Tag Archive: finished

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!

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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?

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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 b…

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A finish: A Horse With No Name

Hello…. it’s me…. (read Adele-style) I’ve had some big things going on that I’ll probably talk about when I have found a solution, but it’s put me off sewing a bit. I’ve been designing a few Spoonflower fabrics since I’ve been selling some designs (!) so I want to build up my library, and I’ve […]

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Sportswear in action (once again)

And here are finally the pictures of my new climbing trousers in action! Some day, I should ask a third person to either take pictures or belay, so I can show off my me-made sportswear when lead climbing (or, more likely in Dutch climbing hal…

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The Vogue Cocktail Hour Sew-Along! – Floral Brocade V1537

Today it’s my turn to share with you the outfit I’ve made for the Vogue Cocktail Hour Social Sew-Along in aid of The Eve Appeal! I really enjoyed taking part in their Big Vintage Sew-Along last year and am delighted to be one of the bloggers spreading …

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Stretch Gaberdine Flint Cropped Trousers

The project I’ve got to share with you today is a total departure from my normal silhouette and one that I thought could wind up a complete disaster for many reasons. But it turns out I love these trousers and can’t stop wearing them! They are the Flint Pants & Shorts from Megan Nielsen and I’ve been telling pretty much everyone who’ll listen about what a fantastic pattern these are. I would never have seen myself wearing this wide-legged, cropped style of trouser but I have seen some gorgeous versions popping up on Instagram and Pinterest over the last couple of months and the idea had been bouncing around in my head for a while. I’d been seriously eyeing up an M&S pair that a colleague of mine looks incredible in and as she’s quite petite like I am I decided the look was worth a try. Then Megan released Flint and I think I bought the pattern that very day. I was so intrigued by the unusual crossover closure which is cleverly incorporated into the pocket opening and loved the front release tucks which add volume to the leg.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

I actually bought the fabric for these before the pattern was released. My colleague’s trousers are quite smart looking black ones with a bit of weight which flow beautifully and I had my eye out for a similar fabric. Classic black seemed like a good way to go for this first try of a new shape! I was shopping for work in John Lewis on Oxford Street when I came across their range of stretch suiting. Just the weight I was looking for and beautifully soft with a gorgeous drape provided by the viscose content. It is a polyester/viscose blend which I know might have some of you running for the hills but some modern day polyesters are world’s apart from those nasty crepes and chiffons that melt as soon as they get anywhere near a cool iron. I couldn’t tell that this was a poly to touch or work with it and as these trousers are a particularly breezy style I wasn’t worried about the it getting hot or sticky to wear. I didn’t need the spandex content but it’s nothing too dramatic and it has made the completed trousers exceedingly comfortable with a nice ‘bounce’.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

I knew it was ideal on first touch and figured 2x the length of the trousers I wanted plus a little extra would be plenty so bought 1.8m with no deliberation. The Flint envelope actually recommends 2.4m of this width but with a bit of jiggling I managed with what I had. Phew! If you’re using a fabric with a directional print or nap you will need more as I placed some of my pieces upside down to squeeze them on. Interestingly John Lewis’s tag recommended hand wash or dry clean only which I’m assuming is because of the viscose content but I pre-washed it in the machine and have washed them a couple of times since with no trouble. I also risked a medium heat iron rather than the recommended cool as to get a nice flat seam it needs a good steamy press the eliminate that bounce that is so lovely to wear.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

Labelled as a stretch suiting I’d call it a stretch poly gaberdine as it’s got that visible twill weave and smooth finish. It comes in a range of neutral colours and I’d very much recommend it for tailoring projects that you want a bit of movement or give in. At £14 it’s a bit more than I’d usually pay for a black basic but I knew it would be perfect and I’d pay a lot more than £25 for a pair of RTW trousers like this.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

I cut the size S which is a teeny bit larger than my measurements but I was concerned about them being snug around the hips as proportionally I’ve got a bit of a bum on me! They did come up quite large on the waist so I just moved the button over by 1.5″ which worked out quite well to give me a snug fit. I think this may have something to do with the stretch in the fabric as I haven’t had as much of a problem with the pair I’m currently making but then the waistband is interfaced so it shouldn’t have stretched out. I’m training for a half marathon at the minute and all that running seems to be doing some crazy things to my measurements so that’s made keeping track of fitting a little tricky!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

