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.

 

Acorns Cardigan

Another completed cardigan and in blue.  I’m not sure what’s come over me; prolific cardigan knitting and using the colour blue!  This wool reminded me of the sea on a stormy day.  (Although yesterday, when we were walking around the cliffs the sea was a brilliant turquoise blue, I am on the lookout for a yarn in just that colour.)  I knitted this from aran weight merino so it’s more of a winter garment, but you never can tell in Cornwall it will probably come in handy in July.

I really enjoyed knitting this cardigan with the acorns around the yoke.  Carol Sunday’s Acorns Cardigan is not a beginner’s knit, not that it is difficult, it just requires a lot of concentration due to the huge variety of stitches and the use of different increases and decreases.  This is my kind of pattern, I loved knitting it.   The yoke did take ages.  It seemed like I had been knitting it for weeks and had very little to show for it.  But once I got onto the body it took no time at all, probably because I could concentrate on the number of rows between increases and decreases which is much better than the usual ‘continue working in stockinette stitch until it measures…’.

I did miss off some of the acorns on the front of the cardigan because I thought it might look better with them just around the yoke, and I think that was a good choice.

A few people on Ravelry have mentioned the confusion with the cuff chart and when I got to that point I realized why.  The designer has been very helpful in converting the chart for working on the wrong side but has reversed the purl and knit symbols, so you have to pretend you are working on the right side, i.e. the empty square is always a knit and the square with a spot in is always a purl.

A lot of people have changed the neckline but I liked that part of the design so I knitted it just as the pattern said.  I probably should have taken more notice of their comments on the button band.  Even before I put it on I could see that it would gap and it does (although not so much when I put it on my tailor’s dummy because she doesn’t move) so next time I will possibly alter the number of stitches I pick up, and use extra buttons.  (I have already bought some extra olive coloured buttons for that purpose.  But that is several projects away.)

 

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

I have always been intrigued by using things from the garden and recycling things you would normally just throw away.  My garden is not large enough to live off, a small holding would suit me better – maybe one day.  A couple of years ago I started researching natural dyes and had a few (unsuccessful) attempts at dyeing wool on my stove.  I say unsuccessful but had I been aiming for a dark grey then I could say I achieved my goal but I was not aiming for grey, dark for otherwise!  It was also quite labour intensive and probably used a lot of electricity as well.  So a few weeks ago when we were clearing out the attic I found my old aquarium and thought it would be ideal for a solar oven and while I was online looking for ideas on how to do that, I noticed a lot of people were using old jars, which seemed a lot easier and meant I could get started straight away.   The aquarium will still be useful for larger items.  Further research is called for, but for now it is quite happy sitting on the patio.

From my previous attempts at dyeing wool in a large saucepan on the stove I found the dye material was difficult to remove from the dye and got stuck to the wool.  This time I have chopped up my dye material, put it in a net laundry bag in the jar with hot water and left it in the sun for a few weeks.  When the dye is ready the bag can just be removed and emptied.  I have decided against dyeing wool at the moment (I probably have enough yarn in my stash to last about two years) but thought it would make a nice change to have some naturally dyed fabrics to sew with.  I make my own clothes to have something different to everyone else but then I buy the same commercially dyed fabrics that everyone else has.   Due to the unpredictability of natural dyes each batch will be unique.

I decided to get going with four dyes from things I had in the house and garden.  Spinach leaves for a yellow/green colour, plum skins for a deep pink/purple, avocado skins and stones for a pale pink, and black beans for a blue.

Then a late frost was forecast so I brought them inside for a couple of days.

It has become apparent that the black beans are not producing any dye colour, so I’m going to discard that one and either try again or find a different dye material entirely.

Meanwhile, I have dyed some cotton fabric on my stove top using turmeric for some almost instant results. Turmeric does not require a mordant and is good for dyeing plant material like cotton (apparently).  I soaked the cotton fabric for a few hours.  I mixed the turmeric powder (a whole jar) with a small amount of water to make a paste then added it to a large saucepan with enough water to cover my fabric and simmered it for an hour.  Then I put my fabric in the dye, simmered it for another hour and then left it to stand for the rest of the day.

