Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Twelve Days of Handmade Christmas - Day 4: Half-Metre Tote Bag

The fourth in our series of Twelve (non-consecutive) Days of Handmade Christmas from The Drapery. Handmade Christmas gifts are thoughtful, cost-effective and kind to the earth. And they're just as rewarding to give as they are to receive.

Half-Metre Tote Bag

Whip up this super-simple tote bag with just a half-metre cut of any 110cm fabric (e.g. quilting cotton, cotton/linen blend), plus a wee bit of interfacing. Here's how!
 With your half metre x 110cm piece, cut 10cm strips off each end, and cut the remaining part in half.
Pin the two large pieces right sides together and sew down one side, across the bottom and up the other side, about 1/2" (12mm) from the edge.

Trim the edges and finish with a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying.
At one bottom corner, open out and re-fold the point so that the seams are touching down the middle. Mark a line to sew across it about 2" from the point.

Sew, backstitching at each end, cut off the corner and zigzag along the raw edge.
Repeat for the other bottom corner.
Turn right way out and admire the squared-off bottom corners.
With bag inside-out again, fold the top edge down about 1/2" (12mm) and again about 1" (2.5cm). Topstitch.
Make your handles with the narrow strips you cut. Cut two pieces of fusible interfacing a little smaller than the fabric pieces. Centre them and iron on.
 Fold and press the edges in all around.
Fold the handle in half, matching edges carefully, and press again.
Topstitch all around.
Pin the handles in place at the top and carefully stitch on, making a rectangle and then criss-crossing through the middle.

You're finished. Make another one! Everyone can use an attractive tote bag (or several) for shopping, library books, sewing projects. It's a great stash-buster or way to use that fabric you just love but can't quite think of what to make with!

Previous Twelve Days of Handmade Christmas posts:

Linen Scarf
Felt iPad Cover
Simple Envelope-Back Cushion

- Jane & Fiona xx

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Twelve Days of Handmade Christmas - Day 3: Linen Scarf

The third in our series of Twelve (non-consecutive) Days of Handmade Christmas from The Drapery. Handmade Christmas gifts are thoughtful, cost-effective and kind to the earth. And they're just as rewarding to give as they are to receive.

Linen Scarf

We have featured these linen scarves/cowls on our blog before and they continue to be a popular option for gift-giving or a simple handmade accessory to keep for yourself! For Christmas we have made up these kits that contain all you need:

KIT -  $20 
Contains 40cm x 150cm washed linen, ball of Valdani perle cotton, hand sewing needle, instruction sheet.

In an hour or so of relaxing hand-stitching, you can have a beautifully drapey linen scarf which can be worn loose or doubled around the neck.

We love the look of the hand-stitching with perle cotton but, if you're pressed for time and would like to get a few of these whipped up for gifts (teachers? sisters? friends?), they also look fabulous simply stitched on the machine. So if you don't need the whole kit, we can cut your selection of washed linen in store.

Or how about giving a kit as a gift? Anyone who can thread a needle and make a simple stitch can make one of these scarves. 

See our other Twelve Days of Handmade Christmas ideas here:
Felt iPad Cover
Simple Envelope-Back Cushion

Sew, sew, sew... it's Christmas time! (Sorry...)

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Twelve Days of Handmade Christmas - Day 2: Felt iPad Cover

The second in our series of Twelve (non-consecutive) Days of Handmade Christmas from The Drapery. Handmade Christmas gifts are thoughtful, cost-effective and kind to the earth. And they're just as rewarding to give as they are to receive.


26 x 45cm piece of thick felt (we used our new 3mm thick 100% pure new wool felt which we have in store in a range of colours)
110cm Twill Tape (also in store)
Cotton thread, sewing machine, pins or clips, scissors.

Our iPad case was made for a tablet measuring 20 x 25cm, so measure yours up to get the right fit. This is such a quick project to make, and the thick wool felt makes the case really quite substantial. The same method with different measurements would make a great phone or camera cover, too.

•  Pin 3cm of the end of the twill tape in the centre of the shortest edge of your felt piece. The rest of the twill tape should be trailing off in the opposite direction to the piece of felt.
• Machine sew the tape to the felt using a cross pattern for extra strength.

