Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pattern Testing: Orsola Dress from By Hand London

Despite telling myself that I was going to leave pattern testing to one side for a bit so I could focus on my ever increasing sewing queue I saw the design for the latest release from By Hand London and couldn't resist getting my hands on it immediately! The Orsola Dress is a chic and wearable sheath dress which features a beautiful wrapped back. This classic cut with interesting and considered details is just the kind of thing I love to wear. The bateau neckline that dips in the back combined with the figure skimming fit is super classy. Both the dress and skirt variations included in the pattern have the option for a straight front hem or a scallop shape detail which I opted for as I love how this echoes the shape created by the wrap at the back.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I had some fabric perfect for the skirt in my stash but I wanted to make the dress so I nipped into Lewisham one weekend to find something inexpensive from Maggie's Fabrics market stall. I happened upon this gorgeous viscose print for just £3/m and could not be happier with how it suits the style. I love how vibrant the red/orange flowers look against the navy. The slinky, slippery drape gives a relaxed vibe to the style and I feel like a more structured fabric would give it a totally different look. I really like the idea of making up a skirt version in a brocade.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

That lovely shifty nature did present some challenges when it came to cutting out and keeping those curves nice and even but patience and plenty of stay-stitching kept things stable. There are so many curves and edges cut on the bias in this design that taking a good bit of time over stay-stitching is essential; although yes it is frustrating not to be able to get straight on with the construction! The bodice is lined so I could have used a more stable fabric for this but I didn't want to ruin the romantic feel of the draped back so opted to self line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

One of my favourite elements of the design is the faced hem which gives a gorgeous neat finish and a bit of weight to the hem. I was concerned that the effect of the scallop at the front would be lost in such a delicate and drapey fabric as my viscose so I opted to use a lightweight fusible interfacing on the facing pictures to add a bit of structure. I'm pleased I did this as I think it hangs nicely and keeps its shape well now. In a crisper fabric you wouldn't need to do this. I also added the interfacing to one set of the waistband and tie pieces. The ties are quite skinny and I felt they might end up looking a little limp in just the fine viscose. The interfacing adds just the right amount of body.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

Your fabric choice combined with how much you choose to stabilise the back edges of the bodice will quite drastically effect how that area fits too. Mine hangs away from the body slightly as I allowed it stretch out slightly (on purpose as I liked the idea of a softly draped back in this fine romantic print). The back edges of the By Hand London samples lay closer to the back and to achieve this you'd need to stabilise this bias edge with stay stitching and possibly the addition of some narrow twill tape/stay tape in the seam allowance.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

As with all By Hand London patterns (I've sewn most of them at this point!) I opted for cutting the UK10 and found it to have a little more ease than I am used to with their patterns. I wouldn't size down though as I love the more relaxed feel of this, I think the amount of room is spot on for the wrap style. I was concerned about risk of exposure with the back wrap when bending over or moving about in the wind but it feels very secure. I do usually have to shorten By Hand London patterns a little and usually do this from the hem but was well into making this one before I realised that the shaped hem would make this really tricky and I could have done with a lengthen/shorten line on the pattern piece (this has been added in since I tested it). It actually turned out fine though as I love the length as is!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

The only change I'd make to the fit next time is to take a little length out of the shoulder (about an inch) as it feels a little like it wants to slip off down my arm although doesn't quite. I definitely think it's the length rather than the width that is the problem and taking a bit of length away would have the added benefit or raising the point where the back wrap crosses as at the moment my bra band tends to peek out just a touch. As well as wanting to slip off the shoulders the dress doesn't want to stay on a hanger so I would recommend adding little ribbon hanging loops. You could insert these into the shoulder seam of the lining for a nice clean finish. I love this dress so much I might well end up unpicking my shoulders to take a little length out to absolutely perfect it so could add these in then.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I'm not going to talk too much about the instructions as many of the little notes I made while testing have since been tweaked in the final release so my sewing experience is likely to be quite different to yours. I will say that it is a real pleasure to sew as it uses lots of familiar sewing techniques so isn't too tricky to put together and there are no fastenings to deal with! There's a bit of hand sewing involved to cleanly finish up the waistband and secure the hole in the side seam for the tie to pass through but nothing too strenuous. If you didn't want to see topstitching around your hem facing you could slipstitch this in place by hand but equally you could make more of the topstitching and use a contrasting thread or add in more at the waistband.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I added a couple of tricks into the construction which I've picked up over the years and tend to do for all my dressmaking projects now. I pressed the lining darts in the opposite direction to those of the shell to reduce bulk at the waistline. This pattern does involve sewing a lot of darts which aren't my favourite thing to do in a shifty fabric. I would recommend marking them with tailors tacks and marking them at an additional point along the leg rather than just the tip and raw edge so you can ensure that nothing has shifted off grain and your darts are nice and straight. I also under-stitched the neckline as lining peeking out is a real pet hate of mine. This is really easy to do with this neckline if you do it before you sew up the armholes. The By Hand London method of sewing the neckline and armholes then the side seams of both the shell and lining in one fell swoop is fab.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

