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.

Machine Embroidery Art

I’ve always loved to embroider, it’s something I was taught to do when I was very young.  Over recent years I have seen more and more embroidery done on a machine.  I did think this was cheating to start with and have continued doing it by hand, although a lot of my quilts do have applique that is machined.  But I have become more aware of local Cornish artists such as Poppy Treffry Freehand Machine Embroidery: Learning to draw with your machine who uses machine embroidery to sew seaside scenes onto items such as bags and cushions with ancient Singer machines and thought that maybe I should give it ago before dismissing it.

I was also really inspired by the work of a freehand machine embroiderer called Abigail Mill ( not Cornish) whose embroidered artwork I discovered online.  (I do make it sound as if I spend all day looking online for inspiration which isn’t the case.  Well, maybe it is.)  She uses a white piece of organza for the base of each piece and then layers it with different organza to create the background sky and sea.  This gives a real illusion of depth and it’s something I had to try for myself.   Despite spending a lot of time looking at her art work online I couldn’t quite see how she achieved her results.   So I bought her new book  Applique Art: Freehand Machine-Embroidered Pictures (The Textile Artist) .  This book is beautiful.

I began my machine embroidery with layers of organza and even before I had done any embroidery it looked really effective.  I am not entirely pleased with the background now that I have embroidered it with my machine.  Maybe machine embroidery is not quite my thing!  However, I shall reserve judgement until I have added all the details and have a completed picture.


The initial plan with this one was to applique a seal onto this and maybe a Cornish gig .  However, when we were walking home from lunch the other day we saw a pod of dolphins stranded in the creek next to our house.  Several people had gone in to swim them back out to deeper water and didn’t look in any rush to get out (any excuse really).  It was a hot day and I wouldn’t have minded going in myself but walking home in wet clothes wouldn’t have been as much fun!  So I think I’ll have to put a dolphin or two on my embroidery – when I get around to it.


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.


Basic Black Japanese Pattern Book Review

I didn’t expect to be reviewing another Japanese pattern book so soon, but I found this green top which was made using a pattern from one of my newer books Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe by Sato Watanabe.  I’ve had this book for quite a while but did not notice the detailing on this dress pattern probably because all the designs are in black, hence the name.  That is really the only negative I can find with this book.  It is one of my two favourite Japanese pattern books.  It describes itself as being edgy and I suppose it is when compared to other Japanese pattern books.  I just think it is more stylish and  definitely more to my taste.  The patterns are slightly more confusing than those in other Japanese pattern books due to them being all squashed onto (both sides) of just one sheet.  But I quite like the challenge.

So, here’s my version of this pattern:

This is not at all what I intended.  I had a beautiful piece of fabric lined up.  It was a silk cotton mix in a very pale peach with a slight gold shimmer to it.  (The darts would have shown up beautifully on this fabric, unlike the patterned fabric I ended up using.).  This fabric was tricky.  It did not even like being cut.  I spent ages getting it cut out, measuring and pinning the darts (all six of them).  I was just about to start sewing when I noticed the fabric looked almost transparent in places and when I investigated, it just started falling to pieces.  Hence the change of fabric.  This one is a cotton poplin which might not drape as well as the silk mix but I knew it would stay put while I cut it and I could iron it into nice sharp darts.  Good old cotton.  I did like that other fabric though.

So, when measuring the pattern I thought the boat neck might be a bit too wide, but decided to make it as the designer intended except that I was making a top and not a dress.  The neck is a bit too wide, but still wearable.  I should have made a smaller size and will probably have to do a few alterations to rectify that at some point.  The only other modifications I made were to sew a seam up the back with a small opening and a hand sewn button fastening instead of a zip, to hand sew a rolled hem and to hand sew much thinner bias binding as I prefer a daintier look.

I want to make quite a few of the patterns in this book.

I particularly like ‘a’ the Lace Shirred Blouse, and ‘g’ and ‘h’ both versions of the Whimsical Vest.  I find the names given to the garments amusing as well.






Rolled Hems

Knowing how to sew rolled hems either by hand or using a sewing machine are really useful techniques to learn.  In this tutorial I have included a machine sewing method and two hand sewn versions.

I finish the majority of my blouses, and skirt and dress linings with machine rolled hems.  This method produces a strong, even (but flat) hem.  You need a rolled hems presser foot attachment (you could always just double fold the very edge of your fabric and top sew it using an ordinary foot but this would be fiddly).

