Author: Chinelo Bally

Creative-director @OliviaKabani , Freehand cutter, blogger, loving wifey, devoted foodie :) #IfYouDontStandForAnyThingYouWillFallForEveryThing

New Workshop Dates!!! Sew a Maxi dress with Chinelo….

Hello Guys!

Its been quite a while, and with mighty good reason. I have been busy writing my book, Freehand Fashion, which has now been published (available to purchase on, and I have had loads of private commissions for made to measure dresses; its all been very exciting.

So summer is nearly here and if you know me, then you know I love the sun and I celebrate it with brightly coloured fabrics sewn into amazingly simple but flattering outfit. In light of summer, and loads of request for new workshops, I have set up a brand new project and have 2 dates currently available (sat 14th May 2016 & Sat 11th June 2016 from 10am – 5pm). Participants of this workshop can take advantage of buying a signed copy of my book at the discounted price of £15.

Pls check for details regarding the workshop.

Below is the beautiful dress we will be making.


Classes are selling fast so get booking!

To book your place, pls click the link below.

Looking forward to seeing you there

Happy sewing
Chinelo Bally

Party Top Tutorial.

6 piece bustier top
Hi there stitchers,
It’s been a while since my last post, but all for good reasons. I have been hard at work setting up my studio!!!! It has been quite difficult working from home; as a devout sewist you will identify with my plight; fabric everywhere, pins all over the house and the sewing equipment’s over spilling their allocated boundaries, oh and not forgetting a patient husband smiling his encouragement through gritted teeth lol. The move out of home was due and very welcomed.

Ok so Christmas is nearly here and I must warn you, I am one of those people who get very merry. I absolutely LOVE Christmas much to the annoyance of everyone around me. With this in mind (the fact that Christmas is around the corner), I decided to do a workshop for a Christmas party dress, there were a few options but the winner was the velvet wrap dress I made on the sewing bee. So before I move on to today’s tutorial, here is a quick breakdown; there are 2 dates available, one in October and one in November, the workshops are 2 days long, both days starting at 10am and finishing at 4pm for more information on what you will need and to book a place, click Spaces are selling fast so get in there!!!

Right!! The top I’m showing you how to make today is super sexy and you can embellish it however you choose, I have gone with a black lace and red theme for added va va voom.

You will need:
• Fabric (something stiff 60” by 60” wide)
• Zip
• Steam Iron
• Scissors
• Chalk
• Ruler
Measurements needed (please work in inches):
• Bust
• Underbust
• Waist
• Shoulder to Overbust
• Shoulder to Underbust
• Shoulder to Waist
• Shoulder to Hem

You will need to do some maths, label these measurements as:
• Shoulder to hem – Shoulder to underbust = Blouse length
• 9 inches – Shoulder to overbust = Bust line
• Shoulder to underbust – shoulder to overbust = Underbust line
• Shoulder to waist – shoulder to overbust = Waist line
These are all vertical measurements (our vertical measurements are used as reference marks along which we mark our horizontal measurements)
1. Fold your fabric in half, right side facing in, and press (TIP: always press after every fold). From the top edge measure and mark the blouse length+1.5”, mark in intervals to enable you to draw a straight line across the fabric, cut along this line and set the longer piece of fabric aside.


Fold 1″ of the open edge in towards the folded edge and press; these two opposite ends are now your centre front and centre back, the top is your top seam and the bottom, your hem.

2. Bring the centre front over to line up with the centre back and press

3. From your centre front and back fold, along the top seam measure and mark 4.5”. From the top seam (working vertically) mark the waist line. From the centre front and back fold, along the waist line, mark 4”, along the hem, from the centre folds, mark 6”.


Join these marks with a straight line and cut along the line

4. Take the fabric you put aside, fold it in half again so that you have four layers of fabric. You will now use your centre front panel as a template to cut out your 4 side panels. Lay your centre on the folded fabric and cut around the cut edges only.


