Saturday, 9 December 2017

Grey Stretch Denim McCalls 7547 Dungarees

I never thought dungarees would be a big hit in my wardrobe and even whilst making my teal linen Turias I was doubting whether I could pull them off or if I would just end up looking like an oversized toddler. However, I wore that pair at least once a week over the summer, got compliments on them every time and still have a couple of people constantly hounding me to make them a pair! I wore them as long as I could through Autumn but had to concede defeat to the plummeting temperatures about a month ago and have been really missing them as an outfit option ever since. A warmer pair was definitely needed!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

I actually had plans to make a denim version before I even thought about the linen pair. I bought the McCalls 7547 pattern at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia way back in the spring. I'd been looking enviously at women rocking dungarees around London and totally fell for the grown up styling and slightly seventies vibe of the flared version pictured on the pattern envelope. Finally some dungarees I could get on board with! I bought the fabric there and then at the show and was super excited to get sewing but then of course work got in the way, summer arrived and dressing head to toe in layers and denim was the last thing on my mind so all the supplies sat under my sewing table waiting patiently until about a month ago. I'm now kicking myself for not making them sooner as I LOVE them!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

I definitely wanted to use something with the weight and strength of a denim but wanted to keep them fairly fitted and feminine rather than heavy, oversized and retro! I thought I'd have a hard time picking a fabric but it practically chose me as I walked around the show with pattern in hand. Higgs & Higgs had a beautiful selection of soft, yet weighty stretch denims on their stall in a mixture of classic tones and more unusual muted colours. Lucky for you guys they still have them available on their website and at the very reasonable price of £11.99/m! The grey was the obvious dungaree choice for me but I'm also very taken with mink and old rose. It has washed and sewn beautifully and the stretch makes it super comfortable to wear. As there is a generous amount of stretch I probably could have done with getting my walking foot out, particularly when attaching the pockets as things got ever so slightly stretched out of shape as it moved through the machine. However, I find it much easier to topstitch with the clear regular machine foot (I think it might be called the embroidery foot?!) as I line certain ridges/edges of the foot up with the seam line as an easy way of keeping the topstitching even. The walking foot makes it harder to see this clearly so I think the stretching is a sacrifice I'm willing to make for that!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

One of the things delaying me from getting stuck in with these was the fact that I think they need a fairly good fit to look half as chic as the sample. I'm still very hesitant about fitting trousers and in fact I've had making a pair of Sew Over it Ultimate Trousers and working through their online trouser fitting course on my sewing queue for about as long as the dungarees! Perhaps becoming more confident about fitting should me my sewing resolution for the new year. I decided to cut a muslin of the trousers down to just above the knee out of the stretch denim I had left over from my Mia Jeans. This Higgs & Higgs denim would probably make a great pair of Mias come to think of it. I'm usually reluctant to do a muslin as my sewing time is so limited and precious but decided it was definitely worth it for these as I so wanted them to be a success. Even if the muslin just proved that they were fine out of the envelope the time taken would be worth it to ease my apprehension!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

Usually for big 4 patterns I cut a size or two down but the more recent McCalls releases seem to fit me a lot better so I followed my lead from making the McCalls 6696 shirtdress and cut the straight size 12. My measurements actually put me between the size 12 and 14 but the 12 was definitely the right choice. Out of the envelope the fit wasn't bad but I did make a couple of tiny tweaks. I had a bit of excess fabric around the crotch so by pinching and pinning the excess fabric out along seams until it looked better I established that I needed to skim 4/8" off the front inside leg seam at the top. I was really proud of myself for being able to figure this out! It seems despite not making and fitting many trousers I feel like I do have a much better understanding of trouser fitting and where to make adjustments from reading so many blog posts. I find them fascinating! Particularly useful is Heather Lou's Ginger Jeans sew-along so I'm really excited to dive into her pants fitting basics download which she created alongside the new Sasha Pants pattern.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

I probably would have spent a bit more time tweaking the fit around the crotch and bum if I was making slim fitting jeans but as dungarees have a more relaxed vibe I decided the resulting fit would do me just fine! The stretch in the denim is pretty forgiving anyway. The only other adjustments I made were to take a little length off the hem and to adjust the rear pockets. I've never been entirely happy with the placement of these pockets on my Ginger Jeans (I think they are a bit large and low for the shape of my bum) so made sure to check these in the muslin and found I had similar problems. The long length of these was quite unflattering so I took 3/4" off the bottom edge and checked the placement against the pockets on my Mia Jeans as these I love those.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

