Fiona Ryder (Flynn Rider gender-switch)

When I moved into university in September I had to leave a lot of stuff at home. One of the things I had to leave was my mannequin. This meant I had no way of finishing the Schuyler Sisters set of costumes. I’d finished Angelica’s under dress but couldn’t finish the over dress, and my two ‘sisters’ had moved to separate parts of the country. So I began searching pinterest for inspiration of a new, fairly simple, outfit to make. I began leaning towards making a Rapunzel costume before I realised that wasn’t a costume I wanted to rush- I wanted the ability to spend my time getting every piece of embroidery right and every seam line in the right place.

bodice design details                                                       …
Disney gave us such good views of the construction, you have to do it accurately.

Then I found this picture from Maby-Chan (her stuff is really worth a look if you’re looking for any kind of costume inspiration)

This was a much simpler outfit to make, I could get away with only making the corset and sourcing the rest from charity stores if I needed to, and so I began drafting the corset pattern, I’m already writing a post about how I made this which should be up in the next few days. I made the corset and bag, but sourced the rest from charity shops/ebay, here’s the finished costume.

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Superhero plushies

So as I explained in this post, I’ve been unable to work on my Schuyler sisters project during the month of August due to a few other projects. The first was my dress for my Nan’s wedding. The second project that consumed my time was actually two projects. Both of my best friends birthdays are in August and both are huge fans of the Marvel universe. I spent months searching for the perfect gift for each of them and kept coming back to the plush dolls sold all over etsy.

Then I realised it was silly to spend £15 + shipping on something I could make myself, so I set about drafting a pattern to make 3 different plushies.

They’re really cute and my friends are both already enacting mock battles between their dolls in homage to the recent Civil War film. (You’d never believe it was their 18th birthdays).

I have made Iron Man, Captain America and Winter Soldier patterns, and at my brothers request I’m now working on a Thor pattern. I’m considering making these available on my etsy shop as PDF’s complete with instructions for putting the plushies together. Would anyone be interested?

I think it’s much cheaper to do it this way than buy a pre-made doll. I used an old pillow to stuff the dolls, but even if you buy stuffing you should spend no more than £5-8 per doll including the cost of felt (in England you get felt for 50p a sheet). Also this way your gift has the added benefit of being handmade and exactly what you envisioned!

Making a lace/chiffon dress

Hi guys! I’m sorry this isn’t a Schuyler Sisters post, but I’ve been distracted by some other very important projects.

This post is about the first of these projects. To fully understand my excitement about this project you’ll need some background information; My Nan announced at the end of July that she was getting married in less than a month. We were sort of expecting this announcement, but I wasn’t expecting her to turn to me and my sister and ask us to help pick her dress. She then asked me to make her one if we couldn’t find one! Luckily we found a dress and I didn’t have to make one (talk about pressure!), but I did end up making my own dress.

This is a fully structured gown, complete with a hidden laced closure and inbuilt petticoat. It was a lot of fun to make and fits really nicely, so it makes me look pretty too!

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I started by drafting a corselette using my measurements and a standard grid drafting system. Amazingly my first mock-up fit like a glove so I just took 1/2″ off the back piece to leave space for lacing. I cut the pieces out of plain poly-cotton, added a waist stay and under bust elastic to the inner layer then sewed two layers together. I then sewed in some cups from an old bra and finally sewed boning channels along all the seams and at the back to brace the eyelets.

I then made the first two layers of the petticoat, and attached them to a 5″ wide piece of cotton, which then got ruffled onto the bottom of the corselette. This was the foundation of the rest of the dress. (I later decided this was too much fluff for the shape of dress I wanted, so removed this petticoat and added a single layer one)

 

The skirt portion was made next, this involved making 1 gathered rectangle skirt and 1 circle skirt from two different chiffons. These were roll hemmed and a slit was placed in the back of all this to allow for a zip to be added later. These were then attached to a waist stay which had a hook and eye sewn at the back.

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I’ve tied the ribbon around the waist so I could see if the colours were right. This is also a picture with more petticoats than I eventually wore the dress with.

