3 reasons why I buy fabric

I attempted to go on a fabric diet this year because my sewing has not kept up with my fabric buying for quite some time. I even experimented with selling a few pieces from my stash via Instagram and Facebook, which you can read about here. Now that 2017 is nearly over (can you believe it?), I’ve been thinking of all the reasons why I buy fabric. Here are my top three:

  1. It was on sale. Yep, if I’m really honest with myself, this is top reason for a fabric purchase. When I started sewing again around 2009, I was a sucker for a sale – whether it was in-store or online. I would buy fabric that appealed to me and I liked it even more because it was on sale. I didn’t yet know what I would make from it.Now I tell myself, don’t buy it unless you know what you’re going to make with it. I’ve even avoided sales because it’s so hard to resist buying more fabric. I love touching fabric and looking at all the lovely designs. That said, I broke my fabric diet in San Francisco when there were sales at Britex Fabrics and Fabric Outlet. Britex was having a “Yard Sale” discounting many bolts of fabric – all in preparation for the store’s big move to 117 Post St. in December. They are now in their new location – a beautiful space that really shows off their wool and silk fabric.Over a two-month period, I got several pieces of fabric from Britex, including a red crinkle cotton and these four fabrics – clockwise from top left: ponte with a huge print (maybe a full-length Pilvi Coat), cotton lawn from Italy (marked down to $10/yard because of a flaw in the print, possible blouse or skirt), a black and silver stretch lace (skirt) and a black lace knit fabric (sleeves for a knit top).Britex Fabrics purchases - ponte knit, cotton lawn print lace knit fabrics
    I also got a couple yards of some fun home decor fabric for free because I did a guest post about the fabric for the Britex blog. I also wrote about it here.At Fabric Outlet, which had a 40% off sale, I used a $25 gift certificate one of my sisters gave me for my birthday. So I felt that gave me license to just browse and buy whatever struck my fancy. I got a couple yards of black french terry (Toaster sweater perhaps?) and a berry red stretch cotton, which should make a nice shirt.
  2. It was irresistible. Sometimes you see a piece of fabric and you just have to have it, no matter what the price is. You love the design, the color, the way it feels, the drape, etc. When I saw this fabric at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, I just had to get it. I eventually I made this Pilvi Coat from it, which I love.

    Pilvi Coat - back view - CSews

  3. It was a planned purchase. Sometimes I buy fabric with a specific pattern in mind. I’ll bring the pattern envelope with me or I’ll take a photo of the front and back of the pattern and consult it when I’m in the store to make sure I have the correct yardage. Or if it’s a PDF pattern, I’ll just look up the info on the company’s website to make sure I have the right info.

Now the fabric is piling up. It’s in bags in the closet and in a couple of plastic bins in the bedroom. For 2018, I’m going to do my best to shop my stash and to start making some of the things I planned to make with the fabric when I bought it. My plans have changed for some of the fabric I bought a few years ago (no surprise) so for some of it, I’ll be rethinking my sewing plans.

I have not taken any inventory so I don’t know how many yards are in my stash. I’m not sure I want to know. I don’t have space to maintain a large stash so I am going to try to sew more in 2018 and attempt a RTW fast. Goodbye Valentino is hosting a RTW fast, encouraging people to sew, not buy clothes (see her invitation here sign up by tomorrow, Dec. 31!).

What are your reasons for buying fabric? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you have to say on the topic.

My latest Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style

Pilvi Coat - Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - Fabric from Britex Fabrics - CSews

As soon as I saw this colorful fabric at Britex Fabrics, I thought to myself, “Pilvi Coat!” A simple design is great for a large print because you can show off the print to full advantage. That’s what I like the Pilvi Coat pattern from the sewing book Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style (affiliate link here). I’ve made this coat twice before, one in blue and another using a fabric with a big print, which you can see here and here.

This coat has pockets! I had fun using colorful fabric scraps for my pockets.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - CSews

I love the colorful painterly design of this home dec fabric, which is a digital print from Spain. Britex marked down the fabric to $20/yard because the manufacturer forgot to put a selvage on one side of the fabric.

Beautiful fabric from Britex Fabrics

Now this beautiful fabric is part of the ongoing Yard Sale at Britex Fabrics, which means you can take an additional 40 to 60% off. So you can get it for $12/yard or less, which is a great. There’s limited stock and it’s only available in-store.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - fabric from Britex Fabrics - CSews.com

The painterly design inspired me to wear my vintage Kangol beret (label on the inside and no kangaroo) and take photos next to this striking mural. The hand is holding a paintbrush, which seems appropriate. You can’t see the brush in these photos because it’s several feet above my head.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - fabric from Britex Fabrics - CSews

I love how the Pilvi Coat pattern shows off the fabric. Plus, with such a busy print, you don’t have to worry about matching anything.

Pilvi Coat - pattern from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - Fabric from Britex Fabrics - CSews

The Pilvi Coat has raglan sleeves and just a few pattern pieces – front, back, sleeves, pockets, and facings for the back and shoulder. There are no darts. The front facing is part of front pattern piece. You just fold it back and attach it to the shoulder facing. You can see it in this photo. My hand is on the front facing.

Pilvi Coat - Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - fabric from Britex Fabrics - CSews.com

I debated whether or not to use interfacing for the facing. The fabric is home dec weight but it does have a nice drape so I decided to use some lightweight woven interfacing in my stash. I probably didn’t need it but it does ensure that the front corners don’t flop down.

Home dec fabric can fray and this fabric certainly did. So I had to take care to finish all the seams. I used three different techniques due to time constraints and aesthetics. The book instructs you to turn down the raw edge of the facing 1/4″ (6 mm) and press. Then topstitch it in place.

This is an unlined coat so I decided to use bias tape to bind the seams that would most likely to be seen when taking the coat off (or putting it on). I used this technique for the facing and the hems (sleeves and bottom).

Bias tape binding for Pilvi Coat - Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style

I used bias tape in my stash – premade Wright’s bias tape in royal blue and a vintage bias tape in a tiny floral print, plus some striped silk bias tape the I made, which was leftover from a past coat I made. You can see the striped bias tape in the hem.

Pilvi Coat - bias binding inside - CSews

It’s fun to use leftover bias tape in a project! What’s great about using bias tape is that the fold is your guide. You line up the raw edge of your fabric with the bias tape and sew. Then you fold the bias tape over the raw edge, press and stitch in the ditch.

I serged the side seams and sleeves. For this pattern, you sew the sleeves, pockets and side seams in one long seam. Here’s the side seam and the hem bound with bias tape.

Pilvi Coat - bias hem and serged side seam

I had the knife up on my serger because I wanted a clean edge as I serged this sem. But I wasn’t paying close attention when I got near the top of the pocket and cut into my pocket bag. Oops. So I just had the opening start a little lower. Easy fix. If I make this coat again and serge the side seam, I think I’ll trim the raw edge myself and not use the knife on the serger.

If I had more time, I would have done a Hong Kong seam finish, which would have looked nicer but I didn’t have enough bias tape on hand and I didn’t have the time to do that.

The third finishing technique I used was a triple zigzag stitch to finish the seams attaching the sleeves to the front and back as well as on the pockets. You can see the zig zag here.

Pilvi Coat - inside view

The book instructs you to topstitch the hem of the Pilvi Coat and facing but I decided I didn’t want a seam on this lovely fabric. So I hand stitched the facing and hem in place. It took a couple of hours to get that done because I used tiny stitches, catching one or two threads of my fabric and then the edge of the bias tape. It’s a bit hard to see in this photo.

Pilvi Coat - hand stitching the hem

It was a bit tedious but it was worth it. Here’s a close-up of the finished (and invisible!) hand stitching.