OK, so this was not a total success.  I could say this was the effect I was going for but I would be lying!

In the pot it looked a lovely deep orange and when I rinsed it out (several times until the water went clear) it still looked a lovely deep orange.

So far, so good.  Except that it did smell very spicy, so I gave it a cool machine wash with my Ecover non bio and…

…not orange!  So, I probably won’t be making a fabulous garment from this, but it might be useful for quilting – or I might just re-dye it!  I’ll probably re-dye it.

I should be able to do this.  People have been dyeing wool and fabric for thousands of years.   After more research, I decided to buy Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles by India Flint as there are many mentions of her work online.  I had looked at it previously but it was more expensive than some others, but I now think I should have bought this one first.

Now I know where I’m going wrong!  I really, really wish I had bought this book earlier.  Apparently, boiling your dye stuff to within an inch of its life and adding fabric that has had a  mordant applied only once the previous night with allum or cream of tartar, boiling some more, and expecting to be able to wash and use a newly dyed fabric immediately just does not provide the best result!  So I’m going to take my time and do repeated mordants of alkaline and protein solutions on several fabrics at a time so that I can store them for later use.

In India Flint’s book she describes the best way to treat various different fabrics.  She shares many new techniques she has devised to print flower and leaf patterns onto fabric using fabric bundles and hammering (with a mallet), how to dye with delicate flowers in a technique she calls ice flowers, even a way of using mud.  She also uses many different mordants which are so different from the traditional ones such as sea water (which we have here in Cornwall in abundance) and soya milk!  She also mentions solar dyeing using jars but she does not see the need to extract the dye first, you just add the (already mordanted) fabric at the beginning.  She says that dyed fabrics need to mature or cure before use and it’s best to let the newly dyed fabric to dry in the shade before even rinsing let alone washing.  That would have been useful to know earlier!

This book is very word heavy and also very beautiful with its muted colour schemes.  I have over simplified the contents of this book.  It is very inspirational.  I’m so excited to get experimenting and I have high expectations of what I will be able to achieve, but I have to remember the keywords: ‘slow’ and ‘time’.  I will update you.

 

 

 

A Simple Quilt Tutorial

I absolutely love quilting.  You can be so creative and imaginative when making quilts and there are so many techniques.  I’m learning new ones all the time.  Mostly, quilting is very time consuming and expensive.  But it doesn’t have to be, you can make a basic quilt in next to no time with very few materials.

I’m going to be making a baby quilt today because it is far easier, you can use fun fabrics and designs, and it is much cheaper.  A full size adult’s quilt generally costs four times the amount a baby’s quilt costs to make.

To make this basic quilt you need about 1.2 m of fabric for the quilt front.  This needs to have some sort of design on such as patchwork or a picture so that when the quilt is completed it looks like you have either spent hours sewing patchwork or applique.  You need about 1.2 m of fabric for the quilt back.  This can either be plain or patterned.  You will also need the same amount in wadding or batting, I use this either 100% cotton or 50% cotton and 50% bamboo (never a synthetic batting), a reel of cotton thread the same colour as your backing and a reel of top stitch thread.   This can match or contrast with your quilt front.  If you want you can use a different colour thread in the bobbin to either match or contrast with your backing fabric to create a different effect on the reverse.

I prewash my fabric and wadding so that it has shrunk as much as it’s going to and, hopefully, every time I wash my completed quilts, they come out the same.  It takes out the uncertainty.  However, if you choose not to do this, when you wash your finished quilt the fabrics and wadding will shrink at different rates creating a slight wrinkled, antique look which can be really effective.  You just have to decide which look you want to go for.

All the quilts I make are made of natural fibres.  I generally prefer to use natural materials anyway, but with baby quilts I never make an exception to this, it’s just not worth it.  There are two reasons for this; firstly, natural fabrics feel nicer against the skin and are breathable.  Secondly, and most importantly, synthetic fibres melt.  You would be unlikely to find a fireman who wears synthetic underwear!  Bamboo, wool and cotton will burn like any other fabric but slower and they won’t melt and weld themselves to your baby.  They do cost slightly more, but not that much more.

