Terrariums – my other passion

Just a short digression into my latest hobby – creating Terrariums.

I love gardening and plants in general (I used to be a professional botanist in a earlier life), but I have been very taken with terrariums recently. Perhaps it is because this last winter was so long and rainy, that I couldn’t get out into my real garden so I had to find a way to garden indoors. In any case, I believe plants are good for the air quality in homes that are closed off from the outside, like ours are during long Canadian winters. Gardening is good for my mental health too.

The middle picture in my “inspiration” collage of the orchid terrarium got me from just thinking about terrariums to actually making one – isn’t it gorgeous?

I have been trying to find Lady Slipper orchids to create my own, but they are really hard to find. (If anyone knows where to find them on Vancouver Island or Vancouver / Lower mainland, please let me know).

I started looking out for apothecary jars and other suitable glassware in TS, and found lots! For a few dollars one can find all sorts of lidded glass containers, and turn them into terrariums with a few small plants from your local nursery. Here are 2 I made from lovely “Apple and pear” glass containers:

One thing I learned fast is that you have to use plants that come in 2 inch pots – anything else has a root ball that is just too deep. Take note of the height of the glassware – it is the limiting factor.  The plants at the rear of the photo proved to be too big for my jar -it is a good idea to measure your jar before shopping for plants.

If the jar is sealed, SMALL  tropical plants, mosses and ferns are suitable choices. Sealed jars have high humidity, so the main problem you will find is that plants die because they don’t like their “feet wet”- they cannot tolerate soil that is too wet as it literally drowns the roots.

Rot and mould set in pretty quickly so one has to be very careful not to over-water. Misting your terrarium is miles better than watering. In fact, if your soil is damp, don’t add any more water – what  water there is will be recycled by the plants, and you will hardly ever have to water at all. If there is a lot of condensation on the inside of the container, remove the lid for a few hour to let it dry out.

Unsealed terrariums created with succulents and cacti are also great – that is next on my list of projects to do. Even if the jar /container is not sealed, it still acts as a hot house, so be careful of placing terrariums in direct sunlight or the plants will literally “cook” in the heat.

There are a lot of great sites with instructions regarding creating terrariums on the internet. This is a great project for children and can be a great opportunity to introduce them to recycling.

Here is my quick “how to”:

1. Find a suitable clear glass jar (Thrift stores are great for this). None of these cost more than a few dollars. Cookie jars, storage containers and large Mason Jars work just great!  To start with, select jars you can get your hand into. Wash and dry  them well to get rid of any possible substances that may kill your plants.

2. Place a 1/2 inch layer of washed pebbles on the bottom of the container for drainage:

3. Pat the pebbles down, then add a 1/2 inch of sand (if you use sea sand from a beach, wash it well first to get rid of the salt). Pat it down well. I like to see the well-defined layers…

4. Add about 1/4 inch of potting soil (very sparing if using cacti/succulents) – once you add your plants, you will add more soil.  Arrange  your plants in an attractive display outside the jar first, then remove them from their pots GENTLY. Place them in the jar, with some taller plants towards the middle and smaller ones around the outside. I like to use variegated plants to add interest. Miniature African Violets are great for adding a pop of colour.

5. Fill up the spaces between the plats with soil sparingly! It is a pain if you get soil all over the plants, so use a paper or plastic funnel to direct the soil to where it is needed.  Pat the soil down with fingertips.

6. Clean the inside of the glass again.

Here the large terrarium is in situ in my sunroom. I kind of spread mine around the house, but they look great clustered together like in the picture above.

Tammy has totally piqued my interest in tangerine..nothing says SPRING like tangerine!

Have a great day,



Tangerine Tamara Shirt: free pattern included

Tangerine “Tamara” Top: free pattern included

A sheer, loose fitting blouse, cropped length, batwing sleeve with collar, pocket detail, front button tab & cuffs.

Recently, a young friend with her finger on the pulse of fashion shared her love for the bright new colours and designs for Spring. Check out Tamara’s  great blog, “Ad Idem”,which she co-authors with her best friend , Natalie. The new designs have a great 70’s vibe – my heyday!

Totally serendipitously I came across a gorgeous piece of soft, sheer cotton fabric in her favourite colour – tangerine. It just had such a lovely weight and draped beautifully – I knew immediately what I wanted to make with it!

So, ta da …the “Tamara” top!

