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We are super excited to announce our latest round of FREE in store craft demonstrations in selected Hickeys and Home Focus stores nationwide. So if your New Year's Resolution was to take up a new craft or if you're a seasoned crafter looking to pick up a new skill check out the list below for your nearest demo.
Let me confess something to you - I am not a dressmaker - I am generally crafty, knit more than I sew and I'll always run up a pair of curtains and a few cushions. I have even been known to quilt on occasion but when it comes to straight up dressmaking I find the whole thing a bit intimidating. I'm just not a great pattern follower - I tend to skip the instructions when reading a pattern and plod along only to realise halfway through that I have forgotten something vital. I have realised the reason for this is a somewhat short attention span and an assumption that they're probably being overly fussy and there's definitely a quicker way to do it. I am that monster that walks against the yellow lines in IKEA because I'm convinced I have found a more efficient way around it.
I have recently started to challenge myself to follow patterns properly and have had some success - no doubt I'll update you in some future blog - but until then let me show you the perfect project for those impatient souls among you who just want a new dress!
The secret to this easy sew project is plisse fabric - this is the most beautiful type of fabric - it's usually fairly lightweight and has tiny pleats the entire width and I am slightly obsessed with it! Don't be afraid of it -it will flatten out in parts when you sew but just don't stretch it as you're stitching and certainly don't iron it and all will be well.
Let me show you how to make a super simple skirt and an easy peasy dress and I swear to you I had both run up in less than an hour, from thinking about how to do it to the finished product.
*To figure out how much elastic you need - stretch it around your waist so that it is tight but comfortable and then add 2cm.
When you get your fabric it will be double folded with the pleats running across the width like this:
Next fold it in half widthways.
The next step is just a bit of shaping to give the skirt slightly less fullness at the hips - and who needs anything extra there? - mark a point about 34cm across - this is for size 10-16, for smaller go 31cm, larger go 39cm, then use your measuring tape to mark a diagonal line to the bottom right corner and cut along.
Fold it back out from quarters into half and cut along the top so you have 2 pieces:
Next with right sides facing, using a straight stitch and a 1cm seam allowance throughout - sew up the 2 sides of the skirt.
Then you want to make the waistband by making a channel for the elastic - with the wrong side facing you turn down the top by 25mm (1") - sew all the way around leaving a gap of about 25mm (1") when you get to the end - then stick a safety pin through the end of your elastic and use this to thread it through the waistband.
When you get to the end, pull both ends through and stitch together. Then stitch up the gap in the fabric.
Try on the skirt and cut the length if desired - it doesn't need hemming but if you do this you may want to reinforce the last inch of stitching on the side hems.
The dress may be even easier but you don't need to tell anyone that when you're wearing it:
*To figure out amount of fabric - measure your widest part, usually the hips and take 10cm off this measurement, for example my hips measure 120cm all around and so I used 1.1m fabric.
Lay out your fabric with the pleats running down, then mark the halfway point and cut up the length of the fabric leaving you with 2 pieces.
With right sides facing, pin at 28cm from the top on both sides, stitch up to this point, using a 1cm seam allowance throughout - this will be your armholes, this will be for size 10-16, smaller make it 26cm and larger go for 30cm
Now for the neckhole - make it 30cm wide for size 10-16, 28 cm for smaller and 32 cm for larger. Simply mark with pins evenly across the top and stitch to this point with a 1.5cm seam allowance.
That's basically it, turn the right way around trim any threads, as in the skirt you can simply cut to desired length, reinforcing the side hems at the bottom if you do. For the lighter plisse fabrics the neckline just naturally folds itself under but for the heavier one like this one with metallic finish you may want to hand stitch the neck seam down so it sits well.
This was all so easy that I got a little carried away and now Lauren and I have an entirely new plisse wardrobe!
We have teamed up again with the fantastic Dainty Dress Diaries to bring you this "Step By Step: Sew A Wrap Skirt" tutorial! Catherine has shown great talent creating two versions of the Simplicity 8606 pattern, and has even created a YouTube video to help guide anyone who would like to do the same!
