Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September Indie Pattern Update!

It's been another exciting month packed with new season pattern releases...I don't think I've ever been tempted to make so many purchases in one month! When I was writing this up I couldn't believe that some of the releases happened this month, it seemed like such a long time ago! I was away for the first couple of weeks of the month so I'm sure I missed a fair bit so be sure to chip in with your own news and info in the comments.

New Patterns


  • There has been a sew-along running for the recently released Grainline Studio Lark Tee over on Jen's blog. She usually includes some great tips for getting a professional looking result so I've been reading along to see what tricks she has for working with knits.
  • Thread Theory's sew-along for their Strathcona Henley and T-Shirt pattern has just finished. Packed with useful tips for sewing ladies' knits too!
  • There's a video sew-along available on Malikoo for the By Hand London Sabrina Dress led by the ever gorgeous Elisalex. At three hours long it covers everything you need to know about making the dress and is just £11.50 including a PDF copy of the pattern.
  • To go along with her new free pattern Madalynne is running a sew-along for the Sierra Bra on her blog. I'm still to dive into the world of lingerie sewing so I will be keeping up with this one with interest in the hopes of learning something in advance!
  • UPDATE! One that slipped my mind but is well worth a look at is the sew-along for Christine Haynes' Sylvie Dress that's happening over on her blog. I've spotted full and small bust adjustment's so far which is really useful as this pattern has usual triple darts to shape the bodice.


  • There have been quite a few sneaky peaks of new 'soon to be released' patterns on Instagram this month including MIY Collection and Salme Patterns. I can't wait to see what's coming!
  • Ann from 1 Puddle Lane has been testing her next pattern; the Miss Ruby Tuesday Dress. It's designed for knits with a half circle skirt and various sleeve and neckline options.
  • Kennis from Itch to Stitch put out a call for testers for her upcoming Mila Shirt. I'm thinking a lot about snuggly plaids now the season is changing and this could be a good pattern for it!
  • Fancy Tiger Crafts are releasing their next pattern in a couple of days. Named Fen it's designed by Amber Corcoran and includes variations for a casual top and dress.

Other Exciting News

And I'll finish up as usual with some of your garments to inspire us for the month ahead!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

White Cotton Fifi Pyjamas (for Fi!)

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

Ever have those projects which actually turn out better than you imagined?! I was really keen on the Fifi Pyjamas when Tilly and the Buttons released the pattern along with the Bettine Dress a couple of months ago. I thought it would be a lovely practical thing to make and a great garment to use all those lovely cotton prints I see but don't generally wear. It wasn't until about half way through construction that I fell properly in love! I was so pleased and proud with how neat it was turning out and the more I sewed the more I discovered how gorgeous the design is. It's got lovely delicate details without being too fussy and could have a contemporary or vintage feel depending on the fabric you choose. Tilly actually got in touch with me when it was released and offered to send me a copy before I had a chance to buy it so this was a free pattern but the opinions in this post are unbiased and entirely mine. It had first grabbed my attention as it's exactly the kind of thing I like to wear in summer and as it's name is mine I couldn't miss out on making it really could I!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

I decided to keep my first version clean and simple using plain white throughout. I did think about using a contrasting fabric for the binding as Tilly has on her sample but I opted for classic, there's plenty of time to play around with design details on future versions! The fabric is a lovely soft cotton voile with fine swiss dots throughout. It was actually left over from my first Archer Shirt so I already knew it was good to sew with and would be soft and comfortable to sleep in. I had just over a metre with some odd scrappy ends from where I had cut out my shirt and just about managed to squeeze it out of that. For such a skimpy little set it take up more fabric than you might think as the panels for the top are cut on the bias! The only special treatment I gave it was to use a fairly fine sharps needle to avoid any snags in the delicate fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

I cut between the size 2 and 3 as I always do with Tilly and the Buttons' patterns. The sizing chart suggests this is right for exactly my measurements and the fit is bang on. That bias cut really does skim the body and there's a lovely amount of ease for nightwear. I was worried about the coverage of the cups but they're very comfortable on me, the fit is actually really good in that area. Not too snug but fairly form fitting around the lower edge. One of the things I liked most about the order of construction was that the back of the straps are attached almost last so you can adjust the length of them to your ideal once the garment is on.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

