Tag Archives: gift

A rather special tie

31 Mar

Wahay, a timely blog post! That’s a bit of a rarity around here these days! But I am so chuffed with this latest make that I can’t wait to show you. This post is being fuelled by the latest batch of Marcus’ homemade wine, so if I get a little rambly by the end of it, you know why!

It’s my grandad’s 90th birthday on Wednesday, and he, my parents, my sister and her boyfriend all came up to visit us on Sunday. My sister and my grandad hadn’t yet seen the house (which my grandad was very excited about seeing, he did help me buy it…), and what with it being mothers’ day, and his birthday, we thought it would be a good excuse to all get together at our place. It was a lovely day, so we decided to have our first barbeque as well, and it all went down a storm. Marcus was the master of the BBQ and did an excellent job of keeping everyone well fed! Marcus’ mum came over and joined us as well, and it was the first time our parents had met, but that all went well too :) all in all, a very successful day!

Homemade tie


Master of the BBQ, keeping us all well fed

Master of the BBQ, keeping us all well fed

But it had got to Friday, and I didn’t have anything to give my grandad for his birthday. Not that he really expects anything much, but it’s his 90th, and getting to that age is quite an achievement, so I really wanted to mark the occasion. I wanted to make him something, to make it a bit more special, but I wasn’t entirely sure what. I made him some napkins for Christmas (still unblogged, see what I mean about timely blogging!) and wasn’t sure what else he would find useful. I was discussing this with my colleagues on Friday when one of them suggested that I make him a tie. This had, briefly, crossed my mind before, but for some reason didn’t stick. It was the obvious thing really – he almost always wears a tie, so I knew it would get used, and he takes great pleasure in wearing the one I gave him a couple of Christmases ago when he knows he is going to see me.


I did a quick google, and came across this pattern from Puking Pastilles, which looked great. Although I wasn’t feeling well on Friday, and I had the browser window sitting open for a while, and every time I saw the title of the page, it made me feel very queasy! The pattern looked pretty straightforward, I was just hoping I could get it made in time given that I knew I was busy for pretty much all of Saturday.


I also had the perfect fabric for it in my stash. I bought this fabric when I visited Goldhawk Road with Claire, Daniela and Jenny a few weeks ago. I bought the fabric to make a Zinnia skirt, and wanted 2.5m. But there was 4m left on the bolt and the shopkeeper refused to sell me 2.5. It was £5 a metre and in the end we settled on me paying for 3.5m. But now it seems it was good fortune that I ended up buying more than I needed, as I don’t think I’d have had anything else at home that would have worked as well. The fabric is a Chinese brocade and it’s really silky, fairly thing, and has gorgeous colours that change in the light – it’s green from one direction and pink from another. It also frays like anything and is pretty delicate, so I tried not to handle it more than I had to.


There were just three pattern pieces, and you need one of each in main fabric, lining fabric and lightweight interfacing. All of the pieces are cut on the bias, so choosing a pattern is quite important. The fact that it’s cut on the bias was the one thing that made this make a little tricky – the fabric pieces didn’t hold their shape very well once they were cut, and distorted a bit. I cut the main fabric first, and made sure to line up each of the edges of the pattern pieces along one of the diagonal lines on the fabric. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realise until after I’d cut it was that I actually cut the largest of the three pattern pieces on the bias in the other direction – the grainline arrow was on the crosswise grain rather than the straight grain. This means that the pattern runs in a different direction on this piece, but given that the join between this piece and the next is way up round your neck when you wear it, I figured it didn’t matter too much.


I then cut out the lining, and the interfacing. It wasn’t until I was just cutting out the last piece of interfacing and wondering how, when the lining had distorted slightly from being on the bias, I was going to manage to iron the interfacing to the lining without getting it stuck to something, that I thought that it would have been much more sensible to iron a piece of interfacing onto the fabric before I cut the pieces out. Not only would that have saved my interfacing problem, but it would have saved my fabric from becoming misshapen, and I’d have only had to cut the pattern pieces out once. Lessons for next time!


