Tag Archives: Piping

Minerva Make: My Cheong Sam and jacket- now in 3D

There is nothing left to be said about my Cheong Sam that I haven’t already said here except what it was like to wear, but let’s start with one of the few jokes I can ever remember – something I always remember when thinking of a certain kind of feathered trim:

“What’s a marabooboo”

“Why, nothing, Yogi”

Cheong Sam

The jacket: the Built By Wendy Bolero, but with long sleeves.

Fabric: Cotton velvet & lined in turquoise, edged with marabou (geddit?) trim.

Cheong Sam

The dress: Burda 8438.

Cheong Sam

Fabric: some Cotton Sateen with the biggest boldest turquoise flowers, with pops of black satin piping to highlight the details, with some faceted almost jet buttons as embellishment.

Cheong Sam

Putting it through its paces:

Travel: Both jacket & dress easily survived the journey being folded in my suitcase & neither needed anything more than a hang once I arrived.

Sitting down: good – there is plenty of give in the fabric with it having a lycra element.

Cheong Sam

Eating a three course meal: good – plenty of comfort for generous portions.

Cheong Sam

Dancing: good too – no split seams despite some twirling. The lycra element also made for comfortable movement across the back & shoulders (although what kind of dancing involved those kinds of movements I don’t know!!)

Cheong Sam

Taxi home: the jacket was just what I needed to stop me from getting a bit chill.

Cheong Sam

Verdict: a cute outfit with a jacket & dress that can be mixed up with other things- or brought together as the designer (that’s me!) intended.  And it feels special & a bit unique. Love it!!


Minerva meet up evening






Cheong Sam- Scruffy Badger style

I know over the past month I may not have seen to be as productive with my sewing output as usual.  That is because I have had some secret projects – including this one.  This project let me say has been invested with quite a lot of effort, so I will be revealing it in parts.  Today is the beginning of the dress reveal …..

So last post I shared some pics of a couple of Cheong Sam Style dresses I have that I love, love love.  I described them as being the inspiration for my latest Minerva make.

Cheong Sam floralReal cheong sam

I’ve got a thing for  Chinese decorative art & am fascinated by Chinese & Far East Asian culture.   But I have never been there, apart from living in Hong Kong as a baby & that doesn’t count because I have no memories of that time.  I do have a huge desire to visit as an adult….maybe I can get all my ducks in a row & make it….one day…..so, needing to make an evening outfit, a glam outfit, I drew upon these two dresses as inspiration.  The floral dress is above the knee & has a cheeky waikiki vibe about it – just add a gardenia behind your ear.  The long genuine Cheong Sam is too special for words.  It fits like it’s poured on.  And let me tell you, it’s not the dress to be wearing if you have a skinfull.    I have had the pleasure to wear this to a couple of “dos” & let me tell you it is one helluva glamorous wiggle dress & requires almost complete undress should one require a visit to the ladies’ room.  And getting it back on after too many glasses of wine?  No chance solo- support needs to be enlisted (preferably before you need it rather than at the time of requirement).  So whilst having lived the dream of a proper Cheong Sam, I can also appreciate the practicalities of a “faux cheong sam” complete with zipper & a pretend side yoke opening.

So, my 2014 version of a cheong sam combined the essence of my Far East dream, but not using a Chinese brocade, but a stretch cotton sateen.   A large scale floral of turquoise on a white background shouted out to me – & with the addition of black satin piping I knew I was on to a killer combo (one that would look great with my only pair of posh shoes which are black).   It was also an unwittingly practical version, since it too is fastened by a back zip.  Now I didn’t know this at the time of ordering the pattern – Burda 8438.

I have to say that there was not very much information at all about this pattern (in the small space of time it took me to buy it!  Of course I could have gone online to research, but didn’t!) – I had assumed that the side yoke was real, but had to actually open the envelope to read the instructions to find out that it was indeed a fake.  It is sewn.  For effect only.  This is my first Burda pattern & I have obviously been spoiled by Indie patterns & the other Big 4 for the level of detail available.  Anyway – it all works out for the best as it turns out.


I made a toile first to check the fit & with a few tweaks it appeared to be OK.  I made it as a top – with the aim that it could be a fully functioning “wearable muslin”- where I could practice the construction, adding ric rac instead of piping to the collar & faux side yoke.

