Thursday, 17 November 2011

Pencil it in!

This is my take on how to make a 1950's pencil skirt....

The truly amazing Imelda May

When my sister told me that she'd booked tickets for us to see Imelda May  (love her!) next spring, I realised that there was no way that I could rock up to the gig in a boring old jeans and T- Shirt combo - so I decided to attempt to make my own 50's wiggle skirt.

This project is slightly more complex than my other projects, but it is still quite an easy one (once you get past all the mathematics...)

And this is how I did it....

These are the supplies you will need:
Pattern paper/parcel paper/newspaper
Tape measure
Dressmaker's chalk
1 zip - approximately 6 inches long 

We're going to create a single pattern piece that we will use to create three pieces of material, and we start by taking five separate measurements.  We need the measurement for the high waist (about two inches below the rib cage), the low waist ( just above the hip bone), the hips, the length between the high waist and low waist and the length between the high waist and the hips.  We also need to decide how long we want the skirt to be, which is a case of  personal choice - I like mine to be below the knee, but if you want yours to be higher it would be a good idea to measure the circumference of the area where you want the skirt to stop.

Quarter each of those measurements, apart from the last one between the high and low waist,  then add one and a half  inches seam allowance - this is going to sound excessive at this point, but there is a reason for it.

Now, we need to transfer those measurements to the pattern paper (or newspaper/parcel paper)

We're going to place four marks on the paper.  The first will be the final measurement from the high waist.  Now we need to measure down from that mark the length of the measurement from the high waist to the hips and place a temporary mark there.  We then need to add a mark from the straight edge of the paper that fits the measurement of the width of the hips, going across the temporary mark. The final mark will be the one that marks the bottom hem.  If you have a an 'above the knee' measurement, mark this point at the desired length.

We are now going to draw, freehand, the pattern shape.  You should end up with something looking like this:

And as for that massive seam allowance.... measure one inch in from the straight edge of the pattern, and draw a line from the top to the bottom of the pattern (you can make this a broken line or draw it in a different colour, if you'd prefer.)  The front of the skirt will be cut from one piece by placing the pattern on the fold, but the back will be cut from two pieces, hence the extra seam allowance.

We are now ready to cut our fabric pieces.  As this is going to be quite a tight fitting skirt we need to make sure that the width of the skirt matches with the weft of the material, so that there is still room for maneuverability.

Fold the extra inch of pattern under, pin to the folded fabric and cut out.  If you're worried about forgetting which way the pieces should be, add a pin to the top.

Cutting the back is slightly more complicated if you have printed fabric, like the one I'm using.  In order to ensure that the pattern is flowing in the same direction on the entire skirt it is imperative that one piece of the back is cut from the right side of the fabric and one is cut from the wrong side.  If this isn't done, you will end up trying to fit an upside down panel, which will lead to the skirt looking misshapen.

When you have all three pieces ready, pin them together at the side, right sides facing.

Now, pretty much every woman will need to add darting to get the skirt to fit well around the waist: this bit can be a bit awkward if you don't have a dressmaker's bodyform (which I don't!) - but you can still work out your darts with careful pinning and some chalk.

Wrap the unfinished skirt around you where you want it to sit, with the open seam at the back.  Pull the excess material to the required tightness and, carefully, pin it closed.  Now take your dressmaker's pencil/chalk and make a mark on either side of the pin.  Un-pin the skirt and measure the distance between the chalk mark and the edge of the material.  Take away half an inch for seam allowance, and divide that number by two.  This final figure is how wide your darts need to be.  The length of the dart will be the measurement from your high waist to your low waist.

To make sure that the darts will sit in the right place, measure each of the back panels and place a mark in the centre.  Divide your dart measurement in half and place the halfway point at the mark you just made.  Now place marks at the beginning and end of your dart measurement.  Now measure from the centre mark the length of the high waist/low waist measurement and place another mark at this point.

To sew the darts we need to bring the two marked points together, with the material protruding on the wrong side (inside) of the skirt.  We now need to pin towards our final mark: you will notice that the line between the points is diagonal - this is precisely what we want.  Sew along this diagonal line.

To prevent puckering of the material on the outside of the skirt, we need to sew the dart flat on the inside.  Trim off the excess material once the dart is sewn flat.

Now we are ready for the zip!

We will be creating a double hem at the top so we need to place the excess on the top of the zipper about an inch below the raw edge.  Place a mark/pin at the top and the bottom of the zip.  When we sew the back seam we will be using a basting stitch between these two marks/pins. (There is a brilliant short tutorial on zippers here if my instructions seem a little vague - the instructions start at around 3 mins.) Remember that you will need enough seem allowance for the zipper tape to latch onto.

It's time to sew up the back.  Decide how high you want your split to be (and you will need a split unless you want to shuffle around like Morticia Addams!)  Now, starting from your first mark/pin use the longest stitch available on your machine to baste the area where the zip will sit.  When you reach the bottom mark/pin switch to your regular stitch, remembering to lock the stitches at the point of change.  End the stitching where the split will begin.

Press the new seam open and pin the zipper into place.

You don't have to be this generous with the seam allowance!

WAIT!  Time to switch to one of these!  

"I came free with your machine!"

(NB the bulk of the zipper foot should sit furthest away from the zipper teeth....)

When we reach the bottom of the zip we're going to change direction, sew across the bottom of the tape and back up the other side.  Go slowly across the bottom (use the crank handle if necessary) to ensure the needle isn't under too much stress.

Once the zip is in we need to unpick the basting stitches.  A seam ripper or embroidery scissors should do the trick.

RELAX!  The hardest part is over and we're nearly done!!!

All that's left to do now is the hemming (oh, how I wish I had an overlocker....)  I usually start with the waist because it's the longest.  We need to ensure that each edge is folded under twice to minimize the risk of fraying.  And remember to switch back to the regular foot on the sewing machine!

Next we'll sew up the sides of the split, using the same technique, and finally finish with the bottom hem.

Add one slim fitting t-shirt and a waist cinching belt and you're ready to cause some mayhem!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

At the root of it

I bought some parsnips on a whim and had them languishing in the fridge for a week (whilst constantly telling myself that I was going to cook them really soon!)
Well, a few more days passed and they were still sitting there, so I wondered if this was the time to attempt making a root vegetable cake.

We hear about carrot cakes all the time, but parsnips are so much sweeter, naturally, that it seems as though parsnip cake should be the popular choice, with people only choosing carrots when the parsnips are out of season... Or something....

Anyway, here's how it's made ;-)

You will need:

2 large parsnips
1 1/2 cups of rice flour
1/2  cup of sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon 
3/4 cup flavourless oil
1/2 cup rice milk (or soy, if you prefer)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp orange essence 
1 tablespoon of agave nectar (optional)
A handful of raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
Peel the parsnips.
Mix all the dry ingredients together.
Grate the peeled parsnips directly into the dry ingredients (this takes some serious elbow grease - work those biceps!)
Add the raisins if you wish and mix so that the fruit and veg are spread evenly throughout the mixture.
Add the oil and the rice milk and mix thoroughly. The mixture will look a bit lumpy, but should still be at a cake mix consistency - don't be tempted to add more liquid to make it smooth.
Spoon the mixture into a greased, sprung cake tin and place in the bottom of the oven. 
Cook for 35 - 40 minutes.
(if your oven is a bit more compact, and you're worried about the top burning, place a piece of foil over the tin and cook for twenty minutes - remove the foil and continue to cook for the remainder of the time.)

It really is delicious!