Mustard and maths

After I made my hybrid dress – drafted by adding a half circle skirt to the Colette patterns Truffle dress bodice with modified Anna-style mini raglan sleeves – I knew I wanted to tweak the method and make another one.
And here is my second one, this time in mustard yellow cotton poplin with white piping at the waist and neckline. I’m really pleased with it! Here are some pictures of me oddly dancing in the living room!

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This time I took in some of the excess at the back by slashing and spreading at two points on the back neckline, and I took more care to draft the circle skirt so that it matched up exactly to the bodice. I also shortened the skirt – last time I accidentally cut far too much fabric, and the resulting dress was longer than I had intended.

And, *sewing geek alert*, I’ve set out below the different stages behind drafting a circle skirt to attach to an existing bodice pattern.

>> First of all: How to work out your finished pattern waist measurement

When you want to draft a circle skirt to attach to a bodice you don’t use your actual waist measurement you use the waist measurement of your finished bodice pattern pieces, so that your bodice and skirt pieces correspond and match up nicely.

The following sums will help you work out your finished pattern waist measurement:

1) On back and front pattern pieces (don’t include any darts) measure the waistline measurements.
2) Then substract the seam allowance (SA) from both these numbers.
3) Multiply the figures by 2 to get the full front and back bodice waist measurements.

See my working here using my own pattern piece measurements:img_0737new
4) Then add these figures together to get your finished pattern waist
measurement. This is the measurement you will use to draft your circle skirt.

>> The circle skirt calculation

First of all I followed the By Hand London method for drafting a circle skirt, and instead of just using the app, this time I also did the full calculation before checking that the result matched the app result (it did). Not because I didn’t trust the app, on the contrary, how could you not trust something formed in the minds of the BHL ladies? No, I just wanted to make sure I fully understood where the answer comes from.

So here is my working:
(result rounded to nearest 0.5 of a centimetre)

HOWEVER, when I cut out my skirt pieces the skirt waist circumference was not long enough to match up with the bodice. DISASTER! It took me a while to work out why (and I’m still not 100% sure I fully understand) but I think the part of the calculation highlighted in pink (in the diagram above) is the little culprit.

Let’s go back a bit to try and understand: why do we subtract the seam allowance (SA) from the radius (the part in pink)?  By subtracting the SA from the radius what you are actually doing is adding the seam allowance, even though you are ‘subtracting’. By subtracting from the radius value you ‘pull up’ the waist line adding your seam allowance at the waist.

If you have a look at this diagram (below) it should make sense.


Imagine the radius line getting smaller (subtracting from the radius value), this would add a seam allowance at the waistline.
Now imagine the radius line getting bigger (by adding to the radius value) and you would actually be eating into the skirt, and the skirt waist circumference would be wider – the complete opposite of what you want to do.

This is all well and good for a circle skirt on its own, but when it comes to drafting a circle skirt to attach to a bodice, by adding a seam allowance at the waist (by subtracting from the radius) we effectively ‘pulled in’ the waist circumference making the skirt piece too small to match up to the bodice.

I rectified this by cutting off the 1.5cm extra, and then it fit nicely to my bodice, this is obviously an easy way to fix it but I’m happy I worked out why the pieces were not joining up so next time I won’t have to go through the same process!

So, to sum up: when you are drafting a circle skirt to attach to a bodice you should not add any waist seam allowance as you would do for a circle skirt on its own.

So, I should have used 21cm as my radius value and not 19.5.

If anyone has any experiences to share on this – or any contradictory experiences, I’m still not convinced I’ve 100% cracked this – don’t hesitate to get in touch! I’d be very interested to hear about others’ experiences. All in all, I’m really glad I did the sums myself otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to work out where the problem was.
>> Now we just need to draft the skirt pattern piece

Once you have your radius value and you know what length you want to make the skirt you can draft your skirt piece.

1) First you need to work out the length of fabric you will need. If I want my skirt to be 61cm long, and I want 2.5cm of hem, and my radius is 19.5, I add all these figures together and I get 83. I checked it out in the app to confirm and sure enough for a 65cm waist midi length skirt the resulting fabric length was 83cm.
NOTE: I obviously should have used 21cm as my radius value, and not 19.5. (see above). Which I will do next time 🙂

2)Then you draw two long lines at right angles to each other.

3) On both lines, measure from the right angle point and mark, firstly, the radius point (your radius value from the right angle) and, secondly, your fabric length value.

4) Draw a 45 degree line out from the right angle point and fold your pattern paper along it. Then you can draft the circle lines (I used a pencil and a shoe lace) on just half of the piece. When you cut through the lines it will be identical on the folded side, giving you a symmetrical cut. I think this is a neat way to do it if you are using the pencil and shoelace method, as it can be a bit fiddly!


5) Then you can unfold the pattern piece and lay it out on your ironed fabric with one straight edge along the fold.

6) Pin and cut out. Voila, you have your skirt piece!

>> Finally, you can get things moving along!

