Monthly Archives: November 2015

Sewing School – Workshops Covering Buttons and Zips!

Here at our Sewing School in Witney, in the heart of Oxfordshire, we are often asked to put on workshops that focus on the thorny issues of buttons and zips and your wish is our command, with two new workshops scheduled, covering these common sewing phobias.

The first of our new courses includes an optional button closure.  During the workshop we make a beautiful tablet or tech case, perfect for your Ipad, Kindle or other tablet device (we work from your tablet’s measurements to ensure a perfect fit!).

During the workshop we will cover choosing interfacing, pattern planning, drafting and cutting, top stitching and the all important button hole – with two options depending on how adventurous you are feeling – one with a button hole, one without, but both beautiful!

tech cover workshop

The second workshop is for a zipper pouch, two size options are available and you can add applique or handles for extra credit!

In addition to discussing interfacing, pattern drafting and cutting and box corners, we will tackle inserting a zip (it really is like riding a bike).

Once you have made one of these pouches there will be no stopping you – whether its a pencil case, make up bag or cosmetics pouch, for yourself or a craft fair, you will have the skills and confidence to get going.


We keep all our classes to a maximum of 5 people and you can choose to bring fabrics from your stash or from all the fabrics available in store.

To find out more click on the images above, or contact us at

Getting Sewing Patterns To Fit

Lots of us start sewing clothes at home in the hope that we will be able to get them to fit right. The act of sewing your own clothes is not enough to ensure a proper fit.  To do this you have to learn how to adjust sewing patterns.

Most patterns will include instructions for shortening or lengthening your patterns, but what about if you need to alter your pattern in the other direction?

One of the most useful adjustments you can learn to do, if a Full Bust Adjustment, or FBA.

Full Bust Adjustment Class
Like riding a bike, once you have done this once, you can repeat it time and time again with ease, with just the support of some good reference notes.

The very first item of clothing I made for myself was Colette’s Sorbetto vest top – I liked it sooo much, and found it so easy to make, that I started stocking the patterns in our store!  Having made one, I had the confidence to go on and adjust the pattern to take account of my bust.

Almost all sewing patterns are drawn with a B or C cup in mind, so my GGs were well off the scale!

I would encourage all of you who are above a B cup to consider learning this key skill, it will transform your wardrobe and bring you great satisfaction.  When I pop on a truly tailor-made item, so many people comment on how good I look, I haven’t lost weight, I am still a UK size 20, and I don’t have to wear ‘suck it in’ underwear, I am sure its simply down to a better fit.

We run a workshop here in Witney Oxfordshire, where you can come along and create your first properly sizes vest top in a small group, with friendly and supportive teachers working alongside you.  If you can’t make it we recommend taking a look at the resources on the website, with step by step pictures.

Click here to view information relating to our sewing school and to book a place on our next FBA workshop.

Witney’s Pop Up Fabric Shop is Back!

We are back on 21st November!

With special offers for Sewvember – this will be the last chance to stock up before Christmas!

Over 400 fabrics will be available, including Riley Blake, Michael Miller, Dashwood Studio and Kona designs/colours

We have a great selection of Christmas fabrics, some flannel for cosy pjs and haberdashery, including ribbon, ric rac, elastic, velcro, bias tape and tape makers.

Our bunting department will be open, with pre-cut triangles, specialist tape, scissors and our bunting guide.

We will have a wide selection of applique shapes in both template plastic and ready to iron onto your projects – whether it be a name to place on your bunting, or Christmas shapes for festive makes – we have them all!

The offcuts and remnants table will be back for those of you who love a rummage!

Find out more about our sewing school and see examples of our makes for those of you already curious about what we do.

pop up shop advert november

Sewing Hack – No.1 – The Humble Elastic Band!

Welcome to the first part of our occasional series on sewing hacks – little tricks and tips that will make your life as a sewer easier.

We are starting with one of our favorites – the humble elastic band.


If like me…

  • you can never quite remember which combination of needle position and line on the sewing machine plate gives you the seam allowance you need,
  • you find it hard to keep an eye on the little line on the sewing machine plate as you sew,
  • you are interrupted when sewing on a continual basis, by your adoring family, and so forget what seam allowance you are working with on your current project,

then stick an elastic band over your sewing machine arm, lining it up with your chosen seam allowance.  It will….

  • Act as a reminder of which line on your sewing machine plate you are working against.
  • Show up better than that little line on the sewing machine plate as you feed your fabric through.
  • Give you something to run the fabric up against, helping you keep it straight as you sew.

This small change, has taken sooooo much stress out of sewing for me, I give all my new Sewing School students a free elastic band when they join and strongly recommend you give it a go!

To find out more about our Sewing School, based in Witney, Oxfordshire, click here!

Quick Calico Tote with Optional Applique

calico bag tutorial
Finished size: 25cm wide x 33cm tall (10” x 13”) plus handles.