The fabrics I have chosen are both cotton poplin which is good for quilting and not as expensive as actual quilting fabric.  The fabric for the front has a patchwork design and the backing fabric is a dark green with small white spots.  The wadding is made from unbleached cotton.

The first thing to do is sandwich the fabric and wadding together.  My quilt back is slightly larger than the quilt front as I am going to use it to bind the quilt as well.  You can pin them together but that takes time.  I use a spray adhesive.  I know this probably seems contradictory to my lecture just now, but this works fantastically well and can be re-positioned as many times as required and then it completely washes out.  I tape my quilt back to the floor so that it is wrinkle free before spraying with adhesive and attaching the wadding and then the quilt front.  I do spend quite a while smoothing out all the wrinkles – another reason I prefer baby quilts.  Full sized quilts take ages to smooth out and I do not enjoy that!

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Next, preferably with a walking foot attached to your machine, WALKING FOOT WILL FIT, BROTHER, JANOME, SINGER, TOYOTA DOMESTIC SEWING MACHINES  (The generic ones are incredibly inexpensive and they make life so much easier.) use a top stitch thread and a long, straight stitch.  Normally, I use a thread which is a very similar colour to my fabric so that the quilting pattern can be seen  but you’re not really aware of the thread itself, however, today I am using a bright pink to contrast with the fabric so that you can see it easily.  Beginning at the centre of the quilt and working out, sew through your quilt sandwich following the outline of your design.  So, if you had a picture of an elephant, sew around the edge of the elephant and it will begin to look like an applique.  As my fabric is a patchwork design I am sewing along every ‘join’ so that it looks like patchwork with stitch in the ditch quilting.  For longevity, your quilt needs as much quilting as possible with only small gaps between.  Your wadding will have information with it suggesting the best spacing for that product.  But always do more rather than less. Whatever stitching you do on the front will be reflected on the back.  Oh yes, and if you are using a patchwork style fabric try to choose one with larger squares than I did because there was a lot of quilting in this one!

When you are happy with the front, trim and square the edges of the quilt front and wadding, BUT DO NOT TRIM THE BACK as this is going to form the binding.

Measure the excess backing fabric around the edge and trim to an equal distance all round.  Mine is 3 cm.

Fold this in half.  You can iron it if you wish.  Then fold it over to the front, mitreing the corners, pin in place and top sew with cotton sewing thread and your walking foot if you have one.  I actually didn’t have the right colour thread for this so used a cream thread instead which, hopefully, stands out slightly less than the bright pink quilting thread.

That’s it, you’re finished.  A very basic, but lovely quilt.

 

 

Sweet Dress Japanese Patterns

I absolutely love Japanese pattern books.  A lot of people have had a meltdown when they’ve unfolded the patterns in some of these books and found that; a) there are about a million patterns on each page, b) you have to trace off all the lines for your garment, c) there are no seam allowances, you have to add these yourself.  For me, these are all bonuses.  I like the fact that I get a whole pile of patterns for very little money.  I prefer to trace off the patterns, so that I can still use the original in another size, and it is far easier to alter a pattern to fit me if it has no seam allowances to take into consideration.  Also, I can then choose the size for my seam allowances without having to work around what’s already there.

These Japanese pattern books are quite brilliant.

The Japanese pattern book I am going to share with you today is Sweet Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori.  Sweet Dress Book: 23 Stylish Outfits from Six Simple Patterns  OK, so most of the models do look really sad and motionless and like they’re wearing clothes belonging to someone far larger than themselves.  (Although this is not the case with my two latest purchases of Japanese pattern books)  I’m not sure if this is just the style they favour or whether they do this so as to provide less distractions from the shape and lines of the garments.  Size-wise I assume they’ve just taken the patterns directly from the books which have been created for the larger western body, so wouldn’t fit the petite Japanese frame.