Pilvi Coat - hem finished

I made size XL for this Pilvi Coat. I have broad shoulders and a small bust. If you have a full bust, you will likely need to make some pattern adjustments or the coat may not drape very well.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style

If you make something from Yard Sale fabric at Britex, share it on Instagram by Nov. 20 using the hashtag #yardsalefabricmagic and tag @britexfabrics, you could win a big of fantastic fabrics and notions.

Britex Yard Sale Magic giveaway

Colorful Pilvi Coat - pattern from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - CSews.com

Win a ticket to PROJKT Maiden Lane!

UPDATE! Rafflecopter picked two random winners! Liz and Grace! You have both been sent emails that you won! Congratulations! UPDATE to the update: Liz can no longer attend so I had Rafflecopter pick another winner and that person is Marilyn! Congrats to Marilyn!

Hi! I have an extra General Admission ticket to the Britex Fabrics fashion show PROJKT Maiden Lane! The VIP and General Admission tickets sold out weeks ago. The remaining tickets are standing room only. So if you want to join me and another Bay Area Sewist member to watch this fall fashion show from a chair, enter this contest!

PROJKT Maiden Lane - Britex Fabrics fall fashion show - San Francisco, Sept. 23, 7 pm to 9 pm

PROJKT Maiden Lane will feature designs by Emily Payne, Richard Hallmarq, Kini Zamora (Project Runway) and Rey Ortiz (Under the Gunn). The show will also feature the works of San Francisco artist: Michael Covington (collaborative pieces with Emily Payne), custom masks by L.V.M. and DJ Carole Morey. This entertaining evening was organized by Britex Fabrics’ marketing maven Joie Ray Cohen. (Earlier this year, Joie invited me to be a guest blogger for Britex Fabrics. I did three millinery tutorials in July: 1.) making a lace hat; 2.) how to make a removable ribbon hat band; 3.) how to make a decorative ribbon hat band.)

If you live in the Bay Area or will be in San Francisco on Friday, September 23, 7 pm to 9 pm, go ahead and enter to win a ticket to PROJKT Maiden Lane! You can enter in any one of the following ways – one point equals one entry – by clicking on the options in the image below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get updates from my blog, Bay Area Sewists info, and sewing news – and 3 entries to win a ticket! DEADLINE for entries is Tuesday, Sept. 13, 11:59 pm. I’ll announce a winner on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

The sponsors for this fashion event are Caffe Central, Core Hydration, Threads Magazine & Goorin Brothers Hats! This looks to be an exciting evening. There will be giveaways, too!

For more information about PROJKT Maiden Lane or to buy a standing-room-only ticket, please visit Britex Fabrics’ Eventbrite page.

Win a ticket to PROJKT Maiden Lane - Britex Fabrics fall fashion show - csews.com

Sewing with lace – a resource list

Beautiful lace at Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Last year Natalie Wiener, the notions manager at Britex Fabrics, gave the Bay Area Sewists a great overview of lace for our Learn about Lace meetup. (I’m the organizer for the group.) She also gave us a really helpful handout with links to lace tutorials and more on lace. I put a version of this list as a page under the Bay Area Sewists section of my blog but it was pretty bare bones – no photos and just URLs.

I think it deserves its own post. So I went through all the links to make sure they still worked, added the article titles, more info on sources and photos from the meetup. All the comments after the article titles are from Natalie, unless otherwise indicated in [brackets].

I took the photos at the Bay Area Sewists meetup at Britex Fabrics. Here are links to some of Britex’s lace fabrics and lace trims. (I wrote a recap of this fun meetup here.)

Recommended Tutorials for Working with Lace

General Lace Info

Eyelash fringe on lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Seams and Finishes

Chantilly lace with roses and sequins - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Embellishment with Lace (Applique, Insertion, etc.)

Heirloom Sewing

Lace at Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Patterns and Projects

Thank you for this great list, Natalie!

Lace tutorials - a resource list compiled by Natalie of Britex Fabrics - lace seams and finishes, lace embellishments, heirloom sewing, lingerie lace


My millinery tutorials for Britex Fabrics

Millinery tutorials for Britex Fabrics: How to make a lace hat + making a removable ribbon hatband - CSews.com

Hi, I wrote my first tutorials for Britex Fabrics blog this month! I decided to focus on millinery because I wanted to make a lace hat from a Patricia Underwood Vogue pattern (V8891), plus I wanted to replace a ribbon on an old hat. It was initially going to be one post but it got really long so Britex decided to break it up into three separate posts. Here are the links to those posts:

  1. Making a lace hat – I used a navy lace from Britex to make version D of Vogue pattern. (I made another Vogue pattern of hers, a while ago, which you can see here.)
  2. How to make a removable ribbon hat band – I show how to make Petersham ribbon go around a curve and  how to make a ribbon hat band that you can remove. Typically, ribbon hat bands are sewn to the hat. I designed one that uses a small piece of elastic so you can remove it.
  3. How to make a decorative removable ribbon hat band – This tutorial is nearly the same as the other one but it uses a striped ribbon and a solid black Petersham ribbon and a different design to hide the elastic.

If you follow my blog or my Instagram feed (@csews), you’ll know how much I love hats, which is why it was fun to write these tutorials. But it took a lot longer than I thought it would to put it all together so I hope take a moment to visit Britex Fabrics blog and read one of them. 🙂

Millinery tutorial: Making a lace hat with V8891 - C Sews for Britex Fabrics blog

Millinery tutorials: how to make a removable ribbon hat band - C Sews for Britex Fabrics blog
Millinery tutorial: How to make a removable hat band - C Sews for Britex Fabrics blog

Tips on Sewing Tricky Fabrics


Have you sewed any lightweight silk or slippery fabrics? The Bay Area Sewists meetup group met at Britex Fabrics this weekend to discuss sewing tricky fabrics. This is the second time we’ve held this meetup. There was a wait list for the first one we held last fall (see Fiddly Fabrics & More…). So I thought it would be a good idea to repeat this meetup.

Once again we were fortunate to have Douglas, the store’s very experienced sales associate, discuss his tips and his experience sewing fabrics, such as silk chiffon and charmeuse. And of course, it’s always fabulous to meet at Britex, which has a wide range of gorgeous fabrics.

Britex Fabrics - Bay Area Sewists  metup - csews.com

What follows are my notes, Bay Area Sewist members’ questions and comments, and my observations.

Sewing tricky fabrics - silk chiffon, charmeuse - Bay Area Sewists meetup - csews.com

Douglas picked out silk chiffon for us to look at. His tips for sewing delicate fabrics  – as well as some suggested by Bay Area Sewists members attending this meetup – are as follows:

Use entomology pins, which are extremely fine pins used to pin insects (yep, if you want to pin a butterfly, you use these pins). A friend of his recently returned from London and brought back some of those pines and Douglas noticed that the box said they could also be used for “fine fabrics.” I did a quick search and found this naturalist store, The Compleat Naturalist, selling a box of 100 insect pins for $7.95. The pins are coated in black enamel, which prevents them from rusting. Douglas said to get the finest size. Merchant & Mills also sells them here for £6.00. Douglas warned that you need to be careful using the fine pine because they are so sharp, they will just go through your skin.

If you’re sewing charmeuse, pin everything, says Douglas.

To hem a silk scarf, Douglas says you could use a very thin line of stitch witchery to hold the hem in place and then sew it with silk thread. He says do not use silk thread for garment sewing because the thread is so strong, the fabric will tear before the thread does. There is no “give” to silk thread.

To cut silk and slippery fabrics, Douglas recommends putting a layer tissue paper on your cutting table, place your fabric on top, then your pattern paper, pin and cut. The cheap tissue paper you can get at the drug store, the stuff some department stores put around your purchases before they put them in a bag. I mentioned this in my post on the earlier meetup – so this may seem familiar if you’ve already read that post. Do not remove the tissue paper before you sew. Keep it in place and sew through your fabric and the tissue paper. This will help stabilize your fabric.

