Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Another Blogging Break

And these are the reasons why...

1. Work. Work work work work work work work work work work. And repeat. I'm in my first official year of teaching and did not find a substantive position before my course ended. Because of this, I have been in two schools within the last half term and will be moving to my third as of January. It's all exciting and happy and good though, just mega busy!

2. Social life building. I've been living here for nearly 3 years now and have built up some solid friendships around me. I've not done too badly. but I'm still living in the sticks away from said friends. For two of those years I was in a long term relationship and when that ended so did a fair part of my social life. Obviously, I am in no way blaming my lack of life on this, I just should have prioritised finding my own group of people to be with before romance hunting back when I returned from Poland. Everything happens for a reason and what I'm building up now is extremely positive (and exciting!), but I don't want to be in the position again where I find myself single and with very few chances to go out and socialise. Anyway! Clubs are being joined, hobbies entered into and I'm very close to getting my own set of wheels! This time next year I want to have my own place in Leeds, so it's project life right now. The quiet life is over for me.

3. Exhaustion and sickness. So I had the flu, then a chest infection, for like 3 weeks, and continued going to work with it. So it was a case of teach, mark, home, plan, bed for that time. I'm all better now though and a certain someone is now happy with being around me again since I'm no longer a (and I quote) "snotty mess".

4. Have I said work?

So that's pretty much why I've been on a break. I haven't been sewing and whilst I miss it, I haven't been able to get excited about making anything lately! Trying to change that since it's now half term break but number 2 on the reasons list is getting in the way of it!

I was approached last month about being featured as a 'Sewing Superstar' on Cut Out + Keep so I am finishing my projects for that as I am super excited to *finally* get that done.

So that's an update from me and stay tuned this week for posts about how to make your own patterns from your favourite pieces of clothing.

Til then, peace out :)

Kat xxx

Saturday, 24 September 2016

How to Make a Circle Skirt | Free Tutorial

Afternoon all! I hope you've all had a lovely week! As promised, here is part two of my circle skirt tutorial. If you have not yet drafted your pattern and want to make this, go here and follow my tutorial. Once you've done this you're more than welcome back into the loving sewing embrace of this tutorial. (That was an odd sentence...) 

What You Will Need

  • 3m - 4m of 45" width fabric, or 2m - 3m of 60" width fabric. (I'd go with a medium weight cotton, and steer clear of stretchy fabrics)
  • 20cm zip
  • A hook and eye (optional, and dependent on your zipper skills)
  • Corresponding thread
  • 1m of medium to heavy weight fusible interfacing
  • Pattern pieces from previous tutorial

Let's just remind ourselves what we ended up with after we made our pattern pieces:
We have piece 1, which needs to be cut on the fold; pieces 2 and 3 which are cut from the same pattern piece, and the waistband which is also cut on the fold.

Layplan and Cutting
1. How you devise your layplan depends on what the width of the fabric is. My sister's circle skirt was 45" width, and so the layplan looked like this. 45" width fabric is more common when it's the pretty patterns you're likely to want to use for a circle skirt, so hopefully this helps!
The waistband got cut from a length of scrap after this. Whether or not this works for you depends on your waist size and the length of the skirt, so you may have to alter things if it's not fitting.

However, the one I made for this tutorial was 60" width and I had 2.5m of it, which actually made life less complicated (and more economical).I folded it in half length ways so that piece one could be cut on the fold, and piece two could be pinned and cut to produce two pieces of fabric. Like so:

Cut all the pieces out (my favourite bit!) and you're ready to sew!

Sewing the Skirt

1. Sew the front skirt to the back skirt pieces at the side seams with a 1.5cm seam allowance. I sewed my skirt and my sister's using French seams, which gives it a nicer finish but it isn't necessary! Leave the centre back seam unstitched at this point.

Press open the seams on each side.

2. Affix the fusible interfacing to your waistband. My mum calls this iron on Vilene. Resist the urge to sing Iron-On Vilene to the tune of 'Come on Eileen'.

Step 3
3. Along the length of your waistband, fold up and press 1cm from the edges, like you're hemming it. Do the same on the other side. Now fold the waistband in half along the width and press, so each hem is meeting.