Each of these books contains a wide range of very usable patterns.  Personally, I can’t imagine making many of these patterns exactly as the designer intended, but they are very adaptable.  (Again, my two new Japanese pattern books are very different from any other in that I want to make a lot of the patterns exactly as the designers intended and I will be sharing these with you when I have made some, my dilemma is which to start with!)  Some of the Japanese patterns generally are very unfitted and would benefit from a dart or two, and sometimes I have to add more width and darts for the bust.  (They are designed for the flat chested.)  But this book has a good variety of patterns with raglan sleeves, set in sleeves, puff sleeves, bishop sleeves, french sleeves, sleeveless and straps.  It has patterns for dresses, coat dresses, blouses, tunics, trousers and playsuits.  Even a cupcake recipe!

So far I’ve used pattern ‘R’ sweetheart-bodice dress to make a top for me, but I didn’t want the gathers so I combined the top of the Japanese pattern with the pattern I made from draping my tailor’s dummy.

I really like this top and have bought more fabric to make another one.  Another of the patterns I will be using is pattern ‘W’ bell-sleeve coat dress.

I haven’t decided yet whether to make it as a short jacket or the length it is in the book, but I will line it and probably change it from a V-neck into a round neck.

Next week I will be quilting and I will be showing you how to make a very simple quilt with no piecing, applique or added bias bindings!

 

 

Peasy Summer Cardigan

It’s nothing short of miraculous.  I’ve finished a summer cardigan in time for summer!

This cardigan pattern, Peasy by Heidi Kirrmaier has been sitting in my Ravelry favourites for months.  I’ve read all the comments people have posted about it and looked at all the photos of their versions.  I think the reason I was stalling was that I was unsure of the sleeves.  I’ve never really gone along with the whole three quarter length sleeve idea and, frankly, I was having difficulty getting past the fact that they reminded me of Spock’s trousers.  Maybe I should try out some cardigans with shorter sleeves though because I do spend all day pushing my cardigan sleeves up my arms!

I’m glad I eventually took the plunge and started this cardigan, but I did do the sleeves very differently from the pattern and I used an alternative yarn as well.  I chose an ice blue cotton which is such a departure from anything I normally use both in fibre and colour.  I usually favour warm fibres and warm, muted colours.  Once I made the decision and bought this yarn, I was ridiculously excited to get it finished.  It is so, so pretty and I just love knitting lace.  So much so that I tapered the cardigan’s sleeves, and added sixteen rounds of lace at the cuff to make them full length.

I loved knitting this pattern.  I did highlight the instructions for my size and jotted a few notes as there were so many things going on at once.  It worked out really well and I have some rust coloured alpaca and merino wool set aside to make another at some point.  There was one downside to this one.  It did use a lot more yarn than stated – a lot more. I usually have at least a ball of wool over at the end of a project but this time I had to buy four extra!

Now we need some more sun so that I can wear it.  My first attempt at getting photos of it ended in disaster as it was too cold and windy out on the cliffs to remove my raincoat or beany, so we had to come back to the garden to take them.

 

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.

 

Inserting an Invisible Zip

This was a bit of a revelation to me.  Things have moved on so much in the sewing and knitting industry.  There are so many ways to sew a zip.  As a child I was taught to sew them by hand using a pinprick stitch.  But I’ve since found there are better ways and better zips.

You need a special zip designed to not show once it’s attached.  The other important thing you need is an invisible zip presser foot which has two channels in to hold on to the zip and to uncurl it as your machine sews a line of stitching really close to it.  You can use an ordinary zipper foot but you have to tack the zip in place securely before sewing and you have to constantly push the presser foot against the zip as you sew.  You can buy very cheap generic presser feet online and it’s definitely worth the investment, it makes life so much easier.    (Unless you have a 9 mm machine like I do and then you have to buy one specifically for that machine and that is VERY expensive, but actually, still worth it! Another difference in the invisible or concealed zip and any other you might have used is that you attach it to your garment first before sewing the seam, which is much easier.

