Tag Archives: homemade

A homemade fabric pocket advent calendar

17 Nov

I always liked the idea of having an advent calendar that wasn’t a cardboard one, or a chocolate one (much as I like chocolate advent calendars), but one with pockets or drawers that you can fill yourself, and would perhaps become a family heirloom.

So last year I decided to make one of these advent calendars, and fill it for Marcus. I had a look around online for inspiration, and decided on a simple design with rows of pockets.


This was shortly after I’d received the batch of fabric I got from freecycle, and I managed to make the entire thing out of the freecycle fabric, other than a couple of pieces of felt that I bought to make some red and green pockets, and some Merry Christmas ribbon to go along the top and bottom. Included in my freecycle stash was a small strip of squares that spelled out Noel – absolutely perfect for the job!



I made this fairly early on in my sewing days, and probably didn’t do as good a job as I could have done. I essentially just cut out each of the squares, folded under the edges and stitched them down (except for the felt, which didn’t need it), making a bit more of a proper hem on the top edge, and then sewed each pocket onto my backing fabric. The Noel squares were a bit smaller than I made the rest of the pockets, and they also didn’t have enough leeway to turn in the top and the bottom edges. Instead, I sewed a strip of red ribbon along the edges on these squares.


I did also have plans to knit a couple of the squares, but I only managed to get halfway through one before I ran out of time, so had to give up on that idea!


Some of the pockets I made a bit more of an effort with, and embroidered (I use that term loosely!) some Christmassy designs onto. These are some of my favourite pockets, particularly the baubles one. I used some sparkly thread for some of them, which worked really well. I sewed over the designs two or three times, which made the colours stand out more, but I think also gives them a really nice ‘sketchy’ look.





The backing fabric was a loose weave fabric, sort of like a light hessian, and it was perfect for the job. I folded over the top edge to make a tube, which I then threaded some spare tent poles through, so that I could tie ribbon onto the ends, and hang it from an over door hook. I also hemmed the bottom edge, and left the sides unhemmed, and I sewed Merry Christmas ribbon along the top and bottom.



If I recall correctly, I cut it a bit fine time-wise and struggled to get it all finished before the 1st December, but just about managed it. I also only just got it finished before my previous sewing machine decided to die on me.


This year we are going to share the filling of the advent calendar, so I get to open some too – yay! When I suggested that we do half each this year, Marcus said that he had been planning on filling it for me, so we could take it in turns – how sweet is he?! :) But sharing makes it easier as well – I have to admit, it was hard work finding 24 things to fill it with that were small enough to fit in the pockets!

Although it only gets used once a year, it’s nice knowing that we will hopefully use this for years to come.


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


Oh wow, I made a dress!

18 Jun

I’ve done it! I’ve finished my first dress! And I am really happy with how it’s turned out! I’ve been making it in my dressmaking classes, and then working on it in between classes at home as well. I knew that it would be the last few bits which I found hard to finish off (isn’t that always the way, you get 90% of something done, but then it takes you about 5 times as long to do the last little bit) so I set myself the task of getting it finished by Sunday. I was going down to my parents’ for the day on Sunday for father’s day and, as they gave me my sewing machine for Christmas, I thought it would be a good occasion for my dress’s first outing!

And here it is!


I thought a photo of me and my dad would be fitting for father’s day, unfortunately in the 8 or so we took, one or the other of us is pulling a silly face in every one!

I have to say that, overall, I found the whole experience a lot less stressful than I was expecting. I had wondered whether I should choose an easier pattern for my first piece of clothing, but I’m actually really glad that I chose the one I did.

My choice of pattern was largely decided by some lovely versions I’d seen that other people had made, and I can’t say how much it helped being able to read their blog posts on it first, and discover the issues that they’d had with the pattern (when I then had the same issues, I was expecting them, and didn’t think I’d done something horribly wrong!). Some of my favourite versions were Lauren’s (versions 1 and 2), Gertie’s, Shanni’s and Jamie’s. Once I decided on the pattern, I decided that I would definitely end up making two versions – a nice summery print one with the yoke neck, and a also a capped sleeve version, out of some kind of black fabric, which I thought would make a nice dress for work.

Actually, I lie when I say it wasn’t stressful. Buying the pattern was stressful in itself! I’d read on the above blogs, among others, that the pattern included a lot of ease, and that most of them had had to go down a size or two. So I headed off to Masons to buy the pattern and realise that my measurements place me somewhere between the two pattern sizes, particularly if I ended up having to go down sizes. I spent a little while pondering, eventually asked the advice of two lovely old ladies who were also browsing patterns, who were very nice, and ended up buying both sizes of the pattern! What I didn’t want to was to turn up for my dressmaking class and then find that, actually, I needed the other size, and not be able to do anything in the class. Also, all the simplicity patterns were half price, so I figured it was better to buy them both at that price then to go back and buy the other at full price later, if I realised I bought the wrong one! As it turns out, I ended up making the 12, which is on both pattern sizes! Choosing the fabric also took me about an hour. I wanted something summery, probably floral, but a large enough print that I didn’t need to worry about matching up the pattern. I eventually stumbled on VIT Flower by Poppy, which, at £8.49/m, was slightly more than I wanted to pay for my first dress, but I fell in love with it and just knew it was the right one! Plus, I’d pretty much exhausted the rest of the shop by then!


