That’s Sew Cinematic presents

a Sewing Horror Picture Show



(a barmy domestic)

and her amazing contrast collar’n’cuffs dress

contains scenes unsuitable for sewists of exacting high standards and nervous dispositions 


Collar with Stand (she winged it, totally)

Loop and Button Closure (a bit risque)

and Introducing:

The Turnback Cuff

(a tutorial)


The plan wasn’t to draft the Magenta dress myself.  I bought the pattern for the rather demure Burda 7494 and meant to alter the shape of the collar then add sleeves and a decolletage.  But the Back View of this pattern revealed a sudden departure of a collar!  Lovely as Burda 7494 is, its back zip meant that the design wouldn’t have worked with a “collar with a stand” and so had to be shelved.  

I got Googling which threw up the Anal Retentive Rocky Horror Costume List. This website details the costumes and props of all the Rocky characters and  is aimed at fans who attend stage and cinema viewings of the show dressed as characters from the film (which doesn’t sound like a bad night out at all…).  It told me everything I wanted to know, even how to wear the dress: Unbutton dress so it’s about even with bra (which shows a bit)…”  Oh, OK….  “... unbutton it from the bottom up to about crotch level”.  Hm!  Presumably, this is to enable one to slide down banisters?  It also revealed that the dress – designed along with the other costumes by Sue Blane  – has pintuck pleats on the front and on the sleeves.  Beautifully detailed as these would have been, they weren’t noticeable in the grainy Youtube clips of the Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite that I kept playing, so I left them out and decided to concentrate on the more essential components of the distinct Magenta look: the loop and button closure, the collar with stand and the turnback cuffs.  Oh, and the black and white.

Loop and Button Closure

Making these for the first time wasn’t difficult and there was plenty of instruction and encouragement from other blog posts which  helped. But, I would caution against using this kind of closure on a “normal” dress: the risk of gaping is too great.  If you like Loop and Button, I recommend that you either keep the loops and buttons close together and use a stiff fabric, or insert a “business at the back” zip beneath to keep things together.

Collar with Stand

Being a collar-with-stand virgin, I was wary of drafting my own from scratch and instead used the collar in Vogue 8252 as a template (I also copied the sleeves from this pattern).  I made a size 8 collar which seemed the perfect proportion to the dress (no Harry Hill comparisons, d’ya hear!) though the stand was too wide for the neck and had to be messed around with till it fit! 

The V8252 collar attachment instructions were very confusing though and I did run screaming to Reader’s Digest CGTS for help.

The Turnback Cuff tutorial

My favourite part of the dress and another “first”.  Adding a turnback cuff to a sleeve creates a rather distinguished finishing touch so imagine my surprise when I discovered (by referring, as ever, to the sacred tome) that it was dead easy and simple to do.  The turnback cuff works well on a full-length sleeve (although avoid white if you’re messy!) and I imagine it works more splendidly still on a “bracelet sleeve”.  In fact, I can’t wait to do it again.

Here’s a step–by-step guide.

1. You begin with the sleeve pattern.  This is where you mark the style line of the cuff.  You can have a design like mine where the ends meet in the centre front of the sleeve but there are other options: they can overlap, the top can be scalloped, or the cuff can be continuous like the facing, etc.

Draw the cuff then draw its seam allowance – I did 1cm.  (Note that this cuff doesn’t have a side seam.  It’s a single piece cut on fold that rolls around the prepared sleeve).  Cut 4 of fabric and 2 of interfacing.

Draw the facing by copying the bottom of the sleeve.  Add  a seam allowance (1.5cm).  Cut 2 of fabric and (this is optional) 2 of interfacing.

2. Sew the cuffs.  Trim, turn and press.

3. Sew the side seams of the facings, press open, then edge finish the top edges.

4. Sew the gathering stitches for the sleeve, then complete the sleeve side seam.  Press open.  Working from the right side of the sleeve, attach cuff to sleeve and tack.

