Tag Archives: beginner sewing patterns

July’s MIY Maker

MIY Makers

Sharon’s Granville Skirt just pipped Ros’s Fulwood dress to win this month’s MIY Maker!!

Such a nice version of the skirt and a great way to show off a lovely bit of fabric. The perfect summer skirt, now we just need the sun to return to the UK…..

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

Want to make your own wrap skirt? The Granville is from my last book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts” which you can get here.

Want to enter your make to August’s MIY Maker challenge? Full details on how to take part are here. I look forward to seeing your makes!

June’s MIY Maker (& MIY Makers is a Year Old!!)

MIY Maker sewing challenge

Well it was a pretty strong win this month for Tracy’s bee print Brighton Skirt from my last book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts”.

Tracy has chosen her next MIY Collection pattern which is buzzing it’s way through the post to her.

And can you believe it’s already been a year of MIY Makers – here they all are! A strong showing from Brightside Shrugs and Fulwood Dresses.

If you want to win your next MIY Collection pattern for free and want to enter your next make (or a previous one) into July’s MIY Maker challenge, all the details are here. I’m looking forward to seeing your makes!!

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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…..)

My 6 Inspirations & Must-Haves for Sewing Network Magazine

blogger picks sewing Network magazine.jpg

I really enjoyed choosing my 6 inspirations and must-haves for Sewing Network magazine’s “Blogger Picks” feature this month.

In true form you might easily guess some of my choices, but can you guess all of them?!

Gees Bend Quilts

I love the social history of patchwork and quilting. I find the idea of the stories and meaning held in quilts made from re-used clothing really powerful and they can make me quite emotional. Ever since I first saw images of the Gees Bend quilts they’ve been a constant source of wonder and inspiration for me. I love their honest beauty.

Worn Stories by Emily Spivack

The idea behind this book is simple; the author asked people she knew to tell a story about a piece of clothing in their possession, something significant that happened in their lives while they were wearing it. It makes for fascinating reading and a bit like the Gees Bend quilts, reminds us of the significance that clothing can have in our lives and that it is more than a disposable commodity.

The Community Clothing Project

Began as a kickstarter project and championed by Patrick Grant this is a great project. Based in one factory in the north of England it aims to reinvigorate garment manufacturing in the UK by using the seasonal quiet times faced by all factories producing for brands to make their own range of good quality basic items such as jeans, harrington jackets and raincoats.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Just up the road from my hometown of Sheffield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is heaven, how could it not be when it combines art and beautiful Yorkshire countryside?! There are permanent works set outdoors as well pieces from featured exhibitions and several indoor galleries including the stunning Longside Gallery whose huge windows not only flood the gallery space with natural light but also perfectly frame the most perfect views of the green valley below.

MIY Collection Fulwood Dress

This might be my favourite of all my patterns. It’s one of the most popular and I’ve personally made myself at least 8 versions. It’s easy to wear and easy to sew which makes it a good first dressmaking project for beginners. However, I think its real secret is its versatility; it works in almost any fabric and can be made as a top or a dress in lots of different combinations. I’m always finding new ways to make it. I enjoy working that way; I’d much rather explore the potential offered by one pattern rather than churning out pattern after pattern.

Ernest Wright & Son Scissors

Again, harking back to objects with meaning that can tell stories, I love my handmade Ernest Wright scissors. They’re made in my hometown of Sheffield and I’ve visited their factory to see them being made. It takes a huge amount of skill to make a pair of scissors and it shows in the finished product – they cut through anything and are sharp along the full length of the blade, including the tips. They’ll last you a lifetime and the more you use them, the more they wear to your hand and your particular grip. I love that. You can buy unique MIY Collection branded while handled scissors here.

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Should Pattern Designers Know How to Draft and Grade Patterns?

pattern grading

The view on my computer screen has looked a lot like this for the last few days

I got all the graded patterns back for my new book last week and am currently in the process of getting them ready to go to print.

I know how to grade patterns, but I choose not to do it myself because:

  1. I don’t have the right software to do it digitally,
  2. manual grading takes forever,
  3. it can be quite a boring job and I’d rather be doing other more creative tasks!

When patterns come back from the graders I get a full size set on card to use in classes and a digital set that can go to print.

graded patterns

I always find that the digital patterns require a bit of tweaking, just a bit, but some truing up here and there. Because I can draft and grade patterns myself and have been doing it for a long time, I know what to look for. But I started thinking while doing this job today; I wonder if all pattern designers do this, or for that matter, would even know to check their grading?

I know of pattern designers who don’t even draft their own patterns, so presumably they have no idea how to grade a pattern. I also see people who appear to have only just started to sew releasing their own patterns. How are these patterns checked and trued?

Now, I’m not saying I’m a saint and know all there is to know about pattern drafting and grading, in fact I’m happy to always be learning. But, I do know the importance of trued pattern pieces, carefully placed and matched notches, and I’ve gained that knowledge through years of practical experience.

Unlike sewing, pattern cutting is an exact science; it needs to be right. If the pattern’s out, the resulting garment won’t sew together easily and won’t look right.  It’s like baking a cake; you can’t change the quantity of flour without changing the quantity of sugar, eggs and butter (I’m no cook, but I do grasp a few basics!)

