Mini-maxi skirt tutorial

This skirt is made from one piece of fabric: it has two seams, and two hems – four straight lines and it’s done.  It started off with this coral-colour rayon, which I thought would look great as a summer maxi skirt (following on from my winter maxi skirt).  Thing is, it’s rather see-through in certain lights.  Some sort of lining was called for – but instead of a full length lining… how about a MINI?

I’m smitten with these sorts of skirts just now. The other day I saw a girl wearing one… first I thought, hey, nice maxi skirt! and then hey, that’s really see-through! And hey, she’s actually wearing a mini skirt underneath!

 I’m actually pretty fond of the shape of my legs, but I feel hugely self-conscious if a skirt is more than about an inch above my knee: I just can’t relax in it.  But wearing this?  My miniskirt’s mid-thigh, the outline of my legs is visible… but it’s all demurely covered by the maxi!  Result.


It all starts with a piece of elastic.  I measured it just by wrapping it round my waist, adjusting it until it was comfortable and sticking a pin in to keep it in place.  Cut off the end so there’s about an inch of overlap, then slip it off without removing the pin. 

Zig-zag along each of the raw ends to form the waistband circle, and put it back on to measure how long you want each of the skirts to be.  You’ll need to measure from the top of the elastic – this will be the top edge of your skirt.

I decided I wanted the mini to be 18″ long, and the maxi to be 45″ (to the floor).  Bit o’ maths:

  1. Mini length + hem allowance (18 + 1 = 19″)
  2. Maxi length + hem allowance (45 + 1 = 46″)
  3. Add 1. and 2. together (19 + 46 = 65″)

So the total length of fabric I cut was 65″.  For the width, I measured my waist (30″) and multiplied by 2 (60″).  My fabric was only 56″ wide, so I went with that, ending up with a rectangle 56″ wide x 65″ long.

  • Mark measurement no.1 (i.e. the mini length + seam allowance) along the whole width of the skirt.  I took a picture of this, but the line didn’t show up very well.  You’re basically marking the division between the mini part and the maxi part, which will form the top of the skirt.
  • Fold the rectangle in half widthways, right sides together, and sew along the whole long seam. 
  • Turn the skirt right-side out, so you have a long tube.  Fold this tube around the elastic waistband, along the line you marked out previously.  The longer maxi part will be right-side-out, and the shorter mini part will be folded behind it, so the wrong sides are together.  The elastic waistband should be sandwiched between the two, with the top of the elastic lined up with your marked fold-line.  Pin in place.  Is this making sense? Would a diagram help?
  • Sew all around the waist-line, a little wider than the width of the elastic (mine was 1″ wide, so I sewed 1.25″ from the edge).    This will make the channel to hold the elastic.  Don’t catch the elastic in your seam!  As you get further round the waistband, you’ll need to gather up what you’ve already sewed, keeping the small section you’re currently sewing nice and flat. 
  • That’s the two seams done – just hem each section of the skirt and it’s ready to wear!

I like styling it under a long top with a belt, like this:

(A final word of caution:  While double-your-waist-measurement seems to be standard for a gathered skirt, I find it a little restrictive – I have to hoick the skirt up to stride properly.  So I’m going to add a short slit at the back, along the long seam.)  Even so, I’m wearing it 2 or 3 times a week right now – perfect summer skirt, check.

Simplicity 2406 tutorial: Sleeves, part 2

Part 1 down, on to part 2.  This next bit is possibly the most confusing in terms of instructions, but it’s actually quite straightforward.  Open out the seam you’ve just sewn, and flip the whole thing over so the open seam is face down:

You’re going to sew that long side along the bottom of the sleeve, but you need to get the rest of the sleeve out of the way.  So starting at the neckline seam, roll the sleeve down past the cut-out part, as far as you can go:

Holding that rolled part in place, fold the long edge up and over the roll to meet the corresponding long edge on the other side.  Pin in place:

See?  That rolled section is hidden inside, out of the way of the seam line.  Sew the whole seam.

Next, turn it right way out (a little like we did in one of the steps in part 1).  Get hold of the rolled up part in the middle and pull it through one of the ends:

 …til you get something like this:

Nearly there!  Just one more seam to sew, to turn it into the 3D sleeve.  Open it out at either end of the seam you’ve just sewn:

 Pin and sew the seam, and you’re done:

Done!  All beautifully finished – the only remaining raw edge will be sewn on to the bodice (see pattern instructions).

Hope the photos were helpful – let me know if anything wasn’t clear, or needs more explanation.  Or even just if it helped you with the 2406 (it’s always nice to hear nice things).  Happy sewing 🙂

Simplicity 2406 tutorial: Sleeves, part 1

Have I ever mentioned how much I like Simplicity 2406?

