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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Embroidered Denim Shirt-dress by Simplicity

A Jaycotts.co.uk blog post


This dress hits all the right fashion spots at the moment, Embroidery is so very fashionable, as are shirt dresses. Have you seen expensive they are too? Denim is practical and wearable anywhere. The embroidery will withstand frequent washing so please do not worry that it makes your garment hard to look after - it doesn't



This denim dress took me three days to make, one of which was spent embroidering the designs and yes, I do confess to sitting watching the machine embroidering away all by itself for the entire day! I was mesmerised by the whole process. I sent a video of it to my father and he couldn't stop watching it either, but then he is an engineer and he manufactored machinery for the cotton industry.

In addition to talking about how I made  and embroidered the dress I am going to talk about Buttonholes and making self covered buttons.





This is my embroidery machine . It is a Brother and it is very easy to use. I guarantee that even if you have never used one before you  will be embroidering within minutes. View the machine here on Jaycotts web site Brother Innov-is 800e

You need a few accessories, thread of course; embroidery thread is lovely and shiny and comes in every colour imaginable. You need a basic selection of colours to start with, this is the box which I use Brother Embroidery thread, box of 22 you will also need Bobbin thread Brother Bobbin thread and embroidery needles Embroidery needles. Just as in normal sewing you need to use the right needle for your fabric and I have found that they need changing frequently especially when sewing large or very dense embroidery.
Stabilisers are important too, you cannot just put your fabric into the hoop without something to hold it firmly in the frame. There is a lot of choice when it comes to stabilisers Embroidery Stabilisers  The ones I am finding most useful at the moment are Filmoplast and Gunold, but it really does depend on the fabric which you are embroidering.
There is a lot more information about stabilisers and hooping, as well as a review of this wonderful embroidery machine on Jaycotts blog, My review of  the Brother Innov-is 800e on Jaycotts blog
If you have any questions or would like a demonstration then do telephone Jaycotts on 01244 394099




The pattern I used is Simplicity S8014 (click on the link to view and order)   I made a combination of view C and D. The pattern appears to be true to size and needed no adjustments whatsoever. I can never get patterns back in the envalope so if I will be using it again I fold it up and keep it in a clear plastic wallet. I also fasten the instructions to the cupboard door to make referring to them easy when I am sewing the garment 



The denim I am using is from Minerva Fabrics Plain stretch denim . If this is your first embroidery project I recommend that you use a non-stretch fabric, a heavy cotton or a non stretch denim  would be perfect. Stabilising stretch fabrics has its own problems and I found that the best way to deal with it was to use two layers of Stabiliser and some removable adhesive. If you are not sure which stabiliser to use them again ring Jaycotts for advice or contact me of course.
You really must pre-wash your fabric, otherwise any shrinkage after you wash the garment for the first time will completely ruin all the hard work you put into making it. Please do not skip this step.
Cut your fabric out but if there are any small pieces you will be embroidering trace around the pattern pieces but cut them out with a very large margin to make it easier to put them into the embroidery frame.


This is some embroidery which I did on the back bodice. As you can see I marked the exact centre and the grain lines both horizontal and vertical. I did not want my embroidery to be off centre or off grain.
When the embroidery is complete pin the pattern pieces on again, adjusting the position if necessary and cut it out.



To embroider the front I transferred the pattern markings for the dart and the centre front onto the right side of the fabric and then I marked the position of the motifes I wanted to embroider with tailors chalk
This machine comes with a great choice of embroidery projects already built in, but you can download plenty more from the internet and transfer them  by pen drive into the machine. There are websites where you can download designs in the correct format either free of charge or paid for. I had a specific idea in mind for this dress and I found some free designs but  two I did purchase for a few cents each.



The process of embroidering a design is fascinating and mesmerising, there is a very short video above. Although the machine does not need much attention it is important to keep an eye on it. My chosen designs are very dense and the thread snapped once or twice, so I needed to re-thread it. It is very easy to go back to the exact place where the thread snapped and start that section again. This machine has a very easy to use touch screen and comes with a really good instruction manual.




There are Japanese characters built into the machine but the Kanji character I wanted was not one of them, so I downloaded it easily from the internet via my memory stick. I embroidered it on the pocket which will go on the left side of the dress to balance the embroidery on the right.
What does this Kanji mean? It means Beautiful which I thought appropriate for this dress as it really is beautiful.



These are my various pieces of embroidery which need tidying up. The first thing to do is to take some sharp embroidery scissors and a pair of tweezers and remove all the loose threads and the joint threads. Turn the embroidery over and remove all the residue of stabiliser using scissors and tweezers and possibly a pin.  The tailors chalk markings will brush off or you could use a damp cloth gently, never rub denim or you will end up with paler spots on it where the dye has rubbed off.



The pattern instructions are very easy to follow, so go ahead and make it up as instructed. If you struggle please contact me and I will help you. I have  many people  email me when they need help and I am always pleased to hear from them. I know Claudia will not mind me mentioning her, she contacted me today regarding making self covered buttons, the solution to her problem will be explained later in this post.