The bodice was then drafted, following the neckline of the corselette.DSCN0573.JPG

A mesh bodice was also sewn, and they were basted together at the waist, then attached to the skirt.

SAM_0580The fiddly bit was fussy cutting all of the individual groupings from this lace, which were then hand sewn onto the mesh layer of the bodice. This took forever but I’m really happy I did it, since it looks so pretty. I’m also planning to hand sew some pearls and seed beads into the lace for texture, but I didn’t have time before the wedding.

The top edge of the bodice was attached to the corselette by hand, most of the way around. the back 2″ were unattached and instead were lined and attached to a zip, this allows easy access to the corset opening. I also attached the waist of the dress to a waist stay, to keep everything in place.

Above is the back with the zip undone so you can see how the opening works, it’s not pretty, but it’s all covered with the zip and buttons so you don’t see it (below).

This dress cost me £42.63 and 30 hours of work but I’m so happy with it, and I’ll definitely be able to wear it again.

Things I learned from this project;

  1. Cationic chiffon looks pretty, but it stains soooo easily, literally just drops of water will cause permanent discolouration. It’s not really noticeable unless you already notice it, but the oil on your skin can also cause dark patches and these are noticeable.
  2. Cutting circle skirts from chiffon is a stupid idea, the central circle will never be round no matter what you do. I ended up with the back hem almost 2″ longer than the front with no knowledge of how. Stick to gathered skirts, or find some way of keeping the chiffon stable enough to cut.
  3. Cutting and sewing the lace appliques like I did is time consuming, but has a really good effect and I would definitely recommend doing this. Just find a tv show to binge watch whilst sewing the lace on.
  4. No matter what you do invisible zips hate having to transition between fabrics. Even moving the needle across to make the stitching line further from the zip didn’t really help. I think I made this worse by having a belt attached to the zip which increased the tension on the zip.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my dress and have learned something! If you have any questions about anything I’ve done in this process leave a comment below or on my tumblr and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Also, just a note to those who regularly read my blog. I leave for University on the 16th, so until then (and probably for a few weeks after) posting will be really sporadic (some weeks you may get multiple posts and other weeks none), so I apologize in advance for this.

Making Angelica’s bodice- Schuyler Sisters

Sorry it’s been so long guys! I can’t explain why (it’s a secret!) but you’ll know in a few weeks. I’ve not really had time to do any Schuyler sisters work because I’ve had other projects that needed doing.

I’m not just sorry you had to wait, but I’m also sorry this explanation is quite complex and wordy. I hope that the pictures are pretty informative, here is how to get Angelica’s bodice from the pattern from my previous post.

To make the bodice you need:DSCN0560.JPG

  • about half a meter of taffeta
  • about half a meter of cotton fabric (for lining)
  • at least 2 meters of plastic boning
  • at least 2 meters of cotton tape for boning channels (you don’t need this if you buy boning with fabric around it)
  • Some interfacing for the lacing panels. (I used medium weight sew-in but you could use iron on)
  • metal eyelets (don’t hand sew them, polyester taffeta hates hand sewn eyelets, you can hand sew over metal ones to make them look more natural but don’t hand sew at the beginning)
  • roughly 1 meter of bias binding for the arm holes (this is optional- it depends on how you attach your sleeves. If you use the method I’ve suggested below you won’t need it)
  • I chose to put Angelica’s lace on her over gown, but you could use lace here too. If you want to gather your lace you’ll probably need around 3 meters of it, if you want it normal you’ll only need 1 meter.

I started with cutting all the pattern pieces out of the lining and fabric. Your lining has a smaller seam allowance at the back than the outer layer as shown below. This is to allow for the lacing panels. The interfacing should be the same shape as the leftover bit of the outer fabric- you can see below how the lining+interfacing is the same shape as the outer fabric

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I also cut a panel 10 cm by the length of my bodice back (minus 1″) to act as a modesty panel from both the lining, taffeta and interfacing (shown in green, black and red above)

The lining should be sewn first because if there are any glaring issues with fit (which there really shouldn’t be but things do go wrong) you can catch it before sewing your expensive fabric.

