Green Eyed Demands

Exactly how did I ever fail to forsee when making it, that if I made my daughter a skirt then I’d be expected to make my son something?! Explaining that skirts are easy but boys clothes are harder did nothing to offset the perceived injustice. Neither did the bag of brand new shirts his uncle happened to send down. So, back in April, I took a big breath, bought a pattern (Simplicity 4760, shirt view B) and some fabric (hmm, not a lot of choice locally in shirtweight non floral fabric, skull and cross bones it is then) and pushed my comfort zone….

cutting out

cutting out


And soon I was in the strange world of pattern lay outs, marking notches and following patterns. It slowly came back to me from my GCSE days. Actually it wasn’t too bad, except that there were no instructions or suggestions for finishing off seams, not even a hint that now is the time to apply your chosen finishing technique. I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security by the instructions for the pocket (the first thing to sew), which were clear and resulted in a much better finished patch pocket than things I’ve bodged together in the past (I uses this technique on my shorts). The boy was adamant he wanted just one pocket (less work for me) and I managed to nicely line up a skull and cross bones.

I ended up just top stitching down the raw seam allowance in my shoulder seams in confusion when it dawned on me that finishing seams was up to me, but I managed to French seam the side and underarm seams.

I decided to leave the yokes off the top front of the shirt, I cut them out but they just looked strange with this print, there wasn’t a way to line the skull and cross bones up so you could see what they were. Plus I didn’t really like them anyway and they didn’t seem essential to the garment structure.

Making and attatching the collar and setting the sleeves were quite uneventful, beginners luck? The instructions for the collar seemed wierd, but I followed them and they worked. I took it round to my mums for moral support when I attached the sleeves, but I didn’t really need her help. Before long I nearly had a shirt…

Nearly there

Nearly there

I took it with me to the shop and chose some lovely red lacquer buttons, really shiny, right up his street. I got one less than the envelope suggested because that’s what looked right. Then I lost the packet somewhere in the house and had to go and buy some more!

Finally, the scary button hole making moment. Not too bad, I had to darn one straight away as I cut through the stitching when cutting the slit, but it’s been fine since.

Ta Da

Ta Da

Then I threw a little something together with the offcuts, this time no button holes, the buttons are decorative, there’s poppers behind them. Can you spot the mini pocket?


And when he got back from school that day to find I’d finished his shirt and made a surprise something extra, Growl got to try his on first.

Tring thwm on

Tring them on

Happy Customers

Happy Customers

I’m pretty pleased with how it came out and it’s certainly been worn all summer. I’m glad that he pestered me to make him something as this gave me loads of confidence and was pretty straightforward to make (I deliberately chose short sleeves to make my life easier). The only thing I would change is to make it a little narrower and/or longer, the fit is pretty baggy. It’s true to the packet illustration, but my son is built like a bean pole!

Impulsive seasonal purchases

I have more sewing projects on the go at the moment than I care to count.  And on my walk into town for the weekly farmers market I was dreaming up more.  As well as my food shopping I came home with with these…


The flowers are from the market and I loved the autumn colours of dark reds and golds, just the thing to cheer up a grey day. And at this time of year I get the urge to knit, so with so much on the go I shouldn’t have popped into the yarn shop near my favourite coffee shop.  It’s not like I didn’t have any yarn stashed away either.

But I loved the teal, blue/green (or is it green/blue), black and grey mix in this Nordic Spirit Victoria superwash wool, and I have been thinking off wristwarmers for the early morning chill (I made some for a friend last year from an odd ball of wool from a bargin ends bin and then was jealous every time she wore them).

When I got home I was itching to get started straight away. The band says that 15 stitches knits to 10cm on 6mm needles so I decided to go for it without swatching, after all I’m just knitting a rectangle to sew into a tube with a hole for my thumb to poke out and I want to make them rib so there should be some give and take in sizing. Plus I normally knit to pattern tension.

The widest part of my hand measured just over 20cm all round so I decided to cast on 30 stitches.  I’ve had trouble with too tight cast on in the past. I’ve tried using a fatter needle or two needles and casting on with the long tail method but whilst better the cast on has still been a bit top tight.  So I thought I’d try this method.

