Saturday, 8 April 2017

A Breton Top and a Danish adventure with Stoff & Stil

Like the Nancy Dress I just posted, this top has become another wardrobe favourite. It came as a bit of a surprise to me as this drop shouldered, loose fit isn't one I naturally gravitate towards. I had in my head that this shape probably wouldn't be a great one on me but it's like a more oversized version of the Toaster Sweater which I wear to death so I decided to give it a whirl.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

The idea for the top presented itself to me during my visit to the Stoff & Stil store in Herning when I was lucky enough to visit in January. If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw that they invited a handful of sewing bloggers out to visit their H&Q and find out what they are all about. The trip was all expenses paid and included a variety of treats (how lucky were we?!) but my opinions in this post were not swayed by that; I was genuinely super impressed by the whole organisation. In fact I was so impressed by the whole Danish way of life and hospitality that I kind of want to move there immediately!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Stoff & Stil Store Visit

Stoff & Stil means Fabrics & Style and I'd say those two words sum them up pretty well. They have been selling fabrics for 37 years and have 24 stores in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. They have grown from a small family business selling remnants from local textile manufacturers to producing almost everything themselves, from prints to threads, notions and crafting equipment. If you haven't checked out their website yet hop on over there immediately and you will loose about two hours of your life. They have an amazing array of fabrics suited for all different crafts but I was most impressed by the sheer amount of fabric that was suitable for dressmaking. It it is so unusual to find a one store with such a range of fabric types for clothing including wonderful contemporary prints that are the kind of thing you want to be wear. From viscose to leather, denim to sportswear it's all there. We were like kids in a candy store in the shop let me tell you. The size and variety of supplies and notions for all kinds of crafting kind of reminded me a little of a HobbyCraft here in the UK. But it's more sleek, modern and appealing with MUCH more dressmaking and home decoration fabric available rather than quilting cottons. The store is roughly divided into notions, home dec fabrics, kids fabrics and then fabrics by type and some of my favourite features were how they showed the yarn knitted up into samples and that the pattern area included sewn up samples of some of the designs. Those little touches make such a huge difference to the shopping experience.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Stoff & Stil Store Visit

The UK webstore is exactly the same as the Danish version and offers you all the same products, inspiration, free DIY templates and downloads. I actually already discussed my impressions of the website in more depth when I used some of their fabrics when they first launched in the UK last year. The only negative I have found in either experience is that delivery can be a little on the slow side but I know that is something the company are working on. The only thing we don't currently have access to here in the UK (aside from a bricks and mortar store) is the printed catalogue they release twice a year. I got my hands on a copy in Denmark and it's a real gem. It's not simply a catalogue of fabrics but shows their fabrics, notions and trimmings made up into garments and modelled. I was super impressed by their choices combining fabrics and trimmings with one of their own patterns to create these garments. They look like real clothes and that is really inspiring. All the pictures from the catalogue can be found on the product pages on the website and in the inspiration section you can even buy the kit of everything you need to recreate some of your favourite looks. I think inspiring is the best word to sum up both their stores and website; great creative spaces packed with contemporary craft ideas.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

Anyway back to the sewing as that's what you really come here for! The idea for this top started with this beautiful fabric as it leapt off the shelf at me as the perfect width of stripe and shade of cream with navy for my dream Breton top. It's a really quite unusual cotton french terry with no elastane and limited stretch. The matte almost raw texture seems like it should be a woven and it is fairly thick with a smooth finish on both sides rather than any kind of loop back. It is great quality; the only fault I found with it is that the edges do curl after a wash but a steamy press sees everything nice and flat again. I have been wearing it regularly for about 6 weeks now and after a number of washes it still looks like new. That was one of my favourite things about the Stoff & Stil HQ actually (aside from the amazing machines, one of which automatically cuts the right amount of fabric for each order from a roll when you scan the barcode!). They have a washing machine e.t.c in one corner of the warehouse so every fabric gets put through a washing test and the best way to launder it is then listed on the website.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

