Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Kelly Green Silk Occasion Dress

The dress I've got to share with you today has been a real labour of love and I enjoyed every single second of making it. Even the whole day spent fitting the bodice! I like nothing better than a reason to sew myself something special and challenging and what better reason could I have than the wedding of my step-sister 10 days ago? I mulled over what I wanted to make for over a year and bought the fabric long before I decided on a style and pattern. When I visited Mood Fabrics NYC last April I spent a good hour pawing at bolts in the glorious silk section and when I glimpsed this vibrant Kelly Green 4 Ply Silk Crepe it was love at first sight. It has got the most amazing thickness and weight to it combined with such a luxurious drape and sheen. Its similar to what I would call a silk morocain here in the UK. At $35/yard it was a real treat but similar silks this side of the Atlantic are likely to cost double. I on the spot decided that this was going to be used for my wedding outfit and bought 2.5 yards which turned out to be plenty for this design. I might even have enough left to piece together a slinky cami if I'm lucky.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

I've wanted to make B5814 (one of Gertie's designs for Butterick) for a really long time; I think I've had it pinned to my sewing pattern wish list on Pinterest since it was released! The one thing stopping me, apart from an occasion to wear it) was that I wasn't totally sold on the style of the skirt with the pleated drape at the hip. Once I had chosen the silk I pretty much ruled the pattern out as I wanted a style that would make the most of the amazing movement in it. Then it occurred to me one day that it would actually look beautiful used for the pleats of the bodice and I could switch out the skirt for a simple flippy half circle.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

The silk was going to need some support to maintain the lovely crisp lines of the bodice so I underlined all the bodice pieces and sleeves with silk organza. I love doing this and find hand basting the pieces together so therapeutic. The organza has given just the right amount of structure to the bodice shape but still allows the pleats of the bodice to fall in lovely soft folds once the basting stitches were removed. I really wanted to go all out and make this dress the best it could be so I even used proper basting thread for the first time which breaks fairly easily to make it more simple to remove. I also actually used beeswax for all my hand sewing and was blown away by the difference it made. It certainly made those two hours hand sewing the hem more pleasant!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

Looking at the sizing on the envelope I cut a muslin using the size 10 bust and 12 waist. I read a whole heap of fitting advice on Pattern Review which almost put me off! I went in with the mindset that I was going to need to send some time on the fit and was actually pleasantly surprised. Yes I needed to raise the neckline (Gertie herself says its not a modest dress) but it was amazing at how secure and comfortable I felt in the first muslin despite how exposed I was! To make this alteration as straightforward as possible I measured and wrote on the muslin how much higher I wanted it to be at various points across the front. The most was 1" at the centre front. I then added paper behind my pattern pieces, marked these points and joined them all using my french curve, grading to nothing at the ends where the edge meets another seam. I liked the way the right bodice piece dipped down under the left bust so didn't add any height there.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

The rest fit so beautifully that the only other change I needed to make was to get the sleeves to stay put on the shoulder. Gertie's fitting post was invaluable to me at this point and the changes I made were pretty much exactly what she suggests. I pinned out a bit at each front raglan sleeve seam and pinned a wedge at the top so it fitted the curve of my shoulder then transferred those adjustments to the pattern pieces. If you are going to follow Gertie's advice take note that in her pictures she shaves of a wedge in the wrong place on the second one. You need to change the shape of the seam where the sleeve meets the bodice, not where the sleeve meets itself under the arm. Its pretty easy to get muddled at various points with these small bodice pieces so I was glad I made a muslin just to practice the construction! The sleeves fit so well now; not too tight or loose. Each adjustment was only tiny but made a huge difference. The neckline is quite wide so I expected to have to wear a strapless bra but I was pleased to find I could away with my normal one which has wide set straps. Its flesh coloured so if anything did peek out as I moved around you wouldn't really notice.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

As I mentioned the fitting did take me a whole day as I made a second muslin to check my adjustments, inserted zips in both and painstakingly transferred all markings. These included seam allowances so I could press down the top edges accurately and bust point and waistline markings so I could accurately assess fit. All that time fitting was absolutely worth it to be able to forget I was even wearing something so special whilst whirling around dancing a ceilidh! I was wonderfully comfortable and happy in it all day.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