I drew inspiration from these lovely designs :

Unfortunately, I did not think to take photographs of the sewing process for a tutorial, but did draft a pattern which I am very happy to share with anyone who would like to try their hand at it. You can click on this link here (Tamara Batwing cropped), or select the Tamara “ top from the Box on the right. The pattern is in letter size parts. Print it off and match the pieces together by matching the coloured symbols.

I will make another top soon, and post “how to” tutorials shortly (collar, front button tab, cuffs, patch pockets, French seams). The top requires about 50 inches of sheer  fabric, so look out for remnants in your fav fabric or Thrift store! A fabric with a good drape/weight is essential – don’t try this in a stiff sheer fabric. Unless you are already an expert seamstress, avoid chiffon – it is a nightmare to sew.

I have also been looking at the extra-large size clothing racks in Thrift Stores, and have seen lots of sheer dresses and blouses that can be recycled instead of using fabric. I will post my “recycling” projects soon.

The fit is very loose and drapey, so the width and length can be adjusted as desired. The design will be wonderfully cool for Summer, worn over a tank, bandeau , bustier or bikini top. The pattern size is a 12, but will fit any size from 6 -16! The length is about 19 ½ inches long. It can be allowed to slip back, making the front shorter, and the back asymmetrically longer. It looks really cute when the front hem just skims the navel. The length of the sleeve (including the cuff) is also about 19 inches. You will need at least 7 buttons (I got mine off of an ugly $1 shirt but the sewing section of thrift store often have baggies of buttons).

One thing I would change if I were to make this top in a sheer fabric again, is to sew it so that the white iron-on-interfacing doesn’t show. (you can see it shadowing through) I added an extra fold to the front button tab so that the interfacing is hidden. I’d also cut 3 collars and cuffs and double up the fabric where the interfacing shows towards the outside.


  1. Cut out fabric. The first page of the pattern shows how to lay out the pattern pieces on the fabric.
  2. Iron the interfacing  on to the  front button tab, collar and cuffs.
  3. Sew the front button tabs
  4. Sew on the patch pockets (Just realized I forgot to include a pattern for them…darn!) They are about a 17cm x 19cm rectangle – adjust the size and position as desired (Pattern piece Front #7 would work!)
  5. Sew the collar. I have included a sewing guide for the collar that you can print out, glue to cardstock, and trace around with tailor’s chalk or seamstress’ pen.
  6. Sew shoulder seams (I suggest using a French seam method for neatness)
  7. -Stay-stitch the neckline
  8. Attach collar to neckline
  9. Gather the lower edge of the sleeves (where the cuffs will be attached)
  10. Sew the cuffs.
  11. Sew the underarm seams (French seam again).
  12. Attach the cuffs to the sleeves
  13. Sew the button holes on cuffs, collar, and front button tab
  14. Finish the lower hem
  15. Sew on the buttons

And…you’re done! If you try the pattern, please send me feedback, and suggestions for improvement.

Tutorials coming soon – promise!



What makes a thrift store great?

It’s no secret that I am a Thrift Store enthusiast… I call them “the shop you go to, to get something you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it”. A bit long-winded I know.. I never use one word when 10 will do the job!

My Thrift Store “addiction” is a bit of a running joke in our household. It is no secret that I can’t get through a week without at least one visit. My answer to every ,”Oh, that’s nice. Where did you get it?”  is so often “The Thrift Store” that friends and kids have stopped asking. Now it’s more like “Which Thrift Store did you get  THAT from?” …or in the husbands version, “..that JUNK from”  😉

The funny thing (ironic funny not ha ha funny) is that lately when I have dragged him to a TS for some recreational retail therapy, he has found so many great bargains, now he suggests we go “Thrifting“. The fact is, what I spend in a TS in a month, is what most people spend  just on the taxes on their purchases in a mall. Thrifting makes me happy. I only shop in a mall when I am in a bad mood already! I don’t HAVE to shop thrift stores, I just chose to reuse, recycle and save $$$ – and redirect the dollars I save to more important things like..oh…my kid’s secondary education and paying down my mortgage.

Lately I have started “rating ” TS (Thrift Stores) in my own mind. I started to think about what makes a TS  really great?  Some just “check all the boxes” and draw the people in in droves, yet others are dormant and like ghost towns with nary a customer in sight.