I had a hard time deciding what leg style to cut and in the end resorted to an Instagram poll! It was a tightly run race but in the end the skinny leg won and I think it was definitely the right choice as that leg is much more wearable and practical for my day to day life. I have fairly short legs and definitely think I need a heel to pull off a flared leg! Having said that, the glamorous allure of the flare is too much to resist and its more than likely that I'll be making a pair of those too now I've figured out the fit. Oh and although McCalls describe it as a skinny leg I'd definitely call it more of a slim or slightly tapered cut. I actually much prefer this to a proper full on skinny.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

Long time readers of this blog will probably remember that I'm a big fan of a bit of topstitching, so you can imagine how satisfying these were for me to make! I considered using a contrasting topstitching thread but then decided what I liked about the grey denim was the understated vibe, giving the completed dungarees more of a fashion feel than a practical heavy duty pair. So I used the standard grey thread I was using to sew them up and love how it looks. the grey is slightly paler so it shows up nicely up close without overwhelming the garment. The topstitching is the one thing I found a little strange about the instructions actually. You're asked to do a fair bit of topstitching around the pockets and edges of the bib but then topstitching is left out in other areas where I would expect it. I added in a row of stitching along the inside leg seam and also along the straps but think I could have done with adding in a bit more. I think it would look great along the waistband.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

As well as the satisfaction of topstitching I had an excuse to wield a hammer to set in those bib buttons and the snap on the side of the waist. A button is called for in the pattern instructions rather than a snap but I didn't have any metal buttons and thought a snap would suit this utility style garment. I always make some kind of mistake with each garment I make and this fastening is it on these! I managed to attach the waistband the wrong way round so the extra flap on the end of the waistband is at the front and sits on top of the back waistband to fasten when in fact it should come from the back and slot under the front. Ah well, it doesn't look wrong! There are quite a few markings to transfer on to the waistband and I got muddled. In future I think I'll use different colours of tailors tacks to indicate different marks!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

I think this may well be only my second or third time doing a lapped zip (my addiction to invisible zips may explain how that's possible when I've sewn as many things as I have!) so despite having to unpick portions of it a couple of times I'm pretty pleased with how neatly that has turned out. I used a regular dress zip from my stash but if I made these again I quite like the idea of using a proper metal jeans zip and now I understand the construction I might play around with making it an exposed one.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

I'm really pleased with the finishing of the bib; I particularly love the little triangular facing on the back! A lovely little classic utility detail. Inside the trousers I overlocked where possible but followed the instructions to trim down the centre portion of the crotch seam so this edge is left raw which I find a little annoying. I think if making these again I wouldn't trim down this area and I'd overlock the raw edges of all the pattern pieces before starting to make it a little easier. When deciding on the length of the straps I opted for nice and snug as the one thing that drives me a little bit crazy about my Cleo Dress is the straps shifting about and the bib feeling loose and floppy. However, after a couple of wears I think I could do with lengthening them just a fraction as I think the waist and crotch could do with sitting a tiny bit lower.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 7547 Dungarees in Grey Stretch Denim from Higgs & Higgs

I've worn these a few times already and they've seen me nicely through a tough week at work but I'm still undecided on the best footwear to go with them for winter. None of my boots look quite right and I've tried sparkly socks to combat the chilly ankles I get with trainers but I'm not sure I'm a glitter sock type of woman. Any advice on boots which would look good with this leg shape?! I'm determined to find something I love as the dungarees suit my lifestyle so well. They work with multiple tops in my wardrobe so I can have a lot of fun with styling. Plus they are so so great for my work with all the pockets and practicality for running about town and crawling around in fittings. Comfort is the name of the game for my professional wardrobe and the stretch in the denim of these is an added bonus in this department!

Has the irresistible urge to sew something ever pushed you out of your style comfort zone? Was it a big success as with me and this dungarees, or a wardrobe disaster?!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

November Indie Pattern Update!

Hold on to your hats people! Its been a huge month for new pattern releases and there are some absolutely irresistible new styles among them. My sewing queue definitely doesn't need to be getting any longer at the moment and the stacks of things I've got waiting to be sewn did manage to deter me from going too wild in any of the Black Friday sales. There were some great offers on throughout the indie sewing pattern community; did you manage to snap up any patterns you had been after at a bargain price?

New Pattern Companies!