This works best on fairly thin material.  First, especially if you have used french seams like me, cut out some of the bulk from the bottom of each seam to enable it to fit into the rolled hems foot.  To get going, double fold a small section of very tiny hem, begin sewing a small straight stitch and then lift your fabric into the trumpet shaped part of your rolled hems foot.  Keep feeding it in as you sew and the machine will automatically fold and hem at the same time.  This is so quick and easy to do.  If you want a rounder machine rolled hem try using a zigzag stitch.  I haven’t used this method because I feel the stitches would be too visible for me.  (That’s just me.)

At school I was taught how to sew rolled hems by hand.  This is my preferred method to use on garments that have visible hems such as a blouse.  This produces a very neat, polished hem.  You could use a whip stitch with this one but the stitches would show.

(Working from right to left.)  Double fold a tiny hem.  Insert your needle into this (with a knot in your thread), pick up a thread or two under the hem and take a stitch from the hem itself.  Repeat this stitch whilst rolling the hem with your thumb.  This really is a very effective technique.  Apparently, my old sewing teacher knew her stuff.

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This is the second technique that I discovered a couple of years ago.  This is the method to use on a scarf or hanky.  It creates an extremely tiny, ’round’ hem.  I don’t feel it is suitable for use on a top due to the distance between the stitches leaving it a less strong, less even hem.  However, that does also make it more decorative for a scarf or hanky.

(Working from right to left.)  Fold a tiny hem (just once, not a double fold) and insert your needle and knotted thread into it.  Pick up a thread or two at the base of the (single) fold, put your needle into the top of the fold next to the previous stitch and bring it out about 1 cm along the fold.  Pick up a thread or two at the base of your hem, insert back into the top of the fold next to the previous stitch and bring it out about 1 cm further along the fold.  Repeat for about five stitches, then pull the thread tight.  This pulls the hem into a small round roll.

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This method does make an impressively tiny, neat hem.

Knitting Baby Booties for a Neighbour.

One of my neighbours is expecting a baby soon and I thought that was a good excuse to knit some more booties.  I spotted this book while looking for ideas, ‘Knitted Booties for Tiny Feet by Catherine Boquerel.  

Product Details

I just love the designs in this book.  The reviews are not good as, apparently, the instructions have a lot of errors (probably due to the translation from French to English) but I found a link for the Knitted Booties Errata so decided it was worth a shot anyway.  I particularly like the look of the booties on the front and they’re the ones I want to knit in some baby merino I have had in my stash for some time.

Although the book should only take a few days to arrive (and I still have a lot of WIP’s that really need sorting), once I had thought of knitting baby booties, everything else was discarded (there is a possibility that I am just avoiding finishing the jumper I have started knitting – it is taking forever)  and I started looking for a pattern for baby ballet pumps.   There are quite a few available but none to my taste.  So, I made some up.  I really need to work on my maths skills.  I was sure they were right.  I checked them more than once.  Then I tested them.  So many mistakes.  But now they are correct and the patterns are in my shop.

Both these baby booties patterns are seamless and neither require stitches to be picked up.   Where possible, I always avoid seams in knitting, and picking up stitches – which really is not difficult, it’s just the thought of it.

The first pair ‘Haf’ (‘Summer’ in Cornish) is knitted in garter stitch and has a knitted I-cord tie to help it stay on.  I was going to put in an optional eyelet row for this in case it was difficult to insert the tie between the stitches, but I had no problems doing that and I felt the tie would stay in much better than if it was threaded through eyelets.

The second pair ‘Kyfvewy’ (‘Party’ in Cornish; they are ever so slightly over-the-top!) is knitted in stockinette stitch, has a diagonal button loop stretching from near the heel, and a flower on the front.  Again, other than attaching the button and flower, and weaving in the ends, there is no sewing involved; the whole thing, including the button loop is knitted in one piece.  The green and pink ones are quite pretty but not exactly as I had planned (but hopefully my neighbour will like them) , so I have altered the pattern slightly and I am happy with the finished result.

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.

Tea Leaves Cardigan

I have knitted quite a few cardigans recently. I made this cardigan a few months ago from a beautiful pale pink soft merino which has a reputation for stretching in the wash.  I actually put this cardigan in the washing machine and I’ve not had any problems.  My alpaca and merino mix cardigans get hand washed, but the merino is fine in the machine as long as you put it in a net bag to keep it confined.

Melissa LaBarre’s Tea Leaves Cardigan is a really simple pattern suitable for a beginner knitter.  You do have a lot of stitches on the needle when doing the yoke but you only need to know a few basic stitches and techniques.  I could happily knit this one with lots going on around me without the worry of losing concentration and going wrong (I usually need complete silence when I’m knitting).  This could be my go to cardigan pattern when I don’t want anything too involved!  A lot of other people feel the same way.  More than two and a half thousand people have posted their copies of this cardigan on Ravelry.

