The Best Fabric Marking Tool You’ll Ever Use

Frixion pens

Tailor’s chalk. It’s just not that great. There – I’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room! As an alternative my Clover Chalk Pen is pretty awesome, but this week I learned about a new-to-me marking tool – the Frixion pen. This baby may just change my sewing life.

These pens aren’t aimed at Sewists, but they are readily available. You can find them in pretty much any supermarket. I was confidently told this and chose to test the claim by wandering into the supermarket nearest my office. There they were, hidden away on the bottom shelf of the stationery section – three for £6. I don’t think I’ve ever yelped in a supermarket before.

The pens have a fine tip (great for detail) and use thermo sensitive ink which can disappear beneath the heat and steam of an iron. (There may be a faint chalky residue left behind, so bear that in mind.)

I’d also been told that if you put your fabric in the kitchen freezer, your marks would become visible again. Could this be true? Might a person magic back dart markings or fit adjustments? I decided to conduct an experiment.

marking fabric

pressing fabric

After removing the marks with a hot iron, I placed my fabric in the freezer.

fabric in freezer

In the time it took me to eat a packet of crisps whilst browsing Instagram, the below reappeared…

final fabric

Neat, huh? Have I just changed your sewing life, too?

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Curating Colour

toile

Work has commenced on the Vogue toile. That severe angle above is a kimono sleeve gusset. The V stitching is there to reinforce the corner. I’m going to have to sew an entire seam into that severe angle. Wish me luck!

buttonhole instructions

I’ve realised that this dress involves the insertion of a single bound buttonhole. Instructions are above. A bit different to my own 41-page set of instructions! But I’m excited to play again.

Overnight I discovered that this dress journey may entail surprise elements that no one – myself least of all – could ever have predicted. Details to come!

curating colour

Finally, I leave you with a question about what I’m going to rather loftily call curating colour. Do you find this challenging? (Above two very bright pieces in my stash. A neon pink silk twill and a neon orange … something.)

I noticed that TMOS often has two or three fabric rolls that compliment each other, arriving from the same retailer source. He pulls them out so that I can see how two fabrics work well together.

This led me to realise that when we wander into a clothes store, a lot of the colour curating has already been done for us. Everything perfectly selected and matched, according to seasonal trends. When we begin sewing, we cast ourselves adrift on a sea of colour! What to pick, how to choose, where to begin? Mistakes are made along the way, and I suspect we have to re-learn what suits us.

Have you conquered the curating of colour? Or do you have a stash of clashing fabrics?

neon colours

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Hold My Hand, Please!

vintage patternI can’t remember when, where or why I bought this vintage Vogue 5098 pattern, but I can’t stop looking at it. It sat on my desk for a while, and I snapped it on Instagram. Every morning as I sat to put my make-up on, I’d gaze at this envelope drawing and think, That’s really lovely.

What has stopped me from sewing this dress? Fear – it won’t be an easy fitting project and I might fail in public. Blogging – the perceived need to supply readers with fresh content on a regular basis. Life – it’s been demanding, but I’m bored of talking about that. Lethargy – too many patterns make it a bit too easy to skip past the ones that take more thinking about.

So why not slow down, dig deep, and challenge myself? It’s time to find my backbone and attempt a pattern that I don’t know how to sew. Isn’t this how I started my journey in the first place?

pattern piecesHere are the pattern pieces – 12 of them in all. Fortunately, only one of them is damaged and needed repairing with masking tape. (Masking tape is better than sellotape because a) it can be peeled off and repositioned and b) it won’t melt beneath an iron.)

masking tapeThere are no pattern markings, but each piece is numbered.

pattern numberAnd there are kimono sleeves. I’ve sewn those babies before and know how much they hurt! But hey, bring it on. Which view would you go with?

vogue 5098Taking out the pattern pieces gave me a lot of food for thought. Does blogging lend itself to improved sewing skills? Sometimes. Can blogging get in the way of your learning? Sometimes. But you do what you can do. So cross your fingers, everyone, and don’t hold your breath! This isn’t going to be a fast make. But I think we can all cope with that, can’t we?