It's a big statement but this could be my all time favourite By Hand London design! Top three at least! I feel really elegant yet effortless in this dress and whilst the cut is fairly modest it's quite sexy at the same time with the flash of skin at the back. It would be appropriate for so many occasions made up in different fabrics; weddings, garden parties, work events or just casual summer days. A skirt version is next up in my sewing queue and then I'd like to try another dress in a solid colour of a more structured fabric like a linen!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Black Textured Rigel Bomber

Today I've got a jacket to share with you which has been worn pretty much non-stop since I finished it! It's become the perfect lightweight thing to throw on in the mornings over almost any outfit and feels like a piece of clothing to be proud of wearing even when I reach for it thoughtlessly. It is my second version of the Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns. I made my first version from a pale grey stable knit a couple of years back and whilst it's been worn fairly regularly since it has been even more in demand this spring than before. I've got bombers on the brain as there are so many delights out and about in London to inspire me this season and I decided more wardrobe could definitely do with another in my favourite staple colour...black.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

Whilst the plain grey of my first version is fantastic for working with so many different parts of my wardrobe I wanted something a little more special this time. I've had all kinds of ideas for bomber jackets bouncing around my head for months. For a while I was considering some embroidery as those little geometric panels on the shoulder of the second variations would lend themselves so well to it. I thought dense black on black embroidery or metallic on black would be really wearable. I then saw a lady pass me of the street wearing one made of sheer embroidered mesh which just looked so cool. But then I quite liked the idea of one made in a bold and colourful print as real statement outerwear to layer over simple outfits.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

In the end the choice was made for me when I came across this amazing three dimensional floral fabric on my first visit to the Cloth House warehouse shop in Camden. I still wanted to be able to wear this jacket endlessly so hit the jackpot when I found this as it had all the unique quality I was after but what is more wearable than a solid black? As much as I love to wear black it does photograph terribly so I'm not sure these pictures are really doing it justice but take a look at the flat close ups for a more accurate idea of this unusual fabric. I'm pretty sure it's a silk/poly blend and the little flowers are part of the weave of the fabric itself. The outline of each flower is quite a pronounced ridge and the petals are filled with a satin weave which stands out against the rest of the fabric. Despite the texture on the front the back is fairly smooth with a fairly prominent weft which is interesting. I love a tactile, textured fabric in a solid colour and feel like over the last couple of years that using these kind of fabrics has produced the most successful garments in my wardrobe. I'm trying to hone in on fabrics which are interesting because of their drape, weave and texture rather than a crazy print which looks amazing on the bolt (although I love playing around with these as much as the next person!).

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

I could have made the whole jacket in this fabric but really wanted to try playing around with contrasting textures and managed to find a great option to pair with it right there in the same store on their amazing shelf of £1-3/m bolts! If you are able to visit the Camden store and haven't yet it's well worth a trip. It's not huge but packed with all those top quality fabrics you oo and aah over on Berwick Street but all at discounted prices. The floral fabric I snapped up for £14/m and is definitely the kind I would have been drawn to in Soho but never actually treated myself to at full price. The sleeve fabric is a viscose twill which had the perfect combination of weight and drape I wanted for this style. It needs a kind of relaxed slouch to it I think. I went back and forth over my decision of which fabric to use for the body and which for the sleeves but am pleased with my final decision as I like the contrast pocket welts in the plain viscose. The ribbing I picked up in UK Textiles on Goldhawk Road which is where I bought the ribbing for my last version. I love the combo of all three fabrics together where they meet at the neckline!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