I live near Nanaimo, and frequent the SOS TS in Parksville, BC …fondly known locally as “Our Big Box store“. That place is always humming with activity, and finding parking within a block radius is sometimes a problem. It just has such a positive energy, and evidently has a huge turnover. I was in the elevator with an elderly couple recently, and they commented on my cart FULL of awesome deals – typical – everyone talks to each other there. I laughed,  “I get such great stuff here!”, and they chuckled,” So do we, we love this place”. I overheard a woman telling a friend that she drives from Port Alberni (70 Kms away, over a mountain pass) once a week just to shop there. Many people like it so much that they specify in their wills that SOS inherits their estate (it may, however,  be because they support the programs SOS sponsors). The only downside is that it closes at 4:00 pm so working people can often not get there during working hours….but I understand..it is mostly staffed by volunteers,and they have their own lives to get home to.

On the other hand, there is another store within 10 km’s of SOS that is pretty much deserted every time I have been there. When I was there last, a harassed young lady was packing boxes of goods. She had been hired to box goods, ready for someone to haul them to SOS. People had donated the salable goods to them to support their cause, but their prices are so ridiculously high that most seasoned TS shoppers would not go there more than once. The inventory has hardly changed in the year I have been going there. It is crammed to the ceilings with great, overpriced stuff that , quite frankly, has passed it’s “best before” date because the place doesn’t smell so fragrant . This gives “Thrift Store” a new meaning…they prefer to STORE the donations they are given, than sell them for a reasonable price. Then they have to spend hard cash to hire someone to box it and haul it away – a nett loss. I’m no businesswoman, but that just seems a little cockeyed to me.

What are the most important criteria for a great TS  in your opinion? Accessibility? Prices? Shopping hours? Odour control? Inventory changing often? Management? Percentage of profits to charity? The cause or programs it supports? Other?

Let me know what you think,


Anne blouse pattern: sheer loose fitting, with batwing sleeve

I love these loose-fitting, draped blouses as throw-overs for summer.  The right hand one comes from one of my fav sites (Burda) offers free patterns.

They are such fun, and quickly give an updated look when popped over a tank and leggings.  These are some pictures from various websites that I took inspiration from for a  cropped batwing sleeve pattern I have called “Anne” after an old friend who was slightly “batty” (love her quirkiness)!


Here is my version, modeled by my favorite “tester” , who gets to try out my patterns and offer constructive comments. It is apparently versatile and comfy to wear. Download the pattern from the  “Box” widget in the right hand side bar.

"Anne" loose batwing top

It is super easy to make. I purchased 60 centimeters (or 0.6 m) of sheer fabric for this project – a lovely chiffon which has  a lovely drape.  It was a very wide fabric, so you may need more if your fabric is narrower.

I think any lightweight, sheer fabric that has a nice drape would be good for this. Chiffon is quite pricey ($15 per meter) but you could also try making it from a remnant, a fine old table cloth or sheer / lacy curtain. After I made this (dang), I saw a beautiful size XXXL chiffon dress ($5)  in the TS *recently that would have probably made 2 of these. The  large size clothing and night wear racks are always “happy hunting grounds” for fabric. *(I’m going to say “Thrift Store” so often I may as well start abbreviating it!)

The neck opening is quite scooped so it does end up quite large  – don’t enlarge it or it may fall off the shoulder! Meryl likes the scooped neck, because if she wants to,  she can pull it down at the back, making the front extra cropped showing some midriff. The neckline then fits at the neck base, with the back draped asymmetrically. She also pulls it to one side sometimes, exposing one shoulder.

I used a serger (overlocker in South Africa) for the seams, but if you have a regular machine, try doing a french seam when sewing these very fine sheer fabrics. (Instructions here or http://www.sewneau.com/how.to/french.seam.html

Here is the free pattern if you’d like to try it. Anne top Pattern or Download the pattern from the  “Box” widget in the right hand side bar.–>

Print it off and join the pieces together , matching the symbols. Both pattern pieces are placed on the fold along their center line.

I didn’t take any photos of the sewing process, so I cannot post “How to” pics, but if you would like me to, please leave a comment.


It only has 2 seams (shoulder and underarm), and the arm and waist edges are just hemmed with a narrow hem. If you have a roll-hemmer setting on your serger , you could use that to finish the edges instead – it depends what look you like.

