Staying edges

I’ve not made as much progress on the tartan dress project as I expected. So this is just a quick post about staying edges.

My first sewing book recommended zigzagging all the edges of your pieces before sewing seams, so that’s what I used to do. I’ve recently found this tends to distort the edges and so now I often finish my seams after sewing them.

However my tartan fabric is really, really ravelly. I won’t have much seam allowance left if I don’t finish the seams early on, but if I do I’ll probably never get the stripes to match.

My unscientific solution is to iron Vilene bias tape along the seamlines before finishing any edges, like this:

Burda magazine loves this stuff. Every other pattern seems to call for it. It’s thin fusible knit interfacing strips with a line of stiches sewn along the middle. It seems to be quite hard to find in the UK. My local sewing stores don’t stock it, so I always used to skip it. It never seemed to cause a huge problem to miss it out, although occasionally I would cut my own strips of knit interfacing where it looked like it was really needed.

Once I got hold of some real Vilene bias tape, from Sewbox, I realised why Burda uses it so much – it’s great! Very easy to apply and it stablises edges nicely without adding bulk. It’s also a lot less fuss than cutting your own strips. Just don’t put it the wrong side up and get the glue all over your iron as I frequently manage to do. I now see why my GCSE textiles teacher had ‘good’ irons and crafting irons.

I have no idea if staying edges like this is the Right Way to do things or not – I suppose I could just staystitch – but it’s worked for me in the past so I shall stick with it.

Choosing a zip

Thanks everyone for the helpful comments about my tartan dress project! I’m all set to start sewing now.

One final thing I had to do before starting was to pick a zip to go with the fabric. I want to do an exposed zip so I need something quite chunky. I have a large collection of unused zips so I really want to use one of those rather than buying a new one. Here are the three that I have that are about the right weight, shown against the fabric:

I was expecting that the silver one would look best, but to my surprise I’m preferring the bronze one. This is especially good as I have the silver one in two lengths, neither of which is quite right, but the bronze one is exactly the length I want. It’s a separating zipper, which isn’t ideal, but I can just stitch over the end to stop it opening.

I’ve been looking up tutorials for exposed zippers. There are quite a few for the type where you stitch the zipper tape on top of the fabric, for example this one on BurdaStyle and this one on CraftStylish. They both fold the seam allowances of the zipper outwards and sew the zip on top.

However I want the sort where the zip is sewn under the fashion fabric, like a regular centred zipper, but rather than sewing it under a basted seam and then undoing the basting, you make a slot in the fabric and sew the zipper into the slot. The width of the slot means that the teeth and some of the zipper tape is exposed. I’ve tried this on a couple of dresses before and neither’s perfect although they are both wearable. Recently I found this interesting PDF of zipper application techniques which has some useful hints in it for exposed zippers (page 4). In particular it has you sew the end of zipper to the tiny seam allowance you get at the bottom of the slot. I’m hoping a combination of that and a lot of interfacing on the edges of the slot will make this go more smoothly than before. Wish me luck.

Matching tartans

I’ve had to wait for the weekend to cut out my tartan dress because I wanted to do it in daylight rather than artificial light. I haven’t ever sewn anything tartan before so I need all the help I can get.

I was quite pleased to realise that the front of the bodice pattern I’m using (Vogue 8413) is cut on the bias and the back on the straight grain, so there isn’t any possibility of matching stripes at the side seams. All I had to do was make it match across the centre back seam, and on the side seams of the skirt.

This proved easier said than done. I mostly used the Selfish Seamstress’s clever technique for matching, and got everything lined up beautifully (which only took an hour). But the end result was a little off after I cut it out. Look at the red stripe closest to centre back:

I figure I can just fix this up when I sew it together by changing the seam allowances a little. And if I can’t, I have enough fabric left to cut those pieces out again. The only reason I haven’t done that already is that I’m pretty sure the problem is that I’m not cutting accurately enough, and I’m not sure a second run is going to come out any better except by chance. Something about taking scissors to fabric always makes my hands wobble uncontrollably.

Matching the stripes on the skirt was even trickier. The pieces are huge. My fabric was only just wide enough for me to cut the skirt front on a fold which limited how I could arrange things. I’d also made the mistake of cutting one of the skirt backs out before the skirt front which restricted my options even more. I think I’ve got the stripes to match. I’ll find out for sure when I sew them!