5. Attach facing over the cuff.

6. Stitch and remove tacking.  Trim SA’s then press to embed stitches.

7. Extend the facing and seam allowances away from the sleeve and with the right side up, understitch the facing and the SA’s.  Turn facing to inside, rolling in slightly and press.  On the inside, stitch facing to the sleeve seam allowance.

A note on the direction of the bust dart

The dress front is shaped by a single underarm bust dart that goes all the way to the bust point.  I designed the front so as to press the bust dart upwards after reading this fascinating explanation as to why this may be best from the brill blogger Pattern, Scissors, Cloth.

Miss Julie’s Jubilee

The brief: to design an elegant and delicate summer dress for my friend Julie.

The design: a sleeveless bodice with Princess Seams going from the waist to the armscye. 5cm-wide shoulder straps.  Waist seam.  Back zip.  The skirt has inverted pleats in place of darts. The inverted pleats meet the princess seams.  The design is  based on the Peggy Georgia dress that I made for my part in the Mad Men Dress Challenge, only with less pleats and with a natural rather than lowered waist.

The fabric: 2 metres of Liberty Tana Lawn “Pauly Parrot”.  The birds are lined up in columns and rows, with every third little guy on the right-hand side sporting a Mohican-like crest.  I think of him as Pauly!

The colours are champagne, pink, red and violet.  In these Julie noticed a subtle parallel to the Union Jack colours which are around a lot at the moment, hence the title “Miss Julie’s Jubilee”.  The fabric is light and therefore underlined throughout with a white cotton lawn which makes the design of the parrots stand out more crisply.  The bodice is also lined in white lawn: the three layers which make up the bodice mean that this is quite a warm dress, perfect for Summer 2012.  Both fabrics came from Classic Textiles, 44 Goldhawk Road.

The fabric sewed beautifully and smelt delicious when pressed!  Having said that, it took some planning at the cutting stage as the pattern of the parrots had to line up vertically and horizontally.

Sewing a Sleeveless Dress with a Bodice Lining

Here’s the order in which I put the dress together which might help you if you’re drafting a similar design.

Step 1

Construct the bodice (please note that I’m using the Pauly fabric and the white underlining as one).  First sew the princess seams on front and back, then side seams.  Finish side seams. Do not sew the shoulder straps – this will come much later!

Step 2

Sew the skirt: tack pleats in place then sew the side seams.

Edge finish the skirt side seams.  There’re many ways of doing this.  You can copy the method below if, like me, you don’t have an overlocker but want to keep things as tidy as possible without the extra fabric of Hong Kong binding.

Edge finishing

Press garment and one seam allowance to one side.  Aligning the presser foot edge with the seam, sew a straight stitch down the seam allowance.  Repeat on the other side.

The stitches will guide you as you press under.

  Press under along the stitch lines (left seam allowance).

Zigzag the folded edge (right seam allowance).

Step 3

Stitch bodice to skirt.  I start by sewing from the centre front to the side, then flipping over and doing the same from the centre front to the other side: I think this stops the top fabric from walking too far (I don’t have a walking foot, yet!).  Fit the zip.  Pin the straps and carry out a fitting.

Step 4

Sew lining the same as the bodice: princess seams followed by the side seams.  Edge finish the bottom of the lining.

Pin lining to bodice, matching all seams.  Fold lining back 0.5cm before the zip and pin (as above).

Fold zip back over lining and pin.

Stitch the front neck, armhole and back neck seams.  Carefully mark the stitch lines in the straps to ensure that you stitch 1.5cm from the top of the strap and 1.5cm from the side of the strap: being as pedantic as possible at this point will make things easier when you sew the straps in the next stage. Trim seam allowances and turn to the right side.

Step 5

The straps, at last:

On the outside, fold and pin back the fashion fabric.  Stitch the lining along seam line, making sure you don’t catch the fashion fabric.

  Tuck the lining seam allowances inside.