Toile loops

Here is the finished toile- & check out those rouleaux – I found the best technique thanks to Tanit Isis & Instagram chat – using a bobby pin/ hairgrip.  It works a treat!

So onto the real McCoy.  I’d ordered fabric to the specifications of the pattern, but hadn’t taken into account the pattern matching on the centre back seam.  {DOH!} Luckily Vicki at Minerva came to my rescue dispatching another metre for me to match my backs.  And even with a metre extra it was a challenge – at one point I thought I hadn’t ordered enough, but here is the evidence – it can be done – just think outside the box.  (I started by thinking that I was going to match the pattern along the CB by placing the left hand back to the left of the right hand back.  Logical but it didn’t work with the size of the pattern repeat & the need for seam allowances)

Cutting the back

This picture shows that I cut my backs with the centre backs to the selvage – the left back is actually sitting alongside that pattern piece, you just can’t see it, so well camouflaged is it.

So if I said to you that matching the pattern was my greatest challenge I would be dissembling.  Folks, this dress was a mountain of a challenge.  I don’t know whether it is the behaviour of the cotton sateen, the pattern, operator error or most likely a combination of those above, but getting this dress to fit my clearly “weird” shaped body had me cussing & fretting.  The shapes I ended up removing from the upper back are incredible.

And the worst thing is that I sailed away making it up as per toile, attaching collar, inserting invisible zip before being able to try on & then *oh horror of horrors* its fit was desperate.  Everything had to be unpicked.  I had to start from scratch.  the only way to get the fit right was to accept that I would be making this up temporary fashion without collar, but with a zip (I inserted a lapped zipper for speed) & basted the side seams.  Only then could I work out just what the heck was going on!

The numbers of times I had to try on, make adjustments, pin, sew, try on, make even more adjustments with some unpicking along the way seemed to take forever.  Was it even worth getting changed ?  No.  In the end I was sewing there in my undies.  But eventually I cracked it.  Eventually I could take out my temporary lapped zipper, take out my side seam basting & sew the collar on.

Piped frontBut even this was not entirely straight forward since my upper body adjustments meant that I re-cut the neckline & armholes – & I needed to make a new longer collar.  The neck is lower than drafted by Burda, but it is more comfy than a throat clutching genuine cheong sam.  But it’s a compromise I have been forced into – not a design detail!

Piped collar

I could then spend another *really long time* matching the centre back with an invisible zipper.  That is a trial in itself.  Manipulating the unsewn back to pin then baste to the invisible zip tape *&* match the pattern at the same time?  Forever.  And of course because my upper back is such a divergence from the standard (judging by the shapes I’d removed from it)- the centre back seam is not straight & therefore the upper back was never going to match.  But at least there are parts of the CB that do, & at least the collar seam matches nicely too.

Centre backFor real.  This is the lower centre back seam.

By the time I’d got the zip in I felt home & dry.  But would my sleeves fit after I’d had to recut the arms?  Thankfully they did.  To say that I was relieved is an understatement.

Piped sleeveI’ve had a bit of a piping hit recently & have taken pics along the way for piping the sleeve hem so will write that up & share.  I’m pretty pleased with the result.  Piping is so worthwhile!

So I have my dress finished now.  Hemmed & ironed.  I’ve also made a jacket to accompany it.  But that can wait for another day.

The June Minerva network outfits are planned to be revealed through social media on the 14th June, or on the Minerva blog (& my blog) sometime in the following week.  It’s part of the Minerva meet up which I have to say is so close my excitement is tangible.   The Brochure for the event is up there too (lower down the page), if you are still undecided & would like to see what’s being put on &/or when to aim to arrive.  All of the other bloggers are posting teasers about their outfits on the Minerva blog.  I’ve already shared some of what I’ve written here, & looks like I could have got away with even more of a teaser!  Poor Minerva readers get my shaggy dog dramas too!

Anyone else made a Cheong Sam?  Or in my case, a faux Cheong Sam?  Tell me you got hammered by the fitting?  (It’s the nature of the style of dress, I know …) but it’s good to share!

Adding piping to a sleeveless bodice

So I’d mentioned in my Flora dress post that I was going to share how I piped the bodice.   I need to get it right up front – I am not an expert!  There are probably other better ways to do this, but it worked for me – & maybe if you know of a better way you can share in the comments?  Because adding piping to the faux wrap top is an added detail that takes the Flora, or any sleeveless bodice methinks, to the next level, and highlights its pretty front, especially, if like me, you are using a patterned fabric.

