Sunday, 13 May 2018

A Nikko Dress and a Nikko Top

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Dress in Arctic Blue Marle Rib Knit from The Fabric Store

I'm increasingly finding myself making at least two or three iterations of a pattern that works for me! Ive got two finished projects to share with you today, both from the same pattern which has fast become my go to for a quick and satisfying knit project that is a really handy addition to my wardrobe. I'm a big fan of the True Bias pattern range; Kelli's style really resonates with me and many of her patterns suit my lifestyle. They're really practical wardrobe staples which still feel 'designed' and on trend. I've made five Ogden Camis to date! When the Nikko Dress & Top was released earlier this year it grabbed my attention as being comfortable and easy to wear but also great fun to style. The pattern comes with variations for either a top or maxi-length dress with side slits and either option can be made with or without sleeves.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Top in Fuschia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

In a similar way that the Ogden is a great stash-buster for woven fabrics, view A of this pattern is a great way to use up those 'less than a metre' pieces of knits. I wasn't sure how this style would suit me so I started off with this sleeveless top variation so I could test the style and fit without wasting too much time or fabric. I managed to squeeze this out of the fuschia merino jersey I had left over from my winter Kielo Dress. Just today I made a second merino version in a gorgeous teal as I managed to squeeze the pieces out around a long Blackwood Cardigan I was cutting earlier in the week. As well as not taking much fabric it is a super speedy sew; I think I got the teal one sewn in less than two hours this afternoon. The merino is a great match for the top despite being a little on the lightweight wide compared to the pattern recommendations. It has great recovery and presses well so is easy to manipulate into all those lovely shapes.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Top in Fuschia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

As I wasn't sure how this would turn out I sort of whizzed through the construction without thinking too much and now I'm kicking myself for not doing a better sewing job as it has turned into one of my favourite tops - especially to wear with high waisted trousers like the Flints I have on here! I've since gone back and reinforced the neck stitching and twin needled hem by using some Maderia Aeroflock thread in the bobbin which has a little stretch in and is super strong. The neck is the one area that you really want to make sure your stitching has plenty of give in as that neat little neckline has to stretch quite a lot to get over the head. I sewed both the top and dress up using my regular knit construction method of short and narrow zigzag stitch on the machine and finishing with the overlocker. I twin-needled the hem on the top so it would stretch but just straight-stitched the dress hem as it doesn't need to stretch and was and meant I could simply pivot around the corners when finishing the side splits.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Top in Fuschia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

Despite appearing to be a simple design there are lots of carefully considered elements to it which I love. Both the slightly cut away shape of the armhole and the knee length side slits are so on trend right now but so easy to wear. One thing to note is that the shape of the armholes do require a careful bra choice; it doesn't need to be strapless but a couple of mine won't stay hidden. My favourite design element is the mock turtleneck and the way it is cut. It is slim and elegantly shaped and the perfect height. Its cut so it sits close to the neck but you don't feel constricted or irritated by it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Top in Fuschia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

For the dress I used this Arctic Blue Marle Rib Knit from The Fabric Store. It is a cotton modal blend with a quite surprising weight and drape to it as well as PLENTY of stretch across the grain. I haven't had much chance to work with ribbed knits as yet but have been really drawn to them recently. It gave me a bit of trouble which I'll get into in a moment, so I'd really appreciate any rib knit sewing advice you might have! Despite the sewing challenges it presented it does wash and press really beautifully thanks to the cotton content. Plus the rich blue colour is stunning, especially in the marle effect.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Dress in Arctic Blue Marle Rib Knit from The Fabric Store

I cut the size 6 at the bust and waist and graded out to an 8 at the hip for both garments which is larger on top than my measurements but I was wary of it looking snug. This has worked out great for the top in the fine merino jersey but not so well for the ribbed dress. The pattern does state that the top is more fitted and the dress cut straighter and I do like that the dress doesn't cling around the hips of stomach. I don't feel self conscious at all in this as I do in some other knit designs. However I do feel like fairly heavy weight of this ribbed knit is causing it to hang in a strange way away from the body and not skim the figure as it does in Kelli's samples. I'm not sure if this is to do with too much ease in the design or the less than springy recovery of this knit. Whilst you don't want a 'clingy' knit for this style you want a fabric which will hold a form. It perhaps feels like I should have gone down a size to compensate for the stretch of the rib and I think the size I make next time will depend on the elasticity and weight of the fabric I choose.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Dress in Arctic Blue Marle Rib Knit from The Fabric Store

I've used this ribbed knit before to make a Renfrew Tee and found it quite challenging to work with. The ribbed nature of the knit makes it quite easy to stretch out as you sew so I ended up with wavy hems on my tee. To combat this with the dress I used strips of 'Steam A Seam' to fix the hem in place before topstitching. You stick the hem in place with this tape and then press it with a warm iron to secure and this stopped this area stretching out as it ran through the machine beautifully. A stretched and wavy hem would have ruined the feature of those lovely side splits! I was also worried about stretching out the armholes so lowered the pressure of my presser foot and took it nice and slowly, being careful not to tug the fabric and allow the machine to pull it through evenly.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Dress in Arctic Blue Marle Rib Knit from The Fabric Store