The brilliant thing about using different fabrics for the sleeves and body is that it doesn't need very much yardage. I bought a metre of each and still have enough left to make another jacket in the reverse of this one! In fact using different fabric could make this a great pattern for stash busting all those half metre or so pieces we all end up hoarding because we can't bear to throw that big a piece out. I cut the size XXS as I did with my last Rigel as I was really happy with the fit on that. My measurements place me more in the XS but I didn't want the bomber to be too oversized or long. This amount of ease feels very comfortable.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

The pattern doesn't come with a lining and I decided to stick with that despite other bloggers posting some lovely lined versions and advice on how to do it (see Kat's and Katy & Laney's posts). I quite liked the idea of the jacket being super lightweight for summer and also just wanted to get on with wearing it as soon as possible! I finished all the interior seams on my overlocker so it looks nice and neat inside anyway. The only thing I don't like about the pattern being unlined is that you end up seeing the square of interfacing used to reinforce the welt pocket opening. It's not as obvious in the black version as the grey but it still bugs me a bit. It's also very difficult to finish the inside edges of the pocket bags and welts neatly on the overlocker so this whole area looks a little scruffy. Ah well...next time I'll line it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

Speaking of welt pockets, the fact that pretty much the first step is to make them is a little daunting! It's like starting with the bound buttonholes when making a coat. You feel like you could potentially mess up in a spectacular fashion right at the start. Which I guess is better than getting almost to the end and doing it. These aren't absolutely perfect as I was a couple of millimetres out getting the openings to exactly match the length of the welts but nothing that a bit of hand stitching couldn't pull into place and definitely an improvement on my first attempt.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

Inserting the zip is straightforward but does require some accuracy to get the top and bottom edges to meet nicely. I recommend basting it in first and rather than attempting to sew past the zip pull stop just short of it with the needle down, lift the foot and slide the pull on past before continuing to sew. I was a bit confused by the recommended length of zip as I was the first time around. The pattern requests a 35cm open ended zip for all sizes but of course the front length differs depending on the size you make. I advise measuring your pattern piece to determine the best length for you. Of course zips of this kind tend to be available in lengths increasing by a couple of inches at a time so getting the perfect length is nigh on impossible. I bought my zip from John Lewis and went with the suggested 35cm/14" and found it slightly too long but managed to ease it in.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

The final tricky part of the assembly is creating a clean corner where the hem ribbing slots into the body of the jacket at the centre front. Ribbing is pretty forgiving though and a good press and topstitch really helps. The neckline ribbing is so easy to do. I like the slightly lower v-shaped neckline on this pattern which makes it stand out slightly from other classic high necked bomber designs. I feel like it's a little more feminine and flattering on a curvy figure. The cuffs could be a little tighter in order to stay pushed up on my forearms how I like to wear it but I do have quite skinny forearms and wrists! I love the amount of fullness the sleeve has above the cuff.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

The only thing I'm slightly disappointed with is how the fabric is wearing. It's really easy to snag that beautiful floral and after a few weeks of hard wear it's got some quite bad thread pulls all over it. I knew after a couple of wears that it was more of a fabric for a special occasion piece but I still can't resist wearing it more! All I can do for now is neaten it up and try to look after it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Textured Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns

If you're intrigued by the bomber jacket trend I highly recommend this pattern as a first go. Once you've done your welt pockets (which you could omit if you like) it's super straightforward to put together and speedy too. I love a raglan sleeve! If you don't have an overlocker or don't want to use one binding the edge of the facing and the visible inside seam allowances in a contrast fabric would be a lovely touch. Writing that has just given me an idea for yet another... a version made of embroidered mesh in a neutral colour with a bright pop of coloured binding peeking through! I'm sure my wardrobe doesn't need more than two bomber jackets but I wear them so regularly I feel like it would be worth giving one of my other ideas a whirl. I'm still tempted to add a bit of embroidery to this one but I'm not sure it needs it. What do you think?

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

May Indie Pattern Update!



And we're at the end of May already! Where is this year disappearing to? We've seen the first hint of summer in London and the days are flying past yet my sewing queue doesn't seem to be diminishing...in fact after compiling this list I'm pretty sure it's longer than it was last month! Just take a look at my Pinterest Sewing Pattern Wishlist board for proof. I'm just about to head into an incredibly busy spell at work so I'm not sure how well I'll be able to keep up with the indie news throughout June. Apologies in advance for next months post being late/a bit brief/non existent but I will do my best! Anyway on to May's sewing excitement...