There was a similar pattern on Ravelry for a short sleeved jumper called Ruched Yoke Tee by AnneLena Mattison which is knitted in a double knit yarn.  I really liked the keyhole at the neckline but I didn’t want a short sleeved version as I have lots of T-shirts and can’t be bothered to knit one.  But I really like that keyhole and this pattern is easy to knit like the Tea Leaves Cardigan so I have started knitting one in a pale pink cotton merino, but with three quarter length sleeves.  I usually only knit cardigans; I can’t remember the last time I knitted a jumper.  It is taking forever.  It shouldn’t be.  It is knitted in the round using stockinette stitch, so I just have to keep knitting.  No purling.  But it’s still very slow going (I do realize that’s only me as nearly everyone else on Ravelry has said it was a quick knit for them) and I keep getting side tracked with other projects like darted tops and baby booties patterns.  I really have to finish it.  Just one more waist decrease, then increasing again for the hips.  The worrying thing is that my next planned project is in 4 ply.  Perhaps I should put that off for a while and do a quick aran knit first.  Or perhaps I should stop thinking about what else I want to knit and just finish this one!

Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

Solar Dyeing Results

So, the moment of truth.  A whole month has passed since putting my solar dye jars out in the sun and at last I can find out what, if anything, has happened to my fabric.

A couple of days in: To start with the spinach dye smelt like farmyard manure, so I thought it was probably best not to put my lovely fabric in it, so discarded that solution.  Fortunately my fennel plant had grown enough to harvest some leaves.  I just put them in a net bag on top of the sea water and soya mordanted fabric in a jar and added water.  Even the next day I could see the fabric had turned to a lovely pale green/ yellow – perfect.  The avocado one has gone a peachy colour – not quite the ‘flesh pink’ promised.  The plum skin dye has already turned the fabric a gorgeous dusky pink.  I hope that lasts and I’m not really sure about the purple onion skins in the last jar.  The water is a red colour, but the fabric looks taupe?  The onion skins were the replacement for the black beans.  I researched them some more and discovered that they prefer a cold dyeing process.  So, I put some more beans in a large dye pot with cold water and left it for 24 hours before removing the beans (which were in a net bag) and adding some fabric which had had an alum and soda crystal mordant the previous day.  I left this for another 24 hours.  After a few hours it turned a beautiful mauve (gorgeous and I probably should have removed it at this point) but when I checked again the following morning hoping it would be more intense, it had turned a vibrant blue, still lovely but not what I wanted, so I added bicarbonate of soda and it changed to a sage green.  Very pleased with that.  I know it looks grey in the pictures but it is sage green.  Actually, in these pictures the blue does look really nice.

So, a month on:

The jars all look lovely.

I hung all the fabrics up to dry in the shade and decided not to wash them until after they have been stored for a few months.  The first jar I emptied was the purple onion skins – a very strong onion smell!  I’m not sure what you would call the colour, (an orangey brown?) but I like it.  I painted a pattern with an egg resist onto this fabric before it was dyed and this shows up as a dark brown.  It will be interesting to see how this alters when the fabric is washed.

The avocado dyed fabric, which also had an egg resist painted on came out a lovely pink colour with dark pink flowers and it didn’t smell too bad.  The third one, the plum skins, was the slightly disappointing one.  It had faded a bit from when I last checked it and was even paler than the avocado dyed fabric, but was still pretty and it had a really lovely plum smell.  Now, for the fennel.  Maybe if I had added more fennel foliage it would have turned out  with more of a green tinge, as it had appeared after the first day in the sun.  As it is, it came out pale yellow and slightly mottled.  I will definitely use this fabric if I can get rid of the aroma of fennel combined with eau de farmyard manure!!  I think I might need to store it separately from my other fabrics.




Lettuce Hem and Invisible Lock Stitch Hem

Everyone needs a reliable hand stitch for hemming.  This is the one I use the most.  It is resilient, as it is a catch stitch so each stitch is locked into place and it has the added bonus of being virtually invisible from the front of the garment.

To make the stitches in this hem as hidden as possible you need to remember three things:

  • Match your thread to your fabric.
  • Only pick up one or two threads with your needle.
  • Make sure your needle is parallel with the fabric grain.  This ensures your thread is laying next to the thickest thread in the weave of the fabric, which will disguise it.

