Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit with Mood Fabrics

Spring finally seems to have arrived here in London, which is a good job as I jumped the gun a little hoping for the warmer weather with my most recent handmade ensemble for the Mood Sewing Network! This gorgeous abstract printed silk georgette jumped out at me from the computer screen back at the end of last year and I couldn't resist using that month's allowance to snap up a few yards despite my plans for it being a garment more suited to the warmer months! It's exactly the kind of organic and non-descript print that I like; to me it looks like a kind of blotchy pixelated floral. In reality the colours are a bit more vivid than it comes across in these garment photos and it's got a gorgeous smooth hand and drape. The picture below does the print a bit more justice.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit with Mood Fabrics

If you haven't come across a silk georgette before I always think it's like a chiffon but heavier. Most have a slight crepe-like texture to them, as this one does, and while not as sheer as chiffon they are not opaque. Bearing this in mind (and knowing I would end up making a summer dress or skirt from it which would be worn in bright sunlight) I ordered a couple of yards of this Theory dark green stretch silk georgette to line/underline it. I deliberated over this choice for quite some time as I wondered it choosing a lighter or brighter colour for the lining would bring out the colours more but when it arrived I was delighted with the colour match and weight of it when combined with other piece. This georgette is slightly different to the first as one side of it has a satin like sheen which makes it lovely to wear against the skin.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit with Mood Fabrics

I had initially thought I would make a fairly simple dress with a flared skirt but a couple of days of sunshine reminded me of my ongoing love for maxi skirts in the summer months and also got me thinking about a vintage maxi skirt pattern which I've had in my stash for a while; Style 4218 from 1973. I knew these two fabrics were going to be a fairly tricky combo to sew with so the simple four panelled design and waistband looked like a perfect choice. Because each panel is so full at the hem I only just managed to squeeze my pieces out of the 2.5 yards I had ordered and therefore thinking about pattern placement wasn't really an option! I had thought this wouldn't be a problem as the pattern is so abstract but in fact the majority of the colourful blotches run closer to one selvedge than the other so as I could fit two panels across the width of the fabric one panel ended up darker and less colourful than the other. As the print is fairly uneven throughout I don't actually mind how it looks assembled in the end but I wish I'd had a bit more fabric so I could have played around with the spread of the colour. So there's a lesson for you all and one I won't forget again...when working with a print of any kind it's always worth ordering a little bit extra!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit with Mood Fabrics

As georgette is semi-sheer I debated using the dark green as an underlining so all the seam allowances were concealed beneath both layers rather than between the two. But in the end I decided the top layer was opaque enough to prevent any of these insides showing through and used it as a lining. I'm really pleased that I kept it separate to the top layer as having it hanging free gives some really gorgeous extra fullness and movement to the skirt...although it did mean I had two huge hems to contend with!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit with Mood Fabrics

When sewing I used a size 70 sharps needle in my machine to prevent any snagging and actually my machine handled both of these delicate and rather slippery fabrics pretty well. To preserve the delicate silks I used french seams throughout with the exception of the side seam where the zip is inserted, which I overlocked the edges of before assembling. Apart from pattern placement the one major challenge I encountered with this project was levelling off the hem. I popped it on my tailors dummy overnight and by morning the hem had a dramatic handkerchief effect! It actually stayed put for a good week longer as I just couldn't face trying to get it even. In the end it was time consuming but not too painful. I tackled the top layer first and finished it, before cutting the lining ever so slightly shorter. I used my rolled hem foot which I have found to be by the far the speediest way of hemming delicate fabrics such as these and love the fluted effect it gives to the two layers together. I actually hemmed both layers before sewing up the final seam where the zip is. This is a technique I often use when doing a rolled hem as starting and finishing at a raw edge is so much easier than along a continuous curve. Then I sew up the seam and tack down the seam allowances at the hem by hand.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit with Mood Fabrics

One of the interesting features of this pattern is the deep waistband which is 3" wide when assembled. I did use the dark green georgette as an underlining on the waistband pieces to provide an extra layer of thickness and structure and hand basted these together along with a layer of silk organza as interfacing. I think this width of waistband could actually do with a bit more structure, and I'd probably add this to both the main band and facing next time. Construction wise I assembled the waistband and attached the facing, under stitching the top edge, before attaching the top layer of the skirt to the bottom of the waistband and the lining to the bottom of the facing. Once the zip was inserted I stitched in the ditch by hand to catch the bottom of the waistband and facing together and help keep things sitting correctly.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit with Mood Fabrics