The tie is constructed by sewing each set of three pieces together, and then sewing the lining to the main fabric at the top and bottom edges. You then turn it right sides out and baste down the long edges, which you then fold in. Due to the now slightly different shapes of my fabric pieces, the basting as a little tricky. My middle pattern piece section ended up quite a bit narrower in one of the fabrics, so I was trying to guide the basting stitches in, while still keeping them in a vaguely straight line. After basting the second side, I realised that the main fabric wasn’t sitting flat, it was slightly off and had ripples in it. So I took out stitching down one of the sides, which took me FORTY MINUTES! To unpick one (admittedly pretty long) row of stitching! Seriously?! There must be a quicker way? Because my main fabric was pretty delicate, and because I didn’t want the edges to fray any more, as then I’d have to make the tie narrower, I had to go very carefully, but even so, that seems like an inordinate amount of time. It took me a whole 3 minutes to re-stitch it, and this time I managed (with a lot more pins) to get it lying flat. I then pressed over the edge of one of the sides, folded the other to the middle, laid the folded over edge over it, pressed it carefully, pinned it a lot, and then used a slipstitch to hand sew the back.


I have to say, the end result looks even better than I thought it would, I’m so pleased with how it turned out! It’s a pretty long tie, despite the fact that the pattern warned that it was quite a short one – I think that must have been my fabric stretching – but other than that, it’s pretty perfect. As a finishing touch, I added a strip of ribbon on the back to tuck the end into. Although that did entail a panicked phone call to my mum first thing on Sunday morning asking if she could bring up some ribbon in the right colour as I realised I didn’t have any that matched. As always, she came through for me :)


So the tie, and the day were a roaring success. The sun shone, everyone approved the house, my parents were impressed with how tidy it was (and with fewer boxes) compared to last time they were here, and my grandad loved the tie and wore it for the rest of the day :) and if I look that good when I get to 90…well, I’ll be delighted!




Homemade wedding garter, with tutorial

23 Jul sewn wedding garter

Last weekend I was on a friend’s hen do. She is the first one of my close friends to get married, and it was my first hen do, so exciting times! I had the idea a little while ago that it would be nice to give her a hand made wedding garter, as a memento. This idea was cemented when the bridesmaids asked us all to bring a small present for her to the weekend.

wedding garter

I had a vague idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like, and looked up a few tutorials online for some construction guidance. I decided to go for one that used the ribbon as the elastic casing, as opposed to making a separate casing out of fabric which I would then need to sew on.

The garter is essentially a ribbon and lace sandwich – 2 lengths of 1 inch wide ribbon with a wider piece of lace sewn between them, and the elastic threaded through one of the channels that is created by this.

making wedding garter

I went to Masons to pick up some lace and ribbon for the job. And there was SO MUCH LACE. I think it actually took me about half an hour to choose some, and even then, I ended up with about 6 different ones which I ended up buying to try. I knew I wanted something thick enough that it would show on both sides of the ribbon (the other option it to just sew the lace onto one edge of the ribbon), and because of that, I wanted one that was shaped on both edges. I wasn’t sure if stretch lace would work well or not, so I was originally looking for non-stretch stuff, but ended up buying some of both. I did end up using some of the stretch stuff in the end, and it worked fine!

handmade wedding garter

I bought ribbon to match the colour theme of the wedding, in a couple of different widths (I wasn’t entirely sure at this point what width I needed…this was all a bit of a guessing game!) and a little ribbon rose in a similar colour to go on the front. I already had elastic to use, and the construction was actually fairly straightforward:

– If you can, measure the thigh circumference of the person you’re making it for – a little way above the knee is apparently about right. If you can’t measure and don’t want to ask them because a) it’s going to be a surprise or b) you don’t want to sound slightly odd, then guesstimate, or measure your own and hope theirs is fairly similar! As it’s elasticated and gathered anyway, there’s a little leeway in terms of fit.

– To work out the length of ribbon and lace you need, a few of the tutorials I looked at suggested multiplying the thigh measurement by 1.5. I did this, which gave me a measurement of 75cm. Given that my two pieces of ribbon were 1m long (When I was buying them, I forgot that I needed enough ribbon for both sides, and asked her to cut 1m before I remembered I needed another). Knowing that I probably wouldn’t have much use for 25cm lengths of ribbon, I sewed it up with the full metre, and then trimmed it afterwards to where I wanted it. So somewhere between 1.5 and 2 times thigh circumference should work, depending on how many gathers you want. And yes I do realise that I use a complete mishmash of metric and imperial measurements in this post – am I the only one who uses both when sewing, depending on which is the most convenient number?

