Friday, 28 April 2017

Pattern Testing: Eve Dress from Sew Over It

I am pattern testing much less nowadays as it can be really time consuming when you do it throughly and to be brutally honest my sewing queue is so long that I'm never short of things that I'd rather be sewing! However there are some things that I just can't resist and will squeeze in no matter how busy I am and the new Eve Dress from Sew Over It was one of them! I always enjoy testing for Lisa and the ladies on the Sew Over It team as they really do value and incorporate the feedback from their testers. It's not just a last minute 'quick let's get a few other people to sew this up so they'll blog about it' they use it as a key part of the process to iron out every tiny mistake and make the final release the best it can be. Blogging about what I've made is never a requirement and sometimes I don't but I've been dying to share this one with you.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

The Eve Dress has been one of the most requested garments from their classes to be released as a separate pattern and is now available in both PDF and paper form. It's a wrap style, designed for woven fabrics and there are two variations included in the pattern. Version 1 has statement flutter sleeves and a dramatic dipped hem and version 2 has more of a contemporary feel with slim elbow length sleeves and a straight hem. Of course I totally succumbed to the the seventies drama of those flutter sleeves and the high-low hem!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

Sew Over It supplied the fabric for testing and I decided to choose mine in person at the Knitting & Stitching Show as I felt it was really important to get the right weight and drape for this flowing style. I actually really struggled with choosing fabric as version 1 is a very feminine style for me. My wardrobe does get a bit girly but when the style is so pretty I tend to favour darker, richer colours in solids or larger scale prints to balance it out. A lot of the fabric on their stand with the movement I was after was in pastels and small florals which would make a gorgeous Eve but wasn't for me. But when I returned to the stand when things had quietened down at the end of the day a bolt of just what I was looking for leapt out at me and my decision was made. It's a very fine viscose with the cool, smooth hand I love to wear and it flows and moves beautifully.  It is a little sheer in direct light so I will probably have to wear it with a slip on a sunny day which is a shame as I like how the viscose feels against the skin. Perhaps I should have considered a lining or underling but that would have been quite a huge job and it's a little late now!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

I had 3m of the fabric (the final pattern recommends slightly more) and the only reason I needed all of it was the length of the waist ties! I will point out that I never follow layout charts and prefer to jiggle the pattern pieces around to use as little fabric as possible. I had about 3/4m of fabric left over with only a slither missing from the side where I had cut the ties. If you're short on fabric and cutting one of the smaller sizes you might want to consider slimming down the skirt panels slightly so you can fit the ties alongside them across the width of your fabric. I personally wouldn't want the make the ties any shorter as I love the way the wrap around the waist rather than just tying at the back where they first meet. Turning through that length of tube will test your patience as they are quite slim but I love the width as anything wider would feel a bit clunky on this romantic style.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

As much as I love the movement of the fabric now it's sewn up it did give me some trouble during cutting and construction! The shiftiness of it, particularly against itself made keeping things on grain when cutting a real challenge and the construction required a lot of pins to keep everything in place. Sewing the ties on with nice neat rectangles of stitching was exceptionally difficult and I haven't done a brilliant job but fortunately the print hides it! Luckily the viscose holds a nice crisp crease when pressed which made all the turning under and stitching required around the front edge and hems a doddle. You don't want to use a fabric which frays badly as the front edge plus hem of the skirt and sleeves are achieved by simply finishing the edges either with an overlocker or zig zag/over-edge stitch on your regular machine, turning them under and stitching.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

Sew Over It do recommend using a cotton lawn or voile if you are new to sewing and I would heartily agree after my shifty viscose experience! Fine and drapey fabrics can be very shifty and with all the little details going on in this design I think that could make it tricky for anyone without a bit of sewing experience under their belt. I'm actually not a huge fan of lawn for dressmaking as although lightweight it does have a fairly crisp hand and doesn't drape or flow anything like as well as a viscose crepe or silk georgette. I think it's more suited to shirts and styles with a bit of structure. However with this design it could add some really interesting body to the skirt whilst the weight would retain the breezy feel and the wrap portion of the bodice is quite close fitting so you don't need to be worried about how it will drape in this area.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