4. Fold the waistband again gently lengthways and give it a wee press to find the centre. Match the centre of the waistband up with the centre fold of the front skirt, right sides together, and pin from the centre to each end of the waist of the skirt.

Step 4
Step 4

5. Now, stitch the waistband onto the skirt right sides together along the pressed fold line. Take this slowly and steadily, as waistbands are a pain to take out and redo if they're wobbly.

6. Press seam up towards the rest of the waistband (I originally wrote wardrobe, brain fart...).

7. So, this was the first circle skirt I made where I inserted zip before I finished the waistband. I was a bit sceptical but thought it might eliminate some difficulties I've had with zips before, and to my delight it did! It's the best zip insertion for me yet and I am so happy it was on a skirt I was making for someone else!

Place the zip where you want it and then mark where the end of the zip is onto the centre back seam. Once this is done you want to sew the centre back seam from the hem up to this mark using a 1.5cm seam allowance. Once this seam is stitched you can start inserting your zip.

Insert the zip with the top of the zipper tape just going past the fold of the waistband. This way it'll be sewn to the very top of the waistband and you won't actually need the hook and eye. If you find you've done it too low though and there's a gap at the top then just pop a hook and eye on and it won't make a great deal of difference.

Tack your zip first in different coloured thread so that you can easily take these stitches out once the machine stitches are done. 
 My only tip for zips is to tack them first, for all other advice with them go to YouTube or give it a Google, as they rarely go so well for me!

8. Now, with the zip in fold the waistband over so that it meets your first waistband seam and hides it. Pin it in place.

 Now, top stitch the waistband in place, either along the first seam so no stitches are visible or as a neat top stitch about half a centimetre from the bottom of the waistband. I did the latter on this skirt and as it's level all the way along it has a nice effect!


Hemming a circle skirt is notoriously difficult as the whole hem is on a curve and tricky to make the same length all the way around. In order to do this correctly I have tried many things, I've put it on Matilda the mannequin and measured and pinned meticulously for hours all the way around; my mum and I have fashioned together a sewing plumb line out of a box of staples and a scrap of fabric (doesn't work); I've laid down on the floor and looked right up the skirt with a spirit level. Finally, the most simple technique worked. I make life difficult for myself.

Get out your ironing board and rotate the skirt around, measuring the desired length from the waistband to the hem all the way round, plus 1cm for the hem. Work round, marking as you go, then go round again folding, pressing and pinning the hem in place, making tiny snips into the hemming allowance to reduce the bulk.

THEN! GET A HEMMING FOOT! This was the first time I'd ever used mine and it made a beautifully level hem that didn't gather or anything. Seriously, I was blown away! Keep to a 1-1.5cm hem, as too thick a hem will affect the way it hangs.

And with that, you're done! I add in this little label to the things I make for other people, until I get Sew Well Travelled ones made that is.

If you use this tutorial to make your own circle skirt please send me pictures on my social media profiles, which are linked at the top of the blog. OR, if you really don't want to make your own, visit my Etsy shop where you can commission me to make one for you (for a very good deal, taking into account the cost of fabric and the time it takes!)

Let me know how you get on, and until next time lovelies!

Kat xx

Sunday, 18 September 2016

How To Draft Your Own Circle Skirt | Free Tutorial

Evening all! 

So this year I have taught myself how to draft my own patterns in a way that makes sense to me, which is pretty amazing! So as this was requested by a fellow seamstress I thought I'd do a tutorial on how I draft and make my circle skirts. This is part 1, where I will focus on drafting the pattern pieces using your own measurements. Part 2 will come later this week and will be all about making the actual skirt! So let's jump right in...

What You Will Need:
Pattern drafting paper (or A3 paper and a good glue stick)
A ruler (I had to edit this post as I actually forgot to include this!)
A set square or a protractor
A calculator (unless you're excellent at dividing by decimals in your head)
A large table or area of hard floor
Patience and flexibility
About 1 hour

Optional extras include a cat who doesn't like your attention being on anything but him.

STEP 1. Measure
You need to take your waist measurement and the desired length of the skirt. I take the waist measurement snugly so I can just fit 2 fingers between the tape measure and the waist. This way it will hug the body when worn and accentuate your waist. To take the length of the skirt, measure from the point of your waist down to where you want it to stop. For the one I was making it was 67cm, which stops at my friend's knee. But obviously, everyone is different!

