I have been wanting to make my own wrap dress for a while now and with spring/summer approaching I thought there’s no better time than now. I have chosen dress style C from the Butterick B5030 Pattern. After looking at few patterns, this one appealed to me the most as it has six different versions of the dress which gives the flexibility to cater to different styles. In particular, dress C was the closest to what I was after.
I decided not to cut the pattern supplied directly as I wanted the option to make the different versions/sizes in the future. So I measured my waist, bust, high bust and nape to waist before selecting my pattern size. I then compared my measurements to the pattern and chose the appropriate sizing. After tracing and cutting the pattern I did a tissue fitting with help from Kat. A few adjustments later and it’s now ready for fabric cutting!
Leigh-anne has been coming to classes for exactly a year today, and has now secured a job at Alma's Alterations in Brighton, congratulations! She also has an Instagram feed showing her sewing journey @madebylaluk
Keep an eye on the blog & our emails for the next stage of Leigh-anne's project!
Would you like to have a go at blogging your next sewing project for us? If so, we'll give you a complimentary Stitch Class for the pleasure!
How does it work? Photograph & diarise (just a paragraph per class is fine) the process of your next sewing project and we'll turn it into a blog post that will appear on our blog & will be highlighted in our email marketing
Alison Campbell runs Marble Moon Kidswear shop on Etsy. She learnt to sew at Sew In Brighton sewing school. We caught up with her to find out all about her business!
How and why did you first get interested in sewing?
As a child, I used to cross stitch with my mum and later, as a student, I wanted to customise my own clothes. I would buy fabric I loved from Birmingham Rag Market but I never managed to fully realise a garment as I was just improvising, although there were some interesting “no-sew” attempts! I bought myself a sewing machine when I was pregnant with my first daughter, and I managed to teach myself how to run up a baby blanket following You Tube tutorials but I always felt something was holding me back from really progressing. When I finally had the time and money to take proper sewing lessons with Kat that’s when things really took off!
Where did you learn?
In Spring 2013 I started stitch classes at the Sewing Lounge. These classes were a real lifeline to me at the time - I had recently had a baby boy who had been born deprived of oxygen, and sadly he didn’t make it beyond his first day. I was off work and wanted to do something during this time that was constructive, and only for me. I have such fond memories of those sunny mornings in that lovely sewing space. It was an opportunity to be somewhere where nobody knew what had just happened to me, so everyone treated me normally and I could just focus on learning this new skill. Within a few weeks I had made a swimming bag with a waterproof PUL lining and my first outfit following a commercial pattern, a dress and cropped trousers for my 2-year old daughter.
At what point did you start to think you'd like to make and sell your creations and why?
I became addicted to sewing after the lessons! I always had compliments on the many dresses, skirts and leggings I made for my own daughters, with people saying they would buy them. One summer, my day job (I’m a freelance translator) was especially quiet so I had the opportunity to get started and give it a whirl!
What was the first step you took to selling? And the second?
I asked my fellow mums what type of handmade garments they would buy for their own children, and what they felt was missing from the market. I developed a key range of 4 items (animal appliqué t-shirt, skirt, pinafore dress and baby/toddler dungarees) and made enough stock for a stall at a craft fair at our local community centre. I also started to sell through a Facebook group, needing another selling platform than just markets, and later on Etsy.
Do you have any key tips or advice for others who would like to sell their creations?
Check the market before you start to sell and see if you can offer something unique. There are so many makers of handmade baby and toddler clothes, often all making the same sorts of garments, that I have now changed my range to focus on ages 3-8. The sales and marketing side is also really hard work, and does not come naturally to many creative people! Etsy in particular requires a time investment, but there are help groups on Facebook which I have found invaluable, and it does pay off!
What do you like about making and selling your wares and do you make everything you sell yourself?
I enjoy being able to indulge my fabric buying obsession, knowing I don’t have to limit myself to what I and my own family can wear! I do buy in t-shirts for my appliqué tops from a UK wholesaler. They are made in a factory in the Midlands and are superb quality.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future in this area or are you happy where you are?