I am buzzing as I type this blog post as I have made my very first wrap skirt. I have teamed up with the guys at Hickeys Fabrics to share how I made my skirts in today’s post. I am not a pro at sewing and I don’t have much experience with dress making but I was thrilled when I was able to put together a skirt by myself. Last year you might remember I made a dress with Angeline Murphy. I remembered some of the tips she had taught me and I used them when making my skirt. Dress making and reading patterns can be scary but honestly when you break them down they are not. If I can make a skirt then you can too! All of the items I used in today’s post are from Hickeys Fabrics I got my Simplicity pattern from their store in Henry St Dublin. This project is perfect for beginners too but I would recommend you have basic sewing machine skills. If you are a complete beginner then why not check out my previous post with Hickeys on how to make an envelope cushion, you can find that here.
As I have yet to overcome my fear of zips I picked an easy wrap skirt pattern. I got the Simplicity pattern number 8606. This pattern has four skirt options inside. In this post I am making options A and C. The other two options have a flounce but I wasn’t brave enough yet to try the flounce.
Your pattern can look scary when you first look at it. On the back of your pattern you will see lots of numbers and jargon but don’t get scared. On the back of the pattern it will tell you what items you need to make your skirt and how much fabric to buy.
Fabric, for my size I got 1.5 metres of fabric (The Nancy Print Crepe Rose and Mini Floral Crepe Print Silver).
Interfacing, this was just for the waistband.
Thread, I always recommend the Gutterman threads and get one in the nearest shade to your fabric.
Measuring tape, fabric scissors, fabric marker, sewing pins and your machine.
Pattern sizes are different to retail sizes. So, the size you are in a store will be different to the size you will be in your sewing pattern. In stores I am on average a uk size 10 however I am a pattern size 14. Accurately measuring your bust, waist and hip will give you the correct size to use for your skirt.
Inside your pattern pack you will find an instruction sheet and your pattern pieces. Take a few minutes to sit and read through your general direction sheet. This has all the info you need to sew your skirt and you will follow this each step of the way. It even gives you a cutting layout and tells you how to place your pattern onto the fabric to get the most out of your fabric. Don’t get scared when you first look at your instruction sheet, I know it can look overwhelming but when you break it down it isn’t as scary.
As I was making the option A skirt I cut out all of the pattern pieces for option A. I cut out the pieces for a size 14 as that was my pattern size. If you are a smaller or larger size then you will cut out your size on the pattern pieces. I had two front pieces, two back pieces, a waistband piece, a right tie and a left tie end. Each pattern piece has a letter and a number on it telling you which piece to cut out. Take care when cutting the pattern pieces and cut neatly. make sure to use a normal scissors and not your good fabric scissors when cutting the paper. I gave my pattern pieces a quick iron after I cut them out so they weren’t wrinkled.
Iron your fabric before cutting and then lay your fabric out as per the cutting layout in your instructions. Pin your pattern pieces to your fabric. As my fabric has a bit of stretch to it I used more pins than normal. Take your time when cutting, I find cutting is as important as the actual machine sewing. If you cut your fabric wonky then your seams will be wonky. When it comes to sewing don’t cut corners, take your time as each step. On your pattern piece it will tell you how many you need to cut. It will say cut 1 or cut 2 etc, follow the instructions. Don’t forget to cut out your piece of interfacing for the waistband.
You will notice on your pattern that you will have some little triangles, these are notches and are really important. They act like little puzzle pieces and mark up to each other when you are pinning your pieces together. I used a fabric marker to draw the dots too. Don’t forget to cut out the notches when cutting your fabric.
Once you have your pieces cut you can then go to the sewing directions section of your instructions and go to step one. I found the sewing instructions really easy to follow. The pattern is also marked to show which side of the fabric is facing in each step. In step one it asks you to put a line of stay stitching on the upper edge of pieces 1 and 2. Stay stitching helps prevent stretching on the curved edges and you won’t see this stitch when the garment is complete.
In step two you will stitch your two back panels together and stitch your centre back seam. Once you stitch your seam make sure to iron your seams out. It is really important to iron out your seams. If you look at your clothes you are wearing now you will see the seams neatly ironed out or over locked. You are then going to add your front panels to your back by following the illustration in your instructions. You can find your seam allowance in your instructions.