Once I'd staked my claim on the fabric I nipped over to the pattern area to find an appropriate pattern for my classic Breton top. Luckily I hit on a top which featured just the fit I was after and the semi turtleneck neckline I loved from the Toaster Sweater. Unfortunately I can't find it on the website now. I actually loved the fabric so much I almost played it safe and stuck with the Toaster I already knew but I liked the idea of the dropped shoulder for a Breton rather than a set in sleeve and I'm sure my wardrobe doesn't need three versions of the same sweater! I'm so pleased I steamed on ahead as I think my favourite part of the finished garments it is how the dropped shoulder combined with the stripes has created a chevron pattern down the upper arm. I'm pretty proud of my stripe matching efforts on this one if I do say so myself! As there are only two pattern pieces to cut twice each this was pretty straight forward. I cut it all on the flat and as the front piece is the same as the back piece I cut my one then used it as the pattern piece to cut the back so I could get the stripes lined up exactly. The sleeve pieces you just need to make sure you've got spot on on grain to get a nice match running down the underarm.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

Although the neckline looks almost identical to Toaster Sweater #2 it's actually constructed in quite a different way. Both methods give you a lovely clean finish but I probably prefer this method as I've never found stitching in ditch particularly easy for some reason! These instructions have you fold both parts of the neckline down to one side and then you follow you're original stitching line to stitch it in place. You then fold one of the layers back to the right side to give you a kind of faced neckline opening. It probably wouldn't be great in a thicker knit as it does result in the shoulder seam allowances being pressed to the back rather than open and where it's folded back that results in six layers of the fabric in one spot.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

The Stoff & Stil patterns are really unusual in that they arrive already cut out in a type of paper fabric that reminded me of interfacing. In a way this is great as you can sew a toile up straight from the envelope, it's really robust and super easy to slip neatly back into the envelope without worrying about torn or crumpled pattern pieces but it has a few disadvantages too which have me on the fence. Once you've sewn the pattern up into a toile you then have to unpick it all to have your flat pattern to cut with, although this might not both those of you who like to tissue fit and still saves time on making an actual toile. The pattern I chose was for jersey fabrics so obviously making it up in the woven pattern paper wasn't going to be an accurate assessment of fit, it only works for woven designs. Lastly the pattern has limited markings with just a handful of punched holes with not much indication as to what they mean so it's like working with a really old vintage pattern! Obviously this is based on my experience with this very simple top which doesn't require much guidance so perhaps the more complex designs do have more info. I've also got the pattern for an excellent running jacket to try (which I really want to pair with this awesome fabric which has reflective spots in the print or maybe this amazing soft-shell) so will feed back on my experience with that soon!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

Like the markings on the pattern pieces the limited instructions also reminded me of old vintage patterns. I think they rely on people having a fairly good level of sewing skills which unfortunately are not as commonly taught nowadays. I was worried that the limited guidance would make me feel like I was being less accurate somehow, or at least less certain that I was doing things right. But then I ended up with a beautiful, well finished garment so do we always necessarily need the hand holding that most modern indie patterns give us? The patterns are SUCH a reasonable price compared to many indie companies that I definitely felt like I got value for money and it's quite a nice to change to work with a pattern that leaves you to use use your preferred techniques and sewing know-how.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

As the pattern comes already cut (including seam allowances F.Y.I) you have to pick the size that matches you measurements best to buy which would be problematic if you usually fall across a number of sizes on a measurement chart. For a relaxed style like this is totally works for me but for something more form fitting I'd find it frustrating having to do so much work to get a good fit when I could usually grade between sizes and give myself a pretty good starting point. I had the size small and bought exactly the amount of fabric suggested on the envelope; as I had the stripes to contend with I had JUST enough. If you're thrifty like me and usually wing it with slightly less than the fabric requirements indicate take note you will need the required amount with these patterns!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

I was worried this would be far too oversized looking on my petite frame as the sample garments were made up with a much clingier drapey viscose jersey but I'm pretty delighted with it! It's really comfortable but I don't feel like it's unflattering. However, part of what saves it from looking like an all encompassing sack was my decision to cut a whopping 6" off the length. I would definitely call it a tunic and far too long on me no matter what fabric I had used but in this cotton which holds a shape away from the body I decided an ever so slightly cropped version was the way to go. The stripes really helped when deciding as I kept folding it up by one stripe at a time to see how it looked. On the other hand the sleeve length is great and the width is actually lovely. I have quite skinny little arms and would worried they'd feel big.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Breton French Terry Stoff & Stil Top

There are so few seams and pattern pieces on this pattern it took me less than two hours to make including cutting and stripe matching. So satisfying. Even the sleeves are easy to set in as they are rectangles being sewn together rather than a shaped armhole. No easing required!

I'm definitely going to be placing somewhat regular orders from the website and am looking forward to the new collection already! I'm so happy to have found a source of good quality dressmaking appropriate fabrics and really enjoyed the experience of trying out a pattern so different to the usual. I've got all fingers and toes crossed for a store opening in the UK at some point!

