Tabs and snaps

I spent some time looking for suitable closures for the jacket I’m making, Vogue 1335. The original pattern calls for home-made leather tabs with snaps applied to them. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to produce anything like that so spent a lot of time searching for toggles, buckles, and the like online.

Vogue 1335 envelope art

I completely failed to find anything suitable, so tabs it had to be. I got these scraps of cream-coloured ‘leather’ from eBay. I very much doubt it’s real leather but it’s the right colour and texture.
Leather scraps from eBay
John Lewis supplied a pack of 10mm snaps and pliers for applying them. Those things are fiddly. Here’s my first, rather wonky attempt.

Wonky snaps

I did better after drawing a lot of guidelines on the wrong side of the leather.

Top tabs

The smaller tabs weren’t so successful. 10mm snaps are a little bit too large so it was difficult to position the second snap without catching the first one in the pliers.

Bottom tabs

But they don’t look too bad when fastened.

Finished tabs

Of course it could all still go wrong because I’ve got to top-stitch them to the jacket yet.

Disaster: What to do with a broken invisible zip?

Remember this dress? I made it last year as a bit of an experiment. It’s an unusual shape, and has no centre back seam so there’s a zip in the shoulder and the side so you can get in and out.


Notice anything about the shoulder zip now?

Silver brocade dress shoulder zip

Closer? That’s right, the zip no longer has a slider. I obviously didn’t do a good enough job of sewing the zip in, because the slider came off the bottom of the tape! I had cut the zip off above the original stop to make it fit the dress. The bottom of the tape pulled out of the seam at some point and the slider just slipped off the end.

Shoulder zip closeup

Unfortunately I can’t see a good way to fix this. The dress is fully lined and the bodice lining is stitched in the ditch through all layers at the empire seam, so any attempt to replace the zip will involve a lot of ripping out and hand sewing, and will probably look terrible. I am no use at all at hand sewing.

I had the idea of stitching an exposed zip over the top of the invisible zip, hiding it completely. But I completely failed to find any zips for sale online which combined the right length, colour, and reasonable postage costs. None of the bricks and mortar sewing shops near me had anything suitable either.

Then I thought of putting a frog closure over the gap and mail ordered a couple of these, described as ‘small frog fasteners’.

False frog

Only it turns out they aren’t frog fasteners, they are ‘fake’ frog fasteners. Great if you don’t need your dress to actually open, but they’re not going to work for me. Also I’m no longer convinced a frog fastener would hold the shoulder together well enough.

I’m stumped. Anyone got any bright ideas for fixing this? Or know of a UK shop with a good range of zips?

Boring beige? Another Simplicity 5320

Simplicity 5320

I’ve worn my pink a-line dress so much I made it again! It’s the same fabric, a boiled wool jersey from Truro Fabrics, in a colourway called cream. Personally I think it is more of a beige than a cream. I’m really liking the modern, minimalist vibe of this version, which is very different to the bright pink of the original.

The one thing I wasn’t pleased with in my first version was the side seam pockets which have a tendency to gape. I decided to give single welt pockets a try. These are a little on the small side but I was concerned that they’d look odd if I made them larger. I spent some time pinning little rectangles of fabric to the front of the pink dress to test out size and placement before cutting anything out. I’m very pleased with how they’ve turned out but they were a lot of work!

Simplicity 5320

The back’s completely plain. Yes those are creases near the hem, I’d been wearing it all day at this point. The zip is nicely invisible but could have done with being longer. I couldn’t find a beige 24″ invisible zip online (ok I didn’t look all that hard) so settled for 22″ and it’s turned out to be not quite enough. Anyone know an online shop that does 24″ invisible zips and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for postage?

Simplicity 5320

And in other news, Winnie of Scruffy Badger Time interviewed me for her Desert Island Sewing series. You can read mine here but check out the whole series if you aren’t following it already. It’s fascinating to see which patterns people choose to be cast away with. Thanks Winnie!

High tech sewing

So I’m making this Burda coat. Very slowly. I might have it done by Christmas if I’m lucky. But I’m enjoying the process because I really, really like the design. One of the things that originally appealed to me about it is the closure; it uses snaps. I love the clean lines they give. Also: not having to make buttonholes. But mostly it’s the minimalism.