I cut between the size 8-10 as I always do with Sew Over It patterns as that pretty much exactly matches my measurements and am really happy with the fit. One of the things that I love about their designs is that they really understand what is flattering and comfortable on a woman's body and this is no exception. The wrap bodice has just the right amount of fabric in it and fits closely at the shoulders thanks to the yoke pieces. The patterns fit true to size as well without too much ease. As it is designed with a relaxed fit there is some ease in the back of the bodice but the shaped centre back seam means it still fits well rather than pooling strangely. The waist size on this is spot on as it doesn't do that annoying thing that I've had with wrap dresses before when the dress starts to come through the hole you thread the tie through when tied as tight as you want.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

As usual it did come up very long on me! I can see from the pictures of Lisa modelling it that version 1 is designed to be more of a midi length but on 5ft 3" me with the dipped hem that looked a bit overwhelming. When I first tried it on the front hem was hitting 5" below my knee so I chopped off 4.5" all round. I thought those wide curved skirt panels would mean my shifty viscose would drop all kinds of wonky so I left it to hang for 24 hours before hemming but it actually didn't do much.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

The height of the neckline and placement of the wrap is great but as my fabric is so slippery I do feel a little bit at risk of exposure as the dress shifts about so have chosen to add a tiny popper at the centre of the neckline to keep things in place. The overlap of the wrap on the skirt is a generous amount and I don't at all feel concerned about this blowing open. The only other thing I did differently to the instructions was to attach my ties before hemming the dress so I could put it on properly and asses the length. I did pick up a handful of other little niggles with the instructions e.t.c while testing but I imagine if you make up the final pattern it will look very similar to mine here as they were only very small and no major changes were made to the drafting.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

I think the trickiest part of sewing a wrap dress is probably not stretching out the front edges of the bodice. That edge is on the bias so it's very easy to do but it's really important to keep a close fit in that area as you want it to hug the body and not gape open. The Eve instructions have you reinforce this edge with stay tape to stop it stretching out over time and my favourite part of the pattern is that the instructions include a chart explaining the length of stay tape you will need. It breaks it down into what length you need for the front bodice, yoke, and back neckline for each size so you can mark these points on your tape and check that nothing has stretch out to longer than it should be during construction. If it has you can ease the edges of your dress onto the tape to ensure a closer fit. Such  great idea.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Eve Dress in Maroon Floral Viscose

Now I've finished it of course I'm seeing viscose prints all over the place and I want to make more! But I'm really happy I trusted my instincts with the maroon as although the flutter sleeves and breezy wrap skirt lend themselves to more of a summer style I reckon I could get away with styling this with dark tights and smart ankle boots in autumn and winter too. This dress plus strappy sandals would be the perfect summer wedding guest outfit; it's a shame I haven't got any to go to this year but I have got a few press nights for work which I reckon it could be just the ticket for too!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Grey Merino Longley Cardigan

Long time readers of my blog may remember that I had three pieces of delicious merino wool from The Fabric Store last year that I spent an absolute age deliberating over what to make with. The green mid-weight knit I turned into a Neenah Dress and the lightweight black sweat-shirting I used for a Toaster Sweater. Both of these have been worn week in week out throughout the winter and I am very happy to report are holding up beautifully and with regular 30 degree gentle machine washes the fabric still looks good as new. The third fabric was another piece of the mid-weight knit this time in the silver. I actually sewed this up at the same time as the other two but it has been the slightly warmer spring weather of late that has turned this garment into a big wardrobe hit.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grey Merino Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan MIY Collection

I'd been after a draped front cardigan in a neutral colour for some time and spent quite a while deliberating on the perfect pattern. There's nothing like a beautiful piece of not-so-cheap fabric to force you to put some real thought into making the right choice is there?! I eventually settled on the Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan from MIY Collection and could not be more pleased with the decision now it's done. I spotted a sample of this design at the Knitting & Stitching Show a couple of years back and was intrigued then but it took me a while to take the plunge! I weighed up a couple of other options from Style Arc and Straight Stitch Designs but there were a few features of the design that saw the Longley win out overall despite the slightly more expensive price tag. Firstly the fact that all the edges are finished with bands which I will discuss in a moment but also the proportions of the style I felt would better suit me. I didn't want there to be too much fabric or length in the 'waterfall' as I think on someone of my size and proportion things can look a little off balance if you have too much bulk in the front. It really appealed to me that the front edge of the cardigan is quite short and there's a little more length in the sides so I wasn't going to feel overwhelmed by fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grey Merino Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan MIY Collection