It's a fairly simple sew if you have some experience under your belt but I imagine in a slippery silk it could be a pretty tricky little project which would require some patience. I imagine it would be totally worth it though; I'd love to make one in a luxurious charmeuse! It was really nice to get stuck into a project which was fairly straightforward but still included some new to me techniques or at least things I don't often do. I've never made nightwear and this was a very satisfying set to make. It's piqued my interest for trying some lingerie now!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

I so rarely use elastic that I had to spend a good bit of time remembering where I'd put my elastic stash! I'm not usually a fan of an elasticated waistband but for nightwear it's perfect as it's so comfortable and these shorts are worn on the upper hip. One aspect of the construction that I particularly liked is the way the elastic is attached. It's sewn to the raw edge with a zig zag stitch before being turned under to conceal the raw edge. This means it doesn't slide about or twist as it might when inserted loose into a channel.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

It was my first time sewing anything bias cut and I'm really glad I picked a cotton which handles, presses and sews well for the project! Cutting out the pieces the bias was an entirely new experience for me and I actually referred to the cutting layouts for once which is a rarity for me! You have to fold the fabric on the diagonal and use that edge as your fold line, still aligning the grain lines on the pattern pieces with the selvedge. I had no trouble with the bias cut pieces stretching out thanks to Tilly's page of bias cut tips. It's really important to stay-stitch the bias cut edges as instructed and just to be conscious of not pulling or stretching the fabric at all.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

I had a couple of moments for pause when working through the instructions but that was just to get my head around a new technique or slightly different way of working rather than because of an error or lack of explanation. They are very thorough instructions and include a full set of colour photos which I like but because of the size of the images and the detailed nature of the garment it's not always easy to see what you need to. The benefit of photos rather than illustrations is that you can really see if what you are doing is the way it is meant to look but there were a couple of times when I couldn't see the stitching in the photo.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

The finishing if you follow the instructions and french seam everything is sublime! It's a great project for practicing the accuracy of your sewing as there's lots of parts where you need to be accurate and tidy. I'm actually really proud of how this turned out; it's almost a shame that I can't wear it out and about to show it off! I love the nice crisp narrow hems and little french seams and I'm especially proud of how neat I managed to get the joins around the neckline and at the centre of the bust.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

If you're thinking of saving yourself a bit of time and effort with shop bought bias binding I wouldn't  recommend it for this project. I made the mistake of doing this on a few of my early projects and it just doesn't achieve the same results. The bought cotton binding has a weird stiff finish which doesn't really go away with washing and for a design like this you want those straps to be nice and soft, not pokey! The satin binding you can get is a little better but I'd much rather use a nice fabric for it and then I can make it just the colour and width I want. I do sigh a little about taking the time at the start of a project to make my own when I just want to get on with the fun sewing but for this it doesn't take long using the pattern pieces Tilly provides and you don't need much.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: White Cotton Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjama Set

My favourite design feature is the little pleats that give shaping to the cups! I am tempted to set myself the challenge of sewing this up in a slippery silk, maybe when I've got a lot of time and won't try to rush myself at all! In the mean time I think this would be a great pattern to use one of the African wax printed cotton pieces for that I've been hoarding for some time. I'm definitely going to be making up lots of the shorts at least to wear with tees!

And finally congratulations to Aimee from Guild of Goods! Selected by random number generator from 75 entries, you are the lucky winner of the copy of the new Joan Dress pattern from Sew Over It! I've sent you a message via the comment form on your blog but if you see this please contact me via the email address on my About page to let me know your postal address. I loved your herringbone/tweed idea and hope you enjoy making it!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Pattern Testing: Sew Over It Joan Dress (and a giveaway!)

