It’s All About Mimi (Blouse)

mimi blouse

When I finished this blouse and put it on for the first time I proclaimed that I was never going to wear anything else ever again. After some concerned looks from the boyfriend I clarified that I would wear trousers and skirts as well… Seriously though, this is definitely my favourite ever me-made and I’ve loved a fair number of ’em.MimiSpots09.The pattern is the Mimi blouse from Tilly’s Love At First Stitch, which I treated myself to a little while ago. The pattern is printed overlapping to save on paper, so you have to trace it. I didn’t find this a problem though, with physical patterns I like to keep the original intact anyway, so I trace onto swedish tracing paper. The only alteration I made to the pattern while tracing was to grade from a size 6 waist to a size 7 at the hips to give those curves some room. I’ve mentioned before a fear of upper body fitting because it’s so often disastrous, but this blouse fits nicely straight off the pattern. It’s quite loose, so if you like a more fitted look you might want to go down a size, but for me this was a perfect summery shape.

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As always with Tilly’s patterns, there were lovely, clear, friendly instructions and photos. I did do some of it out of order though – I waited to sew up the side seams until the collar and neckline facing were sewn in and similarly, with the sleeves I attached the facing before the under arm seam. I think this made it a bit easier to sew, but I’m sure there’s not a huge differece. This is my first (successful) collar and it was a breeze with the instructions in the book.

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The fabric is a lovely drapey cotton I picked up in my local haberdashery, Masons in Abingdon. It’s really soft and airy, perfect for summer blouses and very easy to work with.

Let’s talk buttons. These were fairly expensive at 70p a pop – so much so that the guy in the shop asked me if I was sure I wanted 12 of them. I was sure. I didn’t have a Mimi in mind, but I knew they needed to be in my stash for the perfect occasion. Imagine my delight when I realised that they were exactly the same size as the spots on this material, oh yes! I am mightily pleased that I managed to get them all lined up over a spot so they blend into the pattern.

I didn’t attempt much in the way of pattern matching on most of the blouse, but I’ve attempted to across the front. The buttons work well, but sadly I cut one side slightly wonky, so I couldn’t get the pattern lined up perfectly across the join right at the top. It does go into alignment further down, however when I wear it the fabric obviously moves around anyway, so I guess I’m never going to get that seamless look.

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There was one minor drama with this blouse, which is that my buttonholer stopped working again. I had a problem with it quite soon after buying the machine where it would only make tiny buttonholes the size of a grain of rice. Yes, I had put a button in the buttonhole foot and yes, the buttonhole lever was down. After a couple of months of hand sewing buttonholes and trying to find the answer online I took it into the shop, where they found a bent spring inside the mechanism, so thankfully it wasn’t me being an idiot like most of the problems I’ve had. Anyway, they didn’t have a spare spring, but bent it back and hey presto, it’s worked fine ever since. Until, that is, I put my precious almost-finished Mimi blouse under the needle! I had done several test buttonholes and was ploughing ahead with the real thing when old buttonholer decided he didn’t want to play ball again. I unpicked, pulled the lever up and down and did another test buttonhole, which worked fine. I then managed to do 3 buttonholes on the blouse before it packed up again and more unpicking ensued. Anyway, I managed to get the buttonholes in, so disaster averted, but I am gonna have to get that properly fixed before I make another blouse! Have you had this problem before? Maybe I should only buy tiny mouse buttons and then it won’t matter.

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And what do I think now the initial excitement has worn off? Yep, still absolutely love it. I’m going to make Mimi blouses in all of the fabrics.

Spice Up Your Pyjamas

chilli pyjamas

I am a very selfish sewist usually, but as I’ve improved and projects seem less mountainous I have started to think about projects I can make for other people. This, combined with my boyfriend complaining of ill-fitting pyjamas and some excellent chilli printed cotton, conspired to get me to make some PJs for him.

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The fabric is quilting cotton from Fabric Land in Bristol. It’s not the prettiest shop with the highest quality fabric, but it’s a good place for a bargain and this cotton was no exception (think it was about £3 a metre). It’s the sort of print that is hard to pull off as daywear and therefore lends itself excellently to pyjamas. That’s how it works, right?

I drafted the pattern myself from a well-loved old pair of pyjama shorts by laying it out on the paper to measure the height and width and a couple of points along the inner curve, then I added in the crotch curve as a smooth curve between measurements.