I had 2 metres of the merino and needed it all, that waterfall front is a fabric eater! It's such a lush fabric, I'd use it all the time if I could. It's soft and smooth with a kind of sheen to it on the right side which really does give it the silver quality of its name! Combined with this style the colour and elegant drape of the fabric feels super classy and luxurious. It's a great knit to work with as it really retains it's shape and responds so well to a good steamy press. As with any knit you do have to be careful about stretching it out of shape as you sew but it's definitely one of the most resilient I've worked with and you don't get any of those annoying curly edges going on. I sewed the whole thing using a narrow zig zag stitch on my regular machine and overlocked all the edges to keep it tidy.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grey Merino Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan MIY Collection

The design is actually very straightforward to sew as once you've put together your shoulder and armhole you're dealing with a lot of straight edges and rectangular pattern pieces. A beginner with a little experience of working with knits could definitely tackle this one and get good results. Wendy includes a whole page of tips for working with knits in the instructions too. I really enjoyed putting it together and when the construction is as well thought out as this getting professional looking results is very satisfying.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grey Merino Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan MIY Collection

I think a key reason behind the cardigan feeling high-end rather than homemade is the weight provided by those wide bands finishing the top and bottom edges. The top edge (the piece which hangs around the neck and down the centre front) is 5" wide and the hem band is 3". The double thickness of fabric in these areas help everything hang beautifully. The ends between the two bands are folded back on themselves and secured in place with a line of stitching which when sewing I was a little unsure about as a finish but this edge actually disappears into the folds of the front when worn and it hasn't;t bothered me at all. I would recommend matching your thread colour carefully though as this line of stitching does show on the right side.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grey Merino Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan MIY Collection

Some other similar waterfall style patterns leave that front edge completely unfinished (when you are working with knits you can leave hems raw as they don't fray) but I don't like the idea of this at all. I think without the double thickness of fabric it would feel really flimsy and have the potential to stretch out of shape after not an awful lot of wear. The finishing of the Longley is a real selling point for me and I highly recommend it as a cracking pattern to try if you are looking for a similar style.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grey Merino Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan MIY Collection

As it is a knit garment with a fairly relaxed fit the pattern has just three sizes. I cut the smallest size as I know I like quite a slim fitting cardigan particularly in the sleeve as I have quite tiny wrists. I did end up slimming the sleeve down to fit my lower arm more snuggly although the fit around the upper arm and armhole is just as I would like. The shoulders fit really neatly too. I took out 1" on the double at the cuff and graded out to nothing at 9.5" up the sleeve. If you're going to do the same remember to take the width off your cuff pieces too! The sleeves did come up really long. I expected to need to shorten them a little but I ended up taking 2" off the cuff and 2" off the sleeve. A whopping 4" in total but they are now the perfect length for me. The length of the cardigan itself is great as is though.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grey Merino Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan MIY Collection

I had 2 metres of the merino and needed it all, that waterfall front is a fabric eater! It's such a lush fabric, I'd use it all the time if I could! It's soft and smooth with a kind of sheen to it on the right side which in this particular shade of grey gives it an almost silver quality. Combined with this style the colour and elegant drape of the fabric feels super classy and luxurious. It's a great knit to work with as it really retains it's shape and responds so well to a good steamy press. As with any knit you do have to be careful about stretching it out of shape as you sew but it's definitely one of the most resilient I've worked with and you don't get any of those annoying curly edges going on. I sewed the whole thing using a narrow zig zag stitch on my regular machine and overlocked all the edges to keep it tidy.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grey Merino Longley Draped Waterfall Cardigan MIY Collection

The finished cardigan is so great to have in my wardrobe and definitely a garment I'll be wearing for years to come. It's perfect thing to throw on on-top of almost any outfit and it is going to be great in the summer when the temperature dips in the evening and you just need a little something over your sun dress. I recently bought a lovely piece of warm red merino in the same weight and am seriously tempted to use it to make another of these as it was such an enjoyable project. Another contender is the Papercut Patterns' Bowline Sweater as I love my linen knit version and think a snugglier version wouldn't go amiss in my wardrobe. Are there any other patterns you would recommend for merino knits? 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Parker Collection Dress - and bonus fluted cuff pattern piece!


Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I am so excited to be writing this post today! Some of you may have already spotted the latest release from Tribe Patterns (the pattern line from the ladies at The Foldline); The Parker Collection. The line is designed by members of the sewing community and as the name gives away, this on has been designed by me! It is the second Tribe Pattern (the first being the Billie Collection designed by Rachel from House of Pinheiro). Rachel and Kate got in touch with me back in the autumn last year to see if I would be interested in working with them and of course I jumped at the chance! Designing my own pattern line has never been an ambition of mine and this remains a total one off but when the opportunity presented itself to work with two incredibly talented ladies offering to bring my design idea to life I'd have been silly to say no. It has been an amazing experience and is such a thrill to see the finished pattern. Rachel and Kate have done a fantastically thorough job and I can't wait to see what you guys make with it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

There is so much to say about the design I don't really know where to start. I was keen to come up with a garment that I would be excited to sew and wear and provided a canvas for creativity so everyone could have some fun with making it their own. The bohemian, seventies style has always appealed to me and I'm delighted that it's so on trend at the moment. I was inspired by both contemporary designs and the lines of some of the late 1960s/early 1970s patterns in my vintage collection. I gathered up all of my favourite elements and had some fun drawing out different combinations. After pinging some ideas back and forth with the Foldline ladies we settled on a combination of dress and top which I adore. The panelled design provides opportunity for mixing prints, colours and textures and the pattern comes with the option for a plain sleeve or additional lantern cuff. Sleeves are huge this season (in some cases literally!) and one of my favourite elements of seventies style is the dramatic swoosh of a wide cuff so Rachel has drafted a bonus fluted cuff pattern piece which you can download for free here!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I wanted the design to provide a little bit of a challenge in the sewing as the projects I can get my teeth stuck into are the ones I enjoy the most. None of the steps should prove too tricky for anyone with a bit of sewing under their belt but the variety of techniques should keep more experienced sewers entertained. It's not a quick sew as there are quite a few pattern pieces involved but if you can sew a princess seam, an invisible zip and set in a sleeve you can keep it quite straightforward. You can also opt to make the design more complex by adding embroidery to the centre front and back panels or including the lace insertion and trim. The instructions include step by step guidance on how to add lace into the seam between the lantern cuff and sleeve pieces on your machine and I think this may be my favourite thing about the pattern. It's a feature that came up again and again in my inspiration pictures and I'm so delighted that we were able to include it. I'd love to play around with inserting lace into the seams between skirt and bodice panels and even maybe the waist seam.

Parker Collection Top from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

You can recreate Rachel's amazing embroidered version of the top with the embroidery template which is free to download from the Foldline pattern page or get creative and freestyle your own. The centre front and back panels are faced which not only provides a lovely clean finish to the dress but also makes them ideal to embroider as the back of your stitching is completely enclosed and protected. There are also 'colour me in' line drawings of both variations available to download which I'm definitely going to be playing with to plan future print mixed and colour blocked versions.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I wanted the design to be versatile and am really happy that I can see it being worn in every season. As I first came up with the idea in the autumn I was imagining it in rich, dark florals but now all I can think about is mixed pastel prints for spring. I'd love one in a fresh white breezy cheesecloth for summer and in winter I'd wear it in a bold solid colour layered with warm tights. Made up in different fabrics the lines of the design I hope will remain somewhat timeless and the dress in particular is something I can see myself making various iterations of for years to come as it is the kind of dress that has remained a staple in my wardrobe since my teens.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