Piped Flora bodice
I made my piping out of satin bias binding and piping cord, bought at my local haberdashery. You could make your own bias however.

I think I must have bought about 4m of both, as I piped the armholes and the neck edge. So make your bodice up according to the instructions.   If it’s the Flora, I’d recommend using stay tape on the neckline as shown in the sewalong.

Stay tape neck edge

Now you need to work on the piping once you have sewn the shoulder seams. Prepare your piping as follows:

1. Press open the bias binding if you are using bought bias binding

Piping a bodice
2. Now fold the bias in half and press

3. Open out the bias binding and Lay the piping cord in the fold

Piping a bodice making piping
4. Fold the bias in half with the cord in the fold and then pin close to the cord, trapping it in the fold

Piping a bodice
5. With your zip foot, sew along the pin line, securing the piping cord as close to the fold as possible. I always leave a bit of cord hanging out both ends just in case movement whilst sewing or later on means that the bias stretches a bit in relation to the cord. I’d much rather have extra cord, as opposed to not enough.

Piping a bodice
Your piping!!
6. On the right side of your bodice, I find it helpful to mark the stitching line, the seam allowance. I am lazy and run a line of long machine basting stitches with the. 1.5cm seam marker on the throat plate, but you could mark it by hand, with a ruler.

Piping a bodice
7. Next pin the piping to the bodice right sides up. You are aiming to pin the piping with the cord on the inside of the seam line and with the ‘seam allowance’ of the piping, ie the bias edges, pointing towards the edges of your bodice.

Piping a bodice
You are pinning the piping in a continuous line around the neckline, and also around each arm hole. Try to position the piping so that you pin as close to the cord as possible and that this pinned line, cuts through your 1.5cm seam line marked at 6. Above.

Piping a bodice

8. For added security and accuracy I then hand baste the piping to the seam line, trying to get as close to the piping cord as possible and trying to make sure that I am still keeping on top of the 1.5cm seam line of the bodice front / sleeve line.

Piping a bodice

Now this basting is really useful as a marker for the next step!
9. Pin the lining to the bodice, right sides together, with the piping sandwiched in between. Flip the bodice over so that you are looking at the shell rather than the lining and move your pins so that you can sew with the bodice shell on top. And look! You have your basting stitches to use as a sewing guide to make sure you get really close to the piping cord.

Piping a bodice
10. Use your zip foot to sew really close to the piping cord. I have a setting on my machine that allows me to move my needle position around to get close and it’s something I make use of for piping!

So, you sew your lining to the bodice shell capturing the piping in between. Open out your bodice and lining as normal and you should see the most awesome sight of a piped bodice! Give yourself a woop wooop and press. And enjoy.

And now the armhole edges

Now the armholes are sewn in the same way, but make sure you leave some piping extending beyond the bodice front and back to give yourself some extra to join up when you complete the side seams. AND possibly it’s a good idea not to sew the piping all the way to the edge of the fabric, but to start sewing 1.5cm in from the edge so that you are leaving a longish piece extending over the seam allowance, un-stitched. I’m guessing this could help, but did not do it myself- I ended up unpicking some of this seam later on as you will see below.

So how do we get a nice finished piped seam when it goes around in a circle like an armhole?
You could just line up your piping and stitch it as a seam, but the trouble with this approach is that it’s not very polished and there is opportunity for piping to fray. The neatest option finishes the piped circular seam almost as if the cord inside is being swallowed up inside a ontinuous (but joined) tube of piping.   If you like to think of it in DIY or is it plumbing terms, consider it to be a “Male/ Female joint”  – if you can bear it.  Or think of it as if the cord ends up being the distance of the armhole circle and the piping needs to be a longer joined tube to overlap itself neatly with the cord safely hidden inside.

Ok so not easy to describe. Even harder to do!! Here’s how I attempted to do it. Maybe there’s a better way- if so I am all ears and eyes – please leave details in the comments!

So, you are about to sew your side seams, lining and bodice. Without piping you would perform this in one simple straight seam. With piping I took it in two: sewing the bodice and the lining, making sure the piping was facing the right way ( ie the cord needs to be positioned so that it is facing towards the bodice shell.  And leaving a small gap between the side seams around the area of the piping.