– Pin the two pieces of ribbon (with right sides, if there is one) out, onto either side of the piece of lace. I did this by laying one piece of ribbon on top of the lace and pinning, and then flipping it over, matching up the second piece of ribbon, and then pinning again, through all 3 layers. I then took out the pins from the first side. You could just pin all 3 at once, but I thought it would be easier to make sure both pieces of ribbon were lined up to each other, and centred on the lace, if I did it this way.

wedding garter construction

– Once your ribbon and lace are pinned, sew two straight seams (or straight-ish), one down each edge of the ribbon. For 1 inch lace, use about a 1/4 inch seam allowance (this allows enough space in the middle for the elastic to go through). It doesn’t matter if the ribbon puckers slightly when sewing the seams, as this will be hidden in the gathers.

– Once they’re sewn, you should have a piece of lace, with a length of ribbon sewn to each side. Next you need to cut your elastic. The general guidance seems to be to take 1 inch off the thigh measurement. I started with that, but did actually end up taking more off later. 1/4 inch elastic is ideal for this.

– Using a safety pin attached to the elastic, thread it through one of the channels created between the ribbon and lace. My lace seemed to have a slight right and wrong side, so I fed it through the ribbon on the wrong side. Before the other end of the elastic disappears inside, use another safety pin to pin that end, so that you don’t lose it. Once the elastic is all the way through, pin the end you’ve just pulled through as well.

sewing wedding garter

It doesn’t matter that the ends of my lace and ribbon don’t match up, as I’m going to trim them anyway.

– Spread the gathers out evenly along the length of the elastic. If you’re happy with the length of the elastic, and how the gathers look then you can sew it as is. If not, you can do what I did and spend half an hour playing around with different lengths of elastic and lace, hold it round your leg and ask your boyfriend if it looks right (to which he answered that he didn’t really have any idea what it was or what it was meant to look like), and eventually settle on lengths for both.

– Sew up each end, to hold the elastic in place, and then, turning the garter so that right sides are together, and making sure it’s not twisted anywhere in the middle – easy to miss when it’s all gathered up, sew the two ends together. You can skip sewing the ends individually first if you like, but I found it easier. Once the two ends are sewn together, trim the seam allowance.

homemade wedding garter

Trying it on for size!

– You should now have a basic garter to embellish as you wish. I went for a ribbon bow on the front, followed by the little ribbon flower which I glued on top (slightly wonky because I stopped to put the lid on the super glue before positioning it properly, and the glue set in the meantime!). Turns out it was a good thing I ended up buying more than one width of ribbon, as I used the narrower one to make the bow.

I forgot to take pictures while making the bow, but this page has some great tutorials for different kinds of ribbon bows – I made the hand tied bow at the top.

wedding garter rose

To make it more personal, I embroidered the bride and groom’s initials onto each tail of the ribbon bow. If you do this, make sure you leave enough space for the letter you’re embroidering, so that it’s not almost falling off the edge like mine is. I thought about re-doing it, but… I’ll know for next time!

wedding garter initial

embroidered wedding garter

Once you’ve finished your embellishments, you have a lovely hand made wedding garter. Whether it is a gift, or for yourself, it’s a really nice personal touch. And a really quick and easy sewing project as well! I have a few more friends who have got engaged recently, so I can see myself making a few more of these in the future.

sewn wedding garter

finished wedding garter

Slightly fuzzy picture, oops, but unfortunately it’s the best of the on-leg finished ones I have! Thanks to my friend Clare for modelling it.

And now that holidays and hen-dos, and urgent related sewing projects are out the way (not that that is a good thing), I have some time to get on with making some more dresses, it feels like its been ages! I’m currently working on a tank top plus added skirt creation, with my lovely giraffe print fabric from Walthamstow, so hopefully I’ll have something to show for that soon!

Giraffe print fabric


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