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The waist is loosely elasticated and there are pockets (these PJs aren’t just for looking pretty!). For the construction I vaguely followed the instructions in Love at First Stitch for Margot pyjama bottoms, which were really helpful and clear. It was a very quick sew and I can imagine lots more of these coming off the sewing bench both for me and for him!

Sadly Ben has refused to model his favourite jim-jams for you all, so you’ll have to imagine how fabulous they look on.

ChilliPJs3Not gonna lie, they did make me think of Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook when I had them all laid out, but I think they’re really fun. Managed to get some perfect seam alignment at the crotch, but didn’t make much (any) attempt at pattern matching. For such a bold pattern, you probably would need to pattern match for a shirt or something, but there’s no way I’m going to that much effort for something that’s not going to leave the house. Hopefully he won’t notice 😉

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ChilliPJs1Here are some pictures of the inside as well. My sewing machine has a faux overlock stitch that I used on a couple of garments, but I’ve decided that I actually really like the look of zig-zag finished seams and it’s a lot quicker and less thread consuming. With cotton like this, the zig-zag stitch will actually fold over the edge of the material if you get it aligned right, which looks really neat. This is probably something you all already know, but I was extremely excited when it happened to me.

ChilliPJs5The only complaint I’ve had is that they pull down a bit at the back after wearing for a while, so I may go back to the pattern and give a bit more booty room for the next pair, but all in all I’m really pleased with these. They’re the first thing I’ve made with legs, which is pretty exciting! I’ll be making skinny jeans in no time.

Circus Circle Skirt Pattern Tutorial

Glastonbury Circus Dress

Hi everyone! As promised, here is my swirly circle skirt pattern tutorial. I’ve made this a couple of times – I’ve dubbed it the Circus Circle Skirt. In this post I’m going to show you how to draft the pattern piece for one section of the circle skirt. Here’s a reminder of what the finished skirt looks like and why you should make one too!

Glastonbury Circus Skirt Glastonbury20157

Black and Cream Swirl Skirt

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What you’ll need

  • Ruler
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Paper scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • French curve (optional)
  • Long piece of ribbon or string
  • Compass (optional)
  • Protractor (also optional)
  • Large sheet of paper (I used a roll of brown parcel paper)
  • Calculator (if you don’t want to be stretching those mental maths muscles)

Yep, I forgot to photograph some of those things, sorry about that! Note to self: always take the ‘what you’ll need’ photo LAST.

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Draw a right angle

Draw yourself a vertical line 1.5cm away from the edge of the paper at least 70 cm long, although you can always extend it later. Now draw a line near the bottom of the paper at right angles to the vertical line. For reasons that will become apparent later, you want to draw it higher than I have here – maybe 20cm from the bottom. For the right angle you can use a set square, a right angle ruler, or my tutorial on how to draw a right angle with a compassCircusSkirtTutorial02Circle skirt maths

As a reminder, here’s all the maths you need to make a circle skirt. CircusSkirtTutorial03

For your skirt, you’re going to draw two circle arcs – the inner one being for your waist and the outer one being the hem of the skirt. For now, we’ll worry about the inner circle, for which the circumference is your waist measurement, 87.5cm in my case.

From the equation above I can now work out the radius of the circle.

Waist Radius = 87.5/2π = 13.93cm

While I’m working out the maths I’m also going to find one sixth of my waist measurement. If you decided to dig out your protractor you don’t really need this number, although it’s a good way to check your measurements. This skirt has 6 panels, so the waist on the pattern piece is a sixth of the waist measurement. If you want your skirt to have more or fewer panels than this, it’s easy to change – just divide the waist measurement by the number of panels you’d like.

Waist length for one panel = waist/6 = 14.58 cm

Draw waist measurement

Set your compass to the waist radius that you just worked out. Place the pointy end at the meeting of your two lines and draw an arc as shown below. If you don’t have a compass you can use the ribbon/string method below, but it’s not as accurate, so use a compass if you can!