Silk chiffon - Bay Area Sewists - csews.comDouglas pads his cutting table so he can pin the fabric through his pad. What’s in his pad? He uses several layers of cotton on top of foam. One Bay Area Sewists member mentioned that you could get a piece of foam core and pin through that. And I just saw a tip the other day on Sew Busy Lizzy‘s Instagram feed (@sewbusylizzy) – put a blanket on your cutting table before cutting slippery and heavy fabric – don’t cut through the blanket though! It stops the fabric from sliding around.

Scissors or rotary cutter? Douglas uses a rotary cutter around curves, scissors for straight lines.

To install a zipper in chiffon – Douglas says to put a strip of organza where the zipper goes. I asked him if he would recommend using a lightweight fusible as well and he said no, the organza was enough.

What about sewing together two slippery pieces of silk along a curve, for example, a armhole? Douglas say to cut a strip of organza (on grain, not on the bias or it will give you trouble) and sew it together. And don’t forget to clip the curve.

At the end of Douglas’s talk, we convened upstairs to discuss some of our experiences sewing these fabrics. Bay Area Sewists member Emily used silk charmeuse to make her wedding dress from the By Hand London Flora Dress pattern. She laid out her fabric on the floor, sandwiching the charmeuse between two layers of tissue paper (a layer of tissue paper, silk charmeuse, tissue paper, then pattern pieces). Emily blogs at Dressing the Role, where you can read more about her dress here.

Emily talking about cutting silk charmeuse - Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

Sewing Knits

Douglas showed us some lightweight plum wool jersey. You could see through it. He says you could line with Bemberg cut on the bias.

To sew it, your could use a longer straight stitch gently stretching the fabric as you sew, a stretch stitch, or a shallow zig zag stitch. For tips on sewing knits on a regular sewing machine, see this Tilly & the Buttons post. Also, see Sewaholic’s list of tips for sewing knits.

Lightweight wool jersey - Bay Area Sewists meetup - csews.com

Fabric that Unravels

How do you cut fabric that unravels very easily? Douglas says take some scotch tape (regular invisible tape), put it on your fabric and then cut through the tape. He showed us two samples of fabric made with raffia. You can’t wash this fabric though – you can only spot clean it. You could make a really interesting coat from this fabric.

Raffia fabric - Bay Area Sewists meetup - csews.comRaffia fabric - Bay Area Sewists meetup - csews.com

Fabric Care

Prewash silk with shampoo. Silk is a protein so wash with shampoo in warm water. Cold water can make the fabric stiffer. Douglas says he uses Pert and dries it in the dryer – “no heat” setting. Air drying is also fine.

You may want to test a small piece of your fabric and see how it reacts. If it changes too much, then you may just want to dry clean it. I did an experiment a couple of years ago on prewashing some silk chiffon, which I have yet to sew. Here are my test results using cold water, luke warm water, and water plus vinegar.

Someone asked about Woolite and Douglas does not recommend it. He says if you look at the ingredients – bleach is one of them. So you are making your clothes lighter by using Woolite. Yikes.

Other Tips

When we went upstairs to continue the discussion among the members, here’s what else came up:

Use a Teflon foot for sewing sticky fabrics, leather, performance fabrics, fabrics that stick to your finger when you press on them.

If you wash something and the color bleeds where it shouldn’t, wash it again with a “color catcher.” You can find it in the grocery aisle in the dryer section, according to Emily, who says it will pick up the extra dye.

If you have any tips for sewing tricky fabrics, please share them in the comments section!

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My Spring for Cotton Dress – Construction Details


I hope you’re enjoying some spring sewing! Have you sewed any eyelet fabric? If you have any tips, please pass them on. This was my first experience sewing with it.

A few days ago, I finished the dress I made for Lucky Lucille’s Spring for Cotton sewalong. The challenge was to make something from a vintage or vintage-inspired pattern using 100 percent cotton fabric. I went through my small stash of vintage patterns decided to make a sleeveless dress. This pattern was for a 36 bust, 28 waist, and 38 hips. I added a lining to my version.

Simplicity 2439 - vintage sewing pattern - csews.com

My waist and hips are bigger than the pattern (especially because I’ve gained about ten pounds since last year – the result of a busy job and not making time to exercise). My waist is about 30.5 inches (77.5 cm) and my hips 41 inches (104 cm). I made most of my adjustments before I cut my muslin, which you can read about in my post WIP: a Vintage Dress Pattern and Japanese Top. Here’s my brief summary of the flat pattern adjustments before I made my muslin:

  • 1/4″ small bust adjustment,
  • dropped armhole 1 inch,
  • added 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) to side seams of front and back bodice (total of 2 inches),
  • added 1/2 inch to skirt waist
  • added 3/4 inch to hip area.

Here’s what my muslin looked like (pardon the bad bathroom lighting). I decided to leave off the pocket detail because I didn’t really like it on me. They were decorative anyway, not actual pockets.

Muslin of dress - spring for cotton - csews.com

At first glance it looked like it fit quite well and I thought, great, now I can cut my fashion fabric. But when I turned around and looked at the back, I could see that there was a little gaping of the back neckline, which is a bit of a scoop neck that’s lower than the front neckline. Hmmmm. I had not encountered this issue before. But I hadn’t made a dress with a scoop back neckline either.

So I went online to see what pattern adjustment to make – and stumbled across Ginger Makes post: By Hand London Anna Dress: Back Neckline Adjustment. I don’t have narrow shoulders so this was the first-time pattern adjustment for me. Before I did anything to my pattern, I took off my muslin, pinched in where I thought most of the gaping occurred, then pinned it in pace with safety pins. I guess that 1/4-inch (slightly less than 1 cm) would do the trick.

1/4 inch back neckline adjustment - csews.com

Back bodice – pinned.
Bodice - back adjustment muslin - csews.com

I tried it on again and it looked good (sorry I didn’t take a photo of that), so I decided to skip making another muslin. I made a 1/4″ flat pattern adjustment, following Ginger Makes’ clear instructions. It was easy – just draw a line from the armhole to the area that gapes the most, cut along that line and overlap 1/4″. The point turner is where I sliced the pattern and overlapped it 1/4 inch. to see a larger version of this photo, click on it once and it will open another window, then click on the photo again, you’ll see a large version.

Back neckline adjustment - Simplicity 2439 vintage sewing pattern - csews.com

Then I did a bit of a reality check, tried on the muslin one last time and realized that the waist needed a little more ease. So I added another 1/4-inch (.6 cm) to the waist of the bodice and skirt, crossed my fingers, and began cutting my fashion fabric.

Meanwhile, I also did a muslin of the jacket but decided I didn’t like the boxy shape. So I didn’t make it.

Jacket - vintage Simplicity 2439 - Spring for cotton - csews.com

The challenge of making this dress is that I was using eyelet fabric for the first time and lining the entire dress with a contrast fabric. Here’s an image I posted on Instagram when I was shopping for my fabric at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics for this dress.

Eyelet fabric with fuschia - csews.com

I chose the hot pink fabric for the color – more like a fuchsia – rather than its weight, which was quilt weight. I didn’t think it would make the dress layers too thick because the eyelet fabric was lightweight and had a bit of drape to it. So I thought they would balance each other out. As a general rule though, it’s better to match the drape/weight of the fabrics you’re sewing together. In retrospect, it would have been better to choose a lining fabric that was lighter weight as you’ll see below. But the challenge of this sewalong was to use 100 percent cotton and I liked this color so I went with it.


  • 3 1/2 yards eyelet fabric [amount for dress and jacket, which I didn’t make]
  • 3 yards of lining fabric
  • 1 1/4 yards of 3/4-inch ban-rol waistband interfacing
  • 1-inch buckle kit
  • Gutterman thread
  • Schmetz 60/10 needle

I got my fabric from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, ban-rol from Britex Fabrics (notions floor manager Natalie suggested that I use this for my belt), the buckle kit from Lacis in Berkeley. You can also buy the buckle kit at Lacis’s online store (search “buckle kit”).

