SewMyStyle- January

This is the January leg of Bluebird Fabric’s Sew My Style. The idea is to sew one simple garment a month and share it with other’s taking part via Instagram. The January piece is the Toaster 2 sweater from Sew House Seven.

I chose to make this out of mercantised cotton rather than a ‘sweater’ material because it’s ridiculously hot in Australia in January and winter is just too far away to think about. I got the fabric from Addicted To Fabric as a remnant piece.


As the pattern instructed…

When I finished the sweater I really disliked the collar in the cotton- not drapey enough to be a cowl and not stiff enough to be structured. It just looked like my top way trying to swallow me whole. I redid the neckline into something more like a boat neckline.


Boat neck modification

Check out everybody’s makes by searching for the hashtag sewmystyle on Instragram.

Alteration: Sleeved to Sleeveless

A friend of mine asked if I could remove the sleeves from one of her mum’s favourite shirts- a sheer sorbet pink button-up. Her well-meaning dad ironed a hole right in the sleeve. Oops.

I do love being asked to help out on things like this. I think it’s a combination of people having confidence in my ability to do it properly and the feeling of being useful.

There are basically three things you’re trying to do when removing sleeves. The first is reduce the shoulder length as the shoulder on a sleeved shirt is longer than on a sleeveless shirt. The second is minimising any further fabric being taken out of the lower part of the armhole because sleeveless shirts generally have armholes that sit closer to the armpit compared to sleeved shirts. The third is reduce the ‘gape’ in the armhole created because sleeved armholes have more give in them to accommodate the pull of the sleeve in movement, which won’t be a factor when we remove the sleeves.

Step One: Gather your materials

  • Your shirt or dress
  • Seam ripper
  • Ruler
  • Marking tool (I like to use an air erasable pen, but chalk is good too)
  • Bias binding
  • Matching threads
  • French rule (optional)

Step Two: Remove the sleeves


Using a seam ripper, remove the lower half of each sleeve- from the armpit to halfway up on the front and halfway up on the back. I know, I know, unpicking seams is the worst.

Using scissors cut as close to the seams as you can to remove the rest of the sleeve.

If you have a yoked shirt, carefully unpick about two inches from the armhole on each side.

Step Three: Mark your new lines

Give the shirt a press.

Using a sleeveless shirt you own and like the fit of, or comparing to a sleeveless pattern, decide how much length needs to be taken off the shoulder. In this case, I took off 4 cm (1 9/16 inches). Mark that point on the shoulder seam.

Next, copy the armhole from a favoured shirt, pattern or using a French rule. You want to preserve as much of the lower part of the armhole as you can, while still creating a smooth curve.

If you have a yoked shirt, mark a new seam for the yoke where it meets the armhole. This helps reduce the gape in the armhole. I marked mine 5cm (2 inches) along the yoke line and 1cm (3/8 inch) down at the armhole.

Step Four: Yoke Seams

If you have a yoked shirt, sew up the new seams first.

Step Five: Binding the Armholes

On the home stretch!

I used bias binding to finish the armholes. I chose this because it means you can keep as much of the lower armhole fabric as possible and the binding will keep the loose weave of the shirt from warping too much.

I used a lilac store-bought bias binding but use homemade if that floats your boat.

Iron out one edge of your binding but don’t go overboard, you still want to be able to see the crease.


Pin the binding…

Now pin the binding to the shirt right sides together with the open edge crease of the binding matching the line you marked. Start and end at the side seams so that if the join is a bit messy no one will see.

Where the binding meets itself, sew it closed and press open.

Now, stitch the binding and armhole together, using the crease as your guide. Clip the seam allowance to meet the edge of the binding.


Sew in the crease and clip seam allowances

Press the binding and seam allowance away from the shirt and then press the binding and seam allowance to the wrong side of the shirt. You want to make sure your binding is completely on the wrong side of the shirt, without any visible from the right side.

Almost there! Sew from the right or wrong side making sure the stitching line is an even distance from the edge.


Final lap- stitch the binding closed

Step Six: Finishing touches

Snip away any stray threads and give the shirt a good press to smooth out any wobbly bits in the armholes.

Ta da! Done.



Tutorial: Tea cup pin cushion     

An easy pin cushion to keep your pins and needles organised and sharp. And pretty.

It’s hard to find a nice pin cushion. One that’s not gaudy and floral, one that doesn’t sag over time and one that sharpens your pins rather than blunting them.  I decided to experiment and make my own. I used a thin layer of steel wool to keep my pins and needles sharp. I picked up a tea cup from a good will shop, and had everything else around the house.

Step one: Gather your materials

  • A tea cup
  • Dense polyfill or wadding
  • Steel wool
  • Wheat grain or rice
  • Material, a square 5 cm (two inches) wider than your tea cup’s diameter
  • Plastic strip a few centimeters longer than your tea cup’s circumference


    Tea cup geometry

Material notes: I cut up left over quilting batting, which has a good density, just because I didn’t have polyfill. I used the plastic removable base that comes in reusable shopping bags for the plastic, but an ice cream container would work just as well. Use whatever woven fabric you like for the top, I used calico.

Bonus points: As this is a tea cup pincushion I decided to dye my top fabric ‘tea coloured’. In a small bowl I dissolved three teaspoons of coffee granules and soaked my fabric for an hour or so. You need a lot of tea bags to get a ‘tea’ colour, and coffee gives the same look (and smells nice for a while).


Grain, steel wool, wadding and calico

Step two: Prepare your top

Cut your plastic a bit less than 1 centimeter wide, and close it to form a ring that fits really snugly near the top of your tea cup (but not right at the top). I sewed mine shut but staples or even strong glue would work. Place your plastic ring on top of your fabric square and fold up the sides. Sew or glue the fabric to the plastic edges.

Firmly press polyfill into the top and then a thin disc of steel wool.


Tea cup lid

Step three: Fill ‘er up!

Fill two thirds of the tea cup with wheat grain or rice. The heavier material helps keep the tea cup stable.

Next, layer on some polyfill. To keep the tea cup look going, don’t fill it right to the top- you wouldn’t want to spill your tea, would you?

Step four: Assemble!

Press your top fabric side up firmly into your tea cup. I didn’t use glue, it’s just a really firm fit, but you could secure it with glue if you plan to travel with it and want it to be sturdier.


*Like any pin cushion, you want to avoid getting moisture in your tea cup pin cushion. You’ve got steel wool in there, which will rust if it stays wet too long.