The time taken on fitting a muslin gave me more confidence when the time came to cut into my fabric and I enjoyed the whole construction process even more knowing I had a dress which was going to work. A couple of days after cutting I went to see La La Land and like most of us was drooling over the dresses when I realised that what I was making was very similar to Emma Stone's green date night dress! Total happy accident that gave me even more confidence in my choices. Looking at pictures of that dress and the way it moves I've got my suspicions that this very fabric might have been the one used!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

Construction-wise its one of those wonderful dresses that looks beautifully simple from the outside but has all sorts going on underneath to make it look that effortless! The instructions for this pattern are very thorough and include all kinds of well thought out techniques but I threw a few extra in there for good measure! Firstly do use tailors tacks to transfer all your markings. I always use them anyway as they are such an accurate way of working and for this design they are invaluably clear when matching up all those pleat lines. I wouldn't want to risk damaging the silk with a washable marker or even chalk. Luckily one of the bonuses of underlining with silk organza is that you can make all your markings nice and clearly onto that!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

The bodice has boning along the front and back darts and set just back from the side seams. The pattern instructs you to use the kind of plastic boning which comes inside a removable fabric casing which is just what I did. There are quite a few different types of boning an ways to insert it into a garment which I might cover in a future post but the plastic boning provides all the shape you need for this style. If you are looking for more support you might want to consider spiral steel boning. My lining is a perfectly coloured satin remnant I picked up on my trip to Stoff & Stil. This has a tight weave and crisper hand than the silk and organza combo and provided a nice string base to sew the boning to.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

I was really worried about the neckline gaping as I know that is often a problem with low cut wrap styles and the fact that I had altered that area made me even more concerned. I stay-stitched this edge and then stabilised this edge with selvedge strips of the organza sewn close the stitching within the seam allowance. This edge is then under-stitched which is so satisfying to do and then look at! My mum pointed out that with the low wrap neckline it could have been a dress that I spent all day fiddling with, feeling self conscious but it sat so beautifully I couldn't be more pleased.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

The wiggle skirt from the pattern is underlined rather than lined and as I really didn't want to change the movement or drape of the silk at all I opted to go without a lining in the skirt. This brings me on to the one thing I didn't like about this pattern; the finishing of the bodice down the centre back and waist. When a bodice is lined I would usually attach the skirt and insert the zip into the exterior fabric only then press under and stitch down the edges of the lining for a today finish. These instructions have you treat the lining and fashion fabric as one at this stage so you end up with visible seam allowances down the centre back and along the waistline. I'm not keen on how this looks but by the time I realised I would have had to unpick quite a lot of the bodice finishing and didn't want to damage my silk. This finish seems a little odd when you've made so much effort to finish the rest of the bodice beautifully; the lining is hand stitched in place at the underarms and side seams.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

I bound the edges of the centre back seam with bias strips of the silk before inserting the zip in an attempt to make the exposed seam allowances as pretty as possible! The instructions have you turn down the top ends of the zip tape and tack them in place before putting it it which I found fiddly and also don't like the look of now its done. I must admit the closure at the top does look so neat and clean from the outside though. I think this is the first time I managed to get the placement of hook and eye just right so the two edges sit flush together. The waistline was a few millimetres away from matching first time around and when everything else was coming together so beautifully I couldn't stand it not to be perfect! I unpicked it once and am now super happy with it. I covered the bottom end of the zipper tape with a square of the silk folded around to enclose all the raw edges. As I left the skirt unlined I didn't want the raw end of the tape catching on the silk or my tights.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

Because of the faux wrap style and the the way the lining is finished the waist seam does get quite bulky at points across the front. If you're making the skirt that comes with the pattern that has the lovely drop on the front this would get even thicker and I imagine be quite tricky to handle. Throughout the whole construction process I heavily trimmed and graded my seam allowances as I didn't want any bulk showing through this lovely soft silk. As the waistline was already a tad bulky I was reluctant to bind the raw edge as I had done with the centre back. Instead I resorted to pinking it, comforting myself with the fact that it is hidden behind the waist stay anyway.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

To make the waist stay I used curved petersham from Maculloch & Wallis and followed the guidance in Claire Schaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques. I got about as confused with them as I did when I made my chiffon dress a couple of years back so ended up getting that dress out and copying it! I absolutely recommend adding a waist stay to any special occasion dress or dress whose skirt has a bit of weight to it. When it fits your waist snuggly it keeps everything sitting in just the right place. To get the length right on mine I measured my waist and added what I needed to turn back to create the fastenings at the ends rather than use the guide provided with the pattern. The sizing on this seemed to be a bit off.

