Binding A Neck Opening

Some of my new girls’ tops patterns have an opening at the neck but no seam, and need to be bound.  I have noticed online that people are very inventive in how to deal with this situation, some with more success than others.  I haven’t seen anyone use the traditional tried and tested way, which is a shame because it produces really good results and is not difficult to do.  So I thought I would share this technique with you and a variation of it.

I have used two different colours for the main fabric and the binding and also a contrasting colour for the stitching so you can see what I’ve done.  They will look so much better in the same fabric with matching thread.  In fact, you will hardly notice it at all and you won’t have a gap in your fabric, just an opening which closes completely.

First measure and draw a line on your fabric in tailor’s chalk where the opening is going to be (but don’t cut it).


Cut some bias binding (on the diagonal) four times the width of your finished binding.  (I want my binding to be 6 mm wide, which is tiny but good practice for sewing children’s clothes, so I have cut my bias binding 24 mm wide.)  Iron the binding flat.  You will need to cut two strips about 1 cm longer than your drawn line.

Place one strip on your fabric with one edge along the chalk line and pin.  Repeat the other side of the chalk line with the second strip.  Next sew the first strip to the fabric 6 mm away from the line.  Repeat with the second strip.

Cut along the chalk line to about 6 mm from the bottom, then turn the fabric over and clip a small diagonal cut into each corner leaving a triangle at the bottom, being careful not to cut your binding strips.


Double fold the bias binding over to the back of the fabric and hand sew in place around the cut raw edges.  (If you wish to machine sew them, cut them 2 mm wider initially, make sure they cover the stitching at the back and stitch ‘in the ditch’ from the front.)


From the front, lift the fabric and push the small triangle through to the back.  Sew a line of stitching across the triangle and both strips of binding.  This forms the base of the opening.

You now have a neatly bound neck opening with no gaps.  When I use this on a garment, I then trim the ends of the binding strips and neaten them and the triangle with a row of zigzag stitches – but I am extra fussy, you don’t need to do this!

For the variation you will need your bias binding strip to be four times the width of your finished binding and two and a half times the length of the finished opening.

Start by pinning your strip next to your chalk line.  At the bottom fold the strip at right angles.  Then fold it underneath and back up the other side of the chalk line, forming a triangle at the bottom.

Remaining 6 mm from the line, sew down one side, across the bottom and back up the other side.  Cut along the chalk line and clip into the bottom corners towards the stitching, forming a small triangle as with the first variation.  Push the binding strip through the gap, double fold on the back and hand sew or top stitch in place.

These both work really well and they join all the way down!  I know I’m really picky, but I don’t like to see a gap.  Keyhole neck openings are gorgeous and I often make them, but these straight bound or faced openings can be made without a gap.

CIMG2904  CIMG2899

These techniques are used in my new blouse patterns for girls and can be found in my Girls’ Patterns section in my Etsy shop.  I will be doing a tutorial in a couple of weeks on attaching facings which will also be useful for sewing clothes.



An Elfin Rag Doll

My second rag doll pattern is now available in my shop.  This one is an elfin-like, quirky doll.  I just love her striped legs.  (Not that she has to be made with striped legs.)  I have called her Ailla which is a Cornish girl’s name meaning ‘most beautiful’ and I think she really is!

She has a beautifully shaped face and a soft rounded body (but not too round; just right to be carried around by a small person).  I have added slim arms and legs, combined with pointy ears and large pixie boots to update her.  There is also a pattern piece for more realistic ears, so that you have the choice of making a little girl doll or a pixie/elf doll.  I think this pattern lends itself to being made in bright, unrealistic colours such as blue, green or pink for the hair.  Obviously, normal ‘hair’ colours would work just as well but you could also go a bit over board with this one.

Normally if I am making a rag doll, an embroidery, a drawing, or even a cake, I avoid trying to recreate something to look exactly as the real thing – this almost always results in failure and anyway, that’s what photos are for.  However, due to the shape of the face on this rag doll it does really need to have more of a real eye shape (sort of), but larger.  I always find that choosing how to embroider the face is the hardest part of making a doll.  There are so many variations and the slightest change makes a huge difference to the expression and way the rag doll looks.