New Patterns


  • It was the month for dresses over at Seamwork Magazine. The two patterns released with the May issue were the Reggie Dress which is a woven empire line wrap dress and the Gabrielle Dress which is a skater style with cut out back and option for a tied yoke.
  • The Avid Seamstress has released yet another wardrobe staple in the form of her A-Line Dress pattern. There's lots of room to play around with that classic fitted bodice and gently flared skirt combo.
  • Style Arc released a number of patterns throughout the month including the Casey Coat which has a slightly cocoon shape and zipped front that gives it the feel of an on trend bomber. The new freebie with any purchase this month was the Cher Knit Dress and their Peony Dress is a dead ringer for the frock Kate Middleton wore to her sister's wedding which got a lot of love on Instagram. Well worth a look. They also released the Beshari Outfit bundle which consists of a shawl collar jacket with kimono sleeves, a pull on pant with tuck detail at the hem and boxy tee with angled side seams. Each pattern can be purchased separately too.
  • New from Tilly and the Buttons is the Etta Dress. This is a knock out of a wiggle dress and I'm particularly taken with the version with the v shaped back neckline and collar. Very Joan Holloway! There is also an online class to purchase and follow plus limited edition fabric kits.
  • Scroop Patterns released the Ngaio Blouse which is 1930s inspired with a classy high v neckline and gathered upper bodice. I can see this looking great with a pencil skirt. It also comes with three cup sizes.
  • Itch to Stitch treated us to a FREE pattern download this month! The Lago Tank is a classic simple knit tank top which would be a great way to try out an Itch to Stitch pattern if you haven't before. I highly recommend them for their in depth instructions and this would be a great way to practice your knit skills with the bands finishing the armholes and neckline.
  • New menswear pattern alert! Thread Theory related their long awaited Belvedere Waistcoat pattern; filling another hole in a man's classic handmade wardrobe. A waistcoat could be the perfect introduction to dabbling in a bit of mens tailoring don't you think?
  • Noodlehead released the Traverse Bag. I've not yet tried making any bags other than a basic tote and this cross body design with various zip and patch pockets quite appeals to me.
  • You can clearly see the Japanese pattern cutting influence in the new Kyoto Vest from Tessuti. It's a shawl collared wrap vest with curved front edges. Their Oslo Coat has totally stolen my heart however. Released just in time for winter in the southern hemisphere the classic clean lines of the double breasted style with shawl collar are gorgeously classy.
  • As well as updating their Midi Bodycon Dress pattern to improve fit and add illustrations to the instructions Kommatia Patterns released the Tapered Trousers pattern which features an elasticated waist and cargo pockets.
  • Love Notions released the Rhapsody Blouse which has a relaxed cut gathered lightly into the yoke at the shoulders and various options for classic bohemian sleeves. Perfect for the summer.
  • The Willamette Shirt is new from Hey June Handmade. It would be a great first shirt for a beginner with it's soft collar and options for a curved or cropped hem. Love the use of stripes in one of the samples.
  • Sew Caroline and Simple Life Pattern Company have collaborated to bring out a collection of Mommy and Me patterns by taking 3 of each others designs and turning them into womenswear/childrenswear. What a fun project! The new ladies patterns are the Ayda Top & Dress, Molly Top, Dress and Maxi and Tammy's Tulip Shorts.
  • The Tailoress released a whopping 5 new womenswear patterns this month! The Olivia Top, Agatha Dress, Lily Cardigan, Karli Dress and Sophie Shrug are all inspired by the approaching summer season. I think my favourite feature is the dropped waist of the Karli Dress.
  • New from Blank Slate Patterns are the Barton Shorts and Austin Tee. That tie front detail is all over the place at the moment and I'm sorely tempted by this design in particular as I like it combined with the split neckline.
  • The Lenox Shirtdress is the latest release from Jenny over at Cashmerette and I'm sure there are plus sized ladies all over the globe swooning over it! The combination of v-neck button placket and princess seamed bodice are ever so flattering and it's a truly classic style.
  • The silhouette of the new Gaston Trousers from Republique du Chiffon are so on trend this season. If you've been following my Me Made May on Instagram you'll have noticed I'm enjoying floaty cropped culottes a lot recently but seeing these has made me question whether my wardrobe needs a more structured twill pair. 
  • The PDF pattern release from Sew Over It this month was the Lulu Shift Dress which features raglan sleeves and a gathered neckline with keyhole detail. Very effortless sixties summer.
  • The Rochester is a new dress and top pattern from Maven Patterns. The high gathered neckline is a really interesting feature which I think would look really chic in a neutral colour paired with slim cropped trousers.
  • Just in time for summer Seamstress Erin has launched the Laminara Swimsuit pattern. It's a simple one piece style with flattering inserted panel which twists around the body. It has two cup size options and instructions for including cups if you wish to do so.
  • I love a maxi skirt for summer and Seamingly Smitten has released a beauty of an opportunity to showcase a border print or special fabric in the form of the Orleans Avenue PDF download. It features a centre front slit and hip pockets.
  • An entirely new discovery to me this month, Honig Design appeared on my radar with the release of the Athena Top. I like how the angled pleats on the bodice are mirrored on the peplum and emphasise the waist. 
  • The new Wrap Dress Pattern from Schneidernmeistern is cut like a dressing gown so you can wear it loosely draped as a top layer or tightly wrapped as a dress. I'm enjoying the understated glamour of a more relaxed fit.
  • Designer Stitch released the Kiera Skirt. It has a very Vivien Westwood vibe to it with ribbons attached internally to each panel for the you can create swags and drape your own shape by tying them up at different lengths.
  • Made for Mermaids launched the Mama Sommer Mini, Dress and Maxi pattern along with the children's version to match as always. It's a simple strappy knit dress with options for an empire line or natural waist.
  • It feels like I am seriously tempted by a new release from Wear Lemonade nearly every month and their new Daria Dress is no exception! That tie front detail is intriguing me again. Particularly on a shirt dress.
  • New from Greenstyle Creations are the Moxi Shorts. I love the flattering style lines of these and am intrigued by the construction. Definitely one to add to my handmade activewear wish list. There's even an add on available to make internal compression shorts with side pocket!
  • Anne Kerdiles Couture released the Belle-Ile Dress. It's the perfect sleeveless, collarless summer sundress with yoke and front button placket to the waist.