First, either finish the raw edge, fold and press the hem or, as I do, double fold and press the hem.  Finishing and folding the hem once will produce a more inconspicuous hem.  However, I still prefer to not have any visible stitches if possible and I like a hem to have a good weight.  Then fold the hem back so that you can just see the edge and pin in place.

Working from left to right, attach your thread to the hem allowance, then take a smallish stitch from the hem allowance to the right of this.  Start to pull the thread through, catching the thread as you do so.  Then repeat to the right of that stitch.  As an experiment I did the first half of my hem in a matching cream thread and the second half in a bright red to stand out.

When the fabric was turned to the right side, I could not see the cream stitches at all and I could just make out one of the red ones, and on the reverse of the fabric the stitches are completely hidden.  This really is my favourite hemming technique.

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The machine stitched hem I have chosen this week is the lettuce hem.   This is really just an excuse to play around with this hem as I have been dying to use this technique for years but haven’t had a reason.  It would be useful for a very full fifties style skirt or underskirt, or a child’s party dress or a fancy dress outfit.  I am demonstrating two versions.  The first one is the fun one using fishing line.  (Yes, actual fishing line from an angling shop.)  The second version has been done accidentally a million times while machine rolling a hem using delicate or slightly stretchy fabric!

Fold a small hem over some fishing wire and using a zigzag stitch sew over the edge of the fabric sandwiching the fishing wire.  I’ve found the way that works best for me is to hold the threads fairly taught at the back.  Trim away the excess hem (a bit more carefully than I have done) et voila, a super curly hem.

The second one is basically the same technique without the fishing wire, but you need to make sure you hold onto those threads and keep them very taught, exactly what I said not to do in my stretch fabric post as it causes any delicate, knit or stretch fabric to stretch and pucker.  In this instance that is the look we’re going for.  It produces a much more subtle, delicate effect than the fishing wire lettuce hem, suitable for an evening dress or nightie.

Next week I will be revealing the results of the solar dying!

Tailor’s Ham and Sleeve Roll

Apart from my sewing machine, my iron is the most useful item I have when it comes to producing a decent finish in a garment.  Some very strange looking seams suddenly look perfect once ironed and a quick press somehow makes seams match up when they didn’t before.  But sometimes it is just so fiddly to iron curves and sleeves on a flat ironing board and if I had a mind to steam shrink shoulder seams to fit (up to this point I really haven’t felt the need) it would be impossible with only an ironing board.  I used to have a tailor’s ham and a sleeve board which came with an old ironing board but they vanished a long time ago.  No idea what happens to these things.

About a year ago I tried looking for new ones.  Apparently they seem to only be made in tartan which wasn’t really the look I was going for, so I ended up making myself a tailor’s ham and a sleeve roll and they have proved invaluable.  They cost next to nothing.  Actually, they did cost nothing. The inner linings were made from scraps of material (old calico left over from toile making) from my cupboard, the outer covers were left over bits of cushion fabric and the stuffing was some sawdust which I had in my shed for the chickens’ bedding.

So here is a really, really easy way to make a tailor’s ham and a sleeve roll for yourself.

The pattern pieces are at the end of this post.  Apologies for the hand drawn, rustic, faded quality.  Print up the pattern pieces to the size you want, each of my pieces fitted onto an A4 piece of paper.  Glue or tape the pieces together.  There is about a 1 cm seam allowance.  Cut out the fabric and lining and place each lining piece on the corresponding main fabric piece and treat each section as one piece of fabric.

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For the sleeve roll, fold the fabric, which you have backed with lining, in half longways with right sides together.  Sew all along the side leaving about a 10 cm gap in the middle for stuffing.

For the tailor’s ham, place the two main pieces, which you have backed with lining, right sides together and start sewing 1 cm from the bottom corner and continue up to the top and down the other side until you get 1 cm from the bottom corner.  Then pin and sew the bottom piece, which you have backed with lining, to the lower edges of the ham leaving about a 10 cm gap for stuffing.

For both the sleeve roll and the tailor’s ham, stuff very full with sawdust.  It is helpful to have something like the handle of a wooden spoon to push the sawdust down because you need to get as much sawdust in as possible.  When you really can’t get any more in, pin the gaps closed and hand sew together with extra strong thread.  It’s best to sew one way, fasten off the thread, and then sew back the other way as this seam will be put under a lot of pressure.



Next week I hope to start a series on hemming; two hems a week.  Most of us have one or two hemming techniques that we fall back on time and time again and we never look into other ways that might produce a better result.   I aim to show you a machine hem and a hand stitch hem a week.