I was worried about the rib knit being very bulky around the armholes so used some leftover merino scraps for the armhole binding. The method given for this in the instructions is straightforward to achieve and gives a lovely neat finish but is not particularly delicate as you wind up with three seam allowances enclosed within the 'binding'. Be sure to grade them down generously and give them a good press. This is the most time consuming part of the construction as the visible stitching requires accuracy but a beginner could easily manage with a bit of patience.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Dress in Arctic Blue Marle Rib Knit from The Fabric Store

That's about all there is to say about these two; lovely to make and lovely to wear! You can definitely expect to see more of these particularly a sleeved version or two later in the year. If you'd like a peek at my teal version of the top I'm sure I'll be wearing it for Me-Made-May at some point in the coming week so keep an eye on my Instagram Stories!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: True Bias Nikko Dress in Arctic Blue Marle Rib Knit from The Fabric Store

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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Jersey Equinox Tees and a Striped Merino Molly Top

Me-Made-May has arrived! For those of you who haven't come across it before Me-Made-May is a challenge dreamt up by Zoe of 'So Zo...' designed to encourage home garment makers to appreciate and wear their handmade wardrobes more. You set your own pledge for the month which generally focuses on how many handmade items of clothing you want to wear a day/week/during the month and usually document your progress with photos. The biggest challenge for me as always will be finding ways to take the photos every day! I'll be sharing mine on my Instagram Stories if you'd like to follow along. I like to use the month to check on the success of my handmade wardrobe and identify any wardrobe gaps that need filling so I can focus my sewing plans on them. Like last year I'm aiming to wear something handmade every day, and as many completely handmade outfits throughout the month as possible. I could have challenged myself to wear entirely handmade but there are a few things like RTW jeans that I really rely on to wear to work and just didn't have the time to make handmade equivalents for. I actually did a bit of forward thinking this year and identified that my wardrobe was missing a handful of staple everyday items to get me through the month and put in a big old order with The Fabric Store to get me started.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Equinox Tee in Cotton Jersey from The Fabric Store

First up were some basic tees. I already own the Sewaholic Renfrew Top pattern which is great and I've made quite a few of but I was after something with a slightly more relaxed style and higher neckline for layering this time around. I looked at probably every t-shirt pattern going (using The Foldline Sewing Pattern Database) before settling on the Pattern Fantastique Equinox Tee as the one with the ideal combination of elements. I was drawn to the slightly sixties vibe of this design particularly the little cap sleeve and flattering 'slightly wider than a crew' neck. You can bet I'll be trying that bell sleeve out at some point too.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Equinox Tee in Jersey from The Fabric Store

Fabric-wise although it was tempting to order something fun I opted for classic white and grey marl options that will work with multiple items in my wardrobe throughout the summer. I went with this white Lightweight Cotton Jersey and the grey Lightweight Jersey Knit. As they were both described as lightweight I imagined they'd be very similar but I failed to note that the grey is 100% viscose so is fine and semi sheer with some drape and the white cotton jersey is actually fairly robust with some body to it. The cotton jersey is actually very opaque and you could get away with making a summer dress out of it. The differences in them has made for two contrasting tees and a varied construction process as the white was nice and stable and the grey super shifty and curly at the edges! The required patience was worth it for that one though! I cut the straight size ten and both of these are sewn up as intended with no adjustments or length taken off, with the exception of a slight tweak at the neckline which I'll get on to in a moment. I used a metre of each fabric with some fairly large scraps left over.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Equinox Tee in Lightweight Viscose Jersey from The Fabric Store

The pattern is available in both PDF and printed format and I went with the PDF for speed and also because a tee shouldn't mean too many pages to assemble. I found the PDF format a little frustrating. The pattern pieces are whole rather than a half to be cut on the fold so it feels like you are wasting quite a bit of paper and printing. There is no layout provided in the instructions to see which sheet contains what but I've got into the habit of looking through the PDF to check if there are any pages I won't need to print for my size or the view I have chosen. As I was doing the short sleeves I discovered I could get away without pages 13-14 and 17-18 but that's still 27 pages to print for a t-shirt pattern! I also thought there was a page missing from the PDF and presumed it was because there is nothing on it as it is one of the central pieces of the back piece. But no! It turns out page 1, which looks like an explanation page is actually that missing piece as it has the grainline running down the side! I presumed it was just an explanation but there is in fact a code on each page with symbols in grid to show you where that page fits in to the pattern as you assemble it. There are three different symbols, one for each part of the pattern. Page one has the symbol for the back piece on it. I was very confused and if it was my first PDF pattern I would have been really stumped as I was looking everywhere for a note in the instructions explaining this. I'm all for not wasting that first page with the scale square on but I think numbered pages would be a lot more straightforward!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Equinox Tee in Cotton Jersey from The Fabric Store