1. Fairground Dress / 2. ‘Check and Check again’ top / 3. ‘Experiments with colour’ top

In fact, I’ve gone on about it so much that it’s attracted several comments along the lines of ‘how on earth do you do the sleeves?!’  Yes, the instructions aren’t the most helpful, and you need a good dose of sewing intuition to figure it out.  I’ve wittered on in replies, not particularly helpfully, as it’s one of those things that’s much easier to see… so, here it is, step by step. To stop this post getting ridiculously long, I’ve assumed some sewing knowledge on the part of the reader – but let me know if I’ve glossed over anything important!

First, sew each front sleeve piece to its corresponding back sleeve piece at the shoulder seam (the shortest seam).  My pieces are very slightly different as I’ve played around ith the proportions a little, but it should look something like this:

You’ll need to do this four times – two outer sleeves and two for lining.  Remember which bit is which: they can all start looking the same!  The outer sleeve and lining should be mirror images, so you can lay the right sides together to sew the next seams.

So here are the outer sleeve and lining sleeve pieces, right sides together (the shoulder seam’s been pressed open).  I’ve sewn the next two seams in navy thread – there’s one at the top, which will form part of the neckline, and then one seam running right round the ‘cut-out’ shape in the middle (starting near the bottom, then up and pivoting at the shoulder seam, and back down the other side).

Trim the seams and clip them so that the curve will be smooth later on.  Then turn the whole thing the right way out – you need to pull one half through the little gap where that pressed open shoulder seam is (in between the neckline seam and the cut-out seam).  Does that make sense?  Here it is after pressing:

Right, now we’re going to close up the lower bit of the cut-out shape.  Open it up:

…and lay it flat.  Pin those two edges together, matching up that seam in the middle (the bottom of the cut-out seam).  You’re essentially sewing the front pieces to the back pieces for both the top sleeve and the lining sleeve, in one go.

Press the seam open, and it looks like this:

Looking good! On to Part 2 for the second half…

Neverending Toile top: a tutorial

So I took a few pictures along the way when constructing my Neverending Toile top… but I wasn’t sure whether it was worth blogging about, or if it was, well, blindingly boring.  But then I read this comment on the Sew Weekly Sewing Circle:

What a great idea. Would you give us some details about how you constructed the collar? I would really love to use this idea…

Of course, Nora!  Here goes:

The top I used was made from a vintage pattern, but it’s virtually identical to the Sorbetto from Colette Patterns, so I used that to draft the new collar.  First, on the original top, I cut straight across on the front and back bodice pieces (about 2 inches higher than the top of the side seams, so that some of the armhole curve was left) and hemmed the new edges.  The side seams and darts were already stitched, so it basically looked like a rectangle with the upper corners cut off.

On a folded piece of paper, I traced the front piece of the Sorbetto, excluding the pleat (you can just fold the pleat section under).  No need to trace the whole length, just the upper half should do:

I drew a new curve from the top of the neckline down to the fold, to create the upper curve of the collar piece.  It took some some trial and error –  I found it helpful to fold out the pattern and lay it over the main top, to see how much of the bodice would show above the collar.  (I lined up the darts on the drafted pattern against the darts I’d sewn on the top to get the positioning right).  Then cut along the curve:

To form the lower edge of the collar,  I measured the width of the Sorbetto shoulder section (about 2.5″) and kept this constant all the way along –  I just measured out 2.5″ from the top curve at regular intervals, then joined up the dots to form the lower curve. 

Open it out, and that’s the collar pattern!

I cut two complete pieces from my chosen fabric for the front collar.  Then I used the upper sections (not including the curved part) to cut the back straps: 2 for each side = 4 pieces altogether. 

The pictures don’t exactly correspond now, as I assembled it in a ridiculously complicated way – so don’t do as I did, do as I tell you! 

First, the shoulder seams: stitch one back strap to each side of the front ‘u’ pieces – so you end up with two longer ‘u’ shapes.  Press the seams open.  Lay one piece on top of the other, right sides together, and stitch all the way along the inner curve.  Repeat all along the outer curve, leaving the tops of the ‘u’ open.  Finish the edges (I used a zigzag stitch) and clip the curves.

Turn it the right way out and press:

Then pin in to your main bodice piece – again, I used my master Sorbetto pattern to help, laying it under the stripy bodice piece and lining up the darts; then laying the collar over the top and lining up the shoulder seams to get the placement right.  Make sure it’s centred! 

