Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Emerald Wool Crepe Charlotte Skirt

 Today I've got a make to share with you which I actually finished a fair few weeks ago but have been getting a lot of wear out of recently in this gorgeous weather we've been having in London. I've been wanting to make some more simple and classic pieces to add to my wardrobe as a lot of the pretty dresses I make, while fun to sew, don't get an awful lot of wear in my day to day life. But I still wanted to have some fun so I chose to pair this vivid emerald green wool crepe with the clean silhouette of By Hand London's Charlotte Skirt. I'm still dying to make up one of these with the ruffle hem or peplum variation by the way, just need to find an occasion to use as an excuse to make it!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Emerald Green Wool Crepe Charlotte Pencil Skirt with Kick Pleat

This luxurious wool crepe has been sitting in my stash for quite some time as I had a really hard time choosing a project for it! It was such a special piece I didn't want to use it for something that I wasn't certain would work. I picked it up from a remnant sale I was lucky enough to catch on Berwick Street. Every now and then The Silk Society, Berwick Street Cloth Shop and Broadwick Silks have a remnant sale in their upstairs offices. Look out for little posters in their stores if you're ever paying a visit. This was a 1.8m piece which I paid just £18 for, it was originally £35/m! Luckily, as I was shortening the skirt, I managed to squeeze this out of just 80cm so I still have a metre left...ideas anyone?!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Emerald Green Wool Crepe Charlotte Pencil Skirt with Kick Pleat

I've used this pattern a fair few times now so it came together really smoothly. I cut the size UK 10 as I do with all BHL patterns and the fit is great, just the right amount of snug around the waist. In a couple of my previous versions I've taken a smidge out of the side seams around the hips as the pattern is drafted for the curvier ladies among us but that does make it fairly restrictive so I left them as is this time to allow for comfortable movement (and dinner!) The only other change I made was to take 3.5" off the hem. BHL patterns always come up long on me plus I think hitting just beneath the knee is more flattering on my short legs than a full on midi length.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Emerald Green Wool Crepe Charlotte Pencil Skirt with Kick Pleat

I've got around the 'walkability' issue of this fitted skirt in different ways each time I've made it. If you're using a fabric with a bit of stretch (as I did for my Elisa-lotte Dress) and are making it no longer than mine is here, you can probably get away without any kind of vent. With my Brocade Skirt I followed the provided instructions to create a simple vent, including mitred corners when hemming. On my recent Anna-lotte Dress the chiffon panel around the hem meant I could create a simple box pleat in that while it was flat and cheat a kind of faux kick pleat. For this version I wanted to give the wool crepe the lovely finish it deserves and decided to try creating a kick pleat. It was before I had made up the beautiful Martini Dress from Capital Chic Patterns which includes a lined vent which probably would have been a lovely finishing option for this had I known!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Emerald Green Wool Crepe Charlotte Pencil Skirt with Kick Pleat

The standard method of creating a kick pleat seems to be to add a section on to your skirt pattern piece at the hem on just one side. However, I made the mistake of forgetting that I wanted to do this when I cut it out. So I put my thinking cap on and made my own version! I worked out how wide I wanted the pleat to be then made up a simple rectangular pattern piece twice the width of the pleat to account for the amount folded back, plus seam allowances. I then attached each side to the seam allowances of the skirt before sewing up the centre back seam. After doing this I pressed the folds of the pleat in place and stitched across the top to secure. It's pretty hard to explain in words so I might put together a photo tutorial if anyone is interested in a slightly unusual way to create a kick pleat!


The other main change I made to the pattern was to fully line it with an emerald green cotton poplin. This is quite a lightweight crepe so had the potential to be a little sheer in direct sunlight, plus I felt such a delicious fabric deserved the special treatment! This is a super simple project to line; I just cut the front and back skirt pieces from the cotton and assembled them exactly as the main pieces. Once I was ready to attach the waistband I first used my zipper foot to attach the lining down either side of the zip in a way very similar to the instructions of the Cambie Dress. Finally I machine basted the lining and skirt wrong sides together along the waistline so I could treat them as one when attaching the waistband as per the instructions.


If making a similar style in this type of fabric again I'd probably choose to reinforce the fabric at the dart tips by applying a small square of fusible interfacing over each point. It took a lot of pressing to get those darts anywhere close to crisp and I still feel they are a little droopy. Another tip for you if you are thinking about working with wool crepe is to use a press cloth so you can turn the heat without worrying about damaging your make but still get nice flat seams. It's really important to consider how you might launder your finished garment and to pretreat it appropriately as it can shrink by quite drastic amounts. For this skirt I used Carlolyn's fab post to teach me how to steam shrink it with the iron; if I had a tumble dryer I'd definitely be trying her wet towels trick!