The instructions for the pattern are on the website rather than as part of the download; the file that comes with the pattern is just a few pages with a cutting layout, size chart (which I loved as it is so thorough and means you can really see the adjustments you might need to make) and basic information about the design, fabric and notions required. The online instructions are generic for pretty much any t-shirt pattern and cover set in and raglan sleeves and various hemming options. I liked that options are presented for a more experienced sewer to choose their preference depending on fabric as we all know knits can behave so differently but I must admit I found this method of presenting pattern instructions a little odd. I'm used to having specific instructions and illustrations for the pattern I'm working on. It made them feel a little vague and I didn't feel like I achieved the best result I could; I certainly wouldn't have done if I was a knit/tee sewing newbie!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Equinox Tee in Lightweight Viscose Jersey from The Fabric Store

The tees still came together pretty quickly as I have made so many knit garments now and go on autopilot with my own construction method so I didn't rely on the instructions much. I sewed twill tape to the shoulder seam allowances for stability rather than the iron on tape they recommend. The one stumbling block I came across was the neckband which I didn't get a very good result on first time around. This is the Pattern Fantastique online tutorial to follow. A fairly wide neckband comes with the pattern which I think adds to the retro feel and I love the grey contrast used on this in the sample. The pattern doesn't come with a specific length of band for each size but rather suggests cutting a strip and assessing how much you should stretch it out as you pin it on. Whilst I understand that this is to do with the fact that different knits have varying amounts of stretch and recovery I've always achieved better results with patterns that do specify a length on the pattern pieces and generally find 10% less than the length of the neckline works well. Both of these knits are fairly stable and don't have that 'ping back' that you get in a lycra blend so I was wary of stretching them out too far but because of this that wide neckband really didn't want to lay flat around the inner edge, particularly at the tight corners of the slight boat neck. I was working on the white tee first and to solve the problem on this one I simply resewed the neckline with a large seam allowance, making the band skinnier and the neckline wider. This worked out quite well but I wonder if the wider neckline is what makes me prefer the grey over this one. When I came to make the grey tee I cut down the width of the band before construction so I've ended up with a skinny band which lays flat but the intended width of neckline.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Equinox Tee in Cotton Jersey from The Fabric Store

Anyway, once I'd battled through those little frustrations and have started wearing the tees they've become very valuable additions to my wardrobe and I plan on making more! Despite having reservations about how the fine lightweight jersey would work for this pattern as I had envisioned something a little more stable I've actually been getting a lot more wear out of the grey tee! It sits a little better on the body and looks neater tucked in to high waisted trousers and skirts. There's something about the white one that I'm not quite sure on and I'm wondering if I should go down a size for a neater fit on the shoulder (although it is designed to be slightly dropped) and do a bit of an FBA as I'm seeing some drag lines around the bust.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Molly Top in Stripe Merino Jersey Mushroom from The Fabric Store

When I was ordering the tee fabric I decided a long sleeve warmer version would definitely be useful too, especially to wear under my ever-growing collection of dungarees so I got a metre and a half of this Mushroom Merino Jersey Stripe too although I didn't have a pattern in mind at the time. Once it arrived I commenced another great big sewing pattern search but started with the PDF pattern stash on my computer first and found the perfect thing. Its too easy to overlook those digital files we have hidden away and get carried away with something new and shiny isn't it?!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Molly Top in Stripe Merino Jersey Mushroom from The Fabric Store

That pattern was the Molly Top & Dress from the Sew Over It My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break ebook and is this is the surprise star of this post! The fit is bang on and the striped merino is amazing, I just feel super comfortable and great in this top. I tested the Mia Jeans pattern way back when this was released and can't believe I overlooked so many of the other patterns in the ebook. It really is a great little wardrobe to sew up and I've got the Erin Skirt lined up next although perhaps I could do with a Molly Dress first!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Molly Top in Stripe Merino Jersey Mushroom from The Fabric Store

This pattern ticks so many boxes for me. Firstly the slim fitted sleeves. This is always my personal preference as I have very small wrists and forearms and don't like to feel like I'm swimming in fabric. It makes it feel like the top fits right when the sleeves are nice and snug. But the design of these sleeves is an added bonus as the top portion is 'grown on' to the body pattern piece and the shoulder seam is actually down above the elbow. Kind of similar to a dropped shoulder but the top portion of the sleeve is still fitted. This detail really lifts an otherwise fairly basic design. Plus I LOVE how this feature works in stripes. The top sleeve has the grain running one way and the lower the other so the stripes change direction and you get a lovely v-shaped intersection of stripes along the shoulder seam running down the arm. I'm particularly happy that I managed to nail the stripe matching for this!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Molly Top in Stripe Merino Jersey Mushroom from The Fabric Store