In step three you will add your hem. This was the longest part of making my skirt. Take your time making your hem as you will see this at the front of the skirt. The instructions say to machine-baste the edges 5/8” from the raw edge. I won't lie! I had to google what machine basting was. Basically, it is a temporary stitch and it made it really easy for me to form the hem. I set the stitch length on my machine to the longest and made my lasting stitch. I then ironed my raw edge and rolled it under to give it a small hem. I used lots of pins to keep it in place before taking it to the machine to sew. Take your time sewing your hem. Once it is sewn you can then remove your basting stitch and give it an iron. The basing stitch really helped when forming a neat hem, don’t skip this step.
For step four and five, you are going to be working on your waistband. You will iron on your fusible interfacing to the wrong side of your waistband. Then fold the unnotched side over by 1/2” and press. You are then going to work on adding your waistband to your skirt. This is where your notches come in handy as they act as a guide when pinning the fabric together. With the right sides together pin the skirt to the waistband. Place the sides seams at the inner small dots, matching the centre notches and remaining dots. Pin all the way around and sew.
For steps six and seven you are going to work on your ties. You have a right and left tie. Fold the pieces in half lengthwise and sew a 3/8” seam, leave the short end with the dots open. Once sewn you will pull these right side out and give them a good press. Then follow the instructions in your pattern for steps seven, eight and nine as these will show you how to add your ties to your waistband. I also have a YouTube video showing you how I made my skirt and you can reference this as well.
For step ten you are going to finish off your waist band and “stitch in the ditch”, take your time when pinning your waistband over and make sure to leave enough fabric on the inside so that you catch this in when sewing on the outside. On the outside of the skirt is where you will sew. If you don’t have enough fabric on the inside it won't catch and your waistband won't be correctly sewn.
Just like sewing the hem, I found this to be a tricky step. Take your time when “stitching in the ditch” as you will see the waistband when it is on you and you don’t want to see your stitches.
For step eleven you are going to make a buttonhole. I had never made a button hole before. At the marking on the waistband, I cut a slit. I then used the zig-zag setting on my machine and shortened the stitch length and I applied a zig-zag stitch to the hole and I created a button hole. this did the job for me but do have a search on YouTube for other ways to sew a button hole. Your machine might even have a button hole setting.
You can now try on your skirt and admire your hard work. I made two skirts and I actually can’t pick a favorite. I love the longer midi style as it is really popular right now. The shorter length is fun and perfect for a summers day, you could even style it up with a silky cami and heels for the evening. The great thing about sewing from a pattern is that you can re-use it. I keep my patterns in a folder in my craft room. This makes it easier to organise and find my patterns.
If you are inspired and want to check out some dress fabrics then click here to head over to the Hickeys Fabrics website. You can also pick up the other items I used in today’s post. Also, a huge thank you to Hickeys for teaming up with me and collaborating on this post.
Thanks for reading, do check out my YouTube video which I will leave below and tag me in your makes over on Instagram.
If any of you were up late enough and not out dancing on Saturday night you may have been sitting happily at home watching the Ray D'arcy Show with a cuppa (or glass of wine). If you were one of those people you no doubt saw Sonia Lennon, Brendan Courtney and Hickeys' very own head of display Cathy Doran (we're not related) discussing the topic on everyone's lips "Meghan Markle's guna". I had the pleasure of being involved in the recreation of that dress on Saturday and assisting Cathy as she worked her magic, recreating the wedding dress in a mere 6 hours.
I sat at home that morning thinking to myself "oh I hope it's going to be a lacey number so we can show off our beautiful laces" - you can imagine my disappointment when I saw how simple the dress was. There's no doubt that she looked gorgeous, though I'm fairly certain that she could wear a bin liner and that would still be the case - but as a fabric woman it was all just a bit.... well.....plain. Elegant; yes, beautiful; most definitely but this was not the princess moment I was expecting.