  • The first step is to sew the center front seam together
  • Then attach the boning as below (use sew through boning like rigeline, or pre-cased boning)DSCN0562.JPG
  • The last step to prepare the lining is to sew the shoulder seams together.DSCN0565.JPG

The modesty panel is something I like, but some find a bit annoying, but it’s really simple to make and could save you from showing of your stay laces. I’ll explain how to attach the modesty panel to the bodice when the lining and outer are joined, but making it’s really simple.

  • If you’re using iron on interfacing, interface the taffeta rectangle, then place the taffeta and lining wrong sides together
  • If you’re using ‘sew in’ interfacing make a sandwich with the lining fabric in the middle and the taffeta and interfacing on either side
  • Sew around the two short sides and one of the long sides
  • Turn the right way round and top sew the edge.DSCN0564

You should next make up your sleeves to be put aside for later. Make sure before you start that you’ve marked some notches matching your sleeve with the armhole.

  • Sew the side seam
  • Turn the hem of the sleeve under and sew a large rolled hem as shown below.DSCN0566

Angelica’s outer bodice is the simplest of all the sisters because it’s identical to the lining. You need to;

  • Sew the center front seam together on the outer. DON’T SEW THE SHOULDERS
  • Attach interfacing at the back seam allowance- as I explained above your outer seam allowance should be at least 2″ more than your lining seam allowance, this is where you apply interfacing.DSCN0567.JPG
  • Sew a 0.5″ hem on the two back edges (where you’ve interfaced)DSCN0568.JPG
  • Attach the modesty panel to one side of your back on the area you’ve just hemmedDSCN0569
  • You need to fold this extra seam allowance like below (left) and pin the lining like below (right)
    • NB: before you start pinning the rest of the lining, match up the center front and side seams first so nothing gets out of line
  • Then attach the lining to the outer at all the bottom and top, but don’t sew the back or around the arm holes. Be careful sewing the neckline because you haven’t attached the shoulder seams yet- leave a 1″ gap either side of where the shoulder seam will be to hand sew later.
  • Turn the bodice right side out through the sides and press lots– you should have two ‘pockets’ on either side like below, and lining shoulders sewn together but outer shoulders not.SUNP0009.JPG
  • Placing a cable tie in the pocket, use a zipper foot to make a boning channel around the cable tie.

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  • Hand sew the edges of the pocket to the lining
  • Insert the eyelets in the back, I just used a modern alignment where the eyelets are evenly placed on both sides. I also used metal eyelets because I was fed up with hand sewing them by this point.
  • Attach the sleeves using the method described here and here.
  • Hand sew the shoulder together.

Some notes for you to be aware of;

  • Because I’m also making an over dress for Angelica I decided not to put lace on her bodice. For guidance on adding the lace you’d need to head over to my Eliza ‘how to’ (which is currently being written).
  • Technically boning should be put on the right side of the lining i.e. touching your stays. This is so there is an extra layer of fabric between the bones and the outer to produce a smoother shape, however this can produce extra wear on the corset so be careful. If you don’t want your bones touching your stays you can put them inside the lining, but I’d advise you then lightly interface your outer pieces so they don’t show bulges where the bones are.
  • Please try on everything at every stage so if something really doesn’t fit you can change it. My arm hole (for some reason) wasn’t deep enough and luckily I caught it at the lining stage so could change it without fuss, however if I hadn’t noticed until I was sewing my sleeves in I would have struggled. In theory if you’ve fitted your pattern enough times everything should fit perfectly- but that is not guaranteed.

I haven’t managed to get any pictures of the bodice on me yet, but I should be able to in the next few days. Happy sewing!

Schuyler sisters (18th century) skirt

18th century skirts are made in much the same way as the petticoats, which I’ve explained how to make here. The only major difference is that generally skirts are placed on one waistband for simplicity and also shape, but petticoats are placed on two. This does cause problems though because you still have to leave slits in the sides of the skirt to access the pockets. Regardless, a skirt is simpler to make than a bodice and much simpler than a pair of stays!