As well as the sleeves I really like the relaxed but flattering fit through the body which has just the right amount of ease. The size and shape of the neckline is also spot on for my preferences. The width and depth shows off a bit of collar bone without being so wide that it shifts about and slips off the shoulder and it works both layered under other tops/dungarees or on its own.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Molly Top in Stripe Merino Jersey Mushroom from The Fabric Store

I'm used to Sew Over It instructions so this came together incredibly smoothly and was such an enjoyable sew because the merino jersey behaves so well. I wash it in the machine on a 30 degree gentle cycle and use a cool to medium setting on the iron which it responds to really well. I absolutely love this stuff and can't get enough. I've not yet used much merino jersey in paler shades and I was concerned with this one that it would be a little see through as it is on the lighter end of the weight scale but it is nice and dense, the perfect thickness for a warm tee. I love the subtlety and scale of the mushroom stripe although it was a tough choice as The Fabric Store have got a great range of stripes in at the moment. I considered using the stripes in the opposite direction on the neckband as Lisa has in one of her Breton samples but thought it might look a little odd in a stripe of this width and am glad I kept it clean and simple cutting down the centre of one of the wide cream stripes.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sew Over It Molly Top in Stripe Merino Jersey Mushroom from The Fabric Store

As I did with the Equinox Tees I used my usual construction method with knits and assembled the seams with a narrow and short zig zag stitch on my machine for accuracy and then finished them off on the overlocker. Hems I used a twin needle in my regular machine for. A stretch needle rather than ballpoint worked best on all of these fabrics. I have recently repaired some of the zig zag stitching on my well worn activewear and twin needled hems on other garments using this Maderia Aeroflock thread in the bobbin but didn't use it on these as I still only have black and was impatient! I picked up a cone from Barnyarns to try at the Knitting & Stitching Show and have been so impressed with the resilience it has given my stretch seams and hems! Similar to woolly nylon thread this slightly fluffy thread has some elasticity in it and also has a soft finish so is great for activewear seams in particular which may rub. I'll be purchasing a white/cream and grey cone for use on other projects for sure.

So there we have it. Three incredibly useful knit garments to have in the wardrobe, in quality fabrics, all whipped up in an afternoon! I have a feeling you'll be seeing a lot of all three of these as part of my ensembles during May!

Monday, 30 April 2018

April Indie Pattern Update!



Does anyone else feel a little bit overwhelmed by their sewing queue at the moment? I think it happens with this change of season every year as there are so many things I want to sew for the warmer weather. No that there is any sign of that here in London this morning! The influx of beautiful new pattern releases this month sure hasn't helped. There's a lot to look through as many indie companies launched whole new collections! I'm wishing someone could give me an extra week in my life and put everything else on pause so I can just sew all the lovely new things!


New Pattern Companies!


  • There was a new digital sewing magazine launched this month and along with it a new pattern! Smyly Magazine has been created by Athina and Hattie after the success of the 'Sewing Makes You Love Yourself' challenge earlier this year and the first issue focuses on women who have turned their passion for sewing into a career. Each issue will include a downloadable pattern and the first is the Samantha Dress which is a faux wrap style. 


