Make Your Own Shoulder Pads: Tutorial

Happy Wednesday, sweet peas!

I thought that I would take a break from working on my newest sewing projects to write up a short tutorial on how to make the queen of all retro garment features – shoulder pads! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that shoulder pads live and die with ’80s fashion. Journey back a few more decades and shoulder pads were all the rage, as evidenced by my recent Big Vintage Sew-along make. V9127 was, in fact, my first run-in with real life shoulder pads and, despite my fears that they would give me an American football player vibe, they elevated the 1930s silhouette to a totally new level of authenticity. And, believe it or not, they are so easy to make from scratch.

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I worked with a pattern provided through V9127. But after measuring up and reading through my various sewing manuals, I’ve managed to condense the process into a few simple steps that should be workable for any garment.

What You Need:

  • Cotton Batting – I got a pack of 45″ x 60″ from Sew Essential which worked perfectly.
  • Lining Material
  • Thread and an embroidery needle

1. Measure Your Seams and Make Your Pattern

The key measurement that you’ll need for this project is the length of your shoulder seam – from neck to arm hole. You’ll want to take about half an inch off of this measurement as the total width of your shoulder pad (so, if your shoulder seam is 4.5 inches, you’ll be working towards a 4 inch wide shoulder pad).

Once you have this measurement, you’ll need to construct your pattern pieces. The first thing you’ll need is a circular base – draw a circle that is twice the length of your intended shoulder pad width (so, using the measurements above, your circle would have a diameter of 8 inches, and a radius of 4 inches).

Now for the confusing bit. You will need 4 semi-circles of decreasing size, with the first the same diameter and radius as the circle you’ve already made. The next three will be 1 inch smaller in diameter (essentially taking 0.5 inches off of either side of the diameter – when we place the pieces together, you’ll see the importance) and 0.5 inch smaller in radius than the previous.

So working with the above measurements, your first (and largest) semi-circle would have an 8 inch diameter and 4 inch radius. Your next largest would have a 7 inch diameter and a 3.5 inch radius. Your next semi-circle would have a 6 inch diameter and a 3 inch radius. And your final, smallest semi-circle would have a 5 inch diameter and a 2.5 inch radius.

Ultimately, you should wind up with a set of pattern pieces that looks something like this:

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2. Cut Everything Out

Pop your pattern pieces on the cotton batting and cut out. Remember that you’ll need two of each piece, since you’ll (hopefully) be making two shoulder pads!

You’ll also need to cut out two pieces of lining fabric that you will use to cover your shoulder pad. You can use the large circular pattern piece to do this but will want to make these pieces of fabric a little bigger than the base piece. This is because the lining will need to cover the shoulder pad and be stitched down (so essentially, you need a seam allowance) – I would suggest adding about 0.5 inch total to the diameter of the circle for this purpose.

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3. Pin Your Pieces Together

This is super easy. Start with the circle as your base. And proceed to place each semi-circle along the diameter of this circle, lining them up so that they are stacked pretty centrally. You’re basically constructing a tower out of your pieces. Once pinned in place, it should look something like this:

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4. Stitch The Pieces Together

You’ll need a thickish needle and any spare thread that you have lying around. Then work your way around the outer-edge of each semi-circle, stitching it down to those underneath. You can use any kind of stitch that works for you, as long as it’s secure. I used a basic cross stitch.

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5. Fold And Cover

Now you need to fold the loose half of the circle over and place the padding on top of you lining fabric, ready for stitching.

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6. Machine Stitch The Lining Over The Padding

Fold the lining over the top of the padding and pin down. You’ll then need to stitch around the edge, keeping nice and close to the padding, using whatever seam allowance you gave yourself when cutting out the lining fabric. I would suggest doing an additional line of stitching close to the edge of the seam allowance, for extra security. You could also use a bias binding on this outer edge if you’re concerned about fraying.

The finished product should look like a cornish pasty!