Pin the ends of the collar to the back bodice, and try it on to adjust the length and position of the straps.  You’ll probably want to position the straps a little bit further in from the armhole edges, see?

Now, the straight hemmed edges of the bodice pieces need to be trimmed, so that the edges don’t stick out .  On the back, I cut it so that the armhole curves line up with the edges of the straps, and on the front so that they’re hidden under the curve of the collar.  Here’s the back – can you see what I mean?

Unpin everything (sorry!) and finish the armhole edges with bias binding. 

Then pin the front of the collar back on to the front of the bodice.  Topstitch along the whole length of the inner and outer curves to attach it:

Finish the raw edges of the collar piece – again, I used trusty zig-zag stitch.  Pin the ends of the collar piece to the back bodice (so that the zig-zagged collar edges lie under the bodice), and top-stitch to secure in place.

And you’re done!  Woohoo!

I hope that sort of makes sense – please let me know if anything’s unclear, or overly/underly technical.  And of course, please let me know how it works out if you try it! 

Shoe restyle and bow tutorial

In the age-old debate on shoes versus bags, I am completely and utterly a shoe lady.  I do love a good bag (I’ve just swapped my christmas Next vouchers for Mr B’s Topman ones and bought a wicked little satchel) but shoes have a strangely emotional pull on me.  In fact, my relationship with shoes is not unlike the serial monogamy that I’ve known friends to have towards romantic partners:

They catch my eye across a crowded room (aka the shop) .  They’re perfect, beautiful, original.  They will complete me (or at least my outfit).  I feel so good when I’m with them, so attractive and cool…  And then, after a few weeks, the feeling wears off.  They rub on the sides, or the heel’s a dodgy height, or they don’t actually go with the rest of my wardrobe.  But it’s ok, because by then I’ve seen the next pair…

(Of course, the beauty of being a serial monogamist with shoes is that, when you get tired of them, you can keep them all in a wardrobe in case you fancy them again one day.  Which would get you arrested if you did it with people.)

So, after admiring Roisin’s gorgeous collection of shoes, I checked out some more Irregular Choice designs – these are my new pin-ups, ‘Lucite Lovely’:

But, the problem is the heel.  I’m 5’7″, and even in kitten heels I’m taller than a lot of my friends, family and colleagues.  These 9cm beauties are just out of my league. 

But then I thought:  if I can make clothes, can it be that difficult to make (or at least adapt) beautiful shoes?  I had the perfect contender sitting on my shelf:

These shoes were an eBay find over a year ago, but I can’t remember ever wearing them.  Nothing’s actually wrong with them, they’re just a bit boring.  On the occasions that I get dressed up enough to justify a pair of heels, I want them to be exciting and gorgeous, so these always got shuffled to the back of the queue.  But it’s all about to change!

First of all, I got hold of this rather lovely stuff.  The Lucite Lovelies prompted me on a search for polka dots, and this grosgrain got two thumbs up:

And I was also in the mood for pretty bows.   Bows are, on one hand, easy enough – most of us learned to tie them when we were little (I learned at Rainbows when I was 7… does that sound a bit late?).  On the other hand, making a nice presentable artistic bow can take time and thought, especially with a ribbon that is different on the front and back – i.e. my polka dots.  This is what I worked out after lots of trial and error: 


(1) Cut a piece of ribbon (I used the length of an A3 piece of paper, which was actually more than I needed).  Fold in half to find the centre.


(2)  Then, fold the top half back on itself to form a loop, keeping the centre marked with your finger. 

Carefully flip the whole thing over and do the same on the other side, so that you have:

(3) two loops, like a little heart.  These will be the loopy bits of the bow

(4) Still holding on to the centre, slide the top loop towards the right across the other one.  


It should end up bow-like, like picture 5, with the lower loop pointing left and the upper loop pointing right.  All good, apart from that pesky bottom-right bit!   To sort that out, keep the left-hand loop still, and bend the right-hand loop over and away from you.  From the back, it should now look like (6).

From the front it should look like this (7).  Wahey! 

(8) Secure by sewing up the middle – just 3 or 4 stitches will do. 

(9) Then, just pleat the middle slightly, slidingthe top part down over the bottom part just a little.  Sew a few more stitches through the middle to secure.

Finally, cut another small piece of ribbon to go round the middle.  I folded mine in half, as it would’ve been too wide otherwise:

Wrap the tie around the middle, and put a few stitches in at the back to secure.  I’ve left the tie long at the back (it’s the bit I’m holding between my thumb and finger) so that it’s easier to attach to the shoe.  Then just trim the ends of the bow to a length you like, and ta-daa!