New Patterns


  • The two new patterns released with the April edition of Seamwork Magazine by Colette were the Natalie Blouse and Jenna Skirt. Both great wardrobe basics, my favourite is the boxy fit and notched collar of the classic blouse.
  • DG Patterns released the Marla Jumpsuit, Top & Dress which is a semi fitted style with lovely pleated bodice detail with v-neckline and dolman sleeves.
  • I love the new Ariana Woven Dress from Style Arc. It has everything I'm after in a feminine strappy summer dress with a flattering classic fitted bodice and full midi skirt. The addition of shirring at the back of the bodice for a comfortable close fit plus pockets on the skirt make this a real winner in my book. I also really like the tie detail on the sleeves of the new Miley Woven Top which was one of their freebies with any purchase in April. They also released the Meghan Jacket which would be perfect made up in a ponte knit. The design features a waterfall front and ties on the cuffs.
  • The new free downloadable releases from Mood Sewciety this month included the Lotus Leggings, Morina Jumpsuit (super glamorous secret pyjamas!) and Lilium Pant. I love how the details of a classic button up shirt are exaggerated in the design of the Melia Blouse and now we've had a brief spell of summer weather in London the new Magnolia and Nyssa Dresses are catching my eye.
  • Hey June Handmade released the Amalfi Dress, the carefree style of which would indeed be perfect for wafting around the Amalfi coast on a hot summer's day! It has flutter or gathered short sleeves combined with a relaxed fit and elasticated waist. 
  • Ohhh Lulu released a free pattern for the Hyacinth Bralette. Constructed from just two small pieces and the perfect simple style to jazz up with a bit of trim this design could be a great stash buster for any knit scraps. Could this finally be the thing that tempts me to dip my toe into the world of sewing lingerie?!
  • One of my favourite releases of the month (and one which I'll probably own by the time you read this, I have no will power!) is the Vernazza Two Piece Swimsuit from Friday Pattern Company. I love the style of the top with tie front and the high rise bottoms really appeal to me right now.
  • The Sew Over It PDF pattern release of the month is the Emmeline Skirt. I love this style for spring and summer and think it would be great in a variety of fabrics. The full, high-waisted style features box pleats, a button front and big bow belt.
  • New from Designer Stitch is the Kate Vintage Tea Dress. A classic, flattering fit-and-flare style with vintage inspired bodice and circular skirt. The pattern also includes a variety of cup sizes for easy fitting. 
  • Love Notions released the Harmony Blouse. An effortlessly stylish design which would be best sewn up in a beautiful silk or viscose woven. The pattern includes four sleeve styles and a keyhole feature at the back of the neckline.
  • Ann Normandy launched a new PDF Pant Pattern. I love that the on trend flared leg of these is created by long godets inserted in the side seam. The design also features a high waist with side zip fastening and a deep welt pocket on the hip.
  • The Spring/Summer collection from Republique du Chiffon has arrived! It consists of six patterns in the form of the Yolanda Dress, Yvonne Playsuit, Jacqueline Jacket, Petula Shirt, Jeanne Blouse and Prune Dress. My favourite has surprised me as its not my usual style but I think I'd get a lot of wear out of Petula; I love the volume and that gathered back yoke.
  • SBCC Patterns have been working on perfecting their latest pattern for the last two years! The Rickey Jacket is a classic blazer with either a notched or contemporary shawl collar and the proportions of the pattern are designed to suit petite ladies.
  • The Billie Jacket is new from PM Patterns. It has a shoulder yoke and princess seamed cut for a slim fit and can be made in a classic single breasted style or double breasted for a moto look.
  • Dessine Moi Un Patron released a new collection of three patterns. The scallop detail at the armhole and across the back of the Bloom button up Dress and Blouse is lovely and I like it as a tie front top. Cherry is a relaxed blouson jacket packed with details and Leaf is a chic dress or top that wraps or buttons at the back.
  • Wardrobe by Me launched two new shirt patterns; one for women and one for men! The Jensen Mens Shirt is a classic with button front, tower plackets, stand and optional collar as well as the option to make with short or long sleeves. The Anna Shirt is very similar in style with the same variations but has slits at the cuffs on the long sleeves and is cut for female proportions.
  • The fifth pattern from Afternoon is the Cosmos Bralette which they have created in collaboration with Create Hobby to celebrate the opening of their Cape Town store. The ideal beginner lingerie pattern.
  • Muse is the new summer collection of patterns from Louis Antoinette, which are all available in both paper and their newly launched PDF format! I love the draped front of the Betty Dress, the waist tie of the Amanda Skirt but am most drawn to the asymmetrical style of the Elvire Top.
  • Also with a new collection out is Laela Jeyne Patterns. La Femme Collection consists of four designs; the Cosette Blouse, Léa Swimsuit and the Josephine and Victoire Dresses. I particularly like the criss cross back and plunging front of the Léa which uniquely can be filled in with lace.
  • New from Street Style Patterns is the 026 Bodysuit. Ideal for wearing with denim, this close fitting style can be made with short or long sleeves and has elasticated leg openings and snap fastenings.
  • Rochad Studio are offering the new Madeline Cardi pattern for free to their newsletter subscribers! It is a great beginner cardigan pattern that would work in a variety of drapey knits with a waterfall front and longer lower hip length.
  • The Robinson Trousers are new from Ensemble Patterns and give you two patterns in one! With six different hem variations and patterns for both stretch and woven fabrics included you'll get a very different result each time. 
  • Rosy Peña Patterns released their first collection which consists of six designs that work beautifully together. The Carolina Jumpsuit is a stunner but I'm most drawn to the Bella Wrap Top; I can't resist a bell sleeve! Also included are the Luisa Trousers, Sophia Flares, Ana Top and Mila Bag
  • Nikki from Beauté J'Adore released her second pattern download for women which is a gorgeous fashion forward Gathered Tunic design. It has a boat neck, gathered waist and high slit. I love it worn over jeans.
  • Closet Case Patterns released a free pattern download to sew your own sewing machine cover! My machine has a hard cover but I was excited to see that the download also includes a pattern for a serger/coverstitch machine. Definitely going to be making one of those to jazz up my sewing space and keep the dust off.
  • The Giverny Dress is the latest pattern from Itch to Stitch and wow is it a beauty! There are many elegant features to this which balance each other perfectly including a pin tucked bodice with slit neckline, wide curved waistband with optional sash and the choice of short or 3/4 length pleated cuffed sleeves.
  • Megan Nielsen released two new patterns this month, one of which is an absolute cracker of a jeans pattern! The Ash Jeans include four different leg styles and I love the proportions and classic style of that back yoke and pockets. The River Dress & Top is a reversible raglan style which can be sewn in knits of wovens and has optional side seam pockets and sash belt. A really versatile wardrobe staple.
  • New from Schnittchen is the Holly Jacket which is accompanied by a video sewing tutorial. Its a cropped college style jacket with ribbed hem, cuffs and neckline and also includes the option to sew with a pointed collar. I'm particularly love with the striped ribbing they've used on the teal sample, so retro! They also released the FREE Margo Skirt which can be made with or without flounces. I like how the asymmetrical ruffle continues up the centre seam!
  • The Maya Linen Pants are new from Designer Stitch and free when you sign up to their newsletter! Just in time for the approaching summer these have a relaxed wide leg with rear patch pockets and a knit yoga waistband for maximum comfort!
  • The last pattern company this month with a new Spring/Summer collection release is Anne Kerdilès Couture. The collection consists of three patterns; the Andria Dress, Côme Trousers and Syracuse Blouse. A few of you were after my recommendations for tapered trousers with a pleated waist when I posted my tartan ones a couple of weeks ago; the Côme Trousers could be a great choice.
  • Wear Lemonade have released the Andy Dungarees which are more of a classic workwear style than their Fionas. The design features a low back, straight legs and five roomy topstitched pockets. Who needs a handbag when dungarees are in fashion hey?!
  • Jily is the most recent release from Ready To Sew and is a beauty of a little boxy slightly cropped top for summer. I love the view with the tie at the centre front hem!