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bottle Green Wool Sew Over It Joan Dress

I have been super excited about sharing this dress with you since I made it a couple of months ago! When Sew Over It got in touch about testing their next pattern I said yes straight away. The Joan Dress (inspired by Mad Men's infamous Joan Holloway and her wiggle dresses) is an absolute stunner. It has some lovely design details like the elbow length sleeves, shoulder darts and neck tie; it nails that balance between vintage and wearable for me. Despite being a slight departure from my usual day to day style I'd had great previous experiences testing for them and just with their patterns in general so I decided it would be a great way to give a new look a whirl! The garment you see today is sewn up from the test version of the pattern so comments I make are based on that rather than the finished product. I feel like it's important to say that I think Sew Over It value and use the feedback that they get from their testers in a great way. I've often seen changes to the finished pattern based on comments I've made and it's a really open process.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bottle Green Wool Sew Over It Joan Dress

For my dress I chose this bottle green wool blend from the Sew Over It online shop, which was kindly provided for me. It's got a bit of weight to it but isn't super heavy so worked out great for a winter dress with a bit of structure like this. I also think it would make a fab version of their Ultimate Pencil Skirt. I'm absolutely in love with this shade of green, there's something really festive about it! Unfortunately there's not a lot of room for festive eating in this dress so perhaps not a dress for Christmas Day but maybe the perfect outfit for mulled wine and mince pies?! Somebody stop me talking about Christmas already! Alex recommended choosing one of their great selection of rayon prints for a lining and she was right. I'd definitely consider using one of their rayons for lining again; it feels great against the skin and is super lightweight. I chose this monochrome print which I actually used at their summer party last year to make the lampshade which is now hanging in my bedroom! I love how it looks against that intense green and that it adds a bit of a excitement to the inside of the dress. I only used 1.9m of the wool and 1.5m of the lining as both fabrics were quite wide.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bottle Green Wool Sew Over It Joan Dress

Choosing a good lining is important for this design as it is fully lined and fits closely all over. One of the things I was most impressed about when following the construction instructions for this pattern is the amazing clean finish you get inside. It does involve a fair bit of hand sewing but I enjoy that. The lining is attached at the neckline, cuffs, centre back zip, kick pleat and hem so all your raw edges are concealed within. This means you don't need to finish your seam allowances at all but I did choose to pink just the wool as it was so prone to fraying. I particularly liked the way the lining was attached around the hem, which involved tacking the two raw edges together before folding up the hem as one. Such a lovely professional looking finish!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bottle Green Wool Sew Over It Joan Dress

I usually cut midway between the size 8 and 10 on Sew Over It patterns but looking at the ease in the finished garment measures and based on the fact that I've lost a bit of weight over the last few months I cut the straight size 8. It fit like an absolute glove when I finished it. Of course over the last month or so my weight has fluctuated ever so slightly again (I blame that stateside holiday!) and now it is verging on a bit too snug! Should have stuck to my usual. I think the ease is just about perfect for a wiggle dress if you go exactly by the measurement chart.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bottle Green Wool Sew Over It Joan Dress

I'm fairly lucky in that I think my proportions suit the Sew Over It block so fitting their patterns is generally super straightforward for me and in this instance I made no changes at all! It's a longer length than I usually like and is probably longer than intended on me (I'm 5ft3" for reference) but in this style I quite like it! The drafting throughout is really great, those sleeves went in so easily without a bump or pucker! It helped that the wool I was using responded really well to steam and therefore shaped beautifully.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bottle Green Wool Sew Over It Joan Dress

Pattern testing wise I didn't have many notes at all; I would have been very impressed if I had purchased the pattern as it was. I've already received my copy of the final pattern and could see that feedback had been taken on board again as some extra changes had been made since the testing stage; well thought out 'lengthen/shorten here' lines had been included and an extra notch added at the centre back of the hem to make trimming off the vent on one side of the back skirt piece even easier.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bottle Green Wool Sew Over It Joan Dress

As usual the instructions were really thorough and included some great tips such as pressing the darts in the lining the opposite direction to how they are pressed in the main fabric to reduce bulk. There's a couple of trickier construction steps where it would be possible to get in a bit of a tangle, particularly when you attach the lining to the vent at the back of the skirt. But if you take it slow and make use of the lovely illustrations it all comes together smoothly. It was a really enjoyable sewing experience; there's notches where you need notches and everything lined up for me first go.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Bottle Green Wool Sew Over It Joan Dress