  • Attie and Dora launched with the release of their first pattern; the Dora Dress and Top. I love the idea of this slip style made up in a special fabric for parties. The bodice is empire line in three parts which provides a flattering shape.
  • Another company releasing their first pattern in November was Alice and Ann with the Kendra Dress. It has a fit and flare style with empire line waist and full pleated skirt.
  • It was a busy month for new pattern companies. Amy Nicole Studio also launched with the release of the Patti Pocket Skirt. It is a classic, pleated and flared style with deep front pockets built into the panels of the skirt.

New Patterns

  • Style Arc's new releases this month included the Barcelona Tote Bag and Purse and the Blakley Stretch Jean. Their star release of the month has to be the Carly Aviator Jacket though. A wonderfully challenging project to make this pattern is for an iconic aviator style jacket which has the option to add classic fur trim.
  • The two new releases with this month's Seamwork Magazine were the Sadie Sweater and Melody Trousers. They look great together as an outfit, with the slim leg of the trousers balancing the relaxed fit of the sweater with funnel neck.
  • Trend Patterns AW17 collection is now available and is formed of 5 patterns including two from the basics range (TPC16 Side Drawstring Dress and TPC17 Drape Hem Skirt). From the regular line there is the TPC15 Tuck Sleeve Top, TPC13 Cape Sleeve Jacket and TPC14 70s Dress. I love the lace sample of the latter!
  • Waffle Patterns released the Moto Jacket, a real classic to make for your wardrobe. It is a close fitting style with centre front zip, high round neck and options for various zip pockets.
  • Orageuse had three new pattern releases for us this month in the form of the Bristol Dress, Bruges Trousers and Amsterdam Blazer. I love both the tied neckline and buttons up the shoulder on the Bristol but I think the on trend sports luxe Bruges trousers are my favourite.
  • New from Kommatia Patterns is the T005 Loose Shirt which is an oversized button up style with breast pockets and dropped shoulders. I bet this would be lovely made up in a chambray.
  • The Florence Dress was November's PDF pattern release from Sew Over It. A glamorous maxi or midi style with two collar options which looks great made up in a floral print.
  • Mood Fabrics have been gradually releasing a collection of free pattern downloads available through their Mood Sewciety blog. This month they added the Alyssum CoatBegonia JacketBergenia Jumpsuit, Cuphea Shawl, Banksia Pant, Cosmos Dress and Achillea Coat to the collection. All the patterns have an accompanying blog post of instructions.
  • The season of unselfish sewing is upon us and in case you are looking for something to make for one of the men in your life Wardrobe by Me have released the Farfar Classic Cardigan for men. They also just released the Wanda Wrap Dress.
  • Also a great gift idea, Thread Theory released three mini patterns for various styles of wallet. You can choose from an elastic wallet, card wallet and bifold wallet.
  • Nina Lee London released her fifth sewing pattern, the Southbank Sweater. A nice, quick and satisfying project it is an on trend oversized style with funnel neck and drop shoulders.
  • New from Designer Stitch are is the Tanner Culotte pattern. I like the big patch, utility style pockets and particularly love them made up in faded washed denim.
  • The Gabriela Pants and Tessa Sweater are the latest releases from DG Patterns. The sweater has four necklines to choose from and I particularly like the little crossover collar.
  • Every spring I find myself hankering after the perfect pair of Audrey Hepburn style slim legged trousers and never get around to making them. The new Sasha Trousers from Closet Case Patterns might be the pattern that final gets me to take the plunge. Heather Lou has written a post packed with fitting tips which makes the project seem a little less daunting.
  • The latest release from The Maker's Atelier is the Asymmetric Gather Dress. The way the angled neckline works with the gathering is a really clever and deceptively simple design.
  • Pauline Alice released the Hemisferic Coat. I really don't need another coat in my wardrobe but love the high neckline and panelled design of this. Plus I love working with boiled wool and this design would look so great made up in a vivid colour of it!
  • The Prudence Dress is my favourite pattern release from Colette Patterns in a long time. That beautiful keyhole neckline with stand collar combined with the dolman sleeves and slim skirt makes for an incredibly elegant and sophisticated design. Going to be hard to resist that one! 
  • There have been a couple of free pattern releases this month which would make for great Christmas gift ideas. The first of these is the cravat pattern from Folkwear. The blog post explains how to make it and tie it and you could make it really personal with your choice of fabric and print.
  • Another great gift idea for either sex are homemade slipper boots using the free pattern that Tilly & the Buttons has just released. They'd also be a fun and different project to try out and hopefully an enjoyable sew.