Slipstitch the folded edges.  A slipstitch (not to be confused with a slipknot, banish the thought!) is meant to be an invisible join of two folded edges.  Pick up a single thread under one folded edge, pass needle 0.5cm inside and in between the folded edges and repeat on the opposite side.

Step 6

Hand sew the lining to the zip.   Here’s what the garment looks like on the inside.  As a final step, secure the lining to the waist seam by handstitching at the side seams and on the inner pleat folds.



Sew Cinematic: a Preview


I’m getting excited at the approach of the deadline to the That’s Sew Cinematic group challenge.  This exceptionally inventive initiative manages to marry our love of sewing to the love of the visual narrative: participants are to copy their favourite silver or small screen outfit, or capture the sartorial style of an inspiring screen goddess.

The big reveal is at the end of this month and I’ll no doubt find other bloggers’ completed projects an inspiration for months to come (sometimes all it takes is a detail on a dress to fire up the imagination and set off a new design).  From reading other blogs, I suspect that Downton Abbey will be a popular source.  Being unable to get enough of Megan and Betty, I hope for lots of Mad Men-inspired creations.

Now, those of you who know me in Real Life also know that I’ve yet to miss an episode of whatever Scandinavian drama BBC4 happens to be showing, so you might suspect that I’m using Sew Cinematic as an opportunity to knit myself a Sarah Lund:

Or, maybe you’re a pal from my trouser-cutting course, and wonder if I’m fashioning myself some Saga Noren-inspired leather trousers (which I do so want, along with the matching Porsche). 

These would be great outfits: we’re going to need warm clothing in Summer 2012!  But nope.  Being somewhat stuck in a time warp, I’m entering Sew Cinematic with a copy of a dress that I’ve had a crush on since I was 15.

Would you like a clue as to what it is?  Here’s a trailer:

It’s a late evening in May, and half-term.  I’m 15 and staying for a few days with a friend of my grandmother’s.  We’ve just been to a theatre matinee with some friends of hers and I’m still wearing my pale-mint dress bought from Miss Selfridges in the Vicky Centre (reduced from £25 to £10!)  The dress is beautiful, long and feminine, in a fabric woven with flowers, possibly damask.  Why on earth was it in a sale?  Actually, it’s a bit low-cut.  Earlier, on being introduced to a married, middle-aged man, I caught him leering at my decolletage and nearly gagged in his oily face…

My guardian, a wonderful and warm widow, isn’t canny enough to send me to bed, so we watch telly.  There’s a film just starting.  It’s on Channel 4.

The film is rude. Bawdy, as my Lit teacher would call it.  It’s rather silly actually, and kitsch. OMG, it then gets ruder….

We giggle occasionally and keep watching.  Actually, I’m enjoying it.  Certainly the tunes are catchy.  And the cast perfect.  And featuring in it is the dress of my dreams!

This one also shows cleavage.  But who’d dare look?

I keep an eye on such a dress in shops.  Once, I glimpse a vintage, woolly lookalike at a stall on a Friday in Greenwich Market but it’s too small.  Mid-1990s, there’s an up-market, to-die-for lime green version in the window of a Covent Garden boutique but I’m too poor so I just forget about it.  For years.  Till May 2012 and this:

In front of the whole nation, a flame-haired temptress  (to use Sun-speak) is wearing my dress to the Leveson Inquiry!  Oh, I understand that it’s not exactly the same.  The collars are demure and obscure my original’s slut credentials.  And the colour I understand is navy rather than black, but the overall impression is enough to take me back to May 1985 and the first time I saw it.

Only now, it might just be possible to sew it.  All it takes is a little jump to the left….

Princess Seams

I’ve been entrusted with the task of making a dress for my friend Julie.  Julie is tall, slender and not unlike Princess Aurora, so it’s only fitting that the dress I’m designing her is to have Princess Seams!

