Thursday, 29 July 2010

E is for Elastic

E for Elastic

I love elastic. It is a great way to make quick and easy, not to mention flexible, waistbands - essential for babies and small children, who grow so fast - but you can also add really interesting effects by using it for shirring or gathering, around necklines, busts, hips, tops of bags, etc.

Elastic is normally applied either by sewing it straight on to fabric, or inserting it in to a specially created casing. There are many different types of elastic, and they come in different widths and thicknesses. It's easy to think initially that "any old elastic laying around will do", but use the wrong type and it can ruin the whole sewing project- so what are the different types, and what are they best used for?

Elastic is made by binding threads around an inner rubber core. The threads are bound either by weaving (=> woven elastic), braiding (=> braided elastic), or knitting (=> knitted elastic), and either polyester, cotton or nylon threads are used.

Braided elastic is the cheapest type of elastic, and is great for some uses but loses its stretch when it is sewn straight on to fabric, and it becomes narrower when stretched.

Good for: Casings where a light weight elastic is appropriate, e.g. around sleeve edges.

Bad for: sewing directly on to fabric, as it will lose its stretch this way.

Braided Elastic

Woven elastic is the strongest and thickest type of elastic, and does not narrow when stretched.

Good for: Sewing directly on to clothes or craft projects, as it will retain the stretch when sewn directly on to fabric. It is also good for casings. Waistbands usually come out best using woven rather than braided elastic; and because of its strength, it is essential when sewing with heavier weight fabrics.

Woven Elastic

Knitted elastic has a much more natural handle to it, and is softer than both woven and braided elastic. It is also very versatile as it doesn't lose its stretch when sewn on to fabric, so it can be used both for that and for casings.

Good for: Sewing straight on to clothes and using in casings. Because of the softness, knitted elastic works brilliantly on lightweight fabrics.

Knitted Elastic

Shirring elastic is essentially elasticated thread. I don't know how it is made, so if anyone has any ideas I'd be really interested to hear! It is used instead of normal thread and when sewn in rows on to fabric, creates a smocked effect. I won't mention any more about shirring elastic here as the queen of shirring, Birgitta Designs, has written an excellent tutorial with step by step instructions and great pictures on her blog.

Cotton, Polyester or Nylon elastic?

Polyester elastic is the most versatile and can be machine washed or dry cleaned. Cotton elastic is likely to shrink a bit, and it cannot be drycleaned. Nylon elastic is suitable for swimwear and lingerie.

Applying Elastic

Elastic is usually applied either by sewing it directly on to fabric, or by sewing a 'casing' (a hollow tube) and threading elastic through it. In each case, the first step is to determine how much elastic is required. This does to an extent depend on what you will be using the elastic for; but in all cases you want the elastic to be snug enough to be secure and not droopy, but not so tight that it is uncomfortable and cuts in to the skin.

As a general guesstimate of how much elastic is required, measure around the waist / arm / leg or whatever body part or fabric piece you are going to be elasticating, and then deduct 2.5cm from that.

Some general tips on sewing with elastic:

• A ball-point needle works best. Ball-point needles have rounded tips, allowing the needle to pierce through closely woven fibres without cutting them

• When cutting the elastic, remember to cut a length equal to the length required, plus spare for finishing / sewing the ends together. Usually 2-3cm is enough.

• If you are sewing the elastic straight on to fabric, use a stretch or zigzag stitch.

• If you are threading elastic in to a casing, pin or baste one end of the elastic to the end of the casing to prevent the end of the elastic getting lost inside the casing. At the other end, attach a safety pin to the elastic and feed it through the casing.

I was looking for good tutorials on applying elastic to link to, and really struggled (except for Birgitta's tutorial on shirring - see above), so I hope to be able to add my own tutorial in the next couple of weeks, when I make my baby girl some new trousers (there'll also be a fantastic baby-related competition coming up, so watch this space!). If you know of any good tutorials please contact me and I'll add a link in this article.

Brought to you by Leah Taylor at Sewbox Sewbox is an online sewing boutique for the stylish sewer, stocking Hot Patterns, Colette Patterns, Serendipity Studio, Kwik Sew, John Kaldor fabrics, handmade ceramic buttons, and more.

Handmade Competition

We have a lovely selection of people on the site who make beautiful handmade gits, clothes, bags and homware.  We thought it was time to showcase some of those lovely products and offer you the chance to win some of them.

