Two New Summer Sewing Classes at MIY Workshop Brighton

I’ve just added two fantastic summer sewing workshops to the MIY Workshop timetable to make all your holiday essentials:

kaftan making class

make a beach bag class

Only £45 each, they’re bound to get booked up fast and there are only 5 spaces on each class! 

Full details and booking information here.

Customising: How to Print with Freezer Paper

printing with freezer paper

Here’s a quick and professional looking way to customise a shop bought t-shirt, using a freezer paper; brilliant stuff that’s been used by patchwork and quilters for years.

You will need:

freezer paper printing

  • a plain t-shirt
  • freezer paper (it’s made by Reynolds and is available from most big sewing supplies shops)
  • fabric paint (I’ve used Dylon fabric paints on my t-shirt, you could also use a fabric spray paint like the Marabu one in the picture, just make sure you choose an opaque paint if you want a bold graphic effect like my t-shirt)
  • a chopped up washing up sponge or a paintbrush
  • cutting mat
  • craft knife
  • pencil
  • a design for your stencil (or you can download my foxy face).

What to do:

1.how to print with freezer paperCut a piece of freezer paper to fit your stencil and to fit onto your t-shirt.

2.how to print with freezer paperPosition the stencil on the freezer paper and draw around it.

3.how to print with freezer paperCut the design from the freezer paper carefully using a craft knife or scalpel and a cutting mat to protect your work surface! TIP: be extra careful in the corners to make sure you don’t tear the paper.

4.how to print with freezer paperTake the shape of the fox’s head that you’ve cut out of the freezer paper and place it shiny side down in the position you want it to be on your t-shirt. Iron the paper and it will stick to your t-shirt. Move the iron slowly and be sure to go over all the edges and corners, but be careful not to scorch your t-shirt.

5.how to print with freezer paperSlide a couple of sheets of paper in between the layers of the t-shirt so that the paint doesn’t go all the way through both layers.

6.how to print with freezer paperUsing your washing up sponge gradually apply the fabric paint over the edges of the stencil. TIP: don’t put too much paint on the sponge at any one time or it will make big uneven splodges on your t-shirt and you may even drip it in the wrong place!

7.how to print with freezer paperLeave the paint to dry for a few hours before trying to remove the stencil.

8.how to print with freezer paperOnce the paint has dried remove the stencil carefully.

9.how to print with freezer paper

how to print with freezer paperIron the paint to set it and make it permanent. TIP: use some thin muslin over the top of your t-shirt – this enables you to use a hot iron without scorching your t-shirt and ensures no paint could find its way onto your iron!

10.how to print with freezer paperYour stenciled design is now fixed and permanent and your garment can be washed as normal.

If you don’t like the “reverse” or “negative” style of the stencil on my t-shirt, use the shape that was left behind when you cut out your stencil to get a “positive” image like this one:printing with freezer paper

Happy printing!

Find the first post in my Customising series here, it’s all about how to make and use Suffolk Puffs.

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Spoonflower Fabric Printing

Woohoo!!! I designed and made a dress AND the fabric!

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that at the end of last year I took a short screen printing course at the fabulous Inkspot Press in Hove.

 

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It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years as; a) it felt like the next logical step after creating my own clothes and b) I’m so incredibly fussy when it comes to printed fabric and find it difficult to find prints that I love. I’m very clear about what I do and don’t like in a fabric print, I love: bold, simple, graphic, abstract, oversized; and I have a definite aversion to: pastels, cutesy, florals (unless they’re very painterly or abstract)!

So, when the European arm of US fabric printing giant Spoonflower got in touch I was just a tad excited. Disclaimer time: I need to point out that Spoonflower offered to print me a length of the fabric of my choice for free in return for being interviewed for their website. I also decided to write this blog post independently to share my experience with you lovely lot who might be interested in having a go yourselves and so this review is completely unbiased, honest and my own opinion – I haven’t been paid to write it.

For those of you who have never heard of Spoonflower, it’s a kind of “print on demand” online fabric printing service. You choose a base fabric, you find a print from their huge collections of print designs from independent textile designers from around the world, or (and this is what appealed to me) design your own print and voila, your very own unique fabric plops through your letterbox.

So, as I’d already been playing around with print designs it made sense to have a go at creating my own Spoonflower fabric print!

Once you’ve set up an account it’s really easy to upload your artwork to create your own design. You can either upload artwork that you’ve already put into repeat, or upload an image and use Spoonflower’s basic repeat tools.

I’ll hold my hands up here to being far from an expert when it comes to print design. I’ve done one course, a bit of my own research and played around with a few ideas. If you’re going to create your own design on Spoonflower, I think you’ll get far better results if you have at least a basic understanding of print design and how repeats work, consequently that will enable you to create a far more professional and seamless print (that said there are lots of tutorials on the site). Personally I hate print designs where the repeat is blindingly obvious and that for me is the sign of a poor quality design and someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing. With this in mind I kept mine super simple, as you can see! 

