Thursday, 21 May 2015

Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I'm so excited to share my latest completed garment with you today! It was one of those projects which seemed to come together without any struggles and just worked. I'm so pleased with the style, fit, fabric, and finishing I managed to achieve.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I'm sure many of you will recognise the pattern as the infamous McCalls 6696 shirtdress which has been taking the sewing blogosphere by storm over the last year or so. I can see why everyone has been raving about it; it's a fantastic pattern and is so enjoyable to put together. The cut is beautiful and it has some gorgeous design details. Not only that but it comes with bodice pattern pieces for different cup sizes and the construction method is spot on. I love the way the insides have turned out, especially with the contrast of the right and wrong sides of this lovely denim!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I've been thinking about making a denim shirtdress for a while now, they keep popping up all over my Pinterest! I think they're a great staple to have in your wardrobe and with changes in styling can work through all seasons. Then I found this beautiful washed denim in Unique Fabrix on Goldhawk Road and my mind was made up! It was so lovely to work with and great for this pattern as the washed quality means it's not too stiff, thick or heavy. I'm very tempted to head back and buy a bit more in a different shade to make myself a little seventies style button up skirt!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I then deliberated over what pattern to use for some time as I already have the Grainline Alder and Colette Hawthorn in my pattern collection but neither of them seemed quite what I was after; I wanted something more fitted than Alder and not quite as feminine and full skirted as the Hawthorne. I then remembered Clare from Sew Dixie Lou's gorgeous chambray version of 6696, decided it was just what I needed in my life and treated myself to the pattern! Boy was that a good decision. It's one of those patterns that as soon as you finish you want to start all over again. It's a good thing I didn't have any other suitable fabric in my stash or I could have disappeared down a shirtdress rabbit hole and the rest of my sewing queue would have gone out thew window!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I made View C, sleeveless with the more fitted skirt. I was so keen to make this dress just perfect that I actually made a muslin of the bodice which is fairly unusual for me! I'm always a bit wary of the amount of ease in the sizing of the big 4 patterns so I measured the flat pattern pieces to work out what size would probably fit best. The envelope suggested a size 12 but my measuring indicated I would be a size 10 maximum so I cut this with the A/B cup (which I also don't understand as that's not my usual size but I followed their measuring guide!). It was a pretty good fit as is. The only change I made was to shorten the bodice by just shy of an inch and the waistband now sits perfectly. Looking at the final dress in photos I think it's a little roomy in the shoulders so next time I'd skim a bit of width off the armholes or possibly even size down to the 8 with a C cup as I could probably stand to loose a bit of ease in the waist too. I like this shape of skirt to finish above the knee on me as I think my frame gets a bit overwhelmed by them being longer so I took 3.5" off the bottom and used 1" for the hem.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

The main change I made to the pattern was to remove the gathering from the centre back. I quite like it as a feature in the version with the full skirt but I wanted to keep my straight skirted version streamlined and also felt like the gathering would be too bulky in the denim. To do this I removed a wedge from the centre back of the pattern piece, 3.5" at the top where the back piece joins the yoke, and 6" from the waist seam. One of the things that I really liked about this pattern (which I have to say I miss from a lot of indies) is how clearly aspects like the waistline, centre back and bust points are marked on the pattern pieces. It makes making alterations like this and analysing fit SO much easier. Marking things like this on pattern pieces and muslins is definitely something I will take forward from this project.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

The pattern doesn't instruct you to topstitch your seams; the yoke, plackets and waistband are all finished with slip-stitching. As I was using denim I really wanted to incorporate some topstitched detail but I wanted it to be quite soft a subtle so chose to use the same mid grey thread I was using to construct it. Topstitching is actually one of my favourite sewing activities, I don't know why! I'm really pleased with how it turned out on this. I didn't use a special foot or anything, I just used the edge of my foot as a guide and the fabric took it beautifully. It also meant that I could get out of all that hand sewing as I just pressed under the edges that would have been slipstitched, pinned them in place from the right side and secured them with the topstitching.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

Most of the insides end up cleanly finished if you follow the instructions. The only change I made was to complete the yoke using the burrito method rather than slipstitching the inside yoke piece to the shoulder seams as recommended. I finished any visible seam allowances using a light grey thread on my overlocker. It's true what they say about grey thread; it really does blend in with nearly anything and I'm really pleased I bought some cones of it a few weeks ago. While I'm looking at the insides and thinking about it I'm just going to take a moment and say how much I love the angled pockets on this pattern. I might end up using the skirt pieces to make my denim skirt just because I like the pockets so much!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