Piping a bodice

I stopped sewing (but did backstitch to secure the seams) around the piping for my two separated side seams on lining & shell.

Now it’s about handling the piping and first of all working out the finished size of the circle that you want the piping to form- this involves a bit of trial and error to identify where you would join the circle, and for the edges to meet at the side seam. You are not joining it up at this stage, just working out sizes and from there you can work out what’s spare ….bear with me ….
Piping a bodice
So you have an idea of how big your finished circle needs to be, maybe you’ve marked both pieces of piping with pins where you think the join would be. You may need to unpick a small bit of the seam you’ve already made that secures the piping to the armhole and lining….

Trim your piping on one side at this join mark, but leave a good 1.5cm of the other side of the piping.

Piping a bodice - completing a piped circle
This shows the piping being trimmed very close to the join mark.

Piping a bodice - completing a piped circleThis shows the side that is cut with an extra 1.5cm of piping to the mark.

Now it’s time to get rid of some excess cord. For this, first of all grab some of the cord from inside the piping on the piece you’ve cut snug to the join mark and pull a bit extra from the inside, maybe 2-3 mm and trim the cord (not the bias ) off. On the other side you also want to grab some of the cord and trim it so that you do not have any more than is needed to butt against the other side and form a nice complete circle when you join your seam.
What you’re doing, is getting rid of some of the extra bulk made by the cord – but not cutting the bias binding.  You need this !

Piping a bodice - completing a piped circle

Now with the side that you cut 1.5cm longer than your join mark, fold some of the excess bias binding to the inside of the tube so that it forms to make a neat edge – this is the outside tube & will be on show.  Push it over the top of the other end of the piping – hopefully making a nice joined up circle with the join positioned above the side seam of your bodice.
I secured this new circle of piping with hand stitches.

Now reconfigure your lining, and bodice to machine over some of the gaps – eg underneath the piping on the armhole seam – you may need to use your zip foot- and where you are unable to get in with your machine- a few well placed hand stitches should do.

Piping a bodiceThe pink stitching is new stitching, securing the piping at the side seam.  

Piping a bodiceThat’s what it looks like on the outside.  The thread I used was coral, & looks a bit messy on the blue background – but it serves to show what it turns out like better.  And I’m not a perfect sewster!

Wow, that was complicated to explain, and I may have confused you loads. Which is uber sad if that is so, as I had the best of intentions.  Did it help, or did it scare you too much?

flora 5

As I said, I am not an expert, just trying hard to get a neat finish.  Is there a definitive approach for joining piping?  Have I taken the long way?  What is the holy grail of piping a complete circle?  I bet there’s a Threads article somewhere lurking, isn’t there?

I’m exhausted.  Time for a cuppa!  Cheerio for now 🙂

Red hot chilli: Colette Patterns Ginger skirt

Hurrah!  Pop the corks this post will have links (& many!)  Following all my issues with shockwave/flash crashing in Chrome I have moved across to Firefox & it’s great.  No more problemos & very user friendly for a webnoob like me.  Just thought you’d be glad – no more moaning on that front!  So, sewing it is.  PS The giveawaywayhay post (deliberate typo!) is being penned & just need some photos to launch later it this week, sorry for stringing you along.

Here it is, my second Colette Patterns Ginger skirt.  I had intended it to be a quick & dirty affair making an unlined version using a red linen/ cotton mix, perfect for summer. But then I saw Karen’s holiday Ginger, & saw that she had taken the trouble to line it & thought “Come on Scruffy!  Make an effort!”

I’ve lined my previous Ginger, & found that it could have done with a bit more ease in the lining.  So this time, cutting out the lining I added an extra cm to each side seam to allow for ease of wearing.  I also cut the front on the fold rather than create an additional seam which isn’t needed inside.   Just used gathers to ease the lining to fit at the waistband at the appropriate point in the making up.

I think I’m a bit into petticoats at the moment … look at how I’ve finished it off (& some secret rick rack also! Makes it feel like Christmas!)

The Waistband

This I think deserves a bit of space all to itself.  To avoid the gaping at the top, I referred back to my first Ginger & the alterations I made to it.  Luckily I had transferred these to my pattern pieces & was therefore able to line up & transfer these with the sweetheart waistband that I wanted to make this time.