And the good news for you guys is that Sew Over It have kindly provided me with an extra copy of the paper pattern to give away to you! All you need to do to enter is follow me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Bloglovin' if you don't already and leave a comment on this post. If you want to tell me about what kind of fabric you'd make Joan in if you won then feel free to include that too as I love to hear about other people's sewing plans! The giveaway is open internationally and please make sure to include your email address in your comment if it is not easily available in your blogger profile. The giveaway is open until midnight on Saturday 26th September and I will announce the winner here on Sunday 27th. Good Luck!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Adventures in the U.S.A!

So I'm back from my very exciting trip around a small part of the south west of America and have just about got myself back on British time! If you follow me over on Instagram or Twitter you may have seen some of what I got up to already; I packed quite a bit in! I managed to meet up with a few sewing friends in both Los Angeles and San Francisco/Oakland and I think nearing half the weight of my suitcase on the return flight was fabric...oops! I thought you might like to see a little of what I got up to and enjoyed as I know from some comments on Instagram that some of you have trips planned to a similar area. I promise to try and keep things mostly sewing related!

My first stop was LA where I enjoyed exploring Santa Monica, Beverley Hills and Hollywood before meeting up with Christine, Kathy and Pam on Tuesday afternoon. Christine's Guide to Los Angeles in Seamwork actually came out the day I met her and is well worth a read! I was of course already planning a trip to Mood Fabrics but they also recommended visiting The Fabric Store which is just a few blocks north on S. La Brea Avenue so we started out there.

I loved this store. It's not huge but has enough stock to pretty much always have something to meet your needs. I was really impressed not only by the variety of fabric types but the well curated selection of unusual prints and colours. Plus I felt the prices were very reasonable for fabrics of such good quality and everything was well labelled and easy to find. I wish I had a shop like this on my doorstep back home! I made two purchases here. Firstly (despite the heat and sunshine my thoughts must have been turning to Autumnal sewing and colours) some gorgeous mustard rayon which has a lovely hand. I nearly left with this same fabric in a berry colour too! Secondly The Fabric Store is famous for it's wide selection of New Zealand merino jersey. It's incredibly hard to get hold of in the UK (and even elsewhere the US for that matter!) particularly at a reasonable price so there was no way I was not leaving without some. I settled on a mid-weight classic black so I could make something I'll get lots of wear out of. In the words of Christine 'You come all the way to California and buy black knit?!' Haha! It's sumptuously soft and I'm pleased to report has washed up beautifully on the wool cycle in the machine.

Moving on we stopped for a lovely light lunch across the road before Kathy and I headed down to Mood. Mood is huge and has pretty much every fabric type and notion you could ever need! It's really well laid out and organised though and the staff are so helpful and knowledgable. I had a great time during the couple of hours that I was there! I had a month's MSN allowance burning a hole in my pocket (plus a little more!) and had decided that this month I would treat myself to whatever screamed 'buy me!' rather than sensibly sticking to an idea as I usually would. At first I was wishing I'd come with a plan as the choice is a little overwhelming if you're looking for nothing in particular. Particularly as much of it is designer so the quality is great yet the prices I find very reasonable for such good stuff. However, I soon started pulling out bolts which caught my eye and began whittling down my selection. The right hand photo above shows you what I left with, from the top;

  • An incredible chunky knit from Derek Lam. I'd actually eyed this up online a couple of months back but hadn't anticipated the unusual texture it has in reality. I'm thinking of making an oversized sweatshirt or cardigan.
  • A gorgeous dusky blue knit from Theory which has fine white stripes. It's just the weight I'm after for making myself the perfect t-shirt dress and is totally opaque too.
  • This beautiful printed silk crepe practically jumped off the bolt and into my hands! I'm really enjoying checks at the moment and I love the colour way and hand painted quality of this.
  • Again I'm obviously loving the checks! This is an amazing sheer crepe from Marc Jacobs which I want to use to make a more feminine take on a plaid shirt.
  • The final fabric is probably my favourite piece from the whole trip. It's hard to see in a photo but it's a rich indigo blue thick raw silk which is embroidered all over. Look at that border! I can't wait to find the perfect pattern to use this for. I'm 99% sure it's a Rag & Bone fabric.