  • Blueprints For Sewing released the Moderne Coat which has beautiful architectural style lines. I love the view with the ribbed collar and cuffs in the style of a classic bomber jacket.
  • New from I Am Patterns is Panthere. A close fitting jersey dress under a flowing overdress designed to be made in chiffon with a sequin band but you could get creative and use all sorts of fabric combos!
  • Seamingly Smitten launches Catherine Cowl Neck or Cowl Hood Poncho along with a girls size and a mommy and me version. It can be sewn with curved or straight sides and optional kangaroo pocket or arm holes slits.
  • After a bit of a break from releasing new patterns Marilla Walker treated us to two at once! The Isca Shirtdress is a contemporary take on the classic shirtdress with a relaxed fit and wrap front variation. The Honetone Coat is a simple, classic, straight cut style which you'd be wearing for years to come.
  • Patterns for Pirates released the Wiggle Dress and Ragdoll Raglan. The raglan has batwing style sleeves to enhance the relaxed nature of the style. The dress is designed for stable knits like ponte and includes a glamorous full length version with fish tail.
  • Love Notions launched the Oakley Vest (and also a girls version called Acorn). The vest can be made zipped or open and with a collar or hood. A great pattern to use to get to grips with fun faux fur or pre-quilted fabrics.
  • I fell head over heels in love with the new Esther Pants from Victory Patterns as soon as they popped up on my Instagram feed. Those deep overlapping pleats on the front are a stunning feature. Also released were the Frances Shirt & Dress and Samara Cardigan. The three make a gorgeous capsule collection.
  • The Sewing Addiction are a new discovery to me and I noticed them when I clocked the release of their Makayla Pants pattern. This style is designed for knits and has a high drawstring waist and slim slightly flared leg.
  • Also new to me are Anna Rose Patterns who released the Odella Dress and Top in November. Its a simply cut design with v shaped back neckline with revers which mirror the angled pocket flaps on the dress variation.
  • The next pattern collaboration between In The Folds and Peppermint Magazine is the Pleated Summer Dress. I think it would look great made up in solid or printed linens and the best thing is its free to download!
  • The Ruby Joggers are the latest release from Paprika Patterns. They are a more flattering version of a classic sweat pant with deep v-shaped yokes giving a nice cut around the hips.
  • Pattern Fantastique released the Equinox Tee. I love it when a pattern company has a distinctive design style and this boxy boat neck tee with option for bell sleeves slots beautifully in to the rest of their line.
  • Sew Different released the Tulip Dress and also the Sculptural Bucket Coat which has been created in collaboration with Stitchless TV. This unique pattern with a distinct Westwood vibe doesn't come with printed instructions but instead there is a video tutorial to follow over on the Stitchless TV YouTube Channel.
  • Launched alongside their black friday sale the Fauntleroy is the new release from Straight Stitch Designs. Its a relaxed fitting turtleneck with the option to change the neck to a wider cowl.
  • I've become a bit of a Tessuti pattern addict and am now considering whether the new Tamiko Pants from them could find a place in my wardrobe. I'm not sure on the elasticated waist personally but love the pieced leg that tapers in towards the ankle.
  • Jenny from Cashmerette has added the Ames Jeans to her every growing collection of plus size patterns. They are tailored for both apple and pear shapes and have two leg styles to choose from. Jeans shopping can be a total nightmare whatever your shape so this is bound to be great news for curvier sewing ladies!
  • Pier and Palace released the Culver Dress which is skater style with a panelled bodice and deep v neckline. Perfect for showcasing a special fabric.
  • Ready to Sew launched a trio of coat and jacket patterns right at the end of the month. Jack is a classic trench coat, Joe is a loose fitting, boyish tailored jacket and Jasper is a comfortable swing jacket with shawl collar.

Pattern Updates and Expansion Packs

  • Hey June Handmade updated her classic Union St. Tee pattern. There have been numerous changes made including sizing improvements, lowering the scoop neckline and the addition of an optional chest pocket and pattern piece with FBA included.
  • Closet Case Patterns updated their Ginger Jeans patterns after Heather Lou discovered through her jeans making workshops that a lot of people needed to make similar fitting tweaks. The crotch seam has been shortened slightly and the width of the hem on the flares has been reduced to give that variation better proportions.
  • Tessuti update their Eva Dress instructions and also improved the grading of the sizes.
  • The Linda Wrap Dress from Just Patterns has also been updated and improved to have slightly different grading, cleaner pattern pieces and fewer pages in the PDF download.