The dress I'm wearing here is actually my very first test of the dress (so please excuse the horrible pattern matching around the waist and slightly mismatched seams!). When collecting inspiration for the design at the very start of the process something I was continually drawn to was the mixing of two or more prints in one garment. It can be tricky to do but I started safe with both of these small prints on a black base and love how it has turned out. Both fabrics I bought ages ago from Maggie's fabric stall in Lewisham who stocks end of roll high street dressmaking fabrics at the bargain price of £1-3/m. Perfect for testing. It's almost a shame I've fallen so in love with the mixture of prints on this dress as they are the particularly nasty type of lightweight poly georgettes that I tend to run away from! The floral is slightly softer with a texture to it but the other is not so nice. I turned a blind eye to the quality and poly content at the time as I thought they would be ideal to test how the print mixing worked but now wish I'd held out for a viscose! However, worn with a cotton slip they're not unpleasant to wear and as I knew from previous experience that these fabrics would pretty much melt when touched with a hot iron I kept it cool and actually had surprisingly little trouble handling either of them.
Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I recommend reasonably lightweight fabrics with a nice drape for this design. You want some nice movement in the panels of the skirt and top as well as the sleeves and the cut of the bodice is quite relaxed so doesn't require a fabric that will provide structure. Viscose challis, crepes, soft linens, cotton lawns and voiles are all great choices as would be light to mid-weight silks if you want a more luxurious feel. As long as you keep in mind the movement of the dress the world is your oyster really! If you are going to do some embroidery you'll want something fairly tightly woven and not super lightweight for those panels to make your life a bit easier and also support the weight of the floss.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I used some black cotton lace I bought in John Lewis to insert in my cuff seams and also trim the hem. My lace had one straight edge and one scalloped which I made use of on the hem but whether yours has straight of scalloped edges is entirely your preference. The pattern recommends 40mm wide lace as this is the most straightforward way to keep your inserted pieces at an even width following the technique in the instructions (leaving you with about 1cm of visible lace) but if you're happy to get a little creative you can use whatever width lace you like. Mine was just 2cm as I only wanted a hint of it around the hem and I simply used a very small seam allowance when attaching it to the cuffs. As this dress was a test of the pattern the method I used is actually different to the final instructions and you will end up with just one line of stitching visible just above and below the lace rather the two lines you can see in my photos.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I cut a size 8 which is pretty much spot on my measurements and am really delighted with the fit. I usually like quite a close fit around the waist and this has 4" of ease but having that room in the bodice provides that that relaxed, bohemian, seventies feel whilst the princess seams still flatter the curves of the body. I like the shape through the back and bust and the shoulders fit neatly. It's very comfortable and I absolutely have that seventies vibe of feeling free in a glamorous way while wearing it! I did shorten the skirt by about 3". I'm 5ft3" so usually end up taking a little off but I wanted more of a mini vibe with these prints. I also shortened the sleeve slightly, which is again a normal alteration for me but I know the instructions for the lace insertion have changed since then so the amount might well be different next time.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I love the height and shape of the neckline; I think it's really flattering exposing the collar bone. The slit of the dress is slightly longer than the top and you have the option to add in a tie to hold this together or just for added decoration. I've used just two narrow pieces of ribbon on this version but will definitely be trying out some tassels on the next. You can either make your own from embroidery floss or if you live in London I've spotted a great variety of colours in just the right size in both Fan New Trimmings and Kleins. I had initially envisioned it with short tassels but the long ones on this dress are ace!



Being more creative with my sewing and trying out adding trims, unique details and mixing fabrics was one of my goals for 2017 and creating this design has inspired me to do just that. There are a whole host of ideas I want to play around with; I've had to start a Pinterest board to keep track of them all! First up is an embroidered cheesecloth version of the top but I'm interested in trying a version with sheer sleeves and also think it would be delicious in a rich silk/viscose velvet...perhaps lengthened to a maxi for some serious seventies glamour. If I can muster up the patience I might try a hand-sewn fagoted seam rather than the lace insertion technique. I can foresee a summer wardrobe with enough Parkers to wear every day of the week.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I hope the design inspires you to get sewing as much as it does me and that you enjoy making your own Parkers! Thanks so much to Rachel and Kate for the hard work they put into getting the pattern just right and for giving me the opportunity to work with them. It's a dream I didn't even know I had come true and I couldn't be happier with how it's turned out! 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

A Breton Top and a Danish adventure with Stoff & Stil

Like the Nancy Dress I just posted, this top has become another wardrobe favourite. It came as a bit of a surprise to me as this drop shouldered, loose fit isn't one I naturally gravitate towards. I had in my head that this shape probably wouldn't be a great one on me but it's like a more oversized version of the Toaster Sweater which I wear to death so I decided to give it a whirl.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