The next stop for me was San Francisco! I had a couple of days to myself to explore and fell completely in love with the place! I definitely hope to come back some day and see more. I packed in trips to Alcatraz & Angel Island and Golden Gate Park, I cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge which is definitely not to be missed, rode a cable car, explored the endlessly interesting mission district, took in the beautiful architecture and visited all the typical tourist hotspots like Fisherman's Wharf and Lombard Street.

On Saturday I met up with four lovely sewing ladies from around the bay area (and beyond!). From left to right in the picture below we have Iris, Kiran, Jeanne and Diana; special thanks to Jeanne and Diana for so generously driving me around! I was staying in Oakland which was perfect as we'd planned to venture to a couple of stores in that area rather than San Francisco itself. I particularly enjoyed our visit to Stonemountain & Daughter which had a lovely warm and welcoming atmosphere and was a lot bigger than I was expecting! There was an amazingly wide selection of it which I pounced on along with a gorgeous collection of silk jersey prints (on the right above) which are screaming to be made into DVF inspired wrap dresses! I limited myself to two purchases in Stonemountain as my suitcase was already rather heavy, the lovely ikat in the centre below which I've got earmarked for a Colette Aster or similar and the grey jersey at the bottom. This may look like a boring purchase but it is in fact a tricky to find wicking fabric which is perfect for activewear as it absorbs moisture. I've been thinking about making myself some running leggings for a while now and this stuff has the perfect thickness and stretch for that project. I spotted on Instagram yesterday a sneak peak of one of the new Sewaholic patterns which has got me even more excited about this find!

The one thing I possibly regret not buying was some gorgeous soft grey double gauze from A Verb for Keeping Warm which was a small but gorgeous store in Oakland recommended by Jeanne. I was drawn to that area of the shop after my recent first experience with sewing double gauze and was pretty amazed by the selection! I've never come across anything like it in the UK. I could instantly imagine it making an amazing Archer Shirt but it would have made a fairly pricey project because of the yardage needed and width of the fabric and the space in my suitcase was already running low... my wardrobe isn't screaming out for another Archer so I think I made the right choice.

In the afternoon Diana and I headed across the Bay Bridge to visit Britex Fabrics. Situated just off Union Square, I'd already been in when I was in the area a couple of days earlier so I came prepared this time for the scale of the place and the prices! There are four floors of fabrics of the highest quality with prices to match and it somewhat reminded me of Joel & Son in London but the good news is that the top floor is packed with sale rolls and remnants! I still had a good rummage through the other floors and was really drawn to an incredible neoprene which looked like a thick wool on one side and was shocking pink on the other. I had dreams of making a pencil skirt with a kick pleat to show off a flash of the pink but at $49.99/yard it was out of my price range! I couldn't resist treating myself to a little something though and came away with the burnout jersey pictured previously with the Stonemountain fabrics which was on the sale rack at $10/yard.

That's about it for the sewing related portion of my trip. The next day I ventured to Yosemite National Park which blew my mind despite the views being a little hazy because of a nearby forest fire. I took about a million photos (which I have bored my family stiff with!) but none of them really do justice to the size and beauty of the place.

The final major stop I made was in Las Vegas. It was huge, shiny, hot and a lot of fun! My stay there was timed so I could attend Sally's amazing second wedding celebration at the Graceland Chapel. It was a total surprise to her husband, Elvis led the service and she wore a stunning vintage dress which she had applied her refashioning talents to. I'll leave it at that and let Sally tell you the rest!

I filled my last full day with a trip to the Grand Canyon which was the absolute perfect way to top off an amazing and unforgettable trip. Again a place which photos just don't do justice to this was probably the highlight of my journey. I even plucked up the guts to do the skywalk! Thanks for having me America!