Flip the centre front panel so that it mirrors the cut you just made, pull it one inch towards the edge you just cut and cut around the cut edge again,


(these 4 panels you just cut will be slightly smaller than the unfolded centre panel. It will now look like this:


5. Sew one of the side panels to each side of the centre panels, press only the sewn seams (do not press out the centre front or back folds.


Now you have one front piece made up of 3 panels and 2 back seams made up of 4 panels. Back in their centre folds, lay your front piece on top of the back piece.

6. from the centre folds from the top seam, measure down 2-4″ and mark (this is for the sweetheart dip so make it as low or as high as you like). from that mark, draw a line that slopes up towards the joining panels at the top seam. From the top seam measure down the bust line (this is a reference mark) along this mark, divide your bust measurement by 4 + 2″ and mark, from the mark you just made draw a straight line 2″ long towards the centre fold. Connect the end of this line and the panel joining along the top seam with a diagonal line, it should now look like this along the top


7. With the head of your tape lined up with your top seam, mark your underbust line and your waist line; these are reference marks (remember the maths you did earlier, this is what I am referring to)
8. You will now mark your horizontal measurements along these vertical marks you just made, always remember that you are measuring from the centre folds. Quarter your, underbust and waist measurements, add 2 inches to each of these and mark this along the corresponding reference mark, join these marks with straight lines and from the waist mark slant your line to the corner of the hem. Cut around your lines through all layer (but when cutting along the sweetheart line, only cut the front layer)


* notice I have drawn a different neckline for the back. I have made it much lower, you can also make it straight along the bustline in the back.


9. Follow the darting steps in my Shirt Challenge Post (

When you have sewn your darts. Place your pieces on fabric folded in the same was in the centre. Use your pieces as templates to create facings for your top.


Interface your facing pieces and sew them to the matching section of your top.


Turn your facings out, top stitch the seam excess to the facing and press


Insert your zip into the back (I have use an invisible zip)


Lay the front of the top on top of the back matching the centre waist lines. you will now pin the sine seams ready for sewing, ensure that the pieces are completely flat at waist and bust level, this will mean that the side seams to match up but this is fine.

divide your bust measurement by 4 and mark this along the bust line from the centre of the top, like the picture below. so this for the underbust and waist also


Join your marks with a line, this will be the line you sew along.


Copy this seam allowance to the other side and sew your top together


Here is my finished product!!! I have embellished the neckline with some trimmings from scraps of black guipure lace I had left over from another project

As always I would really love to see your attempt at this. Please send me any questions you may have and I will endeavour to reply as soon as I can

lots of love



Up-Cycle Old Jeans to Cropped Denim Jacket

Hi everyone

I haven’t had much time to do these tutorials as often as I would like to, so please accept my apologies. I hope you are all well and enjoying the sunny days that are coming our way in the UK (for those of us in the UK). So as I sat thinking, what can I do to make up for this shortage of new tutorials, it hit me that a nice up-cycle would be a good idea and on that note I stormed my husbands wardrobe with a mission (as you do). Tunde (my DH) has an abundance of jeans he just doesn’t wear any more so naturally I decided that this was the garment to pinch. I really wanted to use just the fabric in the jeans so the challenge I set myself was to come up with something stylish and wearable without adding any other fabric. Here is what I ended up with


but I’m really interested to see what everyone else would do differently, or if you have ever done a jeans up-cycle please let me see!! In the meantime, here’s the “how to” for this one folks.

You will need:


A pair of jeans (preferably a large pair, men or women’s as long as it will have enough fabric in it)




Measuring Tape

Seam ripper or Razor Blade

Steam Iron

Sewing Machine

Measurements needed:

Back, bust, waist, shoulder to bust, shoulder to waist and round sleeve

I have a video on how to measure yourself

Step 1

Using your tape, measure and mark 0.75″ below the waistband all the way around, cut along this line and keep the waist band to one side (measure the thickness of the band and make note of this measurement)

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Step 2

Using your seam ripper or razor blade, carefully cut away the threads that hold the back patch pockets to detach them, set these aside.