The fabric I chose for the body, face and arms is a lovely soft, woven cotton especially for doll making and comes in a range of skin tones and a striped quilting fabric for the legs.  But, again, calico would work fine and could be dyed to your chosen shade using tea or coffee.

This pattern is more involved to make than the French-style rag doll.  It still isn’t difficult, there are just extra pieces to make a more rounded, 3D shape and the arms and legs are jointed so that they are re-positional.  There is also more detailed embroidery for the facial features, but obviously they can be simplified.

I have included patterns for her outfit.


A French-style Rag Doll

When I was about nine or ten, I can remember making little rag dolls and soft toys for my cousin Rachel.  At the time I thought they were pretty good, but it’s probably just as well I don’t have any photos of them as they were almost definitely terrible, given that they were made by a small child.  But I loved making them.  My girls always had plenty of homemade dolls and a pink furry flamingo with very long pink felt legs, as I recall!   But I’m not sure they would appreciate them now.  I do miss doing things like that, and in the absence of grand children (despite plenty of not-so-subtle hints), I decided to make some rag doll patterns to put in my shop and I shall give the finished dolls away.

The first one is a French style rag doll, so I have given her a French name, Élodie.  I have made her from calico which is a traditional fabric to use for doll making.  It is natural, cheap, quite firm and can be dyed with tea and coffee to the desired skin tone.  I left mine in its original colour as I wanted a very pale, neutral colour scheme.

In keeping with my use of natural products, I created the hair from cotton yarn (although embroidery silk would also have been good to use) and I used wool for the stuffing.  It is tempting to go into the local fabric shop and buy their toy stuffing off the shelf but I prefer to purchase either scoured wool or kapok as they’re much healthier and won’t melt if it comes into contact with a flame.  It does mean waiting a few days for my order to arrive but that’s the trade off.

This really is a very easy pattern to sew and you can be really creative with fabric use, facial characteristics (mine are simple and not very realistic, which is the way I like it) and decorations.

I have included patterns for two outfits.

Kerenza Dress pdf

Even though it’s pretty manic around here with Christmas being far too close I have finally managed to get another of my girls’ dress patterns ready for sale. Kerenza Cross Front Dress is now in my Etsy shop.  I’m not really sure why it has taken me so long.  I drafted it and tested it over a year ago.

Kerenza means ‘love’ in Cornish and the pattern is in sizes 2-3, 4-5 and 6-7 years.  The front bodice crosses over so that it looks wrapped but it is actually in one piece which is much more secure for a little person while they’re running around.

The version on the front of the pattern has been made with an opening and fastened with a cute little button and rouleau loop but I have put a variation on the dress pdf pattern to make it without the button as the cross over front will allow a child to get it on and off without needing an opening at the back as well.  The sizing on my patterns is quite generous to allow for growth and movement but, obviously if you chose to make it without the back fastening it would be more of a squeeze to get in and out of in a year or two’s time, so might not last quite as long.


I hope people like this dress pdf, it is a popular style with companies selling hand made children’s dresses but none of the pattern companies seem to sell a pattern for people to use at home.

Fingerless Gloves

I like hand knitted fingerless gloves and, unable to find patterns I liked, I decided to make some of my own. I’ve made a few pairs of these recently.  They’re all made from aran weight wool and knitted in the round.  Some are knitted from a really soft merino and some are a mix of alpaca and merino.  I was going to keep them for myself as I like to have unique items that nobody else has, but I have now decided to put the patterns in  my shop.

They are really quick and easy to knit on a circular needle using the magic loop method, or they can be made with DPN’s and there is no sewing to do.   I have recommended the Old Norwegian cast on for them as it is stretchy and neat.  When I was taught to knit I only learnt one cast on method and it wasn’t until about two years ago that I found out there were other ways.  After a bit of research I found Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor.  54 ways to cast on and cast off.  It was a revelation.  This is actually one of the best books I have ever bought and I have quite a few.  It doesn’t have any pretty, colourful pictures. Well, it does have pictures but they are useful ones showing what you can achieve for the various methods; it’s not a pretty coffee table book.  But it covers so many options to cast on and off.  It is spiral bound, so lies flat when you have your hands full of wool and needles, and has really detailed instructions and diagrams for each method.  The only downside, and I’m pretty sure it is the only downside, is that some methods cover two pages so that when you have yarn in one hand, needles in the other, it is virtually impossible to also turn the page to see the next step.  I refer to this book all the time and every knitter should have one.