Fit wise they’re fairly easy to manage because of the loose fitting style. I think I could do with a really tiny sway back adjustment as I have a little bit of excess fabric sitting below the waistband but it’s nothing to overly bother me. I did put a lot of consideration into the length as I don’t exactly have the longest legs in the world and was concerned about the cropped length really not working for me. The length of these was going to be key to their success! Before hemming I tried them on with pretty much every pair of shoes in my wardrobe to find the optimum length for all possible occasions and whilst I’d usually only pin up a section of the hem to check it I pinned up both legs so I could properly see how they would look. I ended up removing 1.5″ from the hem and used the recommend 2.5″ hem allowance.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

The fastening on these is genius and a detail unlike anything I’ve seen before on RTW or otherwise. The waistband overlaps slightly to one side and opens up into the pocket to give you enough room to get in and out, eliminating the need for a zip or fly. You have the option to use buttons to fasten the waistband or a tie which I opted for as I love this kind of unusual detail. If you’re concerned about the tie not being secure enough fear not, there’s an additional button fastening hidden inside the waistband to keep things safe. This also provides the perfect opportunity to use up those odd beautiful buttons you’ve been hoarding but never quite know what to do with! I think my button is a discarded sample from a show I was working on a couple of years ago; I remember getting it in Cloth House on Berwick Street.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

I was going to say that the fastening was my favourite thing about this pattern but actually there’s so much else to love! Just the general cut of the trouser is fab; the width of the leg is spot on and super comfortable yet chic. I really like the release tucks and the way the front hangs because of them and also the deep hem gives a bit of weight which again helps the way they hang and move. The hem was a little tricky to sew as the widening of the leg plus depth of the turn up means you’ve got a much wider edge to fit into a narrower space. I noticed in the sew-along that Megan suggests to fold down the excess fabric near a seam and sew over it which is exactly what I did but I wasn’t personally sure about that finish. Now I’ve decided on my ideal length I might adjust the pattern next time so that the leg pieces start to taper in again from the hem line to match the area that the hem allowance will be turning up into. Another construction aspect I thought might be tricky was topstitching along the bottom edge of the waistband to secure it inside but I’m really pleased with how neat that has turned out.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

I bought the PDF of the pattern as I was so impatient to make them and ended up printing way more pages than I needed to because the waistband for versions 1 & 3 isn’t nested and each size prints individually. And I wasn’t even making that version! Entirely my own fault as I forgot that on the first page of Megan’s PDFs she lists exactly which pages you need to print for which version and size to save you wasting your paper. This is a feature I really loved when I made her Dove Blouse so I’m annoyed at myself for forgetting! Something for you to bear in mind if you’re planning on using the PDF.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

I couldn’t be happier with this combo of pattern and fabric and can see me wearing them all year round as I’d definitely layer them over tights with ankle boots in the winter. As it’s such a new shape to incorporate into my wardrobe I thought I might have some trouble styling them but my favourite thing about them is how surprisingly versatile they are! I love them styled down with a t-shirt and pumps or trainers like in the majority of these pictures but they are so easy to dress up too. I wore them to the press night of my latest show with my Inari Cropped Tee and a pair or wedges but they also look great and feel super sophisticated with a pair of killer heels. A total triumph of a garment.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Chambray Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

The proof of how much I love this pattern is in the fact that my sewing queue is out of control right now but the photo above is already happening! I decided my wardrobe could absolutely benefit from a pair on more of a summer weight so am using this beautiful chambray from Sew Over It to make a pair pretty much exactly like Megan’s sample. And a pair of the shorts in striped linen are on the list too!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Stretch Gaberdine Flint Pants from Megan Nielsen

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Pattern Testing: Eve Dress from Sew Over It

I am pattern testing much less nowadays as it can be really time consuming when you do it throughly and to be brutally honest my sewing queue is so long that I’m never short of things that I’d rather be sewing! However there are some things that I just…

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Grey Merino Longley Cardigan

Long time readers of my blog may remember that I had three pieces of delicious merino wool from The Fabric Store last year that I spent an absolute age deliberating over what to make with. The green mid-weight knit I turned into a Neenah Dress and the …

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Sewing for climbing

People wear lots of different kinds of clothing for indoor climbing. Those who just come for a day out often wear their regular clothes while people who practice climbing as a sport usually choose some form of sportswear. There are brands dedicate…

