The life-cycle of a t-shirt

OK so there’s more posting here of how things are made rather than me making them but I wanted to share this video of the life-cycle of a t-shirt by Angle Chang – another eye opener on how much environmental damage and health risks are part of the process of making your average high-street t-shirt. This video can also be found via Ted Talks.

Where do your clothes come from: an animated journey

You might have read my previous blog post about Fashion Revolution week coming up in April where they are trying to bring more transparency of the clothing manufacturing process to the consumer, I found this great (and cute!) animated video by Finnish animator Pikkukala who bring stories to life with their kid-friendly animations.

Their Long Story Short animation on how your clothes go from farm to high street is a real eye-opener to the lengthy process that’s involved with getting your clothes to stores. It’s well worth a watch!

Fashion Revolution week 24-30th April 2017

Fashion Revolution who made my clothes

If you, like me, are interested in finding out more on where your clothes and fabrics are made then keep and eye out for Fashion Revolution week from the 24th to 30th April.

This week is highlighting the muggy and complex manufacturing process of getting clothes from the (cotton) farm, to the mill to the high street shop with the aim to make the process clearer to the consumer so you can make informed choices when buying your clothes and fabric.

You can find out about events in your area here.

There are many ways to take part, via social media to thinking about your buying choices – find out more on the Fashion Revolution website.

A modern dressmakers Podcast

Over the last few weeks I’ve been on the search for a Podcast to listen to while I commute to work.

Having only found a handful of mostly American shows or UK shows on quilting, knitting or sewing crafts, I failed to find a fun and friendly show based on modern dressmaking.

While talking about this with my colleagues at work, they said…

“Why don’t you make one?”

How hard can it be, right?

So after extensive research on how to produce a Podcast, bending my friends ear on what technical gear I need, thinking about what it should feature, finding the time, it’s happening, imminent in fact!

If you’d like to be involved or have ideas or suggestions on what you’d like to hear in the Podcast, please get in touch.

Watch this space for further announcements…


Zipper box wash bag v2

Yesterday I posted this blog about sewing a zipper wash bag from Melanie Ham’s Youtube video tutorial.

I loved it so much I decided to give it another go while fresh in my head adding a few tweaks of my own.

Again using fabric and zips from my stash, I wanted to use a chunkier plastic zip and  -for that sporty feel – a chevron pattern waterproof canvas (bought on Etsy long ago!). I also wanted to try and include a handle instead of two tabs either side of the bag for practicality.

I started out trying to be clever and used one whole piece for the lining and outer fabric but became unstuck when realising it became too tricky to sew a) the zip on the second part and b) top stitching the zip on both sides, so succumbed to cutting the fabrics in two in the end.

I also used a chunkier cotton thread with a long stitch setting to enable the thickness of the fabric to ease through the machine along with a denim needle (just in case). This time I did use iron-on interfacing even though the waterproof fabric was heavyweight to give it a more boxier feel, however I didn’t use the walking foot as the thickness of the canvas actually helped here.

I extended the length of one of the tabs to about 6 inches or 15cm (the tutorial is in inches) to create a handle. When sewing this in, instead of like the the tab being sewn on top of the zip, I placed the two handle ends (with the loop on the inside) either side of the zip which worked great and avoided being messed up when putting the corners in! Also make sure your outer facing fabric on your handle is right sides together to make sure it faces up when turned right side out (I got this right first time – woo!).


Note the sporty chunky zip and carry handle. The underside of the handle is the same fabric as the lining (dark bottle green).


Close up of the zip, handle and lining (not too close the stitching inside is a bit ropey!).


You can see where I’ve rushed not measuring the corners making the bag a bit wider at the top on this side.

As I said in the previous blog I found the tutorial really easy and finished this under 2 hours – is that bad or good?!

Zipper box wash bag

Thanks to this YouTube tutorial from Melanie Ham I made the hubby a new wash bag to replace his worn out one. It’s made from his old jeans (I have lots of them) and spotty blue cotton for the lining and a zipper, both from my stash. His old wash bag was the same boxy design so I wanted a similar one to fit his shaving gel and deodorant as some bags can be a bit too small to accommodate larger toiletries! This bag is about 20cm long, 14 cm wide and 10cm tall (however the tutorial is all in inches because it’s from the US!).


This bag is especially good as it’s washable and cost me nothing to make (except my time!)

I kept the seams from the jeans a. as a feature and b. because I was being thrifty and wanting the make the most out of the denim material.