I would like to extend the focus of Marble Moon to cater for tweens and pre-teens. As my own daughters (and willing models!) grow older, I find myself less inclined to sew tiny clothes. Sewing for older children is definitely a new challenge, as they do have their own strong opinions and you have to keep up with trends to a greater extent. I hope to offer clothes with that same spirit of fun for older girls and boys that I feel is missing from high street fashions for ages 6+.
We've been having a lot of fun this year, teaching students how to copy their favourite clothes in our popular Replicate Your Clothes workshop and in our weekly Stitch Classes. It's such a handy skill to be able to recreate a much loved garment! Check out our gallery to see what students and teachers have been replicating so far this year...
Kat replicates her favourite Hennes vest top
Kat's vest top replicated!
Yael replicated her off-shoulder top in Laura's Stitch class on Thursday evenings
Romaine replicates her favourite vintage dress in Stitch Classes
When Rachata Powell first came to learn to sew with us at Sew In Brighton she had no previous sewing experience. Fast forward a year later and she’s now running her own business making and selling her own clothes! We caught up with her to quiz her on what inspired her to start sewing, build her own business and how she’s getting on.
When & why did you learn to sew? I was a complete beginner when I first started in April last year. I had an idea of selling some trousers inspired by the traditional clothing worn by villagers in Thailand, but, in hiring someone to make these I wouldn't make any profit. So I decided to learn how to sew so I could make them myself.
What was your inspiration to start up a clothing brand? At first I wanted to try and see if I could sew, then I started having fun making various things from trousers and dresses, to bags and hats. The more things I made, the more inspired I got. So I thought it would be great to make my own brand of clothing and start selling them because I now I had made so many items, I had enough to fill a shelf.
Who makes the clothes you sell? I still make all the clothes myself. My unique selling point is that everything is a "handmade product".
Any plans/dreams for the future? I’d like to advance my sewing skills. Also I’d like my brand to grow and become recognised by more people.
Where do you get your fabrics? Lots of places! Some are authentic fabrics imported from Thailand, some are from online stores and from fabric retail shops.
Any tips for others who might like to start their own business? A good website and eye-catching photos are essential in making your shop look professional. It’s also important to work hard on marketing and advertising your shop in order for your business to reach the public.
Rachata makes a variety of beautiful and original items inspired by the clothing worn in Thai villages. Head over to her website https://www.susumushop.com/ to have a look at her designs.
We interview our Overlocking and Alterations teacher, professional machinist Carrie White...
How did you get into sewing for a living, how long have you been doing it? I've been sewing for about 15 years and doing it professionally for around 6 years. It took quite some time for me to realise I could do it for a living. I was working in an office and making things in my spare time, and at some point I figured out that I was happier sewing than I was at my job. I studied Costume Production at a theatre school in London and when I left I decided to go into the wedding dress industry. I contacted various bridal shops in my area, got some experience with them and have been making and altering dresses ever since.
What do you do in your sewing jobs? What sort of garment alterations do you do in your usual working week? The main bulk of my work is altering dresses, all sorts of dresses! Cotton, chiffon, jersey, velvet, silk, I've altered them all. Every now and again I'll make a dress but I like the quick turn around with alterations. The most common alteration is taking up hems - ladies come in all different heights and prefer all different shoe heights too so about 75% of all long dresses will need shortening. The next most common alteration is lifting the shoulders, this can make such a difference to the fit of a dress but is not always the most obvious change to make.
How do you use overlockers in your job? I use an overlocker almost everyday. They are perfect for whizzing round the hem of a dress before you turn it up on the sewing machine. I also often need to re-overlock the insides of dresses if I've had to take them in for example.
Do you make your own clothes? I actually don't make my own clothes. I've made lots of costumes for myself but I much prefer making things for others.
Are garment alterations easy to do? What do I need to know? Do I need to have made clothes before? It really depends on the garment you're trying to alter. Some clothes are made so that they can be altered such as wedding and bridesmaid dresses. But others are not so easy, you can do a lot of damage while unpicking stitches and you could potentially ruin a garment this way. When I'm altering something my main goal is to put it back together so that it doesn't look like it's been altered. This might seem obvious but it can be tricky. You need to consider the colour of the thread, the placement of seam allowance, lining up your stitching with the original sewing line etc. I would definitely recommend that you be able to make clothes before attempting alterations. You don't need to be an expert but a general understanding of how garments go together will help you to work out the best way to alter something. A great tip is to simply turn your clothes inside out and look at how they've been made, I've learned so much this way.