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7. Insert Into Your Garment

Place the shoulder pad along your shoulder seam so that the width of the pad runs centrally along the seam. You can then hand stitch along the seam, securing the shoulder pad in place, and keeping the stitches invisible by using the ditch that already exists. It’s also a good idea to tack the corners down somewhere – this will depend upon the shape of the garment, but tacking to the armholes is a good method. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t want to do this, it’ll just mean rummaging inside your dress/jacket when you put it on so that you can get the shoulder pads in the right place.

8. Be Bold, Bright, and Very Boxy!

Wooohooo! You’re done! And now you can rock that vintage style with appropriately square shoulders. Enjoy!

New Project: 1950s Unique Chic

Happy Thursday, sweet ones!

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments on my dress for the Big Vintage Sew-along. I couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out and hearing such super kind feedback has been incredible. As long-time readers of Sew for Victory will know, I have a true soft-spot for late 1930s style and Vogue 9217 was the perfect make to really show off what the era has to offer in the way of fashion.

Working so hard on the Big Vintage Sew-along dress has left me a little drained. Managing such a big project on top of the PhD and general life tasks (eating, sleeping, and talking to my fiancé are obviously important things) was definitely a challenge. But I’m also determined to capitalise on the momentum I’m feeling and have been trying to seek out the perfect project to reinvigorate me with sewing energy. Fortunately, I went to my most faithful source of incredible vintage patterns and found just the right make – Decades of Style’s Objet d’Art dress.

objet d'art dress

Beautiful, right? I’m really excited to give this pattern a go and I think it will result in a real statement piece, similar to the company’s Belle Curve dress.

I also had some really good fortune in July, winning a prize via the July Vintage Pledge organised on Instagram by Stitch Odyssey and Kestrel Makes. My darting detail on the Belle Curve dress won me a £30 gift voucher for The Splendid Stitch – an incredible online shop, stocking gorgeous fabrics and sewing knick-knacks. Searching through the stock of fabrics, I happened on the perfect fabric for the Objet d’Art dress – a blue, white and navy shirting that will really help accentuate the collar and pocket detailing on the pattern.

Fabric

I’m really excited to get started on this one. Stay tuned for the finished product!

Big Vintage Sew-along: My Make

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The day is finally here. After many hours of plotting, planning, and making, I can actually reveal my make for the Big Vintage Sew-along! Presenting my version of Vogue 9217:

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When browsing the selection of patterns for the Big Vintage Sew-along, this 1939 design immediately struck me as the most interesting and unique. I adored the structure of the garment and the fabulous panelling. Although I anticipated that this might be quite a complex make, I figured that it would give me a valuable opportunity to learn some new skills and put my own twist on the pattern.

I knew immediately that I wanted to make this pattern in a way that emphasised the unique shape of the dress. The examples provided by the drawings on the pattern sleeve and the photos on the website were all made up in one colour – although beautiful, this approach makes it difficult to see the fabulous design of the panels. I decided straight away that I wanted to have a go at using a contrast piping down the seams to really play with the shape. And I thought a sailor vibe with the colours would really give the dress a little extra va-va-voom.

Although adding the piping was pretty complex (the panels are sewn overlapping, rather than with traditional seams), it was worth the extra effort. Not only does it really elevate the dress to a truly unique piece, I think it successfully shows off those swerves and curves. I totally adore it. And I selected exactly the right fabrics, with both main fabric and piping fabric from Sew Over It’s collection of crepes (in this case, navy blue and red).

I added some extra contrast details to pull the piece together, using notions kindly provided by Sew Essential. The white buttons really bring home the sailor theme – emphasised by the fabulous 1930s dress gloves that I found in a vintage charity shop. I also put in a red zip to tie in with the piping. The pattern comes with a couple of options for belting – I opted to go with a sewn-in belt, so that I could cinch my waist. I found that doing this and piping the panel at the top of my back gave the dress added impact when viewed from behind.

One thing I loved about this pattern was the feeling of authenticity. Instead of a zip, the pattern gives an opportunity to use hook-and-eyes. I also got to make my own shoulder pads for the first time ever (a tutorial on this will be coming soon). I was a little concerned that the shoulder pads would make the dress look too boxy but, in the end, they gave the dress a truly 1930s silhouette. Delicious!