Other Exciting News

  • Deer & Doe have been continuing to release their pattern collection in PDF form. Now available to download are the Arum Dress and Reglisse Dress.
  • True Bias printed patterns are now available! I'd love to get my hands on one of these as I'm a big fan of Kelli's clean, contemporary and clever designs. 
  • Paper versions of Maven Patterns have now launched! In lovely graphic boxed wallets too.
  • If you pre-order Melissa from Fehr Trade's book Sew Your Own Activewear, you will receive a free pocket belt pattern. I think I could do with one of these for my longer runs and definitely can't wait to get my hands on that book!

What a lot of new patterns to choose from! There must be something for everyone in there. As always let me know in the comments if I've missed any news and I'll leave you with some sewing inspiration from the online indie sewing community.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Charcoal Cashmere Blend Oslo Coat

Another winter, another coat and another huge long blog post to go with it! I hadn't actually planned to make a coat this year but, unusually for me, I was taken with a piece of fabric rather than a pattern and couldn't get the thought out of my head. I was browsing through The Fabric Store website trying to decide what to get with this month's allowance as a brand ambassador and found myself in the woven wools section. Each time I've had the opportunity to choose fabric from this gorgeous company I've literally gone through every page of the site with a fine tooth comb in case I miss anything extra special. There are some real gems there, although you can't really go wrong with whatever you order. Anyway, their double faced cashmere blend coating caught my eye. At first I was disappointed to discover that a particularly stunning shade of powder blue only had a metre left in stock, and the camel too but it must have been fate as I'll get so much more wear out of the classic charcoal.

The description of this coating sounded so irresistible I went on an immediate quest to find the perfect coat pattern. A quick hunt through my pattern stash (which includes a surprising amount of coats for someone who has only made a couple!) didn't turn up quite what I was after; not that I knew exactly what that was at that point. I turned to The Foldline's sewing pattern database for inspiration, which was a great way to whittle down the kind of style I was after. The coat I made last year I am still completely in love with but it does feel like quite an occasion coat as it is smart and very structured plus the pale grey of the coating makes me a little nervous out and about in London. What I really needed was something with more of a relaxed fit that could be worn over the majority of my wardrobe and would replace my favoured Zara coat that saw me through the last few years.

A couple of pages into the database, up popped the Oslo Coat from Tessuti. I remembered being very taken with this style when it was released (especially made up in the beautiful blue check of their sample!) and it immediately seemed like an obvious choice. Its got a slight cocoon shape to it which would fill a good gap in my wardrobe yet the effect is subtle enough to remain a classic for years to come. I also so enjoyed making their Lois Dress and was already keen to try another of their patterns. I posted a few construction pictures on Instagram and from the response I got I'd say we're going to be seeing a lot of this pattern over the next few months! It seems like almost everyone has got this lined up in their sewing queue.

Huge thanks to Tom for taking some lovely pictures and please excuse the wrinkles! The coat has had  a lot of wear already and this was mid day out at Eltham Palace

The fabric turned out to be the perfect match for this style of coat. It is the ideal weight as it has a soft, beautiful drape yet still has a bit of structure to show off that shape. It has an incredibly soft and spongy touch and a brushed nap on both sides which turns it into something really special. The nap does mean that you need to cut all your pattern pieces out in the same direction so that it runs down the length of the coat and I laid my pattern pieces out on the floor to double check how much fabric I needed before ordering. I actually got away with 2.25m with plenty to spare when the pattern requests 2.5m and the lining I only ordered 1.5m of and had plenty when the pattern suggests 1.65m. But more on the lining later! The cashmere is simply stunning to both work with and wear. I made good use of my clapper to get nice crisp edges but to be fair the cashmere made this easy. It responded so well to pressing and shaping with steam. The instructions are really clear about making sure to use a press cloth and never press directly on to the coating and this could not be more important with this particular type of napped coating as pressing it directly ruins the pile.