So, first of all you need to finish the raw edges of your seam.  I’ve only done the top bit which will run the length of the zip because I’m going to do a french seam which will all be enclosed.

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The zip needs to be undone and placed face down 1.5 cm away from one edge and pinned in place.

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Then sew along the zip with it inserted into one of the presser foot grooves.

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When you near the zip pull, fasten off the threads and do the zip up before turning it over onto the other side of the seam and pin in place as you undo the zip.

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Then sew down this side with the zip in the other groove of the presser foot.

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Do the zip up and sew the seam below it, holding the zip out the way.

You now have a completed invisible zip which is concealed from the outside.

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These pictures make it look like I only have one arm, but I do have two!

 

Decorative Hemming

Decorative hemming or cheat’s entredeux!  In case you haven’t heard of that, as it is a bit old school, entredeux is a piece of lace that is inserted between two pieces of fabric.  Apparently people used to have time to do that.  It’s no secret that I like lace and have I often look for ways to incorporate it into garments.  This hemming technique combines hemming your garment with a really flat, non bulky hem and a very pretty, decorative strip that looks just like lace.

There are so many ways of hemming a skirt but I find this technique just amazing. This is the type of hemming I used on the duck egg blue spotty fabric on my reversible skirt.

You really do need to practise on a spare piece of fabric first with this one.  It is very scary when you have spent hours sewing a garment and finally got to the hemming and you’re faced with a wing needle which is going to put a row of holes into your lovely handmade item!  But it is so worth it.

So, as I just mentioned you will need a wing needle.

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I can’t stress enough the need to practise on a spare piece of fabric.  I’m generally very slack on this point but I did practise this one – a lot.  I tried several stitches and labelled them all with biro before deciding which one I wanted to use.  Luckily, my machine has a few stitches which are for this purpose.  It also has several stitches designed for other uses but I found they worked very well for this.  Some stitches complete this task with one row of stitching while others need two passes using the same holes.  To do this, stitch one row, then leaving the needle in the fabric while in the left hand position, turn your fabric 180 º and sew another row next to the first and the wing needle should go back into the same holes with each stitch.  You can do this very effectively with a simple zigzag stitch.  I eventually decided to use one of my machine’s built in hemming stitches.

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I set my machine to do a 3 mm wide and 2.5 mm length stitch.

Fold your hem and press.  Mark a line on the right side of your fabric where you want your line of stitching.  I marked my skirt 8 cm from the fold.  I should mention that you are meant to use a very fine thread such as Madeira for this, but I didn’t.  Once you are happy that you’ve chosen the best stitch, that your machine is set up properly and behaving, just complete your row (or two rows depending on which stitch you chose) without stopping.  Then turn your garment to the wrong side and trim off the excess fabric.

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Turn your garment the right way out and you’re done.

 

Next week I shall be showing you how I insert a concealed or invisible zip.

Twin needle pintucks

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As promised, this is how I made the pintucks on my reversible skirt.

The skirt didn’t really need any pintucks I just thought it would be a nice added detail to make it more unique.  In days gone by if you wanted pintucks you would have had to mark where each pintuck was to go, fold it, press it and then sew a row of stitches very close to the fold of each pintuck and then press them all to face the same way. Obviously, you could still do it this way and you will get a very lovely effect.  But if your sewing machine has a twin needle capability then it’s much better use of time to do your pintucks with a twin needle.  If your machine has this facility you will have a second spindle that slots into the top of your machine to hold a second reel of thread.  My old one stuck straight up out the top so the second spool was vertical and my new one lies on its side like this:

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Then all you need is a twin needle and a pintuck presser foot.  Mine has lots of grooves on it so I can produce much finer pintucks.

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Attach these to your machine and thread it as usual.  Then thread the second reel of thread and thread it into the second hole on your needle.  You have to make sure the threads don’t get tangled which is why I only thread one at a time and my machine does have a little hook above the needle to help separate the two threads.

Experiment with your machine’s tension.  I found that a tighter tension produced a more raised pintuck which I preferred.