The top piece is how it is before I made adjustments – the bottom two pieces show the weird wedge I need to take out of this waistband side seams.

** Post edit – please refer to the comment left by Mrs C below to develop this alteration to the next level & make a rounded waistband translating the adjustment evenly across the pieces – it’s a good read!! **

It was weird sewing it though – it seems counter intuitive seeing the angle that the three pieces make when sewn up together.  But it worked, it fits my clearly counter intuitive body shape.

So, to detour again from the “quick & dirty” I felt obliged to add some detailing, to invest some more love into this skirt.  It was worth it I think.  I cut some strips of the skirt fabric on the bias & made piping.  Nothing too obvious, as this skirt is going to be a basic colour blocker, but the piping just makes me feel it is a bit more special.

Since reading Roobeedoo’s note that the waistband in this version can wrinkle I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.  My interfacing, although medium, had already ironed on a bit awkwardly & therefore became my waistband facing (oh, I wasn’t going to admit to that!)  I didn’t want to risk it on the waistband proper in case it ironed on all gunkily again.  All through the construction the need for stiffness (stop sniggering) was niggling me.  Was I going to risk the quality of the skirt for lack of thought & effort?  My fix in the end was to create a template of the space inside the stitching, ie the finished waistband & create a buckram duplicate in the hope that it keeps it standing up right.  It seems to be OK…. but makes a crinkly noise when you move around sitting!

My invisible zip went in fine, piping just about even both sides if you squint.  It’s just the top didn’t finish as neatly as it could, but looks like a design feature.  Perhaps it is because of the piping.

I think this is going to be useful.  I’ve already discovered LOADS of tops that it goes nicely with & today I wore it with my Vintage Vogue jacket no less (it’ll appear in a Me Made May roundup)

Worn here with an old New Look 6808 top in linen…

The perils of long damp grass of a morning ….

Colette Patterns Rooibos

Cartoon-esque Rooibos


Colette Patterns Rooibos


So I finished my Rooibos, just lagged a bit behind the Colette Patterns Sewalong, it being September and not August now.

I wore it out last night & I swear I have never been so embarrassed having my photo taken.  I don’t know how Karen & Debbie manage others’ curiosity in their beautiful & interesting settings.  I thought a photo “on the town” at the top end of Milsom Street would be a bit of a change from the garden.  I tell you, it took courage.  There was I grinning – but with an audience of bemused strangers.  “It’s OK” I wanted to pretend, “I’m a tourist too”  (rationale there being that tourists have their photos taken all over Bath & no one blinks an eye).  But that would have been a lie.  I just felt vain & preening ….Oh well,  you don’t know till you try!  Perhaps if I was pulling a silly pose I would have felt happier???

Who does she think she is?

And yes, that it the Vogue jacket too – I will be writing this up in a later post.  I am rationing you.  Well me, actually, only having a certain amount of time.  Perhaps it was the BRIGHTNESS of the outfit that made me feel so brazen amongst the dour tourists & sedate shop facades.   And it’s possible shorter than I would normally wear a dress so that made me feel even more self conscious, although it looks OK in the pictures …

And here’s another – you know I have to add another one of the street views – you don’t think I’d go through that trauma for the sake of just one picture do you?  And check out all the people behind (who stared at me on the way up) & that child, unable to tear his intrigued eyes away. (No you can tell I am not a model nor am I famous, I’m just trying to have my picture taken, right?!)

OK, onto business.  There will be more photos, I’m afraid.  I took others back in the safety of my own home.

Ah, that's more relaxed

It's going to be a creaser!


I think mine’s a bit too big from the waist down  really, that’ll teach me for only making the bodice muslin/toile & not the whole thing.   The bodice I think fits well after a few tweaks (lowering the armholes & adjusting side seams) Anyway, it’s a totally different dress than I expected  – it isn’t as tightly fitting as I thought it would be.  This is the dress that will get pulled out of the wardrobe when the day is oh so sultry & promising thunder.  The dress for sticky humid work days.  The dress for skipping along a gravel path.  I don’t know.  It makes me feel cool (not “hip” but not hot) & should I say this, young?!  That might have something to do with the fabric & binding choices.  There is something childish about solid powder blue and red polka dots.  I am relieved it went that way as opposed to looking like an air hostess uniform, which I felt it was in danger of becoming as I sewed the red satin piping to the blue pockets with no polka dot to be seen from the outside.  However, don’t you think it’s like a cartoon character dress?