And that’s when I started having trouble with the yarn.  It’s really loose, not much twist and it broke in half in my hand on the 3rd stitch to cast on. So I restarted, concentrating on not to pulling it too hard, however this method requires lots of tugging tight.  I struggled to get a neat line of fat seals (watch the video) and it broke again 12 stitches in so I just tied it. So one messy cast on with cat for company…


I wondered if this was the wrong cast on method for this yarn. Next I decided to do a twisted rib,, because I just like to complicate things.

So far the knitting is pretty easy, except the yarn still keeps pulling apart in my hand, so I keep tying it up and knitting the ends in as I go. I thought at first I was weakening the yarn by accidently splitting it with the end of the needle when not knitting cleanly, but sometimes you just go to put the yarn over and you only get a couple of inches, the rest is left behind. I have knit looser yarn a litle in the past and never had this problem. It looks nice knitted up but I’m glad I only bought one ball!

Hey, it matches my socks!

Hey, it matches my socks!

A Friendly Guide to Tiered Skirt Maths

When I read sewing blogs I’m interested in learning new sewing techniques, how to make French seams or sew knit fabric or trace pattern pieces, that kind of thing. I don’t notice lovely explanations of how to calculate things so much, because, err, numbers are my friends (after all I have spent a ridiculous 8 years at Uni playing around with them, so we got to know each other a little).

So when I wrote about making a tiered skirt (here), I concentrated on the (rather rough and ready) sewing and forgot about the calculations, until I read Beth’s comment. So Beth, this tutorial is for you.

So, say you want to make a skirt …

Geeky maths drawing of a skirt

Geeky maths drawing of a skirt

Ok, so maybe you don’t want to make that skirt, but if you use your imagination the red line is the waistband, the yellow is the hem (the skirt is spread out flat on the floor), and the blue line is the length. Lets work out some numbers.

First choose your length (blue line), get your tape measure out and measure your favourite skirt or yourself/chosen victim. So far so easy.

Next, work out how big the waistband needs to be (the red line). This is actually the size of the waistband casing. To enable the skirt to get pulled on and off properly this needs to be the hip measurement plus 1 inch (2.5 cm) ease. If it were any smaller we’d need to start faffing about with zips or something, rather than nice easy elastic.

Now onto the hem. Here there is some choice, depending on how full you want your skirt to be. The absolute smallest it could be would be the same hip measurement plus 1 inch ease you’re making the waistband, which I guess would make some kind of pencil skirt with an elasticated waist.

The fullest kind of skirt you’re likely to want is a full circle (my daughters ideal), so lets work out the measurements of the fullest that you’d want it to be. Ready for some maths? I’ll hold your hand. We need to start by working out the distance from the waistband to the middle of your body, but don’t worry, I wont be talking about different types of fat therein and trying to sell you amazing new diet foods. Just find the calculator app on your smart phone and divide your waistband measurement (that’s the hip measurement plus 1 inch, remember) by 6.3 (if you’re interested what we’re doing here is finding the radius of the waistband circle by dividing the circumfrence by twice pi). Now add this answer to your chosen length (to find the radius of a full circle hemline), then multiply the answer by 6.3 (approximately 2 pi again) to give you the hem circumfrence of a full circular skirt of your chosen length.

If you want a half circular skirt, your hemline will be half this length, for a quarter circle skirt, a quarter of this.

Quick recap time, with an example for a child about 5:

  • I choose my length of 12 inches
  • I measure hips at 20″, so the waistband casing needs to be 21″
  • Then I divide 21 by 6.3 to get 3.3 (rounding it to one place after the point)
  • Adding 3.3 to my 12 inch lengthgives me 15.3
  • 15.3 times 6.3 is 96.4
  • So for a full circle my hemline is 96.4, for a half circle it’s 48.2 and for a quarter circle it’s 24.1, although I would round these to 96 and a half inches, 48 inches and 24 inches respextively for my sanity (plus my cutting is not that accurate).

Next, lets work out the panel sizes for a skirt like this. I’ll assume you have 3 panels, but it’d be easy to adapt for 2 or 4. Choose how deep you want each panel, for my 12″ example I’m going to have each one an equal 3″ deep, but you don’t need them all the same depth. My panels are going to look something like this (imagine they’re laid next to each other before gathering and seaming).

No, not building blocks, panel pieces.

No, not building blocks, panel pieces.