Once the dress was completed I left it to hang for a good 48 hours as parts of that semi circular skirt are on the bias and would likely stretch out. It dropped all kinds of wonky and I had to put my dress form to good use, measuring up from the floor and marking an even height to level it off. I took off between 2-5" in the end, using two 1/2" turns for the hem to give it a bit of body. I'm sure it still looks uneven on the hanger but in the pictures it looks good to me!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

I did have a mini disaster right at the final hurdle. I had been so careful with the silk all the way through, using an organza pressing cloth and having total paranoia about pricking my finger and bleeding on it when hand sewing! I was giving it the final press after finishing the hem and my iron decided to clean itself out all over the back of the bodice. I could have cried. I gave myself a stern taking to and carefully wet the spots a little more to 'blur' the edges and prevent water rings then dried it out the best I could by gently using the heat of the iron through layers of paper towel. Thankfully by next morning not a mark could be seen.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: B5814 Gertie for Butterick Dress in Kelly Green Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics

If you've made it to the end of the post well done! There's nothing I like more than talking about the nitty gritty of sewing techniques and once I get going there's no stopping me! I can't wait to find an excuse to take this dress for another spin, I'll have to resist making any more party dresses for a while...or just find more parties

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Handmade Gifts: McCalls 6614 Hoodies for Men

I have been desperate to post about the dress I worked so hard on to wear to my step-sister's wedding last week but the gloomy London winter light is making it impossible to get any decent pictures. Fingers crossed for the weekend! In the meantime I've got the next in my series of posts about gifts I sewed for loved ones for Christmas and birthdays at the end of last year. Well actually this is a trio of hoodies, the first of which I sewed back in 2015 for my brother for Christmas. The second was my stepdad's Christmas present this year and the third was for my brother's birthday; identical but a different colour as he loved the first so much!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

In my last post I wrote about the challenge of sewing clothing as gifts being the difficulty of getting them to fit but remain a surprise. Hoodies are a little risky in that you want the right amount of ease and don't want the waistband ending up too snug or the sleeves too baggy. However they are quite forgiving in that they are a relaxed fitting knit garment and in general men have less curves to work around than ladies! The initial idea of making a hoodie for my brother actually came from him. He asked me for one for Christmas 2014 and jokingly suggested I could make it. At that time I didn't feel like my sewing skills were up to the challenge so I decided to surprise him with one the following year. Surprised he was; he didn't even realise I had made it until I told him!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I spent quite a lot of time looking into hoodie patterns and found it difficult to find one in the relaxed classic mens style I was after but settled on McCalls 6614 in the end. I definitely wanted a zip up the front and nothing too unusual in the details. There's actually a better selection around now than when I first made this but menswear patterns can be so hard to come by. This is definitely one of those patterns where you have to look past the photos on the envelope to the line drawings! I used view D by the way; the other versions all pull on over the head and feature princess seams which I think make them more suited to a female figure.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I did a lot of research into other bloggers' experiences of making hoodies looking for tips and tricks. I was a bit nervous about making my very first garment of this sort as a gift and I wanted it to be the best I could make it. I found Novita's post on the hoodie she made for her husband and it was that post which swung the decision to use this pattern. In the end the only thing I changed about the pattern and instructions was to omit the facing pieces. In these plush sweat-shirtings I think it adds too much bulk and I would have needed much more fabric to get these bits out. I felt certain that I'd never seen a facing on a RTW hoodie or similar knit garment but lo and behold I've seen them everywhere in the shops since! Instead of the facing I copied Novita's genius idea to add cotton tape along the edge of the zip for a neat finish. I simply stitched it along the zip tape before turning that edge under and top-stitching. On the versions I made this year I found twill tape to match the hoodie colour which looks super clean but I think I might actually prefer the contrast of the cream tape on my brother's first one. Combined with the white fleece inside it looks like a specially considered design choice and is one of those unique little touches you can add when you're making your own.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I think the 2016 versions turned out ever so slightly better just because of my increased sewing experience. But I am still unbelievably proud of the first one. Despite not being one of my most ambitious or well made makes this is still one of the projects I am most proud of. He wears it ALL the time (and now he has the second 9 times out of 10 when  I visit he's wearing one of them) and although I love being able to tell people I made my own outfit for me nothing beats the feeling of seeing one of your favourite people wearing something you made and looking so good in it! I love how much he likes it and I was amazed at how well it fit and suited him when he first put it on. I actually took these pictures this Christmas so a year of heavy wear is responsible for those bobbles. I unfortunately failed at persuading any modelled pictures!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I was confused by the shoulder darts when I first cut the pattern. When I'm using a stretch fabric why do I need a dart? In fact to ensure a good shape and fit especially in thicker, more stable knit fabrics like this darts are often essential. In fact just yesterday I was in a fitting for some lycra all in one costumes and despite being a very fine clingy stretch fabric the costume maker was carefully considering where to place seams for shaping and where darts might be needed. This sweat shirting have any of that 'cling' that means it can rely on stretching around the body so the garment needs to have shape within its construction and shoulders are a particularly awkward body part to fit a garment around. The shoulder shape is lovely (although it is a unisex pattern so I wonder how it looks on a lady) and I also really like the cut of the spongy lined hood and slim fit. Both my brother and step dad are fairly average in height and build and I cut the size medium. Everything about it is spot on as I wanted including the length of the sleeve and in the body.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I REALLY enjoyed making all three of these. They require just the right amount of concentration and are so satisfying to see come together. I love a garment with a raglan sleeve! The most difficult part of construction is probably the insertion of the zip. Inserting a zip into a knit fabric can be tricky as you don't want to stretch the fabric out along the tape and forever distort the shape. I had real trouble with this on my Sangria Dress but luckily this stable sweat shirting is much more forgiving. Getting the front pockets and waistband to match up either side of the zip is essential as that area is such a feature. I will admit to unpicking and restitching a number of times on all three but it was so worth it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