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The Parker Collection Dress – and bonus fluted cuff pattern piece!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I am so excited to be writing this post today! Some of you may have already spotted the latest release from Tribe Patterns (the pattern line from the ladies at The Foldline); The Parker Collection. The line is designed by members of the sewing community and as the name gives away, this on has been designed by me! It is the second Tribe Pattern (the first being the Billie Collection designed by Rachel from House of Pinheiro). Rachel and Kate got in touch with me back in the autumn last year to see if I would be interested in working with them and of course I jumped at the chance! Designing my own pattern line has never been an ambition of mine and this remains a total one off but when the opportunity presented itself to work with two incredibly talented ladies offering to bring my design idea to life I’d have been silly to say no. It has been an amazing experience and is such a thrill to see the finished pattern. Rachel and Kate have done a fantastically thorough job and I can’t wait to see what you guys make with it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

There is so much to say about the design I don’t really know where to start. I was keen to come up with a garment that I would be excited to sew and wear and provided a canvas for creativity so everyone could have some fun with making it their own. The bohemian, seventies style has always appealed to me and I’m delighted that it’s so on trend at the moment. I was inspired by both contemporary designs and the lines of some of the late 1960s/early 1970s patterns in my vintage collection. I gathered up all of my favourite elements and had some fun drawing out different combinations. After pinging some ideas back and forth with the Foldline ladies we settled on a combination of dress and top which I adore. The panelled design provides opportunity for mixing prints, colours and textures and the pattern comes with the option for a plain sleeve or additional lantern cuff. Sleeves are huge this season (in some cases literally!) and one of my favourite elements of seventies style is the dramatic swoosh of a wide cuff so Rachel has drafted a bonus fluted cuff pattern piece which you can download for free here!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I wanted the design to provide a little bit of a challenge in the sewing as the projects I can get my teeth stuck into are the ones I enjoy the most. None of the steps should prove too tricky for anyone with a bit of sewing under their belt but the variety of techniques should keep more experienced sewers entertained. It’s not a quick sew as there are quite a few pattern pieces involved but if you can sew a princess seam, an invisible zip and set in a sleeve you can keep it quite straightforward. You can also opt to make the design more complex by adding embroidery to the centre front and back panels or including the lace insertion and trim. The instructions include step by step guidance on how to add lace into the seam between the lantern cuff and sleeve pieces on your machine and I think this may be my favourite thing about the pattern. It’s a feature that came up again and again in my inspiration pictures and I’m so delighted that we were able to include it. I’d love to play around with inserting lace into the seams between skirt and bodice panels and even maybe the waist seam.

Parker Collection Top from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

You can recreate Rachel’s amazing embroidered version of the top with the embroidery template which is free to download from the Foldline pattern page or get creative and freestyle your own. The centre front and back panels are faced which not only provides a lovely clean finish to the dress but also makes them ideal to embroider as the back of your stitching is completely enclosed and protected. There are also ‘colour me in’ line drawings of both variations available to download which I’m definitely going to be playing with to plan future print mixed and colour blocked versions.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I wanted the design to be versatile and am really happy that I can see it being worn in every season. As I first came up with the idea in the autumn I was imagining it in rich, dark florals but now all I can think about is mixed pastel prints for spring. I’d love one in a fresh white breezy cheesecloth for summer and in winter I’d wear it in a bold solid colour layered with warm tights. Made up in different fabrics the lines of the design I hope will remain somewhat timeless and the dress in particular is something I can see myself making various iterations of for years to come as it is the kind of dress that has remained a staple in my wardrobe since my teens.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