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Skirt length

Work out how long you want your skirt to be (my Glastonbury one is 50cm long) and add  hem allowance to this amount. Now using your measuring tape, measure this length from your waist line along the vertical line and mark this point on the line. CircusSkirtTutorial05

Make a giant compass

Tie your ribbon or string around a pen as close to the bottom as you can without it being in danger of slipping off. CircusSkirtTutorial07

Hold your pen tip on the mark you made for the length of your skirt and stretch the ribbon straight down the vertical line. At the crossing pont of the horizontal and vertical lines push a pin through the ribbon and paper and pull the paper just off the table so you can push the pin right through and rest it against the edge. You could also do this bit on a board or a carpeted floor. CircusSkirtTutorial08

Draw the hem

Now you’ve made your giant compass, you can draw the hem measurement in just the same way you drew the waist measurement. Holding the paper and pin steady, pull your pen in an arc all the way between the vertical and horizontal lines and keep going until you hit the bottom of the paper.CircusSkirtTutorial09 CircusSkirtTutorial10

Straight line for zip

To make a zip easier to insert, I made the top of the panel have a straight line before the curve begins, so measure 10cm from the waist up along the vertical line and mark this point. I like to draw this in another colour to make it clear. CircusSkirtTutorial11

Draw your curve

I don’t have a french curve (yet), you are very welcome to use one for this bit however I just free-handed. Probably best to do this bit in pencil to start with either way. Starting from the top of your 10cm straight line draw a large curve so that it joins the curve of the hem smoothly. When drawing this line consider how much you want the stripes of your skirt to curve around. I found that the curve always looks a bit less pronounced on the skirt than it does on the pattern piece, so that’s something to consider, but have an experiment and see what you like. CircusSkirtTutorial12

Waist arc

If you want to use a protractor then this bit is super easy. With the centre of the protractor on the intersection of your main lines and the bottom of the protractor lined up with the vertical line, measure an angle of 60 degrees and mark where this lies. If you want a different number of panels then this angle is 360 divided by the number of panels. Hopefully this will make sense when you see the pictures below.

If like me you couldn’t find a protractor, this is where you’ll need your waist measurement divided by 6 that you so cleverly noted down earlier. If you opted for a different number of panels, this is where you would get your waist divided by whatever number of panels you chose. I have a bendy ruler, so I just measured this length around the curve of the waist from the vertical line and around. If you don’t have a bendy ruler then you can do it with a measuring tape or a normal ruler, moving it around the curve. I would recommend doing this a couple of times until you are getting the measurement in the same place.

Not as good as the protractor way is it? Definitely need to dig that out if I even still have one. One other way I thought of is this curve ruler that Christine Haynes has mentioned a couple of times on her blog, but I have no idea if it’s any good. Definitely let me know if you’ve tried it, I’m intrigued.

CircusSkirtTutorial13 Set up the second curve

Line your ruler up with the intersection of the straight lines and the measurement of your waist arc that you just made. Draw a line out from the waist by 10cm. This line marks the same straight line as the vertical one you drew earlier – remember that these curves have to be identical in order to fit together. CircusSkirtTutorial14 CircusSkirtTutorial15

Create a curve template

Trace your curve onto another piece of paper and cut it out. I just roughly cut the paper and then trimmed it until it was right, but tracing paper would be quicker. CircusSkirtTutorial16

Draw second curve

Place your curve template so that the 10cm straight line is lined up with the straight line you drew out from the waist. Weigh it down so it doesn’t shift around and draw around it.

[You can probably see this is the point where I realised my horizontal line was too close to the bottom of the paper – I ended up sticking some more paper on the bottom]CircusSkirtTutorial17 CircusSkirtTutorial18

Add seam allowances

With your compass and my compass tutorial, or otherwise, add seam allowances to all sides except the hem (you already included hem allowance in this measurement).

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Cut Out Your Pattern

Cut out along the seam allowances and pat yourself on the back for drafting your own pattern! You definitely deserve a cup of tea before getting stuck into all those curved seams. CircusSkirtTutorial20

From here you need to cut out six pieces of your fabric and sew them together along the side seams. You can use 2 colours, 3 colours or even try 6 different colours! Before you sew the final seam you need to add a waistband (or attach to a bodice) and insert a zip. Make sure the zip doesn’t extend too far past that 10cm straight line to save yourself a headache! Then, hem, try on and give yourself a twirl!

I hope you found the circus circle skirt pattern tutorial helpful? I would be happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments or by email. Next time I make one, I’ll put together some more notes and pictures on how to construct it for anyone scared by those curved seams – they’re not as bad as they look, I promise. Finally, if you make your own Circus Circle Skirt I would love to see it :)