• Fold the felt along its longest side to make a tablet-sized wallet, leaving a 5cm section (the part with the twill tape sewn on the outside) at the top for the flap. Pin along the raw edges on both sides. We used these handy little Clover clips to get a really good grip on the thick felt, but long pins will work just fine too.

•  Sew up both sides of the wallet, back-stitching for strength at each end.

 • You might need to gently press along the folded edge to make a convincing crease.

Now just add iPad (ahem, or let the recipient add their own!)

If sewing machines aren't your thing, you could easily hand sew the edges together using a slip- or blanket-stitch with some contrasting Perle cotton. There are so many ways to vary the fastening as well - buttons with ribbon or elastic (or a simple button hole sliced through the felt), or even a velcro strip.

The total cost of this project is just under $17 - we think that makes it both a useful and affordable gift idea.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Twelve Days of Handmade Christmas - Day 1: Simple Envelope-Back Cushion

The first in our series of Twelve (non-consecutive) Days of Handmade Christmas from The Drapery. Handmade Christmas gifts are thoughtful, cost-effective and kind to the earth. And they're just as rewarding to give as they are to receive.

Simple Envelope-Back Cushion


  • 50cm cut of printed cotton or cotton/linen blend (we've used Umbrella Prints Hearts in Persimmon on Organic Cotton)
  • 50cm cut of Heavyweight Natural Linen
  • Matching cotton thread
  • 50cm square Innergreen cushion insert made from 100% recycled plastic water bottles

Cut 1 piece of your patterned fabric 50 x 50cm square for the cushion front.
Cut 2 pieces of linen 50 x 40cm for the envelope-style cushion back.

Sew a double-fold hem on one 50cm side of each piece of linen.

Lay your fabric out:
- Patterned fabric, right side up.
- First piece of linen on top, raw edges matching raw edges of patterned fabric, hem facing up.
- Second piece of linen in opposite direction, so the two hemmed edges overlap at centre.

Pin edges and sew with a 1.5cm seam all around. Trim edges with pinking shears and/or finish with a zigzag stitch to prevent unravelling. Clip the points off at corners about 5mm from stitching.

Turn cover in right way and press. Pop the insert in and you're done.

- Jane & Fiona xx

PS - you will have enough leftover fabric to make another cover!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

the heart in handmade

Christmas is approaching and we are thrilled that many of you are thinking about sewing gifts for your loved ones. Here's a couple of real stories from The Drapery that show how much handmade can really mean to people.
cushion: Hearts in Persimmon by Umbrella prints, natural linen backing, Innergreen 100% recycled insert

One day a gentleman called in and asked if we would like some fabrics that belonged to his wife. We started to explain that at the moment we don't deal in secondhand fabrics, but he said he simply wished to give them to us. He explained that his wife had recently passed away. He said she had loved sewing and was very clever at it, and that he just wanted her fabrics to go to a good home. His grief and love were obvious. Of course we would take the fabrics! (And we had a little sob after he had left.) He returned a few days later with a couple of boxes. (And after he left again we had another little sob!)

One of the fabrics was this sturdy blue-and-white check from which I have made a 'box dress' - Style D from Stylish Dress Book 2 by Yoshiko Tsukiori. I hope the lovely gentleman would be glad to know his dear wife's fabric is being put to use.

The second story happened a couple of weeks ago, when a lovely customer remarked on the old Husqvarna sewing machine we had on display. She said it made her feel teary because her mother, now a dementia patient in a nursing home, sewed for years with one just like it. Our customer had made the hard decision to let go of the machine when sorting through her mother's possessions some years ago. For old time's sake, we brought the machine's case and accessories out from our back room. When she saw the instruction manual, this lady gasped - it had her mother's handwriting inside it. The date we'd adopted the machine matched the time she had been sorting out her mother's belongings. It was not just like her mother's old machine, it was the very one. She offered to buy the machine and we gladly accepted. A daughter was reunited with her mother's sewing machine and all the beautiful memories of her mother that went with it.

She also recounted a recent event when she sewed her mother a shirt for her birthday. Her mother, who had barely spoken a word for some time, took one look and exclaimed "It's beautiful, I love it!".

We're inspired and touched by these demonstrations of the emotional connections made through the act of sewing. And we feel privileged to have played a small part in these stories.

Do you have any special memories or treasured possessions related to sewing?