What are the advantages of having an overlocker rather than just having a normal sewing machine? An overlocker is essential if you want to make your garments look professional and also last longer. Overlocking the seam allowance can tidy up uneven cutting, stop fabrics from fraying and add strength to prevent seams tearing or falling apart. While sewing machines can have an "overlock stitch", the results never look as nice as a real overlock. The other advantage of having an overlocker is the ability to make clothes from stretch fabrics such as jersey. The overlocker is designed so that that the overlocking retains the stretch and you'll find that most stretch clothing such as leggings and t-shirts will be sewn together using an overlocker rather than a sewing machine.
Can you make entire garments, completely on an overlocker? It is possible to make an entire garment solely on an overlocker but it depends on how you want to finish it. Certain hems can only be done on a sewing machine or cover stitch machine, and you may want to top stitch parts of your garment.
What do students get out of your LYO workshops? Many of the students I've seen arrive with their overlockers brand new in their boxes completely daunted by the prospect of using it, or have tried to use it and have come across a problem they've been unable to solve. In the workshop I aim to make people feel comfortable with the machine, to help them understand what all those dials and numbers mean, and to inspire them to leave at the end of the day with lots of new ideas and possibilities. They leave feeling confident and no longer afraid of the noisy, fast machine!
What do you enjoy about teaching? I like seeing the change in people as they progress through the class. Whether they're opening up to the other students and chatting about their projects and ideas or they're feeling more and more at ease with their machine, feeling proud when they achieve the perfect overlocking or figure something out that they couldn't before. Everyone arrives feeling unsure and in need of a cup of tea but leave with smiles on their faces and full of ideas.
Learn more about overlocking or alterations in one of Carrie's upcoming workshops at Sew In Brighton:
What do you do when your sewing machine breaks? Should you be proactive or reactive in looking after one? Where can you get a sewing machine serviced if something goes wrong with one?
These are questions that sewers are faced with whether you are beginner starting out, a recreational sewer or an experienced sewer with years of practice behind you. Using our friends at Bobbin Along, a servicing and repair shop in Worthing, we aim to give you an insight into the importance of maintaining a sewing machine whilst also highlighting which machines can be most trusted in terms of reliability.
With a love of sewing from an early age, Bobbin Along owner Katy has years of experience not only from working in the industry but tips and tricks passed down through two generations. When asked about her background in sewing and where she first developed her keenness she replied:
"I've always loved to sew and learned at quite a young age, my Great Nan was key in this. She was a dressmaker and made gowns for aristocracy. By the time I was old enough to learn she was quite old but she taught me the basics of hand sewing and had the most fantastic button tin!!
My Mum continued my learning by always encouraging me to try things for myself and being there to help if I got stuck. I've had access to her sewing machine since I was about 7. I've always made things for my house and love a project that means I learn a new skill!
As for selling machines; I'd never done that until taking over the shop so it's been a massive learning process for me. I've used every machine I have on display and have spent time on training days so I can run a customer through a demonstration and help with any issues they may have. Both my suppliers have fantastic after sales services so if I can't answer a question I can contact them. I have a very experienced engineer that does the servicing and repairs and he is teaching me so much too. He's been working on sewing machines for about 40 years and he's a real asset to the shop."
So with a wealth of knowledge, coupled with extensive training and working alongside experienced engineers, Bobbin Along seems like the perfect place to go with any of your sewing machine problems!
Concentrating on the servicing and selling aspect of this business, Katy offers some great advice on her favourite machines: how often a service should be carried out and how to best maintain a sewing machine to ensure it remains as good as when you bought it.
Is there a reason you sell Brother and Juki as your main make? ''I have faith in both of these brands. I've had a Brother machine for years and it has never let me down. I wasn't as familiar with Juki but I had heard such good things about them that I was keen to secure a contract for them for Worthing. The shop has history with both brands of machine and I felt it was important to keep this going.''
