How to Make a Dip Dyed Skirt

IMG_2131In my last post I explained how to make a full skirt and the instructions are here. This post features Phase 2, drawing on the skirt with a Sharpie and Phase 3, dip dying it a pretty shade of blue so that marmite, chocolate, mud and vomit won’t show up on it so much.

I found my inspiration via Pinterest at Second Chances by Susan. Here she takes a white jacket, draws flowers on it, dyes it and a tired old jacket is transformed into something beautiful!

Susan is clearly very talented at drawing. I am not. When I was a teacher, once I drew a plane and the children thought it was a dog. Knowing your limits can be useful though, because it means that you don’t try something that is beyond your capabilities. So I did not even consider drawing a work of art all over my skirt. Instead I stuck to something I knew I could draw, which was celtic inspired swirls.

Here’s how I drew them.IMG_2100IMG_2101IMG_2102IMG_2103IMG_2104IMG_2105IMG_2118

Sometimes pictures explain better than words, don’t they? For those of you who are not visual learners, it’s a spiral two and half times inwards, then back on itself, then a long kind of elephant’s trunk thing to join it to the next one. I think the pictures explain it better!

The pen bled a bit on the fabric. I thought it might as the fabric was quite thin, but I was confident that the bleeding would be less obvious once I had dyed the skirt.

Susan splodged some washable glue onto her flowers so that there would be different shades of blue there, a similar (but much easier!) technique to batik where wax is used instead of glue.

So I splodged some glue onto the middle of the spirals.IMG_2116IMG_2117

Once the glue was dry I could dip dye the skirt.

I used some Dylon djollop that makes up in cold water and takes an hour.

To achieve a graded effect, I put the top part in for 15 minutes, then put a bit more in every 10 minutes until it was all in the dye. Then I rinsed it in cold water and washed it in the washing machine and, for anybody who is worried about doing this, I’ve put two loads through the washer today and my washing is not blue.

The overall effect is a gradual lightening rather than a blockier effect. It’s also a little bit mottled in places. The dying process did not receive my full attention as I was also cooking dinner and Boy 4 was “helping”, ie turning the hob off. However, I quite like my mottled dip dyed skirt! IMG_2132

I have another packet of dye so I’m keeping an eye out for white stuff!


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How to Make a Full Skirt

IMG_2061I’ve been wanting to have a go at dip dying for a while, but as I didn’t have anything suitable languishing in the heap of clothes in the bathroom ahem, wardrobe, I’ve needed to make something. Hooray!

I decided to make a skirt partly because they are smaller and also because I have made a couple of dresses recently. I saw a lovely dip dyed full skirt somewhere in internetland so I decided to have a crack at making a similar item myself and then dying it myself.

As the only dying I have managed to do so far is spilling tea on the half finished skirt (it’s on the washing line at the moment and the stains have hopefully come out!), this post is about making the skirt and I’ll write up the dying part later in the week once I’ve had a chance to do it.

In my local fabric shop (which I avoid like the plague as I do not like going in there) I found some undyed cotton fabric perfect for the job.

I used 2.5 m and the fabric was 1.60 m wide.

This is how I made it.

I took half the fabric and folded it into four. I hacked a chunk off the bottom for the waistband… IMG_1970then on the remaining fabric I drew a vague skirt shape.IMG_1975 I folded it in half and then cut it out to ensure that the pieces were symmetrical. IMG_1974My lovely new scissors cut through it like a hot knife through butter. I was very happy just cutting! And padlocking the handles together will mean that they stay that way!

Next I sewed the pieces together. I had hoped that 4 pieces would be enough, but unfortunately I am only thin in my head (ie my mind, my head is not thin) and, as I wanted to gather it, there was not enough left over when I wrapped it round what is left of my waist. So I cut out four more pieces and sewed those on.IMG_1977

I started to gather it, but as I was concerned about adding bulk to a part of me that is already bulky, I ditched the gathers and pleated it instead. To do that, I unpicked the side seam then, starting at the middle, I folded the fabric over to the right and then back again, making pleats of 2 – 3 cm.IMG_1985 I made pleats right along both the ground section and the back. Then I checked it for size, letting some pleats out where needed. I sewed across the top of the pleats to hold them in place. I then rejoined the side seam.IMG_1991

To make the waistband, I joined the strips I’d cut from the fabric before I cut the skirt pieces to make one long strip. I folded it in half, pressed it, opened out and folded the raw edges into the centre and pressed it again.IMG_1983

Next I attached the edge of the waistband to the wrong side of the skirt, checking that the pleats were straight as I sewed. IMG_1996Then I folded the waistband over with the raw edge tucked in where it had been pressed, and sewed it on the right side along the bottom edge.IMG_2001

The next step was the only remotely tricky part. I wrapped the skirt around myself and pinned where the other side seam needed to go. I unpinned it, then using the marks left by the pins, drew where I needed to sew. I sewed it up then attached the zip over the seam and unpicked the seam that was over the zip.IMG_2014

As there was so much skirt to hem, I opted for a folded hem sewn with the sewing machine. I folded up 1 cm of the raw edge then folded it over and pinned it in place. IMG_2060Handsewing the hem would have been neater, but it would have taken a lot longer so, in the interests of actually getting it finished, I used the sewing machine.