The dress I’m wearing here is actually my very first test of the dress (so please excuse the horrible pattern matching around the waist and slightly mismatched seams!). When collecting inspiration for the design at the very start of the process something I was continually drawn to was the mixing of two or more prints in one garment. It can be tricky to do but I started safe with both of these small prints on a black base and love how it has turned out. Both fabrics I bought ages ago from Maggie’s fabric stall in Lewisham who stocks end of roll high street dressmaking fabrics at the bargain price of £1-3/m. Perfect for testing. It’s almost a shame I’ve fallen so in love with the mixture of prints on this dress as they are the particularly nasty type of lightweight poly georgettes that I tend to run away from! The floral is slightly softer with a texture to it but the other is not so nice. I turned a blind eye to the quality and poly content at the time as I thought they would be ideal to test how the print mixing worked but now wish I’d held out for a viscose! However, worn with a cotton slip they’re not unpleasant to wear and as I knew from previous experience that these fabrics would pretty much melt when touched with a hot iron I kept it cool and actually had surprisingly little trouble handling either of them.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I recommend reasonably lightweight fabrics with a nice drape for this design. You want some nice movement in the panels of the skirt and top as well as the sleeves and the cut of the bodice is quite relaxed so doesn’t require a fabric that will provide structure. Viscose challis, crepes, soft linens, cotton lawns and voiles are all great choices as would be light to mid-weight silks if you want a more luxurious feel. As long as you keep in mind the movement of the dress the world is your oyster really! If you are going to do some embroidery you’ll want something fairly tightly woven and not super lightweight for those panels to make your life a bit easier and also support the weight of the floss.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I used some black cotton lace I bought in John Lewis to insert in my cuff seams and also trim the hem. My lace had one straight edge and one scalloped which I made use of on the hem but whether yours has straight of scalloped edges is entirely your preference. The pattern recommends 40mm wide lace as this is the most straightforward way to keep your inserted pieces at an even width following the technique in the instructions (leaving you with about 1cm of visible lace) but if you’re happy to get a little creative you can use whatever width lace you like. Mine was just 2cm as I only wanted a hint of it around the hem and I simply used a very small seam allowance when attaching it to the cuffs. As this dress was a test of the pattern the method I used is actually different to the final instructions and you will end up with just one line of stitching visible just above and below the lace rather the two lines you can see in my photos.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I cut a size 8 which is pretty much spot on my measurements and am really delighted with the fit. I usually like quite a close fit around the waist and this has 4″ of ease but having that room in the bodice provides that that relaxed, bohemian, seventies feel whilst the princess seams still flatter the curves of the body. I like the shape through the back and bust and the shoulders fit neatly. It’s very comfortable and I absolutely have that seventies vibe of feeling free in a glamorous way while wearing it! I did shorten the skirt by about 3″. I’m 5ft3″ so usually end up taking a little off but I wanted more of a mini vibe with these prints. I also shortened the sleeve slightly, which is again a normal alteration for me but I know the instructions for the lace insertion have changed since then so the amount might well be different next time.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I love the height and shape of the neckline; I think it’s really flattering exposing the collar bone. The slit of the dress is slightly longer than the top and you have the option to add in a tie to hold this together or just for added decoration. I’ve used just two narrow pieces of ribbon on this version but will definitely be trying out some tassels on the next. You can either make your own from embroidery floss or if you live in London I’ve spotted a great variety of colours in just the right size in both Fan New Trimmings and Kleins. I had initially envisioned it with short tassels but the long ones on this dress are ace!

Being more creative with my sewing and trying out adding trims, unique details and mixing fabrics was one of my goals for 2017 and creating this design has inspired me to do just that. There are a whole host of ideas I want to play around with; I’ve had to start a Pinterest board to keep track of them all! First up is an embroidered cheesecloth version of the top but I’m interested in trying a version with sheer sleeves and also think it would be delicious in a rich silk/viscose velvet…perhaps lengthened to a maxi for some serious seventies glamour. If I can muster up the patience I might try a hand-sewn fagoted seam rather than the lace insertion technique. I can foresee a summer wardrobe with enough Parkers to wear every day of the week.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I hope the design inspires you to get sewing as much as it does me and that you enjoy making your own Parkers! Thanks so much to Rachel and Kate for the hard work they put into getting the pattern just right and for giving me the opportunity to work with them. It’s a dream I didn’t even know I had come true and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out! 

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Jeans!

A new pair of retro-style jeans, that’s what I promised you, isn’t it? Well, I finished sewing them before last weekend and I was quite happy with the result. All I needed to do was pose for pictures… Which I did, in a bit of a hurry, on Su…

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A Finish: Connecting 4

Sigh. I missed the Finish Along link up again because I’ve been busy at work (this is a good thing but it means I’ve been going to bed earlier), have been teaching and trying to get on top of housework and stuff at home. I also decided today after an incident on Friday where I […]

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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…