I'm not entirely delighted with the finish of the overlapping waistband above the zip. I've never been completely satisfied with my efforts with this and in the bouncy wool crepe which refuses to press flat it was really tricky. I think perhaps a button and button hole might make a difference rather than the hooks and eyes I've used but I think if I make this skirt again I'd do without the overlap, use a longer zip and insert it up to the top of the waistband.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Emerald Green Wool Crepe Charlotte Pencil Skirt with Kick Pleat

In general though I'm really pleased with how this little number turned out as it mixes in well with the rest of my wardrobe and is great to dress up or down. It's also great to wear in hot weather which might surprise you as wool is generally thought of as a winter fabric. However the fact that it is a natural fibre plus the weave of the crepe makes it very breathable. I'm wearing it here with my very first Sewaholic Renfrew Top which I'll be sharing along with two more versions very soon! For now I'm off to drink in the inspiration you guys have been filling my overflowing blog roll with!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Giveaway Winner and a Meet Up!


It's been a hectic week around here so without further ado, selected by random, the very lucky winner of the White Russian Sweatshirt PDF pattern from Capital Chic Patterns is....



Lorna from Little Sewing Corner! Congratulations Lorna! I'll be sending you an email to confirm that that is the correct address you would like the PDF pattern delivered to and then I'll hand over to Sally from Capital Chic to send it on direct. I can't wait to see your unique spin on this versatile wardrobe staple.

If you weren't lucky enough to win this time never fear I have some more exciting news for all of you! The lovely Charlotte from English Girl At Home is organising a large sewing meet-up in Birmingham on Saturday 4th October.


Not only will attendees get the chance to fabric shop to their heart's content in Birmingham City Centre a short bus ride away in Moseley Village is Guthrie & Ghani, the sewing shop and cafe run by Lauren from the first series of the Great British Sewing Bee. Lauren is very kindly keeping the studio space above the shop free for the afternoon so there will be plenty of opportunity and space to have a chatter with new and old sewing friends. There's also plans for a swap of fabrics and patterns at this point which I'm really excited about as my stash is getting out of control and needs a good sort out! All donations for refreshments will go to Parkinsons UK.

I've heard many good things about fabric shopping in Birmingham (including the famed Barry's Fabric!) and have been looking for an excuse to visit Lauren's shop so I am going to do my best to keep that Saturday free so I am able to attend. I know some of my fellow Spoolettes will be making the trip, who else fancies joining us?

If you're interested in attending all the details are posted on Charlotte's blog so make sure to sign up there and keep an eye out for updates. I'll hopefully see you there!


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Pattern Testing: The White Russian Sweatshirt from Capital Chic and a Giveaway!

So I think we established in my post last week that I love the new Martini Dress pattern from Capital Chic Patterns right?! Well I was lucky enough to test a second pattern from Sally's brand new collection and out of the two I just can't pick a favourite! After the line drawing for Martini caught my eye the White Russian Sweatshirt was the next pattern that grabbed my attention. Here in the UK it can be chilly for large parts of the year and I often find myself struggling to put together a stylish, flattering yet warm outfit day after day in the winter. But here was Sally looking chic as ever in a sweatshirt! I just had to give it a try.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: The White Russian Sweatshirt from Capital Chic Sewing Patterns

It was such a quick an enjoyable make, those raglan sleeves make it super speedy! For me it was one of those when you just feel content sitting at your machine and seeing it all come together. I was having such a great time that I was already dreaming up multiple different versions whilst still sewing!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: The White Russian Sweatshirt from Capital Chic Sewing Patterns

I cut a size 2 and think it's turned out just slightly larger than intended as I'm still working on my overlocker confidence and tend to use too small of a seam allowance in fear of trimming off too much! I still feel less swamped in this than I have done in any other sweatshirt I've tried on in the past and really like the more relaxed fit when worn with skinny jeans and a statement necklace. I'll definitely be going slimmer next time though as I absolutely love how Sally has paired her versions with skirts for the promo shots. I'd never have even considered wearing a sweatshirt out for a night on the town but can really see myself doing so with this slimmer more feminine style.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: The White Russian Sweatshirt from Capital Chic Sewing Patterns

I do think next time I'll take an inch or two off both the length of the body and the sleeves as I think this would help create a more flattering fit on my short body! If you need a reference point length wise I'm about 5ft 3" and am quite short waisted.