Pattern Updates and Expansion Packs




Sew-alongs


  • A sew-along for the new A-Line Dress from The Avid Seamstress has been running over on her blog since the 20th May.
  • To accompany the release of their new Belvedere Waistcoat pattern Thread Theory have been running a waistcoat sew-along. Packed with tips that you can apply to sewing any waistcoat, not just their pattern.
  • Jenny from Cashmerette has been running a lovely detailed sew-along for her new Lenox Shirtdress. Shirt-dresses are proving very popular this season so if you've got plans to make one be sure to check out her posts for tips.
  • Seamstress Erin has posted a series of tutorials and handy tips for making her new Laminara Swimsuit pattern. Making swimwear is a lot of fun and more straightforward than you might thing although this design includes plenty of options to challenge yourself. 
  • Throughout the month of May Made by Mermaids has been running a sew-along for the Mama Ella and Ella top & dress patterns. Now concluded it's worth checking out for tips on sewing children's clothes.


Upcoming!


  • Itch to Stitch are currently testing the Beausoliel Top & Dress. It features cold shoulder cut outs and includes options for various cup sizes.
  • Schnittchen gave us a sneaky peak on Instagram at the photoshoot for their new patterns at the beginning of May so eyes peeled for that release which should be coming soon.
  • Also photographing their new designs earlier this month was Megan Nielsen. The last couple of patterns I've made of hers have been HUGE hits in my wardrobe so I'm super stoked to see these.
  • Trend Patterns hinted at something new and exciting coming in June...let's hope it's some new patterns to fall head over heels for! 
  • The next set of patterns from Pauline Alice are due to be released in July and Pauline has suggested that she has returned to her retro aesthetic for this collection.
  • The next pattern from Jennifer Lauren Handmade will be the Laneway Dress. It's 1940s inspired with multiple cup sizes. I'm sensing a trend for indie companies working on providing different cup sizes for their patterns and think it's fab!
  • Sarah from Ohhh Lulu has two new patterns almost ready for release! She discusses some of the details of the Kate Camisole and Anouk Bodysuit in this preview video. She's also planning a swimsuit sew-along using a couple of her lingerie patterns as a starting point. 