For twin needle pintucks you only have to mark where you want the first one to go.  Use this as a guide and just sew straight stitches along the line with your twin needle.  When you complete the double line of stitching go back to the start and use the grooves on your presser foot to line up the next pintuck.  I’ve used alternate grooves on this skirt.

I think they’re a really effective way of achieving a very traditional sewing technique with far less effort.

I also put them on the hem of my new yellow/green seed head skirt, but I did a few more of them!  This time I did a group of three twin needle pintucks, left a gap and then sewed another group of three.

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Next week I shall show you how I did the decorative hem technique that I used on the pale duck egg blue fabric on my reversible skirt.

Rouleau Loops

In my previous tutorial for a reversible skirt I used rouleau button loops.  I had originally planned on making ordinary button holes but changed my mind.  As that tutorial was quite involved (to say the least) I thought I would leave the bit about how to make rouleau loops until today.

Most of my clothes have rouleau loops instead of button holes.  My sewing machine has a choice of about ten different button holes which it cleverly does automatically, but I just really like the look of the rouleau loop.  You can make them in the same or contrasting fabric to your garment and can match or contrast them to covered buttons. Most shop bought clothes use button holes so the rouleau loop makes your garment look handmade and special. They can be a bit fiddly, and you need a rouleau loop turner but I think it’s worth the effort.

I had worked out my own way of making rouleau loops which I will share with you.  The difficulty I always had was deciding how long to make them.  Luckily last year when I was looking for a book on using luxury fabrics I stumbled across a fabulous new book by a bridal gown designer called Becky Drinan, The Wedding Dress who solved this dilemma.  I very nearly overlooked this book as I wasn’t wanting to make a wedding dress. I’m so glad I didn’t.

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This book is really very good.  It has plenty of hand sewing and machine sewing techniques that I’ve not seen anywhere else.  She has found much simpler ways to achieve really professional looking results.  I particularly like her lockstitch which she uses for hemming, so similar to many others but I think she has perfected it.

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This book has lots of lovely photographs and patterns for gorgeous fashionable wedding dresses.  But the best thing about this book is the template for the corset which forms the basis of all the dresses.  I’m not sure you can see it very well in the picture, but it is a map that you plot your own measurements on (quite a lot of them) so that you get a completely customized, fitted bodice.  I’ve tried it and it works.  It gives a perfect fit.  I made a white floral top which you can see on my tailor’s dummy in the background of my post about my new sewing room.

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So, anyway, back to the rouleau loops.

You need to cut strips of fabric on the bias (diagonally across the grain) so it is stretchy.  If you’ve not done this before, fold a square of fabric into a triangle and cut along the sloped edge.  I cut mine approximately 2 cm from the folded edge giving me a strip of fabric about 4 cm wide.  This makes a nice fat rouleau loop.  I then shortened my sewing machine stitch and sewed a line of stitches 6 mm from the fold with right sides together.  At one end I moved the stitching further away from the folded edge to form a wider trumpet shape.  Then I stitched a second row next to the first for added strength.

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To turn it the right way round, I pushed my rouleau loop turner into the narrow end and secured it at the funnel shaped end and just pulled it back out.  That sounds far simpler than it is.  Not that it’s difficult, it’s just fiddly to get it started.  But once it’s going, it turns really easily.

Now to decide how long to make them.  I won’t tell you how I did this before I discovered Becky Drinan’s book.  I’m just grateful I did find her book of common sense.  She says that each rouleau loop needs to be the circumference of your button plus 3 cm (twice your seam allowance).  Common sense, really.  I don’t know why I didn’t work that out myself.  I have amended this slightly to suit my own preferences and it depends on the shape of buttons I’m using.  I like my buttons to fit the rouleau loops very snuggly (so they don’t decide to open at an inopportune moment) and I like to make sure there is no gap in the opening of my skirt or dress, so my formula based on Becky Drinan’s is:

2 x the diameter of my button + 2 x my seam allowance.

For me this makes the perfect rouleau loop.

Next week I will be showing you how I made the pintucks on my reversible skirt.