When was the last time you sewed something that scared you? And I ask that question as someone who is genuinely scared!

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Does Sewing Teach Self Knowledge?

LaceI’ve enrolled in another sewing class! I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. To have the mental and physical energy for three hours of midweek learning is a breakthrough.

As I attended my first class, I stood amongst a small group of fellow students and a brilliantly expert teacher. Whilst cutting out fabric, we compared notes on pets, The Great British Sewing Bee, wedding dresses and online fabric shops. I could talk or not as the mood suited me, make eye contact or choose to peer at my fabric. No judgement here.

After five years of sewing, I finally realised why sewing classes work so well for me. They suit my personality. The truth is, I’m an introvert who loves to be sociable. I can have intense periods of chat, chat, chat … and then almost as quickly I need deep quiet and solitude. Sewing classes give me both. No one ever judged a sewing student for going quiet, and concentrating on a seam line. It’s just sewing! And once that seam is cut, you can go back to comparing notes on footwear. (Heels or trainers?)

Sewing has helped me discover self knowledge and it’s helped me manage my personality – powerful tools to carry forwards in all walks of life. If, like me, you’re an introvert in a world that often demands extrovert skills, you might enjoy this book that I’ve been reading and nodding along to. It’s true what they say, it’s the quiet ones you should watch. (Want to watch me make this dress?)

Have you discovered self knowledge through sewing? And are you an introvert or an extrovert – or both!

pattern piece

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C Is For Capsule

Capsule Wardrobe

For an Easter weekend away, you need a capsule home made wardrobe – especially when travelling by train and crowded car, with a dog in tow.

From left to right, my Coco top, Ginger jeans and Wild Horses dress. I am very, very, VERY impressed by how the Ginger jeans have stood up to the wear and tear of beach walks, dog retrieval bends and lunges, and the eating of pub lunches. Having said I’d take a break before making another pair, I’m now wondering when I can make another pair. Do you know any good UK sources for decent denim?

For such a weekend, you also need a capsule crafting project. In this case, self striping socks using this wool

Capsule KnittingAnd you need a capsule family. These don’t come cheap and they’re a constant WIP, but they can quickly become a TNT.

Capsule FamilyHappy Easters, everyone! Doing anything exciting? Or lazing around like me?

Easter Weekend Collage

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Wild Horses

Batwing Dress Collage

Remember I said I needed a palate cleanser, after my Ginger jeans? This is it! A quick and easy make from a batwing dress I rubbed off years ago for a friend. She is still wearing the version I sewed for her, so I thought it was time to make a second version for myself.

There really is nothing clever or sophisticated going on here. Two pieces only, identical apart from the neckline shaping. A nice belt to give you waist definition, and job’s a good’un. Actually, even without a belt it makes for a very comfortable and stylish weekend dress – which is exactly how I’m going to wear it down the pub in a moment!

Batwing Pattern piece CollageI’m really pleased to have finally used my horse fabric, bought on a mass outing to Goldhawk Road last year, I believe. Memories are fading. Much better that these horses run free than stay cooped up in my stash cupboard.

Have you ever traced or rubbed off a pattern from a simple shop bought item? I recommend it!

Batwing Dress

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I Reveal My Inner Magpie

pattern sheets Just a quick one today, everyone! I’ve had a few readers contact me about the patterns in The Great British Sewing Bee Fashion For Fabric book, and how to find them. Keep your eyes peeled for those handy little boxes in the top right of each folded pattern sheet. They’ll tell you exactly where everything is!

I’m head down on one of the busiest weeks in the children’s publishing calendar. I’m soon to go to Bologna Book Fair and already tearful at the prospect of being apart from Ella for a week. I am distracting myself by going through my stash. I’m quite impressed at my collection of interfacings. I have a thing about quality interfacing so always pick it up when I can. But, still. That’s a lot… Is there something that brings out your magpie tendencies? Something more interesting than fusible interfacing?!

interfacing collection

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Ginger Jeans – Done!

