Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review & Giveaway: Molly Makes Embroidery

I was very enthusiastic about reviewing the book despite the fact that, as a couture blogger, embroidery has been of interest for me only when related to garment embellishment. Yes, the book is cute, very cute. Just as anything that appears in Molly Makes magazine if you are familiar with it. But this cannot be the only reason I'd recommend it. So, what makes this new publication by Molly Makes team so noteworthy?

(A), the timing is perfect. Like many of you, I love to make a few handmade gifts before Christmas, and there are quite a few memorable gift ideas!

(B), not having an extensive embroidery library, just a few technique-based books really, I thought this particular one was a great learning resource if you want to try different techniques before investing into something that focuses on one type of embroidery only. 

(C), I like that all fifteen projects come from international designers, each with a distinct signature style. Website links for each designer profile help find inspiration for more projects using the same technique. 

The concept of the book is simple: the projects are followed by detailed step-by-step instructions, the designer and the embroidery story blurb, and a very well illustrated 70-page techniques chapter. All the projects have are suitable for complete beginners as well as seasoned embroiderers.

Here are my favourite projects:

Freestyle embroidery

The first project featured in the book is strongly influenced by the artist's graphic design background. Embroidered using only backstitches, The Cabin in the Woods hoop picture is not only suitable for an absolute beginner but is also very memorable. And, there are quite a few more practical projects I can think of using this design for. 

CLOUD SHAPED PILLOW  by Nicole Vos Van Avezathe (
Freestyle embroidery

This umbrella flying kitty and a bear are simply adorable, on a pillow or a pajama bag (my plan). The project is lined up as a Christmas present for my girls.

FOLK ART THROW by Clare Youngs (
Freestyle embroidery

Although I could not place this project anywhere on my wish list I still like it a lot.  Claire Youngs is strongly inspired by Scandinavian embroidery and if you like the style, it is worth checking out her books and projects from Scandinavian Needlecraft series. I loved her felted wool slippers, or embroidered mittens. Step-by-step instructions in the book provide you with skills necessary to make quite a few different projects inspired by her work.


My 5-year old daughter insists I make her these owls. We visited Michella Galetta’s website and found even more cute embroidered dolls and kits.  Another Christmas gift candidate.

KITTY CATS TEA COZY by Samantha Stas (
Free-motion machine embroidery

A tea cozy is needed to keep a tea pot warm in my sewing workshop, and these designs are a guarantee for a good-mood working session. You can find even more inspiring projects in Samantha Stas’s Etsy shop, all made using free-motion machine embroidery: wall hangings, Christmas tree decorations, scarves and more. 


A beautiful example of stumpwork where stitches are worked over padding. Wisteria flowers and the ladybug come alive on the needlebook and the pincushion. As a sewer, I cannot have enough pincushions and needle books, and what would make a better gift for a fellow sewist. 

Crewel embroidery

I am a big fan of crewelwork. A clutch? Maybe. I must admit I loved the crewelwork embroidered hoody Karin Holmberg is wearing on the photograph in the book. Clutch is a good project to get acquainted with the technique. More fearless stitchers may try taking on more complex projects, such as embellishing a dress, a blouse or even a jacket.

Bargello embroidery

Bargello embroidery is a special treat in the book, and this cuff bracelet is another great project for a beginner. I’d pair it with long-sleeve navy blue shirt or blouse, and would go for two bracelets to make them look like cuffs.  Slightly more elaborate bracelets are offered for over USD 700 in the designer’s store, but, then, according to the designer, it took her 40 hours to complete her first cuff. In any case, it is worth making it yourself if you really love the look and don’t mind investing so much time. Another project that I can see making using bargello is a belt, or a clutch.

Overall, I think the book is great for both, relative beginners as well as more seasoned stitchers. You get a diverse and carefully curated selection of designs and techniques here. And the substantial techniques section is very well illustrated and organised, providing essential skills to complete stunning projects using wide range of techniques: main embroidery stitches, crewelwork embroidery, silk ribbon embroidery, counted cross stitch, canvaswork, bargello and free-motion machine embroidery

And now that you reached the end of this post, here is the best part: the publisher is offering a free copy to the US-based readers of this blog. All you need to do is leave a comment here by Sunday, October 26. I would  love to read a few words about your embroidery experience and what you might consider making from this book. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and will be announced the following Monday. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

A NEW DRAFT-ALONG: Crossover Pleat Skirt

When I featured this pattern find on my blog about a year ago, it seems to have kindled your interest.