The top-stitching is also well worth taking your time over as it makes it look super professional and stops the seams looking puffy which can be a home-made giveaway. I constructed the main seams with a narrow zig zag stitch on my machine and finished them on the overlocker but did all the topstitching with a standard straight stitch as this is a relaxed fitting hoodie that goes on like a jacket so doesn't really require any stretch.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

The one thing to bear in mind if you are going to make this pattern is that only one zip length is listed for all sizes. Of course as the size increases the length of the front does too so this length of zip only works for one size. Quite a glaring mistake! I'd recommend making the garment up and measuring the length of the opening before you buy. Its frustrating as you have to wait to finish your garment but at least your zip will be the right length. I think I ended up needing a 26" zip but as I got mine from John Lewis I bought a few and returned what I didn't need. The open ended zips were actually really difficult to find in a decent selection of colours but I'm really pleased with all three of my choices. I like the contrast on the grey and the green (I went with beige for the green as the white looked too harsh) but a pale colour against the black was too stark so I kept it simple with black. John Lewis are pretty averagely priced for a UK supplier of these but I couldn't believe how expensive they were! The cost of notions like these can really whack up the cost of a garment but its always worth investing in good quality zips.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

The grey fabric with the white fleece back came from A to Z Fabrics on Goldhawk Road which is the one next door to the Costa when you come out of the tube. This shop often has some hidden gems if you rummage hard enough and know what to look for. I have since realised that sweat shirting with a contrast colour reverse like this can actually be quite tricky to come by so I'm very pleased with my impromptu choice! The fabrics for the green and black versions both came from Rolls & Rems in Lewisham who have a good selection of knits upstairs. These are again both fleece backed rather than loop backed.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

All three fabrics are of a very similar weight and stability with actually quite limited stretch so I was confident the fit of the second and third would be similar to the original. The one change I made to these two was increasing the size of the cuffs at the request of my brother. He can get his hands through the grey cuffs but likes to push them up to his elbows when wearing which the knit didn't have enough stretch in to do. I added 1" to the size of them this time and apparently that is 'spot on'. I didn't increase the width of the sleeve, it just meant less easing needed to be done when attaching the cuffs. I did consider using a ribbing for the cuffs and waistband instead but I knew both recipients would prefer a solid colour to wear with everything and I couldn't find a decent ribbing to match (which might sound ridiculous as one of them is black but have you ever tried to match two blacks, near impossible!).