Other Exciting News




As always please feel free to jump in to the comments with any news I may have missed or anything else you would like to share about the new releases this month. What are your favourites? I'd love to know!

I've seen so many inspiring projects in my blog and social media feeds this month it's been really difficult to whittle down a little selection to share with you all today but here's a little taster to get your creative juices flowing as we head into June!



  • Mie's version of the No.8 Svaneke Blouse from How To Do Fashion is just gorgeous! The combination of peach fabrics works so well and I love the slightly boxy shape and where the waistline hits.
  • I don't tend to wear shirts a lot but Lauren's slouchy linen Archer Shirt has got me rethinking my stance on that. This kind of shirt definitely has a place in my wardrobe! Beautiful sewing.
  • I adore Carolyn's version of the new Lenox Shirtdress. I'm always drawn to clever use of fabric and I love this combo of printed and plain denim and her choice of placement.
  • Mags' version of the Colette Laurel Dress is a real stunner. Great fabric and I love that she chose to make those bell cuffs and little bit bigger. That's a dress I could wear all year round.
  • I've seen a couple of knock out Etta Dresses in my feed over the last couple of weeks but had to give Jane's a mention. Just look at that fit and the finish inside! Her post on sewing and running really resonated with me too.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress

At the start of the month The Fabric Store got in touch to see if I'd be interested in trying out a selection of their fabrics. Of course I jumped at the chance as I've been addicted to this store since I visited their LA branch 18 months ago and was blown away by their carefully curated selection ideal for dressmaking. They are New Zealand based but their online store has been shipping to the UK for about a year now with free speedy delivery over $150. If you're a long time reader of my blog you'll already be aware that I adore their merino wools so this time I tried to branch out a try a wider selection...although I couldn't resist snagging a piece of this merino/polpropylene honeycomb jacquard. I've never seen anything like it and the idea of some merino sportswear was too tempting! I sewed up my new favourite t-shirt over the weekend from this marle rib knit and to get a good variety in my selection I added a couple of metres of rich teal linen which I am considering making a pair of slouchy dungarees/overalls from. Every piece is top quality and it is a treat to work with such gorgeous natural fibres. They looked so lovely when I unwrapped them I could hardly bear to unfold them to get them in the wash!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

The fourth piece of fabric in my order was this beauty of a Liberty print in sand-washed silk crepe de chine. I'm not usually that much of a sucker for a Liberty print but The Fabric Store do stock a great selection of the kind of prints that I would actually wear and I fell head over heels for this one. I prefer larger scale prints and I like that this is vaguely floral but has a more organic feel. It is the perfect summer dress or blouse weight and has that liquid type of movement to it. Although more opaque than a georgette it is quite sheer in direct sunlight so I will probably be wearing this with some sort of slip. The sand-washed aspect means that it is missing that sheen that crepe de chine usually has which for me makes it infinitely more wearable. It gives the fabric a soft, matte texture but the effect on this particular silk is a little more subtle than I have seen on other sand-washed silks which have the feel of a peach skin.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

This project 100% started with and was driven by the fabric. This print has such a romantic vibe and I knew before it even arrived that it would have a beautiful delicate drape. I wanted to be able to waft around in it all summer. I've been really enjoying the trend for midi and maxi shirt dresses with vents which enable the skirt to billow and float around your legs as you move and decided this silk would be the perfect match. I looked at a few different patterns (including the Capital Chic Cuba Libre and Named Reeta which would both be great choices for this style) but suddenly realised I already had a shirtdress pattern I adored and which I could easily adapted to have the floaty feel I was after. I still wear my denim version of McCalls 6696 to death and know it is a favourite among many other sewing bloggers due to it's classic lines and clean finish.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

The pattern does come with the option for a fuller pleated skirt than the fitted version I originally made but I decided not to use the pattern for that as I was after more of a contemporary straight cut and a gentle gather so it didn't get too bulky around the waist. The skirt with the pattern is a knee length style and I thought if I lengthened those flared panels I was going to end up with way too much fabric around the hem. Instead I cut four simple rectangles as my skirt panels, using the pattern I drafted for my pleated midi skirt last summer. I was really happy with how much fabric and volume there was in that skirt and the rayon for that had a similar weight and drape. I then extended the M6696 pattern piece for the front placket to match the length of my new skirt as the placket running all the way from neck to hem is a feature I really like of the original pattern.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