Pattern updates and expansions


  • Grainline Studio launched the Scout Sleeve Variation Pack to accompany one of their first and still very popular patterns, the Scout Tee. The four new sleeve styles included (cuffed sleeve, petal sleeve, short and long sleeves) mean you can really get the most out of your pattern.
  • As the full bicep pattern option for the recently released Montrose Top was so successful Cashmerette have just released a free downloadable full bicep sleeve pattern piece for their Harrison Shirt. Their patterns really are taking all the work out of pattern alterations for you!
  • OhhhLulu released a downloadable expansion pack for the Hyacinth Bralette pattern. A total bargain for all the variety that is included! Th pack enables you to customise your bralette with lace overlays, back variations including a keyhole cut out and strapping and instructions on how to finish with fold over elastic.


Sew-alongs


  • The sew-along for Cashmerette's most recent pattern, the Montrose Top, has begun over on their blog. The posts include sewing up three different versions of the top using very different fabrics with tips and tricks along the way.
  • Indie Sew are running a sew-along for the Moto Sweatshirt recently released by Seamly. Its just finished up over on the Indie Sew blog so all the posts are there if you need tips with a particular stage. 
  • The ladies behind Smyly Magazine will be posting a sew-along for their first pattern, the Samantha Dress on their blog. There will be a video tutorial for version 1 and a step-by-step how-to post for version 2.
  • Grainline Studio are running a Make-Along in collaboration with Madder to go with their newly released Uniform - Knit & Sew book and e-book. Posts on the Grainline blog will be packed with advice and guidance for sewing up the tunic pattern. For all the knitting tips for the accompanying cardigan design check out the posts on the Making blog.
  • There is a sew-along currently running on the Wardrobe By Me blog for their recently released Jensen and Anna Shirt patterns. If you've been hesitant to tackle menswear or tower plackets this could be a great excuse!
  • Sew News have been running a sew-along for the Emerson Crop Pants and Shorts from True Bias. It has been a three part series with super clear step by step photos to follow.


Upcoming!


  • Coming next from Fresh Press Patterns is the Leon Spring Coat. The weather in London can't seem to make up it's mind at the moment so a spring weight coat might be just what I need! They also shared a peep on Instagram at the James Pants which are designed for knit fabrics.
  • I'm very excited to see what the next Closet Case Patterns design will be. They were shooting the samples a couple of weeks ago so the release must be imminent! 
  • Gertie is working on the next patterns for her fairly new Charm Patterns line. From sneaky peeks on Instagram one looks to be a gorgeous 1950s inspired dress with square collar. 
  • Sew Liberated are currently testing their next pattern; the Gypsum Skirt. Its going to feature two variations and deep pockets!
  • It looks like the next pattern from Victory Patterns will be some form of trench coat. They are busy sewing up samples for the Ulysses Trench right now!
  • Thread Theory are about to start testing their next pattern, which they describe as a quick wardrobe staple. 
  • Decades of Style have a new pattern coming out on 2nd May which will be part of their Decades Everyday range. The pattern will be the first in their newly expanded size range of 32"-52" bust.
  • The sneaky peak of the new Pippi Pinafore from Jennifer Lauren Handmade promises side button fastening and lots of yummy topstitching! Looking forward to the release of this later in the week.
  • The next design from Ensemble Patterns will be the Perkins Shirt. They gave us a sneak peak on Instagram of a lovely keyhole and tie detail at the back of a classic collar.