Step 3 

Working on one of the back legs, use your ruler to draw a straight horizontal line as close to the top as possible; this is to give you a straight edge to start building your measurements on


Step 4

from the straight line, measure downwards 9″ and mark (this is a reference mark)


minus the thickness of the waist band from the shoulder to waist measurement and mark this from the top as you just did previously. (this is your second reference mark)



The outer side seam of the leg you are working on is going to be your centre back, so when you do your markings for these steps make sure that you work from that edge in towards the inner leg seams


Quarter your bust measurement+2″ and mark this horizontally along the 9″ reference mark you made with a small cross. This is now the bust line

quarter your waist measurement+2″ and mark this horizontally along the second reference mark, again with a small cross



Half the back measurement+0.5″ and mark this along the top from the centre back.



From the cross at the bust line, draw a 2″ straight horizontal line towards the centre back



Draw a curved line that joins the mark along the top line to the beginning of the 2″ line you just drew



To create the neck hole, measure 3.5″ along the top line from the centre back and 1.25″ down the centre back, draw a curve that joins these 2 makings

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draw a straight line that joins the 2 crosses at the side, and a straight horizontal line along the bottom that extends from the centre back to the second cross this is now your waist seam.

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Cut this out; be very careful when cutting, make sure you only cut one layer and do not cut off the seam allowance in the jeans originally because you will use this when sewing the back pieces together. lay this piece on the other leg in the same position you cut it out from and cut around it.

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Now flip your jeans over to the front, lay you piece on one of the front legs and cut around this, this is now one half of the front. take this piece and deepen the curve in the armhole


now lay this on the other front leg and cut around it.



Step 5

measure the crossover in the waist band, half this and make note of this



cross your front pieces over in the centre to replicate the crossover in the waist band now draw a neckline that suites your preference



cut this out and you are ready to place your darts

Step 6

line up your front and back pieces, measure across your breast points (apex/nipple), half this measurement, and fold your fabric along the waist seam at this measurement. press to create a definite crease; this is now your dart line. (the yellow line you see in the picture below is the cross over point in the front)

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from the highest point of the shoulder seam, mark the shoulder to bust measurement along the crease. place one finger In the deepest part of the front arm hole curve and another finger on the bust point you just marked and fold across these to fingers to create a diagonal crease that extends from the arm hole to the dart line, press this.

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you will now have a crease that resembles the yellow line in the picture below


the dart from the arm hole will be 1″ deep and 3″ long and so will the dart in the front, when you draw them, slightly curve the lines,

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This is one continuous dart so when you sew it you must start from the arm hole and once you reach the end of the 3″ do not sew off the fabric; rather continue right on the edge of the crease and when the creases intercept, pick up the machine foot with the needle still down, pivot the fabric so that you will now be working on the front crease, keep sewing close to the edge till you come to the dart lines you drew and continue sewing along the dart line .

The Back darts are 1″ deep and 12″ long

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once you have drawn and sew your darts sew the back pieces together in the centre using the seam allowance that was originally in the jeans

Step 7

attach the front pieces to either side of the back piece with a 0.5″ seam allowance



working at the waist seam of the bodice, measure the length from the centre back seam to the centre front


Fold the waist band in half, measuring from the front, mark the measurement you just took from the waist seam of the bodice. Add 0.5″ to this as seam allowance.


Cut off the excess from the waist band, sew it back together with the 0.5″ seam allowance.

sew the waist band to the bodice, matching up the centre back seams

Step 8

With your tape, measure the entire neck hole



cut out a piece from the jeans that is 10″ thick and half the neck hole measurement +0.5″  long. Fold this in half so that it becomes 5″ thick, cut a slight slant on one end. I should like this



repeat this so that you have 2 of these


sew these together in the middle with a 0.25″ seam allowance , and sew the slanted edges with a 0.25″ allowance.