So that’s Phase 1 completed! Now for Phases 2 and 3!IMG_2061

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Sew La Di Da Sweetheart Dress

Well that was a busy week! As well as making sure everything was ready for the summer holidays so that we all stay sane, all the normal domestic jobs and taking care of two preschoolers, plus the other two, on Wednesday morning the cat came in with half his face hanging off and then Boy 3 threw up. And now they’re all on holiday so I won’t be able to finish a thought for the next 6 weeks. Happy times!

The cat is fine. He’s on antibiotics and isn’t allowed out (although that doesn’t stop him from trying, and succeeding once!) Boy 3 is also fine. My plan for the summer holidays seems to be working, and later this week there’s a children’s club at church in the mornings, so that should break the days up a bit.

IMG_1942I have managed to find a few minutes to finish a dress I’ve been working on. The pattern was Sew La Di Da Sweetheart Dress, which came free with Sewing World a few months ago. It’s taken me ages, partly because I don’t have a lot of time but also because the pattern pieces were in several bits. They were actual size, which was great, but the piece of paper that they were printed on was not big enough for the pieces, so the pieces were in pieces. The patterns for the other projects were also printed on the same sheet, so it was tricky figuring out which bits I needed and how they fitted together.

Once I’d got all the pieces cut out, it came together very quickly. The dress is made up of 7 panels, 3 for the front and 4 at the back, so you just sew them together and ta-dah! You’ve got a dress!IMG_1939

The zip is at the back, so you make the dress up, then check the fit and put the zip in by sewing up the back seam then attaching the zip. There is enough spare in the last seam just in case you mess up the measuring, another thing about  pattern that I really like!

When I tried it on, I found t the top section was a bit big, but it was easy enough to alter it. I find this generally with clothes. It’s that tyre around my middle that makes clothes so snug there! I just took a little bit in at the sides and now it fits much better!IMG_1930

The great thing about this pattern is that it is designed for normally proportioned people instead of skinny model folk, people whose bodies have carried babies and processed cake. Without being hideously complicated, the dress has shape, so in no sense at all is it like wearing a sack. When I checked my measurements, I came in at a size 14 – 16, which corresponds with the size if clothes I usually wear.

The pattern can be bought from the Sew La Di Da website here. It’s more expensive than other patterns I have used, but it was so easy to make, the instructions were clear, it’s designed  fit even bulgy people like myself, the sizing makes sense, it’s easy to fit and there’s enough in the seam allowance if you make some small miscalculations with your measuring. It’s better to have something that fits that you will wear than something you can’t wear because it doesn’t fit right, right?

I love it! It’s comfortable and one of the school mummies asked me if I’d got it from Cath Kidston! That just about made my day!IMG_1933

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How to Survive the Summer Holidays

The summer holidays are nearly here. Boy 3 has had his last ever day at nursery and Boys 1 and 2 break up next Wednesday. Although I’m looking forward to it, I am going slightly cross-eyed at the thought of keeping 4 little boys aged 8, 6, 4 and 1 entertained and myself sane for 6 weeks.

For me it is not about finding endless activities to march them too, but helping them to find a rhythm that does not revolve around school. It’s achieving a balance between organised stuff with me and playing independently, being active and being quiet, being outside and being indoors, being out and about and being at home. Boy 1 particularly finds this very difficult as he likes routine and he’s so used to school he struggles with having a lot of free time. Yet they all need time to forget about school, reading books, homework, spellings, and SATs. They need time to play, read, run around outside, ride their bikes and just be kids.

Just as finding a balance can be hard for them, I need time to get stuff done. I don’t want to be policing fights or having to yell at them for running round and round in circles in the front room, shouting “fart” at the tops of their voices, or barking at them for trashing the place. If we are to survive the summer holidays, we need a plan.

So this is what I plan to do. I don’t know whether it’s going to work, we’ll have to wait and see!

We’ll have one trip out a week, probably to the beach or to the woods, as they are both free and accessible by bus.