You’ll need:

  • fabric that can be formed into a piece at least 3 meters long by your longest waist to floor measurement + 5 cm. This can be a piece of fabric 150cm wide by twice your length measurement or any other way of getting this material. ( I would recommend buying 3 meters of fabric for the skirt)
  • Extra fabric for the waistband, you can use taffeta but you’ll have to reinforce it with a layer of tight weave fabric like cotton, or medium weight interfacing.
  • Some form of closure. Technically you should sew two eyelets and run some ribbon between them, but you could also use buttons or hook and bar closures.

Now how to make it;

Before you do anything IRON YOUR FABRIC, not doing so can throw of your measurements and it’ll really annoy you trying to do it later. Taffeta needs to be ironed on a medium-low temperature, use a pressing cloth (any piece of cotton will do, even a clean tea towel). It’ll take a while but stay with it and do not turn up the temperature, you can use steam if you really need to but I’d advise against it.

  1. Cut your fabric into two pieces using the same pattern as I described in this petticoat tutorial. Make sure to include a large hem (around 2″) in your measurements because a large hem helps the skirt to hang correctly.

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    This shows the way the top of the skirt is cut to accommodate the bum roll. The red line is the front piece and the blue line the back piece. Also note I forgot to press my fabric before this stage and so it’s got lots of ugly creases.
  2. Roll hem the top 10″ of the sides of the panels, these will be the openings to allow access to the pockets.DSCN0517.JPG
  3. Sew up the side seams (make sure to leave the top 10″ unsewn- where you’ve already hemmed)
  4. Cut out the pieces of your waistband. You’ll need two pieces 2″ wide by your waist measurement. If you’re doing a button or hook and loop closure add at least 2″ to your waist measurement. If you’re using eyelets make it about 1″ less. Remember it should be your waist measurement with your foundation garments on otherwise your waist is different and the skirt is too big/small.
  5. You’ll need to strengthen one side of the waistband, do this and sew three sides together with a .5″ seam allowance.
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    The waistband, turned right side out before adding a closure method

    DSCN0520
    You can see the support layer, shown with a red line
  6. You need to make some marks on your waistband to help you line up the pleats, use tailors chalk, tacks or pins.
    1. Put the waistband on your waist and mark how much overlapsDSCN0524
    2. Fold the waistband in half (ignoring the overlap section you’ve just identified)DSCN0527
    3. Then fold each of these halves into quarters.
  7. Attach your closure method to the waistband (unless you’re doing eyelets, then do these after attaching the skirt) and press.

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    My attached hook and bar closure, this also shows the under stitching on the inside of the waistband.
  8. Line up the two side seams,the center front and center back of the skirt piece with the waistband as described below;
    1. Place the waistband right side up with the rough edge at the top of your work spaceDSCN0534.JPG
    2. Match the right side seam with the very end of the waistband (the area that will overlap later)DSCN0535.JPG
    3. Match the center front of the skirt to the quarter mark immediately next to the place you’ve just pinned. DSCN0536.JPG
    4. Take the last front seam and pin it 1″ beyond the quarter mark

      DSCN0539.JPG
      Ignore the fact that I was already trying out pleating methods on the panel shown here
    5. Take the other left side seam and match it with the center front of the waistband. DSCN0540
    6. Match the center back with the last quarter markDSCN0541.JPG
    7. Finally pin the other part of the right side seam to the very end of the waistband. DSCN0542.JPG
  9. Measure 2.5″ either side of the center front of the skirt, this area will not be pleated to allow for the bodice to sit properly. Also measure and mark 0.5″ either side of the back center for the same purpose.

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    Again ignore the beginnings of pleating
  10. Pleat by eye, be aware Peggy has quite large boxy pleats whilst Eliza has very small pleats with Angelica somewhere in between. Make sure your center front and back pleats form an inverted box pleat. I would advise pressing your pleats from the inside before the next step.
  11. Sew the skirt to the front of the waistband as shown below, making sure to catch your reinforcing layer. Now press all seam allowances towards the waistband.