As I cycled into our Henry st store to meet Cathy and Joanna (the dreamteam) to prepare for our 5 mins of fame I had plenty of time to think about the dress. Did I love it? No. The veil was really the star but the more I thought about it the more I loved it - those who know me know I'm not really one for the understated but what I loved was that this is the dress of a woman who knows who she is. I think as we all get a bit older, creeping into that mid thirties bracket we get a bit more assured of who we are and what clothes we like. I know my style has developed over the years (I was once a full on goth) and while the eyeliner remains as black as ever, I have got to a place in my style where I know what I like and what suits me. I recognised this in Meghan's wedding dress - here was a woman who was confident in who she is and knows what she likes to wear. Meghan eschewed the traditional in favour of an understated number that would let her beauty shine through.
So what about the dress itself? There was rumours abound about the designer Meghan would go for, everyone assuming it would be a British fashion house in honour of her new country. What did she do? She picked a french fashion house in Givenchy but helmed by a British native, their first female designer, the uber talented, Claire Waight Keller. The dress was made from a "double bonded silk cady", well what is that you might wonder? It's basically 2 layers of fabric bonded together to make a heavy, fabric with beautiful drape and minimal shine, it was lined with several layers of silk organza to make it stand out. This meant that the dress would have been heavy - while the weather was great for everyone else I'm sure Meghan was cooking slightly inside her dress! We used a very heavy matt duchess satin with layers of soft tulle underneath to mimic the look on the day.
The real stand out for me - and the thing that I think Meghan Markle has single handedly started a trend with - was the cathedral length veil. The veil was about 16 1/2ft (3.5m) and was made from silk tulle hand embroidered with 53 flowers representing each of the countries of the Commonwealth. This was a truly unique detail which really told a story. I'm sure the seamstresses who lovingly stitched those flowers on nearly died when they saw that fella ball it up and ram it into the carriage when they were leaving the church! For our penance on the day, we cut and hand stitched 17m of lace trim onto tulle to recreate the look.
It was a day of strong and independent women at the royal wedding, which we can take lots of inspiration from - there was Oprah, Victoria Beckham, Serena Williams, women who run empires and look good in heels while doing it! There were a couple of standout looks in the sea of pretty and blush ensembles and you can see our takes on these looks in our Henry st store.
Firstly, and let's get her out of the way because we all know what I'm going to say - Amal Clooney, she looked ridiculously good and again was true to her intelligent, elegant self! The ochre hue was out of the ordinary and the shape was perfect on her, accessorizing with a matching hat and a handsome man didn't hurt either!
Secondly there was the lesser known Janina Gavankar, which you may not recognise from such TV shows as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. Why did she stand out so much? Again the gorgeous colour was a factor but I also loved the story of the outfit - It was a 1930s dress from The Western Costume Company's private archive which she and her stylist landed on after being passed over by designers they reached out to to dress her for the wedding.
You might wonder where I'm going with all this rambling and what the royal wedding has to do with Hickeys anyway? I'm not a super girly girl and certainly not one of those girls who dreams about her wedding and the big white dress, so why was I so interested? Other than being involved in recreating the look for the Ray D'arcy show the thing that made me smile most about the day was all of these Independent Beauties being true to themselves. Meghan herself looked exquisite but nobody would have predicted that dress. There was countless intelligent, gorgeous women who attended that wedding and they all looked unique.
Which brings me neatly to my Hickeys related point. Why go cookie cutter with a dress that anyone can buy in any store? If you're getting married or attending a big event why not be your unique self and go custom? It will generally cost the same or less and if you work with a dressmaker you will have an exquisitely tailored piece made only for you. I know it may seem daunting but you can call into your local Hickeys store and they can give you some dressmakers details. By finding the right dressmaker and the right fabrics, you could change your outlook on occasion dressing forever!
The kimono look is still going nowhere and with our lack of fine weather and generally pale skin we Irish girls love a cover up (or maybe I should start fake tanning). It's one of those items that once you have in your wardrobe you'll wonder what you did without it. Wear it with your skinnies during the day, over your bikini on the beach, over a dress for night or go daring and make yourself a long length one for some major sex appeal at your next function. There are some fab options on the High Street as featured on the gorgeous Curves and Confidence and Pippa blogs.
You might wonder why you would bother making one when you can buy one for like €40? I'll tell you - not only can you make one that will cost less but you certainly won't see anyone else in the same one or as I like to call it "The Penneys effect". Oh and yeah there's that smug look you'll get when someone asks "where did you get that" and you get to go "oh this? I made it", yeah like no big deal! In any case the kimono style is super wearable and super easy to sew. It's one of those projects that if you make once you'll find excuses to make and wear again and again.