As with all my patterns, these have Cornish names; Delen meaning ‘leaf’, Kadon meaning ‘chain’ (a cable look without the cable needle), Todnow meaning ‘waves’, Nedha meaning ‘twist’ (another cable look without the cable needle), Mor meaning ‘sea’.



Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  I only recommend books or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Girl’s Dress PDF Pattern

About a year ago I drafted some patterns for little girls’ dresses with a view to turning them into PDFs.  Unfortunately,  just as I had finished about six months worth of work to achieve that the EU, in it’s wisdom, brought in new rules for VAT regarding selling PDF patterns to European countries making it unfeasible to continue.  Luckily, I kept all my work (I could easily have thrown it all in the bin at the time) because Etsy recently emailed me to say that they had put a system in place whereby they would be responsible for collecting and making the VAT payments to the various countries – hooray!!

So, I immediately dug out all my sketches, photos and drafts for the first dress I designed and it is now available in my shop  I’m really excited about this as it’s my favourite out of all my designs so far and  I really hope other people like it as much as I do.

I’ve given all my lingerie and dress patterns Cornish girl’s names.  This one is called Caja which means ‘daisy’.

The Caja dress has a curved bodice at the front and a gathered skirt which makes a very flattering look for a little girl.

The instructions with this PDF pattern include the finishes that I would normally use on a dress, i.e. french seams, deep hand stitched hem, lined bodice with the raw edges concealed within it, rouleau loop (although I often make my button loops from thread) and a covered button to make a very special garment.  Although, obviously you can use any finish that you want.

Lowen Fabric Baby Booties Pattern

A few weeks ago I said I might make a sewing pattern for some fabric baby booties.  Well, here it is.  I have called it ‘Lowen’ which means happy in Cornish.   They can be made from very small amounts of fabric and a short piece of elastic, are equally suited to a boy or a girl and they stay on!

Plenty of Etsy sellers have handmade fabric baby booties in their shops, but few seem to want to sell their patterns.   (I can’t blame them; they can sell the finished booties for quite a lot of money and, once you have a pattern, they are not that difficult to make.)  The Lowen Baby Booties pattern is available in my shop in a printed paper version and also as a PDF.  These baby booties can be made in sizes 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 9-12 months.

No more baby booties patterns planned (for a while anyway) as I need to get back on with knitting my way through my stash and I don’t think baby booties are going to make much of an impact on that!  I have said before that my stash contains about a year’s worth of serious knitting but I think it’s probably nearer to two years worth.  (At least!)  I also need to make myself a dress and jacket for my youngest daughter’s graduation and there is a time constraint on that one.


New Baby Booties Knitting Patterns

Five words I never thought I would say: ‘I’ve made a knitting pattern.’   Well, two patterns because after making one for double knit yarn, I found some nice aran wool in my stash so I made another for that wool.  I’m not really sure why I decided on baby booties, except they are small and it made a change to see something knit up quickly – and they are cute!

They are shaped like small envelopes so I have given them the name ‘Maylyer’ which is the Cornish word for envelope.   They have knitted button loops and buttons to keep them on little feet.

My baby booties patterns are available in printed form and as a PDF at Bramble Patch Designs.  I knitted up a few pairs as well which can also be found in my shop.  I got a bit carried away here and have knitted them in a variety of yarns from organic naturally dyed cotton, to extra fine super soft merino, to an alpaca and silk mix yarn in cream which knitted up really light and fluffy like a little cloud.  Mostly I have used wooden buttons but the alpaca and silk baby booties have oval shaped mother of pearl buttons.  I think they are easy to knit and very quick to do (compared to knitting a cardigan for myself) even for someone who has only just started to learn to knit.

I’m now thinking about other baby booties I could knit; some baby Ugs or ballerina shoes would be nice, and I have an idea for a sewing pattern for some fabric ones.


Sewing Stretch Fabric

I have been working on some lingerie patterns that I would like to share with you.  My husband wanted me to call this post ‘Not around your ankles.’  Always something to bear in mind when making lingerie!