The image below displays the Brother and Juki sewing machines, which are both available at the Bobbin Along store. However, don’t worry if your machine isn’t either of these brands as any make or model can be serviced, starting from as little as £40.
What's the cheapest domestic machine you sell and what features does it lack that the pricier (standard) domestic machine has? ''The cheapest new machine I sell is £99. It is perfectly adequate for occasional sewing, household repairs and alterations. It doesn't have variable length and width of stitch on it and the feed dog cannot be dropped so it's not suitable for everything. If you plan to work on any heavier fabrics, like denim, canvas or heavy curtain fabrics, it's probably not the best machine for you. Personally I prefer a digital machine, the stitch quality is great and for new sewers the speed control is a great feature as it means if you are a little heavy on your foot control the machine won't run away with you!''
Do you recommend a regular service or just come along when there's a problem? If regular how often? "A regular service will keep your machine in tip top condition, if you use it every day then an annual service should mean it's always sewing to the best of its ability, for more occasional sewing a service every 2 to 3 years should be adequate. Some modern machines have service warnings on them and are set to alert you when you've reached a certain amount of stitches or sewing time.''
Do you have any tips for people to look after their machines well between services? "Keeping your machine clean is vital so after a good sewing session you should always give it a quick clean out to stop stray lint working its way inside the machine. Clean the bobbin area with lint brush or even a small paint brush and if you have any snagged thread make sure you get it all with tweezers. Using your machine regularly helps to maintain the moving parts as it keeps the oil liquefied. If a machine is left unused for extended periods the grease starts to solidify and ends up like glue, when you come to use the machine again this could cause you problems.''
It would be wrong to let you think ‘Bobbin Along’ was simply just a servicing and repair shop. As seen from the image below Katy also sells craft weight cotton, which is great for patchwork and is really popular at the moment, often being people’s favourite fabric to work with. In addition to this; she also sells sewing and machine embroidery threads, a range of haberdashery and sewing accessories.
Any last bits of advice? "In response to 'should I get my machine serviced regularly?' - it’s completely dependent on the amount of use it gets. As previously mentioned a recreational sewer should seek a service within a 2-3 year time period of its last service, whereas a machine in continuous use should undergo a yearly check. However, things can go wrong at any time and if you do experience any problems with your machine do pop into Bobbin Along we'll be more than happy to help."
This week we've recieved some super cute swatches from The Fabric Shop, which has branches in Burgess Hill and Worthing. Jenni who is wearing the gold skirt in the attached pic has just completed our Fashion Design & Pattern Cutting course and bought all her fabrics from there - they were gorgeous.
It's a large shop with a huge range - I've attached my favourites here - cute rabbit print poly/linen £14.99 a metre, plus 2 gorgeous hard wearing cotton backed oil cloths at £12.99 a metre.
The Fabric Shop also sell Husqvana Viking sewing machines from £150, plus made to measure curtains, haberdashery and hand knitting paraphernalia!
Jenni's skirt made from a fab remnant from The Fabric Shop, Worthing
The Fabric Shop Ltd The Show Rooms 55 Chapel Road Worthing BN11 1EF
The Fabric Shop Ltd 36 The Martlets Burgess Hill RH15 9NN
This interesting little video shows exactly what happens when you sew. This is an oscillating machine type, which has the bobbin underneath in a case - there is also the rotary hook model which has a top loading bobbin - will try and find a diagram of that too!
A question we’re often asked here at Sew in Brighton is ‘which kind of sewing machine should I by, and where can I buy it from?’
We caught up with Ian from one of favourite suppliers, Varney’s Sewing Machines over in Portslade. He gave us his hints and tips on finding the sewing machine of your dreams...
“The best advice I can give is to shop locally and somewhere where you can try the machines and ask questions. Nowadays you can buy a sewing machine from lots of different retailers - you can even buy one from a supermarket. But consider these important questions before you look just for the cheapest deal:
What pre sales help will I get before I purchase my machine?