Ginger Jeans Collage

My Ginger jeans are done! The final stages made me feel physically ill. Would I ruin everything with a badly placed belt loop, a smashed up rivet or a bar tack gone wrong? In fact, I abandoned bar tacks early on in this process. My machine was not happy making them.

As soon as the jeans had been completed they were dragged on and Ella and I flung ourselves out of the front door for a walk. These babies stand up to multiple bending over to retrieve a ball abandoned for something more exciting. Oh, look – a squirrel! Oh, look – a goose! Oh, look – a pair of jeans!

Ginger Jeans By Didyoumakethat

Ella thinks she’s about to get a treat. Ella is wrong.

William Morris GalleryObviously, the best way to photograph a recently completed sewing project is by accessorising with Victorian kitchen maids. You don’t need me to tell you that.

So, how do I feel on completion of these babies?

Relieved. I was really anxious about something going wrong, after so much work.

Thrilled. They’re fantastic! The high waisted version really suits my body shape and I very much appreciate the opportunity to tweak fit, especially around the waist. Gaping jeans at the back waist, be gone!

Exhilarated. I made jeans. An actual pair of jeans. An actual pair of jeans that fit!

Improved. I learnt something new and I was prepared to share that every step of the way. To truly embrace creativity you need to be prepared to fail and you need to be braced for making a fool of yourself. That’s why I think most genuine creatives are the bravest people I know. It takes guts to make something and share it.

Not There Yet. These are far from perfect. The topstitching was a killer, even with my workhorse Bernina. But hey, really not gonna beat myself up too much.

top stitching

Will I rush to make a second version? Not quite yet. I need a palate cleanser. I also need to find just the right denim. But, yay! I made jeans! Would you make some? And why aren’t there more Victorian kitchen maids in sewing blogs?

Kitchen Maids ii

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Fabric Fondler Or Public Nuisance?

feeling fabric

There I was, stood on the escalator, going home at the end of a long day. The woman in front of me was wearing a lime green wool coat of some extreme fabulosity. That was a great coat. Had she made it? What was the texture of the fabric? I reached out to stroke the hem … and my hand froze in mid air.

The rules of polite society, I told myself, are that you don’t go around stroking strangers clothes.

I shoved my fist into my pocket and bowed my head in shame. Just because I sew doesn’t mean that I can’t behave like a functioning member of society. That’s the theory, anyway.

I have so many sewing friends now, and so many other people who know that I sew. Everyone’s got used to a bit of man handling. A fond greeting in my world is a kiss, a hug, and a fondle of a collar. Ooh, poplin! That’s how you say hello, right? Or wrong?

Am I a hopeless case or does this happen to you, too?

didyoumakethat-sew-busy-lizzie

Hugging Lizzie or checking out her tweed?

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Ginger Jeans Next Steps

Ginger Jeans In Progress

And yay, the angels of heaven wept tears of joy because … there had been Ginger Jean sewing!

Not enough to share a finished project, but progress is progress. Even when it is grabbed in ten-minute windows around life and the day job. Finally, at the weekend I managed to get my head down and crack on.

There has been top stitching. There has been ripped out top stitching.

pocket top stitching

There has been zip insertion, practice bar tacks and – yes! – use of the John Lewis mini sewing machine.

Jeans Collage

There has also been basting. A lot of basting. A lot, a lot of basting. I basted the back crotch seam and leg side seams together to judge fit. Then I basted again to tweak fit. Then I ripped out the basting so that I could sew, overlock and top stitch the crotch seams. Then I sewed the inside leg seams. Then I basted the outer leg seams for a final check on fit. All worth it (I hope!) and all curiously satisfying.

One tip from my work so far: I snipped into the seam allowance on the inside curve of the crotch seam to release the fabric and allow easier stitching around this bend. Below, you can see my adjusted seam line marked. You can also see the inch-long row of stitches I’ve used to fix seam line matching prior to sewing the entire seam.

snipped seam

So, that’s where I am so far. Fingers crossed, my next Ginger Jeans blog post will be called ‘Final Steps’. Rather than ‘Finally Lost It’.

What have you been sewing?

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