So, this is my first completed lingerie pattern:

I have called it ‘Tegan Lace Shorts Pattern’.  This is probably the easiest pair of lace knickers to make ever as the lace trim already has a nice edging on it and is quite elasticated, so no sewing on extra elastic or hemming!  It is available at Bramble Patch Designs in both PDF and paper format.

There are a few more in the pipeline:

Making my own lingerie hadn’t been something I had thought of doing until fairly recently as it involves sewing stretch fabrics and for years I had avoided sewing with stretch fabrics.  Once or twice I had repaired a T-shirt hem with my sewing machine only to have it tear apart again as soon as I put it on which is when I decided that maybe it just couldn’t be done by ordinary people with ordinary sewing machines.  Now I know how to deal with stretch fabrics and as long as you follow the basic rules it’s not that difficult or scary.

I’ve written this tutorial for anyone who’s found the perfect pattern they want to make only to discover that it needs a scary stretch fabric and, therefore, it was not for them!

You only need four main things to sew stretch fabric:

1. Some form of zigzag/stretch stitch on your machine.

You do not need a specialist machine to work with stretchy material.  A Serger does provide a really good finish if you have one but it’s not necessary.  Any sewing machine with a zigzag stitch can sew these fabrics.  Why a zigzag?  Because each stitch can stretch, so it won’t break, whereas a straight stitch is rigid so if the fabric around it stretches, the stitch will snap.

Some machines have a variety of zigzag stitches, overcasting stitches, stretch and knit stitches which are brilliant.  Mine has a really useful elongated zigzag knit stitch that looks like a lightning bolt which I use a lot and another knit stitch which seams and finishes all in one.  My old machine probably had these too but I haven’t read the manual for about twenty years.  OK, so I’ve just dug out my old manual and it does have several stretch stitches!  Check your sewing machine manual to see what your machine is capable of, you might be very pleasantly surprised.  Most sewing machines can do an awful lot more than most of us realize.  But, even if your machine can only do plain straight and zigzag stitches, you’ve got everything you need.  For example picot edged knicker elastic is first attached on the right side of a garment using a straight stitch, flipped back to the wrong side, then zigzagged in place:

A standard straight stitch and a twin needle creates a very professional and stretchy coverstitch for hemming. When sewn from the right side you have two neat rows of parallel stitches, with a zigzag on the reverse:

You can sew seams with a plain zigzag stitch, hem with a plain zigzag and neaten edges with a plain zigzag. (Although most knits do not fray so usually the cut edges can stay as they are.)

2. The correct needle.

If you are sewing stretch lace you will need a fine sharp needle and if you are sewing a knitted fabric such as cotton jersey, elastane, power mesh or tricot you will need a fine ballpoint or stretch needle as a sharp one could snag the fabric.  Remember that if you are using a man made material your needle will dull quicker, so change it frequently.

3. The correct thread.

Use an all purpose polyester thread as it is both strong and flexible.

4. Let the fabric feed itself.

This is important.  If you ‘help’ the fabric through, or pull it – even just to hold the threads so they don’t knot – it will stretch and stretch into a very odd shape:


These two pieces of fabric were the same size and shape.  The one on the left stretched because I held onto the threads, whereas the one on the right was allowed to feed through by itself.

If your machine has a walking foot this is a good time to use it so that the fabric feeds evenly WALKING FOOT WILL FIT, BROTHER, JANOME, SINGER, TOYOTA DOMESTIC SEWING MACHINES , and you might have to experiment with reducing the foot pressure a bit.  Oh, and it helps to have a really sharp pair of scissors for cutting stretchy fabrics.  I’ve just bought a new pair 240 mm Stainless Steel Tailoring Scissors, Superior Quality, Stainless Steel Scissor Blade  and have been both shocked and amazed at the difference they make.  I was looking at the (much) more expensive ones as I want them to perform well and to last.  But these had such good reviews and I decided for the really small cost it was worth taking the risk.  They really are very good.

That’s it really.  It’s not difficult, just different to sewing woven fabric.

This tutorial covers the basics which should be all you need to start sewing your own lingerie.


Happy sewing.