Turn it out press and sew this around the neck hole .

to make the sleeves have a look at my post on sleeves ( )

As usual guys if you have any questions just contact me and I will do my best to clarify for you, i would really love to see your attempt at this and would appreciate any pictures.

On another note, there are very few spaces left on my up-coming maxi dress work shop. Click on this link to book your space!!

Till next time

Happy sewing






Maxi Dress!!! Summer is nearly upon us

Hi Guys

I really hope everyone’s been enjoying the few days of sunshine we have had in the UK so far? I’m a real heat freak and I just love the sunshine. I really love to welcome the warmer months (or days, as is the case in the UK) with some lovely floral prints and I absolutely love maxi gowns for this time of year, they are just perfect; easy to wear and extremely versatile, a maxi dress is a must for every wardrobe. Imagine the possibilities and the combinations you can achieve from making your own maxi dress; you could colour block for a fresh look, go floral for some feminine chic, and embellish or accessorize your dress to you heart’s content, to make it as understated or as overstated as you wish. With this in mind and the numerous requests for new workshop dates, i have decided to add new workshop dates!!! and you guessed it, we are making this pretty number:

CSC_0095 - Copy


I have added only 5 dates for this workshop so spaces are very limited; get booking guys!!! Here’s the link

I have been extremely busy working on my new studio and other things, all very exciting, but have kept me completely busy. I will do a tutorial for something as soon as I possibly can, I’m thinking something up-cycled, let me know your opinions and watch this space for it

Till we meet again, stay fabulous and have a blessed week



Hi-low Top Tutorial – The “hide it all but still chic” Top

Hi guys!!!

Its been a long time since I posted a tutorial, but it has all been for very good reasons, aside from expanding my waistline with one to many treats (as you do), I have had a lot on and promise to spill the beans all in good time. Talking about expanded waistlines, dont you just hate it when we get those sudden bursts of sunny days that you haven’t conditioned your body for? you know, that “OMG summer is here and I still haven’t kicked these kgs” moment. Well, worry not!! I have taken it upon myself to provide you with this tutorial for an uber cute top that will hide all your wintry sins; yes I am that considerate (and I have an occasion to attend tomorrow, the sun is shining and quite frankly my summer body isnt ready, but I still gotta look cute, O the dilemmas of a Lady!!!) .

Ok, so here’s what we are making:

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You will need;




Fusible interfacing


Pinking sheers

Measuring tape


large piece of paper (I have brown paper roll but even newspaper will do)

Chalk and a pencil (with a rubber at the end)

Steam iron.

Measurements needed



shoulder to bust

shoulder to waist

shoulder to hips

Round sleeve, Round Elbow

Sleeve length, Elbow length


Essentially your piece of paper is going to be used to make a template that will be laid on the bias folded fabric; this is what gives you the voluptuous fall in the back of the top; however, since I always cut the front and back of a bodice together, we will make a template for the front and back in the same manner. I would normally do all what I’m about to show you directly onto the fabric but I have chosen to do a template because of how we will angle it on the folded fabric.

The piece of paper you are using needs to be shoulder to hip measurement long and half the bust measurement +6″ wide. Once you have cut this out, fold it in half and you are ready to start. Note: remember you always work from the centre out, unless otherwise stated.

Step 1

From the top corner, measure 3.5″ along the top edge, then along the folded edge measure down 5.5″ and join these two marks with a rounded semi “v”; this is your front neck hole. Working again at the top edge mark half your back measurement+ 3/8″



Step 2; place the top of your tape on the top edge of the paper measure down 7″ and mark. then mark your vertical measurements+0.5″ (shoulder to waist and shoulder to hips)

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These marks will now serve as reference points, along which you will place your horizontal measurements.

Step 3; along the line of your first reference point (the 7″ down mark) mark a quarter of your bust measurement+2″. Along the last reference point (shoulder to hips, this should actually be the bottom edge of the paper), mark a quarter of your bust measurement+3.5″.