Consider whether your retailer will...
let me try the machine out first and test its weight and how it handles fabrics?
help and show me what the machine can and cannot do?
offer a free "set up" lesson, where they let me thread up the machine and assist me in this?
point out the common mistakes most sewers make and show me how to avoid these mistakes?
check my machine to make sure the machine is working correctly and all accessories are included?
What after sales help will I get after I purchase my machine?
Consider whether your retailer will...
have experience of dealing with all aspects of sewing machines?
show me, face to face, where I am going wrong if I get into trouble immediately or in later years?
quickly repair and service my machine?
supply me with the correct accessories if I decide to add to the machine at a later time?
A specialist sewing machine retail shop should be able to answer YES to all the above questions. Buying a sewing machine is not like buying a book or DVD - most people need a little help in understanding how to work a machine. The help you may need might be necessary immediately after you purchase your machine or several years down the road - we welcome customers who come back into our shop for help with or without their machines.
The new machines offer so many more features than the older models and will expand your capabilities as a sewer.
Prices of new sewing machines have remained low over the years however I would advise you not to fall into the trap of buying a very low priced machine (below £100) as the build of the machine will be cheap and may not lend itself to possible repair. The old saying “buy cheap, buy twice” is true in the sewing world. Also be aware that some large retailers of sewing machines buy discontinued models from manufacturers and do not make this known to the purchaser. This can cause problems when trying to buy compatible accessories or getting parts for repair.
When buying a new machine it is essential that the machine you purchase has the features you desire - that may sound obvious but people often ask “can you add a needle threader/one step buttonholer/needle up or down function to my machine?” . The answer is “No” you cannot add these or other integral features to an existing machine, you need to ensure they are part of your machine when purchasing . That is why it is important to deal with a retailer who can show you the capabilities of different machines before making your decision.
I hope that these few basic ideas will be helpful to you when you consider buying a new machine.”Problems or repairs are often a thorny issue if you have not purchased your machine from a retailer with an onsite repair facility. To send back your machine to your original retailer may mean that you need to keep the box and packing that came with your machine. You may also have to pay for delivery and return charges (especially if the retailer on receipt of the machine decides the fault is not covered by guarantee). Delays may be considerable - usually over 10 working days. Remember that you must take problems/repairs to the retailer you purchased from - other retailers will charge for advice/repair as your guarantee does not apply to them..
Sew In Brighton owner Kat always recommends coming along to one of our classes or courses to try out the Janome 525s's we use so you're aware of the features you may want in the machine you buy. We have a cheaper model too so you can try them both and see the difference.
Varney’s are based at 56 Station Road, Portslade BN41 1DF (just down from Boundary Rd/Portslade Station). You can find out more by calling owners Ian and Lawrence at the shop on 01273 927111 or visiting their website.
Are you all set for wearing your Christmas Jumper today, Friday 18th December?
We teamed up with ITV's charity event Text Santa to raise money for Save The Children, make some fantastic DIY christmas jumpers, and have an absolute blast last weekend - and here are the results. Participants brought a jumper or sweatshirt to customise, and we brought the tinsel, bobbles, ribbons, rosettes, felt, fabrics, and last but not least - inspiration!
Our students said that our teacher Jo Bunner was "very helpful and positive" and had "great ideas". We think they came up with some really fantastic jumpers to wear for Christmas Jumper Day!
With our upcoming Tailored Jacket making course in mind, here we interview Katie and Dorte at Dragonfly Fabrics in Sussex and our jacket course tutor Jo Bunner about the best choice for jacket fabrics
What's the easiest fabric for a novice jacket maker to use? The easiest fabric to use would be a wool fabric, like the 100% Italian wool or the grey Italian check wool as these are firm. We are have a new range of herringbone tweed that would be suitable also. These fabrics are not too thick so they drape well and they are easy to sew with. Although pure wool fabric is more expensive, we think you will get more from your finished garment. The quality is important to think about, especially when taking the time to make something tailored, quality fabrics will make sewing easier and the jacket durable.