The idea for the top presented itself to me during my visit to the Stoff & Stil store in Herning when I was lucky enough to visit in January. If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw that they invited a handful of sewing bloggers out to visit their H&Q and find out what they are all about. The trip was all expenses paid and included a variety of treats (how lucky were we?!) but my opinions in this post were not swayed by that; I was genuinely super impressed by the whole organisation. In fact I was so impressed by the whole Danish way of life and hospitality that I kind of want to move there immediately!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Stoff & Stil Store Visit

Stoff & Stil means Fabrics & Style and I'd say those two words sum them up pretty well. They have been selling fabrics for 37 years and have 24 stores in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. They have grown from a small family business selling remnants from local textile manufacturers to producing almost everything themselves, from prints to threads, notions and crafting equipment. If you haven't checked out their website yet hop on over there immediately and you will loose about two hours of your life. They have an amazing array of fabrics suited for all different crafts but I was most impressed by the sheer amount of fabric that was suitable for dressmaking. It it is so unusual to find a one store with such a range of fabric types for clothing including wonderful contemporary prints that are the kind of thing you want to be wear. From viscose to leather, denim to sportswear it's all there. We were like kids in a candy store in the shop let me tell you. The size and variety of supplies and notions for all kinds of crafting kind of reminded me a little of a HobbyCraft here in the UK. But it's more sleek, modern and appealing with MUCH more dressmaking and home decoration fabric available rather than quilting cottons. The store is roughly divided into notions, home dec fabrics, kids fabrics and then fabrics by type and some of my favourite features were how they showed the yarn knitted up into samples and that the pattern area included sewn up samples of some of the designs. Those little touches make such a huge difference to the shopping experience.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Stoff & Stil Store Visit

The UK webstore is exactly the same as the Danish version and offers you all the same products, inspiration, free DIY templates and downloads. I actually already discussed my impressions of the website in more depth when I used some of their fabrics when they first launched in the UK last year. The only negative I have found in either experience is that delivery can be a little on the slow side but I know that is something the company are working on. The only thing we don't currently have access to here in the UK (aside from a bricks and mortar store) is the printed catalogue they release twice a year. I got my hands on a copy in Denmark and it's a real gem. It's not simply a catalogue of fabrics but shows their fabrics, notions and trimmings made up into garments and modelled. I was super impressed by their choices combining fabrics and trimmings with one of their own patterns to create these garments. They look like real clothes and that is really inspiring. All the pictures from the catalogue can be found on the product pages on the website and in the inspiration section you can even buy the kit of everything you need to recreate some of your favourite looks. I think inspiring is the best word to sum up both their stores and website; great creative spaces packed with contemporary craft ideas.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

Anyway back to the sewing as that's what you really come here for! The idea for this top started with this beautiful fabric as it leapt off the shelf at me as the perfect width of stripe and shade of cream with navy for my dream Breton top. It's a really quite unusual cotton french terry with no elastane and limited stretch. The matte almost raw texture seems like it should be a woven and it is fairly thick with a smooth finish on both sides rather than any kind of loop back. It is great quality; the only fault I found with it is that the edges do curl after a wash but a steamy press sees everything nice and flat again. I have been wearing it regularly for about 6 weeks now and after a number of washes it still looks like new. That was one of my favourite things about the Stoff & Stil HQ actually (aside from the amazing machines, one of which automatically cuts the right amount of fabric for each order from a roll when you scan the barcode!). They have a washing machine e.t.c in one corner of the warehouse so every fabric gets put through a washing test and the best way to launder it is then listed on the website.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

Once I'd staked my claim on the fabric I nipped over to the pattern area to find an appropriate pattern for my classic Breton top. Luckily I hit on a top which featured just the fit I was after and the semi turtleneck neckline I loved from the Toaster Sweater. Unfortunately I can't find it on the website now. I actually loved the fabric so much I almost played it safe and stuck with the Toaster I already knew but I liked the idea of the dropped shoulder for a Breton rather than a set in sleeve and I'm sure my wardrobe doesn't need three versions of the same sweater! I'm so pleased I steamed on ahead as I think my favourite part of the finished garments it is how the dropped shoulder combined with the stripes has created a chevron pattern down the upper arm. I'm pretty proud of my stripe matching efforts on this one if I do say so myself! As there are only two pattern pieces to cut twice each this was pretty straight forward. I cut it all on the flat and as the front piece is the same as the back piece I cut my one then used it as the pattern piece to cut the back so I could get the stripes lined up exactly. The sleeve pieces you just need to make sure you've got spot on on grain to get a nice match running down the underarm.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