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My experience with this pattern had its ups and downs. I’ve only been sewing for about a year, so I’m still finding that every new pattern introduces me to skills that I haven’t yet developed. This pattern threw A LOT of new skills at me – added to which I’d already decided to take a chance with the piping. Fitting the panels together and making the front pieces symmetrical was a challenge. But I found that taking a slow and steady approach really benefitted me and allowed me to keep the patience needed to turn the piece into something great. There was nothing here that totally exceeded my abilities and ultimately the pattern turned out a gorgeously authentic 1930s dress that gives me a huge amount of pride.

I would absolutely recommend this pattern to anyone wanting to get involved with the Big Vintage Sew-along. In addition to contributing to a wonderful cause (pattern profits go to The Eve Appeal), this dress gives a real feel for vintage style. While I would caution beginners to take this piece slowly, it is well worth the extra time and effort required to develop the needed skills. So take this pattern, get creative, and venture into the 1930s!

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Inspire a Style: Gene Kelly

Gene Bow Tie

Since starting Sew for Victory, one of the most consistent questions I get is about the origins of my love of vintage style. Obviously the word ‘vintage’ means different things to different people. For me, it’s representative of various eras – although the 1940s is where I find most of my inspiration. One thing I consistently associate with the idea of ‘vintage’ as a style and a lifestyle are the classic films that brought me to a love for these periods long past. Of all the stars in all the films, it is Gene Kelly who taught me that 1940s Hollywood isn’t something that has to remain solely on my TV.

Who?

Many of you will already be well acquainted with Gene Kelly. Born Eugene Curran Kelly in 1912, Gene was not originally destined to grace Hollywood with his incredible dancing and acting skills. He studied economics and law at university, eventually dropping out to teach dance and work as an entertainer. After a stint on the stage, it wasn’t until 1941 that Gene gained a contract with Hollywood giant MGM. His first starring role was alongside Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal. From here, he eased into a lucrative film career, perhaps best known for his roles in An American in Paris (1951) and  Singin’ In The Rain (1952).

Gene’s incredible dancing skills – putting him up alongside Fred Astaire as one of the greatest dancers in Hollywood – and his easy charm turned him into a Hollywood legend. His athleticism is absolutely clear to anyone who watches his films. As the era of Hollywood musicals faded so too did Gene’s career at the heart of the film empire. But he had firmly embedded his name in the history of 20th century film. He died in 1996, aged 83.

Gene Dance

Why?

It is obviously a little out of left-field for me to pick a man as a style inspiration. One of the clearest principles of style from the 1940s – and other ‘vintage’ periods – is an obvious distinction between genders. However, we are now firmly in an era where these restrictions do not (and should not) apply. It is always a good idea to look outside of your conventional boxes and see what you might find!

To me, Gene Kelly is totally representative of the 1940s Hollywood fashion of the male film stars. Smart and refined, this is a style that is all about clean lines, high-waisted trousers, and accessories. The use of accessories by men (tie clips, bow ties, caps) has seen something of a resurgence over recent years, albeit by a select part of the population. When we look back to the male film stars of the 1940s, it becomes clear from where this resurgence finds its inspiration.

Beyond this, what I really love about Gene Kelly’s style is the fact that – even with its refinement and elegance – there is an easy-going fun that you can’t escape. Perhaps it is partly in the attitude of the characters he plays, or the fact that he can’t go five minutes without breaking into song and dance, but this is a style of almost lazy chicness. Gene Kelly is the epitome of ‘wear the clothes, don’t let them wear you’. And that fact is sufficient to warrant him a place as a true style inspiration.

Gene Sailor On the Town

Gene Kelly in 1949 musical ‘On the Town’

What?

So where to start in replicating this style? Apart from whipping up your own tuxedo (no easy feat, I’m sure), there are a few key ways in which its possible to draw some direct inspiration from the gorgeous Gene Kelly.