The top is actually the Nettie Bodysuit from Closet Case Files which I think the close fit of makes for a great pairing with the high waist of this skirt. I've been wanting to sew with some more bamboo jersey ever since I had such success with it on my version of the Bronte Top so I ordered a small amount of a couple of colours from the selection on the Mood Fabrics website (this is the black solid which is now unfortunately sold out). This particular bamboo definitely lived up to the high expectations I had after my first experience. It's dreamy to sew with. I chose to sew all my seams with a narrow zig zag stitch for accuracy and strength and then finished them off on my overlocker as I really like this professional look inside. Both my regular machine and overlocker loved this jersey, it pressed beautifully, didn't shift as I cut it and for once I hd no trouble with my twin needle which I used to finish the sleeves and topstitch around the neckline and leg holes. I want to make all of my knit projects out of bamboo now; it's so soft and snuggly to wear to boot! I actually managed to squeeze two out of the 1.5 yards of the black I ordered (the second having long sleeves and a different neckline) so I am planning to do a more detailed post about my experiences with the pattern itself in the next week or so.

I'll probably be wearing my Nettie with more seasonably appropriate skirts and jeans for at least the foreseeable future but I'm dreaming about wearing this skirt in the summer sunshine!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Printed Silk Maxi Skirt and Bamboo Jersey Bodysuit with Mood Fabrics

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March Indie Pattern Update


Well I don't know how it's been for you but for me March has been one of those months that has flown past yet the start of it feels forever ago! I was looking back over my notes for the round up this month and started to wonder if some of the bits at the top of the list were actually from February it seemed such a long time since I'd read about them. Anyway there's a lot of juicy news to get through so I'm going to crack on...

New Patterns

  • Marilla Walker released two new PDF skirt patterns this month. The first is the Ilsley skirt and it's free! It features a hem which curves at the side seams and elasticated waist. The second is the Evan Skirt which is a classic a-line skirt with jeans style fastenings, pockets and yoke; perfect for sewing up in on trend denim!
  • The Pinot Pants and Cabernet Cardigan are the new releases from Skinny Bitch Curvy Chic. Both patterns are made for knits, the Pinot Pants look super comfy yet flattering and the Cabernet is a casual boyfriend fit cardi with three silhouette options. Betsy is publishing free add ons for the patterns on her blog so keep your eyes peeled; I love the idea of the yoga waistband.
  • Melissa from Fehr Trade has yet again tempted me to start sewing my own running gear! She released the Steeplechase Leggings this month which are as usual very cleverly thought out; including no inner leg seam (making them perfect for sports such as horse riding too!). I'm really intrigued by how these would sew up.
  • The latest release from Straight Stitch Designs is Laurelhurst. It's a pattern for knits for a simple yet chic wrap style cardigan. I like that the sleeves are still fairly slim which keeps the design looking balanced and flattering.
  • I'm always excited about a new release from Sewaholic Patterns and their latest is the Davie Dress for knits. I love it. I'm getting it. That's all I have to say!
  • The Melissa Dress, Blouse and Skirt is the new release from Muse Patterns. It's got loads of cute V shaped design features and provides lots of opportunity for playing around with contrast fabrics.
  • The Named spring collection was released! Called Ticket, it is inspired by a dream trip around the world. As usual I'm severely tempted by more than one, particularly the Asaka Kimono and Beverly Twisted Bikini. Thinking about wearing them together has got me desperate to get on a beach!
  • Sew Over It released their PDF Knicker Pattern which was originally available as part of their knicker kit. I think they'd make a lovely gift for someone or treat for yourself!
  • The most recent pattern from Gray All Day is the Athena Top. It's a casual draped top which can be made in knits or wovens and is the kind of design that you don't realise you're missing from your wardrobe until you have one!
  • Schnittchen released the Tina Jacket for which they have provided a step by step tutorial for sewing up on their blog. I love the model's plaid version and there's also a sleeveless vest variation.
  • French company Republique du Chiffon released a free PDF pattern this month! It's called the Caroline Dress and I love the relaxed style and shaped 1920s dropped waist. Just remember that the instructions are in French so prepare to wing it or spend a lot of time on Google translate if you're not a french speaker!
  • Kennis from Itch to Stitch released her next pattern hot on the heels of the last. They're called the Emily Culottes and they look so lovely and on trend in any length I've seen them made up in!