The princess line travels either from the shoulder, like in Aurora’s dress, or from the armhole as in Julie’s sleeveless bodice and it’s a curved seam that contours outwards towards the widest point of the bust then inwards to the narrowest part of the waist.  Often, the line can continue below the waist to the dress hem, curving outward to accommodate the hips.

The technique for construction is the same whether the seam starts from the shoulder or the armhole, and is the same for the back as for the front.  Having said that, the curve at the back is less radical that at the bust, so if this is your first go, I recommend that you get a little practice by doing the back first.

In this example, I’m using the front.

Step 1

On the centre front: reinforce the curved part of the seam by stitching 2mm away from the seamline inside the seam allowance, starting at the top and ending just below the bust point.  Clip the area at regular intervals.

Tip: Clipping means making single cuts into the seam allowance to enable the area to spread and curve outwards.

Tip: when clipping, watch the tip of your scissors carefully and ensure it doesn’t go too close to the stitch line.  That way you’re less likely to cut the stitching.

Step 2

With Side Front on top of Centre Front, match the bust points.  With the clipped area spread outwards, pin the two sections together.  Tack (red stitches).  Turn so the centre front is on top, and stitch, sweeping your index finger in front of the presser foot to ensure the underside is smooth.

Tip: when stitching curved areas, keep your stitch short and your speed slow to get the line as exact as possible.

Remove tacking.

Step 3

Finger-press (press seam open with your fingers) and notch out the Side Front seam allowance.  It’s best the notch out in between the clippings of the opposite seam allowance.

Tip: Notching means making double cuts, taking out wedge-shaped pieces in a seam allowance that curves inward.  This is to eliminate the excess fabric that would otherwise overlap or bunch upwards.

Step 4

Close the seam and press it over a tailor’s ham.  Do not press beyond the seamline into the body of the garment: this might create creases.

Press the seam open over a tailor’s ham.  As you go, move the curviest parts of the seam over the most curved parts of the ham.

Tip: don’t trim Seam Allowances as this might make them too short to lie flat against the body of the garment.

Finishing Seam Allowances: in this example, the seam allowances are unfinished so that the finish doesn’t show through the fabric on the right side of the garment.  Instead, the bodice is lined so that the raw edges are contained within and aren’t subject to much rubbing.  The alternative is to finish off the seam allowances prior to seam construction.

I think that once you’re sewing Princess Seams, you’re quite on your way to turning from dressmaker to tailoress; that is, beginning to create garments with a permanent shape built into them!

Get Ham!

A tailor’s ham is an essential piece of kit, used for pressing curved areas, for example in shaping princess seams or bust darts, and for moulding collars.  It takes no more than an hour to make so if you’re a keen dressmaker with some rags to spare, get yourself a ham!  Sooner or later, a project that requires it will land on your sewing table.

These instructions are based on those in the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.

You will need:

Rags (I use old toiles, cut to shreds, old socks and tights).  Or sawdust.

Two pieces of calico, 45cm x 35 cm each approx.  This is for the lining.

Two pieces of outer fabric, sized as above.

Step 1

Place your iron on the calico and draw around it.

Step 2

Enlarge this area all around by 7cm to an egg-like shape and cut out.  Repeat.  Cut two more from the outer fabric.

Step 3

Using the outer fabric and lining as one, stitch together the two pieces, right sides together and leaving a gap of 10cm open.  Stitch again: the reinforcement is important as the ham will be tightly stuffed!  Turn right side out, stuff with rags and slipstitch the opening securely.


Ham in action

For pressing princess seams: place the curved seam on the curve of the ham.  It’s useful to have one of these not just for constructing the seam but for pressing the completed garment after laundering.

For moulding the undercollar of a jacket: fold along the roll line and pin to ham, interfaced side out.  Press against ham.  Seam press if appropriate for your fabric and allow to dry before continuing.

When attaching a collar, rather than working on a flat surface, insert tailor’s ham inside the garment and pin the collar to the neckline.

P.S. You can’t put these in sandwiches, you know!