In the video tutorial Melanie zig zags the seams but as I just got a serger a few months ago I decided to use this on the finishing instead of the zigzag as she suggests for the base and corners. You could also cut out some of the sewing by using only the serger on some parts of the bag which I may do next time.

I left out the interfacing as I thought the denim would be thick enough to hold it’s shape but I would definitely include it on cotton or thinner fabric next time.

I love the tab detail that makes it more professional looking and you could include D rings in if you wanted to add a strap.

From start to finish this took me about 2 hours (I had to unpick the lining fabric at the start as the lining was an old pillowcase, and the first stitch sewing the zip on I put the outer the wrong way round – doh. I also made a pattern template for next time with baking paper).

The tutorial was easy to follow and I would definitely sew this again and try another of Melanie’s videos as the instructions were simple and clear.


Sewing a blind hem


I learned so much from the Ray-Stitch workshop today. I’ve always wondered what some of the mysterious stitch styles were on my home sewing machine. Being able to sew a blind hem has always baffled me and I’m not one for hand sewing (who has time for that!) so finding out about the mystery of the blind hem was a real joy.


First of all you’ll need to know if your machine has the settings for a blind hem stitch. At the Ray-Stitch workshop we were using Janome SMD5018 sewing machines and I have a basic Janome (disguised as a John Lewis machine at home) which has the blind hem stitch function. The stitch style looks similar to a heart beat (see picture further down which illustrates this), with good machines they may already come with a blind hem foot similar to this one:

Blind hem foot

Blind hem foot. Image courtesy of

On our Janome machines the stitch style looks like this setting (helpfully it also has a picture of the foot needed), see G in this example:

Blind hem foot picture

G shows the blind hem stitch style and matching foot you should use for it.

If not you’ll need to buy a blind hem foot that suits your machine, plenty of those here.
An adjustable foot is useful (see the screw and plastic guide in the previous photo) to help you guide the stitches into the hem as you sew. Every third stitch goes into the hem creating the single ‘invisible’ stitch on the facing side.

Blind hems are perfect for cotton fabrics and trouser and skirt hem lines. Blind hems (with a sewing machine) do not work so great with man-made fibres as the stitches tend to bunch up, so cottons or linens are ideal.


In the workshop we were using a 3cm seam allowance, so we measured and pressed that. Turning the fabric (calico) to front facing, fold the flap back up so 1cm peeps over the top like this photo shows, the 1cm is peeping out on the right:

Pressed blind hem

The first fold and press is the 3m seam allowance. Fold it back up 1cm, so 1cm of fabric peeps over the top reverse facing.

To start sewing you’ll need to adjust your blind hem foot so that the first two stitches only stitch the right side of the fabric and the third stitch connects with the fabric on the left. I found it useful to use the sewing machine’s handwheel to see where the first two stitches are going to hit the fabric. A little bit of adjustment of the screw to align the plastic guide will be needed to start you off. When I was sewing the plastic guide helpfully sat directly opposite the needle, but may not always be the case for you.

In this photo you can see the example of where the two stitches hits the right side of the fabric and then the single stitch (bigger zig-zag) on the left:

Blind hem stitching on the reverse

See where the two stitches hit the right side of the fabric and the single stitch hits the left. This is what creates the invisible stitch on the front facing fabric.

Turn your fabric over and press. In the example below (front facing) you can barely see the single stitches  showing through (sorry calico and cream thread doesn’t show up so well in photos) but you can see where the fabric is pulled about two inches apart. It’s quite difficult to see in this photo which I’d say that was a success!

Blind hem front facing

You can barely see the stitches on the front facing side of the fabric.

It was really useful to keep these examples as reminders after the workshop to know how to do them again. All three of us took notes throughout! I’ll definitely be using the blind hem on future projects. How about you?


Ray-Stitch workshop: invisible zip


Having already attended the Make do and mend workshop at Walthamstow’s Cheekyhandmades and wanting to do more selfish sewing (hate that term) I signed up for Ray-Stitch’s bit-of-a-mouth-full titled ‘Intermediate Steps – Dressmaking Techniques for the Proficient Seamstress’.

Here we learned techniques that would turn your hand made garments into professional looking clothes with a number of finishes that can help beginner sewists gain confidence in zips, hems and stitch styles. The class covered invisible zips, lapped zips, french seams, flat felled seam, blind hem, pin hem and button holes.