For full details of the items you could win and of how to enter click here:

There are some of the prizes you could win:

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Focus on.....

Focus On....Strap Trap

Strap Trap have the perfect solution for those summer dresses with thin straps that leave your bra strap showing. To save having to constantly check whether you bra is on display why not use one of their simple clips your strap will be kept concealed and you can wear your summer dresses with pride.

The designer of the Strap Trap, Hilda Varley won a gold medal at the prestigious British Inventors Show in the New Consumer Product category in 2005 shortly after launching her product. Her product is now being used all over the UK by bridal shops, couture dress makers, alteration and repair specialists, and costume and dress designers.

You can order them through her site: they are available in black and white and in various different pack sizes. So whether you are a seamstress looking to please your clients or just want to add them to your own summer dress check their website out now....

Friday, 23 July 2010

D for Dyeing

‘D’ is for dyeing.
It’s officially the age of the recessionista; women who will spend 50p or £1 on an item of clothing. Being a savvy spender is good news and the best thing about a bargain is that you can afford to customise it. The trick isn’t complicated Gok-style ripping up and sewing on (although that’s great if you’re up to the challenge) but in a simple craft – dyeing. Buy a plain white shirt at a clothes swap party for 50p and for a few pounds you can buy your favourite dye and make it your very own style.

It’s great around the home too. A dyeing fan recently boasted about buying a cheap second hand sofa with off cream covers. She dyed them China Blue and it now has pride of place in her living room. Now that’s what we call savvy!

The nice thing is that dyeing is simple. Oh, and remember to buy salt. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting home excited about a new colour only to find that you can’t do your dyeing that day!

Top tips:

Always read the instructions. The instructions on the dye packs are easy to follow but each step is important if you want to get an even, full colour.

Always wear rubber gloves, even when you’re using machine wash dyes. Dye on your skin comes out naturally but it’s better not to get it on there in the first place!

For machine wash dyes, you must be certain that your item can be washed at 40°C. If you’re not sure, then use hand wash dyes.

Machine wash dyes are suitable for linen, cotton and viscose. If these are mixed with a synthetic fibre, you will not get the full colour. It will be paler. Completely synthetic fabrics or fabrics with special finished do not take dye.

Hand use dyes are suitable for wool, silk and linen/cotton/viscose items that aren’t suitable for the washing machine.

Make sure you use the right amount of dye for the weight of fabric you’re dyeing – a packet of hand use dye is suitable for up to 250g of fabric and a pack of machine dye is suitable for up to 600g of fabric.

Check the DYLON website if you want to read the instructions before you buy

If you’re full of dyeing enthusiasm, check out @dyetodye on Twitter or

This post has been brought to you by Dylon and the letter D.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Win buttons or fabrics with this week's competition

The Eternal Maker/The Button Company

This week we have several prizes, kindly donated by The Eternal Maker and The Button Company, 5 x lucky dip button packs and 2 x fat eighth stacks of assorted Japanese Fabrics. So there will be 7 lucky winners this week!

To enter the competition we want you to answer the question below:

What is your favourite mixed button bag from The Button Company’s website?

You can send your answer through the our website here, post it on our blog/Facebook/Twitter here or on the Eternal Maker’s Facebook, Twitter or blog.

Terms and conditions

Friends/family/employees of The Sewing Directory and The Eternal Maker/Button Company are excluded. Only 1 entry per person. There will be 7 separate winners; entrants are only eligible to win 1 prize. Prizes will only be posted within the UK. All entries must be received by 6pm on Tuesday 27th July 2010.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Focus on.....

Focus On...

Essex based Harlequin offer a unique twist on sewing services. They offer a range of haberdashery items, clothing items and accessories made in a fabric of your choice (either supplied by you or by Harlequin.) With over 40 years experience this family run business can make the perfect accessories to match your outfit.

They offer a wide range of fabric covered buttons from only 19p each in all shapes and sizes. Their accessories range, all made from matching fabrics to ensure they will match, includes bags, ties, cravats, cuff links.

Products made from your own fabric include belts, bows, hair bands, ties, clutch bags, buttons, corsages, hair slides. So now you can get affordable accessories made to match your favourite outfit.