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

To sum it up I'm incredibly proud of all three of these presents and hope the wearers enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them. I highly recommend a hoodie as a handmade gift (I'd actually love to try making a lighter weight one in some super soft merino) and this pattern is a cracker if you want a fairly slim zip up style. I definitely see more of these in my future! 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Handmade Gifts: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I made a fair few handmade gifts that I was really proud of back in December. The first of which was this silk robe which was a birthday gift for my friend Checca. I wanted to give her something super special as it was a special birthday plus I knew she'd appreciate something I had sewn as she sews too (and is very talented at it, I keep on at her to start a blog!). That did mean the pressure was on to make a really good job of it though as she'd spot any mistakes! I do enjoy sewing gifts for the home and other small soft goods but what I really like to sew is clothes. However, when making clothes as gifts I always come a bit unstuck when it comes to the fit as you can't try it on them without ruining the surprise! For Checca's present I thought about what clothing I could make that had a more generic size range and wouldn't need a fitting. I suddenly remembered that I'd chosen the Almada Robe pattern with some of my original Seamwork credits as I couldn't resist the beautiful and unusual kimono inspired design and I was sold on the idea.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

All I needed now was the perfect fabric. I'd originally chosen the pattern with the idea of making it up in a double gauze (and this is still high up my personal sewing wish list, I've been eyeing up Nano Iro for months!) but wanted to use something really luxurious for such a special occasion. I'm not usually a huge fan of Liberty prints for my clothing but this kind of garment is perfect to showcase one of their more ornate designs. I remembered spying some Liberty print silks in Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road a while back so took myself on a little jaunt and was delighted to find a whole array of designs for even less than I remembered! I have now of course entirely forgotten how much this was but it was somewhere in the region of £14.95 per metre. An absolute steal if you consider that Liberty silks are £45/m in store! If you can't get to west London Liberty are currently offering 50% off a whole load of their archive fabrics including this very print in both this and the purple colour-way!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I felt like the trees in this design had a slightly oriental feel to them and loved how that complimented the kimono style of the pattern. They had at least three colour ways of this print in stock and I had a hard time picking but eventually settled on the green as Checca has amazing red hair which I thought would bring out the rich red of the leaves. When buying it I did forget to note that its only 139cm wide so had some trouble squeezing it out of the two metres I bought. I was forced to make the cuffs slightly narrower to fit but this turned out to be a happy accident as I think the delicate silk suits the change and the wider cuff would need a fabric with more body to support it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I had some cream sand-washed silk satin leftovers stashed from when I made my Vogue 1247 blouse which was the perfect match in weight for the Liberty print and worked out great for the binding along the front edge. The matt sand-washed texture makes it slightly gripper than the satin which I fin makes it slightly easier to work with. This and the fact that it presses well with crisp folds is a godsend when doing something fiddly like the narrow binding. The pattern does recommend you interface the tie and cuff pieces but I decided to omit it for a couple of reasons. Firstly I wanted to retain the delicate fluidity of the silk and secondly I was concerned about using a fusible on something so fine. I considered hand basting in silk organza which is my go to choice for special projects but it has way too much body to be paired with this silk.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

The quality of the silk is absolutely as you would expect from Liberty. This is their Belgravia silk satin and it has a stunning sheen on the right side and a super smooth matt finish on the reverse which feels amazing against the skin. It weighs practically nothing but retains an opacity and as you can see it moves and drapes beautifully. I pre-washed it on a 30 degree delicate cycle in the machine. I usually do this with my silks and as it was a gift I wanted it to be easy to care for.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

Cutting out was tricky as the pieces are really big so there's plenty of room for the silk to shift about and move off grain. I cut everything in a single layer on my carpeted bedroom floor. I like doing this for silk as the carpet grips the fabric a little and prevents too much shifting. I know some people advise to use as few pins as possible as they tend to leave holes in the silk but I personally like to use lots of pins in a slippery silk like this as it makes it so much easier to control. I just make sure to keep all my pins in the seam allowances and now have some super fine Merchant and Mills entomology pins for use with fine fabrics which are awesome. I used the finest microtex needle I had to hand and a Gutermann Sew All Thread; a combo I find somehow cures most problems I have with skipped stitches!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I've been generally quite impressed with Seamwork patterns so far but have only tried four; this, the Mesa and Neenah Dresses and a Paxon Sweater I made for my Dad. I had some fitting issues with the Paxon and Mesa (I don't seem to get on with Colette armholes!) but was impressed with the instructions and style lines. I'm not a fan of every design and some of them seem very basic but to build up a wardrobe of staple garments quite quickly as they advertised I they're a good a good bet. The simple lines of the patterns also mean they'd be a good starting point to try a bit of pattern hacking and experimentation. The PDFs do drive me a bit mad as I feel like I'm wasting a huge amount of paper but that's pretty much the only negative I've found.