I'm now delighted that it's dark grey as it works with everything. I'm going to wear it to absolute death. Plus even if the charcoal grey feels a little dull...theres a party going on inside to perk things up! One of the best things about making your own coat is that you can go wild with the lining and really make it your own. This is a Liberty Silk Crepe called Khan which I actually ended up choosing as I was sent a swatch with my last order. The geometric print is quite a bold choice for me but I love the vintage tones of the colour and slightly art deco vibe. The Fabric Store manage to pick a really contemporary and interesting selection of Liberty prints to stock yet whenever I order I find myself browsing through the Liberty section wishing I could think of a garment I'd like to make and wear out of them. Prints aren't really my thing a lot of the time and while the Liberty ones grab me on the bolt and are a joy to sew with, in all honestly I'm not dying to wear them. Lining is the perfect way to take advantage! Silk is a real treat as a lining so thanks so much to The Fabric Store for giving me the opportunity to use it. Not only does it feel absolutely amazing to wear but silk is a surprisingly tough and durable fabric and also its natural fibres do a great job retaining heat whilst still allowing you to breathe. (FYI having said all that about wearing Liberty - I've 100% got my eye on the entire swimwear range that TFS are currently stocking!)

My measurements placed me between the size 6 and 8 and as I am slightly wary of these looser fitting, cocoon styles on my petite frame I opted for the smaller of the two. I could not be more delighted with the fit. I don't feel swamped or overwhelmed by it at all and love how neat it is around the shoulders. I thought the collar might feel quite big but I like the proportions of it. I had expected to need to shorten it (I'm around 5ft 3) but I'd say this was exactly the length I was after. I was actually nervous at one point in construction about the sleeves turning out too short but they are spot on. If you're tall and like your coat sleeves long like me I'd definitely recommend giving yourself some extra length to play with.

I'd say a good amount of sewing experience is necessary to make this as you need to have some confidence in your abilities and understanding of how things come together. However, I wouldn't say you need to have made a coat before. For a first one this would be great as the raglan sleeves omit shoulder pads e.t.c and makes the process a bit simpler and quicker. The instructions I think are fantastic. I know some people have mentioned that they struggle with Tessuti instructions as the steps are photographed rather than illustrated but I love them. These instructions in particular are jam packed with annotated photos and tips that I think explain things really clearly. I love that they don't skimp on the words and each and every step explains the right seam allowance size to use, when and which way to press can move forward confidently without worrying that you've forgotten to do something important or whether you should have tried a different technique.

As with the Lois Dress some of the techniques felt a little different to what I had done previously, but no less right and I really enjoy the construction process as it is new and unusual for me. Perhaps the techniques are a little more fashion industry based than home sewing? Some steps felt a little strange as they were new and also it's incredibly difficult to explain clearly with photos or words some of the fiddlier aspects of making a coat but at no point did I feel like I was guessing at the right method. I can't emphasise enough how delighted I am with the resulting finish. In particular the seaming in the area around the neckline and the way the sleeve slots into the front panel as it turns into the collar is just beautiful. There are a couple of corners to pivot around to achieve this so I'd highly recommend using a fairly soft coating to make this easier. A thick, sturdy coating would make this challenging and very bulky.

The only thing I thought missing from the instructions, but not essential, was advice on grading seams and trimming down corners of seam allowances to reduce bulk. I actually didn't do much grading given the weight of this coating but I did make sure to get in there and trim down the ends of the seam allowances where they crossed around the neckline of the coat so that area and in particular the edge of the collar didn't get too lumpy. A touch I did love was the switch of under-stitching from one side to the other at the point where the front facing turns into the shawl collar. I had wondered about how well that collar would sit given that there is no pad stitching or roll line to encourage it to lay nicely but its clearly just really well cut as once I had under-stitched and pressed it fell naturally into place!

As much as I love the patterns and instructions I'm not a massive fan of the Tessuti PDFs. There seems to be a lot of wastage in the layout and this one (I know it's a coat so as a lot of big pattern pieces) came in at a whopping 108 pages! I decided to try out the print at copy shop option for the first time as I couldn't face sticking together that many pages and it may have changed my life a little bit... so quick and easy although not inexpensive.

Its a great pattern to choose for a first coat as I don't think you'd need to do any further research into tailoring techniques to make it. You could certainly add in all the pad stitching e.t.c if you wanted to but I really don't think it needs it. I certainly found this straightforward as I've already made a couple of coats and have a bit of tailoring knowledge but making it as a beginner to tailoring I don't think you would struggle. The instructions require fusible interfacing in particular areas very similar to what I opted to do with my Butterick coat. Make sure you use a good quality interfacing. You don't want horrid, cheap, bubbling stuff running your lovely coating and lines over time. I used a lightweight cotton fusible from MacCulloch & Wallis as I wanted to maintain the drape and not add too much structure.