Course tutor Jo agrees - woven fabrics are forgiving, especially in pure wool and wool-rich mixes because they are more stable and slight imperfections in stitching can be steamed/ironed away. A plain fabric is easier than a check or a one way print. Prints/checks will need extra fabric for pattern matching.
(all photos are linked to Dragonfly Fabric item page)
Are there any fabrics that wouldn't be suitable for a jacket or would be very hard to work with? Fabrics that don't have enough structure, are too thin or have too much stretch. Satin is definitely for someone quite confident as it'll slip around and be less forgiving - those aforementioned imperfections won't be so easy to hide as in wool. Dragonfly have some beautiful corduroy velveteen ranges which is a is another option for a tailored jacket if you have a bit of dressmaking experience, although Jo warns of the challenges with these - corduroy and velvet tends to crawl along itself while you're pinning and sewing so need loads of pins - perhaps leave these fabrics for your second jacket!
What's the best fabric choice for a summer jacket? Dragonfly recommend Linen as a great choice for a lovely tailored jacket. If you don't want to go for pure linen then a Cotton linen would work just as well. She suggests non stretch medium weight fabrics such as lightweight wools, gabardine (a closely woven cotton or wool twill). Plus medium-heavy weight linen, denim, cotton drill (could be printed but see above comment re prints). If you are coming on the course and want to use a print we'll be advising how much fabric to get after week 1 of the course so you don't need to work this out on your own beforehand
Any tips on best lining to choose? Katie and Dorte at Dragonfly find a good quality, anti static lining is best and long lasting. They told us "Silk lining looks lovely, but in my experience doesn't wear as well. I have always used the Venezia lining, these are the best quality linings on the market." Jo adds that if you're on a budget, polyester lining is slightly easier to handle than nylon, as isn't so slippery, but if going for nylon, choose a heavier weight one. Satin is a luxurious touch, but does come with its own stitching challenges. Dragonfly are sending us swatches of their linings so if you are in the classroom take a look.
Can I machine wash a jacket? Jo would advise against this, especially a fully lined tailored one as it could cause shrinkage and distortion. So it's dry clean or super careful handwashing we're afraid!
How much interfacing do I need? Interfacing is a fusible or sew in backing which gives fabric strength and body. You'll find it in most waistbands, collars, neckfacings etc. With jackets it really depends on your pattern, but you will need at least one length of your finished jacket as you will probably fuse both front pieces, plus the collar, hem and sleeve facings. Jo specifies buying more than a metre of interfacing - maybe 2m - for a good tailored finish, especially in wool. We'll be advising on which thickness/type interfacing to get for the jacket you want to make on the course in April 2016 (plus check the site for future dates)
Everyone needs a fab pull on dress - I wear mine over jeans (which I also make btw, with minimal waistband bulk for just this purpose!).
We've run our stretch dress course quite a few times now and it's always gratifying to see my students enjoying creating multiple dresses after the course! Plus people have used the pattern to make tops too, and we can help adapt it into different styles if they want.
See images below of regular student (who started as absolute beginner not long ago!) Rebecca in her various incarnations of the dress.
I've a fab beige/black spot jersey I can't wait to get started with - and the butterfly one below is one I made for the original course but for some reason never quite got round to hemming, so thats a job for this week! The blue one is the original sample you may have seen on our wall at the Sewing Lounge. The fabric is from Fabric Land - most unusal, always worth a look to see what they have in store - otherwise Ditto fabrics on Kensington Gardens in Brighton (or online) usually have some great upmarket plain and printed jerseys you could use.
The Great British Sewing Bee returns for an eight-part series presented by Claudia Winkleman. Ten of the country's best home sewers face three challenges to make or alter an item of clothing under intense time pressure. Each week, their creations are judged by Savile Row's Patrick Grant and sewing expert May Martin, until one of them is crowned Britain's best amateur sewer.
The contestants are tested on three core fabrics: cotton, wool and silk.
The first episode tests the sewers on the three core fabrics in a dressmaker's cupboard: cotton, wool and silk. The surprise Pattern Challenge tasks the sewers with making a simple tunic top out of straightforward cotton. Some excel at producing the perfect top, some struggle to finish, and others cut corners - to their cost.