You can view the full range of options available on their website ,there is also a downloadble catalogue.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

C is for Corset

Corsetry is all about fashion outlines and firm foundations - from the earliest waist enhancing leather belts worn by the Minoans as far back as 2500BC, to the latest in figure shaping technology using 'powernet' fabrics and nylon to shape, support and enhance the figure. However, our traditional view of the 'corset' is the Victorian version which slims and gives the archetypal feminine 'hour glass' shape to any figure regardless of size, by reducing the waist and thereby exaggerating the bust and hips.

Modern Victorian style corsets are typically made from Coutil, a very tightly woven and strong fabric with no stretch, and 'bones' of flexible steel wire which are made from flattened springs. These 'springs' ensure that the corset is flexible yet strong; they will mould your body comfortably, rather than restrict you or mould to your body.
The front closure of a Victorian style corset is called a busk and is made from two wide metal 'bones' with a hook side and a stud side which clasp together. Although now made from steel and in two parts, the busk started life in the 17th century as a flat piece of wood (like a giant lollipop stick) which would be slipped into a pocket running down the centre front of the lining of the corset (or 'stays' as they were then known), giving a straight appearance. Sometimes, depending on the wearer's status, these busks would be carved intricately and sometimes they were given to ladies as tokens of love.

The back of a corset is laced with a single lace which is tightened at the waist. There should be no more than a two inch gap between the laces - this allows for 'fluctuation' of the figure and also can determine the 'firmness' of the corset. Contrary to popular belief, corsets are not bad for you, they do not squeeze your intestines out of shape, nor do they cause any bodily damage. They are essentially a fashion item with benefits and as with everything else, as long as one is sensible, there is no cause for concern.
Corsets not only enhances shape, but also improve posture, they will make you stand straight and therefore tall. If you have the sort of job which means you are on your feet for long periods of time, a corset will help you feel less tired by supporting your body - a bit like wearing an outer skeleton. This is why corsets are sometimes used for medicinal purposes to help people who have bad backs.

There is nothing like an underbust corset to give a flawless hourglass shape underneath a dress. Whereas more "elasticated" shapewear can give you unsightly muffintop bulges, or make you feel a bit like a sausage, a properly fitted corset will be totally smooth between corset and flesh and it is for this reason that 'traditional' corsets are preferred by the stars and by brides.

The Royal Worcester Corset Company was one of the biggest mass producers of corsets in the world. The man who started the company knew nothing about corsetry - he just taught himself.

The best way to achieve a perfectly fitted corset without spending a fortune is to make one yourself! You can draw on centuries of experience by using one of the many patterns available on the market, so removing some of the guesswork! From there, it's just a question of being able to sew a straight line! A good quality hand made corset will cost hundreds of pounds, whereas your own handmade version will use exactly the same materials, and cost you no more than around £60!

Making a corset is fun! You can let your imagination run wild! You can add feathers and bows, and beads and sparkly things. You can make them as plain or as fabulous as you like and you can tailor them to a specific outfit or occasion. You can wear them with jeans, or a dress, or with trousers. You can wear them as underwear or keep them strictly in the bedroom! Corsets are super sexy, creatively versatile, funky, fun and timeless!

Brought to you by the letter C and Sew Curvy Corsetry - an online shop selling everything you need to sew yourself curvy and including a comprehensive range of Corset Kits which will give you super sexy Uber Curves!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Fiskars Competition

Fiskars Giveaway

This week Fiskars have kindly provided 6 pairs of Precision Micro-tip scissors this week. That’s right there will be 6 lucky winners!

These scissors have a 13cm blade for more intricate and detailed work, buttonholes, trimming etc. They retail for £10.99 available in John Lewis, Hobbycraft, The Range, Dunelm Mill and independent sewing and craft stores.

How to enter

In order to enter please tell us what is your favourite article on The Sewing Directory?

You can view all the articles here on the articles section of the site. You can use the competition entry form, or leave your answer on our blog, Twitter or Facebook.
Terms & Conditions
One entry per person, employees of Fiskars or The Sewing Directory may not enter. All entries to be received by 6pm on Tuesday 20th July 2010. Prizes to be shipped within the UK only.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Focus on.....

Focus On....Mrs Sew ‘n’ Sew

Mrs Sew ‘n’ Sew is a new haberdashery that has just opened in Far cotton in Northampton. The shop offers a great range of designer fabrics including Amy butler, Michael Miller and cotton prints in a range of styles. They will also be stocking haberdashery, including trimmings, beads, buttons, patterns, and ribbons to name a few.

