“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”

Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman

So over the past week…in and around doing a myriad of Masters work (so many deadlines and the looming threat of EXAMS…TERRIFIED!)…I’ve been moving my stuff out of storage. While that may not sound like a massive task, I can assure you it was…so much stuff…so much of it really heavy (why did I put loads of textbooks in one box?…how I didn’t end up with a hernia I’ll never know!). It’s fun to go through all the stuff I’ve been separated from though, including this little box set of delights…

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For the sake of not boring you I will refrain from going into quite how awesome this shiz is, but if you’re a fan of a costume drama or two, watch it I tells thee!

Being set in the twenties, the costumes are beaut…some serious quality headwear…turbans (very much like bow ties) are cool! As such I thought I’d whip up a wee turban style headband and share the process with you fine folks should you wish to try it for yo’self (I have been led to believe they are popular with the fashionable folk and Pinterest would seem to concur). So andiamo…

Turban Headband

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Adequately modelled by Little Sis

So what does one need…

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Aaaaaand a sewing machine…and potentially a seam ripper…

Allora, so the first step is to measure the circumference of the old noggin (head)…or more accurately from the base of the skull, across the ear and round the forehead like so…

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If you’re anything like me you will then spend some time amazed at actually how massive your head is.

Now we need to cut our fabric which means we have to break out some highly complex maths (or math if your Americanly inclined)…

Head circumference + 3″ + (2 x seam allowance) = length
(Desired width (I used 5″) x 2) + (2 x seam allowance) = width

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We also need a square that is 4″ + (2 x seam allowance)

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Make sense? Well you can’t answer so I’m continuing regardless. Starting with the little square, we’re going to make the little cinching band that sits at the front of the turban…

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Fold in half, right sides together and sew…

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Turn right side out and press

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Fold in half along the short edge, and sew again.

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Trim seam allowance and turn to right side…huzzah! Cinching band DONE!
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Now onto the larger fabric piece. Again we fold in half, right sides together along the long edge and sew (just along the long edge).image

Turn so right side is on the outside and press carefully

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So now to provide some orientation for you. The centre of this band will sit at the back of the head…once stitched together, the seam will sit at the front hidden by the small cinching band we completed previously.

We’re now going to use shirring to provide the elasticity so it fits nice and snug while still allowing it to be put on and taken off with ease. This will sit at the back of the head, and as such will be centred around the centre of the band. The centre can be found easily by folding it in half and pressing…the crease being the centre line. From this line, measure 4″ either side and mark with tailors chalk on the right side.

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Ok, so the photo here isn’t the clearest but it’s clear enough in real life…now we simply have to shirr from top to bottom, this 8″ section. If you’re comfortable with this technique jump on a bit, however if you need some hand holding read on…

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First things first, we need to replace your bobbin thread with shirring elastic…this needs to be hand wound (i.e. Don’t use your machine) with a slight stretch put on the elastic. Then bang it in your machine as you would otherwise.

With the right side uppermost (so shirring elastic sits on the wrong side) line up the needle with the tailors chalk and so the foot lines up with the edge of the fabric.

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Sew till you reach the second line of tailors chalk. The first line of shirring won’t be particularly dramatic, but don’t panic it’s totally normal, see…

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Repeat this again, however this time line up the edge of your foot to your previous line of stitches. As you sew, stretch out the fabric so it lies flat.

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Keep repeating this over and over…

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Till you’ve made it to the bottom.

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To secure the elastic you can back tack at the start and end of each row, however I prefer to tie them by hand (much neater!). By pulling slightly on the elastic, the upper thread is brought to the back and the two can be securely tied together.

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Finally, hover your iron above and blast some steam onto the shirred area…you’ll see it shrink down further, which I feel is quite pleasing.

Before sewing the two remaining edges together, slip on the cinching band (It won’t go on otherwise).

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Now line up the raw edges and sew.

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Press the seams open and slide the cinching band over the seam to hide it.

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Aaaaaaand finally, hand sew the cinching band in place on the wrong side to hold everything in place.

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And we are done…I would add that you can also do this with stretch fabric, which is even easier (assuming you enjoy working with stretch). In this instance you simply don’t add the 3″ to the length of the band, and omit the shirring stage…über simple! Now all that’s left to do is pop it on, grab some Champaign and Charleston the night away.

Toodle pip!

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“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

Sometimes I look at fabrics in my stash and seriously question what the heck I was thinking when I purchased them…enter stage left, shiny shiny fabric!

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Now it’s not that it’s particularly offensive, I just have no idea what I’d planned to do with it…but with my aim of actually depleting some of my stash this year I decided to come up with a new plan. So after several cups of tea and some mad sketching I settled on a 50s inspired silhouette…dress, halter neck, sweetheart neckline and a 1/2 circle skirt…while the inspiration was based in the 50s, I definitely think in reality it’s going more bad 80s prom dress. Now this may sound like a bad thing, but if anything I think I love it more (please don’t judge me!)