    DSCN0548.JPG
    Notice that I’m sewing the outside and interfacing layers of the waistband, but not the inner layer.
  12. Close the seam in the waistband, this can be done by hand sewing or top sewing with a machine as long as all the raw edges are inside.
  13. Hem the entire skirt. Do this by sewing a small hem first then hand sewing a larger hem (it should be around 2″). Make sure to pin it so it’s level on you (you’ll probably need someone else to help), not necessarily equal all the way round. This will take a while but this is the best way to do it and make it look professional. Make sure you iron your hem really well, also if you want it to hang better you can hem with crinoline braid or bias cut facing, there’s a tutorial on these here.

Here’s the finished skirt with the customary back, side and front views. The pleats in the back aren’t sitting quite right and I think this is because I made them too small. Hopefully the bodice will cover them up and this will be something I’ll aim not to repeat with the other skirts. DSCN0558

18th Century Bodice Pattern

I’m really sorry this post is so late guys, exams were a lot more time consuming than I predicted. But I finished my last exam on Monday and so I now have a lot of free time! This can only mean more sewing and therefore (hopefully) more frequent posts. This post will outline the process I used to make the basic bodice pattern for all three Schuyler Sisters dresses, along with specific design notes on how I adapted this pattern to each girls dress. I’m going to apologize in advance that it’s so long and wordy.

I would advise you begin this process by collecting as many reference images from as many different angles as you can. There are videos of the Schuyler sisters in action so watch these a few times so you can get an idea particularly of the neck line and bottom curve. Then get all these images into a form you can easily see, whether that’s printing them off and pining them to a cork board or simply having lots of tabs open on your computer. I have a board on my pinterest which can act as a starting point.

NB: As you can see from the above picture the Schuyler sisters dresses don’t have side seams (except Eliza and that’s probably due to her asymmetric front). They do however appear to have separate curved back panels, which you could choose to include if you wish.   Also note that in the below picture you can see the shoulder seam of Angelica’s dress is actually 2 or so inches behind the normal shoulder seam. This is historically accurate and I would encourage doing so in your drafts because it allows the lace to carry into the back. 

I like draping my bodice patterns but, if you don’t feel comfortable making your pattern in this way you could use the Elizabethan corset pattern generator and simply adapt the pattern. This would probably involve making more mock ups to make sure you got the neckline and arm hole right as you’d have to add these to the pattern.

I began draping by taking a random piece of scrap fabric. You need to pin the straight grain of your fabric down the center front of your stays- If you don’t have a mannequin you can use a pillow or a model (or yourself which is how I started)- but be careful to put pins in the stays not the person! You’re aiming to make something fairly basic- just aim to get the neckline and arm holes right, don’t worry about the shape of the point at this stage.

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I began drafting on myself to get the shape of my armhole and neckline because that’s hard to do on the mannequin.

Once you’ve pinned your fabric to the center line you need to pull the fabric taught until it meets the side seam (or back if you’re aiming for a one piece pattern). Keep going until there are no bubbles, pin around the arm hole and necklines in a similar way. This post is explaining the method for a 16th century bodice (whose side seam is often in the back, not the side) and is useful for explaining this method. Once you’ve done this your model should look as below (left), simply cut these pieces along the seams and remove them from the mannequin.

Then lay them on paper- you can use pattern drafting paper, freezer paper, brown paper or plain A3 paper. Draw round your pieces and ADD SEAM ALLOWANCE (I always forget).

Now for the sleeves. The sleeves for all three bodices are identical except for their length. Peggy’s are elbow length, Eliza 3/4 and Angelica wrist length. Drafting sleeves to fit a pattern is an annoying thing to do and something I hate, but I persevered. I used this tutorial to help me draft the sleeve patterns.

Once you have your bodice pattern including sleeves you need to make a mock up- use an old dress, scraps, a bed sheet or any other cheap fabric you wouldn’t mind sending to the bin eventually. Sew with the seams facing outwards so you can adjust them easily. I would advise putting a zipper in the front or back seam for easy access and so you get a true idea of what the bodice is like closed (pinning it closed puts irregular tension on the fabric). Then try the bodice on and fit it.