Start with the bottom panel. The width of this panel needs to be your hem circumfrence (24″/48″/96.5″ in my example above depending on how twirly you feel) plus your preferred seam allowance each side. The height needs to be your panel depth (mine is 3″) plus seam allowance at the top and hem allowance at the bottom. So with a half inch seam and hem allowances I would cut a piece 4″ by 97.5″ (for a full skirt on my example). You could also cut 2 panels at half the width and have 2 side seams, if so add seam allowance at each side to both of them. So I’d cut 2 pieces both 4″ by 49 and a quarter inches.

Top panel next. This will be gathered in at the waistband, so if there’s a difference between this and your actual waist the easy option is to stick to the hip plus ease measurement plus seam allowances for the width. 22 inches in my example. Or if you want to stick to a full circle circle then you can use the waistband radius that you found (my 3.3″ above), add it to your top panel depth (3″) and multiply by 6.3 (i.e. ( 3.3 + 3 ) × 6.3 = 40″ ). Plus seam allowances of course. If you’re not adding a seperate waistband casing but folding over the top of your panel piece to make the waistband then add this to the depth. So mine would be 3″ (depth of panel) plus 2″ (twice my waistband depth) plus 1″ (two lots of my half inch seam allowance), which makes 6″.

Finally the middle panel. The height is just the panel height plus twice your seam allowance. Easy option, add the width of the bottom and top panels together and divide by two to get a width half way in between. Or for the full circle method, waist radius plus depth of top two panels multiplied by 6.3 (e.g. ( 3.3 + 6 ) × 6.3 = 58.5″ ).

Still with me? Now you can make your own tiered skirt. If you have a question please put it in the comments box below.

How it all began…

No, not the physics of big bang theory, or theology, but I thought I’d write about how my current batch of sewing started. Well, it was with a phone call to my Mum.  I interrupted her watching The Sewing Bee (, but rather than asking me to phone later or turning it off, she gave me a running commentary on the program whilst I tried to talk to her. Which was a bit confusing for something so visual, so after we got off the phone I watched it on iplayer to see what it was all about.  Then the same thing happened the next week.  Then I was hooked (I went around to watch the final with her).

The programme finished after 4 short weeks, so I started reading the sewing related blogs written by two of the contestants, Lauren ( and Tilly (  Which lead to me thinking about sewing clothes, which I hadn’t done since it was part of my textiles lessons at school.   I have done lots of sewing in the past 20 years, but bags and curtains and other rectangular things that don’t need to fit.

So I came up with the perfect first project to get me going. A twirly skirt for my 5 year old (she insists on twirlyness), modeled on her favourite twirly skirt, made of 3 rectangles (straight edges!), and only fitting at the waist with the help of elastic (so no fancy fastenings to master and easy on and off for her).  I set myself the challenge of only using fabric from my stash too, so it didn’t matter so much if I didn’t finish it.  And this is what I made…


It’s three strips of fabric, each longer than the one above and gathered to fit.  The measurements were an educated guess based on similar skirts she already had (all 3 of them!) and the sizes I had in the scraps of fabric that I wanted to use…

(spot the mathematician)

Working it out

The flowery scraps were off cuts from a cot bed duvet cover I’d made her a while ago that she’d not long grown out. And the ric rac braid and ribbon all came from the part of her great grandmothers stash that I’d recently inherited.

  I hemmed the bottom piece first, whilst it was still flat.  I just turned it over twice, pressed it, pinned the ric rac on and sewed it all in one go (very quick and dirty sewing), which is why the ric rac is so close to the edge

.  Then I used two rows of loose tension long stitching along the other long edge and pulled the ends to gather the bottom piece to the size of the middle one, then pinned and sewed the seam.  It helps to mark quarter points along the line of each edge you’re joining before you gather, to help get the gathers even (trust me, I learnt the hard way).

2 lines of stitching are gathering, one is the seam, excuse the wobbliness!

2 lines of stitching are gathering, one is the seam, excuse the wobbliness!

For some reason I can’t fathom out now, I decided to use a French Seam to sew the middle piece to the top, as well as having gathers to contend with.  I can only think it was something to do with finishing the edges.

The three joined pieces, seen from the wrong side.

The three joined pieces, seen from the wrong side.