As I began sewing this dress, I realized I needed to figure out if I would sew my hot pink lining fabric as lining or underlining. (For a good explanation of underlining, see Seamstress Erin’s post When to Underline your Sewing.) I decided that it would depend on the effect on the eyelet – and how thick the fabric would be. So the bodice was sewn as lining and parts of the skirt were sewn as lining and underlining.

I decided that the darts could all be sewn separately, rather than sewing the lining fabric together with the fashion fabric. so I sewed the all the darts first. Four in the front bodice…

vintage Simplicity 2439 - Bodice - front lining - csews.com

two in the back bodice…

vintage Simplicity 2439 back bodice - csews.com

and four in the skirt back. This is one side of the skirt back, which has a center seam and kick pleat.

vintage Simplicity 2439 - back skirt darts - csews.com

I also got a nice tip via Instagram from @sewbrooke, who blogs at Custom Style. She told me if the fabric seemed thick, I could press the darts one way for the lining and another way for the fashion fabric to take care of any bulk. I took her advice.

The directions called for cutting the darts and pressing them open, which I had not seen before. I posted that photo on my IG feed (@csews) and asked if I needed to do this. Brooke said that this is often done in menswear and more necessary with a suiting or wool fabric. So I just pressed my darts.

Dart instructions - csews.com

However, the pleats in the front needed to be sewn with both fabrics sandwiched together. Otherwise, you wouldn’t see any of the pink through the eyelet.

As you can see here, the darts are slim enough that you don’t really notice that there isn’t any pink behind them. The pleats are a bit thick – something I hadn’t thought about when I bought my lining fabric. (I forgot to make a loop to hold down the end of the belt but I did make one the next day so I had it on when I wore the dress to work on Friday. It doesn’t stick out anymore.)

Spring for cottonn - Simplicity 2439 dress front detail - csews.com

I sewed my bodice pieces, following the instructions in How to Line a Sleeveless Dress from Blithe Stitches, a tutorial I used when I made a dress a couple of years ago. This dress has a side zipper. I left open the area just below the left armhole.

The skirt got a little tricky. I had to figure out how to sew the kick pleat in the back with the lining. The instructions direct you to first sew the two back skirt pieces together with  5/8″ seam allowance, and then sew the center back seam, which is about three inches in from the other seam. You then fold over this three-inch bit of fabric to one side and sew it together when you attach the bodice to the skirt. This center back seam runs about 2/3 of the skirt length. The area below the center back seam forms the kick pleat. I improvised as I figured out how to sew the kick pleat with the eyelet and lining fabrics. (I cut my eyelet fabric perpendicular to the grain so I could use the scalloped edge of the selvage as my hem. The dress hem is a straight edge, not a curved one, which makes it possible to do this.)

instructions - kick pleat - csews.com

I skipped the first seam with the 5/8″ seam allowance and just sewed the center back seam, leaving the area below the pattern mark open.

Skirt back - kick pleat - csews.com

Then I sewed the center back seam of the eyelet fabric and pinned it to the waist of the lining fabric. Clearly, the dress would be too thick around the waist – six layers of fabric (kick pleat adds another two layers) – so I cut the fashion fabric above the pleat with my pinking scissors, close to the seam line. I didn’t trim the lining fabric.

Kick pleat - eyelet fabric - csews.com

Then I placed the lining fabric on top of the eyelet fabric and sewed the 5/8″ seam. Here’s a detail of the kick pleat before sewing the 5/8″ seam.

Kick pleat sewn

After I finished sewing the kick pleat, I was ready to sew the skirt side seams. I sewed the lining and the eyelet fabric together at the side seams. It was hard to line up the eyelet across the seam. I began at the bottom so I would be sure that the eyelet lined up at that scalloped edge. I pinned and eased as much as possible but it was all slightly off on the side seams. I decided to let that go and not get stressed out about it. I’m not sure what made it tricky – maybe because I cut the fabric against the grain or that the embroidery of the eyelet distorts the fabric slightly so things are slightly off? I didn’t use any stabilizer so maybe that would have helped.

Here’s what it looks like completed.  The seam in the center is that 5/8″ seam I mentioned above.

Kick pleat completed - csews.com

But you really don’t see that seam in the back pleat. Without the pleat, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to walk in this dress.

Spring for cotton - vintage Simplicity 2439 - csews.com

I attached the bodice to the skirt (note the zipper tape on the right). The waist seam is really thick – four layers of fabric and even more where the front pleats are. If I had to do this again, I would have picked a much lighter weight lining fabric. And I would add more ease in the hips. It’s not that it’s tight there but when I sit down, there’s small pool of fabric in my lap, which doesn’t look very good.

Waist seam - inside - csews.com

And here’s another photo of the finished dress!

Spring for cotton - vintage Simplicity 2439 dress pattern - csews.com

I really love the colors! I think I’ll do another post on accessories for this dress – the belt and fascinator. I was going to include info on making the belt and fascinator but it’s getting really long so I’ll save that for another day! Thanks for visiting and happy sewing!

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Learning about Lace at Britex Fabrics

Hi, I hope you had a great weekend – even if it did snow on the first day of spring on the East Coast! I had a great time with the Bay Area Sewists on Saturday. We got together to Learn about Lace at Britex Fabrics! Waring: This is a really long post with tons of photos and at the very end, a link to a fantastic list of tutorials compiled by Natalie Wiener, the notions floor manager at Britex Fabrics. Natalie was our lace guide and gathered many examples of lace to present a brief overview of lace, including working with lace.

Lace at Britex Fabrics Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

Natalie makes historical costumes and over the years has become quite an expert on lace. And of course, she wore a beautiful lace dress that day as you can see in the photo below.

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We met on the fourth floor of Britex (yes, there are four floors to Britex), where you’ll find oil cloth, fake fur, felt, leather, vinyl, remnants, and more. We were initially supposed to meet on the first floor but it was getting too crowded so we went up to the fourth floor, which has a bit more open space. Natalie had gathered bolts of lace and yards of lace notions to show us the different types of lace available at Britex – everything from imported French lace to stretch lace.

Here are some of my notes and photos from our meetup. (Any errors are mine so if you have any corrections, please let me know!)

Natalie began with Chantilly lace, a delicate, soft spiderweb lace whose name comes from the city of Chantilly, France. She’s holding a pretty orange Chantilly lace…

Chantilly lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

.. and here a black Chantilly lace. It’s quite delicate looking, isn’t it?

Black Chantilly lace - Brritex Fabrics - csews.com

She said that France still makes the best lace. Chantilly lace is made using 19th century looms and they come in narrow fixed widths that are determined by the size of the loom, with 36 inches being the widest. One of the characteristics of these handmade laces is the eyelash fringe on the edges of the lace. There is also machine-made lace that imitates Chantilly – even down to the eyelash fringe. Some are quite good and of course, more affordable.

Here’s an example of Alençon lace. This is a type of lace you’ll see with bridal or evening wear. Here are a few Alençon laces that Britex sells online (more available in the store). Natalie’s hand is on the eyelash fringe on the right. She referred to the wider laces like this as “all-over lace.”

Alencon lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

She explained that the loom creates a ladder at the edges and when you cut it off, it creates the eyelash. (Sorry this is an inadequate explanation but that’s what I scribbled in my notes.)

This is a lace with eyelash fringe – but I think this lace is machine-made rather than hand loomed. But they put the fringe on the edges to make it seem more high-end. It really does look like an eyelash on the scalloped edge, doesn’t it?

Eyelash fringe on lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Handmade Alencon lace can be insanely expensive, which you can read about in this Alencon Lace post on a Visit Normandy blog (7 hours to produce 1 cm! Wow.).