So, what was ace about making this dress?  Apart from the oft quoted quality of Colette Patterns’ instruction, of course.  I actually supplemented the sewalong posts with the written instructions.  I’ve never followed a sewalong before.  This sewalong had just the right number of pictures and hints & tips.  The only silly thing about sewing along following a blog once the sewalong has finished is that the “next step” posts are not next in a blog, as we all know, as they have not been written yet.  The sequentially “next” posts are actually earlier posts you should have already followed.  Navigating around the sewalong therefore involved a few extra clicks & scrolling.   You all know that though!

So, apart from the excellent instructions, both online & with the pattern what did I love?  I am very much taken with the style, & whilst I’ll make it smaller next time, & perhaps an inch longer, I do adore the collar with the contrast facing.  I actually found making the choice for my facing extremely challenging.  I’d picked the fabric from my stash (a Walthamstow linen) mainly because I had already bought the invisible zip to match it but the dress it was earmarked for is lounging in my “can’t face it pile” due to a far too tricky for now muslin failure.  So having decided on the powder blue, & plumping for red piping, what would be the contrast?  Eventually it clicked, I was enlightened with vision & I bought 75cm of the polka dots (25% off in my local shop ).

More design loves – any obvious opportunity for piping pleases me immensely, & this was no exception.  I chose red satin bias binding, just to see what it was like, as other bias tends to be quite coarsely woven.  The satin was fine (hope it survives the wash).   And those pockets!  Oh so cute!  I know I’m stuffing my hands into more polka dots which will make me smile.  I could have done the piping better, & didn’t read this part of the sewalong instructions which advised me to fold my piping at the “nicked” bit in the curve.  So my piping is a bit straighter than it could have been.

Now, invisible zip sewing is a new one for me, & I also followed Colette Patterns online tutorial.  It was very clear, but didn’t stop me messing it up first time.  Never mind.  I am really pleased with it- I followed up one of the comments to Jane’s post where she also was converted to invisible zips.  A comment from Lladybird advised that getting an invisible zipper foot for her Pfaff made it all so easy.  So I looked up my model & bought the invisible zip foot (as well as the pin tuck foot & the narrow hem foot ….. well, you have to make the postage worthwhile don’t you?).  Wow, sewing with the right foot makes it SO easy (as long as you place the zip the right way!).

Oh the shame, a pucker!

My only yuk bit is the end of the zip & where it gets subsumed into the side seam.  Lots of sewing, unpicking & sewing it’s still not right.  There’s a little pucker that won’t iron out, but if I resew anymore I may wear the linen out, so it stays.  Apart from that I have been revolutionised by invisible zips!

As the final design detail I took up the “design tip” in the pattern instructions & made a couple of self covered buttons from the facing fabric.

Another things that occurred to me when I was sewing this, was this: do cotton reels pack less length?  What I mean by this is didn’t you used to get more on a reel of cotton ? Is there less metreage of thread being sold these days?  I only ask because for making this dress I was very prudent, only using my blue thread for main seams.  All finishing was done on my overlocker and I also changed thread for any tacking & sewing of facings. And the resewing of the zipper took place over the smallest distance.  Despite this, I still ran out of thread – get this – less than 10cm away from finishing the hem.

Does any one know the answer?  How many reels of thread do you buy per project?  Is it worth buying two?

Swimmers shirt dress for a sunny day – with piping

I’ve been enticing you with this – for how long?  Well done for being so patient!!

swimmers fabric

The swimmers: I’ve had this fabric since last summer.  It’s a Makower fabric.  I bought it when I bought the Brighton Rocks fabric & all I knew was that I loved it (having had a swimming childhood at the least I thought I’d use it for a cushion in my living room as I’ve got a bit of a watery/ swimming theme going on there).  Anyways, months ago it spoke to me & asked to be made into a sleeveless shirtdress- but I had no need to make it earlier in the year.  Why did it take the sun to shine for me to get ready to cut into the precious stuff?  Seemingly out of the blue, this really wasn’t on my plan, it was a real tangent, I cut it out using a pattern from an old Sew Mag.