Once the three pieces were joined, I sewed the other ribbons on.  I knew that I wanted to include a satin ribbon, as my daughter has a bit of a thing about satin and other “feely” fabrics. (I prefer the placement of the green ric rac to the pink, not so near the edge.)

Trying to sew ric rac as neatly as Stuart

Trying to sew ric rac as neatly as Stuart

Before I joined them at the side, I made a pocket bag and added that in, as I really think that the lack of pockets on so many women’s and girl’s clothes is is some kind of form of repression.  Ok, maybe that’s an overstatement, but they are definitely useful.

Pocket bag

Pocket bag

I just did a simple fold over casing for the elastic waistband, but I did add a couple of satin tags for my label girl. I also thought they’d help her line up the pocket at the side.



And the verdict? One very pleased girl who has worn it lots all summer. Annoyingly the first time she wore it the “vintage” satin ribbon pilled and now looks like it’s been rubbed along a brick wall. (I keep meaning to replace it…) It was criticised for not being twirly enough, her favourite skirt is actually a full circle, so room for improvement there. And she does use the pocket to keep tissues in, but it’s not big enough to fit her whole hand in, whoops. I know the sewing is a bit rough and ready but I don’t mind, the point was to get something made and use up some scraps (all I bought was the elastic) and I always knew that once she had it on no-one would notice as she’d never keep still in it. And I was right!

Rock the look with wellies and a tiara

Thumbs up

New Blue Shorts

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time reading sewing blogs and day-dreaming about sewing recently and  looks like it actually paid off, because I made TWO pairs of shorts.  OK, so they’re not going to win any prizes, but it’s definitely good for my karma to complete things, they’re useful and the kids like them.

Beth’s blog that I’ve been reading,

, features a fair bit of upcycling or refashioning of unwanted or unloved clothes into new garments.  This seems to work particularly well with adults clothes to children’s as you start bigger and go smaller (I can’t seem to find a way to phrase this point without sounding like an idiot, but I’m confident that you’ll understand).

 So, with the start of a new school year looming close and both kids needing blue shorts for PE (gym class), I thought of these…


Two large dark blue polo shirts, uniform from an obsolete shop, that I happen to have in my possession (I have even moved house with them, that’s how rubbish I am at throwing things away).  Not having made anything knit before (except for a sweatshirt back in school), I was also inspired by a post that I read recently about knits not being that scary to sew and that you can even get away without a ballpoint needle and straight stitch, but I couldn’t remember where it was or find it again, whoops.  I’m pretty sure the fabric is knit, but it also has some kind of honey comb texture.

So, having decided on impulse to do this the day before school started back, I started looking for the tutorial on drafting your own shorts pattern from a pair of existing shorts that I’d read before. I couldn’t find that anywhere either, arghh,  but I did find some nice clear instructions on drafting shorts by Maycie from blogspot since using them I can’t access the blog as it seems to have changed permissions).

So, I found a pair of the boys shorts that fit, turned one leg inside the other (which is all I remembered from the post saw before), found a big bit of paper and drafted me a pattern..


I liked the little split at the bottom of the side seams on the polo shirt and decided to use them in the shorts at the outside of the knees.  I cut the pattern pieces so I would keep the polo shirt hem to be the short hem.  Maycie’s shorts don’t have a side seam, rather they are cut on the fold (so there are two pieces, one is left front and back, the other right front and back), but this way the polo shirt side seam would be in the right place to make it look like I’d side seamed them and I got the split for free.  I included seam allowance on the inside leg and crotch seams, and an inch plus seam allowance at the waistband as I would be folding the fabric over to make the waistband not using a separate piece.


Using the existing side seam and hem meant that I had to cut the sides straighter than the pattern of my original shorts which curves in at the top, but I figured that for this type of short it wouldn’t matter too much, the elastic at the waist would pull it in,  and if I hated it I could always go back and take it in. But in the end I never felt the need to do that.  If I was making them from 4 pieces of fabric and side seaming them I would have followed the shape.

Then I flipped the pattern to cut the other side, there was easily enough fabric.


I wanted to add a patch pocket to the back as I hate not having a pocket in clothes and kids often need a tissue about them.  I chose a patch pocket, because I’d need to unpick side seams to put in in seam pocket bags like the original shorts, plus patch pockets are much easier and also I wanted to use some of the turquoise to add a splash of colour. I drafted a pattern, folded the seam allowance under and checked it looked the right kind of size on the shorts I’d used to draft the pattern.