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Dotty Viscose Nancy Dress

This little number is one of those that once finished went straight into regular wardrobe rotation. In fact I think I hemmed it one evening, wore it the very next day and it has been on at least one day a week since. It’s the Nancy Dress which was the January PDF pattern release from Sew Over It and I am absolutely loving the comfortable yet classy feeling swingy style. If you’re on the fence about PDFs I do recommend trying a Sew Over It one as I find them to be well thought out with not much wastage of paper and the pages print a little of the next one in the margin so they are really easy to line up as you put it together. In the interests of full disclosure Alex sent this over to me free of charge as a surprise thank you for regularly testing for them and including them in my pattern round ups but I REALLY wanted to sew this up anyway and the free nature of the pattern hasn’t influenced my opinions at all.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

Viscose is one of my favourite fabrics for dressmaking. It can be a little tricky to work with but you can’t beat the drape and comfort and I love the way it feels cool and smooth against the skin. Unfortunately it can be difficult to track down in interesting and wearable prints so whenever I find some I pounce on it! This little gem I picked up from Maggie’s fabric stall in Lewisham which is a fairly reliable source for contemporary prints and fabrics as she stocks end of high street lines. If you live anywhere close by I very much recommend a visit, it’s usually pretty entertaining too! She’s based just outside Rolls and Rems and is usually just around on weekdays and the odd Saturday but check out her Facebook page for updates. I think this particular viscose was £2/m as most of the stall is; a bargain you can’t beat for the quality.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

I highly recommend using a viscose for Nancy as you need the luscious drape and light weight to make the most of the swing of the style. Although actually making this up in a fabric with a lot of body could be really interesting and create a very fashion forward look! I adore this style but have found it a little tricky in the past. I have tried on many a similar RTW dress in my time only for them to look frankly quite maternity. I think the key to this pattern’s success where other dresses have failed is down to a number of clever design elements. Firstly the slim fit of the shoulder and sleeves balances the volume under the bust. If you had a raglan or dropped shoulder seam you’d loose all shape of the body and the overall effect would be too tent like.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

Secondly the empire line waist seam running across the back means it fits fairly closely across the upper back which is much more flattering than the shape hanging loose from the shoulders. It skims your figure and gives you a little shape.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

Finally most of the flared shape is provided by the front side panels which means less volume at the centre front and also a closer fit around the bust as you can see in the photo above. The shape swings out from below the bust not above it as it does with most trapeze dresses. These panels are an interesting challenge to sew, especially in shifty viscose. You can’t see it very well in this print but you have a fairly tight corner to contend with. It is tricky and requires a bit of patience but the instructions and photos make it as straightforward and accurate as possible.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

The instructions are as great as I have come to expect throughout in fact; telling you exactly when to stay-stitch, finish seams and how to press. The only thing I did differently was to add in the step of under stitching my neckline binding before turning it under. This is a tip I picked up from Grainline Studio instructions and proves to be a pretty failsafe method for getting a clean edge. Getting even binding in a viscose like this can be difficult as it really stretches on the bias and shifts about so the width distorts along the length. Extra steps like under-stitching can really help.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

One aspect I really enjoyed constructing was the centre back opening. I love this slit feature and have never tried this type of fastening before. The construction method gives you a really lovely clean finish that’s enjoyable to sew. If I’m honest now I’ve worn it more than a handful of times I’ve noticed that the hook and eye at the top is giving me a little trouble and keeps popping open when I’ve been wearing a cardigan or jacket on top as there is not enough tension around the neckline to keep it in place. I think I might change it to a button and elastic loop or I do have some scraps of the fabric left so I could get fancy and make a rouleau loop to match!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

The circular nature of the hem combined with the malleable viscose meant it dropped all kind of wonky! The side panels in particular drop more than the rest of the dress as that edge is on the bias. I left it hanging for four days before hemming in the end and then made good use of my dress form to level things off. I think a shorter length works best to balance the volume of this style and after some deliberation cut 1″ off the shortest point of my wonky hem and turned it up by 1/4″ then 1/2″. I used the recommended 1″ hem on the cuffs.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

I cut between the size 8 and 10 as I always do with Sew Over It patterns and can’t fault the fit, although of course all you really have to worry about with this one is the shoulders and lengths! I decided to use the version with the lower neckline as I thought a bit of exposed skin at the neck wouldn’t hurt to balance out the quantity of fabric in the lower portion. I easily got it out of 2m of my 150cm wide viscose and wasn’t being too careful so probably could have done with less at a push. I already had the hook and eye and thread in my stash so at £4 for a new dress I can’t complain! I see plenty more of these in my future if Maggie keeps me supplying me with viscose!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dotty Viscose Sew Over It Nancy Dress