But is this ok? We can’t all be brilliant at everything. Why shouldn’t a designer get someone else to draft their patterns and/or do their grading without feeling the need to check any of it? My feeling is that it’s how connected that designer wants to be to their customer. If you want to ask a question about a pattern, think you might even have spotted a mistake in a pattern or want to see a sew-along or pattern hack for a particular pattern, what’s the point in asking a pattern designer who has no idea how it was created in the first place?

What’s your experience? I’d love to know.

Brightside Shrug to Longline Cardi Hack

When Portia who hosts the fabulous Makery blog asked if I’d be up for her having a go at a hack idea she had in mind for the Brightside Shrug I jumped at the chance. Portia and I seem to have very similar tastes (always a pleasure to find an kindred aesthetic spirit) and I was really intrigued to see what she would come up with. I’m not precious about people altering my patterns, in fact I love to see the clever and creative ways my patterns are interpreted by different makers. So, over to Portia….


I have an irresistible urge when I see a pattern, to mess with it. For some reason when I look at a sewing pattern I start imagining variations of it. A tweak here. A tweak there. And you can change the look and feel of a pattern. Basically pattern hackery is fun and what’s more, using an existing pattern as a jumping off point means the hard work of drafting is basically done for you. Playing with a pattern to create different variations can give you more bang for your buck when you buy a pattern too; and who doesn’t love that?!

Image 1 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK (2)

What I’ve often wondered though is whether designers mind when you mess with their patterns? After all, they’ve spent all that time and skill creating a pattern and along you come and start changing it! I mean, isn’t it a bit like having someone cook you a gourmet meal, then covering it in salt or pepper before you’ve even tasted it? (For the record….I absolutely do not do that!) Well I needn’t have worried. Methinks Wendy is a passionate explorer of ideas because when I tentatively mentioned to her that I’d been pondering a “longline” hack on her MIY Brightside Shrug, I could almost hear her clapping her hands together with delight. And when she asked if I could turn it into a guest post for her blog, well, honoured, right?

image 2 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK image 3 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

So here is the starting point. Beautifully modelled by Wendy. It really is a great little pattern. Especially for beginners. I especially think it’s a great project to cut your teeth on a serger with. I really do love the style of this. So neat and compact and perfect to throw over a tee. But the beauty of being able to sew your own clothes is adapting them to suit you. Now I’m a bit self-conscious when it comes to my waistline. So it’s a matter of feeling comfy to me to have my midriff covered; and I generally prefer my cardigans to be at the hip or lower.

image 4 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

Much lower in this case, because I hacked it so it was knee length!

image 5 - MIT BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

It’s a very simple hack. I tested the idea out in miniature first. When you buy the pattern in pdf there’s a layplan for the pdf tiles and I simply cut the whole pattern piece from that and messed around with it on paper first. I even cut a miniature in fabric and sewed it up but forgot to take a pic of that! You can see the basic idea here. I’ve extended the bottom section of the pattern to make it longer following and extending the angle of the side seam…

image 6 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

Here it is drawn directly onto fabric…

image 7 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

Construction is exactly the same as the pattern. Except of course, when you’ve finished sewing the underarm/side seam sections, you’ll have the extended bottom section, well, extending. Which actually looks a bit weird as you sew because essentially it’s at right angles to the top section. But thanks to the nature of knit fabric (this is French Terry from Girl Charlee) as soon as you put it on it will automatically stretch out a little and drop down and hang vertically

image 8 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

Now of course changing the length of the back section means the existing pattern piece for the band that goes around the entire shrug, is basically redundant. It’ll be too short. Simply measure the new circumference of the shrug opening and cut a longer band to fit. (Same length as the circumference plus a little SA)

image 9 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

Apply the band as per the pattern instructions. Pressing the seam allowance to the inside and top stitching down. When you reach the section at the side seam where the back is longer than the front, simply ease/gently stretch the seam so it’s straight. Much in the way you would treat a curved seam on a serger.

image 10 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

Ok, ignore the fact that I had to piece my neck/hem band together because I accidentally cut through my only continuous strip of fabric. Don’t judge. We’ve all been there 😉 In any case, when you look at the underarm/side seam you can see that the bottom section (the one that I extended and was essentially at a right angle) now hangs more or less vertically with a light curve. That my friends is the magic of sewing with knits. They will forgive you pretty much anything. Including turning a 90 degree angle into a 180 degree angle!

image 11 - MIY BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG HACK

And hey presto! A longline Brightside Shrug. Simple!


Massive thank you to Portia for a brilliant post. I love this version of the Brightside shrug and would never have imagined that this was what she would come up with. And that little tip of trying out pattern adaptations on the miniature pattern pieces – stroke of genius Portia!! I obviously will have to be trying one of these versions for myself now too. What do you think? Inspired to have a go?

You can get your copy of the pattern in printed paper form here or as a pdf download here and to encourage you to get hacking your own version, enter the code “makerybrightsidehack” when you checkout to get 15% off your order until Tuesday 29th March.

Happy hacking!!