Other Exciting News


  • The No.12 Aalborg Dress & Blouse from How To Do Fashion is now available in paper format. This is a gorgeous 1970s inspired wrap style and the blouse variation also lends itself beautifully to 1950s styling.
  • The Avid Seamstress re-launched their City Trousers pattern. They are a classic cigarette style with a narrow waistband and invisible zip at the rear. With side seam pockets and the option to add hem slits these are a true versatile classic. 
  • Sew Over It launched a new online course this month; Intro to Sewing Shirts. I think this is a great subject for a course as there are so many aspects to sewing a shirt which can be challenging without further explanation when you make your first one. The course includes two patterns; the Ultimate Shirt for ladies and the Hackney Shirt for men. Sew Over It's very first menswear pattern!


As always fell free to add any releases or news I've missed in the comments below and I'll endeavour to get the post updated as soon as possible! Here's your dose of indie sewing inspiration to get you motivated to sew your way through May!


  • I can't get enough of the trousers Novita has been making recently and my latest obsession are these denim Persephone Pants. I was planning to make some Lander Pants for spring but am now torn between the two patterns! 
  • Emanuelle made a beautiful version of the Iris Top from Fresh Press Patterns. I love the fabric that she chose and those overlapping side seams finished with bias binding are a beautiful feature. 
  • I adore this longline Sophie Bikini that Holli made and posted on the Imagine Gnats blog, Isn't that rope print swim fabric the perfect nod to nautical without being too novelty?! It makes me want to book a sunshine break immediately so I can make my own.
  • Sian from Kittenish Behaviour made an incredible pair of Beach Pyjamas. The fabric she chose is also from Til The Sun Goes Down who have the most amazing vintage inspired prints which pair so well with this mid century design. 
  • I adore this hack of the Winslow Culottes from Helen, particularly in my favourite shade of berry red. A pair has immediately been added to my sewing queue...in fact I may have even hunted down the fabric already! 

Monday, 23 April 2018

Brushed Cotton Berlin Skirt

After the surprise success of the trousers I shared last week I've now got a project to show you which hasn't quite lived up to the high expectations I had for it. I can't quite put my finger on what my problem with this skirt is...the fabric, the pattern, the fit. I think probably a combination of all three just being a little off. Its not a complete disaster and I've still been getting some wear out of it but I was hoping for my new favourite skirt and a wardrobe hero and didn't get it. I've got plans to tackle this pattern again though, I haven't given up on the dream and have learnt a lot from making this one.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

The pattern is the Berlin Skirt from French pattern company Orageuse which I have had my eye on for some time and was actually one of my choices for the #2018makenine challenge on Instagram. A lot of the Orageuse designs appeal to me as they strike a good balance between stylish, contemporary and wearable and include some unique features. It is the first pattern I have used from this company and whilst I was impressed with the drafting and the complexity of the pattern I found myself a bit adrift with the instructions. You know sometimes when you try a new pattern company the instructions feel fairly instinctive to follow and other times they feel a bit unfamiliar and the construction doesn't seem to flow as smoothly; it was definitely the latter experience for me. I think this is often down to personal preference and their methods don't gel with my usual construction techniques. Its good to push yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

The fabric is one of the purchases I made in Paris and is an exquisite brushed cotton from Sacrés Coupons which was my favourite shop. Its almost like a fine moleskin but a little crispier and I imagine is a bolt end from a designer line as is most of the fabric in that particular store. I thought the crisp hand would be great to show off the 'paper-bag' shape of this skirt and really make the most of those feature pockets but after making it I think something softer with more drape would be better suited. This is a little too pokey so the skirt doesn't hang well when I start moving around. In particular the pleats open up when I walk and then stay poking out rather than folding back in on themselves which is frustrating. The nap of the exterior of the fabric also catches against itself a bit so nothing wants to fall into a natural place. It also picks up fluff like crazy! Not so great when you work in costume...I go home covered in thread! I had a 3 metre coupon and still have well over half left so perhaps I can find a project better suited to it for the rest.