I picked up the phrase Frankenpatterning from The Slapdash Sewist. I think it’s a wonderfully descriptive term for the process of combining two patterns. I’m currently trying to graft the skirt of Vogue 8633 onto the bodice of Vogue 8413 and it certainly feels like a bolt of lightning is going to be required to make them combine successfully.

The problem I’ve got is that the finished waist measurements of the two patterns are very different. I’ve put the tissue away now so I haven’t got the exact measurements handy, but I’ve had to combine a size 8/10 skirt from 8633 with a 12/14 bodice from 8413 in order to make the waist seamline come out the same length on both skirt and bodice.

I appreciate that ease varies between styles, but I’ve made Vogue 8633 (the one with the large amount of ease) twice and don’t remember there being lots of ease before. But I might have just removed it and not worried about it at the time. Not for the first time I wish I’d kept better notes!

Impractical shoes

6199642Remember the not entirely successful 1970s jumpsuit project? Elizabeth and Inkstain gave me some great advice about how to fix the problems, and here is the new improved version.

I’ve taken in the side seams a lot between the waist and knee, and also shaved a bit off the inside leg above the knee. I also took the centre front seam in a bit below the zip.

I found a pair of chunky platform sandals lurking at the bottom of the wardrobe. It’s amazing what a difference the right shoes make with this garment. I tried it with wedges and they looked very strange. This very square heel seems to be just right. And the extra four inches of height probably doesn’t hurt either.


Thanks, everyone!

Tartan skirts

Remember this?

It’s polyester tartan fabric I bought in Glasgow to make a knockoff of a Yohji Yamamoto dress I saw years ago. I can’t really remember what the original looked like, but my plan is to morph the bodice of Vogue 8143 (line art below) and a full skirt from some other pattern.

I had originally been thinking of using the skirt from the new Vogue 8701 but yesterday I realised that I already own Vogue 8633 which comes with an option for a very full skirt. Here’s the line art

Vogue 8633 view d and e line art

Now I’m just wondering how to lay the pattern pieces out on the fabric.

There is a seam down the centre front of the skirt although the line art doesn’t show it. The skirt is a full circle skirt made from four identical pieces. The pattern piece has the straight grain line running parallel to the centre front and centre back seams.

I wonder if it’s advisable to try to cut the front out on a fold to avoid having to match the pattern on the centre front seam. I have quite a lot of fabric to play with (it was cheap!) but clearly not enough to cut an enormous circle skirt out twice.

I think it makes sense for the centre front of the skirt to be on the straight grain of the fabric regardless of whether there’s a seam or not. That way the skirt will contrast with the bias cut bodice. However I’ve been Googling for pictures of tartan circle skirts and most of the ones I have found don’t work like that. They have a centre front seam but cut so that the fabric is on the bias at the seam. I did find one picture where the grain was positioned the way I’m intending and it didn’t look obviously wrong, but I wonder if there’s something I’m missing here. Insights most welcome!

In praise of BurdaStyle

Thanks everyone for the nice comments about the leftover skirt! It was a BurdaStyle magazine pattern (although you can also get it from Recently I’ve been making up a lot of those, despite the chore of tracing the patterns.

And now I have finally subscribed to the magazine. Ever since the Borders chain closed I’ve had trouble getting hold of it in the shops. WH Smiths nominally stocks it but I can usually only find it every other month. They won’t reserve magazines. A subscription (which unlike every other magazine I’ve ever subscribed is slightly more expensive than buying in the shops – how does that work?) was the only answer.

What I like about Burda is the sheer number of patterns you get in each issue. I probably only make up an average of one pattern per issue but you get patterns for things you’d never consider buying an envelope pattern for. For example, the ‘one dot’ jersey dress that’s basically a couple of rectangles and seems to work for everyone. I’ve seen lots of versions around the Internet. Here’s mine:


When I bought the fabric I was shopping with my mother. She was looking for fabric for this style too! I wouldn’t have bothered with an envelope pattern for this on the grounds that it’s such a simple dress I could theoretically draft it myself…except I probably wouldn’t have got round to it.

My November issue arrived last week. There are quite a few things I’d make. And practically all the skirts have pockets! There’s even a tartan dress that’s making me have second thoughts about my current plans for my red and grey tartan fabric.

I’m off to order some more tracing paper.