Step 4; From the bottom centre corner, measure up 2.5″ , from here curve a line down that meets with the mark along the bottom edge. Now join the horizontal measurement marks with a straight line; it should look like this.

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Step 5; At the top of the straight line draw a straight line 2″ in towards the centre, then from the furthest marking from the centre, along the top edge, draw a deep curve the joins the 2″ line you just made. It should now resemble the second picture.

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mark 0.5″ along the top of the curve and slant a straight line that meets the corner of the neck hole; this will form your shoulder slope, like so


Step 6; return to the 2″ line you drew and repeat the same, exactly 2″ below it


Step 7; back at the shoulder slope (outer edge) draw a shallower curve that meets the second 2″ line.  Inside the neck hole, draw a shallower curve that will form the back neck hole, this really shouldn’t be more than 2″ deep. return to the



Step 8; You are now ready to cut! please pay close attention to this statement; only cut around all outer lines. This is because you are cutting front and back pieces together and not all lines are the same, as you can see.

when you have cut out your pieces it should look like this;



cut along the fold, and separate the pieces. Transfer the armhole markings unto the back piece, from the front piece, cut this out, then cut the front neck hole, erase the bottom half of the back armhole curve and cut the deeper front armhole curve.

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Templates done and ready to be used. The back piece has the higher neck line and lower armhole, mark them accordingly so you don’t get confused. Believe me, this is a very easy and annoying mistake to make.

Step 9; for the back piece, fold the fabric at a 45 degree angle (raw edge folder over to line up with selvage edge)



Lay your back template piece on the fabric as shown in the picture (note; the centre of the template is facing the folded edge),


along the bottom draw a curve that is lower at the folded edge, and slopes upwards to meet the bottom outer edge of the template. It should resemble this:


cut this out and set aside.

Step 10; Fold another piece of fabric as you normally would if you were cutting out a pattern piece, line the centre of  your front template with the fold and cut out.


This top will need some side bust darts, although the top is not fitted, darts will help it hang better on the body. To create the darts, place the top of your tape measure at the highest point of your shoulder seam, measure down your shoulder to bust measurement and mark. along the side seam place a mark about 1″ lower than the mark you just made;

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draw a straight line that connects these two marks, then press along this line:

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Unfold the piece and use your iron to invert the right side facing crease. these are your dart lines (the centre of your darts), use your tape to measure a dart that is 1″ deep and 5.5″ long, draw this with chalk:


set this aside.

Step 11: To make the facing for the front and back pieces, lay the template pieces on the fold of fabric cut right around the neck, shoulder and armhole, stopping 1.5″ beyond the armhole, along the side seam. lift the template up and draw an arch that curves towards the neckline.

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Cut this out and use the pieces as templates for cutting the matching fusible interfacing.  Fuse the interfacing to the facing, snip along the bottom edge with pinging sheers, turn up a single 3/8″ hem and sew.

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Step 12; sew your darts

Step 13. Lay the facing over the relevant piece, right sided facing each other, pin (if you must) and sew with a 3/8 seam allowance. Press the seam allowance towards the facing and top stitch on the right side of the facing (this is done right at the edge of  the seam). press

step 14. You will now treat the facing and the top pieces as one. Lay the front piece on top of the back piece, right sides facing inwards, pin the side seams



sew with a 0.5″ seam allowance.

step 15; open the shoulder seams so that the right side of the facings are facing each other and the right sides of the front and back piece are facing each other, sew it like this:



your top will now look like this inside out:


Finish the hem by doing a double turned hem, I thing this is the best way for this top.

for sleeves follow my tutorial on sleeves, the link is:

sew in your sleeves and there you have it, the most forgiving top ever.

I have added a leather appliqué to the neckline of mine and also added shoulder pads for extra sharpness. I’m thinking, black skinny jeans and heels?.