Here’s a red and black re-embroidered lace. It’s a lace with red cord embroidered on a fine black background.

Red Re-embroidered lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

This lace has a green net background and doesn’t have any edging.

Eyelash fringe on lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

This dark grey lace is an example of a Guipure lace, which doesn’t have a mesh background.

Guipure lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Here’s a lace with a Chantilly pattern with roses and sequins.

Chantilly lace with roses and sequins - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

A beautiful Guipure lace with beading – you can sort of see that there are tiny beads on the “wheat” stem design. This is a handmade lace – those beads are put on by hand(!) and thus it’s $450/yard (yes, that’s four hundred and fifty dollars, not $4.50 – yikes).

Ochre guipure lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

There are also “chemical laces” in which the lace designs are attached to a backing that is later chemically dissolved leaving only the design.

This is a lace with embroidery. Some laces are created by embroidering on mesh or on sheer fabrics. The cut-outs on this lace really emphasize the cool design. Who knew there was so much variety to lace? This is not your grandmother’s doily!

Lace with embroidery - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

And look at this pretty one!

Lace with embroidery - britex fabrics - csews.com

Bobbin laces are made with thread, typically 90 percent cotton and 10 percent nylon. Bobbin lace is often used for heirloom sewing – Christening gowns, baby blankets, etc. Natalie said she could talk for 5 hours about heirloom sewing but for our purposes, she just showed us a few samples, such as this one…

Bobbin lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

… and this one, which could be used as an insertion lace – sewn between two fabrics (see tutorial list at the end for a machine technique on sewing lace insertion). Bobbin laces comes in traditional colors…

Bobbin lace - narrow - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

… and in fashion colors such as this Chartreuse bobbin lace you see in the center here.

Bobbin lace - green - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

And here’s some more lace!

Lace at Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Natalie was asked – what do you do with lace that’s 10 inches (~25 cm) wide? She said it could be put around the waist as an accent, used for a sleeve or perhaps along the hem of a jacket sleeve.

Lace - 10-inch width - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Natalie’s tips on lace selection:

  • Choose a lace of similar weight and drape as your fabric.
  • If you’re using a stretch fabric, then you need to choose a lace that stretches, too. If your lace doesn’t have any give, then your lace may get damaged when the fabric stretches.
  • Some laces have a lot of give to them so give it a gentle tug in both directions. You may find it has more give in one direction than the other.

Natalie’s tips on working with lace:

  • Prewash lace in a cold, gentle cycle and let it air dry flat. Beaded lace should be dry cleaned, not washed, because the beads may come off. Nylon lace could be draped over something to dry, provided it doesn’t have any embellishment that weighs it down and could stretch it out.
  • To iron – use a press cloth and low heat. Silk Organza makes an excellent press cloth.
  • Hand sew beaded lace trim. If you use a machine, it could damage the beads (not to mention break a needle!).
  • It’s fine to use a sewing machine with all-over lace, such as her lace dress.
  • Lace is forgiving to work with because it doesn’t ravel so no need to worry about finishing edges, with the exception of bobbin lace trim. If you’re putting bobbin lace at bottom of a skirt, for example, she suggests making a narrow french seam to join the edges. Then the raw edges, which can fray, will be enclosed.
  • If you are using all-over lace with a scalloped border for a garment with a curved hem, such as a skirt or a dress, you won’t be able to position the pattern piece so the scallop is on the curved hem. So cut the scallop off and set it aside. Cut your pattern pieces out and after it’s constructed, you add the scallop to your hem.
  • You could sew all-over lace with a base fabric underneath it.
  • You can cut out part of lace and apply them to other places – by sewing or by using fabric glue. Natalie recommends sewing if the lace is delicate. Glue can show through unless the lace is thick. But she warns that glues will eventually fail so you may want to sew a few of the edges down as well as use glue.
  • If you’re making a garment with applique lace, use a lapped seam (see “Seams and Finishes” in Lace Tutorials and Info for a link to step-by-step instructions for lapped/applique seam). Natalie said instead of cutting a straight line through the flowers, you could cut around them, then lap the pattern pieces so you have a seamless pattern.
  • There’s no grain on lace, which makes it possible to cut and sew around the motifs, such as the lace below.
  • Though laces don’t have a grainline, the exception is stretch lace where the direction matters. It stretches on the grain. Sew stretch lace with a ball point needle or you could damage the lace.

Applique lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Natalie highly recommends Chaire Shaeffer’s book Couture Sewing Techniques for its comprehensive  about lace. She also mentioned Sandra Betzina’s book More Fabric Savvy for its lace section.

After Natalie’s talk, we held a drawing for two Sew Chic Patterns – the Valentine slip and the Beatrice Pocket Dress, both of which can be made with lace if you so desire. This indie pattern company features patterns with a vintage flair. The designer/pattern maker Laura Nash sent us two patterns to give away. Thank you so much, Laura!

Melissa was shocked and thrilled to win the dress pattern…

Melissa - Bay Area Sewists - Beatrice Pocket Dress - csews.com

and Becca was the happy winner of the Valentine slip!

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And of course we had a group photo with Natalie…

Group photo - Bay Area Sewists - lace meetup - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

… who graciously gave us a great handout with info (and links!) on lace  – from seams and finishes to embellishment with lace, heirloom sewing, and patterns and projects! She sent me a PDF and I put all the info on this page Lace Tutorials and Info post: Sewing with lace – a resource list.  Thank you so much, Natalie, Kelsey (Britex’s marketing director), and Britex Fabrics, which gave us a 20 percent discount on fabrics that day! After seeing all these wondering and stunning laces, I definitely like lace a lot more than I ever did before!

Happy Sewing, everyone!

My Maxi Chardon Skirt

Chardon maxi - Deer and Doe - front view - csews.com

Do you like maxi skirts? This is the first one I’ve made. I used Deer and Doe’s Chardon skirt pattern, which is knee-length, but I made it into a maxi length so I could show off this great wax print, which I got from Britex Fabrics. It’s a medium weight cotton that has a bit of stiffness to it but that works well with this pattern.

I bought the last few yards of it in November during a Bay Area Sewists meetup on sewing slippery fabrics.  The warm beige background color isn’t very flattering for my skin tone but I loved the print so much, I thought – as long as I keep it away from my face, I can make it work. And I knew I could wear it with black. (Warning: Many photos are in this post – construction details and more photos of the finished skirt.)

I debated on Instagram whether I should use the print horizontally or vertically (excuse the blurry photo but you get the idea).

#Chardon maxi skirt – use this African wax print vertical or horizontal?

A photo posted by C Sews (@csews) on


People liked it horizontal and vertical. But horizontally, it did look a lot like snakes. And as @Sewbrooke of Custom Style pointed out:

Definitely go with what you think you will wear more. It’s a fun print and it has an interesting illusion of movement in the vertical. =)

So I cut the fabric perpendicular to the grain so the squiggles would run vertically.

To lengthen the skirt, I sliced the front and back pattern pieces horizontally about 2/3 down and then added about 18 1/4 inches (46.5 cm) between the two pieces. I cut my fabric during my sewcationbefore I decided to move my invisible zipper to the left side. The pattern calls for a regular zipper in the center back but I wanted to use an invisible zipper, which I did in my first two Chardon skirts. It worked well with my first Chardon because the black zipper tab disappeared into the fabric. But I didn’t like how it looked on my second Chardon. The centered zipper tab bugged me.

Chardon skirt - zipper - Deer and Doe pattern - csews.com

Then I remembered that SewBusyLizzy had posted a photo on Instagram of Butterick skirt pattern B5756. I mentioned to her that I made version C, and she commented: “I’m going to move the zip to the side & get rid of the centre seams in the skirt.” Gee, why didn’t I think about moving the zipper before I cut my fabric back in December? Darn it.