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That matching bra

And this is the bra I made to match those experimental panties-with-straps. I used my tried-and-tested racerback design but I did make some changes: I used the higher shape for the band, the one which is adjusted to the shape of the underwires. I …

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Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion

Today I’m sharing a super quick and satisfying project that’s a little different to my usual sewing style. After all the intense and lengthy coat and dress making I’ve been doing recently the speed and ease of this really was a breath of fresh air. I l…

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Panty party

It looks like my sewing is done on a “run or stand still” (this is a literal translation of the Dutch expression. I know it is not a common expression in English but this one doesn’t become incomprehensible in translation) basis at the moment. After th…

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Mum’s Charcoal Boiled Wool Cocoon Coat

Two coat posts in two weeks! This one is slightly different in that it was for my Mum not me and was A LOT less involved and complex than the tailored coat which I posted last week. You may remember from my post a few weeks back that I made that emerald green silk dress for my step sister’s wedding last month. Shortly after she got engaged my mum and I were at the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show last year and chatting away about our outfits when she spotted a coat she loved made up on one of the stands. Ten minutes later she’d somehow managed to get me to agree to make it for her and we were walking away with a copy of the pattern. Of course me being me with a thousand things on my ‘to sew’ list I didn’t actually get around to making it until January but I must say mum was very patient and trusted that I’d get it done in time. For some reason she didn’t have so much confidence in me finishing my own dress!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

The stand we were on was Little Woollie, whose patterns I wasn’t even aware of at the time. They have a shop in Bromley where I used to live and I remember spotting it opening on my way past to the train one morning! Back then they didn’t sell patterns and most of their classes and stock focussed on knitting so the discovery was a delightful surprise. This is their Cocoon Coat which I love the style of. It’s got a slightly sixties Jackie O feel which suits my mum so well; I could see instantly why she was drawn to it. At this point in time I had very limited experience with sewing outerwear but I felt like this was a pattern I could handle as it is a straightforward shape with limited structure because of those lovely dropped shoulders. Another deciding factor was that the sample at the show fit mum perfectly so I could plough on and make it with no alterations or fitting needed. Plus we’re a very similar size and shape so I could try it on as I went! The sample was made in a beautiful soft pink boiled wool and although there was another brocade version I couldn’t get the thought of boiled wool out of my head. It is the perfect fabric choice for this pattern as it is warm enough for a coat, has enough body to emphasise the shape of the coat but also has enough softness and movement to flatter.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

The wool we eventually chose was this grey melange from Dragonfly Fabrics. I love that it’s not one flat colour but has a slightly mottled appearance that gives it real depth. It’s lovely and spongy and mum picked the shade straight out of the bunch of swatches that I showed her. Mum wanted this to be a coat she could also get some wear out of after the wedding so making it in a classic grey (her favourite colour) was ideal. I knew it was going to sew up beautifully as I’d already worked with it to make my petrol blue toaster sweater. You will end up with a fluff covered sewing room but your machine and iron will love it. They also helpfully sent me samples of their newer viscose blend boiled wool which is slightly lighter with a really gorgeous drape. I’d definitely recommend both of them and also to get some swatches so you can accurately assess those beautiful colours.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

I cut the size 10 and had just enough fabric with 1.75m at 130cm wide. I knew from my previous boiled wool experience that it is prone to both shrinking and stretching out. I gave it a good steam beforehand to preshrink it (I knew it would never be washed, if anything dry cleaned so this was all it needed). Then I used my walking foot, a ballpoint needle and a narrow zig zag to sew it up with the exception of the under-stitching along the pocket openings and facing. The boiled wool has a certain amount of mechanical stretch in it which is why I chose to use the zig zag stitch. This style obviously doesn’t require any stretch but I didn’t want stitches popping as it was pulled on and off. Do be careful when pressing as it is very easy to stretch it out at this point too, but that malleability can really work in your favour sometimes as beautiful shapes can be created with a good steam over a tailor’s ham.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