The only aspect I'm not super happy with my finishing on is the collar stand. It's always a tricky element and in this denim it proved even more so. The topstitching worked out great but it was tucking in the seam allowance at the centre front points that proved tricky in the denim. It needed trimming down quite a bit so as not to be too bulky but I ended up with such a small allowance it was really hard to keep it tucked in neatly. As always I used Andrea from Four Square Walls' collar tutorial and trimmed down the interfacing, under collar and inner stand slightly which helped both with bulk and to keep everything sitting correctly.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I chose to use a mid weight fusible cotton interfacing after much deliberation. I was worried about it being too stiff and heavy, particularly on the button plackets where there is a double layer but it's worked out perfectly.  I made my own bias binding from the denim to finish the armholes rather than using shop bought and am so happy with how this looks. The buttons came from Goldhawk Silks & Trimmings and were just what I was after; the metal look of a traditional denim shirt dress but still delicate and small. I only needed 9 as I had shortened it beyond the bottom button and omitted the one on the collar stand which I would never use. I had a bit of trouble with the buttonholes because the bulky seam allowance where the band meets the bodice/skirt was pushing the foot off centre but I got there in the end with a bit of unpicking!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

As well as being ridiculously pleased with this new addition to my wardrobe I really learnt a lot from the process of making it and enjoyed that too. Despite my usual tendency to plough on ahead with a project because I have such limited time to sew I think I've finally cracked realising just how valuable it is to give myself a bit more time to think about fit and whip up a muslin if necessary. This one took no time at all and even though I barely made any adjustments I can see difference!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Two Ultimate Pencil Skirts

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tartan Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It

Well this post has been a long time coming as I tested this Ultimate Pencil Skirt pattern for the lovely ladies at Sew Over It way back at the end of last year and made another using the tartan fabric from their kit in February. Both versions have seen a lot of wear since, in fact the tartan is rapidly becoming one of my most worn handmade garments, so I thought it was about time I got some pictures and shared the details with you!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Crepe Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It

For my testing version I used this black crepe from the Sew Over It online shop. It's got a slight stretch to it which makes for a super comfortable skirt but it is particularly important to interface the waistband facing in this instance to retain the fit in that area. The crepe sewed up beautifully, the stitches disappear into it, but it really did not respond well to pressing! I used a medium heat, as high as I could go without risking a melting/burning situation, but it still tended to spring back. Some vigorous clapping and under stitching really helped though.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Crepe Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It

I cut between the size 8 and 10 as my measurements fell exactly between the two. This version could now stand to be a little tighter as I've lost a bit of weight since I made it. For my second skirt I cut the straight size 8 and it fits like a glove. It's just snug enough for my liking but is surprisingly comfortable and easy to walk and sit in despite the tartan having no give whatsoever. The pattern recommends 1.3m of fabric but I actually managed to get both versions out of just 90cm (140cm wide) before removing any length.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tartan Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It

I gave quite some quite detailed feedback on my experience with the pattern and was really delighted about how it was taken on board. I know a few changes were made after testing, the most obvious being the addition of a lengthen/shorten here line above the kick pleat. In my test version I removed 2" of length from the hem. To make it my preferred length I really needed to remove more but I was worried about making the vent too short to serve it's purpose and also loosing too much of the gorgeous side seam shaping which is one of the best features of this pattern. Being such a shortie, for my second version I removed 2" at the lengthen/shorten here line and still took off 3" from the bottom before hemming! It has made the vent a fair bit shorter than intended but I am much more comfortable with the length and movement of this version.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It vents

The instructions and illustrations are clear and concise and it's definitely a project a beginner could tackle but I think a bit of sewing know-how is useful to get the most out of it. I did get a bit puzzled about the centre back vent instructions during testing but using the released version from the kit it made complete sense and achieves a lovely clean and professional finish. The only time I veered away from the instructions was when attaching the facing. My preferred method for doing this is to sew it to the waistline all the way around, including over the ends of the zip. I use my regular zip foot to sew the ends of the facing to the zip tape along the centre back seam before trimming the top corners and turning it out. I find this makes for a much cleaner and less bulky corner at the top of the zip.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tartan Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It