In the Alteration Challenge the sewers demonstrate their ability to transform a plain high street woollen skirt in just 90 minutes, creating mini skirts with frills, pencil skirts with peplums, and dungarees.
Finally, the sewers face the toughest of core fabrics when asked to fit a made-to-measure silk nightgown for a model.
The contestants are tested on their ability to match and combine patterned fabric.
Claudia Winkleman welcomes the nine home sewers back to the sewing room to face three more challenges. This episode tests their ability to match and combine patterned fabric. First the judges, Savile Row's Patrick Grant and sewing expert May Martin, surprise the sewers with a pattern for a pleated skirt. The catch is that they must match the pattern of the fabric across those pleats without changing the size of the skirt, which catches a few of the sewers out.
They must show their ingenuity by combining two patterned men's shirts into one garment - the results range from a little sailor dress to a boob tube.
Finally, they make made-to-measure men's patterned pyjamas which must both match across the seams and fit their male model perfectly.
The contestants face the most fitted made to measure challenge yet.
Claudia Winkleman hosts The Great British Sewing Bee as the eight amateur sewers prepare to do battle again in three challenges designed to test their ability to handle stretchy fabric.
The judges - Savile Row's Patrick Grant and sewing expert May Martin - first give them a surprise pattern for a simple pair of leggings with resulting snug and saggy bottoms.
Next the sewers are free to do whatever they like to turn an oversized t-shirt into a completely different garment - and they come up with some ingenious alterations, from a toddler's leotard to an asymmetric mini dress.
Finally, they face the most fitted made to measure challenge yet.
Inspired to get sewing yourself?
Come to our weekly Stitch Classes in Brighton & Hove. We even use the same Janome sewing machines as used in the programme!
C & H Fabrics Ltd was started on 1st April 1933 by C.W. Hamblin and Mr H. Closs,and has now grown into a huge store over several floors with a great selection of fabrics, wools, haberdashery products and many other household and gifts items.
We had the fantastic opportunity to interview Diana Hing and James Hamblin, the manager and Personnel of the store, to learn more about the store and the products it sells.
What is the main audience of your business?
Up to 5 years ago the main audience was aged 45 and over and predominantly female, but in the last few years this has lowered to age 35 and over. Also many more young people has been buying products for school projects,which is encouraged by the10% discount to products for school work.
What do you think are the popular sewing products bought?
On the whole the product sales are very even, although C&H do sells huge numbers of scissors, people really appreciate good fabric scissors. The most popular editions are the Fiskars scissors, these are very good quality and last up to 10years before needing to be replaced. They also sell a lot of velcro, Wundaweb, and fabric dyes. The increased sales in fabric dyes has been quite recent, and is probably related the rise in young people buying from the store, and also the recent tie dye trends. A greater number of dyes are sold in the Brighton store than other stores across the country, which Diana believes is due to the greater interest in crafts in Brighton, as well as the outlook of older people here is in general younger and funkier.
What are the different types of fabrics that you sell?
Interestingly the customers often follow the advice and ideas of the staff, as opposed to having fixed ideas themselves. They also find that wool is very popular, which may be as it is a natural fabric and also very easy to work with, as therefore popular with less experienced stitchers. They have also seen a rise in crafts and with this a shift towards the use of fabrics for craft projects as opposed to dress making. People coming to C&H expect quality and something different rather than simply cheap and cheerful.
Personally what have you sewn or made that you have been most proud of?
James, the area manager of C&H, isn't a regular crafter and stitcher, but when training for his position he knitted a scarf with the help of other members of staff in the store. Whereas Diana sews a lot, creating a variety of clothing and pieces for the home. Her favourite creation was the silk curtains and matching silk roman blinds she made for own home, and feels very proud when seeing them within her home. She also makes a lot of clothing, particularly skirts, which she makes from scratch without any pattern!
Sewing, knitting and crafts are very fashionable hobbies now, what do you think has sparked this?