One core part of Gene Kelly’s wardrobe is a blazer-style jacket. Made up in linen and paired with a waistcoat, this would be the perfect addition to any 1940s garment line-up. Burdastyle’s 01/2014 #125 blazer pattern is a wonderful example of a 1940s style blazer pattern, with a fabulous front chain fastening as an added vintage detail. If you decide to go this route, be sure to join Male Devon Sewing’s #blazerof2016 challenge and bring Gene Kelly’s fashion legacy fully into the modern age!

For waistcoats, you needn’t look further than Simplicity 4762 for a variety of options. If you have a penchant for knitting needles, you could go a step further and whip up a cashmere or wool slipover (also known as a sweater vest). Free Vintage Knitting provides a variety of vintage knitting patterns for men’s vests. Worn with a collared shirt and a pair of wide legged trousers, you really don’t get much more 1940s!

Finally, make sure to take a look at my bow tie tutorial for a quick and easy route to making up your own personalised bow ties. Bow ties are such an effective way to add that vintage style to any outfit and are definitely the fastest way to replicate Gene Kelly’s fabulous style with your own crafting skills.

Gene Flat Cap

So whether you’re searching out this style for your fella or yourself, be sure to remember that everything should be done with a light touch and a light heart. Watch Singin’ In The Rain while you sew and I guarantee that lightness won’t be far beyond your reach.

“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams. And I know if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or running through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man.”

– Gene Kelly (1912 – 1996)

New Project!

Happy Monday, lovelies!

What a rainy couple of weeks it’s been since I last checked in. The lack of proper summer weather has left my most recent makes relatively untouched. Here’s hoping that July brings us some sunshine and a chance to whip out my petticoats and circle skirts!

I thought it was about time to check in with you all and clue you in on my current projects. Unfortunately, information will be limited since I’m working on my dress for the Big Vintage Sewalong! While I can’t show you the pattern until my final product post on August 5th, I thought I would give a sneak peek of my beautiful fabric!

Right now, I’m working on a wearable muslin of the dress – made using the brown polka dot cotton you can see in the photo (purchased at Walthamstow). This is by no means the ideal fabric to use a- it’s a little stiff for the pattern. However, it’s more than adequate to gauge fit and should turn out a cute dress.

The finished and featured dress will be made using the navy blue crepe, with the red crepe serving for some piping detail. As you will see from the finished product, this is a pattern with truly unique features and the piping should (hopefully) help to highlight the shape of the dress. The crepe fabrics were both purchased from Sew Over It.

While you wait to check out the finished garment on August 5th, take a look at the Big Vintage Sewalong website in order to see all of the available patterns. You can also look at the back catalogue of Love Sewing magazine for their feature on the Sewalong!

I’ll be back in a few days with a new Inspire A Style post. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

The Veronika Skirt

Happy Sunday, sweetpeas!

I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks sorting through my current/future sewing projects and figuring out how I’m going to get to everything. For the next month or so, I’ll be devoting myself to the Big Vintage Sewalong project – the post will be coming on August 5th. In the meantime, I’m hoping to get a couple of simple makes done, but will keep the Sew for Victory posts regular with a series of vintage-inspired blogs. So keep your eyes out for those!

Since wrapping up the Betty dress, I’ve been looking to make another circle skirt. Partly because they’re gorgeous, but also because I wanted more excuses to wear my petticoat! After searching around a bit, I stumbled upon a free pattern (subject to signing up for the site newsletter) from Megan Nielsen – the Veronika skirt. The pattern comes with a variety of options, including a fabulous scalloped pocket detail. But, with my limited fabric, I decided to go with the simplest option – a normal circle skirt with a narrow waistband.

This was insanely easy to make and was done in a matter of hours. The only time consuming part was, once again, the hemming. Just take a few breaks to make sure that all that steaming and pressing doesn’t make you faint! The pattern itself was easy to use, with clear instructions, and the final product is exactly what you would expect from a circle skirt.

