance down, a few mm from the overlocked edge. Repeat this for the other long edge, and then each of the two short edges, in turn.

You have now attached the base – turn it through to the right side.


1. Fold the 15cm length of elastic in half and – on the right side of fabric – stitch the loop in place over a centre notch on the top edge of the bag, as shown below.

2. Again, on the right side of fabric, centre the raw ends of a straps to the notches on the top edge of one side of the bag. Making sure that there are no twists in the strap, pin and then stitch the strap firmly into place about 1cm from the edge of fabric. Repeat for the other strap on the other side of the bag.

3. Fuse 15mm (5/8'') fusible tape (or strips of fusible webbing cut with a ruler and blade to this width) on the right side of fabric, all the way around the top of the bag, aligning the edge of tape with the raw edge of fabric.

4. Fold and press the top edge, using the paper as an edge to make a clean fold.

5. Working on the inside of the bag, with the straps and elastic hanging down on the inside of the bag, fold and press a second turning, using the other side of the tape as the folding edge. Then take the backing paper off the tape and press the double-turned hem into place.

6. Topstitch the hem turning to the bag fabric, 1-2mm from the inner folded edge.

7. Lift the straps out of the bag. Working on one strap end at a time, smooth the strap (from where it attaches to the bag) over the top edge. 

8. Turn the bag to the right side of fabric and stitch a reinforcement x-in-a-box shape between the top of the bag and the hem stitchline, to hold the strap firmly in place.

9. With the elastic still facing down into the bag, stitch a reinforcement over the ends that are enclosed within the hem.

You now have a finished bag!

You can fold up the bag from top to bottom, and then roll it into the base. Flip the elastic around the whole she-bang and you’re ready to go shopping!

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