To assemble the skirt I sewed the centre back seam then the side seams, leaving them open from about 25cm above the hem. I finished the seam allowances then pressed them open; continuing down to fold back and press the seam allowance of the open part of the seam in place too. Then I topstitched up from the hem pivoting to sew across the seam about 1cm above the opening and back down the other side. It turns out that the split hem was really hard to capture in photographs as you can see above! It's much easier to show you in flat photos.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

After running some basting stitches across the waist of the skirt and pulling them up to create a light gather I attached it to the waistband in the same way as the original skirt. I followed the pattern instructions to hem the skirt before attaching the front placket pieces as I love the way that is so neatly finished at the hem. One of the reasons 6696 is such a great pattern is that it's packed with these lovely techniques to achieve a clean finish inside. There are only a few seam allowances exposed as the yoke is lined, the armholes finished with bias tape and the placket and waistband hide many of the other raw edges. I french seamed the side seams of the bodice and the centre back seam of the skirt but the side seams of the skirt I opted to overlock as it was going to make creating those hem vents so much easier. I did think the silk might be too delicate for the overlocker and I might end up with a bit of puckering but I had a little experiment on some scraps and it's actually worked really well. I think it's a common misconception about silk that it is usually very delicate and fine but despite its weight it's usually super strong although easily stretched out on the bias.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

I know some people shy away from and even hate working with silk but I love it. It doesn't need to be a huge challenge especially when it's a top quality crepe like this. The sand-washed nature of this silk gives it a slight texture which means it has some grip against itself so doesn't slip about too badly. It does still move about and shift as any silk will but patience and plenty of fine pins in the seam allowance can soon sort that. If you're having trouble laying out your silk to cut I would recommend either cutting in a single layer or if folding it pinning your selvedges together. I also like to cut silk on the carpet rather than a table top or smooth floor for a bit of extra grip. I thought this crepe was rather beautifully behaved and all those shirt details came out so well because it responds so well to a press and holds a nice crisp corner. The fine silk also meant limited bulk to deal with around that collar. As always I followed Four Square Walls' tutorial for sewing a collar as I find that order so much easier than any other I've tried.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

I love so many things about the classic design of this pattern but did make a few tweaks to suit my personal taste. I've worn my denim version a couple of times recently (hello British sunshine!) and am still very happy with the fit so as before I removed the gathers from the back of the bodice and stuck with those alterations. If I remember rightly I cut the size 10 with the B cup (yes another great thing about this pattern is that it has different cup sizes!) and removed a smidgen of length from the bodice. The pattern instructions do involve quite a lot of slip stitching by hand but I actually avoided all of it as I love the look of topstitching on a shirt or shirtdress! I used the 'burrito' method for the rear yoke which eliminating the hand stitching at the shoulders and topstitched the whole collar, front placket and waistband as well as the bias finish of the sleeves. I used the standard white thread I'd been using to keep it subtle. I found a fine microtex needle and Gutermann Sew All thread worked best for this silk by the way. Good quality silk crepes can sometimes be nightmare for skipping stitches!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

The buttons are from a beautiful East of India card that my Mum gave me yonks ago! I've been wanting to use them for ages but never found the right project. As soon as this fabric arrived I knew they had met their match. I'm really pleased with how my buttonholes turned out on this project too. I've had a few disasters sewing them recently so made the effort to clean out the machine and get it freshly threaded before starting them and luckily it seemed to love this silk! I interfaced the collar, stand, front plackets and waistband with a lightweight fusible woven interfacing which I'm pleased to say hasn't affected the drape of the silk too much.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress from The Fabric Store

Being quite petite I would never have considered wearing skirts and dresses of this length a couple of years ago but I'm absolutely loving this. I'm not sure exactly what it is but there's something about the combination of delicate wafty silk, the close fitting waistband and figure skimming bodice that's really working for me. I can see me wearing this to death this summer as it will be so easy to dress up or down for many occasions. Thank you so much to The Fabric Store for offering me the opportunity to try out the fabric and adding some real gems to my summer wardrobe. I'm looking forward to showing you what else I've made!