One of the things I've always really liked about Sew Over It instructions is that they have you overlock/finish the seam allowances before construction. This might be something that a lot of you do anyway but it's not how I usually work and for a simple project like this it makes for a really satisfying and quick assembly process. You do have to be careful not to trim anything off with the overlocker and messing up your sizing but it does prevent any nasty overlocker blade accidents!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Crepe Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It

You can either purchase the printed pattern as part of a kit (which includes the tartan wool blend fabric, interfacing, zip and thread) or separately as a PDF download. I really love this particular tartan and can report that it's been wearing fairly well. As I pre-washed it in the machine this is how I've been washing the finished skirt and after three months of being in regular rotation I'm just starting to notice some bobbling now.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tartan Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It

I will hold my hands up and admit to not putting all that much effort into matching the plaid as I figured that the shaping of the side seams meant that nothing was going to line up all that beautifully anyway. I did make sure that I cut the pieces so the plaid would be symmetrical either side of the centre front and back but I cut everything with the fabric folded when usually with a pattern matching challenge like this it's best to cut each piece in a single layer. As the main pattern pieces fitted next to each other on the fabric I did line them up so the horizontal lines of the tartan ran through the same point, using the notches and hemline as a guide. I'm pretty pleased with how the side seams look as a result!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tartan Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It

The super high waist and lack of a waistband is my favourite feature of this pattern. It's really feminine and flattering and I feel great in it. It's definitely one of those patterns that has me rummaging through my stash as soon as I've finished one version to see what other fabric I've got that would work for it so I'd expect to see a few more of these in the future!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

April Indie Pattern Update!


So April has been an excellent month for new pattern releases! Which is very dangerous for me as after a crazy few months I have the majority of May off and have basically no plans apart from to sew! A lot of fabric has been pre-washed over the last couple of days and the cutting is about to commence...I can't wait. Anyway onto what you all came here for!

New Indie Pattern Companies!


  • Lilith & Eve are launching in the next week with their first design LE101; a drapey blouse with a fun back which you can see a sneak peak of on their site. Both Sarah and Nicole are trained in fashion design and their patterns will each feature two entirely different styles to reflect their personalities.
  • Maison Fleur have just launched with a collection of three PDF patterns including a Box Pleat Skirt, Fit and Flare Skirt and gorgeous Summer Blouse pattern which is so 1950s with the shoulder ties! Love the artwork on these!


New Patterns

  • Deer and Doe released the first two patterns from their jersey collection. The panelling on the Brume Skirt is really interesting me and the cropped style of the Ondee Sweater may be the perfect filler for a gap in my wardrobe!
  • See Kate Sew released the Soho Blouse which features an angled yoke and sleeves. The bohemian style is right up my alley and I just love the flattering cut of those sleeves from the side!
  • The Luna Top is the latest release from Liola Designs. I've been after making some simple but interesting tops for spring/summer and the style-lines of this one have sucked me in!
  • I'm also seriously tempted to purchase the new Sea Change Top from Lily Sage & Co. I love breezy styles like this paired with skinny jeans and can imagine it working beautifully in vividly printed kimono-style silks.
  • Tilly and the Buttons released her new pattern, the Arielle Skirt! It's a chic fitted skirt with buttons running down the side which I think compliments the rest of her collection just perfectly. I love the option to use a lining and facing combo too.
  • My ongoing love for maxi dresses meant major excitement when I saw the design of True Bias' most recent release; the Southport Dress. I adore the rayon challis sample Kelli has made.
  • Republique du Chiffon released a whole new collection this month. I never envisioned myself wearing anything like it but I am loving that Dominique Jumpsuit!
  • The eagerly anticipated Morris Blazer from Grainline Studio is here! It's designed for stretch wovens or stable knits and would be a great stylish alternative to a cardigan. I know I'm not alone in my high opinion of Jen's drafting skills so this classic, casual jacket is bound to be a winner.
  • Kennis from Itch to Stitch released the Jaqueline Hoodie PDF pattern. It's nothing like the usual casual hoodie you might expect, featuring epaulettes, a double breasted front with buttons  and inseam welt pocket. She also put out a tester call for her Lindy Petal Skirt which looks lush.
  • I find it hard to keep track of the Style Arc new releases but this month I did spot the new Cleo Knit Dress and Cleo Tabard patterns which can be bought together as an outfit pack or separately. I'm really intrigued to see this one made up and worn.
  • Seamstress Erin has released her first pattern for women! It's called the Conifer Skirt and is a knit skirt in two lengths with the option to add tiered layers. It's Erin's first pattern to be available in print as well as PDF too! 
  • Finally, not really a complete new pattern release but an idea which I absolutely love and hope more designers try, Muse Patterns released a Knit Sleeve Pack featuring patterns for four sleeve styles to work with any of their patterns so far. I think the tulip is my favourite!