1.  Sew ONE shoulder seam together. This fabric was VERY slippery to sew, so I actually “cheated” a bit, and did not cut the shoulder seam for this particular top, but just put the pattern on the fold of the fabric. I folded the fabric in half , then half again, and basically cut a hole for the neck. The shape of the garment would be better with a shaped shoulder seam though.

2.  Bind the neck opening (**remember it’s always easier to work flat than once the other shoulder seam is sewn) I just serged the edge of the neckline and turned it under, and sewed it down (since this was just a “test”), but I think it would look better bound with bias binding in the same fabric. (see earlier “Meryl” top for Bias Binding Tutorial)

3. Sew the other shoulder seam together.

3.  Sew the arm hems. Ditto for comment above**. You could also thread elastic or a cord / ribbon through the arm hem if you want it to gather up slightly, but if you decide to do that, sew the underarm seams first so the armhole is a continuous loop.

4. Sew the underarm seams. Hem the lower edge with a narrow hem. Alternately you could add on another 2 inches in the length and make the hem much wider.

Press all seams down so the lie flat….and you’re done!

I hope you like it.  In my next post I will show you another version with a collar that I made for a friend Tammy.

Keep well,


Rising clothing prices

I have read/heard recently that clothing is going to be very much more expensive soon due to the rise in cotton prices. I guessing that , as clothing manufacturers jack their prices up,  sewing and clothing construction skills will become much more important than they have been in the last 20 years. My concern is that many young people have grown up not learning skills that my generation did, simply because it was cheaper and easier to buy clothing than to make it.

I don’t even make ALL of my own clothes as I used to before I emigrated to Canada – finding what I need at thrift stores, and making slight adjustments is quicker and less expensive …in fact I can get high quality articles there that I would not normally be able to afford like brand labels  Mex and Jones New York etc. The point , however, is that I wear “classic’ designs more suited to my “age and stage” that have made their way to the thrift store. Modern trendy styles that more fashionable people are looking for are usually in short supply.

I thought if I shared some patterns of modern, fashionable designs that employ simple techniques, it could help young people who are more fashion conscious to either make clothes from scratch, or re-purpose vintage items to make them look more trendy.  With all the bad news out of Japan recently, it looks like the recession is going to deepen, not get better anytime soon. Most of your very high fashion pieces for this season will be out of fashion next year, so they don’t have to be made to last forever like they did in Victorian times! Using easy shortcuts that are not as complicated as “traditional” techniques,  saves time and money.

Over the next little while I will share some thoughts about the following:

1. creating fashionable designs from clothing where the difficult parts are already done (like collars, cuffs and buttons). My aim is to design patterns that are quick and easy to create, so you get maximum impact for minimum effort and cost. I hope to motivate people to reuse and recycle the cotton and wool fabric we already have – tossing high fashion clothing after one season is such a waste of the earth’s resources, IMHO (in my humble opinion).

2. sourcing and availability of fabrics/notions/ etc. If you are a sewer, you have probably noticed (as I have) that the variety /choices in sewing notions has narrowed and quite  hard to find (not to mention expensive). It may just be that I live in a small town on an island?  Perhaps it  because not as many people were sewing, and large chain stores have a stranglehold on the market, squeezing little companies and local “Mom and Pop” shops out.

3. I’m wondering if there is a need for online forums for sewing co-operatives and swap meets – I think there are probably lots of the older retired persons who have skills or stores of notions and fabrics they would swap for dog walking or something a young person could do.

I’d welcome feedback and any tips you may like to share.


“Getting my stone back”

Welcome to my musings about fashion and home decor DIY. I may occasionally stray  into comments about learning disabilities (especially ADHD), which is my other, professional, interest …er .. passion, but I’ll try to keep those to a minimum. (I can hear my kids laughing out loud at this point).

My aim with this blog is to post ideas on how one can create clothing and decor items by recycling found materials. I have sewed for 40 odd years, so I have a few tips on how to save time and money that I’d love to share. Please feel free to add your own!

I try to avoid using overly complex sewing techniques that may discourage people from attempting a project. Basically, to master this skill, you just need to start sewing, learn by trial and error, and not be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake – that’s what fabric rippers are for! (In South Africa we call them “quick unpicks”… Mine is never far from my hand when I am sewing.)