Rather than cut the pocket solid turquoise I wanted two use a two tone blue and turquoise pocket with the orange piping in between. (I’ve never sewn with piping and this was a cheating way to do it!) I’d have liked the turquoise at the top to make the opening contrast but there wasn’t enough fabric so turquoise at the bottom it was then.


I turned over my top seam allowance, right side to right side (i.e. the wrong way), pinned it and then sewed around my seam allowance line at the sides and bottom.  Then I turned my top seam allowance back the right way (so the folded over piece was on the wrong side, with it’s edges all neat now), pressed and top sitched it.  Then I pressed the side seams under along the sewed line, pinned the pocket on the (still flat) short piece and sewed it on, with triangles at the tops for added strength. Sewing over the double layer of piping was tough but the machine just about manage it.

Once I had the pocket on, I sped through making the shorts. There were basically only 3 things to do, crotch seams, inside leg seam and waistband.  Having no side seams and no hem sped things up.


I wasn’t sure how to finish the crotch and inside leg seams, I don’t have an overlocker (serger), I didn’t fancy zig zagging it all but although the fabric didn’t seem to fray much I didn’t want to leave a raw edge.  Then I remembered Rae from Made By Rae’s super seams, so that’s what I did and this time I can find the link! which also explains brilliantly how to make shorts up (although not draft them) if you are confused.  I  finished the crotch seams off superseam#1 style before stitching the inside leg seam together.  I used the same kind of superseam on the inside leg too (maybe I should have re read her blog before doing so as she uses a different technique here), I had to do it in 2 parts, from the bottom hem up to the crotch, as due to them now being short shape I couldn’t get all the way around


Now I just had the waistband to do, so I folded the seam allowance under and then folded the waistband down an inch and pressed it all and UH OH… I’d placed the pocket too high and couldn’t seam the waistband without sewing it shut. So, my next step was to unpick and resew pocket, right? Except that sounded like hard work.  Then I had a brainwave, I would sew around all the waistband except the pocket and use the gap to put the elastic in and sew it shut on the inside by hand. It was a bit bigger gap than I would have chosen to leave for elastic, but it worked. The top of the pocket was only just on the inch thick waistband.

My first ever pair of shorts was made in in approximately an hour, including pattern drafting and cutting. The boy tried them on and was pleased. (I forgot to take a photo, I think it was about tea time at this point). The girl tried them on, at 18 months younger she’s shorter but about the same width and they fit fine, just a little longer. She wanted hers made exactly the same (so I got to use the same pattern and saved 10 minutes) but wanted to have her pocket at the front, which didn’t make a difference to the construction as the back and front are the same.

I liked the idea of having cutaway pockets, like jeans have, with the back of the pocket bag made out of the turquoise so that a quarter circle would show each side of the shorts (I had two turquoise sleeves to play with).  Kind of like the pockets that Lauren from Guthrie-Ghani drafted for her own for a skirt here

 It seems to be my natural tendency to complicate things.  But then I realised that jeans style pockets are put in during the construction of the side seam, which, I wasn’t planning on doing, so that would complicate things even more.  So I sensibly took the easy route and stuck with a patch pocket.

 I did want a contrast to the main blue colour at the top of the pocket though, so this time I unpicked the shirt buttons and cut the pocket a little differently…


Which meant my pocket top edge was already finished for me. The rest of the shorts were exactly the same but I took a bit more care placing the pocket this time and avoided the waistband issue.  This time I did get a photo…


I like the contrast pocket top, but annoyingly you can see marks where the buttons were.  Also I wanted the pocket on the right hand side, but I must have forgotten that she wants to wear the pocket at the front, not the back.

 Oh well, she didn’t seem to mind.  I’m glad I put the pockets on as the shorts are a bit shapeless and homemade looking, I think that’s at least partly down to making the waistband out of the main fabric and not adding a separate piece.

Still, 2 pairs of shorts made from scratch,  plus the pair that I cut down from ragged trousers and another 2 pairs mended all within 24 hours isn’t bad going!  I meant to take a photo of them wearing them, but I finished hers in the morning to check the elastic was the right size and we didn’t have time before we had to set off so I’ll have to wait until they come home for a wash at half term.