Sew-alongs

  • The sew-along for Sew Over It's recently released Cowl Neck Dress pattern is currently happening over on their blog. I'm really intrigued by this pattern as it looks so simple yet so chic on Lisa!
  • Jennifer Lauren's sew-along for the Felicity Dress has started over her blog. She's going to be taking the pace nice and easy, the last post isn't scheduled until mid june, which I think sounds like a lovely way to tackle a project and takes all the time pressure off!

Upcoming!

  • Steph from Cake Patterns has a whole new collection coming soon! She pre-released the new patterns at the Brisbane Stitches & Craft Show but it will be available internationally at some point in April.
  • Tilly and the Buttons gave us a little tip off that she has two new patterns being tested and due for release in the spring. Sure to be big hits no doubt!
  • Willow and Co currently have two women's patterns out for testing which should be due for release in their online shop fairly soon. They are the Aberdeen Jacket and Valencia Women's Tunic which you can see sneak peeks of on their Facebook page.
  • Katie from Papercut Patterns has hinted at her new collection over on Instagram.

Other Exciting News


I can't get over how many new releases there have been this month! We're spoilt for choice! As usual let me know in the comments if you think there's anything I've missed. I'm going to finish up with a little dose of indie sewing inspiration to get you motivated to sew! Don't forget to share your projects on Instagram and Twitter with the hash tag indiesewing so we can all check them out.


  • Sallie's military inspired version of Sewaholic's Minoru Jacket is jaw droppingly awesome and professional looking. She made some fairly substantial changes to the pattern including those lovely bellows pockets and I love the combination of navy with gold hardware.
  • Carly in Stitches' midi length Tania Culottes are such a great garment! The body of the fabric she's used is perfect to hold the shape. I'd been eyeing up a couple of recent releases from the big 4 but hadn't thought to just lengthen my Tania pattern!
  • Charlotte's version of the Goldstream Peacoat is so cool! What a lucky man! And while you're at it check out her amazing Carolyn Pyjamas which she marbled the fabric for using shaving foam!
  • Sew Busy Lizzy's green Eliana Dress is a beauty. That style suits her down to the ground. I've got a very similar RTW dress which I love and it might be about time for me to recreate!
  • I think I might need a navy duffle coat after seeing Jenny's version of the Cascade Coat from Grainline. It's a real classic garment that I don't think will ever get dated.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

February Indie Pattern Update!


There has as always been a lot going on in the world of indie sewing pattern design this month. I have spotted in particular lots of calls for pattern testers on individual pattern company blogs so if that's something you've been interested in doing keep your eyes peeled! I haven't listed them here as the deadlines to apply tend to be super speedy and have all passed by the date of publishing this!

New Pattern Companies/First Releases


  • The very first pattern from Sewing Avenue is the Camellia Top and the even better news is that it's completely free to download! It's a simple shape with just two pattern pieces which Sarah is going to be showing you how to manipulate to create a wide variety of top designs!


New Patterns

  • Heather Lou from Closet Case Files continues to release contemporary and chic designs which fill holes in our pattern collections with her latest offering - the Carolyn Pyjamas. I'm not usually one for wearing a traditional full PJ set to bed but now I'm dreaming about making a silk pair! It has an extra smaller size than her other patterns too.
  • Abby from Blue Ginger Doll released a whole collection of four PDF patterns which mix and match to create a selection of beautiful outfits. The range includes the April Skirt, Anne Top, Abby Singlet and Alicia Shorts.
  • The latest By Hand London dress pattern is currently available on presale at 15% off! It's called the Sophia Dress and features unusual angled darts on both the skirt and bodice as well as options for a fitted skirt and a flared skirt with godets which I can't wait to try out!
  • The Cowl Neck Dress is the new PDF pattern from Sew Over It. As with all their patterns it looks to be a great wardrobe staple as well as being super speedy to sew! I think you could make a whole variety of dresses from it depending on fabric choice.
  • Jennifer Lauren released the Felicity Dress which I can't wait to sew in breezy cotton for summer! The bodice is shaped with gathering around the neckline and there are options for a gathered or three quarter circle skirt.
  • The latest pattern from Sew Caroline is the Downtown Tunic. It has a relaxed fit and features either a peplum or button front skirt to be made in contrasting fabric.
  • The Bellevue Top is the most recent release from Straight Stitch Designs. It's a pattern designed for a mixture of knit and woven fabrics which is really interesting and has options for a facing or band finishing along with differing sleeve lengths.
  • Waffle Patterns have just released the Marmalade Gathered Jacket. I really like the combination of design elements in this one; it's got a lovely sporty feel. Plus it's 20% off until 6th March!
  • UPDATE! Lindsay from Design by Lindsay released a FREE pattern for a faux fur jacket. It's a simple boxy shape which looks like it would be a fun project if you fancy something different. She's got some great tips for sewing faux fur too!