1. Cut out your bodice pieces.
2. Sew bodice darts, sew shoulder seams (French seams), then sew the raglan sleeve seams by folding them over and pressing twice as you would a hem.
3. Sew one bodice side seam
(French seams).
4. Sew bodice to skirt (French seams). At this stage you can also add piping if you like. Just sandwich it into your French seam. As Claudia would say, why wouldn’t you?
5. Sew in invisible zip at side seam.
6. Finish side seam.
7. Hem skirt. This BHL post was very useful.
8. Apply bias binding to neckline. Follow this Grainline studio tutorial intently.


All that’s left to say is that I really like this type of ’70s yellow’, and it reminds me of the lovely hues of the fittings in many of the old Belgian SNCB trains.

And finally…if you have not done so already make sure you support the aforementioned BHL ladies’ Kickstarter campaign. Watch their lovely video to find out about their exciting new project.

Stitching and social justice

On 24 April it will be the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Bangladesh, where 1,127 workers were killed and thousands more were injured when the building they worked in collapsed on top of them.
The images from Bangladesh exposed the treacherous conditions workers, mostly women, and some as young as 12, are forced to work in to make clothes for western brands.

This horrific disaster, the worst disaster in the history of the global garment industry, highlighted in the starkest terms the horrible reality behind the goods we buy that are often produced under exploitative conditions. And while it’s something we are all pretty aware of, most of us feel quite powerless to do anything about it.

Sure, we can make ethical choices about what we buy and we can make our own clothes: but these solutions remain for the most part the reserve of those of us with the means and the leisure time to do so. And, of course, no ethical
activity can exist as an island: where was my sewing machine built, and what working conditions were the people who produced my cheap fabric faced with?

But, just because something is a small act, a mere plaster on a much greater global system of inequality, does not mean that we should pack up our sewing boxes. On the contrary!

You could therefore view sewing as a small attempt to reject the exploitation model, as well as a pursuit carried out for, among other reasons, enjoyment, creative fulfilment, and mental wellbeing.

But we can’t just pat ourselves on the back. We need to support campaigns that are fighting for real change. For a world where people in countries like Bangladesh could also have the luxury of time to pursue hobbies, where they
could live in a dignified way and not at the mercy of a pay slip from a dangerous garment factory, and for a world where the lives of some are not valued higher than the lives of others.

Until our model of production changes, these kinds of disasters will keep happening. 

What needs to change:

  • Western governments must better regulate so that companies cannot profit from cheap labour in countries where they can exploit loose regulations. These companies should be not just bound by their shareholders to return a profit; they should be bound by conditions that make it illegal to outsource to factories where safety standards fall short or where workers are not paid a living wage. Following the Rana Plaza disaster some of
    the world’s largest brands signed a legally binding agreement on safety in Bangladesh factories; this makes these brands more accountable for what happens in the factories that make the clothing they sell, although it does not cover wages. It’s a start, but more companies need to sign up.
  • While compensation won’t bring back the lost limbs and the lost lives, we should call for the companies involved in the Rana Plaza disaster who have not already done so to pay into the International Labour Organization (ILO) compensation fund for the dependants of those killed or injured.  It’s crazy that they have to be pushed to do this; it’s more than an understatement to say that it is the least they could do.
  • For countries like Bangladesh, the reality is that these factories are a lifeline for people as there are few other employment prospects. But why is this? It is not some sort of natural order of things: this situation happened because of trade deals that come tied to obligations to unilaterally remove barriers to trade that give developed countries full access to poorer countries’ markets without reciprocal access for developing countries to wealthier markets in places like Europe and North America. This makes these countries the ideal playing
    field for western companies.The west must stop strangling third world countries like this and should be
    helping to develop sustainable economies rather than seeking to restrict the authority of governments or remove regulation designed to protect people and planet.
  • In parallel, we need investment in small-scale garment production industries in western countries. It might sound far-fetched, but if we can invest in military pursuits, why can’t we invest in publicly-funded pattern cutting and sewing libraries/workshop spaces! Imagine an average town/city/high street. And now imagine that some of the retail businesses were replaced with small businesses/collectives that offered different ways to consume/clothe yourself: like affordable libraries where you could rent the equipment, or shops where people who made custom fit clothes could sell their wares at the local level.

Here are some useful links to just some of the campaigns working on this issue:

War on Want
Maquila Solidarity Network
International Labour Rights Forum
CleanClothes Campaign

Worker Rights Consortium (WRC)
Alternative Trade Mandate

I hope you enjoyed this departure from my usual type of post. I’ll hopefully be writing more on this subject and carrying out some interviews with people who campaign in this field as I’d like to think more about how we can link campaigns for social justice and home sewing.

Let me know what you think about this topic!

Belladone in stripes

I always think it looks in equal parts brilliant and terrifying when there are so many layers of fabric draped over the machine when you are in the midst of a crucial stage. This is the moment during the making of my second Belladone dress when everything seemed like it was almost coming together but there still seemed to be so much going on; I was scared of forgetting which pieces were supposed to be stitched together and which were not.


But luckily it worked out and now I have a second Deer & Doe Belladone dress, this time in light pink stripes!