I actually found that the skirt came out much fuller than the one on the Betty dress, which makes it work excellently as a separate piece – although this could be a consequence of using a starchier fabric. In this instance, the skirt was made up from a cotton poplin that I bought from Walthamstow Market. The floral design works well with a simple, plain top – I have a Vogue pattern for a simple sleeveless blouse that I’m planning on making to pair with this skirt.

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So head over to Megan Nielsen’s website and have a browse of the several free patterns. Then make a circle skirt and spend even more time annoying your partner/friend/child/stranger by refusing to do anything but spin around! Trust me, your life will be infinitely better for it.

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The Betty Dress

Happy Wednesday, sweeties!

I spent the bank holiday weekend in a real bout of sewing productivity. With two months still to go until my Big Vintage Sew-along post, I’d been searching around for a relatively quick project to whip up before getting started. Fortunately, I had some fabric left over from my trip to Walthamstow market and so I decided to have a go at the Betty dress from Sew Over It. The final product is just gorgeous!

I’ve paired the dress with these gorgeous heels from ModCloth.

I’ve worked with Sew Over It before and found their patterns extremely easy to use. The instructions are incredibly clear, with a helpful glossary of terms at the front to help any sewing newbies. The Betty dress was no exception to this. The pattern was flawless and easy to modify sizes (I graded out at the waist slightly). The only issue I had with sizing was a lot of gape at the top of the back. This was easily fixed by removing the zip and bringing the fabric it in a bit. I’m not sure whether I hadn’t cut the pattern pieces out correctly – I’ve never had a problem with sizing the bust before. But it was a problem easily solved and the back came out perfectly, with a gorgeous deep V.

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I used a simple cotton fabric (you can see the heart detailing in the photo above). Cotton was perfect to work with on this garment – it made the whole piece really easy to sew and meant that I whipped it up in no time.

Having never made a circle skirt before, I had no idea how much fabric it would take up. And of course, this means that hemming is a pain in the neck. But it’s so worth it.

I bought an underskirt from Amazon for £10 and it totally transformed the dress into a true 1950s look. The dress looks great without it, but I would definitely recommend adding a net petticoat to take advantage of the volume of the skirt. It also means you can swoosh around and ruffle the dress while pretending to be a can-can dancer (not that I did this, of course).

I have so much love for this dress and I’ll definitely be making other versions of it in future. For now though, I’m off to ruffle my skirts some more!

 

My Sewing Story: The Most Honest Post I’ve Written

This is a post that I’ve had churning around in my mind for a while. But every time I sit down to write it, something stops me from hitting the ‘publish’ button. At first, it was a fear that being too honest – as I’m about to be – would turn people off of Sew for Victory. After all, I told myself, this is a blog about sewing and vintage style – it’s not a place to get heavy. The second excuse was to do with knowing that various family members and friends read this, all of whom I love and I know will find this post difficult to read (*fair warning, lovely family and friends*). The third excuse was simply that I wasn’t feeling all that sure how to write so personally about myself and my life without becoming totally incoherent (I’m still not sure, so be prepared if you decide to stick with me). Today, sitting here at my laptop, something clicked in my brain and those excuses became irrelevant. I’ll try my best to explain.

Sew for Victory is something into which I have poured my heart and soul. I work hard to be honest and I feel that the blog really is a reflection of who I am. I write like I talk and always about things that I find interesting. When it comes to sewing, I still consider myself an amateur and I try to make sure that my posts reflect both my successes and failures as I try to learn the craft. But more than that, Sew for Victory represents a turning point in my life.

Before starting the blog, I was coming out of a period of major depression. Severe anxiety and extreme pessimism have been plagues in my life for as long as I can remember. I mark my teenage years not according to the traditional milestones but rather according to what earth-shattering and all-consuming fear was preoccupying me at that time. Fortunately, I always did well academically and I poured myself entirely into school, then undergrad, then postgrad, and then PhD. My academics became my escape. But my mental health issues also left me with a real soul-gnawing desire to help people in my own limited way – to try and solve problems, finding solutions to help people to a better life. This sounds like a grand claim, but it’s genuinely what underpinned my motivation to get into human rights work and, ultimately, look to a future where I could spread these ideals to generations of students. I lived for my work for a long time and I still do. But days of reading about the worst atrocities you can imagine obviously took their toll on me. About half way through my PhD, I totally broke down. I was suicidal, self-harming, and feeling just about as hopeless as I think it’s possible to be. All of this was served with an undertone of “how can I possibly feel so hopeless when I have so much in my life?” But as you’ll know if you’ve ever suffered with the same illness, depression doesn’t care how much you have going for you. It feeds on this and everything else.