STEP 2. Draft

1. So I don't use pattern paper or anything for circle skirts, since the pieces are so large it would cost a fortune. Instead I always have a pad of A3 paper on hand and stick about 9 sheets together like so:
People laugh at me when I ask where my "good" glue stick has gone. Some glue sticks are just better than others. 
2. Once all the pieces are stuck together you need to draw a right angle in the corner, it doesn't matter which one!

I knew taking Standard Grade Graphic Communication would come in handy one day!
3. You now have to do some maths magic, and don't get too excited when I tell you that you get to use pi. Divide your waist measurement by pi (or 3.14 if you don't have a pi button) and then by 2. This will give you the radius of the circle which will form the waist of the skirt. I usually round it to 1 decimal place, but I don't think it would cause too much difficulty if you rounded it to the nearest whole number.

4. Draw from the point of the right angle straight lines which are the length of your radius. (This was a really difficult instruction to phrase... see photo below)

Label the right angle A, the vertical line B and the horizontal line C

Like you're drawing a triangle basically but don't join the points to make it one. 

5. You then need to take your radius and mark a series of points from your right angle between the space B to C. This will form a curve.

Join the dots (YAY!) and you have your waist for your skirt (DOUBLE YAY!).

6. Now draw a straight line from points B and C - this line should match your skirt length with about 2cm added for seam allowance. Label your new points D and E. 

You should now have a corner called A; waist labelled BC; a straight line BD and another CE.

7. Repeat the join the dots interval measurement trick that we did with the waistline to create a curved hem for the skirt. 

8. Now add a 1.5cm seam allowance to line CE. You can do it from point A to E if you want but we don't actually need to talk about A anymore. A can go.

9. Add a fold line to line BD like this one here:
10. Cut out and copy this exact pattern onto another piece of pattern paper, but with adding the 1.5cm seam allowance to BOTH lines (CE and BD) this time. 
If it helps you keep track, the first pattern piece we made (with the fold line) can be labelled front skirt and piece 1; and the second pattern piece can be labelled back skirts and pieces 2 and 3. Pieces 2 and 3 are cut by cutting 2 pieces of fabric but not on the fold, as we need that centre back seam for the zip.

STEP 3: Make the waistband:
Take your original waist measurement and add 8cm to this. This is because of stuff to do with pi which I don't fully understand but intend to work out! Draw a rectangle which is this measurement divided by 2 (in my case 87cm + 8cm = 95cm/2 = 47.5cm ) by 12cm. You can change the 12cm around if you want a wider or narrower waistband, I just think 12cm is a nice width). Add a fold line to one of the shorter sides to the rectangle so that you can cut this on the fold.

And once you've done all of that, you should be left with all the pieces you need to make your very own circle skirt which *should* fit you perfectly!

Be sure to check my blog later in the week on part 2 of this tutorial, which is when we will make the actual skirt using these pattern pieces! Til then, happy drafting!

Lots of love,


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The 1950s Pattern Challenge

Sometimes there just isn't the perfect pattern for what you have in mind, that's what myself and my beautiful sister found anyway. As mentioned in my previous post, she had come home with an idea in mind of the shirt and skirt ensemble that she wanted and challenged me to create it for her. As you will have seen in my last post, pattern drafting/hacking was completely new to me and I sat staring at the 'pattern drafting paper' (I'm too stingy for the real stuff, so use greaseproof instead) for probably several hours in total. I created my own instructions and I pinned and tucked on a mannequin for quite some time before I even got up the guts to cut the fabric out.

My intention had been to hack Simplicity 6107 and just add a collar. Unfortunately, and I'm not sure why, this didn't quite work. So instead, I only used the position of the darts from the commercial pattern and the rest was drafted by myself. I'm not sure, but I think that's how pattern blocks are used? Maybe I should get a block or something. Maybe I should find out what that actually is...