Crafts and sewing became fashionable when celebrities like julia robertsand gwyneth paltrow started knitting 6 years ago. Kirsty Allsopp has also been a massive influence, especially following her an episode of 'Kirstys Homemade Home' in which she made pom poms, C&H sold out of pom pom kits. Also Gok Wan brought embellishing into fashion, helping to set trends, and also increase the sales of materials to embellish clothes from home. Usually as well as materials for dress making, C&H also sells a lot of fabric and wool for creating dog beds and coats, which mimics the trend of pet fashions and clothing.
Do you think that the Great British Sewing Bee has had a big major affect on the sales of sewing and craft materials? And how?
The Great British Sewing Bee has been a great influence on sales of fabrics and dress making materials. People nowadays want to be different and individual, especially with the increase in mass produced cheap fast fashion.
How do you think that young people could become more excited about sewing and crafts?
Diana believes that by getting young children to touch and feel fabrics, such as angora and velvet, they would become more interested in fabrics, craft and sewing from an early age. Also teaching people more about the background of fabrics and the technical aspects, for instance that silk draws up more colour, thereby looking more vibrant. We also need to raise awareness that young people can create something and get a result they are pleased with , they just need to go for it! People are put off be crafts and sewing as they see it as complicated, but Diana says people ought to “just get a lovely fabric and go for it!”.
Last week we had a chat to students on the Tuesdays & Thursday Stitch Mornings, our weekly 'make whatever you want' sewing classes. This is what they had to say...
Keely (40) from Hove is currently creating an exact copy of a vintage 40’s dress she is already owns.
She says ‘I enjoy the independence as I can make what I want to make’ and that the teaching is ‘helpful and flexible and I can work at own pace and can do something different.’ To create the dress she has mocked up a basic dress from the Burda 7137 pattern, then adapted the design with Kat’s help. She is interested in returning, to learn garment making and how to use a sewing machine. She also wants to do upholstery for her business.
Louisa, 27, Brighton, who sells clothing in Brighton’s Snoopers Paradise (Kensington Gardens BN3) is currently making stretch jersey knickers from our pattern, with a view to making and selling them in her collection.
She says ‘I have never done this before, but it’s easy with professional guidance for each step. As a complete beginner I expected to make a lot of mistakes but with Kat’s guidance I had a lovely pair of knickers in 2 weeks, I enjoyed it so much I am definitely going to come back for more.’ She is interested in returning to add more for her collection or to make something completely different.
Ingrid Drinkwater, 41, Hove is currently making cushions. She says ‘I enjoy everything and the teaching is very good, I would like to make a bag next. ’She will be returning this week to copy a thick felt & leatherette Ipad cover which she saw in a magazine.
Stephanie, 31, a Youtuber and musician from Hove is currently working on the pattern measurements for 90’s style trousers.
She says ‘She enjoys cutting the fabric and the final stages and result’ and that ‘Kat is really good, patient and the teaching is not awkward.’ She will be booking onto our tailoring techniques course next.
You can make anything you fancy in our 5 times a week all year round classes – now on Tues and Thurs mornings, Sun afternoons & Mon and hurs evenings. Let us know by email before you come along what your project is and we’ll advise you what to bring.
A step by step guide of how to make a hair corsage - perfect for wearing at formal events and weddings, or as a gorgeous gift!
I used a selection of fabrics, ribbons, lace and a button, but the beauty of these corsages is that you can use any similar materials that take your fancy! So your new hair corsage can be for any occasion or match any piece of clothing!
Create long folds with a length of ribbon into a fan shape, sewing the folds into place as you go.
Repeat STEP 1 several times, but instead using different ribbons or fabrics for each layer. Ensure that each new layer is smaller, therefore not covering the layer underneath. The hair corsage ought to begin to look similar to a rosette.
Cut a length of lace or ribbon that is long enough to tie around your head. Turn over the corsage and sew this onto the back. Ensure that the stitches cannot be seen on the front.
Sew or glue a button, or any other small item you wish, into the centre of the corsage.
Finished, your new hair corsage! Its that simple, and looks gorgeous!
We love Instagram! Check out our image feed below. We'd love to see some pics of things you've made with us so we can add them and show off your cleverness! Send them to [email protected] with the subject 'for instagram'. You could win a £15 voucher if you also answer the questions about your made items on our Sewing Star page here