Now I had concerns that using the fabric ‘as is’ for the whole dress might be a bit much so A bit of fabric manipulation was in order. It’s one of the things I love most about fabric, a few chops…a few changes…some razzle…some dazzle…and shazzam, you have something new and unique!

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In this instance I decided to use a shredding/cutting technique to chevron up the bodice…I likes it I do! To give you a better idea here’s a close up Mr DeMille…

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TRANSFORMED!!! And super duper easy too! Should you wish to give this technique a go, you are in luck because I’m about to delve into the world of tutorial-ing (I’m a total newbie at this so please don’t be mean if it’s a bitty rubbish!)…

Tutorial – Fabric Manipulation: Bias shredding

Firstly… You will need…

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Oh and thread (matching or contrasting, whatever takes yo fancy!) and a sewing machine (hand sewing would work, but ain’t nobody got time for that!).

Once you have all these things, arrange them nicely to comply with any OCD tendencies then we’ll begin…

So firstly we need to determine the bias (if it isn’t already marked on the pattern piece). The easiest way of doing this is to use the grain line marked on the pattern and draw a square like so (mine is 2cm FYI)…

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All you then have to do is draw a line which crosses opposite points of the square…et voila…bias!

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Using this first line, further lines can be drawn to cover the pattern (I’ve opted for 1cm spacing but there are no hard and fast rules…go crazy!)

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These lines can be transferred to the fabric in a number of ways but I like to use carbon paper personally. Place the carbon paper face up, then put the 2 fabric pieces on top (these will become one layer eventually) with the equivalent of the wrong side facing down…and pop the pattern piece on top and go to town with your tracing wheel!

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You should now have lines a plenty on the ‘back’ of your fabric (the fabric here is double-sided which is why it looks the same as the front).

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Sewers…to your machines! Sew down each line, making sure reverse stitches are in the seam allowance (for neatness sake…which is important!). Also make sure you sew in the same direction…also makes it all nice and neat!

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I’m only pretending to sew here as I needed my other hand to take the photo…the joys of being a one man show! Anyway, sew sew sew till you’ve sewed all the lines…

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Now, as you can see the carbon lines are still pretty obvious but we don’t care because this is the wrong side and no one will see it (unless you want them too!)…now flip it over to the pretty side!

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Now begins the scissor wielding section, so if you are prone to clumsiness please ask a proper grown up to supervise. Simply slip the blades between the two layers of fabric and cut the top layer only between each row of stitches.

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Keep cutting…I find it hurts my hand after a while so if you’re doing a large piece schedule some breaks…ideally with cake but it’s not obligatory (who’m I kidding!…cake cake cake!)

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In this photo I’m once again faking it…I’m actually using my feet to hold the scissors…not recommended for actual cutting!
Finally all that’s left to do is marvel at your handiwork…having cut on the bias your edges shouldn’t fray excessively so nowt to do with those…simple!

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I’ve used a small square to demo this here but it works just as well on proper pattern pieces and using most fabric (stretch fabrics not so much, or not without some technique adaptions)…I will say however that if you’re using pattern pieces with darts and such, be careful with the thickness of fabric you’re using as it quickly gets quite bulky!

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I hope you have enjoyed. This presentation was brought to you by B with no help whatsoever from the moon…lazy blighter!

“Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”

Virginia Woolf

While I will admit to being far from the easiest person to please, three things that invariably get one excited (if your mind went somewhere dirty there, you are a pervert!) are sewing, secondhand books and bargains! You can therefore imagine the Cheshire Cat style grin affixed to my visage when I came across this hefty tome in a local charity shop for the miniscule sum of 2 of our most great british pounds! Huzzah!

Complete guide to sewing

As far as I’m aware it’s the 1981 version, but more importantly it is a treat of a book which is a welcome addition to la biblioteca. On, what one would term a thorough flick through I would proclaim it to be most excellent, for newbies and old…bies. There are even sections on “Providing room to grow” (so you can force your child to wear the dress you made for their first birthday well into their early teens) and upholstery (a beginner’s guide I grant you but still rather impressive non?).

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And then there are the patterns…I’m a huge vintage sewing pattern fan, but sometimes they can be borderline HYSTERICAL…here we have the full gambit…

The Good…

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I actually want to make one of these quite badly…I would name him Carlos…there’s also a pretty mean looking stegosaurus named Derek which, as dinosaur names go, is appropriate in my opinion (can you really argue with alliteration?). I am suddenly left questioning though why the dinosaur is allowed a name but the crocodile is merely ‘cuddly’…tut tut RD, I dislike your toy hierarchy…

The Workable…
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Can you ever really go wrong with a good shirt slash shirt dress? With some fairly minor tweaks and good fabric choice I think this could be a winner!

…Aaaaaaaaand the downright ugly!
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This ‘party dress’ would nowadays be considered child cruelty…with that in mind, I have now begun using this as a threat to keep little sis in check…safe to say, her room is spotless!

I am merely dipping my toe in the wonders this book has to offer, but it’s safe to say that should you too find this for a steal (by which I mean cheap…I do not condone or encourage thieving) I suggest you buy it because it’s the dog’s boll…ards…

Done!