The finishing on this pattern in particular is well thought out. Just because the designs are simple and patterns affordable doesn't mean they skimp on basic instructions and construction techniques; they're well chosen for the styles and intended fabric. My favourite part is how the ties are attached really neatly by sewing them on right sides together then folding them back on themselves and using two rows of topstitching to hide the raw end.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

As I was using this lovely fine silk and I wanted this to be a gift to treasure for years to come I used french seams throughout. I made them as tiny as I could! I love this technique and was really happy with how they turned out on this. How well silk responds to heat and steam helped no end when it came to getting clean even finishing. It was really time consuming though as there were so many long seams! I liked that the way the cuff is attached meant I could use french seams here too and it looks really lovely. Even though my cuffs were narrower than intended I think having a cuff rather than the same binding finish that is along the front really lifts the design and gives it that extra something.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

Fit wise there's not a lot to say as it's such a loose fitting garment! It is fairly short so I'd be more inclined to wear it with PJ bottoms or shorts than a slip. It becomes even shorter when you tie it up tight so I'm tempted to lengthen it when I eventually get around to making a version for myself. The other thing I would note is that the kimono style of the sleeves mean that the armholes are very deep and as the sleeves are short this means you can see right inside when you lift your arms! Definitely more of a luxury item for layering rather than a robe to be worn for modesty.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I can't now find how long this one was supposed to take to make but all Seamwork patterns are advertised as taking between 1-3 hours. Making it in silk and french seaming meant this took WAY longer than that and to be honest I think this pattern would take me longer whatever the fabric as it requires some accuracy and concentration. I don't think I'm a particularly slow sewer but I am careful and I think most of the patterns will take longer than suggested if you are too.

Thank you to Checca for inspiring this project and giving me a reason to sew something so frivolous and with such a wonderful fabric. It was hard to hand this over when the time came so I really can't wait to find the perfect fabric for my own now!
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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

January Indie Pattern Update!



I can't believe that its already time for the first of these posts for 2017. And boy is it a whopper for you. I hope you put the kettle on before you sat down and started on this one as its going to take a while! Not only has there been a huge amount going on within the independent pattern design community there have been some truly beautiful releases this month. Let's hope that this is a sign of things to come for the rest of the year. Enjoy!