This is a 1959 pattern by Vogue Patterns. The envelope describes the style as ...

... a flared skirt in two length, which has deep front and back box pleats. Front pleats cross over at waist line. Wide shaped and narrow straight waistband. Four gored petticoat also in two lengths...

Fabric suggestions: 
Cotton satin - Gingham - Pique - Cotton Broadcloth - Barathea - Satin - Faille - Shantung - Wool Crepe - Lightweight Woolen

At that time I also stumbled upon a very similar skirt by Vivienne Westwood in Liberty floral print at whopping $500 ( I find Vivienne Westwood’s patternmaking is very inspiring, but the price can hardly be justified if you can sew.

Finding a very similar vintage pattern was really a lucky strike. Unfortunately, the pattern sizing is on a teenager side, and grading a pattern like this is more time consuming than drafting one from scratch, while having instruction sheet and the pattern pieces at hand gives wonderful guidance. I thought, I will just re-draft the pattern with slight modifications and post step-by-step instructions so you can follow along if you are interested.


At first sight, the skirt looks like a simple 3/8 circle skirt with angled crossover pleats. Theoretically you can integrate pleats as circle segments (not as straight rectangle inserts) from the beginning of the drafting process. However, this pattern has five front and three back pattern pieces.

It all made sense when I put together a somewhat accurate miniature paper mock up of the skirt by tracing pattern pieces from the instruction sheet to tracing paper. The mock up is now successfully hidden away out of reach of my curious daughters, hidden so well that I cannot find it ). Back to the ten skirt pieces:  I think the reason behind the number of pattern pieces seems to be the grainline placement and stability of the fabric. The angled pleats panels (7) as well as other pattern pieces are cut more or less on grain, possibly to avoid fabric distortion, especially for the pleats. Clever.

The two angled pleats at the front are made using a separate pattern piece each (7). These pleat pieces are then inserted between the center front pattern (8) and the side front (6) pieces.

The back also has two 'normal' box pleats, which are not angled and almost meet at the center back.

The Vivienne Westwood skirt, with its asymmetric pleat placement, is more improvisational, but the cutting principle is very similar. I think once you understand pleat drafting and grainline placement you can improvise endlessly.

So, here is the plan:

Tue, 21 Oct

I will start with drafting a basic ⅜ circle skirt, which can then be also used as a pattern for the petticoat or lining. It makes sense to start with the easiest piece first, and I will use this opportunity to go over some basic steps for those of you who don’t have experience drafting circle skirts.

Fri, 24 October

Next, I’ll draft the back with two not-angled pleats, and I’ll also look into seam and grainline placement in the pattern. This part offers a good overview of how the pleats are drafted in a circle skirt.

Tue, 28 October

Finally, the front with the angled pleats will be drafted, completing the draft along.

At the moment, I haven’t yet planned a sew-along for this skirt. Maybe after drafting is completed. For now, it would be great if you'd join me and draft your own skirts. It's just much more fun to do it as a group. If you are joining please leave a comment. Additionally, I have also set up another draft-along thread on the Couture Collective forum, so we can interact and post pictures.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blog Hop-On Hop-Off

Hello to Dublin, where the lovely Inna decided to pass on the blog hopping baton to me. You have to check out her blog - not only she shares the love for couture, but also has a great eye for prints.

Now, the questions...


to connect to the sewing community, share... Of course! But blogging for me is also an educational process, when, after researching and making, you sit down and document all some bits and pieces of the process. Putting what you learned down on 'paper' helps you remember crucial techniques and, sometimes, improve them. Images are a great help too, even the least noticeable mistake becomes prominent. Having your feedback is a reward for this work. 

I am also inspired by the success of those prolific bloggers and designers who were able to turn blogging into living. It is working out for me in some ways, and now, that my life is getting back to normal after the move last year, I hope I'll be able to offer you more. Which brings me to the next question...


That's the toughest one ) All the plans and patterns, and the need to focus... An IKEA Expedit shelf full of fabrics is a major point of distraction - I need to hang some neutral textile over it!

