Simple Sew Trudy – how to make perfectly pointy corners

Simple Sew Trudy Thumblenina blog

Well if this isn’t just about the most overdue blog post ever, I don’t know what is. Last November I made up this sugar-sweet confection of a dress ahead of a day of pampering and photography up at Simple Sew HQ. The day was great fun – and a reminder (as if we needed one) of the jollity, humour and supportiveness of sewing peeps.

From that day onwards I’ve worn my (back-then) new Trudy dress to just about everything. I couldn’t get over having something that was so pretty but could still be worn with a vest and would keep me warm. The fabric is a wool blend from Sew Over It. It would be divine as a spring SOI Chloe Coat (they’ve released a new online course for this pattern). Anyhoo, back to Trudy – the dress is a breeze to sew as it’s unlined and the collar is just finished with a facing. My only comments would probably be to flag up that the cuffs are close-fitting but don’t have any openings; I suspect some people wouldn’t be comfortable with this. Also: the full-length sleeves are rather long; at times I felt like a pink check gorilla. And yet I still love it.

What you can’t of course see properly in these photographs is the pretty Peter Pan collar on this dress, which I chose to make in a contrasting white poplin. So to tie in, here’s my trick for getting the pointiest of pointy corners on your collars, cuffs, bags etc. The red line represents the single strand of thread and it’s at 50% opacity when it’s meant to be underneath the fabric.

  1. Cut a strand of medium-weight thread (I use top-stitching thread) about six inches long and set to one side.
  2. Sew up to the corner and stop one stitch before where you intend to pivot, leaving the needle in the fabric.
  3. Take your strand of thread and slide it in-between the two layers of your fabric at the corner until it hits the needle, with one end of the thread being pushed inside the layers of fabric to the left of the needle and the other lying outside the fabric across your machine to the right of the needle. The thread should make a V-shape with the point of the V being where the thread is pulled up against the needle.
  4. Now make one single stitch; this should step over the strand of thread.
  5. Turn the fabric as you would normally do, pivoting around the needle.
  6. Leaving the left-hand end of the thread inside the layers of fabric, bring the right-hand end of the thread around the front of the needle and push it inside the layers to the left so the two ends of the thread are together.
  7. Continue your stitching until finished.
  8. Snip off excess fabric at the corner.
  9. When you turn your corner the right way out, the two ends of the thread should appear and if you tug on them they will pull the corner through to perfection. Then you can simply pull one of the ends and the thread will come out.Eh, voila, pointy points! I hope you find this helpful – it’s been a game-changer for me! x

Simple Sew Trudy back Thumblenina blog

[This post first appeared on the Simple Sew Blog, and the Trudy Dress pattern was provided to me free of charge as one of the Simple Sew Bloggers. Discover more tips and trick using Simple Sew Patterns on the blog.]


The Refashioners 2016 – my ‘Jeanius’ entry!



As I write, the deadline for the Refashioners 2016 is fewer than 3 hours away. I feel like I’m bashing out this post like a last-minute essay – J’s teasing me for being such an arts student, always fired up by the pressure of a looming deadline. But you know what? I finished my entry a few hours ago. Finished with hours to spare? That’s an achievement in my book.

To be honest though, I’d sort of left it this late on purpose. I LOVED last year’s Refashioners challenge and it got me absolutely hooked on the whole refashioning business. I refashioned 4 shirts for that contest; since then I’ve turned 3 pairs of jeans into a comprehensive tool storage solution, two old dresses into children’s clothes for charity, a man’s shirt into an off-the-shoulder top and a Japanese kimono into a wrap dress. But the subject of this year’s challenge, jeans, had me rather panicked. Firstly, the last and only time I’d brought my trusty old Brother into contact with denim it had had a meltdown and required emergency treatment for a serious tension ailment. Secondly, my formative years involved some slightly dubious trends in denim, trends I was loathe to revisit…

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What is it with the denim stetsons?

So, yeah. I felt pretty daunted.

But hell, I love refashioning, and I wanted again to be part of an fantastically fun community challenge. I mean, the worst that could happen would be ending up looking like the fifth member of B*witched two decades too late, with a broken sewing machine. No biggie.

I was really taken by a fitted denim shirt-dress worn by Alexa Chung (actually, any denim worn by Alexa Chung) and decided that was my route. As I’ve mentioned before here, I love my refashions to include a nod to their original state, and thus I wanted to use the jeans, not just the denim. At the same time I really wanted to make something I would wear and wear, even if it meant making something too simple to wow and win. So I scoured the local charity shops for three pairs of jeans in a matching shade of dark denim. Amazingly, I managed to find two similar pairs of ladies flares that offered beautiful fabric with slight stretch, and the flare lines were exactly in keeping with the A-line look I was aiming for. I purchased a third pair, these ones men’s, just in case.