There is a contact form on my blog, just fill it in and I will get back to you.

Buttons and Buttonholes



I thought carefully about buttons and realised that there was enough going on without adding buttons which would stand out, so I spent a rather long time making self covered buttons. It is rather therapeutic if done the easy way, my way.  First of all get yourself a button maker, it is incredibly inexpensive, Button Maker , and some self-cover buttons Self cover buttons 
If your fabric is slipping about, a dash of spray temporary adhesive works wonders and a drop or two of Fray Check puts paid to any frayed edges. Simple! (Claudia's problem solved) 




You need to mark the position of your buttonholes next. You should always position one of the  buttons at the fullest part of your bust, that way you will avoid gaping. How many buttons you choose is up to you but odd numbers always look best. I like a lot of small buttons on my garments, but you may want different, so place your buttons onto the finished garment and see what you like best.
There are many tools for measuring the distance between buttons, the humble ruler is quite good enough, but there are plenty of special tools you can use too.  I am rather fond of my Simflex Gauge Simflex gauge but so long as the buttonholes are evenly spaced it is personal preference as to what method you use.


Always do a test buttonhole first by placing interfacing between two pieces of your fabric and sewing it as if it was your garment. Cut the buttonhole out carefully and check that your button will fit through it. If not then adjust the little slide on the baxk of the buttonhole foot.
This particular buttonhole foot is common to many brands of machine. In this instance I am using a Brother sewing machine Brother Innov-is 15 it is a lovely machine, perfect for a sewing newbie or a not so newbie, as it has plenty of functions, and is reliable and easy to use. It actually has three different buttonholes all of which are sewn easily and quickly with minimum fuss.
To create the buttonhole the button is placed in the back of the buttonhole foot. The buttonhole stitch is selected, and the fabric inserted. There is a grid on the front of the buttonhole foot and this is aligned with the position of your buttonhole. You put your foot on the pedal and it sews a perfect buttonhole to the size of your button, and yes, it is as simple as that.
I have a Bernina sewing machine and the buttonhole foot is different to this one and has a choice of two buttonholes built into the memory. Bernina 350PE. Both machines are good, again it depends on personal preference and budget. If you are thinking of buying a new sewing or embroidery machine then Jaycotts are very willing to help you. Choose the best model to suit your needs and price, and don't forget that you always have the option of paying them a visit and trying a few out before you make your final choice.



A tip for you here if you are sewing a fabric which frays is to dab a bit of your fray check onto each buttonhole as you finish it, so that it will have dried by the time you come to sew your buttons on.



The most irritating thing about buttons on bought clothes is that they fall off! Yours wont if you strengthen your thread with beeswax first.  Beeswax  Thread your needle and double the thread, then run it through the beeswax a few times. Sew your button on to correspond with the buttonhole, securing the thread securely at the start and the end of stitching. You can also add a drop of fray check to the end of the thread. Take your time and use plenty of stitches and they will not fall off.



I pinned the dress together the full length of the front before stitching my buttons on in order to ensure that they were all in the correct place.
The pattern shows buttons right up to the collar stand but as I never fasten the top buttons I decided to stop at the point where I wanted the neckline to open. This is again personal choice. Some people feel that a garment looks better when the buttons and buttonholes continue right the way up, I fully understand that point and agree with it actually, but for this particular garment it is important to me that the embroidery is the focal point so I wanted to cut out anything which was not needed in order not to distract from the beautiful embroidery. It is also why I chose self covered buttons, they blend in better.


I made a very simple tie belt out of the same fabric. If I made a plain denim dress I may well have worn a contrasting coloured leather belt with it instead.
The top and the bottom Geisha girls are actually the same design, I just changed the colours which was easy to do.
If you are just doing a small amount of embroidery then a top stitch around the front and collar in a colour to match one of the embroidery colours would look nice



This is the  design which inspired me to embroider a Japanese themed dress, and was the first piece of embroidery I completed on it. You will find that the designs built into the machine are more than adequate and you do not have to embroider quite as much as I did. A simple  motif on the front or on the pockets would look very pretty.
Before I start my embroidery I line up my colours in the order they will be used and make any substitutes. It is easy to alter the colours on the machine itself but I have found that so long as I keep my colours in the correct order I do not get confused.





Final thoughts

Am embroidery machine is an investment but a worthwhile one. I feel strongly that we ought to be making more of our own clothes and not sending quite so much to landfill sites. I am certain that you have some plain clothes in your wardrobe that you could up-cycle with a touch of embroidery? I have already shown you how to bling your jeans, so why not embroider your skirts, tops and dresses too?

I am thoroughly delighted with my embroidered denim dress and I wore it out today. I took note of how many people stared at it and I was asked where I bought it from! This reaction was fabulous, how many times do you get it from ready to wear?

Please do contact Jaycotts for more information on not only  embroidery machines but on all of their products. Why not sign up for the newsletter and be the first to hear about special offers and promotions.

I hope that you feel inspired by this post and enjoy learning just what an embroidery machine is capable of

Angela