When all this was finally done I worked out my own layplan, took a deep breath, and started cutting out the fabric. The collar is the isosceles triangle on the fold, which was made by measuring from the centre back to where the button stand started. In future I would taper the collar more as it met the buttons, as this part caused me issues in the final fit. Due to intense paranoia, I put it all on the mannequin again before tackling sleeves or anything. I quite liked how it looked like this and decided to make my own sleeveless and collarless version in the same fabric once it was done!

I was happy, added the sleeves, tackled with the collar which was faced with heavyweight interfacing. I folded over a seam for it and kind of slotted it onto the neckline. Once the sleeves were added, my sister came home for a fitting and we decided to shorten them. I then drafted another heavily interfaced cuff to add to the sleeves, so that she could roll them up and still have the right side of the fabric showing. Like so...

Cuff down
Cuff 'rolled' up

All that was left after that was to add the adorable buttons and attach hooks and eyes to avoid the neckline being a bit sexier than intended. And this is it finished!

Teamed with the circle skirt I made first for the whole outfit the whole finish is simply stunning. The yellow of the skirt really draws out the shirt fabric and we have coordinating buttons on the shirt for the finish. I also made her a matching wired headband in the skirt fabric and we used the prettiest daisy button ever to be made to finish it.

"Look nonchalant"

The smile on her face made the stress worth it
Heather has ordered a petticoat online to add some oomph and flounce and other exciting words to the spin of her skirt.

Nearly two years ago I started sewing again, and in January 2015 I sat down and shouted at my first commercial dressmaking pattern in confusion and panic. I never thought back then that I'd still be dressmaking, never mind drafting and fitting a whole outfit to someone else. When it was finished and she put it on I was not only beaming with pride but also nearly tearful. This was the result of a lot of hard work and is proof of how far my skills have come. Dressmaker fo' life.

And if you read that little cheesy paragraph... here's your reward, because it's wrong to make a circle skirt and not do this...

I've also had a request on reddit to digitise and publish the pattern that I made for this shirt, so expect that on Etsy soon! (which, in teacher language, means October half term now...)

Til next time loves,

Katharine xxx

Friday, 12 August 2016

Pattern Drafting by A Newbie

Afternoon all!

My sister recently came home all excited because she'd seen a beautiful outfit in the window of a shop in York called Bowler Vintage. However, she couldn't justify the cost of it and so decided that I could make it for less money (she clearly was never intending on paying labour costs!)
This is the outfit...

She wants the outfit on the front mannequin.

So we journeyed to our favourite fabric shop and she picked out some beautiful fabric for the top and skirt, saving £35 in the process. The skirt is your basic circle skirt which I am extremely proud of as I drafted it all myself (see previous blogpost) and it's turned out beautifully. I am extremely proud of the drape on it and keep looking at it in awe.

However, the shirt is proving to be a bit more difficult. Heather was confident that I could just hack a previous pattern rather than buy a commercial one for it, I am less confident about it.
I'm hacking Simplicity 6107 (B), pictured below, but as it has a yoke and I need to add a collar I am completely drafting in the dark with it all.

I am currently at this stage with it. I have copied the pattern pieces for all components, but need to add a collar, button stand and turn ups to the sleeves. I'm not at all sure if I'm doing it right and am absolutely terrified of actually cutting it out in case I ruin it. So I suppose what I'm asking is - HELP!!!! How do I do this? Would it be better to buy a commercial pattern? And does anyone know of the perfect pattern? I am desperate to make it but terrified too.

If you have any help you can share your wisdom in the comments on here or on social media using the buttons above!

Thanks, and lots of love,


Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Matryoshka

I am very excited to share my most recent creation with you all as this is something I am incredibly proud of. I have always wanted to make a circle skirt, but thought I'd need miles and miles of fabric to do it. Turns out, I managed to make one with only 2m of fabric!
The fabric, £5 a metre from Hobbycraft, consists of a series of different Russian Dolls. I have always loved Russian (Matryoshka) dolls since I was a child and fell in love with the fabric as soon as I saw it.