My personal fear is zips and have avoided any patterns so far with zips so today I faced my fear and in this blog post I walk you through what we learned for a great invisible zip finish.

Sewing an invisible zip

One thing to note about invisible zips is that the process is back-to-front (if you’re already familiar with ordinary zips – which I’m not!) You’ll need a regular zipper foot and an invisible zip foot. Check that they fit your sewing machine brand.


Lay your zip on top of your fabric (reverse) with the top part of the zip at the top part of your fabric or garment and mark with chalk or washable pen just above where the teeth of the zip joins at the base (on invisible zips the teeth are merged together, on a regular zip this is the metal square tab at the bottom).

Press your fabric however your seam allowance specifies (here we were using 1.5cm).

Turning the iron down for nylons, not to melt the zip carefully iron the front facing of the zip teasing out the teeth. This helps get a closer finish when sewing the zip into the fabric. Repeat on the other facing side.

With your fabric facing right side up, open the zip fully and place on top of your fabric with the teeth lining up with where you’ve pressed, pin this vertically like so:

Pinning an invisible zip

Fabric right side facing up, invisible zip facing down. Pin close to the pressed seam.

The invisible zip foot  has two settings (left and right) to ensure you have the zip ‘channel’ set to the right side. In this case the majority of the zip foot should sit on the right of the zip, this image below from website Husqvarna shows this in better detail:

Close up of invisible foot

Image credit:


Stitch all the way to the bottom of the zip and as close to the base and backstitch.

Turning the fabric and zip right side facing up, twist the second side of the zip forwards on to the right side of the other half of your fabric, so the second part of the zip sits reverse side down on your pressed seam like so (excuse the finger!):

Twist zip

Right side facing up, twist over and pin zip to pressed seam.

Pin in place.

Swapping sides of your zipper foot making sure the opposite channel now can ‘accept’ the zipper teeth, sew all the way down to the base (where you previously marked where the zip ends) backstitch.

To finish off, swap to the regular zipper foot and start stitching from your chalk line past the base of the zip and continue until the end of your garment/project requires keeping an eye on your seam allowance (our was 1.5cm throughout).

Sewing the zipper

Sew as close as you can to the zipper.

Here are the results of the finished zip!

Invisible zip closed. Front facing

Invisible zip closed. Nearly perfect!


Invisible zip closed. Reverse facing. You can’t see the stitches but they’re there!


Ironing the zip first helps you get close to the teeth and a neat finish.

I hope this helped you, I’m certainly going to try an invisible zip on my next project! More blogs to come from this workshop.


Sewing_tips_straight_lineThis may seem a silly place to start but as a novice sewist one of the hardest parts of sewing I find is accuracy and sewing a straight line. I’m an impatient sewist and want my project to be completed as quick as possible so I’m not the most neatest of sewists!

As a an avid craftsperson I have a stash of craft goodies, so when I started on my first clothing makes (a simple elasticated skirt) I had some Washi tape at hand to aid me in sewing a simple straight line.


Washi tape originates from Japan (a fairly new invention from 2006). Washi tape has boomed over the years and has been used all for so many creative projects, just check out the hundreds of ideas on Pinterest.

The best thing about washi tape (apart from the stunning colours and patterns) is the glue, it sticks well to paper  but easy to peel off) and also rough surfaces, but not so much on anything else, so washi will not leave a sticky residue behind on your sewing machine or fabrics.

Using washi tape (compared to using the guide on your machine) gives you a bit more flexibility when sewing. For example I find it useful using a length of washi to help me guide in my fabric to help gain a straight sewing line. It’s also useful as a guide when your seam allowance is larger than your sewing machine’s allowance guides. Here’s some examples:


Here I’m using the tape to help me guide in the fabric, and I’m also using (roughly) an 8mm seam allowance, so slightly less than the 10mm on the sewing machine’s guide.



Here (this is on a skirt hem) I’m using quite a wide allowance so have created my own guide with my washi tape.

After writing this post it seems I’m not the only one, Heather here from the Sewing Loft uses it for quilt cutting guides and keeping small pieces of fabric in place, she has a whole list of uses here.

And this How to Sew blog also has some good uses for it too, from organising your supplies to displaying your work on the wall.

You can buy washi from most high street stationers like Paperchase , but you can get them from online stores such as Hobbycraft, huge selections on Etsy and of course Amazon.

Do you use washi tape other than sewing a straight line? I’d love to hear your washi tape tips and ideas!