Are you sewing gifts this Christmas?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Grading up the Washi Dress pattern to a larger size

The Made By Rae Washi Dress is one of our best-selling patterns at The Drapery. It's a flattering style for a great range of shapes, sizes and ages and can be made up in many different fabrics.

But what if you are outside the pattern's size range? The most important measurements with the Washi Dress are Upper Bust and Bust (full bust). The largest size - XXL - accommodates a 40 - 41" Upper Bust and 42 - 44" Bust.

Here we show you how to grade the Washi Dress pattern up.

Our example is for an Upper Bust of around 43-44" and Bust around 45 - 46".

First we made a basic muslin of the bodice in the XXL to check fit on our Washi recipient, and see how much more room was needed. (Old Ikea pillowcase = perfect muslin fabric!)

The back of the Washi Dress is cut all in once piece - bodice and skirt - so to make a muslin of just the bodice you will need to cut your pattern piece, or fold the skirt part out of the way, or trace off a separate bodice-only pattern. The side seam on your back bodice piece will need to be the same length as the side seam on your front bodice piece, once the bust dart is sewn.

When our Washi model tried the muslin on, the actual shape was good but it was a very firm fit all over, with no room at all for gathering with the back shirring. We estimated around 3 - 5" increase in the bodice width would provide her with a comfortable fit plus room to move with the back shirring. The bust dart sat too high (ideally the bust dart should sit just below and point up towards the bust apex). The bodice also needed extra length.

To grade the pattern up, we used this very helpful information found at the blog Elegant Musings. Please bear in mind we are not trained pattern-makers so we are just sharing what worked for us. Besides, if we can do it, you probably can too!

To put it simply, the bodice pattern pieces need to be cut and spread at each critical section of the bodice: armhole, shoulder and neckline. We also wanted to lengthen the bodice, so we cut horizontally and spread downwards too.

Start with your traced-off front bodice pattern piece. Place it on a larger piece of paper.
 Use a ruler to draw in your cut-and-spread lines top-to-bottom at armhole, shoulder and neckline. Since, in our case, we also wanted to add length and lower the bust dart, we have added a horizontal cut line above the bust dart.
 Cut your pattern along the lines and spread the pieces apart evenly. We have added 1cm width at each of the vertical lines and 4cm in length at the horizontal cut line. Tape the pieces down to the backing paper.
 Connect and re-draw your edge lines, smoothing out where necessary. To keep the bust dart the same size, we have shifted the end point 1cm to the left, as you can see below.
 Cut out your new pattern piece! (Wow, that's one grubby cutting mat.)
You will need to repeat the process with your back bodice pattern piece.

We added 1cm at 3 points on the front and back pattern pieces, which are both cut on the fold. Therefore in total we have added a total of 12cm (almost 5 inches) to the entire bodice measurement.

We then made a muslin of the graded-up bodice to check the fit. It was great! We simply decided to add an extra 1cm in the length adjustment (making a total of 5cm added horizontally above the bust dart).

Below you can see the original muslin laid on top of the graded up muslin.

The width adjustments then need to be added to the skirt pattern pieces. Since the skirt shape is very simple, we didn't need to make multiple cuts. In the front, to preserve the position of the pleats, we cut and added width between the outer pleat and the side seam. In the back, we simply added 3cm at the middle fold line.

If you are using all the one fabric for your Washi Dress you can then join your back bodice and skirt pattern pieces back together and cut the back all as one. We chose to make the bodice and skirt in different fabrics, so added an extra inch to the top of the skirt piece to make up the length of two 1/2 inch seam allowances at the back join.

Don't forget to also add width to your neckline facing pieces to correspond to the width you added at the bodice neckline.

And here we see the graded-up Washi Dress on its happy recipient (Jane's sister-in-law)!

Instead of shirring in the back of the dress, we made elastic casings by sewing wide bias tape on the inside along the shirring lines. We inserted 2 lengths of 1/2" elastic, so it was easy to get the right fit by adjusting the elastic. It will probably also be more durable than fine shirring elastic, for the wear and hand-washing that this dress will see when lovely sister-in-law is back home in Uganda. (Fabrics also from Uganda.)

Going through this process has certainly unlocked some of the mysteries of pattern grading for us. We hope you've found it helpful too.

- Jane & Fiona xx