I made this up using a sweater knit from Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road. As it was a pattern test I wanted to make up a plain version to begin with so was looking for a fabric with a bit of interest to it. This knit has a slight marl to it which shows up best in the close ups below. I used exactly the 1.5m recommended by the pattern, with just scraps to spare and I think it was £6 or £7 a metre. Classic Textiles have a great range of sweat shirting in different colours and textures all around that price range so I really recommend a visit if you're looking for a good selection to choose from.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: The White Russian Sweatshirt from Capital Chic Sewing Patterns

I'm still not hugely confident working with knits and am very slowly getting used to how different knits can produce a totally different result with the same pattern. This was a nice stable knit to work with and I'm pretty happy with the results overall. I think the neckband could sit a little flatter so I'd stretch it out a little more as I attach it if using a similar fabric again. But I am really pleased with my cuffs!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: The White Russian Sweatshirt from Capital Chic Sewing Patterns

If you are a beginner I will suggest that it would be useful to have previous experience of handling and sewing with knits as (given that all the Capital Chic patterns are aimed at intermediate to advanced sewists) there are no extra tips when it comes to stitch types and needles e.t.c. I sewed the whole garment up on my overlocker and didn't even add any topstitching as I liked the clean look.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: The White Russian Sweatshirt from Capital Chic Sewing Patterns

Can you spot my mistake? Yep, should have checked that cutting layout before I ploughed on in with the scissors! I must have been having a funny five minutes as I neglected to notice that the band for the hem needed to be cut out twice on the fold and I ended up without a long enough scrap left to do this. I had to cut it in two and add a seam at the centre back but I don't think it's that noticeable and at least I can't see it when it's on!

One of the things I like about this pattern is that I think it's a perfect straightforward make for beginners with a little experience but as it is such a fantastic blank canvas for embellishment and personalisation a more advanced seamstress could give themselves a good challenge in what they choose to do. I am dying to add some heavy beadwork to the neckline of this version and am also really tempted to try a version in a very loosely woven knit to wear layered and oversized. My absolute favourite element of the pattern is the inclusion of instructions as to how to quilt your sweatshirt, including templates for lion and fox designs! I've never tried any form of quilting so will definitely be trying this out at some point. I also love the black geometric embossed knit Sally used for one of her samples which looks as if it is pre-quilted.

Sally in her faux-quilted White Russian sample

If looking at my blank canvas of a sweatshirt has got you inspired to make your own and get creative with the personalisation then I have good news for you! Sally has very generously agreed to give away a copy of the White Russian Sweatshirt PDF pattern to one of my readers. If you would like to be in with a chance of winning let me know in the comments below. The giveaway is of course open internationally and will close at midnight GMT on Saturday 12th July. I'll randomly select a winner on Sunday and the pattern will be delivered to your inbox so make sure you either include your email address in the comments or that it is easily accessible from your profile. Good luck everyone, I'm off to look at decorated sweatshirts on Pinterest!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: The White Russian Sweatshirt from Capital Chic Sewing Patterns

Monday, 30 June 2014

June Indie Pattern Update!


Well it's that time again already, the end of another busy month and time to round up all the latest news from the indie sewing pattern designers! As usual if I have missed anything that you know of, or if you are yourself an indie designer who I have somehow overlooked, please leave me a comment or get in touch via email or twitter and I'll make sure to add the new info in.

New Indie Pattern Companies


  • Many of you may already know Sally of Charity Shop Chic, she's super talented with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, has an effortless sophisticated sense of style and has just released her first collection of sewing patterns! Capital Chic Patterns launched this week with a summer collection of six super chic womenswear PDF patterns aimed at intermediate to advanced sewists or those who are looking to develop their skills a little more. I was delighted to test the Martini Dress and White Russian Sweatshirt but also have my eye on the Champagne Skirt! Which are your favourites?
  • I'm a long time reader of Katy and Laney's blog and was super excited to see that they had released their very first pattern! Their Tap Shorts are a classic high waisted short with three variations included angled front seams or pleats providing flattering options for all body shapes.
  • Another blogger I'm a big fan of has also released her very first pattern this month! Kelli from True Bias (otherwise known as the blogger with the best hair ever) has released her Hudson Pants pattern. They are a bang on trend pair of knit pants with a relaxed fit around the hip tapering into skinny legs.