Sew-alongs

  • The sew-along for the new True Bias Southport Dress started on Monday. The posts can all be found over on the True Bias blog so there's plenty of time to catch up or refer back to them later.
  • There hasn't been a sew-along as such for Tilly's new Arielle Skirt but I've spotted a number of really useful blog posts on the slightly trickier aspects of the construction such as fitting and attaching the lining. Be sure to check them out if you're planning to make it.
  • A sew-along for Seamstress Erin's new Conifer Skirt will be coming soon over on her blog. This pattern also has a video sew-along available to purchase with the pattern if you want an even more thorough visual aid!

Upcoming!

  • Christine Haynes revealed over on her blog that she has been working on a new pattern which will be released soon! It's called the Sylvie Dress and is designed for woven fabrics.
  • I loved the design of Dixie DIY's self drafted cut out dress so I was delighted to spot her call for testers for it to be produced as a digital pattern. I've got my eyes peeled for the release of that one!
  • I absolutely adore both of my pairs of Tania Culottes so I'm really excited to see that Megan Nielson's patterns are going back into print next month! With a slight rebranding (and more length options!) the Tania's will be one of the first available in paper form along with the popular Darling Ranges Dress and her new Brumbie Skirt.
  • Lisa Comfort from Sew Over It's next book 'Sew Over It Vintage' will be released on June 18th. Her first was a real beauty with the styling of her shops carried through so I'm looking forward to seeing what this one contains.
  • Katie from Papercut Patterns hinted on Instagram that her new collection is very nearly ready. Her designs are always very unique but wearable so I can't wait to see!

Other Exciting News

  • Christine Haynes released her Derby and Chelsea dresses in PDF format (both are still available on paper too). That means her entire collection is now available digitally and to celebrate all the PDF patterns are 25% off until the end of the day on Sunday! Her Rosemary Collar pattern is now only available as a PDF.
  • It's been a busy month for Christine as her latest book 'How to Speak Fluent Sewing' was released too. It's a guide to sewing and fabric terminology which sounds like just the thing I wish I had owned when I started!
  • By Hand London made the very sad announcement that they will no longer continue to produce paper patterns or custom printed fabric. It must have been a very difficult decision for the ladies but the new direction for the company and focus on PDF patterns definitely counts as exciting! Their remaining stock of paper patterns have been selling like hot cakes (Anna, Elisalex, and Flora are already sold out) so if you want to get your hands on any get in there quick!
  • The hugely popular Ginger Jeans pattern from Closet Case Files is now available in French. I've had my first pair cut out for ages and they are one of the first projects on my list to sew during my time off!
  • Another pattern I've got two of on my list of things to sew is the Moss Mini Skirt from Grainline Studio. This is now available in paper form and both this version and the PDF have been updated so the pattern is now slightly longer and includes more notches.
  • Thread Theory's last three releases, the Finlayson Sweater, Jutland Pants and Camas Blouse are soon to be released in paper format. The Camas will be their first ladies wear paper pattern!

Phew that feels like a lot. So much exciting stuff coming up too, I'd better get cracking with my list before it gets any longer! To finish up here's your monthly dose of indie sewing inspiration!

  • That stunning cotton jacquard has found it's perfect pattern match in Sara's Coco Jacket. It's the perfect clean and simple design to showcase such a wonderful fabric.
  • Lauren's entire handmade outfit had me drooling at the computer screen! A sunshine yellow Hollyburn Skirt and a Cabernet Cardigan made in nautical stripy double knit...yes please! She also made some totally awesome linen Carolyn Pyjamas which I wanted to include!
  • It was Helen's version of the Sea Change Top that first brought the pattern to my attention. That bold green print looks so stunning on her! 
  • I think the Holly Jumpsuit pattern may have been made for a flamingo print and this linen that Rachel used for her playsuit version may be the perfect flamingo print! Love it!
  • I clearly hadn't looked enough at the line drawings for Named's new collection as I didn't spot the stunning nine panels and double vent feature of the Zaria Skirt until I saw Inna's. She used a Nano Iro double gauze which I mistook for rich velvet at first glance and now want to make!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Bamboo Jersey Nettie Bodysuits