Ok, right now I am working on a couple of new patterns. One is the skirt inspired by a very young Russian designer Eugenia Kim (image), and another (in further future) is a culottes, inspired by this Dries Van Noten piece. 

There is also one simple circle skirt in making, in navy blue silk faille that I initially purchased for a dress ) 

... I keep changing my plans actually. I am determined to focus on those three!

What I am really working on: a tailored dress for my mother (we just had a great first fitting) and another dress for a good friend of mine. I hope I can feature those two soon. 

And, finally, I am in dire need of another 'smart casual' garment for a reception this Friday... I should get on to the next question before I come up with more plans!


I got tons a few drafts saved on my blogger dashboard. But usually it starts with notes, on my iPhone or in my hardcopy Moleskin agenda (I've become addicted to soft cover Moleskin agendas), where I make notes about my measurements, paste inspiration images from magazines, or articles, sketch. I used to keep those things as paper scraps all over the place, and could never find anything when I needed it, but now it's all in one place. 

I also carry around a regular notebook, and pull it out whenever I get a few spare minutes. Then, I draft a rough outline for a future post and a few details. 

I got more ideas than I could possibly turn over, but it is probably better this way than having nothing to write about. Time is limited and, so far, I can manage a post or two a week.

In the near future, besides posting finished garments, I would like to focus more on techniques and tutorials and write more reviews. These are labour intensive posts, but they are the most rewarding ones!


I'd love to hear more from a fellow couture addict, Leisa from A Challenging Sew. We share the same mentor, Susan Khalje, and love for the hand-made wardrobe. 

Question to you, readers! Does your fabric stash distract you from focusing on projects? That's my main issue, I wish I had one or two fabrics only in my stash. On the other hand, a friend recently told me she might take/buy some of my fabrics 'cause I got too many... Oh, my precious!!! Am I turning into a Gollum?.. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Craftsy Favorites and a Big Sale.

It has been only a few weeks since my last Craftsy class review and there are already several new classes that I really liked. Since it is again a Big Fall Sale on Craftsy (you get up to 50% off) I thought I'd share a few thoughts on those classes I liked.

Some classes are less than 30% off. Don't purchase them right away. Craftsy offers you an additional 33% off for one class in an email you receive after your initial purchase. This offer is not valid during a sale, so it's worth waiting until the sale is over and purchasing the class with a smaller discount then. 


Steffani Lincecum did it again. She released another great tailoring class, this time it is Coatmaking techniques.

Inside Vogue Patterns: Coatmaking Techniques is currently at 40% off, which is quite a good deal for an advanced level class. Again, even though you are sewing a VoguePatterns coat, techniques are applicable to any coat you want to make. She teaches classic and couture-level techniques and uses a lot of hand stitching. Great sewing class, and, if I am not mistaken, it is the only coatmaking class on Craftsy

Her other classes, all of which I recommend, are

Classic Tailoring: The Blazer 
Pattern Drafting from Ready-To-Wear (51% off)
Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z (FREE)


If you are looking a comprehensive patternmaking class, Suzy Furrer's classes are the best I have taken. The series is a patternmaking encyclopedia, very well presented and organized. When taking this class you need to remember that it is not a fitting class, but a step-by-step instruction. Once you have a fitting sloper, you can draft a great variety of garments after taking these classes.

As in her earlier Craftsy classes, Suzy Furrer mostly follows her book: Building Patterns: The Architecture of Women's Clothing, which, by the way, has suddenly become extremely expensive. It is an out-of print book, and is on Amazon starting at $175. Crazy... It is nice to have it as a reference, but there is so much duplication between the book and the class that you can live without the former. In addition, if you ever purchased Kenneth King's CDs, available on his website and on, you will find that the drafting method is the same. I must say, however, that Kenneth King has also an Advanced Sleeve chapter as a separate CD (a PDF file, which is mostly text accompanied with images), which you can purchase to compliment Suzy Furrer's class. He has more interesting sleeve variations there.

Patternmaking and Design: Collars & Closures (43% off)
Collars & Closures are for me the most frequent pattern alterations. I often change collar shape or replace one collar with another. You can read about the topics covered in the class in the lesson plan, and, of course, it doesn't include everything. However you get about a dozen different collar variations as well as instructions how to draft matching closures.