Small bust adjustment
As explained in my previous post about my Belladone wearable muslin (which has incidentally been worn a lot recently with this lovely early Belgian spring), I had to do an SBA on the pattern. I just went for it and cut it out straight away on this fabric without doing a test first – living on the edge. It worked perfectly though and the fit is just right.

I followed Lladybird’s slash and pivot adjustment method for removing excess on the upper back piece. I took some pictures too so you can see the exact steps of what I did as I always like to see close up images of pattern adjustments!

Step 1:
Slash up the middle of the pattern piece at a right angle to the seam line. Leave a wee hinge about 1.5cm long.


Step 2:

Overlap the edges by the amount you need to take out. (You can work this out by pinching out the excess on your muslin).


Step 3:
Tape the pattern pieces in place and smooth out the seam line to make sure it is straight.


It was also great to read Lauren’s post as not only was it useful in terms of the adjustments, it was very useful in terms of stripe matching! I copied how she did it in terms of matching up the chevrons at the waistband, and did my best to line up the other pieces.

Here it looks OK I think…


…but it is a bit off kilter at the centre back…whoops…


Adding a lining
As the fabric (cotton) is quite thick and not particularly smooth, I thought it would be comfier to line the skirt so I used some lightweight yellow cotton batiste.

I attached the lining to the seam that joins the bodice and skirt pieces. Then I sewed the zip in, attaching it to both the outer fabric and the lining at the same time. I sewed on some ribbon to hide the seams on the inside. This ribbon just happened to be what I had lying around (pretty sure this ribbon was bought in Glasgow going on seven years ago or something silly, so nice I finally got round to using it…). But I actually think the colours go together really well together, as if it was all meticulously planned, ha.

The resulting colour scheme really makes me think of sweets and wrapping paper. So maybe I should wear it with black tights and black nail varnish or something so it is not too sickly sweet.


Don’t look too closely, I see some stray ends of thread….


The lining is also fully contained in the hem, so there is no way it’s going anywhere now that I’ve locked it down completely.


Now, to think about what kind of Belladone my third will be.

My Kim skirt



Say hello to my Kim skirt, so called because this lovely soft wool fabric was one of the fabrics that Kim from Reves Mechanique brought along to the fabric exchange as part of January’s sewing blogger meetup in Antwerp, and I was the lucky one to go home with it at the end of the day.

Thanks, Kim! I only hope that whoever got some of the fabric remnants I brought has enjoyed them as much as I’ve enjoyed making this skirt. Fabric exchanges are great because it’s a chance to give a good piece of fabric a new home if you are not going to use it, and it’s a chance to receive some one-of- a-kind fabrics, the likes of which you might not find again.

I used the By Hand London circle skirt app which I think is just amazing! They’ve done the maths for us! I still think it is useful to understand the calculation behind the app though: just think, one day you could be stranded on a desert island and you’d have to make a circle skirt with no app…

Maybe when I was doing my Higher Maths back in the midst of time the mysteries of Pi would have been more exciting if we’d combined the lesson with a jaunt downstairs to the Home Economics department to make a circle skirt. I am also prepared to eat my words as I specifically remember ranting as a teenager about how I would ‘never use maths in the real world’. How wrong I was!

The best thing about this skirt though was that it was my first attempt at a lapped zipper. Stupidly (or daringly) I didn’t do a practice zipper first. I just followed some instructions and went ahead directly onto the skirt; much unpicking and one very improvised rescue method involving bias binding later and I have what I hope can be described as a lapped zipper!


Coucou, Coco !

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It’s a Friday night ‘Coco Party‘ with me and my guest of honour – my new Coco dress! (And my self timer camera came along too for good measure.)

I was very keen to get my hands on the Coco pattern ever since Tilly started teasing us with hints about it – and I certainly was not the only one!

But just over a week ago the wait was over. I returned home to find Coco had crossed the Channel from London to Brussels and had been delivered safe and well.

In terms of the pattern and the accompanying instructions (both in the pamphlet and in the various in-depth posts on her blog) Tilly has succeeded in what she set out to do: create a simple yet well drafted knit pattern that would be appealing to seasoned stitchers and beginners alike.

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I decided to make the size 2 and it fits perfectly even if it is a little loose at the side seams (hence the red bow-belt I’ve added). I really like it this way as if I want it to look smarter and more defined I can add the belt and if I want it to be slouchier I can just wear it as it is. Next time I might make the size 1 out of interest to see what that will be like.

The great thing about knits I think (or relatively loose fitting knits anyway) is that if the fit is not perfect then it is not as big a disaster as it would be if you were using a woven fabric.

I didn’t embellish the dress in any way. I’m just really happy to have made a bright red, comfy, and slightly 60s’-style dress with a lovely boatline neckline!

The fabric is a red medium-weight jersey that is not too stretchy. It came from Berger (I’m still eternally grateful to Jo for telling me about this wonderful fabric emporium not very far from my house at all). I also discovered that Berger has a BASEMENT, i.e. double the fabric perusing pleasure. I somehow managed not to catch on to that on my previous two visits!

Now I’m on the hunt for some nice striped knit to make one in Tilly’s Breton style.

Big hurray for Coco!

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