It makes sense (to me at least) to start sewing with a $1 remnant, rather than pay $15 a meter for fabric and feel awful IF you mess up – it happens! The nice part is that if I am trying some new craft or technique, I can make a mistake and not be “held back” by the fear of it costing “an arm and a leg”. Often my “mistakes” turn out to be pretty great unique designs.  I will also try to post free patterns so you can make my designs yourself . If you use them, I’d love to see pictures of the end product, and get both positive and critical feedback.

My inspiration is my uber talented late Mum, Joyce Jay (just call me “JJ”), whose design talent and technical sewing  skill I can only try to emulate. I get my kicks from sewing for my 21-year-old daughter (and sometimes her friends), who keeps me up to on the straight and narrow with the latest fashion trends.

Mum’s favourite saying was a variation of the old adage  “to kill two birds with one stone” – meaning of course to be efficient and get the best return on one’s effort , money or time. (My apologies to bird lovers everywhere )   When she felt she had done VERY well, she would always add – with a twinkle-, “and I got my stone back !”  That is how I regard  upcycling/recycling/re-purposing ; it achieves more than one useful outcome at once.

I love to design and create unique clothes and home decor stuff, and am MUCH more motivated to reuse and recycle unique vintage pieces and fabrics I get from thrift stores,  than to buy new. I may as well admit it – I am a thrift store junkie. I get such a rush of adrenalin from finding cool things, and then again when I make something useful or unique with it.

I hardly ever shop at a mall – somehow the “sameness” of it all just bores me to tears, but somehow I can never drive past a thrift store. … the “Favourite Locations” on my GPS system is populated by all the thrift stores in a 50 Km radius. Somehow my car just turns towards them and stops of its own accord! I’m still trying to work out whether I craft things because I feel I have to justify my “thrifting” addiction, or if I go to these stores for supplies to be able to fund my crafting addiction!  I even have a private “rating system” for Thrift Stores in my head…do you too?

I am really starting to seeing lots of ties between my ADD need for novelty and stimulation and my thrifting addiction.  (I think there is a thesis in there somewhere..?)

I really am starting to mix my metaphors here, so I’ll say, “Hamba gahle” till next time.

Hope you enjoy yourself, and stop by often.


“Meryl” Tank top from repurposed ’80’s shell blouse

Make this lovely modern top: free pattern included :

Inspired by…these cute tops from Nasty Gal

Lovely designs from Nasty Gal

The “Meryl” blouse: a modern sleeveless A line top

My daughter asked me to make her a loose fitting top with cutaway-sleeves to wear over leggings and jeans recently. I made her one and she was so happy with it, I made a few more with a variety of details and lengths. I think it has a nice flattering line.

It has a scooped round neck, and cut away, yoked back. The natural “drape ” of the lightweight fabric is essential – I used a variety of fabrics from cotton to polyester and chiffon. They are useful to throw over a bustier or a coordinating or contrasting tank top.

They are popular for spring, especially in the bright colours reminiscent of the 80’s. Tangerine, purple, shocking pink, green, cobalt blue have made a comeback in silky, sheer and shiny fabrics.

I found that the fabrics cost between $10-15 per meter. I needed about 1 meter for these longer styles, because I made my own bias binding for the neck. (This tutorial shows how: http://www.burdastyle.com/techniques/continuous-bias-binding-how-to-tube-style-fiskars-unzipped–2 ).

Actually 1 meter also left enough fabric to make a nice long roll edge scarf which we gave away as Christmas presents to friends . If you use purchased bias, 60 -80 cm of fabric is enough for the cropped version. – it all depends on the length you want.

Natalie is modelling a floral version here

The “Meryl” blouse from a $2 dated”shell” blouse.

I shop Thift stores a lot (called 2nd hand, or charity stores in some parts of the world) and noticed that there are a lot of the 80’s style “shell” blouses in these bright colours: round neck and cap sleeves.

They usually cost between $2-4, so I decided to see if they could be re-purposed into a mod top like the “Meryl”above.

Here is the result: (Sorry, no-one here to model them for me right now, but the pattern is the same as the tops pictured above)

Front  and ..                                                                                                                                                                                                        Back

The front is cropped shorter than the back – asymmetry is all ‘the thing” now, which makes it really easy- anything goes. This top is not as flared as the ones above, but it is still roomy. This free pattern can be shortened easily for cropped tops to show a little navel.