My first mock up had a lot of issues. Firstly, the sleeves had too much fabric (red circle, left) at the top creating a ‘puff’. Secondly the neckline was too high and not the right shape so I drew the new shape on the mock up and transferred it to my pattern. Thirdly, the bodice was huge around the waist- I’m talking 4 inches too much fabric either side here! This was taken out predominantly along the front and back seams because they weren’t creating the right ‘curve’ (right picture, black lines). Fourthly the arm holes weren’t deep enough which caused them too be very tight and also limited my movement. I drew new arm holes and transferred them to the pattern. Finally because of moving the neckline and front seam around I had to redraw the bottom line.

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I’ve overlayed the pattern made from my first mock up and the pattern from my draping. The red lines show what the pattern for my second mock up (and ultimately my final pattern) looked like.

My second mock up, which I made from some taffeta curtains I had lying around, showed that I’d eliminated most of those issues, but now had a few more to contend with.

The puff sleeves were still there, so I resigned myself to drafting yet another sleeve pattern.Because I’d taken in the front it was now too tight, causing it to wrinkle and pull the point up. The boning should sort out most of the wrinkle problems, but I added 1 cm to the pattern anyway. Another problem that the boning should fix is the ridge of the top of the stays. The final problem was that the front was way too short- only really acceptable for Peggy not Eliza or Angelica, so rather than trying to solve this problem I decided to remove the point from my basic bodice pattern. This makes it much easier for me to explain further down how I altered this pattern for each sister.

The changes that did work were the armholes and neckline- both are now the perfect shape.

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The sleeves now fit properly, plus I tried out some lace to see how it looked. The neckline needs lowering a half inch, but apart from that it fits really well. The bottom is the shape I’ve decided on for Peggy- it’s not pointy enough for Eliza or Angelica

So I did a third mock up! (I only normally have to do two) I decided to try the button placket on this one just to see how it would sit/how much seam allowance I would need to add.

So after my third mock up I was happy with the pattern changes, and so I was left with my final generic pattern. Below I have written specific guidance as to the design of each sisters bodice, because they’re all subtly different.

Angelica

This was by far the easiest bodice to adapt from a standard pattern. Angelica has a small section of gathered fabric (probably organza) in the front of her bodice in her brown dress (left). I’m making the dress from ‘Satisfied’ (right) but it looks like she has the same sort of detailing under the over robe (middle). The point at the front of Angelica’s bodice is very V shaped, so I made sure to make it less curvy than some of the other bodices.

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Angelica’s pattern is insanely simple!

Peggy

Peggy has a line of buttons down the front which seem to open the dress, however given that her bodice can be seen to lace up in the back I’m presuming these aren’t functional. I kept the standard 1 cm allowance on the left side and used 1″ seam allowance on the right hand side. The point at the front of Peggy’s dress is very soft and curved so I changed the pattern to reflect this, I made the point 4″ long.

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Please ignore the fact that the extra seam allowance doesn’t carry on to the top, this is because this is a removable piece and so I just move it when I’m drawing round the pieces. Also, I forgot to mention I had to cut and spread the back to allow the back to sit right with the bum roll.
Peggy also has 5 tabs evenly spaced around the sides and back of her bodice. To decide on the width of these I simply measured from where I felt the tabs should start and end along the bottom curve, then divided this by 5 (making each tab 6.4 cm wide). Since they look pretty square I cut out a few test tabs- both longer and shorter than they were wide and tried them over my petticoat to see which was best.

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from left to right- longer, equal and shorter length than width. I think I’ll go for the equal one but it depends on your skirt supports- I couldn’t use a longer tab because my bum roll isn’t big enough (in fact this has shown me that I need to make an extra pouf to go over it for Peggy)

Once I decided this I marked where each tab would have to be attached to make sewing the bodice easier. I’d finished with this pattern.

Eliza

This was by far the most complex, I found it really difficult to decide where the diagonal cut should be. In some layouts the central panel looked too narrow and in other drafts it was too big and it didn’t help that the image in my head was quite different to the actual dress. So instead I started by deciding on how I wanted the bottom to be shaped, before drafting the diagonal with a mock up as demonstrated below.