Choose a fairly lightweight fabric with a good drape, a viscose or a drapey satin will be really good. Also if you're going for a pattern choose an all over print that will look ok going the wrong way; as you're making the kimono in 1 piece the back of it will have the pattern going the wrong way. I chose this gorgeous printed satin. If you're unsure of what's best go to your local Hickeys and have a chat to one of our staff who will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Basically you're going to be cutting your fabric into a T shape and then sewing along the edges of that "T" before creating an opening
To figure out where to cut your fabric along the length, measure around your widest part (usually the hips), divide that by 4 and add 2 cm on for some ease and seam allowance (4cm if you plan on wearing it belted as a dress to allow it to overlap). In my case the widest part was 120cm all around, so divided by 4 that gives me 30cm and then adding 2 for ease and seam allowance I'm cutting my folded fabric at 32cm.
This is probably the most time consuming part of the make but is definitely worth doing properly - oh and you're probably going to burn your fingertips with the iron at least once (or maybe I'm just a klutz).
That's you basically done, give everything one last press and get ready for the compliments to flood in!
This geo print jersey has a really nice drape, the beauty of this jersey one is that I didn't even have to hem it, as the jersey itself created a nice, clean edge. When sewing the jersey just use an overedge stitch to sew the edges together, which will give a nice edge to your jersey and will prevent the seams puckering.
A Starter Kit…
If you have clicked onto this post you are likely to be a novice or a beginner here in the world of sewing and dress making. If that is the case- welcome! Congratulations, you have taken the first step towards developing a skill you can use forever. Something I have learned from my mother is- as a beginner, do not dive in head first. Start small. Otherwise you will get frustrated and give up before you’ve even begun. Here is a list of things you’ll need to get started…
There are two pairs of scissors you will need in your kit. The first, shears or dressmaking scissors. They will make your future dress making projects a whole lot easier provided you choose the right pair. They don’t have to be an investment, but a great investment they will be! Both are designed to make the cutting of fabric a less laborious task, their handles allow for you to get a good grip and really control the cutting, and their sharp blades result in the fabric having a clean cut. You should choose them carefully, as you may find that some are very heavy whilst others too light. It’s personal preference. One thing you will hear time and time again from dress makers is do not, I repeat DO NOT use them to cut paper. Paper will blunt the blades, and therefore render them useless when it comes to the task of cutting fabric. Fabric only, people.
A set of small embroidery scissors is the second pair you will think a handy tool to have, for the likes of cutting thread. A little less clunky and pretty reasonable value.
Thread can vary, and depending on the project you may need to select accordingly. A great starter addition to your kit would either be cotton or polyester (or both). Cotton is versatile and comes in different finishes, it can withstand a lot of heat from the iron and runs smoothly through fabrics, particularly natural fabrics. Polyester is great because it works well with all fabrics and has great longevity- it washes well and keeps its colour. An important thing to consider when buying thread, is to know your thread. You should test it before using it in a machine, as a dodgy thread could cause damage. Tip- when pulled tightly, thread should snap before you cut your fingers. If it doesn’t then consider your machine, if it gets caught will it snap the needle or cause even more damage?
Pins are a bit like hair grips, they will end up everywhere and you will always be grateful to have them at hand. Use them to hold your pattern to a fabric whilst you trace it, they are also handy when you are sewing as they can keep your fabric in place to help you sew evenly (especially as a beginner). There is a variety of pins available, and standard steel pins would be a good place to start. They may not look as decorative, but for sewing tasks they will be versatile and easy to use on most fabrics. An adorable pin cushion will brighten up your sewing area too!
Hand sewing needles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they all have their uses. It can be daunting to know which one to choose, so be advised to go for a general pack. It has a few different lengths and types, so that you can find what suits you best dependent on the project at hand.
Sharps Needle: When in doubt, choose a Sharps needle. Very sharp (as the name suggests) and used for all general sewing projects. A good one for beginners as it will be able to tackle most beginner projects such as your first attempt at free hand embroidery!