New Patterns


  • Jennifer Lauren released a stunner of a pattern for knits this month, the Bronte Top. It must be really comfortable to wear yet looks chic and pulled together because of the unusual vintage inspired overlapping neckline which provides much scope for playing around with contrast binding.
  • Cake Patterns have updated their FREE PDF tee pattern. It looks like a great basic to sew up and adapt and being free too I don't think it can get any better than that!
  • Caroline of Sew Caroline had just released her next pattern this morning! It's called the Waterfall Tank and with it's cascading front panel provides a great canvas for pattern mixing and colour blocking.
  • Pauline Alice has just released the Alameda Dress pattern. I absolutely love the flounced skirt combined with more modern style lines! It's also her very first pattern to come out straight away in paper format, see 'Other Exciting News' for more info.
  • The most recent pattern from Sew Over It is their Ultimate Trousers! Lisa very kindly sent me a copy and I can't wait to get started on them as I've been thinking about this slim, classic style for a while now. Plus Lisa made up 5 pairs in a week so they sound like a lovely speedy project (once I've nailed the fit! Eeek!)
  • Melissa from Fehr Trade's range of sportswear patterns are proving very popular and her most recent pattern can be made up for casual wear too! The VNA top features some clever and unusual seam lines inspired by the 1930s Vionnet gowns.
  • I'm yet to try any of the gorgeous knicker patterns from Measure Twice Cut Once but I need to get a move on! This month they released a FREE Unisex Boxer Short pattern via Peppermint Magazine. I love the included variations to make them more masculine or feminine.
  • Iconic Patterns released a new pattern for a Wiggle Skirt. It's made for stretch fabrics and features some awesome style lines and panelling which provides great opportunity for colour blocking and flattering print combinations. Lena's written a great post about the fit of stretch fabrics too.
  • The newest pattern from Waffle Patterns is the Warabi Kimono Sleeved Tunic featuring wide sleeves and a cross over neckline. It instantly conjures up images of floaty resort wear for me! 
  • With thanks to Emmie for bringing this one to my attention, Simple Sew Patterns released a new pattern this month (the Lottie Skirt and Blouse) which is currently available in paper form FREE with Love Sewing magazine. What a fantastic opportunity to try a new company!

Sew-Alongs



Other Exciting News



  • Kate and Rose Patterns have just launched paper versions of their recently released Midtown Collection and Roza Blouse/Dress! And they are currently 20% off in their Etsy shop (along with everything else) until Wednesday 2nd July. After that only PDF copies will be available until September so get in quick if you want to try one out!
  • After all the excitement of their first pattern in PDF format being released last month, Sewaholic Patterns have now released their ever popular Renfrew Top in digital form. it's now even more the perfect pattern for a speedy afternoon make; purchase to wearing in a matter of hours!
  • Thread Theory are running a tutorial competition! In a nutshell to enter you need to write a tutorial inspired by/based on one of the Thread Theory patterns and the winning tutorials (there are various categories) will be published on their site. The closing date is 21st July so you've got plenty of time: check out the full details here.
  • Named had a midsummer sale on a selection of their patterns. Did you snap up any bargains? I've had my eye on the Ailakki Jumpsuit for a while now but it wasn't included this time!
  • Pauline Alice has just opened her new pattern store and unveiled paper formats for all of the patterns she has released so far! I love Pauline's style so can't wait to get my hands on a copy of one to check out the packaging!
  • UPDATE! This is super exciting news! Tilly (of Tilly and the Buttons) is looking to hire someone part time to manage sales, shipping and customer service for her rapidly expanding business. I'm so wishing I could make my regular job part time and do this; if you're interested check out the full job description here.



And to finish up as usual a little inspiration for you all. I appear to be really feeling the swimsuit sewing at the moment; I had to stop myself from making all five picks swimwear!


  • I fell pretty much instantly in love with Lauren's stunning striped Soma Swimsuit. She's used those stripes to perfection plus there's yellow strapping! Now I've made the Bombshell I don't think I can resist giving this a whirl...
  • I can't believe that Katie's Centuaree Dress was intended just as a wearable muslin! The piecing of the bodice kind of reflects the formation of the diamonds in the print, plus the criss-cross contrasting straps give it that extra something!
  • Nicole's dress she made for the big Minerva meet-up is so PERFECT on her! She used the bodice of the Lonsdale dress (which is a fave of mine) and drafted her own skirt. You are rocking that look lady.
  • And Zoe's top is equally PERFECT for her! Her Bronte top really grabbed my attention; the combination of white binding on that style of neckline gives it both a retro and nautical twist.
  • I love Holli's amazing gingham bombshell swimsuit! (Where does all this amazing swimsuit fabric come from?!) Although to be honest I had a hard time picking between this and her metallic dotted version

I can't wait to see what July holds to inspire my future wardrobe!