The pockets are possibly just a fraction low for me although I think that probably has more to do with the size and depth of the pocket bags rather than the openings themselves. They are huge and my little hands get lost in them! Its great that they can hold so much but I wouldn't want to put too much in there as it would ruin the beautiful lines of the coat. I really enjoyed the pocket construction method which is different to what I am used to for inseam pockets. The wool facing is a lovely touch so you don't get an unwanted flash of lining and ooo does it feel nice hiding cold hands in pockets lined with gorgeous silk! The only issue I do have with them is that the pocket bags tend to get pulled to the outside of the coat whenever I take something out of them so I wish I'd done little swing catches to keep them caught to the front edge like I did on my Butterick coat. Its a bit late to get inside now the coat is bagged out so I might have to try and do something by going through the pocket.

Starting a project with bound buttonholes is always unnerving and I have to say these are probably the only thing I'm not completely happy about with this coat. After following pattern instructions for them on my V1537 dress coat I returned to the instructions from Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques as I prefer the accuracy of this method. It's a good job I did a practice one though and didn't get too cocky and dive straight on in there! I totally messed up my first one and ended up with raw edges instead of folded ones forming my welts. That would have been a disaster if I'd sliced right into my front pattern piece! I still really don't enjoy the technique for finishing the back of a bound buttonhole. Turning under and hand stitching such a small amount of a thick coating is really fiddly and I'm a bit concerned about how well they'll last. I made a covered button for the outside of the coat to continue the clean look and the flat button inside was just an odd one from my button box.

The perfect marriage of fabric and pattern has made this one of my most enjoyable and successful projects to date and one I'm really proud of. Its really worth investing in good quality fabrics and also investing some time into your pattern and fabric choices before jumping right on in. I had such a good time sewing it that its almost a shame my wardrobe doesn't need another one! After making this and the Lois Dress I'm now a total Tessuti Patterns convert. I think what I've enjoyed about them most are that the designs are clean, classic and apparently simple but there's a lot more clever cutting and construction involved than you realise. I'm off to mooch through the rest of their collection...not that I need anything else to make at the moment! I should be getting my head down and trying to plough through the rest of my huge sewing queue!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Knit Tops for Winter

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Merino Seamwork Neenah Turtleneck

One of my absolute favourite handmade garments to wear this year has been my linen Turia Dungarees. They are so easy and comfortable to throw on whilst still feeling like I've made some sort of effort style wise. I wore them all summer long with sandals and cotton/silk blouses but now that the weather has turned colder in London I was missing them as an option in my wardrobe. Now that we've hit real winter temperatures the linen is perhaps a little lightweight to cope (I do have a denim pair in the works to solve that!) but for the autumnal season what I really needed to get a little more mileage out of my original pair was some long sleeve snuggly tops to wear underneath.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Print Cotton Clifton Jersey Tilly & The Buttons Agnes Top

Enter The Fabric Store and their offer for me to be a brand ambassador for a few months and a whole world of merino and other knits opened up to me! As a side note, I know I do a fair bit of gushing about how much I love the selection and quality of fabrics stocked by The Fabric Store but that is my genuine heartfelt opinion about this lovely company. The fabrics are top drawer and if I had to pick one place to buy all my fabric from forever more I'm pretty sure I would say them. I'd actually put a ban on myself from taking on any sponsored posts and fabric or pattern reviews for a few months as I've really burnt myself out with work and could do with a break from too many commitments. But I broke it without much deliberation as soon as the Fabric Store team got in touch. It's the one thing I can't resist.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Merino Seamwork Neenah Turtleneck

As the dungarees are quite plain I wanted a couple of interesting fabrics rather than solids to pair with them. I already knew that comfortable knits were the route I wanted to go down and merino was absolutely going to be one of my choices. As well as their huge range of vivid solid colours The Fabric Store stocks a whole load of lovely stripes. I almost went for this black/maroon rib but decided it was very similar to a t-shirt I made in the summer and eventually plumped for a paler option in this black/mushroom/ivory design. I love how the spacing and width of the stripes is irregular but this of course did make stripe matching a little more tricky! I got lazy and cut my pattern pieces on the fold rather than flat as I would usually do when matching a pattern and that came back to bite me as my stripe matching is perfect down one side and sleeve but just slightly off on the other! Sewing up stripes this fine involved using a hell of a lot of pins.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Merino Seamwork Neenah Turtleneck