There is so much about the design of this coat to love. It’s got a clean and simple appearance but actually has a lot of clever details going on. Those bracelet length sleeves and the darts at the hem are beautiful and really make the design, giving it the perfect amount of shape. I thoroughly enjoyed making it as it is interesting enough to keep me amused but didn’t involve anything too challenging. Even setting in the sleeves is pretty straightforward as the dropped shoulder means the armhole is quite square and there is limited easing involved. It’s lucky that it is a very simple coat as I did find the instructions quite limited with very few illustrations. Perhaps I have just been spoiled by how thorough some indie designers are nowadays with their additional tips and advice but I think a bit of prior coat making know-how really helped.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

One thing I did really like about the instructions was how thorough they are when it comes to interfacing. They have you interface the whole hem, facings and pocket openings. I also added a small square behind where the buttonhole and button would be for strength and also to prevent this area stretching out. Rather than cut straight strips I used my pattern pieces to cut interfacing for the hem as they are slightly shaped. I used a fairly lightweight cotton fusible throughout to match the softness of the wool.

The pattern does include instructions for fully lining the coat but also suggests that you could omit the lining and bind your seam allowances for a fun finish inside. We both really liked the idea of this and I think boiled wool lends itself to this technique so this is the road we went down. The way the description is worded on the envelope led me to except that instructions for binding would be included but there’s just one line at the end with the suggestion. A little guidance on when and where to bind wouldn’t have gone amiss but it wasn’t a problem and I managed to figure it out on my own. I think I just expected a little more for the £18 price tag.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

Mum’s dress was a maroon/purple so I chose a binding to match. I love how that pulled it together as an outfit; those little touches are totally a reason to make your own clothes! I actually bought readymade cotton binding from MacCulloch & Wallis for once as I needed so much of it. In the end I didn’t quite have enough but luckily had some similarly coloured fabric in my stash and made an extra bit which I used on the armholes! I did have a bit of trouble with bulk in the armhole seams and when I first finished it it looked a little awkward from the outside in this area, like the thickness of the seam allowance and binding was stretching out the wool. After mulling it over for a while I unpicked the binding and heavily graded down the seam allowances before restitching the binding. This made the world of difference and the sleeves hang much more naturally now. If you are making the lined version I would recommend grading and notching this seam.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

It is so easy to get nice clean edges and shapes with boiled wool. The facing sits so beautifully once graded, under-stitched and pressed. I love the shape of the neckline and the classy single button fastening. I chose to go the extra mile and do a bound buttonhole as I enjoyed the process of making them so much on my coat. Again I used the method in Claire Schaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques after doing and practice one first. It came out so great in this wool! I knew it needed a fairly big button to balance out the look but couldn’t find anything I liked to complement the texture of the wool. I decided to try my first self covered button and couldn’t be happier with the choice! I was worried that the wool might be too thick but again it moulded beautifully. My button is a touch smaller than the pattern calls for and I really like it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

I did quite a lot of hand stitching as it was such a special project. Also boiled wool is super easy to hand stitch as its so straightforward to catch a few fibres at a time without the stitching showing through to the right side! I stitched the hem, cuffs and facing down around the neckline with a herringbone stitch behind the binding where you can’t see it. A herringbone stitch allows for a bit movement which means the whole coat will hang and move a little more naturally. I also caught the pocket bags down to the centre front with little swing catches to keep everything in place.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Woollie Cocoon Coat in Charcoal Boiled Wool from Dragonfly Fabrics

I am so very proud of what I achieved with this coat; proving yet again that working with quality fabrics and sewing for a loved one really makes you slow down and do the best job you can possibly do. Thinking about it there is only one tiny little thing that I am disappointed about in this. I followed the instructions to fuse a strip of interfacing along the pocket openings which is a great technique for adding strength at a stress point. However as I was making my version of the coat unlined you can see the interfacing in the seam allowance which rather spoils the effect of the beautiful binding. A very tiny detail that I can easily overlook at least! It made me really happy to see her looking so great and comfortable in it all day. It was lucky we chose the wool in the end as it was cold enough to snow the following morning! 