Ozzie the dog wanted to join in the photoshoot!

I think one of the most stressful parts was actually cutting out the fabric – I’m a real perfectionist, and trying to get it folded in half so the selvedges were perfectly straight was a little stressful. I just had to remind myself that if a pattern piece was a couple of millimetres off vertical, it really wasn’t going to be noticeable in the final dress! Also helped that I cut the fabric out at class, where there are actually tables big enough to do so!

I sewed the first couple of seams in the dress in the class, and we then didn’t have a class for 3 weeks. Over the bank holiday weekend, I spent managed to spend quite a bit of time working on it. I kept reaching stages in the pattern instructions that I didn’t really understand, and thinking that I’d have to wait until the next class so I could get some guidance on it, but after a bit of thought, I managed to work them all out. I actually think it did me good to have a bit of time to work through it by myself, and I learnt a lot. Possibly the most exciting part of making the whole dress was when I sewed the first princess seam, and it worked first time!


Most bits worked first time, there were just a couple of times when I realised after I’d sewn them that there was some small bit which I hadn’t done exactly right, but nothing consequential. I did run into a few issues, but a lot of them were ones I’d read about on other blogs, and so was prepared for!

Yeah, the size! I measured up as somewhere between a 14 and a 16, but based on the actual garment measurements, I decided to make the 12, and it is pretty much a perfect fit.

I realised after I’d sewn most of the seams on the bodice that the needle on my sewing machine was actually in the left hand position, and so my seam allowances were slightly bigger than the 1.5cm they should have been, but it fits really well as it is, so maybe that was a good thing!

I decided to put an invisible zip in rather than the standard, lapped zipper that the pattern suggested. This was probably easier to put in, but it did mean that I couldn’t tidy the ends of the zip away in the way the pattern suggested. I wasn’t entirely sure how to do it, but kind of bodged something, and it seems to have worked ok!


The zip was also the only bit that I ended up unpicking and sewing more than once. I originally did it with the standard 1.5cm seam allowance, but the dress wasn’t fitted enough, and gaped a bit at the back when I stood up straight (which I need to do so that the front lies as it should!). I also realised that it wasn’t entirely level. I basted it in again twice before finding a position I was happy with. I used a 3cm seam allowance at the top, tapering it down to 2cm at the waist. It still gapes a little at the back at times, but I don’t think it’s too noticeable. I kind of wish I’d made it a bit more fitted at the waist, but I have just lost a little bit of weight (no sugar!) and with it an inch off my waist, and I didn’t want to risk it not fitting if I put it on again.


There’s a little gaping at the back, although having seen this photo, I think it feels worse than it looks!


I do love the scoop back though! And my invisible zip really is invisible!

I agree with what other people have said about the yoke front – in the position it should be according to the pattern, it sat really high, and did feel a little bit like it was choking me. Even though I knew this might be an issue beforehand, I wasn’t entirely sure how to do anything about it – it’s hard to see how it’s actually going to be until you put it all together. I managed to position it a bit lower down from the original position, although any more, and it pulled the shoulders up too much. I’m just about happy with how it is now, although if I’d worked it out before, I think I would have cut a bit away from the neckline of the yoke. The other odd bit about it is that, if you go by the pattern, the yoke is only attached to the front of the bodice at the armholes, which meant that it gaped open a bit. I decided to top stitch the yoke to the front of the bodice, and topstitched the top of the bodice as well to match. Other than not quite even topstitching, I like how it looks. I must also remember that, if I change my stitch length for topstitching, to change it back again afterwards! And lengthen again when I topstitch the next bit…I’ll learn!


Actually, you can’t see the topstitching at all unless you’re really up close. Also, how cool is that T-shirt?!

It was only after I’d completely finished the dress, and went to change to a ball point needle to sewing something onto a t-shirt that I realised there had been a ball point needle in my machine all along from last time I’d tried (and failed) to sew jersey. It doesn’t seem to have done it any harm, but something I must remember to check!

I bought 3m of the fabric, but only actually ended up using about 1.5, so it only ended up costing me about £12 in terms of fabric. And I’ve got some left to make something else! The fabric is quite thin, and could possibly actually have done with lining, although that wasn’t called for in the pattern (and the yoke would make it a little more tricky). I think I’d definitely line a similar weight fabric in future though.

And the overall verdict – I love it! I’m so glad I went for this fabric, as it really works with the dress, and I love the dress pattern itself. I will definitely be making more versions of this. It fits really well, although I might tweak the waist a bit more on the next one. Now I just need to decide what I’m going to make next…


Slightly over-exposed photo, oops!

chinelo bally

Dressmaker| Author| Blogger| Freehand cutter


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