Although the neckline looks almost identical to Toaster Sweater #2 it's actually constructed in quite a different way. Both methods give you a lovely clean finish but I probably prefer this method as I've never found stitching in ditch particularly easy for some reason! These instructions have you fold both parts of the neckline down to one side and then you follow you're original stitching line to stitch it in place. You then fold one of the layers back to the right side to give you a kind of faced neckline opening. It probably wouldn't be great in a thicker knit as it does result in the shoulder seam allowances being pressed to the back rather than open and where it's folded back that results in six layers of the fabric in one spot.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

The Stoff & Stil patterns are really unusual in that they arrive already cut out in a type of paper fabric that reminded me of interfacing. In a way this is great as you can sew a toile up straight from the envelope, it's really robust and super easy to slip neatly back into the envelope without worrying about torn or crumpled pattern pieces but it has a few disadvantages too which have me on the fence. Once you've sewn the pattern up into a toile you then have to unpick it all to have your flat pattern to cut with, although this might not both those of you who like to tissue fit and still saves time on making an actual toile. The pattern I chose was for jersey fabrics so obviously making it up in the woven pattern paper wasn't going to be an accurate assessment of fit, it only works for woven designs. Lastly the pattern has limited markings with just a handful of punched holes with not much indication as to what they mean so it's like working with a really old vintage pattern! Obviously this is based on my experience with this very simple top which doesn't require much guidance so perhaps the more complex designs do have more info. I've also got the pattern for an excellent running jacket to try (which I really want to pair with this awesome fabric which has reflective spots in the print or maybe this amazing soft-shell) so will feed back on my experience with that soon!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

Like the markings on the pattern pieces the limited instructions also reminded me of old vintage patterns. I think they rely on people having a fairly good level of sewing skills which unfortunately are not as commonly taught nowadays. I was worried that the limited guidance would make me feel like I was being less accurate somehow, or at least less certain that I was doing things right. But then I ended up with a beautiful, well finished garment so do we always necessarily need the hand holding that most modern indie patterns give us? The patterns are SUCH a reasonable price compared to many indie companies that I definitely felt like I got value for money and it's quite a nice to change to work with a pattern that leaves you to use use your preferred techniques and sewing know-how.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

As the pattern comes already cut (including seam allowances F.Y.I) you have to pick the size that matches you measurements best to buy which would be problematic if you usually fall across a number of sizes on a measurement chart. For a relaxed style like this is totally works for me but for something more form fitting I'd find it frustrating having to do so much work to get a good fit when I could usually grade between sizes and give myself a pretty good starting point. I had the size small and bought exactly the amount of fabric suggested on the envelope; as I had the stripes to contend with I had JUST enough. If you're thrifty like me and usually wing it with slightly less than the fabric requirements indicate take note you will need the required amount with these patterns!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

I was worried this would be far too oversized looking on my petite frame as the sample garments were made up with a much clingier drapey viscose jersey but I'm pretty delighted with it! It's really comfortable but I don't feel like it's unflattering. However, part of what saves it from looking like an all encompassing sack was my decision to cut a whopping 6" off the length. I would definitely call it a tunic and far too long on me no matter what fabric I had used but in this cotton which holds a shape away from the body I decided an ever so slightly cropped version was the way to go. The stripes really helped when deciding as I kept folding it up by one stripe at a time to see how it looked. On the other hand the sleeve length is great and the width is actually lovely. I have quite skinny little arms and would worried they'd feel big.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

There are so few seams and pattern pieces on this pattern it took me less than two hours to make including cutting and stripe matching. So satisfying. Even the sleeves are easy to set in as they are rectangles being sewn together rather than a shaped armhole. No easing required!

I'm definitely going to be placing somewhat regular orders from the website and am looking forward to the new collection already! I'm so happy to have found a source of good quality dressmaking appropriate fabrics and really enjoyed the experience of trying out a pattern so different to the usual. I've got all fingers and toes crossed for a store opening in the UK at some point!