I decided to draft a pattern myself, and using the instructions from an old issue of Love Sewing created the pattern pieces for a circle skirt, adding a button down element to the front (yay, no zips!). So, I measured my waist and hips, and the length I wanted the skirt to be, I divided my waist by pi (pi, in a real life context, did you ever think you'd see the day?!) to find the radius and drew a right angled triangle with the sides the same length as my waist radius. From there, I curved the line between the two radius points to make the waist, and then extended the sides the make my skirt the desired length, and curved the line between the two points again. I copied this template to make two and added 8cm to one side for my button cover. 
I don't think the above makes the best sense, but once you start doing it you kind of see where you're going with it. 
So I did the cutting and somehow the way it was cut caused all the Russian dolls to face different directions all the way round, a very cool and almost trippy effect! 

I'm not sure you can tell that well from the above picture but the dolls kind of spin as you move round the skirt.

The skirt fastens with two buttons on the waistband and then has 7 down the front. Each button was covered in matching fabric (each with a different doll on!) and I fully mastered buttonholes with this project! I couldn't figure out how to make them with my machine so I just hand sewed them all, I also hand sewed the waistband as my machine had a hissy fit and I lost it!

The skirt was finished and ended up being 4 inches too big. I don't know how!!! So rather than taking out my beautifully sewn French seams I just moved the buttons, and I can continue to do this as my waist gets smaller. There will still be the same amount of fabric and spin, but just a better fit.

I have to say that I am incredibly proud of this project. Everything I usually make is rushed as I'm always eager to wear it, but this time I took my time and care with it. I was determined to make it Patrick Grant ready and my goodness it's made me even happier with it. I can't wait to wear it out with my beautiful new heels that I bought for graduation. The best thing about the skirt though? How it looks when I spin, I love it!

My next project is a full on 1950s outfit for my sister. Circle skirt and a shirt with a deep neckline and collar. 

Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading :)

Til next time, happy crafting!

Kat xx

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

8 Things To Do When Life Gets Tough

So, this is a bit of a different one for me, but I thought it might help some readers. Without going into too much detail, I have had a very rough month with things just getting darker and darker. However, I am a proactive bean and I know when I am in a bad way and what will help me get out of it. So I thought I'd compile a list of things which are proven to get me out of sad moments like this, and god dammit they work pretty well...

1. Go Away
First off, you need to get away. It's amazing how much a change of scenery can help your thought processes - different people, different environments - to me, it's the ultimate cure. I have just graduated and after the year I've had all I need is a holiday, but being short on cash and without a valid passport I decided to book something within the UK. And where better to go than home? I'm off to Aberdeen in 3 weeks and I know it's going to do me the world of good. Going away will allow you to come home with fresh eyes on whatever situation you may be in. It'll remind you of why you are where you are, and maybe even remind you of your bigger ambitions. Perhaps it'll give you that kick to move on to somewhere new? Whatever it does for you, it's only good. Take the leap - book a cheap flight and a hostel and go out and see the world!

2. Get Healthy
For me, exercise is usually a dirty word. I used to love running but hadn't hit the pavements for a few years... until the other week. The endorphins alone cheered me up a lot and it actually helped me work out some anger and frustrations. I'm now hooked again and am determined to run 10k by the end of the year. As well as that, knowing that you're taking care of yourself will make you feel more positive, more awake, and more hopeful. I'm not sure how it does it, but it does. Even if it's just switching toast for cereal, little steps can help you feel brighter and better about yourself.

3. Quit
So, not in a bad way... but quit the negativity in your life. If you have a think about the people in your life, is there anyone that just drags you down, or tries to make every situation a negative one? If so, it's time to cut them loose. Of course, it may not be a person, for me it was a habit that was dragging me down and making me feel rubbish about myself. Quitting is hard, but it's so so worth it.

4. Broaden Your Horizons
Is there anything you've ALWAYS wanted to do? For me, one of them anyway, it's to go to India. I don't care what anyone says about the dangers, it's on my bucket list and job situation come September permitting, my best Pani and I are doing it next summer! Maybe it's a new hobby or sport? I've always wanted to learn how to dance and have resolved to start lessons after my first paycheck because you know what? LIFE IS TOO SHORT NOT TO DANCE.