Sew-alongs


Upcoming!

  • Scandinavian pattern company Named are releasing their Spring collection of 12 new patterns tomorrow (March 1st)! I always love that they release a whole collection at once and am so excited to see what they have come up with this time! Five of the designs will be available in an expanded size range; up to a UK 22/US 18.
  • There's a new pattern coming soon from Deer and Doe which Eleonore has been working really hard on. We know it's called Cardamome but I haven't spotted any other clues as to what type of garment it might be!
  • Marilla Walker is developing a pattern for a classic a-line denim skirt which is going to come with a maxi length option - so wonderfully nineties! Keep an eye out on her Instagram for more sneaky peaks.
  • Skinny Bitch Curvy Chic have got a couple of patterns coming our way in the next few days. They're called the Pinot Pants and the Cabernet Cardigan; love the boozy naming!
  • The next pattern from Itch to Stitch is going to be the Emily Culottes which you can get a full run down on by following the link. After sewing up the Marbella Dress I'm really keen to try another of Kennis' patterns; the instructions were brilliant!

Other Exciting News

  • Elisa from Salme Patterns revealed her very first paper patterns! Seven designs from her gorgeous collection of classic styles are now available to buy in paper as well as PDF form.
  • By Hand London re-released their Charlotte Skirt pattern as a PDF with updated instructions. I've made a fair few of this dream of a pencil skirt and seeing it pop up in my feed again has reminded me to try out a version with the ruffle hem
  • Paprika Patterns re-released their Jade Skirt PDF pattern. It now has an improved design and larger size range so if you were tempted before now is the time to buy!

As per usual I feel like there's a lot I've missed (particularly in the non-existent sew-along section this month!) so feel free to point out any other gossip you've heard of in the comments and I'll be sure to add it in! To wrap this up here's some of your inspiring completed projects I've spotted this month:


  • Emmie's tropical Anna Dress has got me desperate for summer; partly for the sunshine and partly so that I can sew some gorgeous things like this! Doesn't that print look stunning on her?
  • I was eagerly following Leisa 's progress with her lace Archer Shirt and my jaw dropped when I saw the completed garment. Sewing a garment with so many pieces and tricky elements in a fabric as tricky as lace AND doing it so beautifully deserves a round of applause!
  • I don't usually include designer's own versions of their patterns here but I'm completely in love with Pauline Alice's biker jacket variation of her Quart Coat. That fabric! I'm making one.
  • Rachel's printed playsuit version of the Holly Jumpsuit is so fun and comfortable looking. I really got into the practicality of playsuits last summer and will be trying out this pattern combo soon I think!
  • Kirsten's monochrome silk/cotton Carolyn Pyjamas are what is seriously tempting me to buy this pattern! Loving the piping and the monogrammed pocket!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A Cotton Laurel Blouse for my Mum

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Heritage Collection Cotton Laurel Blouse from Colette Patterns

Today I've got a completed garment to share from last year which for once isn't for me to wear! When I made my polka dot blouse version of Colette Pattern's Laurel back in June last year my Mum spotted it and decided she quite liked the simple lines of it for herself which I wasn't surprised about as I had thought it was just her sort of top! I really love the proportions of it and particularly the shape of the neckline and length of the sleeves. A few weeks later she popped in to see me when I was taking part in the John Lewis Sewing Bee and while she was in the store chose fabric for her own version. It's a quilting weight cotton from the Heritage Collection they released for their 100 year anniversary and I only needed just over a metre even with cutting the pieces to line up the coloured stripes. I don't usually sew with this sort of cotton as I prefer to wear drapier fashion fabrics so it was a bit of a treat for me to work with a fabric which is so straightforward to cut, sew and press!


Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Heritage Collection Cotton Laurel Blouse from Colette Patterns


The main reason I don't usually sew garments for other people is because I am nervous about achieving a good fit, particularly when that person isn't around to try it on throughout the construction process. However, with this I felt fairly confident as my Mum is a very similar size, shape and height to me and tried on my top for me! It was a good fit so I cut the same size 2 for her; the only issue she had was the same as mine which was feeling a bit restricted above the bust. (I made this before my Black Laurel Dress and so before I discovered the strange difference in the drafting of the armholes!) I made the adjustment I was planning on doing for my next version for myself to add a bit of width at this point. I simply taped a scrap of paper behind this part of the pattern piece and drew in a new curve at the point where the armscye dips in, adding about 1/2" at the narrowest point and smoothly blending it back into the original line. I just did this to the front pattern piece as the back fit beautifully. I did however measure the length of the total armhole (subtracting the seam allowances) and check that it was still roughly the same as the length of the sleeve head so I didn't end up with too little or too much to ease in when setting the sleeves.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Heritage Collection Cotton Laurel Blouse from Colette Patterns

In general the stripe matching wasn't too tricky on this as there are not many pattern pieces to match (just side seams and a centre back seam) and the bold bands of colour are quite wide. The only thing which bothered me for a while is that the bands are made up of a series of smaller stripes which kind of wiggle across the fabric and this means the widths of the bands vary at different points. After a bit of thought I decided there was no way to conquer this irregularity and I just had to accept that the widths of the bands may be slightly different where they met at the side seams. I'm really happy with how the placement of the pattern works with the darts and how that orange stripe appears to curve down over the bust. I won't lie...that was a happy accident!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Heritage Collection Cotton Laurel Blouse from Colette Patterns


Because of the irregular widths of the bands I wasn't too bothered about any exact matching at the armholes but I did know I needed to consider the placement of the stripes on the sleeves to avoid it looking like a hot mess where things intersected and also to keep the design of the top looking balanced. Once I had cut my front pattern pieces I marked on the tissue where the bands of colour began and ended then used this to roughly work out where I wanted the orange and green bands to lie on the sleeve head, using the notches as a guide to match things up. I drew this onto the sleeve pattern pieces so it was super simple to cut. I was really happy to have the paper version of the pattern opposed to the PDF at this point as I could see straight through the tissue! I'm really pleased with how the sleeves turned out as when Mum's arms are by her sides the colours appear to run straight across the garment, through the body and sleeves.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Heritage Collection Cotton Laurel Blouse from Colette Patterns

I again used a facing I drafted myself to finish the neckline rather than using the bias tape recommended in the pattern instructions as I found this really tricky to manage around the tight curves at the shoulder seams. As with my original Laurel blouse and subsequent versions I still had real trouble getting the neckline to lay flat, particularly in this crisper cotton despite vigorous pressing. I clipped the seam allowances right up to the stitching line every half inch or so and then under stitched all the way round. Once the edges of the facing were then tacked down by hand at the shoulder seams and centre back I was happy with the finish. On my polka dot version I had to resort to topstitching to stop the facing flipping out to the right side and I really didn't want to have to do that on this one as it would have been much more obvious crossing the various colours.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Heritage Collection Cotton Laurel Blouse from Colette Patterns

The only other change I made this time was to turn and press a small hem on the sleeves rather than using bias tape. It is a lovely clean finish which worked well in this weight of cotton but I might revert back to using a bias tape on future versions. On my polka dot blouse I used a lovely soft inch wide rayon binding which makes the sleeve edge really comfortable and also the width of it seems to help the sleeve sit nicely against the arm.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Heritage Collection Cotton Laurel Blouse from Colette Patterns

I finished all my seams on the overlocker and turned the hem up twice before machine stitching which turned out beautifully in this lovely cotton. The insides look really clean and tidy and you get a really nice crisp edge when pressing.

After seeing the things that I have been sewing Mum has been tempted recently to buy herself a sewing machine; all I need to do now is persuade her that she'll love sewing as much as I do and she can make herself some more blouses!