I mentioned in my last post about my Silk Georgette Maxi Skirt that I was going to write a separate post about the Nettie Bodysuit I was wearing with it so I could go into more detail about the pattern. I actually made a couple of these in tandem using the same black bamboo jersey from Mood Fabrics for both and they've both become a wardrobe staple! I had originally intended to make just the one but I had 1.5 yards of the jersey and whilst laying the pattern pieces out to cut I realised I could just about squeeze in two so I just kept cutting!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bamboo Jersey Nettie Bodysuit

I was a little slow on the uptake with this pattern as I've never thought of bodysuits as something I need in my wardrobe (all I can remember is wearing them as a kid so it seemed a little odd to return to that!) but as usual seeing lots of other bloggers absolutely rocking theirs persuaded me to give it a whirl. And now I'm not looking back! I'd spend the far too brief UK summer months wafting around in floaty skirts of preferably maxi but also midi and mini length too if I could and do so as much as I can. But I always end up a little stuck for tops to wear with them which will both suit the style of the bottom half, tuck in smoothly and stay put. Enter Nettie to solve all these problems and also help with the additional one of summer skirts combined with draughty tube station escalators!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bamboo Jersey Nettie Bodysuit

The pattern comes with two neckline and three back options as well as three sleeve lengths. The one I am wearing with my maxi skirt is the scoop neck and mid back with short sleeves. I love this sleeve length for wearing the summer and the scoop back is gorgeous. It's just the right height to wear with a bra although I will admit to having a bit of trouble keeping bra straps from poking out of this one and preventing it from slipping off the shoulders. I think with the higher neck the scoop back would sit more securely in place (and vice versa) and also part of my problem is being caused by the bodysuit being a little long and so the shoulders are not pulled taught enough.

My second version has the high back, scoop neck and long sleeves. This one is so comfortable it's like wearing a hug! I love the snug fit of the sleeves and combined with the super soft and smooth bamboo jersey it's just dreamy! I briefly touched on this in my last post but if you are yet to give bamboo a try you must find a reason too. It's both lovely to wear and sew with, it recovers and washes well and presses and stitches beautifully. I'm yet to struggle to achieve a nice neat finish with bands made out of it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bamboo Jersey Nettie Bodysuit

I'm still not 100% confident sewing up knits so approached this project with mild apprehension. I feel like it's going to take many more knit projects to get me used to how different stretch fabrics behave but I did find Heather Lou's instructions and sew-along for this pattern to be really informative. I have, however, found my preferred construction technique which I adopted for both of these. I sewed all the seams on my regular machine with a narrow zig zag and then finished them on my overlocker. I find this makes for strong and accurate seam stitching whilst still giving that professional look to the insides which I love. I used the twin needle on my regular machine to hem the sleeves and also along the neckline and leg openings after attaching the bands as I like that finish and method for keeping the seam allowances in place. I don't want to tempt fate but I think I've really cracked how to get my twin needle to behave now!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bamboo Jersey Nettie Bodysuit

I did skip the snap crotch feature on both of these. I'm not overly bothered by the hassle of going to the toilet in a bodysuit, I think it's as much of a faff to try and get the snaps done back up to be honest! Also there's just something about the snap crotch that seemed a step too far back towards my childhood wardrobe! Now I know how much I love wearing these though I think I will give it a try next time, more for the experience of sewing one than anything else.

The only other thing I'd change next time would be to shorten the suit by 1.5" at the lengthen/shorten here line on the front and back (unless I was using a knit with less two directional stretch). I'm really pleased with the fit in general, not too tight or loose but when I first completed them they had no where near enough vertical tension. Worth bearing in mind if you too are on the petite side. I took out 1" on the double at the crotch seam to combat this and now they fit much better but it's not an ideal alteration and they could probably do with a bit more. I'm 5ft3" and quite short in the body so probably should have thought about this beforehand but with limited knit experience I felt like a duck out of water with this style so chanced needing to write it off as a learning experience if sewing it up as drafted was a total disaster. I probably should have made one before cutting the other but I was too tempted by the speed of sewing one alongside the other! The sleeves are just fractionally long, I'll remove 1/2" next time.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bamboo Jersey Nettie Bodysuit

I've got some of this same jersey in a delicious purple waiting to be cut and definitely need to get my hands on some more neutrals to sew up into Netties and wear with an assortment of colourful skirts. Next up is a short sleeved version with the high back and let's not forget there's a dress variation to try yet too!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bamboo Jersey Nettie Bodysuit