I really hope give it a go, and please send me pictures of your completed garments, I get sew excited (sorry, I couldn’t help that) when I see what other people have done. As ever if you have any questions just send them over and I will try my best to answer.

Have a blissful week


Thank you all xxx!!!

Hi Stitch-hearts (lamest pun ever but I like it)

Its been a while since I posted on my blog but I’m sure everyone can appreciate how hectic it has all been, but I am giving my scouts honours word that I will be posting a new tutorial more regularly.

Firstly, and most importantly, I will like to say a huge thank you to all of you who have supported my sewing bee journey, I am so grateful for all the kind messages that have kept me very busy responding. to all the new followers, welcome to my blog and I hope it will be a useful resource for you.

I really felt the support of the British public and  am so pleased with how my approach to sewing has been received. Doing sewing bee is an experience I will never forget and I am so thankful to have been short-listed for the programme. I know the application for next years series has closed but I will strongly recommend anyone considering taking part in the one after to go for it.

Being in a room full of people who shared my passion for sewing was amazing and something I had never experienced before. All the contestants were fantastic; a really good bunch and I loved every minute of it.

When it came down to the final and it was just Heather, Tamara and myself, I must admit that it induced some bitter-sweet feelings; I was proud to be competing with such experienced sewists in the finals but was also afraid of that same fact. I have to say that losing the crown to Heather, was not a loss at all, technically, Heather is a fantastic sewist and she is highly skilled, she deserved her win!


I’m sure everyone remembers my tie melt down. Gosh that was a very wordy pattern and not being a pattern girl it completely threw me. Prior to the sewing bee I had never used a pattern, but when I was confronted with my first pattern for the show, I relied heavily on the pictures for direction. So sorry to all those who were disappointed with the melt down, but hey, I never have to make a tie EVER again (I say that now but something inside me tells me I will soon post up a tutorial on making a tie freehand).

I love making glamorous gowns so designing my finale dress was O so joyous to say the least. I have to say a massive thank you to my bestie Rose for being my model, I still cant believe it, she doesn’t even do phone cameras so imagine my utter shock when she walked in to a room full of broadcasting cameras for a BBC programme, talk about conquering your fears!! Extreme! The dress looked amazing on Rose and I was very happy with it.

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Wish I had some more time to press out all those creases though.

After the show aired on Tuesday I have had hundreds of emails about workshops so I have added a couple more dates for London!!! the link for these is below but they are filling up fast so if you are interested get in there as soon as possible

I have also had loads of interest from readers and viewers outside the UK and I am working on ways to get you free-handing so once things have been confirmed I will  put up a post to update everyone, but there are loads of exciting things happening so expect some good stuff  😉

Have a wonderful day

With Love



Exciting News!!! First workshop Ready

Hello stitcher

I hope everyone has had a good week and are eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s sewing bee.

My sewing bee freehand antics seems to have a few of you interested in learning to do this also, so due to popular demand I have decided to set up a workshop to teach just this.

The workshop will hold on Saturday the 5th of April from 13:00-18:00, in the very trendy Bow area of East London.  This is an all inclusive 5hr workshop; all the fabrics, equipments, haberdasheries  you need to make the top/dress will be included and I have taken it upon myself to make sure you have unlimited tea/coffee and biscuits (O what a hard task!), who knows I may even bake a cake ,not promising though.

There will only be 12 in the class because I want to make sure that you get as much of my attention as possible.

This workshop does require you to have a bit of sewing machine experience and the ability to sew a straight line, I am offering a 30min sewing machine refresher, just before the workshop begins, because I know that some of us have had our machines gathering dust for a looooooooong time and have become a bit rusty with operating it. This is at no extra cost, so if you feel you need this just show up at the venue half an hour before the workshop is due to start.

We will be making this peplum top:


or you may wish to extend the length of the peplum to make a skater style dress, whichever you choose to make on the day, it will be beautifully fitted to you and a stylish addition to your spring/summer wardrobe.

Here’s the link to book the workshop //

Hope to see you there!!!!