Once you’ve finalised your design (decided on the repeat and scale), you need to select a base fabric that you want to print your design onto. This is where I started to feel a little limited. I think Spoonflower is great for buying fat quarters for craft sewing (such as patchwork) but once you start to order fabrics by the metre (or yard as is listed on the site) they start to get a little pricey and I found the range of fabric bases a little limiting for dressmaking. However, having said that there is crepe de chine, poplin and a few different knits which was more than I was expecting! Price-wise, you’ll be paying (and watch those dollars and yards UK shoppers) $23 (approx. £17+) per yard for polyester crepe de chine, $26.75 (approx. £20+) for cotton/spandex single jersey and $17.50 (approx. £13+) is the cheapest fabric called “basic cotton ultra”. I’ve no idea what that is.

I plumped for cotton poplin ultra at $20 (approx. £15+) per yard as I knew I wanted a nice crisp fabric to make a gathered skirt version of my Fulwood dress. I needed 3 yards as it’s only 42″ / 106cm wide (pretty narrow for a dressmaking fabric) and this would have cost me $54 & $6 shipping (over £45). For a special one-off fabric, I don’t think this is outrageous. I’m not one to skimp on fabric and would rather pay more for quality and reliable provenance so I probably would have paid that myself to try out Spoonflower.

Now, this all took place in April and from what I remember I’m pretty sure delivery was pretty speedy (European orders are sent from Germany) and my fabric arrived within approximately a week.

Here’s how it looked when it arrived, complete with washing instructions. (How many fabric companies do that?!)

On first unwrapping my parcel I was a bit like a kid at Christmas, it seemed like magic to see my design on fabric, but then I noticed I’d made a mahoosive boo-boo with my design…..

See that gap right across the middle of the white scissors?……. Argh, told you I wasn’t a print design expert, but I really should’ve checked and spotted that one and Spoonflower won’t check for you (understandably!) I was in such a rush to order the fabric, that I skipped the stage of ordering a test swatch (8″ x 8″ for $5). Lesson number 1 learned.

The next surprise was the stiffness of the fabric. I ordered poplin, it’s meant to be crispy, but this really felt almost starched. I hoped it would soften up once I washed it.

I washed my fabric on a gentle 30 degree wash using colour safe washing liquid. Sadly the stiffness didn’t improve much, but the colour faded noticeably and you can see in the picture above that the colour faded more where the fabric had creased in the wash. With the benefit of hindsight I wonder if I should’ve gone for a design with less solid black coverage. Lesson number 2 learned…..

The fabric also shrank in the wash, which to be fair, I would expect with a natural fibre fabric. My piece measured 2.76m long and 114cm wide before washing and 2.66m long and 111cm wide after washing. That’s 3% lengthwise shrinkage and 2% across the width. Probably more or less what would be expected of cotton poplin, but still significant enough to be aware of if you have a tight lay plan and / or a large or directional print design.

As expected, the fabric sewed up like a dream (it was cotton poplin after all) but, that black print did leave a residue on my iron (which was easy to remove). The print was also very easily marked by needle holes. I managed to get an unwanted tuck in the fabric when machining the waist seam and this is what was left behind once I’d corrected it….

I haven’t washed the finished dress yet, so maybe (hopefully) they’ll come out in the wash.

Here’s my finished frock though, of which I am still most proud, despite it’s flaws! It’s super comfy and cool to wear.

So, in conclusion, what did I think of the whole experience?

  • price – at over £45 for 2.75m (3 yards) it’s towards the top end of what I spend on fabric, but certainly not outrageous,
  • quality – this is what I was most disappointed with, but I can’t say if it was my choice of print design (with so much black ink coverage), I need to try a different print on the same base to do a fair comparison,
  • choice of fabrics – OK, the basics are covered, but it’s definitely all about the print!

I’d definitely order again to make a special garment and / or to try out new print designs, but next time I would get a test swatch to check the accuracy of the repeat of my design and the quality and handle of the fabric once printed and take my advice – definitely order the fabric sample pack! It’s only $3 (approx. £2.30) and shipping is free.

I’m going to post a step-by-step guide on how to sew the gathered skirt on the Fulwood dress as inspired by Kath’s winning MIY Maker dress. Honestly, I still can’t believe I’ve never done this before, I absolutely love how it looks.

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May’s MIY Maker

May MIY Maker
The votes are in and better late than never I’m happy to announce that Claire’s t-shirt won your vote!

Claire will be enjoying her next MIY Collection pattern for free, congratulations!!

If you feel inspired to make your own t-shirt, this one is from my first book “The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking”.

(ps. With summer around the corner, this looks great lengthened into a t-shirt dress too! Just saying…..)

Vote for May’s MIY Maker

me made may miy maker

Me Made May meant stiff competition for this month’s MIY Maker as sooo many great makes were shared over on Instagram, but I whittled it down to these 4. Who will get your vote?

Clockwise from top left:

So, have your say, which of these gorgeous garments do you think deserves to be this month’s MIY Maker and win their next MIY Collection pattern for free?