Quilting Needle: Its has a short length which allows you to stitch faster than you may with a normal sized needle.
Embroidery Needle: Similar to a Sharps, except with a longer eye which will make threading the thicker embroidery thread a little easier for you.
Knitters or Ballpoint: Both are great for knit fabrics, the rounded edge goes around the yarn rather than breaking through it and potentially damaging your handiwork. Knitters are for hand sewing, closing the seams on your knitting projects, whereas Ballpoint is a machine needle, great for knit fabrics such as jersey.
We have a great selection of pins and needles available online and in store.
Provided you are confident that dressmaking or sewing is something you really have an interest in, it’s time to invest in a machine. We here at Hickeys are big fans of the Brother machines. With a starter machine, the more basic the machine, the less chance you have of overcomplicating your projects. The Brother LS14S is affordable as far as machines go and it is a great starter machine. Easy to use, a nice size and it covers all the basics. It comes with a DVD to show you how to use your machine and they have a YouTube channel that will show you all of their top tips and tricks. With an LS14S, even if all you end up doing in your sewing career is turning up your trousers, it will be money well spent.
Now that you have committed to a machine, you are raring to go and create magic. This is great! But you need to practice first. You need to get to know your machine, which means sitting in front of it and trying out all the settings. Try every stitch, get used to working the reverse stitch button, find the speed that suits you on the pedal. You will be grateful that you took the time to practice, it will make creating your first garment a far less daunting task.
When cutting out a fabric, this tool could be your best friend. Trace around your pattern onto the fabric with tailor’s chalk and it will make your life a whole lot easier. You could get a little more technical by using a blunt tracing wheel and some carbon sheets but really it is not necessary when you are learning- leave it to the pro’s for now.
Tailors chalk doesn’t have to be boring! Go for a lucky dip, you could get a red, yellow or blue Tailors Chalk – the excitement!
Even the best of the best dressmakers will make the occasional mistake. A stitch ripper will save you and your scissors the big task of ripping the stitches whilst also saving your fabric from damage so that you can try again!
We have a nifty little seam ripper with a rounded edge, to save your fabric from any nicks whilst ripping your stitches.
It’s easy to run away with your imagination and picture yourself creating dramatic pieces or a complex outfit, and with practice you will be able to achieve that one day. However, for now start simple. Don’t go out and buy a really difficult pattern and a really stretchy material. You might struggle and find yourself frustrated and feeling less than confident about your skills. Practice, practice and then practice some more. You should spend a while getting to know your machine before you even commit to a pattern. When you feel ready, go with a Simplicity pattern. They are very easy to follow, have some great looks and hopefully you won’t feel overwhelmed with their guidance.
If you are unsure of a pattern, pop into one of our stores! We have catalogues upon catalogues of patterns and styles to choose from. If you need help finding a fabric to suit your chosen pattern, our staff will be delighted to help you.
As the saying goes “Measure twice, cut once”, A measuring tape will save you on your mistakes (hopefully!). Soft and flexible, it will measure your curves accurately and easily. Most of them will come with both imperial and metric units, so that you can follow the sizes easily. A quick tip, make sure you replace your tape occasionally. This is as over the years, it can stretch a little when used often, your measurements may become inaccurate, even if you measure thrice!
So, you’ve collected all your bits & bobs, now you need somewhere to store it all! Sure, you could have it all stashed away in a drawer, but where’s the fun in that?! We have a great variety of little and large sewing baskets. Most sewing baskets will contain a removable compartment, acting as a little shelf for the smaller items in your kit. Sewing baskets also usually contain a small pin cushion for you to use while working away on your projects, as well as a little pocket often useful for the sharp embroidery scissors. Half the fun of a sewing basket is the choice in colours and patterns, so get choosing!
At this point, you should be kitted out and raring to create. If so, fantastic news! Use #HickeysFabrics in your social media posts so we can check out all your creative crafty bits and bobs- we can’t wait to see them! If you need any further assistance in your crafting career, why not pop into your local Home Focus or Hickeys Fabrics store? Our lovely staff will be delighted to help you with any queries you may have. We also host a range of Free Craft Demonstrations, no sign up required, just come along and be immersed in the crafting world. Happy Crafting!