Main Bag

38.5cm x 45.5cm (15.25” x 18”) x2 in calico or other main bag fabric

15.25cm x 45.5cm (6” x 18”) x 2 in contrasting fabric (we have used Dashwood Floral Christmas fabric and Riley Blake’s Christmas Essential’s fabric).


6.35cm x 66cm (2.5” x 26”) x2 in calico or other main bag fabric PLUS x2 in contrasting fabric

Applique (Optional)

Scraps of fabric for applique shapes, for the reindeer head you need 20cm x 11cm (7.8” x 4.25”), for the two trees 10cm x 14cm (4” x 5.5”) plus 17cm x 13cm (6.75” x 5”) plus a scrap for the star.

Heat n Bond Adhesive, sufficient to iron on to the back of the fabric scraps being used.



Cutting Your Main Fabric Pieces

Take one of your main bag pieces and draw 7.5cm (3”) squares in the bottom left and right corners (see image below).

Cut out the squares.

Repeat with the 2nd main piece.


Making the Straps

Iron 12mm (1/2”) seams, along the long sides of each strap piece (4 pieces in total, 2 in calico (main fabric), 2 in contrasting fabric).

Pin two strap pieces together, one in the main fabric, one in the contrasting fabric, wrong sides facing each other, and top stitch, 6mm (1/4”) in from the outside edge, on both long sides.

Repeat with the second pair of strap pieces.


The Main Bag

Iron a 2cm (¾”) hem onto the back of one of the contrasting pieces of fabric, along one long edge.

Place this piece of fabric on top of a main fabric piece, right sides facing each other, so that the un-folded edge of the contrasting fabric is lined up with the top of the main bag piece. Pin into place.

Sew together using a 12mm (1/2”) seam allowance.

Iron, pushing the seam allowance onto the contrasting fabric side of the seam line.

attaching contrasting-fabric-calico-tote-bag-sewing-tutorial
Repeat with the second main and contrasting fabric pieces.


Attaching the Handles

Unfold the top of one of the main fabric pieces.  Pin a handle into place, so that:

  • the raw edges of the handles are lined up with the raw edges of the main piece,
  • each handle starts 12.5cm (5”) in from the closest left or right edge,
  • you are looking at the contrasting fabric side of the strap (see images below).

Sew 6mm (¼”) seam across the top of the handle to hold the ends in place.


Turn the fabric over and fold the contrasting fabric section down, so that 6.5cm (2.5”) of the fabric is folded onto the back (measuring from the top fold line down to the bottom fold line – see images below).

Iron the new top crease line into place.  Fold the handle up so that it sticks out of the top of the bag, making sure the handles are straight and the crease lines at each end of handle line up with the existing crease line at the bottom of the contrasting fabric (see images below) – pin into place.

Turn the fabric back over and sew ‘in the ditch’ (along the seam line between the main bag fabric and contrasting fabric).


Take out the pins and press.

Looking at the back of the bag piece, pin the handles back into place.  Top stitch 6mm (1/4”) in from the top edge, all the way along the top of the bag piece, securing the handle in place.

Repeat these steps with the second bag piece and handle.



Applique (Optional)

If you want to add applique to your bag, do it now.  The easiest method is to:

  • draw or print your images onto the back of heat n bond ultra-adhesive (the images need to be back to front),
  • cut out and iron the shapes onto the back of your applique fabric.
  • Cut out, peel the backing paper off and iron your applique onto your bag. When positioning your applique bear in mind that the left, right and bottom edges of the bag will reduce by 3 inches each ( draw an imaginary line up from, and across from, the cut out corners to see the area you are working with).

You can finish with an applique or zig-zag stitch around the edges of your shape/s, but this is purely decorative as the adhesive is permanent.



French Seams

Because this bag is unlined, we are going to use French seams when we sew the two sides together.  French seams hide all the raw edges, making for a neat finish that won’t unravel.

Pin the two main pieces of fabric together, wrong sides facing each other.

Sew a 6mm (1/4”) seam along the left, right and bottom edges, missing out the corner cut-outs (see image).

Trim the seam allowances back as far as you feel comfortable.


Turn the bag inside out and iron to ensure the seam lines are at the edges.

Pin the two sides of the bag together and sew a 12mm (1/2”) seam along each of the sides you previously sewed (left, right and bottom, missing out the cut outs on the corners).

attaching contrasting-fabric-calico-tote-bag-sewing-tutorial
Turn your bag back out, all your seams will be hidden.


Looking at the bottom left corner, push the left and bottom seam lines together, lining them up inside the bag.  Pin together and sew a 6mm (¼”) seam.

Repeat on the right corner.  Trim both seam allowances back close to the sew line, and iron to one side.

Turn your bag out, so that you are looking at the wrong side.

Looking at the bottom left corner, with the seam line at the fold, iron flat.  With the bag in this shape, pin the sides together and sew a 12mm (1/2”) seam.

Repeat on the right corner.

All your seams are now hidden and your bag is finished!

Click here for a printer-friendly version of these instructions.

Click here to download the applique templates.