Here’s how you do it:

Supplies and tools:

1.  silky shell top in a bright colour that fits loosely (go up 2-3 sizes)

  • the larger the better, especially if you want a longer garment and a more flared look. Thrift store often hang their very large size clothes separately from others – these clothing items often yield more material than others, so check through the rack.
  • Check for stains or obvious rips before purchasing
  • OR use purchased fabric (I use cheap thrift store fabric to try my patterns first)

2. Basic dressmaker’s tools :

  • dressmaker’s scissors (buy the most expensive you can afford – it’s worth it in the long run. )
  • seam ripper (essential – plan to use it often)
  • dressmaker’s pins
  • sewing machine with straight and zigzag stitch
  • fine sewing machine needles (size 70, universal point)
  • iron
  • ironing board

3. Other supplies: (Thrift stores often have these)

  • light weight thread the same colour as the garment or fabric
  • single fold bias tape the same (or similar) colour as the garment/fabric. Try to use the very lightweight silky type rather than a heavy cotton for flimsy fabrics

4. Cutting out:

Turn the shell inside out, and fold one side into the other with a fold down the middle front, and the middle back.

Either use a top (a tank top is great) that fits you as a guide, or this free pattern : Meryl blue cropped top Pattern.

The pattern is hand drawn onto 1cm squared grid pattern paper. Print the 7 pages off and join them together matching the symbols. Sorry it looks very amateurish – will have to find another way, but this is good for now. If you would like a paper pattern , email me.

This is a flowey, loose fitting top that is worn over a bustier or tank, so it is not critical.

Fit the shoulder seam to the top’s shoulder seam. Cut out a scooped round neck at the front, cutting off the old faced front  neckline

Now use the paper pattern for the back yoke (matching the shoulder seams as before) and back lower part on the center back fold


Cut the back neckline shallower, cutting off where the old facing is attached (you may need to unpick it a bit if it is sewn down) Sorry forgot to take a pic of it ;-(

Cut out large cutaway armholes so that the front straps  are about 5-6 cm wide (the blocks on the pattern in the pic are 1 cm squares)

Cut the side seams at the underarm a little so the front and back are separate from each other under the arm. Either angle (Flare) the side seam from the  underarm to the hem, or extend the armhole to the edge of the side seam front and back.

OR if you don’t use the pattern, cut the back horizontally across about 10-15 cm below the back neckline

Cut 3 cm off each side of the top part on either side, sloping it to the shoulder to match the front (this makes a yolk for the back)


Finish Neck opening: Use the bias binding to bind the neck: Skip next part if you already know how. Use purchase or make your own.

How to attach bias binding: a 3 step process

Step 1. Open out the end of the tape completely and fold it back towards the inside  about 1 cm

Attach bias with a pin at the center back of the neck with the outside of the tape against the WRONG side of the top : this is CRITICAL hence the note!

  • Sew the tape down to the fabric, following the line of the outer fold, and matching the right hand edge to the curved edge of the neck opening. (You may want to practice this a bit first if this is your first time). Try to sew just fractionally to the right hand side of the fold, in that way your fold will be very crisp.
  • Sew slowly, a  few cms at a time, turning the fabric as you go. Pinning doesn’t really work, because of the next point:
  • Stretch the tape slightly as you go…a slight tension is good, don’t go overboard – there should be no tucks or gathers!

Sew tape all the way around the neckline, until the tape overlaps the beginning by about 1 cm

TIP: I usually turn the garment over and look at the neckline from the other side. If the sewing is a little uneven, I sew around the neckline again, using the edge of the neck as a guide) ….I’m a bit of a perfectionist though 😉

Step 2; Now fold the tape towards the outer /right side of the garment, and pin down making sure all the layers  are tucked between the fold.

Carefully sew the tape down very near to the edge , tucking the edges of the neckline inside for a neat finish.

Sew all around to back of neck

The neckline should look something like the pic below. Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t seem to lie flat, it will be fine once you iron it flat.

Some people like to see the bias binding finish ( above) make the binding a contrasting colour for an interesting detail. One can, however, also make it disappear by continuing to step 3..

Step 3: Turn the bound edge towards the inside of the garment, but pin from the outside.

Again sew it down from the outside, using your machine presser foot as a guide to get a very even line an even distance from the edge.  The edge of the binding may just show slightly. Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t seem to lie flat, it will be fine once you iron it flat.


