Archive for the ‘Sewing’ Category

It’s been a while between posts but there’s been a lot of sewing going on through the cold winter months. In the last seven weeks I’ve made 9 cushion covers — six for me and another three for sisters of a friend.

finished cushion covers

So many ways to trim and finish a cushion cover

All the cushion covers I’d ever made have had zips across the back panel, not along a side edge — it’s just easier. This time round I played with a few methods:

  • zip across the back panel, piping around the edges
  • zip across the back panel, fringing around the edges
  • three buttons across the front panel
  • zip on one edge, no trim
  • zip on one edge, piping around the edges (this was the most fiddly but also the most satisfying)



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[read Part 1]
Here are my instructions for making rash vests. There’s nothing too complicated about them.

What you need

snorkelling in a rash vest in hawaii

  • A piece of lycra fabric (two-way stretch fabric with 75% stretch)
  • A pattern (see Part 1 for details)
  • An overlocker (mine’s a 4-thread machine)
  • Two reels of woolly nylon thread and two of normal polyester thread

I’ve added this photo to show how brilliant a rash vest is when you’re snorkelling in tropical waters. Actually I’ve really only used it to add some colour to the page; the rest of the photos are all very duotone.


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I really don’t enjoy getting into outdoor swimming pools on cold mornings – winter or summer. So I wear tight-fitting, long-sleeved lycra rash vests over my bathers, at least until I’ve warmed up. 

I started making my own about 13 years ago. One or two a year, plus quite a few for friends … maybe 25–30 so far. Therefore, speaking as the expert I obviously am, let me tell you a thing or two about sewing rash vests. 

This part is a bit of an overview. In Part 2 I walk through the steps for making a rash vest.

The aim

The rash vest needs to fit really firmly through the wrists, arms and the bodice so it doesn’t create a lot of drag in the water while you’re doing laps. It doesn’t matter so much if it’s not tight around hips because it’ll ride up a bit no matter what.
my current rash vest collection

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I haven’t written about any sewing projects since the denim skirt episode. Which is not to say I haven’t been sewing. I have; I just couldn’t be bothered telling anyone.

Over the past few weeks I’ve made four identical skirts. Five if you count the toile. Not all the same fabric, don’t be ridiculous, it’s not a corporate uniform. Four different pieces from Darn Cheap Fabrics – three were only $10/metre, the fourth was a bit more pricey. Cheap skirts when you consider I only needed a metre for each one, plus a bit of lining and a zip.

vogue pattern 2863Here’s the Vogue pattern (no. 2863; click to see a larger version). The main aim of this style of skirt is to have it fitting nicely on the waist so it doesn’t slip down towards the hips. When it works, it means you can wear a wide belt over the top and not have to worry about yanking the skirt back up every 10 minutes.

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[read Part 2]
I’m wrapping up this project in Part 3. I’m over it. Please, no scrolling straight down to the end to see the final product! I’m going to make you read every bit of what I went through.

Reinforcing the front pockets and back yoke

reinforcing the back yoke seamThe fabric is stretchy and this can create problems in areas where you don’t want a garment to stretch. For the front pocket openings and the back yokes I sewed twill tape into the seams.

Inserting the zip

fly-front zip insertedI hadn’t inserted a fly-front zip for a while. It’s not that hard to do but I found a great tutorial by Sandra Betzina to refresh my memory. She suggests you ignore the instructions in the pattern and follow her method. OK, why not?

After some faffing about, and replaying the video a few times, I got the zip in. I liked Sandra’s statement: ‘There are times when you’re a perfectionist and there are times not to be.’ Knowing when you can cut corners and when you need to be neat and accurate comes with experience.

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[read Part 1]
I’m ready to grade the pattern to size 12. The good news is it’s a multi-size pattern (sizes 14-18) and, when I first made this skirt about 10 years ago, I didn’t cut off sizes 16 and 18. So it’s a relatively easy job to work out where to draw the cutting lines for size 12. Even better it’s only the side seams, waist band and back yoke that need adjusting.

There’s nothing high-tech about my method here. I just measure the spacing between the existing sizes and draw new lines proportionally for the smaller size. Professional patternmakers might have something to say about it but it works for me, especially for such a simple skirt. I’ll adjust the pattern further once I’ve made the toile.

Grading the pattern to size 12

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OK, it’s taken a bit longer than expected to get my new post ready. I know my many followers have been eagerly awaiting it, right? Turns out if you’re going to blog about making a skirt you actually have to make the skirt. And deal with the problems that arise while trying to pretend it’s all going smoothly.

Let’s hope we make it to Parts 2 and 3 and the all-important ‘reveal’. But for now, here goes Part 1:

I fancied making a denim skirt with fabric I bought a few weeks ago at a closing-down sale. It’s a mid-weight denim-type material with a bit of elastane in it. And it was really cheap, only $2/metre!

Brown denim fabric

McCalls pattern 3529 - skirtThe main problem has been finding a pattern. You know, looks like a pair of jeans but is actually a skirt (and I definitely don’t mean a skirt that’s been recycled from a pair of jeans). Why do pattern books never have what you want when you want it? I went through all the commercial pattern books. Nothing. So I took a look in my pattern box and found this one (it’s © 2002):

It’ll do. But the size isn’t right and there are no back pockets (and I suspect it’s too high-waisted), which means I’ve got a bit of prep work ahead of me. The plan is:

  • pre-wash/pre-shrink the fabric (tick that job)
  • iron the pattern pieces and grade the whole pattern down a size
  • make a quick toile in calico to see if it fits
  • make the real thing

Part 2 coming up. Hang in there.

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