20 comments:

  1. It's fun to hear your view on stoff&stil for me living in Sweden - it is my go-to fabric store as they have a store in my town. I like that they have a good base stock of fabrics and notions, and that you always can find something similar to what you want. Although the quality is not so high, many printed fabrics are printed off grain :'( but the price is so good I end up buying my fabric there rather in the more expensive and high quality store in my city. And yes, the best thing, every cut piece of fabric gets a sticker printed with the name, length and care recommendations, which is perfect for saving together with a swatch of the fabric!! Genius!

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    1. O wow how lucky are you to have such a great variety on your doorstep! It's interesting to see what you have to say about the quality, I had no trouble with this piece apart from a few curly edges but have a couple more pieces to try so will have to report back on how I get on with those! I'll certainly bear that in mind when ordering prints

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  2. Your top is very nice and looks so comfortable. Thanks for the thorough review.

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    1. Thanks Kathy! It most certainly is comfortable and have been enjoying proudly displaying my stripes and chevrons!

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  3. Really cute top! I also found your pattern on their website, first page, fourteen rows down on the right.

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    1. O thanks so much! Your comment got stuck in my spam filter so I've only just read it but am going to update the post with a link to the pattern now!

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  4. Love the top Fiona! Stoffe and Stil looks like my perfect fabric shop! Always had an affinity with Scandinavian design and their website is great too. Thanks for the heads up on the delivery time I'm sure i'd manage to wait for some of their gorgeous fabrics. It looks like you had an amazing time!

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    1. Yes I don't think the delivery time is at all unreasonable, I certainly wouldn't expect anything from Europe to arrive all that quickly and generally my fabric purchases aren't urgent so it's worth the wait! I am a total sucker for Scandi design too so the trip was so inspiring for me!

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  5. I would love to shop their fabrics but sadly of course they don't have a shop here (Canada) nor can we order from them online (I don't believe even their UK shop will ship overseas). From the garments I've seen online (including yours!) their fabrics are luscious.

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    1. Ah Kathleen! How unfortunate. Let's hope that Canada is next on the list of countries they expand to for you! I know that they only ship to the countries they have a dedicated webshop and team for so that they are able to give the best customer service possible and avoid any complications with deliveries and differing languages.

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  6. The top is lovely, I love classic Breton stripes!

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    1. Thanks Anna, classic is just what I was hoping for! Hopefully I will be wearing this for years to come!

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  7. Very stylish top, and have just looked at the website and found they have some nice organic cotton fabrics and loads of corozo buttons - I think the expensive postage would put me off ordering, though, especially if it's going to be slow...

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    1. O yes Nina I totally forgot to mention their organic range which I was very impressed with when I visited! They gave us a detailed talk on how invested they are in these fabrics and the idea of expanding that range. I didn't find the delivery charges all that unreasonable for shipping large parcels into the UK considering how much I have had to pay for similar from other companies. The fabrics and patterns are so reasonable that I think it balances out. My delivery did take less than a week which I was very happy with but is slightly longer than advertised. I have since discovered that they are looking into different postage options now

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  8. Holly Golightly Goes Breton! Lovely top, and it reminds me of Audry Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. One of my two favorite costumes in the movie, this top is towards the end of the movie. A mash up of the Toaster sweaters is reminiscent, but this silhouette more so. Great make Holly, I mean Audrey, I mean Fiona!

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    1. Wow what a compliment Melody! I'm a huge Audrey Hepburn fan so reading that has made me fall in further in lover with this top! You are so right that is very similar to that top in BaT. I've got a pair of slim black capri pants in my sewing queue and they might have to jump up the list so I can wear them with this top for Spring! Thank you

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  9. A very good choice of fabric I'm sure this will get lots of wear. Thanks for the store recommendation I will take a look online. I am into Danish dramas on TV myself. x

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    1. Me too! I'm into a lot of Scandi everything at the moment! Enjoy a browse on their website, I've lost hours to it already! Thanks very much

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  10. This so cute. I can imagine the neck method would be easier than the Toaster, but in anything thick it would totally bulk up, you're right. I actually didn't stitch my neck facing in the ditch - I cannot stand the way that looks. Ever. I only ever use that for waistbands and not always. A few hand stitches hold the facing nicely and are totally invisible.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not alone in my dislike for stitching in the ditch! I can never get it perfect and then it just frustrates me! hand stitching is a great way to go about it for those bulkier fabrics. Thank you!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!