I’l have one activity planned for them to do with me. This will include:


Art/crafts/science, like painting stones, origami, making finger puppets, helping me by making stuff for my ebook, making kites, making a water wall, making it rain in a jam jar. I’ve collected some ideas on a Pinterest board here.

Going to the library. Our nearest library has a reading challenge for primary aged children.

Going to the park.

Going out on bikes or for walks.

I’m also aiming to have an outdoor activity set up for them. I’m assuming the weather is going to be nice! There are ideas on the same Pinterest board, including:



Painting with ice cubes

Ice cube sculptures

Rescuing lego people from ice.

Cars in shaving foam.

Rainbow foam

Bubble blowing



Paper aeroplanes

Play dough. There’s a great recipe on Imagination Tree, and lots of other good ideas too.

I’m also going to have an indoor activity set up, like:

One of the Playmobil sets

Lego, maybe car building bits or house bits, or a road mapped out on base plates.

The wooden trainset, partially built so they can finish it off

A box of toys out that that they haven’t played with for a while.

I’m also going to make an I’m Bored jar. There are lots of ideas for these on Pinterest! I’m going to write the activites onto lolly sticks so that I don’t end up with paper all over the floor and extra hoovering! Ideas I’m going to include are:

Read a book

Read a book to somebody else

Build a den

Find something to do in the art cupboard

Draw a picture

Make a book

Have a bug hunt in the garden

Do a job to help Mummy and earn 10p

Play Top Trumps

Make your own Top Trumps (my boys love Top Trumps!)

Do a puzzle

Make the Playmobil people go camping in the garden.

Hopefully this will be enough to keep everybody sane!

If you like to write stuff down on a pretty planner, there is a gorgeous one here on Brocante Home.

What are you planning to do to keep your children amused?

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A Complete Outfit from Just One Pattern – New Look 6571

It’s been a while since I’ve made anything from a pattern. Since the wrap dress that didn’t fit debacle, I’ve been put off. I’ve found anyway that as long as you keep it simple, it’s fairly easy to make clothes without a pattern.

Anyway, I was reading Sewing World a few months ago and there was an offer that I couldn’t ignore, so I sent off for the patterns. I particularly like this one, New Look 6571, because for my £2.95, I got patterns for 2 tops, 2 dresses and a skirt. Bonanza!IMG_1901

I searched for fabric for ages. I really liked the fabrics used to make the one the model on the packet was wearing but, although I could find pink jersey easily enough, I couldn’t find anything close enough to the skirt fabric that would go with the pink. So I went with brown and turquoise instead.IMG_1903

I did have some concerns as the pattern stated jersey fabric and the only other time I have tried sewing with jersey I ended up giving up as it was horrible. The other thing that set alarm bells off in my head was when I noticed that this pattern was classed as “easy”. In my experience, sewing stuff from “easy” patterns results in clothes that are shapeless and sack like in form. I also do not really agree that making something out of jersey fabric is going to be easy.

I started with the skirt and, to be fair, it was easy! It has an interesting shape which justified it requiring a pattern, but it only has two pieces and the waist is elasticated. The jersey fabric I had bought was not too stretchy and having a sewing machine that has special stitches for knit fabrics made it possible to sew it up. There is a little bit of puckering in the hem, which wouldn’t pass muster on the GBSB, but I was pleased with the result.IMG_1899

The tops unfortunately did not go to well. I had huge issues with the measurements on the back of the pattern. Having had 4 kids and a fondness for cake meant that when I checked my measurements, I was a size 16 in the top part but off the end around the middle! I did think this was a little odd. Usually when I buy clothes a size 14 fits just fine.

I decided to make the vest top in a size 16 and hope for the best. The fabric was stretchy and there’s always control underwear, right?! So I made it up. It was fairly easy. The straps were trickier and I have learnt a technique by doing this! When I tried it on, it was too big! In fact, it was massive on me!! I took 2-3 cm in at the top of both the side seams and it’s still a bit too big. The straps keep slipping off too, so I’ll need to adjust them.

As a result, before embarking on the wrap top, I checked my measurements again before cutting the pattern bits down so that the top part was size 14 and the rest size 16. But guess what, it’s still too big! It needs taking in at the sides and the sleeves keep slipping down. I don’t really know how to fix this. I might try taking the back seam in a bit. And it looks shapeless, although it might me that’s shapeless as it looks alright on Betty!IMG_1898

I’m going to attempt to sort it out, but I am a little bit annoyed. I cut the pieces out accurately, stuck to the seam allowances and I was worried that it would be too small. I did not think I would end up with something too big.

Well there we go. I like the skirt. I might have a go with some different fabric, maybe cut on the bias. But the tops! Grrr!

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