White Burda coat 104-12-2012

The pattern says to cover the snaps with lining fabric before attaching them to the coat. This struck me as odd and likely to come out looking messy. Other people might be able to make a neat job of that, but not me. And I couldn’t help thinking the lining would interfere with the working of the snaps.

Then it occurred to me that maybe Burda meant the coat to have magnetic snaps. You’d have to enclose the magnets in some sort of fabric bag to attach them to the coat. This would explain the instruction about covering them with lining. It wouldn’t matter how messy the covering was because the snaps would be sewn between the outer fabric and the facing. And I like the slightly scifi element of magnetic closures.

My local sewing shops do not carry such things, so I went to Klein’s last time I was in London. It seems magnetic snaps come in a couple of varieties: the sort with prongs on the back that you push through the fabric and fold in, which are for handbags, and the invisible or sew-in variety. I had to ask for the sew-in sort. Here they are. That’s a 5mm grid they’re sitting on.

Magnetic snaps from Kleins

Here’s what they look like separated. The side with the bevel is the strongly magnetic side.

Separated snaps

These things are fascinating. I can’t get over how strong they are. According to my googling they’re most likely to be neodymium magnets, which are a type of rare earth magnet. Neodymium is one of the rare earth metals. There’s something undeniably appealing about anything called a ‘rare earth’. (Rare earths aren’t actually rare but it’s still a compelling name).

Neodymium magnets are made from a compound of neodymium, iron, and boron, which was only discovered in 1982 – within my lifetime! Most things I use in sewing have been around in some form or other for a very long time. The zip, which always seems like one of the more modern things in sewing, is over a hundred years old in its earliest form. Overlocking’s been around since the 19th century. I haven’t been able to find out exactly when fusible interfacing was invented but it was certainly around in the 1970s.

What’s the newest technical development you’ve used in your sewing?

Knowing where your towel is

Do you know where your towel is? Or your tape measure, or your scissors? Is it just me who spends a large amount of my sewing time searching for the pins I know I had a moment ago but managed to put down somewhere on the other side of the room? (In case anyone’s wondering, the towel is a substitute for a pressing ham. It also makes a handy sleeve roll when wrapped around a rolled up copy of Burda.)

This week’s been particularly bad for losing notions because I’ve added hand-sewing needles and basting thread to the usual pile of things to keep track of. The dress I’m sewing has a lot of curved pintucks which need thread tracing. (Eight down, another six to go). However this little guy, a present from my friend Jane, has come into his own lately. At first sight he’s just a handy pincushion.

But pull his tail and he’s a retractable tape measure too!

Brilliant. The retractable tape measure is much easier to use for small things than my regular one, and I haven’t lost any of my needles yet. He even hangs onto basting threads because they stick to the felt. Now I just need a pair of scissors with a homing device built in. Thanks Jane!

New gadget

Burdastyle patterns do not come with seam allowances. In some ways this is a good thing – you have to trace them and it’s a lot easier to check that all the traced pieces match up without the seam allowances getting in the way. You can also add exactly what seam allowance you want. I can see that using different allowances in different places can be a really good thing – you can avoid having to trim seams around facings for one thing – although I’ve not yet been brave enough to try this in practice.

However at what point in the process do you add the actual seam allowances? On the paper pattern tracing, or do you just place the pattern down on the fabric and add them at that point? The odd photo of the sewing process that I have seen in the magazine implies that you’re expected to add them on the fabric but not the pattern. I find this is rather fiddly and not very accurate. Having just traced a couple of Burda patterns without adding allowances I was wondering if there was a shortcut. I was in John Lewis looking for a zip, and found this nifty little device.

It is made by Prym although I can’t find it on their website. Nor has Googling found me any suppliers selling it. It has three settings for seam allowance – 1.5cm, 2.5cm, and 4cm. The marking end is just a regular chalk wheel (one of my favourite sewing gadgets) and the other side is a serrated wheel that you run around the edge of your pattern.

I haven’t tried it out for real yet because I’m currently sewing a muslin using a fabric that is far too pale for white chalk to show on it. However experiments on scraps suggest that while it’s not as accurate as adding proper allowances to the paper pattern, it’s a useful tool on a stable fabric. It’s completely unusable on a stretchy knit, but that’s not a great surprise.

Having said all that, I went and retraced my original pattern adding seam allowances in the end and used that for the muslin – if I’m going to the bother of making a prototype and fitting it then I don’t want to risk introducing any inaccuracies!