A photo posted by Sewbusylizzy (@sewbusylizzy) on


So I have a center back seam that looks like this, but I’m fine with it. The print is so bold it doesn’t really matter that it’s cut off. If I make another maxi Chardon skirt I’ll eliminate the seam in the center back.

Chardon skirt - center back seam - csews.com

This skirt is supposed to have two side pockets. But I couldn’t figure out how to keep the pocket and install an invisible zipper so I removed the pocket on that side.

Chardon skirt - side pocket - csews.com

I’m sure there’s a way to incorporate a side pocket and an invisible zipper but I was too impatient to figure that out. I just wanted to finish the skirt. If you’ve installed an invisible zipper next to a side pocket, let me know how you did it!

The other change I made to the pattern was to add a lining instead of a facing. I used the facing to draft the lining pattern but I didn’t add enough ease to the side seams. I made the mistake of drawing a straight line from the facing to the bottom of the maxi-skirt length. I didn’t compensate for the pleats so my lining was a lot smaller than the skirt fabric around the hips. Whoops!

So I ripped out the right side seam (my zipper is on the left), traced the opening between the two lining pieces on some tracing paper and then cut out a strip of lining. I didn’t have any lining fabric left over so I took some of this ivory Bemberg from my stash and added it to the side seam, which you can sort of see here.

Lining for Chardon skirt - csews.com

Here’s a detail of what it looks like. No one’s going to know that my lining fabric doesn’t match, except me – and you. 😉

Chardon skirt lining - csews.com

Here’s what the lining around the invisible zipper looks like. This is the first time I machine sewed the lining around the invisible zipper. I usually hand sew it to the zipper tape. I followed Colette Patterns tutorial: A simple way to sew facings with invisible zippers – and it worked like a charm.

Invisible zipper and lining

I only have two other maxi skirts in my wardrobe – one is a 1970s era skirt I got at a vintage sale and the other is a cheap solid black one I got at H&M a couple of years ago. (I don’t shop at H&M anymore – especially after I read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline. I reviewed the book here.) I don’t wear either of them that often though. The vintage one is made from a really heavyweight fabric – it’s almost like wearing a rug. I’ve tripped wearing the black one – the hazards of wearing maxi-length skirts – so I think I may cut that one down. The fabric is really lightweight and maybe that’s why it’s easy to trip on it.

I’m sure I’ll wear this one a lot more than my other two. It can be dressed up for night – especially with a fancy hat – and I can also wear it to work. I actually wore it to a jazz concert a couple of days ago – the lining still needed hemming but hey, who could tell, right?

This is my third Chardon skirt. I really like this skirt pattern. It’s very flattering and works so well for figures with wide hips.

And here are some more photos of this skirt. It was a bit warm and I shot this when the sun was very intense – thus the strong shadows.

Chardon maxi skirt - Deer and Doe - pocket - csews.com

Chardon maxi skirt - Deer and Doe pattern - back view - csews.com

Chardon maxi skirt - left view

Chardon maxi skirt - lining - csews.com

Have you made any maxi skirts? Do you wear them?

Deer & Doe - Chardon Skirt sewing pattern -lengthened to a maxi skirt
Deer and Doe Chardon skirt sewing pattern - lengthened to maxi version - African wax print fabric - CSews.com

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag

Hi, I made these drawstring bags as a going-away gift for a work colleague, K., who left San Francisco to move back to Washington, DC for a new job. I wanted to make something that would remind her of the Bay Area – and then I could also put together this tutorial on how to make a drawstring bag. The weekend before her last day in the office, I went to Britex Fabrics to see if they had any San Francisco-themed fabric. Lo and behold! They had this great quilt-weight fabric with Bay Area icons, including the Britex Fabrics sign!

How to make a drawstring bag - single and double drawstring bags - csews.com

Here’s another view of the fabric. Isn’t it great? It has everything from wine country, tie-dyed shirts, and Chinatown to cable cars, Japantown, and Britex Fabrics. (You can buy this “I left my heart in San Francisco” fabric online ($15.99/yd) via Britex’s website.

I left my heart in San Francisco fabric - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Here’s what the real sign looks like in person. (Full disclosure: I cropped the image from Britex Fabrics‘ website. I took a photo of the sign last year but I can’t find it.)

Britex Fabrics sign

You can make a drawstring bag to fit items small and large. I decided to make a shoe bag so I got 1/2 yard of this 44″ wide fabric. And I used the leftover fabric to make two smaller bags, which you could put jewelry in or other small items.

I decided to attempt writing a tutorial but as I’ve discovered, it’s a bit more involved that I thought it would be! So I hope the instructions make sense and that I have enough photos to explain things.

Here are the materials for what I made:

1/2 yard of fabric
Cord for drawstring
Cord stop (optional) for ends of drawstring
Safety pin

Materials for how to make drawstring bag: Fabric, cord, cord stop, safety pin - csews.com

There are tons of photos in this post, which may make it seem like a complicated project, but really, it’s not! It’s basically a rectangle with the top folded over to make the casing for the cord. I also finished my seams by sewing french seams, which encloses the raw edges; but you could skip that and just pink or serge them.

You can make the bag with one drawstring that you pull to close (see big bag in the top photo) or you can make it with two drawstrings.The single drawstring bag is made from one piece of fabric folded in half with one casing for the cord. Here’s my drawing – roughly to scale – of the fabric unfolded.

Sketch: drawsting shoe bag - csews.com
Single drawstring bag – 1 piece of fabric folded in half

The double drawstring bag is made from two pieces of fabric with the top of each piece folded and stitched down.

Sketch - small drawstring bag - csews.com
Double drawstring bag – two pieces of fabric, this is one side

As you’ll see below, you thread two drawstrings through the casing and when you pull both drawstrings, the bag automatically closes – pretty cool.

If you’ve made a one-drawstring bag, you may want to check out how I made the one with two drawstrings – just skip down  to Step 4. 😉

The directions to make both bags are essentially the same – the only difference is that one uses one piece of fabric and has one drawstring and the other two pieces of fabric and two drawstrings.

From the leftover fabric, about 19 inches x 18 inches, I made two smaller bags. Instead of one piece of fabric folded in half, I cut two pieces of fabric for each one, like so. the dashes/dots are where I cut the fabric.

drawstring fabric bag pieces - csews.com

I didn’t use that little bit of fabric at the top of the shoe bag but I could have made the shoe bag a little deeper and then had zero waste!

The photos in this post are from both versions of the bag but the casing instructions focus on making the two-drawstring bag.

Size of the Drawstring Bag

The first thing you need to do is to determine what is the purpose of your bag. Then you can figure out the appropriate dimensions.

K. is a few inches shorter than I am. I thought my size-10 sneakers would be big enough to allow for clunky shoes or even high heels.

This is a “directional fabric” or fabric that is supposed to be viewed one way. As you can see, the words are all in the same direction. If I turned the fabric 180 degrees, the words would be upside down. (An example of fabric without a direction is polka dots. They aren’t going to be seen as upside down no matter how you look at them.)

If you are using directional fabric, you may want to get a little extra fabric to compensate the design.

For the shoe bag, I decided I would just cut a large rectangle, fold it in half and sew two seams – one side seam and one bottom seam. The top would be folded over and sewn down to make the cord casing for one cord.

1. Measure your fabric

For the drawstring shoe bag, I cut the fabric so it was about 16 inches tall (length of the shoe, plus about 4 inches for the height of the shoe and for the cord casing).

How to make a drawstring bag - Measure shoe - DIY, tutorial - csews.com

I folded the fabric in half and decided that the finished width of the bag should be about 12 inches – wide enough for one pair of shoes (9 inches, plus a couple of inches for ease, the width of the shoe’s sole and seam allowance: 9 + 3.5 inches = 12.5, for a total of 25 inches (unfolded).