You can fix a piece of wool or string to two points to get an idea of what it would look like on the body. What you then need to do is cut along this line so you get two different sized parts of the bodice. Then you need to make a replica of your standard bodice pattern (with Eliza’s point) and attach them at the center front. Place your cut mock up over the pattern so you can mark the diagonal line. (I hope that makes sense, I don’t have any pictures of this part)

This diagonal line is a false button placket just like on Peggy’s dress, I therefore had 1cm of seam allowance on the smaller part of the pattern and 1″ on the larger bit.

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The smaller pattern pieces is just the front half- because the backs are identical and I couldn’t be bothered to replicate the back part of the pattern as well.

 

So that’s how to make the pattern for each of the sisters bodice. I’m writing individual how to make posts for each sister as I finish making their bodice, Angelica’s should be up next week (there may be a skirt post in between now and then). Thanks for reading!

 

How to make a filofax

So I was going to attempt to get a post about making the bodices for my Schuyler Sisters project, but my exams started this week and I seriously underestimated how much time studying would take. So instead you’re getting a post that has been sat in my drafts since before I started the Schuyler Sisters project, collecting dust and waiting for a time where I’m too busy sewing but still want to blog. So this is my tutorial for making a filofax style planner

I’ve come to realise after the last year that my life is seriously unorganised and so I have been looking for solutions to this. A friend suggested I check out the bullet journal system, and initially I thought this would be a good solution for me. However, then I began thinking about what I’d need to include in my journal. As well as weekly pages, for university etc. I would need a section for sewing and one for other miscellaneous parts. I couldn’t really understand how I could have a section which would need to be constantly expanding- how would I know where in the journal to start it? what if I run out of space?! The idea of ‘collections’ in the bullet journal is they are a set of static pages near the end of your journal, that do not need loads of space to grow.

So I decided that I needed an organisation method that was able to expand to my needs- if I need more design pages I could have more design pages. I realised the only way to do this would be through using something like a filofax, where you can add and remove pages. So I began searching for a filofax online and realised even the personal sized ones start at £30, way more than I’d want to pay for a planner. I stubbornly decided that I should instead sew one, then avoided doing so for many weeks, not wanting to approach the idea of sewing something that needs so much support.

Then my old kindle case broke down the spine and I realised that I had the perfect opportunity to see what made these cases so solid- which was the thing I was worrying about regarding making a case. So I ripped the seams and worked out how the thing was made so I could reproduce it.

I surmised that the outer fabric, which was leather for my old case, had a layer of fusible foam attached to make it soft, then a layer of cartridge paper (like the kind you use for water colour painting). The main support comes from the two layers of thin cardboard (like a cereal box) glued in the middle, before another layer of paper and the interfaced lining seals the sandwich. Realising this wasn’t going to be as tricky as I expected, or as expensive, I went about finding all my resources.

I ordered a 6 ring A5 binder from this ebay site for only £1.04 which is the only money I’ve spent on this project, I also bought a magnetic bag closure from my local craft shop, you can get one here for 99p. You don’t need to do a magnetic closure, in fact on my second filofax (that I made because I liked the first one so much) I just used elastic and a button like the cover story filofaxes.

I used upholstery fabric given to me by my parents after they re-covered their headboard for both the lining and the outer fabric. This meant I didn’t have to interface the lining as the fabric was fairly strong. I would recommend using either upholstery fabric, canvas or maybe twill for the outer fabric. If you use cotton you will definitely need to use interfacing.

I then used some cartridge paper (120 gsm) left over from my art GCSE days and the cardboard base from the pizza I ate for dinner the night before I made this. The cardboard was much thicker than the kind used in the planner I took apart so I only used one layer of it, but you can use two layers of thinner cardboard in place of this.

Because I was reusing so much stuff my A5 filofax only cost me £2.03! much better than £30!