Leave a comment with your favourite and I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday morning (6th June). Voting is also open on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Shop Your Stash – Planning Your Makes

For the last 3 months I’ve been talking about how to use your leftover fabric scraps, organising and de-cluttering your fabric stash and how to pair your newly organised fabrics and patterns into winning combinations. The last of this mini series is all about planning your projects; to make best use of your time, to avoid stressful sewing and to improve your skills and knowledge.


OK, every project doesn’t have to be a battle to master a new technique; we all love to sew and often the most pleasure is to be had in just sailing through a project, feeling confident in what you’re doing and having everything go right. But occasionally it’s good to choose a project that is going to challenge you in some way and enable you to learn something new, even if it’s in just one aspect of that make: maybe it’s a fabric you haven’t sewn before, a fiddly detail that you always struggle with or a difficult garment to fit.

My first piece of advice is: tackle one challenge at a time! Don’t combine all those challenges into one garment – trying to tackle a tricky detail in a difficult fabric on a garment that might not be the best fit is a recipe for frustration and disaster.

My second piece of advice is: don’t try to learn something completely new with every project – practice makes perfect. I’ve encountered students in the past who as soon as I’ve taught them a new technique and they’ve tried it once, are all too keen to move onto the next one. You don’t collect new techniques, they’re not fully formed and perfected after doing them once, the process of learning new skills and techniques needs practice and you need to master each one until they become almost like second nature. Identify the bits you find most difficult and explore ways that work for you to make them easier – that might be extra tacking, chalking seamlines or simply just practicing on fabric samples until you’ve got it right.

Try and plan your makes with this advice in mind, so if you have a tricky fabric in your stash that you’re planning to use up and it will work equally well in 2 of your patterns, choose the pattern that either; you’ve made before, or is the least technically challenging for you.

It’s rewarding to use your hobby to develop your skills, it gives you a greater sense of satisfaction with your end results and you’re continually building on what you already have. I call this approach “Progressive Sewing”, I’ve written about it before in more depth here, but it’s basically an idea I took from my gym. The instructors in my gym like to encourage everyone’s training to be progressive which means regularly changing your exercise routine by adding new exercises and increasing the difficulty of existing ones. This pushes your body to increase in strength and fitness.

Here are some ideas for a progressive approach to sewing your own clothes that will build your skills and techniques.

how to plan your sewing


In the previous part of this series I went through some common fabrics and the styles of clothes they’re best suited to, this month we’re adding those all important fibres to the mix. Fibre content is important for knowing how the fabric will handle and most crucially – what it will be like to wear. From now on, when you’re shopping for fabric, make a note of the fibre content of the fabric (and the recommended washing instructions!)

Here’s a quick reference guide to the most common fibres, what they’ll be like to wear and what they’re best used for. Print off a copy so that you have it on hand when you’re fabric shopping.

fibre identification chart

Now you might not always know the fibre content of a fabric in your stash, you might buy fabric that isn’t labelled with a fibre content or you may want to check the fibre content of a fabric that you suspect might be mis-labelled. The only way to check fibre content accurately is to burn a bit of the fabric. CAUTION! Use a small piece of fabric, hold it with tweezers and do the test ideally outdoors or at least over a sink.

Here’s a table of what happens to the most common fibres when they’re burnt. Obviously fabrics made from a mix or blend of fibres can be more tricky to identify, but if you’re trying to check if the fabric you’ve been sold really is 100% cotton or really does contain some elastane or really is silk, this should help.

how to identify fibre content


We touched on planning in the 2nd part of this series; mainly talking about seasonal versus non-seasonal sewing and setting yourself realistic goals.

Heed this advice that I’ve personally learned the hard way and that I’ve experienced with lots of my students: don’t decide to make yourself something “special” to wear on the spur of the moment for an imminent event!!

It’s stressful, you’re unlikely to enjoy the process (even if you do enjoy the end result), you won’t learn much as you’ll be rushing rather than taking the time to do things well, you might make some bad fabric / pattern choices and end up wasting money and you might not be happy with the results.

If, however, you enjoy flying by the seat of your pants and have to sew to a deadline, choose a fabric that you know you can sew easily in a colour and print that you know you will wear and ideally choose a pattern that you’ve made before, don’t try to learn new techniques in a project with a tight deadline. Or if you do, don’t bring it to your sewing class!!!

Make a Roewood Jersey Skirt in Sheffield

jersey pencil skirt

Up North and want to take a class with me? Good news! There are still places available at my one day workshop at Running with Scissors on Sunday 4th June.

We’ll be making the Roewood jersey pencil skirt from my book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts”, ideal for newbie dressmakers and those fearful of sewing knits as I’ll be showing you how to sew stretch knit fabrics using just your regular sewing machine.

There are several ways to make this skirt so you’ll end up with a finished skirt completely unique to your own style to take away at the end of the day and a signed copy of my book to make more skirts.

Full details and booking info here.  Look forward to seeing you fellow Northerners!!