Using my sloper I drafted the dress pattern myself, with princess seams from the shoulder and a button band down the centre front. 8 panels – 1 for each trouser leg half from my 2 pairs! I allowed a decent amount of ease as I want to be able to wear layers underneath the dress this winter. The length of the flares from pockets to hem was just long enough to fit my short body – thank you, tall people! And so I was able to use the original hems. The really pleasing part was how the marks on the denim (slight lines for the backs of the knees, fading on the front of the thighs) could be incorporated into the design of the dress – the knee lines now sit across the centre-back waist and the lighter shading down the side panels for a (hopefully!) slimming effect.



I also used the original waistband off one pair as my top button band. It was tricky because the band had a slight curve, but I put an invisible nick in the shorter edge and stretched it whilst top-stitching so now it sits straight. The under button band uses leftover denim from one of the pairs of flares – using the other waistband would have been too bulky. My buttonhole foot couldn’t cope with the bulk as it was, so the buttonholes were done with bar tacks. I managed to get a whole pack of old Jigsaw jeans buttons in a bargain bin at the Tooting Craft Superstore. Oh, and I shaved down the pockets off one pair of jeans and assigned them a new home on the bust of the dress…


I then top-stitched each of the princess seams, on both sides, because brassy top-stitching is such an intrinsic feature of classic jeans I wanted to echo it here. Ditto with the bias-binding-finished armholes and collar. The collar is actually the only part which comes from that pair of men’s jeans. Which means leftover denim. Which means… more refashioning!

Then came the really fun part, the embroidery! I was so inspired by images across Pinterest of embroidered jeans and jackets – flowers, skulls, slogans – all in glorious bold colour leaping off the denim. (It’s funny, isn’t it, how denim acts as a neutral against all other colours? A pair of blue cotton trousers simply wouldn’t work the same way.) Anyway, I tried satin stitch for the first time, only stitched through my finger once and am seriously proud of the result. I made up the design as I went along, adding in more and more flowers until it seemed finished.



And then I did the front.




It was actually a good thing I only had a few hours left to enter the dress, or else I think I would never have stopped embroidering. Anyway, finished it is, and I’m very much looking forward to wearing it. Once again, I’ve loved taking part, loved seeing everyone else’s wonderful makes and loved being stretched – new fabric, new skills and techniques. My machine did a stellar job with the denim and now I feel fired up to go away and refashion myself some dungarees, denim pinafores, denim shorts, denim shoes… x


Rosie in the Rainforest – and a Sew Over It giveaway!

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Ah, Sew Over It. I frequently feel as though they’re designing patterns specifically for me, and this latest has done nothing to break that particular delusion. The Rosie Dress is a 1950s-inspired summer dress of dreams, perfect for pretending you’re on a Roman Holiday, or helping Miss Marple solve a riddle of a crime (those are the kinds of daydreams I have). It features a fitted, boned and lined bodice and a twirly, girly pleated skirt (that can also be made as a garment in its own right), two strap and two neckline variations. And of course once you’ve exhausted all the featured options, it would also be a marvellous pattern to adapt – you could swap the pleated skirt for a gathered or circle option, play around with contrast fabrics, or make the skirt up in a lined wool for winter. Options: endless.

I was lucky enough to be asked to be a pattern tester again – and if you’re reading this you’re lucky enough to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Rosie pattern!

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These pics were taken on a Sunday family outing to the Barbican Conservatory. Hands up if you had no idea that such a place existed – I certainly didn’t! But it is in fact London’s second-largest hothouse (after Kew), a lush and unexpected oasis in the midst of the famously brutalist estate. I had been determined to find the right backdrop for this gorgeous parrot fabric (a lightweight lawn from SOI), and a tropical combo seemed moreover the perfect little nod to Rio – I’m an Olympics addict 🙂

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I made an initial attempt at pattern-matching the parrots, but the six bodice pieces of Rosie ultimately defeated me and I’ve ended up sporting the odd headless parrot. Something to be aware of if you’re using a very distinctly patterned fabric. I also made a simple muslin petticoat as the lawn was rather transparent; it gives my dress a fuller skirt than it would naturally have. And one more thing – the tester pattern had straps way too long (now corrected) so I criss-crossed mine over the back – that’s another easy hack right there!

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Anyway, if you would like to win a copy of the Rosie pattern, all you have to do is leave a comment below! The competition runs until midnight GMT next Sunday, 14 August, and I’ll announce the randomly chosen winner on Monday. Easy peasy, right? And, to boot I’ll also enter anyone who follows my blog (either via WordPress or Bloglovin) over the next week into the draw, so should you be so keen as to want a double entry you can boost your chances! Good luck and good sewjo!

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Oh, and in the meantime stay tuned for this Friday, which will see the reveal of my Butterick Big Vintage Sewalong make!


Bluebell dress

Towards the end of the manic panic making of my pink coat, designed to keep me warm at a Yorkshire wedding, it suddenly occurred to me I hadn’t quite thought about what to wear under said coat at said wedding (and therefore faced the prospect of actually being rather cold). My wardrobe yielded a succession of utterly wrong dresses (you know how it goes: J ‘How about this?’ Me: ‘Oh not that – the collar will clash with the coat!’). It was Friday night; the wedding was on Sunday – there was only one thing for it.

I had to make a new dress.

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