Fortunately, after the intervention of an amazing doctor, an incredible fiancé, and some spectacular family, I found myself on the mend. I spent so many nights hoping that I would wake up and find myself automatically fixed. But, as I reluctantly discovered, recovery from this sort of stuff is slow and difficult. It requires persistence and a willingness to confront some uncomfortable truths. For me, one of the key things I realised was just how fully I’d given my identity over to my studies. To avoid being totally driven under by the anxiety, I’d had to find a purpose. I found that purpose in human rights and academia. But I knew that, in order to recover fully and avoid relapsing, I would need to get to know myself properly. It was this particular part of my journey that brought me to the sewing machine.

Before my recovery, I had never even glanced the way of a sewing machine. My only memory of attempting to sew was from a secondary school class and my all-consuming fear that I would sew through my fingers. I’m still not entirely sure what it was that made me decide to take on sewing as a way to help me through my battle. I had never seen my relatives sew (at least, I have no memory of it), I hadn’t seen the Great British Sewing Bee, and I didn’t own any sewing equipment. What I did possess was a deep love for the 1940s – films, fashion, books, everything. This, paired with a desire to find anything to occupy my mind, is probably the combination of factors that made me pick up a needle and get to work. I started Sew for Victory almost immediately. I knew that I would need help from a knowledgeable community, but I also wanted a concrete log of how my skills developed as I progressed. I never had any real expectation of any one reading my posts and it took me a while to even tell my family that the site existed. But as I went along, building my skills, I found unexpectedly that I was also growing in self confidence. I was watching myself create beautiful garments out of slabs of fabric. I was looking in the mirror and finding that I no longer looked pale and drained. I realised that, actually, I’m not too bad at this sewing thing.

Sewing was by no means a magic solution for me. It was paired with medication, yoga, support from family and friends, and a lot of self help books. But it was the main avenue through which I was able to work on that journey of self discovery (as cliche as it sounds) that I so desperately needed. I think I’ve learnt more about myself over the past year than in all the previous 26 years of my life. The work is definitely not done. But I’m in the midst of a period of feeling better than I ever have. And discovering a new passion – particularly one that lets me watch myself create something from nothing – is a huge reason for that.

So, why the post? Partly because I still haven’t let go. I want to move forward and I truly believe that, in all parts of life, honesty is usually the best policy. Writing this post is better than living with a feeling that I was never totally honest about why Sew for Victory exists and how my sewing journey began. Today was one of my harder days. This post is a way of showing myself that those hard days are not part of a pattern from the past (just the fact that I’m writing this is testament to that!). But this post is also about staying true to one of the other intentions behind Sew for Victory. I wanted a blog that would be helpful to people starting out on their sewing journey. I hoped that, in reading about my successes and failures, they might find some consolation and advice. I guess it is more apparent to me now that this motivation should extend to more than just tips about sewing with stretch fabric (still my nemesis). I want you all to come to Sew for Victory for the sewing and the tid-bits of information about the vintage world. But I also want you to come here because you feel that you are seeing something honest and real. This site is not an encyclopaedia. Nor was it created to massage my ego. Most people create blogs so that they can find a community and make a connection to people they wouldn’t otherwise meet. That’s true for me too. If this post can make you feel that you know me a little better, or help you in any way if you are battling with difficult times, then it has done its job.

I promise that normal service will now resume and we will be back to talking about all things sewing and vintage-related. But I want to leave off by thanking each and every one of you. I might not know you, or even know your name, but the fact that you are here is just one thing that has helped me get back on my feet. Every comment, tweet, email, and view has meant more to me than I can possibly put across to you in words. You are all spectacular and I can’t wait to continue my journey alongside you.