What’s more along with the fabrics and haberdashery they will also be offering a dressmaking/alterations service and a reproduction of vintage service. So next time you see a vintage outfit you love but it’s too small/damaged/wrong colours you know where to bring it to get a version that fits/suits you made up.

They also have a workshop space in the top of the shop which they will be hiring out for people to run courses so keep an eye on their site for details.

You’ll find all of their contact details on the listing on our site here plus they have a Facebook page here and their website is

Thursday, 8 July 2010

B is For Buttons

B is for Buttons

For such small objects, buttons can make a big impact and can change the look of any garment or object; especially if you look at all the wide variety of colours, materials and shapes that are available. The same blouse would look completely different if it had a delicate mother-of-pearl button than it if had a chunky wooden button. For this reason it is very important when choosing buttons, that we take in consideration not only the design and colours of the fabric, but also the style of the garment and the purpose of it (if it is a skirt to wear out in the park or something that we are going to wear at a formal occasion).

I have chosen a few images that illustrate this better than words.

The four buttons on the Marilyn fabric (right) pick some of the colours of the design, the pinkish colour in the middle of the flower or the brown of the leaves, even a charcoal coloured button could be a suitable choice depending on the project.

Choosing the right button for this 1930’s reproduction pattern (left) was a lot of fun and quite tricky at the same time. The red background, the flowers in white, yellow and blue, and the burgundy of the stamen and stems allowed me to choose from a great variety of buttons. Which one would you chose?

Whilst it could be a lot of fun to choose buttons to match the array of colours on the hedgehog fabric (right), we must keep in mind that if a fabric like this it’s used for something that a small child will wear, play or use, small buttons might not be a good idea, but bright colours are a must!!

Don’t forget that the choice of accessories can be influenced by the type of buttons we have used. The 5 options shown on this Paisley design (left)are a perfect example for this. Chunky wooden ethnic accessories will go great with the green and brown buttons, whilst both the white and translucent buttons will give us a look completely different.

The boldness of this butterfly design (right) allows us to use big buttons, but a tiny and delicate button could also be a good match. It all depends, whether it’s used for a duvet cover, a children’s dress, or if they are for decoration only.

This last fabric (below) has a strong vintage feel and was quite easy to find buttons to match it, but at the same time quite difficult to choose that perfect one!

Choosing the right button is not always an easy task, but it is that final touch that could make a whole difference and can bring together all the hard work that we have put when making, doing or mending.

Brought to you by the letter B and The Fabric Loft - online fabric stockists.  The Fabric Loft are currently offering 15% off all fabrics until the end of July, use the code MYBUNDLE at the checkout to get the discount.

If you are looking for good stockists of buttons The Button Company supply bargain seletion bags of buttons, for something a bit more unique Injabulo offer handpainted ceramic beads, Raystitch have a great selection of buttons and Sewbox have just introduced a range of high end hand painted buttons.

Win free sewing tuition or fabrics

Win sewing tuition or fabrics

This week Suffolk Sewing School are kindly providing a great prize this week - half a day's tuition at their sewing school. They offer tuition on a huge range of subjects including dressmaking, bag making, soft furnishing, using your sewing machine, using an over locker and many more.

So that leads to the entry question:

What would you want to learn about if you won?

What's more if you don't live close enough to take up the tuition Suffolk Sewing School also supply high quality materials and will substitute the prize for 1 metre of Vanessa Arbuthnott material which retails for approximately £40 per metre.

See full details of how to enter along with terms and conditions here:

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Focus on.....

Focus On....Thrify Stitcher

London based Thrifty Stitcher offer a range of sewing classes for all abilities. Their classes include starting from scratch, using a commercial pattern, making roman blinds, plus they are introducing master classes in specific techniques such as using zips or piping.  

They also offer a sewing surgery where you can bring in your own projects and use their facilities, and help to complete it. They also offer mobile cake, coffee and cushions sessions where they will come to a venue of your choice and teach you and a few friends a private class. They even offer children’s classes too.

It’s also worth checking out the tips and tutorials section of their site for projects, book and website recommendations: After one of their classes you can also buy a bag of mixed fabric scraps of vintage, recycled and custom made materials perfect for working on your own project at home.

Check out their site for more information:
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