Patternmaking and Design: Creative Sleeves (43% off) - The sleeve class starts with sleeve slopers, and then goes on to basic sleeve variations (short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, bell sleeve, cap sleeve and more). She covers plackets, pleats, cuffs and vents. There is also a lesson on drop shoulder sleeve, which experiences a comeback in fashion. I found that the pace is good, and even though Suzy Furrer's teaching is quite dry, but it is very clear and organized . I'd recommend purchasing this class sooner, because many instructors tend to respond faster and more willingly within the first few months after the release.


I am so happy to see new hand embroidery classes added on Craftsy. As usual, the projects in both classes are rather craftsy for me, so I am taking them to learn stitches and some new techniques, and using boards to ask questions related to fabric handling or other technique-specific issues.

Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand (25% off) with Sue Spargo

Embroidery with Ribbon (33% off) with Mary Jo Hiney

You can do amazing things with texture. Look at the Fall 2014 collection by Dolce & Gabbana. One look after another incorporating embroidery and appliqué, creating texture by mixing fabrics ...

In future, I hope, Craftsy will offer a beading embroidery class, and have some garment embroidery specials.


I really liked the idea of being able make my own sewing organizers, so I enrolled in Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers. There is not much to review here - two projects accomplished in the class are an organizer bag and a cosmetic bag. I've seen organizer bag tutorials on the web, but I so much prefer to follow the process either as a video, or in a class. Here is the opportunity )

Fun Techniques with Fabric Paints. I haven't signed up for this class, but it looks really fun for those who like to experiment with creating new fabrics. Stamping, stenciling and direct painting are the techniques taught in the class... Now, typing it, I am considering enrolling. It reminded me of the art of the Cypriot mantilarides who printed headscarves. You can see some of those scarves below, the picture was taken in a local museum in Nicosia. The moulds were made from the wood of olive or oak trees, with some finer designs. The colors were made from a mixture of plant and animal dies. The fabric - cotton mouseline. I will post about mantilarides in a separate post, here I just wanted to share some inspiration images. Maybe making a me-made scarf for holiday season? ... and look at those pretty crocheted trims...

Hand Applique Made Easy (33% off) A year ago I wanted to recreate this blouse by Temperley London, but I was just lost with the appliqué.

I didn't want to do it by machine, since it produces a rather stiff edging, but now I am taking this class and hopefully it will help me accomplish something similar in the near future. The class works on a sampler quilt, but the techniques could be applied to a garment and delicate fabrics. Since it is a relatively new class, and Mimi Dietrich, the instructor, is still available to answer questions.

That's it for my favorite class reviews, readers. I hope you'll enjoy these classes too.

Couture techniques: Bound Slit

It has been a while since I posted a tutorial, partly because of the lack of time. But I am glad I did now, and hope you will refer to it for your projects. As usual, I always recommend to practice the technique on a muslin first.

Bound slit is used in dress or blouse necklines, and if you've made bound buttonholes this technique is similar. The final steps vary depending on whether the garment section is lined or not. In this post, I will explain how to make a squared off bound slit in an unlined blouse, like in the blouse that I've featured in one of my recent posts. The bottom of the slit can be also made pointed as an arrow, or squared off as in my blouse.

A note to my timid sewing friends: I hope the long instructions won’t scare you off. I just tried to be as detailed as possible ) Enjoy

Finished bound slit.  Stitches are done in contrasting thread. 


Thread trace the neckline opening along the the cutting line and the bottom line of the slit. Thread-tracing is most suitable marking technique because the marking is visible from both, right and wrong sides.

Marked slit


Cut two bias strips, about 5cm longer than the finished length to accommodate seam allowances, and about two times wider than the final width of the binding (check on a smaller scrap of fabric before you cut all the strips, some fabrics stretch a lot and you may need to cut the strips wider, refer to step 3 for explanation). My binding is 0.4 cm wide, so I cut a 3.2cm wide bias strip for each side.