Much love to you all xx

#mmmay2016

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It’s Me Made May! I know I’m a little late to the party – blame my trip and last minute packing adventure. Only 10 days left, so don’t forget to dig out your most beautiful handmade pieces and take a snap in them!

In this photo, I’m sporting my Great British Sewing Bee vintage blouse. To read about this make, just hop on the My Makes page!

How To Make a Bow Tie – Tutorial

Happy Sunday, lovelies – and a happy Mother’s Day to those of you in the US!

My brother finally arrived into town on Friday, motivating me to get the bow ties sewn and finished up. Fortunately, they went down very well, making the effort more than worth it!

In the end, I referenced a few different tutorials and found that I had to muddle them together in order to get the best results. For those of you who are interested in making this simple, but truly effective, nod to vintage fashion, the rest of this post is a tutorial detailing the steps that worked for me.

Pattern:

  • I used the Men’s Bow Tie pattern from Sew Like My Mom, available for free through Craftsy.

Materials:

  • 1/2 yard (or 1/2 metre) of fabric – this should be a medium weight fabric and non-stretchy. I used cotton poplin.
  • 1/2 yard (or 1/2 metre) of medium-weight, iron-on interfacing
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Fabric marker (tailor’s chalk, or even a biro will do – shock horror!)
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Fabric scissors
  • Chopstick/blunt ended skewer/knitting needle

Instructions:

Step 1

Step 1

Cut out your pattern pieces (fabric and interfacing). If you use the pattern I linked to above, cut out all pieces on the fold of the fabric (despite what it says on the pattern). This will leave you with two pattern pieces from your fabric, and two matching pieces of interfacing.

Step 2

Step 2

Pin your interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric pieces and iron on. Be careful not to get the interfacing glue on the ironing board (and don’t, as I did, iron over your plastic pin heads and melt them).

Step 3

Step 3

Pin your fabric pieces together, right sides together.

Step 4

Step 4

At the centre of the length of your bow tie, make marks 7cm apart (that’s roughly 3 inches). This will serve as a gap for pulling your bow tie through to the right side.

Step 5

Starting at one of your marks, sew around the length of the bow tie, leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance. If it helps, mark the seam allowance prior to sewing. When you reach the corners of the bow, raise the foot and pivot to help keep an accurate seam. Finish sewing when you reach your second mark (preserving the gap).

Step 6

Step 8

Snip off the corners of the bow tie and cut notches around its length (without cutting through the seam line!). Try to keep the notches as equal distance as possible from one another. This will help the bow tie lie flat when you turn it the right way round. I won’t lie, this was by far the most time consuming part of the whole process. But it’s unavoidable if you want the finished product to look as crisp and shapely as possible.

Step 7

Step 9

Now for the tricky part! Start feeding the ends of you bow tie through the gap that you left open. It can take a while, particularly since the length of the tie is so narrow in comparison to the bow. Use a blunt-edged tool to help feed it through (I used the blunt end of a skewer, because I’m a scavenger when I’m in Missouri). Use the tool to help push the corners out, making sure they have a shape and definition that you’re happy with.

Step 8

Step 10

Now slip stitch the gap closed. This can be fiddly. If you aren’t sure how to slip stitch a gap like this (my previous experience was only with slip stitching a hem), take a look at this great tutorial from Professor Pincushion.

Step 9

Step 11

Iron! Now I know that this violates the law of sewing that says pressing is always the right way. But I found a method that worked excellently for getting the perfect shape: iron along the seams of the bow tie and, while still hot (not so hot that you burn yourself!), rub the seams between thumb and finger. This ensures that the bow tie doesn’t come out completely flat (it basically gives it a little volume, which helps the shape when its tied), and also gives a really defined curve to the tie and the bow.

Step 10

Step 12

Done! Enjoy your gorgeous, self-made bow tie!

*Any questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email at laura@sewforvictory.co.uk*