How to make a filofax style planner

  1. First you need to make a template, I wanted an A5 size planner and I had a rectangle of cardboard about A4 size with already rounded edges so I just cut it in half. This left me with two pieces of cardboard 25 cm by 17.5 cm (about 10″ by 7″) with two rounded corners. This is a good size for an A5 planner because it allows a nice border around the paper. My Personal planner is 20.5 cm by 11.7 cm (8″ by 4.5″) but you can easily customise your design. Just find a size you’re comfortable with, but make sure it’s long enough for your binder rings to fit. You’ll also need a rectangle of cardboard (probably about 1″ by 1.5″) for the closure if you plan to make a magnetic clasp like mine.
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    If you enlarge this image so it fits on an A4 page you’ll have the template I used for an A5 and Personal filofax.

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  2. You’ll need a piece of cartridge paper wide enough to fit your two templates, with a 5 cm (2″) gap between. Lay them out like below, draw round them and cut the shape out. You’ll need two pieces this shape, and you’ll need to use this template to cut out the fabric. If you want to do a magnetic clasp you’ll need two pieces of cartridge paper 1″ by 4″.DSCN0470.JPG
  3. The stick the pieces of cardboard to one of your pieces of paper. Do the same with the magnetic clasp piece. I used a mixture of double sided tape and glue. DSCN0471.JPG
  4. Cut out the outer fabric, lining fabric, interfacing and foam using the template made in step three. The interfacing and foam (you can use quilting batting) don’t need seam allowances, but the outer fabric and lining fabric need a 1 cm seam allowance (don’t make your seam allowances too big or they don’t curve properly).
  5. Attach the interfacing and your lining either by pressing (if you’re using fusible interfacing) or basting stitches- make sure to make your basting stitches easy to take out as you will have to take them out. You can skip this step if you’re using strong fabric for your lining (I used the same fabric for lining as I did for outer).
  6. Stick the foam/batting to the cartridge paper you’ve already attached the cardboard too (but on the other side to the cardboard) I used double sided sticky tape to do this.DSCN0473.JPG
  7. Attach the other piece of cartridge paper to your lining (again I used double sided) you only need to attach the middles for the next step.

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    see only the middle is attached
  8. Mark the positioning of your fastening for the binding rings. Mine were rivets so I had to make holes for the rivets. You need to mark this on the side not covered in foam or fabric. Make these holes using a variety of tools (I use an old dart, then a replacement high heel tip, then an old pen)DSCN0477.JPG
  9. Attach your rings by going through all layers but the outer fabric layer- put the rivet flat side on the foam, through the cartridge paper layers and out the lining fabric then use a rivet setting tool to hammer it in place.
  10. To make the magnetic closure;
    • Put the accepting part of the magnetic closure in the front of your planner before it’s sewn up. (I forgot to do this!)

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      You can see where I had to unpick the sewing wound the edge to put this in
    • If you’ve followed the instructions above you should have already attached the cardboard to the cartridge paper, and also the foam to the back of the same bit of cartridge paper.
    • Attach one of the bits of fabric to the left over piece of cartridge paper with double sided tapeDSCN0478.JPG
    • Mark the positioning of the slits you need to make on both the cardboard and cartridge paper, then make themDSCN0480.JPG
    • Take the ‘pointy’ part of the magnetic clasp and put it through the cardboard fold the prongs back so they’d be inside.
    • Paper clip the two parts together and sew round the edge (if using a sewing machine you’ll need a strong needle, or a lot of patience)
  11.  Fold the top layer of fabric in between the two layers of cartridge paper as you turn the seam allowance under.DSCN0488.JPG
  12. Do the same with the other piece of fabric on the other side
  13. Glue the paper to the cardboard in the middle- but don’t put glue on the fabric because that will cause your needle to get sticky.
  14. Use paperclips to attach the edges together- like you’d use pins
  15. Sew round the edge of the planner.DSCN0489.JPG
  16. Sew on a button if you used an elastic closure method.

And you’re finished! A bit complex to explain but really not that hard to make, for a fraction of the cost! I now have space for all my design needs and my lecture notes!DSCN0490.JPG

One bad thing is that this design has no pockets (mostly because I forgot about them until it was too late) but that can be easily remedied by making a cover for the planner with pockets (which is what I plan to do when I get time).