New Patterns


  • This month's releases with Seamwork Magazine from Colette were the Jane Crew Neck T-Shirt (a real classic) and Margo Pencil Skirt which features on trend side slits.
  • Style Arc's first wave of January releases were all about tops. The patterns included the Fran Knit Top, Isabella Top, Juliet Woven Shirt and Annika Top. Later in the month they also releases the Alissa Knit Dress which features a lovely draped swag to the skirt and the Natasha Woven Pants which might be just what I need to make some cropped culottes. 
  • Boho Banjo released the A Couple of Loopholes pattern. So in keeping with the unique style of the rest of her designs this is a draped dress with two clever tubes or holes at the waistline creating a sculptural effect. I'm so intrigued by the construction of this one!
  • Itch to Stitch released the Paro Cardigan. Its a lovely thigh length flowing style which is super flattering because of the fitted waist, the flare being created by small pleats.
  • Jenny from Cashmerette launched the Harrison Shirtdress pattern which is actually a development of her popular Harrison Shirt as there were so many requests for a similar shirtdress. I can see this being a hugely popular classic for plus sized ladies.
  • New from Wear Lemonade is the Simona Blouse. I love that combination of little collar and optional pussy bow; a style I might have to try out this season.
  • Wardrobe By Me had a busy month releasing not only the Daisy Dropped Shoulder Blouse for curvy sizes and the men's Bram Raglan T-Shirt but also the Aster Jersey Dress; I love the boat necked variation of this but it comes with two heights of turtleneck too.
  • Sarah from OhhhLulu Lingerie released the Mina Garter Belt pattern and also the Cora Elastic Strap Garter Belt which is a tutorial on how to make five styles of garter out of elastic. If you fancy giving it a try the v shaped lace style is actually free!
  • Paddleboat Studio released the Mitchell Dress and Jumpsuit. Its a wrap style, with two wide side panels which wrap to the front. I particularly like this on the jumpsuit and the wide cropped leg look.
  • The Sybil Robe is the latest pattern from Greenstyle Creations. It looks to be a very versatile pattern which can be used to make a really cute robe or actually even dresses in the wrap style. I love being able to see all the tester versions on the listing.
  • There were three new patterns from Opian Patterns in January; the Makalu Dress and Top (which looks great styled with a big necklace), Ortles Snood and Surimani Turban. They're all suited to beginners and I love the idea of making your own accessories too!
  • Chalk and Notch released the Women's Waterfall Raglan pattern. Its a relaxed knit top or dress with a gathered peplum.
  • Kommatia Patterns added a couple of new patterns to their growing collection of youthful and on trend styles. January's additions included a midi length jersey dress and the Pinafore Skirt with zip pockets; I love the shape of the back bib on this.
  • Style Sew Me released the Janelle Skirt; a faux wrap, below knee style with a dramatic thigh high split! I like it sewn in a more casual fabric like the denim which looks great on the model.
  • The new release from Orange Lingerie has got me wishing I had some lingerie sewing experience under my belt already. The Esplanade Bra is a longline strapless style and I have a newfound motivation to work up to sewing something that beautiful! 
  • For those of you who might be interested in a bit of bag sewing Noodlehead have just released the Explorer Tote. It has lots of pockets (which is my favourite thing in a bag) yet still maintains a clean look with flap top, two sizes and optional long detachable strap.
  • Hot Patterns released the HP1213 Deco Vibe Gatsby Cardigan-Jacket and Gilet. Designed for stable knits its a semi fitted wrap style packed with lovely design details including a two piece sleeve and optional faux fur collar.
  • I love it when patterns have a good number of variations or ways to make them your own and the new Designer Stitch Bridget Top excels at that with seven different statement sleeves. They can be bought in sets of long or short sleeves.
  • Decades of Style have just launched a trio of stunning 1920s inspired patterns; the 2005 Baltimore Dress, 2006 Sugar Coat and 2007 Isabella Dress. I am absolutely mesmerised by the way the coat moves; described as a fabric petal 'fringe' all those half circles make for a stunning effect. 
  • New from Hey June Handmade is the Tallinn Sweater. It features an asymmetrical cross over front with either a cowl or turtleneck. I love the front edge trimmed with leather on the pattern sample.
  • Sew Over It released their first PDF pattern of the year. The Nancy Dress is a 1960s inspired swing dress with three quarter length sleeves and lovely single button fastening at the nape of the neck. I want to live in dresses like this and will admit to already having fabric bought and pre-washed for my first one!
  • Closet Case Files launched the Ebony T-Shirt & Dress Pattern. Its a basic knit top and dress with a swingy, fluid shape which would be ideally suited to using some gorgeous viscose and bamboo jerseys for!
  • The Slouchy Beanie is the new Blank Slate Patterns design that can work for anyone from baby to fully grown men! I made a couple of beanie hats on new years day and they are such satisfying project when you're not in the mood to get into anything too complex or lengthy.
  • See Kate Sew released her first pattern in a while that has been designed for women. The Rachel Babydoll Top/Tunic/Dress is gathered onto a flat yoke and features ruffled bell sleeves.
  • One of the last releases of the month was the Wanted T-Shirt from Vanessa Pouzet. To be honest I would have thought there was nothing more a t-shirt pattern could offer as there are such a plethora of knit top patterns available online but this is a stunner that has absolutely earned a place on my wish list. That deep square neckline is super sexy. Currently only available in French.


Pattern Updates and Expansion Packs




Sew-Alongs


  • Over the course of the last month Jennifer Lauren posted a tutorial series for her Auden Cardigan pattern, thoroughly covering common fitting adjustments for this men's garment.
  • Sarah from OhhhLulu has been running a fantastic sew-long over on her blog for sewing a three piece lingerie set. It's packed with tips on handling all those unusual lingerie components like elastics and lace and is set to round up in time for Valentine's Day.
  • Jenny from Cashmerette posted about adding sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress. Its not quite as straightforward as using the sleeves from the shirt pattern as the dress has been drafted with a smaller sleeveless armhole but the post guides you through how to make that work.
  • To accompany their new trio of patterns Decades of Style have just started a sew-along for the Baltimore Dress. All those classic 1902s diagonal seam lines mean a lot of working on the bias so I'm sure all tips will be appreciated!  