Attach back to yoke:

Gather the top of the lower part of the back, and pull it up until it is the length of the back yoke

How to gather fabric:

  • Loosen the sewing machine’s top tension a little (one notch is OK) or until the top thread pulls slightly to the back
Loosen the sewing machine’s top tension a little (one notch is OK) or until the top thread pulls slightly to the back

  • lengthen the stitch length (I use 3-4 mm) . Normal stitching is about 2 mm depending on the machine.
  • Now sew two parallel lines of stitching as near to the edge as possible (3mm and 5 mm from edge)

Hold the back thread together and pull the fabric gently so that it gathers up. Because the top tension was loosened, the bottom thread slides through the loops easily.

Adjust the gathers so that the gathered edge fits to the lower side of the back yoke

Re-adjust tension and stitch length back to to normal before continuing

With right sides together, pin, then sew gathered portion onto back yoke with a narrow (5mm seam).

Finish the raw edges with a row of zigzag

Turn to right side and remove the gathering stitch that shows

From the outside (right side) topstitch the gathered part down to the lower edge of the yoke. (Sorry I don’t pin much, but if you are a beginner, stop and pin each step first)


The armholes:

Staystitch front armhole: Tighten the tension of the sewing machine slightly and stay stitch the front of the armholes with a row of stitching a few mm from the edge. Pull it up slightly – don’t gather it, just tighten it slightly. . this prevents the armhole from gaping open. Try the garment on, and check that it is tightened enough and doesn’t gape. If you have a “fuller figure”, you may want to make a small dart under the arm before binding

Re-adjust your tension before continuing

Bind the arm with bias just like the neckline: If it is slightly gathered, no worries ……just iron it and it will flatten.

If you make a mistake like this (below) and don’t get all the edges within the bias fold, unpick that portion and redo or it WILL fray .


Sew underarms together :

Match side seams at underarm and TRY ON!! Adjust the size to suit your taste – some prefer fitted look, others a more loose, draped look. I flared the sides a little to get the armhole to fit with the wider hem – adjust according to your garment and size.

If it fits OK, sew side seam, right sides together. Sew down until you reach the original side seam. Finish the raw edges with a zigzag stitch.

From the outside, sew the rough edges down together towards the back  with a few stitches.


Finish lower front edge. (optional)

The lower front edge should be intact from the original garment, but  I decided to make the front asymmetrically shorter for a cropped look. One could also chose to shape it etc. The top I woas working with has side slits so this made sewing the bottom easy.

The bottom front of this top was a little curved, so I evened it out to make it straight.

Then I turned the front hem up by about 4cm, leaving the back  longer, but one could make both the same length. I find if I iron the hem first, it is easier to sew down neatly.

First iron a small hem of 1 cm

Then use a gadget thingy  (I use my buttonhole spacer ) to measure an even hem, and iron. Pin in place and sew.


It should look something like this…and cost about $3!

General time and energy saving tips:

  1. I found that the only way I could get sewing done when I am very busy is to keep my machine set up and plugged in. I cover mine to keep dust off it.  I found I got a lot more done than if  I had to get the machine out of storage every time. Try to set it up somewhere, so it is ready at hand.
  2. I try not to sew when I am tired – I make too many mistakes, which becomes too frustrating. If things are going wrong, I just put it aside and come back to it another day.
  3. Always sew flat rather than in a tube. It is not the traditional way, but it is quicker. (For instance, traditionally one sews the side seams together before binding the armholes ,but I find it easier to do it flat)
  4. If you possibly can, invest in a serger – you will save yourself YEARS at the sewing machine over your lifetime. Mine has paid for itself 10 x over….and it does make he finish so much nicer 😉
  5. Break every task into smaller tasks and tackle them one at a time. This will make a task seem less overwhelming, especially when you are just starting out. Even if you only get half an hour a day, you can do a little every day ( even if it is just one cuff, or seam) and have a garment made by the end of the week.
  6. Needle size is VERY important, as is the sharpness of the needle. Discard needles after about 5 hours of sewing. It makes a huge difference to the sewing tension and neatness. I tend to be very picky, and will spend at least one third of my sewing time unpicking and redo-ing…but that’s just me.
  7. My Mum’s secret to get neat, professional looking garments is to iron and sew alternately. I always have mine nearby and ready to go. I have a small pull-out ironing board built into the left-hand side of the sewing cabinet I use (MOBD: my own design), and it is very useful.
  8. Iron all the interfacing on the fabric (when needed) straight after cutting out so it is ready to sew.