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring shoe bag - Measuring fabric - DIY - csews.com

2. Prepare the cord  casing

You need your cord casing to be wide enough to fit a safety pin and your cord – two cords, if you’re making a two-string bag. As you can see my safety pin and two cords take up nearly an inch. So I gave myself plenty of ease to thread the drawstring. I added a little extra room so I could sew another line of stitching above the drawstring.

safety pin and cords - drawstring bag - csews.com

I marked my fabric four inches down from the top. Fold and iron 1/8-inch wide piece of fabric from the top until the 4-inch mark. This is the opening of the cord casing.

How to make a drawstring bag - Marking top fold - drawstring bag - csews.com

Repeat on the other side and sew down the folded fabric.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring shoe bag - DIY - CSews.com

Fold the top down 1/4 and iron. Then fold and iron it another 1/4 inch.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - DIY - csews.com

Stitch the top down.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - DIY - CSews.com

Fold top down to the 4-inch mark and stitch near the first linen of stitches. I used my edge stitch foot here.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - sewing casing - DIY - CSews.com

The casing is wide enough for two drawstrings.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - threading the cord - DIY - CSews.com

But the shoe bag only has one drawstring so I’m going to add a line of stitching at the top so the drawstring (see pencil marking?) will have one line of stitching above and below it. It also makes the bag look nice.

Mark top seam - drawstring bag - csews.com

3. Stitch the sides

I decided to make french seams, which enclose the raw edges. To make a french seam, you pin the fabric – wrong sides together. It’s a little tricky near the drawstring because you’ve got to lay the fabric flat and sew the first seam from the line of stitching at the bottom of the casing to the bottom.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - French seam - pin wrong sides together - DIY - CSews.com

Sew your first seam.

Tutorial - How to make a draawstring bag - French seam - DIY - CSews.com

At the bottom corner, pivot and then clip your corner.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - french seam, DIY - csews.com

Press the seam open. I used my sleeve press roll.

Iron seam open - csews.com

Turn it inside out. Press again.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - Sew second top seam - drawstring bag - csews.com

You may want to use a point turner for the corners.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - point turner for corner of drawstring bag - DIY - CSews.com

Stitch again down the side and then the bottom.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - French seam - DIY - csews.com

This is the left side of the bottom seam. You can see that the bag was folded on one side so you only need to sew one side seam.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - DIY - CSews.com

On the two-drawstring bag, which uses two pieces of fabric, you’ll be sewing a big “U” – two side seams and the bottom seam.

Tutorial: how to make a drawstring bag - DIY - CSews.com

4. Threading the cord for the two-drawstring bag.

You’ll thread one cord in each direction like this photo. Your cord should be double the width of your finished bag. (For the single-drawstring bag, you just thread one cord through the casing and tie the ends together and you’re done!)

Tutorial: How to make a drawsstring bag - DIY - csews.com

Take the first cord and tie it to a large safety pin.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - csews.com

Thread the safety pin through one side.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - thread cord with a safety pin - CSews.com

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - inserting cord - DIY - CSews.com

And then through the other side. Line up the ends and then either tie a knot or use a cord stop. I like the double-hole ones like this. You press it down and stick in your cord.

Cord stop

Then you can tighten it as much or as little as you want.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - CSews.com

Then you thread your second cord starting at the opposite end. In this photo, the cord stop is on the right, so I start threading on the left – remember the cord placement in the photo above? You’re following that direction.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - threading 2nd cord - csews.com

When you get to the cord stop on the other side, you just put the cord through the other side. This is why it’s important to make sure you have enough ease in the casing. If it’s too snug, it can be tricky to thread the safety pin and the cord.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - DIY CSews.com

Here’s a closeup shot of the second cord threaded through. See the first cord in there?

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - DIY - csews.com

And then you put your cord ends through your second cord stop. Use fray block or fray check on the ends of the cords so they don’t unravel. If you are using a synthetic cord, you can melt the ends with a flame from a lighter or a match.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - 2nd cord stop attached - CSews.com

5. Completed drawstring bag with two drawstrings! You pull both of them at the same time and the bag closes.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - DIY - csews.com

The finished shoe bag with one drawstring.

Tutorial: How to make drawsstring shoe bag - finished bag - DIY - CSews.com

Tutorial: how to make a drawstring shoe bag - finished bag - DIY - csews.com

Wow – I really didn’t expect it to make me so long to finish the post! I hope you find it useful – and maybe you can make some last-minute holiday gifts now that you know how to make a drawstring bag. Or you could make a bag to enclose a gift. Have you made any drawstring bags?

Tutorial: How to make a double- and single-drawstring bag

Using Border Print Fabric in a Dresss

Border print fabric from Britex Fabrics - Italian cotton lycra print

For many months I had a little over two yards of this gorgeous border print, which I bought from Britex Fabrics as a remnant (yes, they have generously cut remnants!). It’s a cotton with lycra fabric from Italy, 60 inches wide, with the print getting larger at the selvages, with the bigger squarish elements about 6 inches in width. The smaller black and grey squares in the middle are each about 1.5 inches wide. I really loved it but I didn’t know what I would make from it – maybe a skirt, I thought. But I had never made anything with a border print fabric. How would I cut the fabric? I was a bit stymied so I prewashed the fabric and put it away.

Every few months I would take it out and look at it but I still didn’t know what pattern would work with it. I pondered a bias cut skirt but then realized that wouldn’t make full use of the border print. Then I considered making some sort of pleated skirt but pleats have never looked that great on me because of my hips.

Then when Sewing Indie Month was announced by Mari of Seamster Patterns on May 1, I looked at all the participating indie pattern companies and ordered two patterns – the Beatrice dress by Sew Chic Patterns because I loved the neckline and the Anna Dress, the By Hand London pattern that so many people made last year because I wanted to try making one.

Then started going through my stash hoping I could find something that would work with one of the patterns. I posted this photo on Instagram and Brooke of Custom Style pointed that it might be tricky to make the print even on the neckline of the Beatrice Dress. Good point.

Beatrice Dress + Border print

Then I thought – “Oh, what about the Anna Dress?” And posted this photo on IG and got a lot of positive feedback. But I didn’t have enough fabric so I went back to Britex and got two more yards at full price.

Using a border print fabric in a dress - Anna Dress - By Hand London

But first I wanted to make the Beatrice Dress but after I realized it was going to take me too long to get it done by the Sewing Indie Month deadline, I decided to go with Anna. You can read more about how and why that happened in this post (plenty of photos of the dress there too).

Once I picked Anna, everything came together. As I was laying out the bodice, I thought about the article on border prints in the April/May 2014 issue of Threads magazine, which I had flipped through at the Berkeley Public Library one afternoon. It made me think about using the border print as an additional design element. I held the fabric against me, posted the image on Instagram and Twitter. Leila of Three Dresses happened to see the tweet and liked that idea. I love sewcialists! They are so helpful and supportive. 😉

Using a border print fabric in a dress - deciding fabric placement

With that in mind, I placed the bodice pieces with the grain so that design of the print went from large to small from the left to right sleeve on the front and back. I also paid attention to where the print transitioned from large to small. I knew I wanted the area where the print transitioned to the smaller black squares to start off center rather than dead center of the bodice.

Using a border print fabric in a dress - Anna Dress bodice placement - By Hand London

The print is asymmetrical (and busy) so I wanted to cut the fabric so that the print’s design on the individual pattern pieces would not line up. Here’s a shot of the front bodice with the front pleats sewn and facing attached.

Using a border print fabric in a dress - Anna Dress bodice - By Hand London

In the photo below, the space to the left of the pattern piece is where I cut the back left side of the bodice. The pattern piece for the other side is placed an inch higher. I wanted it to be off by a significant amount so that it would look deliberate rather than like I was trying to match the design and failed. This pattern has a 22-inch invisible zipper in the center back.