Upcoming!


  • The first release of the year from Tilly and the Buttons is named Zadie and should be with us in the next week.
  • Tessuti also have a pattern on the way this week in the form of the Iris Dress. All I could tell from the Instagram sneak peak was that there's a maxi length and potential colour blocking involved!
  • The next pattern from Jennifer Lauren Handmade will be the Juniper Cardigan. Its currently being tested.
  • Pearl Red Moon over at Boho Banjo patterns has the Two Pegs Dress coming soon. Its a shift dress with squared or rounded colour blocked panels down one side and a pegged hem.
  • Megan Nielsen also has a new pattern in the works called Rowan. I've loved her last two so can't wait to see this one!
  • The next release from new pattern company Trend Patterns will be the first in their basics range including a pleat front trouser and top with frilled hem.
  • There's a new underwired bra pattern coming from Cloth Habit soon. After the success of there Watson Bra I've got high hopes for this one and really need to get my act together and get some lingerie sewing supplies together!
  • Waffle Patterns are working on a pattern for slim tapered pants with various pocket options.
  • In The Folds is currently testing their next pattern; the Collins Top. It looks like next month is going to a be a big one for pattern releases too doesn't it!
  • Lisa from Sew Over It gave us a fab little look at what the coming year might hold for the company on her vlog. We should be seeing their Eve Dress, Elsie Dress and 1940s Wrap Dress released as paper patterns throughout the year!
  • Jenni Smith will be releasing her very first pattern in March. The Hepworth Apron is currently being taught as a class in her studio and will be available as both a PDF and paper pattern.


Other Exciting News

  • Sally from Capital Chic Patterns launched a new feature on her website which I'm absolutely in love with! Called the Outfit Designer it offers up templates of all the Capital Chic patterns so you can play around with colour and even upload an image of the fabric print you are thinking of using. You can change hair style, colour and skin colour and even play around with colour blocking too!
  • The Moneta Party is running until February 22nd on Instagram. Celebrating sewing with knits and in particular the Colette Moneta Dress pattern, you can win prizes for making and posting your own version!
  • Sew Over It launched their PDF Club. As they are planning to release lots of PDF designs this year you can now get membership to the club which offers you early access to each new design plus 10% off. At £5 for the year including a free choice of pattern when you sign up you can't go wrong. They also have a new 'Intro to Coats' online class coming next month.
  • Heather Lou from Closet Case Files launched a new online workshop called 'Sew Your Dream Jeans'. I adore both pairs of jeans I've made so far (the Ginger and Mia patterns) but I do feel like I've started on a whole new long winded adventure of making my perfect pair! Perhaps this course will help. The workshop officially launches on February 20th but is on pre-sale at 15% off now.
  • The Maker's Atelier is releasing a book! Called The Essential Collection it will be released on February 9th. I'm a huge fan of their simple, well cut silhouettes so can't wait to see what patterns are included.
  • In House Patterns is soon to launch the next in their line of courses on how to draft your own blocks. This one focuses on making your own Custom Stretch Knit Bodice.


Phew! That's a lot to take in and I'm sure both my sewing queue and pattern wish list have doubled in length since I started writing it! As always feel free to leave any news I may have missed in the comments below and I'll leave you with a handful of the indie sewing projects that have caught my eye in the online sewing community over the last month.




  • There were Toaster Sweaters popping up all over the place in January but I think my favourite of the lots was Sara's. She combined elements of the two variations and used a lightweight knit resulting in a totally different look.
  • Heather Lou's dreamy Liberty print Bolyston Bra has reignited my desire to get on with my own lingerie making. Why buy shop bought bras when you can make such beautiful ones that fit right?!
  • London has been going through a bit of a cold snap and Sonja's Plaid Farrow Dress is what I want to be living in right now! Amazing pattern matching (you can't even see those pockets!) and it suits her down to the ground.
  • Helen's version of the Style Arc Blaire Shirtdress is delicious! I love the fabric that she chose and the way she used the direction of those stripes to their absolutely best advantage.
  • The combination of vivid floral print and the drama of the off the shoulder ruffle on MJ's Mama Daphne top is stunning. She definitely made some excellent choices with this one!