Norwich gets the sewing bee buzz

How to make a girl's circle skirt. By The Mercerie.

How to make a girl's circle skirt. By The Mercerie. - Credit: Archant

It's the final of The Great British Sewing Bee this week and many have been inspired to pick up the needle and thread to make their own clothes. Emma Harrowing finds out how to make a simple fashion item.

How to make a girl's circle skirt. By The Mercerie. Cutting out the fabric.

How to make a girl's circle skirt. By The Mercerie. Cutting out the fabric. - Credit: Archant

Norwich, like the rest of the country it seems, has gone into a sewing frenzy. As your Evening News reported last week, John Lewis has seen a 24pc rise in the sale of haberdashery products on the day following television show The Great British Sewing Bee, with people buying bias binding tape, simple patterns and entry level sewing machines.

The romanticism of mend and make do has been a trend in recent years and thanks to programmes such as this and Kirsty Allsopp's Homemade Home, more of us are getting the sewing bug.

While an increasing number of us love the idea of making our own clothes, many of us cannot even cut out a pattern let alone put in an invisible zip. Help is at hand. There is an increasing number of dressmaking, sewing and craft classes open to anyone who wants to put needle to thread.

Dragon Hall has launched its programme of sewing a craft classes which run until October. The workshops include how to make a hand-dyed silk scarf using Norfolk grown saffron with textile artist and Norwich weaver Aviva Leigh, knitting, crochet, feltmaking and stumpwork - a three-dimensional style of embroidery.

Make Place on Magdalen Street offers an all year round programme of craft classes including learning the basics of dressmaking from reading a pattern to inserting darts and a zip, and Arts Desire on St Benedict's runs a plethora of sewing and craft workshops from its Craft Lounge.

Even the high street is teaching us how to sew. John Lewis held a dressmaking workshop during Norwich Fashion Week last month and such was its success the store is holding a class on how to make an A line skirt on April 25 between 2pm and 4pm in its haberdashery department.

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Then there are the DIY kits that can teach you how to make a specific item. The Mercerie offers knitting and sewing kits (as well as ready made hand made fashion) on its website Set up by knitwear and textile designer Sue Maton, the kits provide anyone with the urge to get creative with the information and materials they need to get started.

If you are reading this and are itching to get stitching or making your own clothes, textile and Norwich Fashion Week designer Sue Maton from The Mercerie shows you how to make a girl's circle skirt.

Sue says: 'Circle skirts, with their full folds and swishing movements are great fun to wear, and are super simple to make. They require a little bit of maths and some basic sewing skills, but once you've got the idea the possibilities for customising are endless. This easy pattern has an elasticated waistband so there are no fiddly zips, or button holes to deal with.'

You will need:

Fabric - measure how long you want the skirt to be, times this by two and add 15cm. This will give you the length of fabric you need to buy. Choose a lightweight fabric that hangs and moves nicely, and choose prints and patterns that are not one directional (polka dots and all over florals work well, strong stripes are probably best avoided).

Wide elastic for the waistband, sewing thread, pins, fabric and paper scissors, tape measure, ruler, calculator, large sheet of paper.

1. Make your paper pattern. First take a waist measurement and add 5cms. Divide this measurement by 6.28. This will give you the radius you need.

Take your sheet of paper and measure this radius out from one corner. Mark it down the 2 straight edges, and at various places in between. Join all your marks together and this will make a good curve for the waist.

Measure down from this curve the length you want the skirt to be, plus an additional 2-3cms for the waist and hem. Again, make lots of marks that can be joined together to make a good shaped curve for the hem.

Cut along both these curved lines, and you have your paper pattern. It represents one quarter of your skirt.

2. Cut out your fabric.

Press your fabric, then fold in quarters (once length wise, and once width wise) giving you one right angled corner and two folded edges.

Lay your paper pattern on the folded fabric so that it lines up with the folded edges, then chalk around it, and cut it out.

3. Attaching the elastic.

Neaten your top edge with a zig zag (or overlock) stitch all the way round.

Cut a length of elastic to the waist measurement (or very slightly smaller if you want a very snug fit) plus 2cm seam allowance.

Sew the elastic in half with a 1cm seam, open out the seam and sew the edges down flat with a straight stitch. This helps the seam to lay as flat as possible.

Pin the waist edge of the skirt evenly all around the inside of the elastic, with a 1cm hem. The skirt waist measures more than the elastic, so allow for this as you pin. It is best to pin the 4 points at the front, back and sides first.

You will need to stretch the elastic you pin the skirt to it to help 'ease' the fabric in. 8 Pins should probably be enough. Put the pins in vertically as you go.

You are now ready to sew it in place.

Stretch the elastic as you work, removing each pin as you reach it, and stitching a couple of mms close to the edge.

4. Finishing the hem

Zig zag around the hem then turn it up by 1cm and give it a good press. Stitch around the hem and you're done!

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