One really great thing about the fabric is that it presses beautifully. That's really essential in a fabric choice for this design as you want crisp pleats and crisp edges on those pockets and the centre front split. Its all about sharp corners! I took the advice of a commenter on my post about the Sirius Sweater and tried heat-setting in my pleats with a spritz of vinegar and water mix before pressing. This certainly improved the crispness of my pleats and they are holding up well but still don't fare so well in the wash. Thanks very much to whoever provided me with that great tip!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

I cut the size 38 at the waist and graded out to a 40 at the lower hip as I wanted it nice and snug at the waist and slim but not clingy around the bum. I'm fairly happy with the fit and although I had been considering sizing up next time for a more relaxed summer look I think I'll stick with this as I wouldn't want it to keep shifting about. It sits beautiful around the waist and high hip at the moment which is mainly due to the curved waistband, what a dream those things are! Definitely my favourite part of this pattern.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

Looking at the pictures I'm thinking that part of my dissatisfaction with the finished article may be to do with the style not suiting my petite proportions. Midi lengths can be really tricky to pull off and I'm not quite sure I've got the balance of this one right. I took 9cm off the length and am pretty happy with where the hem hits but next time I will take this out from higher up the skirt, possibly in two parts which will mean redrawing the pleat line in. Taking the length of the hem meant I lost some of the shape. I'm 5ft3" so I expected to have to shorten it a but but 9cm does seem a lot.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

Some of the phrasing of the instructions seemed a little odd and I'm wondering if something is lost in the translation from French. Only tiny things which aren't a huge problem as referring to the illustrations clarifies things; for example it says to 'pink the pocket bag' so you can turn it to the wrong side when it actually means to snip the seam allowance into the corner. I'd read through the instructions before starting so spotted the areas I was wary of and made a few changes for personal preference.

I was going to attach my belt loops once the invisible zip was attached but before the lining was turned to the inside so they were just sewn to the shell and not right through the lining too. I didn't love the idea of that stitching showing on the inside when you've gone to the effort of lining. But then I realised that wouldn't be possible because the waistband is topstitched along the lower edge to seal up the insides. When it came to it I ended up unpicking my topstitching and leaving the shell and lining hanging free from each other as it was nigh on impossible to get seams at the bottom of the waistband and waistband facing lined up so the topstitching looked really terribly uneven from the inside. I'd like to give this a go on another version though, perhaps stitching in the ditch rather than topstitching as it would be a lovely secure finish.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

Speaking of belt loops my inclination is either to make the belt loops longer or the belt itself narrower as the belt at the moment can't lay flat though the loops and looks really scruffy once tied. Its worth noting that the steps to create the belt and assemble the lining aren't illustrated and there is the potential to go wrong there. Make sure you are sewing the two pieces of the belt together by the short ends so you end up with a long, narrow strip rather than short and fat! Also watch out when you are cutting your pattern pieces that you are marking the right pleat lines for the length of skirt you are making. Both the short skirt and midi length are on the same pattern pieces and the pleat lines are easy to confuse. I triple checked!

I added a couple of my own tricks to the instructions such as adding twill tape to the pocket opening seam allowances for extra strength, this style of pocket is very tempting to keep your hands in which means could potentially quite easily get stretched out. I also under-stitched along the top edge of the waistband to encourage the facing to roll to the inside.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

When assembling the front lining the instructions say to sew the centre front seam to 1cm above the slit but the slit isn't actually marked on the pattern piece. By looking ahead in the instructions to see how the slit was later finished I decided to sew it to the same point as I did the front piece but this was a little low. I unpicked about 2cm to get the finishing to work. There's quite a bit of hand stitching involved in finishing the hem and centre front split but I really enjoyed this part!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt


The roomy pockets appealed to me but in reality and despite appearances they are not all that deep! My phone only just about gets in there and I want to be able to plunge my hands down further into them. I might add a bit of length to the pocket bag pieces next time. My real bug bear with this skirt is that the lining wants to peek out of the front slit despite it being hand-stitched down around that edge. I certainly haven't helped that with my choice of contrasting print and the drapey viscose (from my stash) is probably exacerbating the problem as it shifts about so much. A crisper choice might stay put. As a bit of a fix I might catch the lining to the shell at the hem in a few places with thread chains so it still has some movement but keeps to the shape of the shell a little better. I'm considering doing without the lining next time and I'd simply hand stitch the bottom edge of the waistband facing down.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt
You can still see where my topstitching was!

I'd say you want to have a little bit of confidence in your sewing skills to make this as some aspects are slightly fiddly. In general I prefer illustrated instructions like these to those with photographs; theres something about line drawings that I find easier to follow. However there are a couple of points in this where a photograph would have reassured me I'd done it right as the illustrations are all a 'wide angle' view of the whole garment rather than a close up of where you should be stitching. In particular how to finish the front slit cleanly and sew those corners at the top of the pockets. Its a little tricky to get the lining completely tucked away in this area (although you have under-stitched along the opening which helps). I was actually really chuffed with how the corners turned out...then realised they are concealed behind the front pleat anyway!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

I'm in two minds about this project and think I still love the idea more than the reality. Its one of those garments that I want to wear but whenever I put it on just doesn't feel quite right. I've got a beautiful piece of paprika weighty yet soft slubbed linen in my stash which I think might better suit this style than the crisp cotton, especially unlined so I might give the pattern another whirl with some tweaks. There's plenty to think about before the next version!