The final width should be

2 x finished width + 1mm turn of the cloth + (2x finished width) for the seam allowance
+1mm allowance for the bias

I am adding the last 1mm as an allowance for the bias because during handling, the bias will inevitably stretch and become slightly narrower. 1mm should compensate for this little loss in the width after steaming and stretching described in the next step will 

In my example, finished width is 0.4cm, so the calculation will look like this

(2 x 4mm) + 1mm + (2 x 4mm ) +1mm = 18mm

So, I am cutting twice the final width, at 3.6cm

Cut bias strips

I'd recommending cutting and stretching with steam a small bias strip to test the width before cutting the final binding.


Steam press the strips stretching them while pressing. They should retain only minimal give. This will help you control the bias and produce an even and accurate binding. After pressing the strips will be narrow and longer than when you cut them, in addition, depending on the fabric, you may have to trim them.

You will also notice that the ends of your strip are somewhat wider than the rest of it. You can trim those ends off, after measuring the bias strip again.

Bias strips, one before (top) and another after (bottom) pressing. My sample is made in muslin, so the strip width reduced by only 7mm
Trim the strips to the final width.


Mark 4mm from the trimmed edge of the bias strip using your favourite method: matching tracing paper, disappearing marker or thread tracing. For the first two methods, test on a fabric scrap, especially if you are working with silk or any other delicate fabric.

I am marking with Sharpie to make lines more visible on images. Normally I mark with matching tracing paper and a rounded tracing wheel.  A sharp tracing wheel may leave marks on delicate fabrics


On the right side of fabric, place the first strip with the right sides together on one side of the slit opening, with the edge along the thread-traced cutting line. Baste the strip 0.4cm away from the cutting line, from the neckline edge to the thread-traced bottom line. Repeat for the other side. It is important to keep the basting line evenly spaced and parallel to the thread-traced opening line as it will serve as your stitching guide.

It is very helpful to end a basting stitch at the bottom line marking - this will serve as an additional guide when stitching. I've marked the spot with a short Sharpie line


Stitch the binding along the basting line, reducing the stitch length for the last one cm. Pull one thread end through the fabric, so the both ends are on one side and knot them. Cut off the thread ends close to the knot. Press the stitching lines from both sides: this will make turning of the binding easier and more accurate.


Cut the slit open along the treat-traced line, stopping at 0.5cm from the thread-traced bottom line. On the wrong side using embroidery scissors, clip diagonally the garment fabric layer, not the strips, from the end of the cutting line to the end of the stitching.


Turn the binding over slit seam allowances. Press. Repeat with the other side

Turn the binding around the edge of the cut slit, carefully moving the bottom edges to the inside. Press lightly. Turn under the raw edges: the binding should meet the stitched line, pin. The binding should now measure 0.4mm. Baste.

Basted binding from the wrong side

You can skip basting if you can control the fabric and fell stitch (next step) a couple of centimetres at a time while turning the binding allowance inside.


Using fell stitches, stitch the binding to the stitched line. Repeat with the other binding. Press lightly

Top binding is fell-stitched in matching thread, the bottom binding - in contrasting thread 
Right side after fell stitching

At this point I like to baste together the bound edges to have more control for the next step. Diagonal basting stitch is perfect for this purpose. You can just baste from the wrong side, through the bottom layers.


Fold the garment along the thread-traced bottom line, with the bias binding on the bottom, exposing the clipped triangle, which should lie over the ends of the binding. If you want more control, pin left and right from the triangle. Baste (I skip this step for cottons). Stitch across the thread traced bottom line through the binding edges. Knot the ends.

Thread the needle with the end thread and hide it in the bias binding. Trim the ends to 0.5cm – 1cm

Remove diagonal basting thread and press.


Slip stitch to gather the ends of the  bias bindings on the wrong side and hand-overcast the raw edges. The bound slit is done.

Finished bound slit, wrong side
Finished bound slit, right side

I will be also posting this tutorial on the new couture forum on the web to make sharing and interaction easier than on the blog. Set up in August, the forum lacks ongoing conversation, however an idea of completing monthly couture challenges was quite popular. 

So, if you want, we could add this technique as an October monthly challenge and start building couture portfolio by creating samples and sharing work-in-progress. 

Finally, as a quick reminder, there is a Craftsy Fall Sale going on now, with up to 50% off. I got a post with a few new class reviews coming up this afternoon if you want to wait until then )


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