I pretty much lived in my merino Neenah Dress from Seamwork last winter (and already have been this year again!) and as I liked the fit and how it worked in the merino decided a top version would be really useful. In particular a striped merino turtleneck seemed like the perfect addition to my wardrobe. As I did last year I cut the size small and used pretty much all of the 1.25m I ordered. I just love the fit of this; the slim sleeves, snug shoulders and the way it doesn't cling around your middle. Its surprising as I often find something a little odd in the fit around the shoulders and chest with Colette/Seamwork patterns but perhaps with knits it works on me! Also surprising is how comfortable I am in the turtleneck as I don't usually like having clothes close around my neck, particularly wool. The width of this is spot on for me.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Merino Seamwork Neenah Turtleneck

Also lovely are the slim little cuff bands. I usually omit cuffs (and waistbands for that matter) on knit tops as I prefer the clean look of a twin needled hem but I actually like this skinny band more. The fabric is a perfect match for this style and it has got me thinking that I could really use some more simple merino wool tops and dresses in my wardrobe. I've always tended to think of wool as a fabric for outer layers or bottoms rather than anything next to the skin but when its this fine and smooth why  not. This stripe is their medium weight merino which is great for all kinds of garments though does go slightly sheer when stretched right out. It has fantastic recovery though and wears really well. The only thing I did to prolong the life of the top was to add twill tape along the shoulder seams to prevent them stretching out.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Merino Seamwork Neenah Turtleneck

For my second top I wanted a lower neckline and thought three quarter length sleeves would be good as I usually end up pushing them up out of habit anyway! I again raided my stash for a pattern I'd used before so knew I would get instant satisfactory results with and had a hard time choosing between the Sewaholic Renfrew and Tilly & The Buttons Agnes (the Closet Case Patterns Nettie was another contender but I didn't have it printed out). Although similar looking in the line drawings the fit is quite different as I've found the Renfrew to include more ease. When I previously made the Agnes I found it to be surprisingly close fitting, perhaps a little too much so although some of that was to do with my choice of bamboo jersey which was particularly clingy. However, I decided a closer fit was preferable to a relaxed feel for wearing as a base layer for winter outfits so settled on the Agnes and went up half a size to avoid some of the cling.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Print Cotton Clifton Jersey Tilly & The Buttons Agnes Top

For this style of top I thought a fun yet wearable print would be good as most of my tops are solids as well as the bottoms I want to pair them with! As well as their merino another thing The Fabric Store stock a particularly large range of is Liberty prints on all kinds of bases. I generally struggle to find Liberty that I actually want to wear rather than just admire on the bolt but TFS do a particularly good job at selecting a range of more contemporary and wearable designs so I was spoilt for choice. I was looking at the bold purple chrysanthemum print and was disappointed to find that there wasn't enough in stock. But it must have been fate as I think the organic feel of this Sybil Campbell print I ended with feels much more me and it goes with a larger percentage of the clothes I already own. I love the subtle herringbone effect in the print.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Print Cotton Clifton Jersey Tilly & The Buttons Agnes Top

The design is printed onto their Clifton Jersey which is 100% cotton. It's fairly fine but opaque enough when not in direct sunlight and its worth bearing in mind that as it is printed the reverse is an off white so not the ideal choice for a waterfall cardigan when the reverse peeks out. As it does not contain any elastane the recovery isn't as great as some knits but there is a decent amount of stretch. This means it doesn't ping back and cling in the way the bamboo jersey I used for my first Agnes did and the resulting fit is much more comfortable and flattering. I am glad I went up half a size to the 3 which is a little larger than my measurements would suggest.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Print Cotton Clifton Jersey Tilly & The Buttons Agnes Top

In the same way I did with the turtleneck I assembled all the seams with a narrow zig zag on my machine then finished all the seam allowances together on my overlocker. Hems were done using my twin needle. Again I love the slimness of the sleeves and the skinny band around the neckline. Because of the close fit I'm really enjoying wearing this with high-waisted skirts and jeans...but I think the colours of it look particularly great with my dungarees and over the last month or so this combo has been seen quite a lot!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Print Cotton Clifton Jersey Tilly & The Buttons Agnes Top

A big thank you to The Fabric Store for so generously supplying me with the beautiful knits of my dreams; I don't know where my wardrobe would be without you!