Using a border print fabric in a dress - Anna Dress back bodice pieces - By Hand London

Here’s a close up of the back bodice – see where the invisible zipper will go?

Using a border print fabric in a dress - Anna Dress back bodice - By Hand London

For the skirt I decided that I would lay out the pattern pieces so that the border print would be the largest at the hem. The meant cutting the fabric against the grain – perpendicular to the selvage.

There are seven skirt panels –  the front skirt has three pieces, the center skirt piece, which is cut on the fold and two panels on either side of the center panel. I put the center skirt panel at the highest position on the border where the squares were the smallest. At that position there was about three inches left of the large part of the border print below that piece. So I planned on cutting the side pieces an inch lower than the center panel and then the two center back pieces an inch lower than the side panels. I thought it might look like the border was moving down the skirt but the print is so busy I don’t think it did that. But it did serve my purpose of not matching the print at any seams.

This is a photo of one of the other panels, with largest part of the border print at the bottom. I folded the skirt up to the hem length I wanted – tea length instead of maxi.

Using a border print fabric in a dress - Anna Dress skirt pattern piece - By Hand London

And here’s what the finished version looks like from the front …

Anna Dress - front view border print fabric from Britex Fabrics- csews.com

and the back!

Anna Dress - back view border print fabric from Britex Fabrics- csews.com

If you like this dress, you can vote for it today on Lilacs & Lace! I entered it in the Sewing Indie Month Dressed to the Nine Sew-along contest. Voting ends today.

Have you made anything with a border print before? What did you make and did you play around with the border print’s placement?

Using a border print fabric in a dress - Anna Dress - By Hand London sewing pattern, fabric from Britex Fabrics

The Skirt with a Yoke

Family print fabric - Skirt with a yoke - csews.com

Great colors and cool Art Deco-like design – that was my first reaction when I saw this cotton voile at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. I thought it was an abstract swirly motif, which is what made me want to get it. Later I realized that it was a family. Yep. Look at it and you’ll see that there’s a mother, father, and baby – check out the slippered foot towards the bottom of each family. This discovery made me like it less so I put it in the closet, where it languished for about two years before I finally decided to make this skirt with a yoke.

Butterick B5756 cotton voile skirt with a yoke - csews.com

I’m glad I finally made something out of the fabric! I like it a lot more than I did before I stuck it in the closet. 😉

I started this skirt back in August and finally finished it in September. I posted about the pocket but I got caught up in my Fall for Cotton project (My Fall for Cotton Project Is Finished!) and writing about this skirt got put on the back burner. The photo at the top is from How to Add a Patch Pocket to a Skirt.

Folks who follow my Instagram feed have seen the various stages of putting it together. I wrote about the lining – Bemberg Lining for a Skirt – a while ago. But I ended up getting regular rayon, not Bemberg because that was what was available. (Note: Bemberg is a high-quality rayon with the feel of silk. It’s breathable, which is why high-end designers like to use it in their garments. Also rayon doesn’t generate static like silk and poly can, which is what makes it a better lining for a skirt. You can read a brief history of Bemberg here at the Fabric and Buttons website of Waechter’s Fine Fabrics.)

The skirt pattern is Butterick B5756, which is still available – though not for long as its current sale price is $4.99 on the Butterick site. I cut size 16.


Butterick 5756 – $1 (on sale at Joann’s)
3.5 yards of cotton voile – approximately $50 (I got 4 yards of it on sale a couple of years ago from Britex Fabrics. I can’t remember what I paid for it but it wasn’t cheap. I used more than the recommended yardage to match the pattern.)
1.5 yards of rayon lining – $15
zipper – $2 (pattern calls for a regular zipper, I used invisible)
hook & eye
matching thread
fusible stay tape (optional, my addition)

The cool thing about making a gathered skirt with a yoke is that you only need to make a muslin of the yoke. You can just adjust the gathering that goes below to make it bigger or smaller. How easy is that?

muslin of skirt yoke - B5756

I put the muslin yoke around my waist, held it together in the back and saw that it fit. I thought I might need to add more to the hips but there’s a lot of ease in this pattern so I didn’t need to make any adjustments. It was a little loose, but I thought that would be OK because I like skirts a little low in the waist. A zipper goes in the center back, which is why there are two separate pieces for the back yoke.

Here are the pattern pieces for the yoke. You cut two of each piece because the yoke is “self-lined” with the fashion fabric. The gathered skirt has its own lining.

Skirt yoke B5756 pattern pieces

This rayon was rather slippery so I made a “muslin sandwich” to cut it. I prewashed both the fashion fabric and the lining in cold water.

Sandwich lining fabric between muslin

My sandwich worked out pretty well but I should have used more pins. The popcorn was good too – nothing like snacking and sewing!

Cutting the lining fabric

Cutting rayon lining between muslin

I thought this could be a good time to try out the Japanese fusible stay tape I bought from Sandra Betzinger at the Pattern Review Weekend in San Francisco earlier this year. I wanted to reinforce the fabric around the zipper. This stay tape is more of a medium weight so I probably should have used something that was lightweight.

Fusible tape on zipper area

For this skirt, you sew the gathering stitches in the fashion fabric, then you pin and baste it to the lining, and then gather the top edge of the skirt.

Pinned and basted gathering at top of skirt

Then you sew the skirt to the yoke – leaving the center back open for the zipper. I didn’t think about how sewing the lining to the yoke would affect how the invisible zipper would look on the inside – not very neat. If I make this skirt again, I’ll have to remember to stop sewing 5/8″ from both ends when attaching the lining to the gathered fabric…

Yoke, lining & zipper - csews.com

… to avoid having it look like this. Or I guess you could add another 1/2″ to both sides of the lining in the zipper area so it could cover part of the zipper. I just didn’t feel like unpicking all the stitches (including a bit of the gathering) from that bit of lining behind the zipper. So I left it  as is. No one can see it anyway – except if they see it here. 😉

Zipper & lining - csews.com

Here’s what it looks like on the right side. I was slightly off where the center back seams meet. But I don’t think it’s too noticeable because the fabric is busy!

Invisible zipper on skirt - csews.com

I really do like this skirt – even though the fabric is far busier than what I typically wear. I like the pocket I added but putting anything heavy in it weighs down the skirt because it’s a lightweight fabric and there is no waistband. I just put one pocket on the right side, which you can see here.

Butterick 5756 skirt with a yoke - photo by Kofi - csews.com

For some reason, my husband tends to cut off my feet in some photos. I think this is the only back view I’ve got.

Back of skirt - csews.com

The lining! I’m glad I went with red instead of blue. Thanks to Brooke of Custom Style, Catja of Gjeometry and Samina of Sew Everything for chiming in on that post!

Skirt lining - photo by Kofi - csews.com

And here are more photos from that warm September day in Berkeley.

Skirt with yoke - photo by Kofi - csews.com

Cotton voile skirt - photo by Kofi - csews.com

Cotton voile skirt - photo by Kofi - csews.com

The skirt is a bit loose at the waist so when I walk, it shifts a bit so I have to pay attention and make sure the side seam doesn’t move to the front. That’s a little annoying. If I use this pattern again, I could bring it about an inch for a closer fit. I have this same problem with some bias cut skirts I’ve made too. These are all skirts without waistbands so maybe that’s part of the problem. Have you had this issue with any skirts you’ve made? What did you do to fix it? I’ve thought about adding a little rubberized strip along the side seam at the hip but I haven’t tried that yet.

I do like my skirts to have some ease – then I don’t have to worry about things getting tight after a full meal and dessert. Heheh.

Do you have any favorite skirt patterns? Do you favor an A-line style, gathered, pleated or straight skirt? I like patterns with full skirts because they look best with my hips and because I have a big stride when I walk. Straight skirts aren’t really my thing unless I can walk in them without shortening my stride.