My vision though, was drawn from the 60s, a casual garden/ beach dress.  I could imagine serving up a pitcher of home-made lemonade in it, or else putting it back on having dried myself at the beach in one of those “tube-towels” that had  drawstring neck to promote modesty.  Pale colours, big tan (if only!)

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The Piped trousers

I managed to complete my navy linen trousers yesterday morning (well save the little hook & bar fastener).  In fact after a bit of a photo session I still have them on (without hook & bar) whilst I type & attest to their comfort.

Remember my objectives?  1st was to complete the trousers to wear in March (fail!), 2nd was to learn a new technique – piping.  So I chose a Built by Wendy design from Sew U- the basic trousers & stole inspiration from the book with respect to the piping, then added my own.  The design was a kind of homage to the sailor trousers, however, I didn’t add width to the trousers being interested in what the basic trousers came out like.

Built by Wendy Trousers design



Just in the street the other week I’d seen someone wearing a top or jacket made out of denim with bows like pocket tops sewn on.  I wanted to do this too.  Added to that, I saw this piping & loved it.  “Why, I can do that”, thought I, “but how can I combine that with a cute bow detail, a kind of faux pocket top?”.  So I needed some serious designing & playing around with this.   (No way was this going to be a speedy speedster make- who was I kidding?)  So with all my attention focused on the piping & bows, the trouser pattern could be made with as little alteration as possible.

Piped pocket flaps

Faux pocket flaps with piping



I had the linen already, before I even got sewing I struggled with piping choice, deciding to make my own (foolish, I know- clearly I decided to load myself with challenge).  What colour me made bias binding should I make out of fabrics already in my stash?  You can see I opted for lime green silk/cotton mix left over from Cinnamon slip.  Looking back on this I think I must have been in some kind of parallel universe- me, opting to make my own bias + piping= crazy.  But making bias + piping out of slippery fabric= super stupid.  It didn’t get my confidence soaring I can tell you.  Stitching the cord into the bias took numerous skidding & stretching lines of stitching.  Luckily I still had matching thread left over, & I thought I could always unpick it once in situ should it show.

Once I had my piping snaking across the table I tacked it onto the right side of each piece it was to be attached to, before adding the facing & using my tacking lines as sewing guides for getting nice & close to the piping with my zip foot.  I think tacking it as opposed to just pinning was useful as I was able to stretch the piping around corners better.  So pocket flaps, belt loops & waistband pieces all piped I had to see if the bow idea was going to work. Not only was I trying to design the bow, but to work out how to add piping to best & practical effect as well, thinking that it would look odd without piping.

So my bows are a wide piece of fabric folded over & stitched with the seam at the back then knotted in the middle.  Now, when you see the whole effect, piped bow plus all the other piping, you may think it’s a bit much- I am still not sure myself- but can always unpick them.  I’m trialling them at the moment.

I found the instructions brilliant to follow – the fly was the first thing attempted & it was all completed in less than an hour on the day for which my destiny for completing these trousers was not fulfilled.  The only query really is that I followed the design to the letter, buying a 7″ zip – but look – it sticks out the end.

(Oh yes – check out the beautiful overlocked edges:-))

So I really like this pattern – the fit was perfect first time – no adjustment needed.


They would work really well widened & whilst I have the legs of a struggling amateur long distance runner I would not describe my quads as rippling  & these trousers make up slim at the thigh.   They are very snug around the behind- but not uncomfortably so.  Arguably this is how the rest of my trousers should fit!  I also liked the back yoke, but chose not to topstitch at all- piping was enough I felt.

I struggled to find a top to wear to show off the frontage in all its piped glory.  What that tells me is that I won’t often be showing it all off (unless I make more tops especially!)  So if I have concerns about the luridness of all of the piping, perhaps it won’t be on display that much anyway.

And in case you hadn’t worked out – the buttons are self covered in the same lime fabric.

Onto length.  I’d be interested to know how you other ladies make the decision – heels or flats?  I hate wearing trousers that are too short, but don’t want them dragging on the ground.  I like a bit of draping over the front of my foot.  How do you get a pair of trousers the right length to give multiple wearing options?  I wear heels for work (sometimes) but not really for weekends & not really for going out.   I made the call that these will get worn more with flats or little heel but that means I’m ruling out wearing them with certain shoes when I may want to feel more glamorous or grown up.   Have I missed a trick somewhere?  Any secrets anyone would like to impart??