5. Always Have Something To Be Excited About
Maybe it's a big trip to India, maybe it's wearing your new lipstick? It could be having a bath at the end of the day, or treating yourself to a bar of Galaxy. Nothing is too small to get excited about. When you're depressed it's easy to get blind sighted by everything that's going on in your personal life and forget the world out of your bubble. If you have one thing a day that takes you away from that soon you'll start looking for things to get excited about, until your life is one excitable ball of excitement. Like one of those huge bubbles that street performers create. NOTHING is as exciting as seeing one of the giant bubbles.

6. Make Lists
The idea of staying in bed all day watching Jezza and eating crisps is very appealing at times, but it's not going to do you any good at all. There's always something to be done but it's hard to think about them when you're low. If you force yourself to make a list for the next day right before bed, you'll earn that slob time (which I agree is necessary when you're feeling rubbish, but in moderation). Even if the list consists of find scarf, paint nails and cuddle cat it's still better than lying in bed doing nothing.

7. Avoid Alcohol
All I've wanted to do these past few weeks is have a glass of wine and forget about it all, but I know it'll only make everything worse the next day. Alcohol is a depressant, and is not the solution (this is coming from a Scot too!). Believe me, go for a run or a walk or a swim. The pain you feel after a good workout is never as bad as a hangover and you'll feel amazing about yourself rather than suffer from hangover guilt.

8. Believe That It Will Get Better
It's the hardest thing to do out of all of these, especially when things feel bleaker than ever. You may be sick of people telling you it'll all be ok and that things are meant to be. Platitudes just don't work sometimes... BUT they are true. Pain is temporary and things always happen to pave the way to even better and brighter things. It may not seem like it right now, but your life is about to get AMAZING. All you need to do is stick around to see it happen. And that's my main point - stick around - you'll miss something amazing that's about to happen to you if you don't.

If this helped anyone at all then I've done my job. I know writing it alone has helped me.

Stay strong and happy, lovelies.

Lots of love, 

Next On Sew Well Travelled: My Russian Doll Circle Skirt! Come back on Friday 29th July to find out more :)

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Half Term

Well hello there my fine wee corner of the internet, I'm back!

This year I have really had to prioritise things, which has meant that I have had to ignore my wonderful wee sewing club here at Sew Well Travelled, and for that I truly apologise. It is currently May half term and my school has two weeks off! Which means I am going to endeavour to do SOME sort of sewing/craft as well as plan the hell out of my LAST TWO WEEKS ON PLACEMENT!!!! That's right guys, I am officially on the home stretch, I made it through the stress that is the PGCE year and have many grey hairs to show for it.

The last few months have been very tough going, I am currently job hunting for September as well as working hard to maintain my grades to get a good pass at the end of all of this. On top of this, in April we bid a tearful goodbye to our wonderful 20 year old cat, Toyah (pictured below).

She was something else was our Toyah but she became severely ill and it was cruel to keep her for our own sakes when she was no longer enjoying life. My mum and I made a resolution to live cat-less for the first time in our lives and we lasted a week. Toyah was such a big part of our family that no one could ever replace her, but our new feline friend has softened the blow. 

His name is Murphy and he is the survivor of what seems like a severe cruelty case, as a result he has a gammy leg, no teeth on the left of his mouth and is extremely needy. Quite a lot for a four year old to deal with! He likes to help me plan my lessons by walking all over the keyboard when he's not getting enough attention.

Aside from my cat news that really is all that's been going on in my life aside from teaching. My current class are amazing characters and I am going to miss them a stupid amount when I leave at the end of June. I still don't have a job but I remain hopeful and tenacious with the process, yet right now I really am looking forward to relaxing a little this summer!

I've got a plan in mind for a top to make this half term using this fabric which I bought at the Sewing fair in Manchester last September.

It's going to be a semi self drafted strappy top, using a pattern from last year's Sewing Bee book. I hacked the pattern last summer to make the dress below and it worked out quite well! I'm thinking of breaking the rules and making the straps in a totally different fabric, just to make it a bit wilder! 

I really need to wear that dress again actually. As well as that I'm going to make a few wee bits and bobs and finally put them on Etsy with the aim to top up my ever diminishing student loan, stay tuned for a link on here! I have a huge stash of fabric that needs to be used up, my first placement class did enjoy choosing from it for their iPad cases at our craft club though!

Anyway, you'll definitely hear more from me this half term, but until then - Happy Sewing Crafters!

Katharine xx