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A Finish : Thumbtacks

… Because the British term “Drawing Pins” doesn’t really work as a title I don’t think! Here it is… I made it using a semi-stack and whack technique, because I realised that triangles really need the extra seam allowance to piece back together again! This will be for Popular Patchwork in the summer. I’m working […]

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A Finish : Thumbtacks

… Because the British term “Drawing Pins” doesn’t really work as a title I don’t think! Here it is… I made it using a semi-stack and whack technique, because I realised that triangles really need the extra seam allowance to piece back together again! This will be for Popular Patchwork in the summer. I’m working […]

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…and a dress

And here is the last item of my early February sewing spree: It’s a dress!To be precise, it is a dress made from the same fabric I used waaaaaay back, for my last dress of 2010. I still have that dress although it is looking rather worn by now. It is l…

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Burberry B6385 Coat

The idea of making this coat began around this time last year but the prospect of actually doing it was so daunting that I didn’t start making it until winter really kicked in here in London in November. I finished it just in time to wear home for Christmas! I was at the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show with my mum last year (which coincidentally I did yesterday…has anyone else been? So much fun!) when I spotted a few bolts of to-die-for for coating lurking at the bottom of the Higgs & Higgs stall. Mum was laughing because apparently I just zoned in on what everyone else was missing down by their feet and made a beeline right in there on my hands and knees! I bought some gorgeous soft pre-washed grey denim from them this year that I can’t wait to make into dungarees.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

They had the fabric in a few pale neutral colours including a camel and cream but the soft grey stole my heart on sight. It looked glorious and as soon as I touched it I knew it was special. The reverse is smooth but the right side has a nap to it with a subtle herringbone woven in. When brushed one way it feels smooth and the other slightly rough. Its got a divine thickness and weight to it so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I turned over the label and saw Burberry on the tag! The price tag of around £35/m caused a moment of deliberation as that made it a real treat but it was such a bargain for this quality of fabric that I was soon walking away with 2 metres.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

Then began the process of deciding on a pattern. I had a handful of coat patterns in my stash already, namely most of the Project Runway blue envelopes from Simplicity because I love the styles in that line and know I’m not the only fan. However, none of them were quite right for my super thick coating. As the fabric was special I wanted to make something classic which would last me many years so focussed on clean lines and what I knew I already liked in a coat rather than what was on trend this season. After a good google to find some reviews of it I eventually settled on Butterick 6385 from the Lisette range. I’m not a huge fan of the pink sample with rounded collar but view C with the stand collar is right up my street. I liked the simplicity of the lines, the two piece sleeves and the yoke and princess seam combination.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

The next step was accumulating as much information as possible about coat making. This part was totally overwhelming and I almost came to a grinding halt with all the decisions I had to make! There appears to be a variety of levels of ‘tailoring’ that you can get into, from the basic instructions included with the pattern to full on pad stitching horsehair canvas and applying twill tape along roll lines. I had been feeling like fusible interfacing was not a route I wanted to go down because dang it I was making a beautiful coat with beautiful Burberry fabric and anything other than super special treatment felt like a cop out. But after reading through my sewing books (I found my vintage Vogue, Singer and Simplicity sewing books to have the most useful and in depth information) I realised I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and perhaps the world of full pad stitching needed to be worked up to when I had a better understanding of the rest of the inner workings of a coat. This was my very first after all, plus the first time I had worked with any fabric so bulky. I eventually settled on a process that stuck quite closely to the pattern instructions with a handful of tips and tricks accumulated from books and online tutorials thrown in.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

My first major decision was how to interface and where. I probably spent the most time looking into this and found the advice of Jen at Grainline Studio invaluable. I did a few samples using different weights of interfacing and opted for a light-mid weight one in the end which surprised me with such a thick wool. I really didn’t want to affect the drape of the coating and this retained a lovely smooth drape. The main purpose of the interfacing in a coat is to prevent areas from stretching out rather then changing the body of the fabric. I’m really happy with my choice as I wouldn’t want that front facing to be any stiffer than it is. When it came to placement I combined Jen’s advice with these amazing fusing maps from fashion incubator. I interfaced all recommended pattern pieces as well as around the armholes, hem, cuffs and pocket openings from strength. These pieces were 2.5″ wide and I used the pattern pieces as a guide to cut the right shape. Now its finished it has surprised me how soft the whole thing feels. In a coating this thick I expected it to feel quite stiff and structured but theres actually quite a bit of movement in it. I think I could have gone a bit further with adding internal structure and for a brief moment considered whether I should have interfaced the whole thing but I’m glad I didn’t as I like the feel of the coating as is.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

The wool was wonderful to work with. The only trouble I had was with how heavy it got towards the end! I really did feel like I was wrestling with it and had to move everything off my desk and move the machine to one end so the desk could take the full weight of the coat. My machine was a little trooper as always and handled all that bulk with no complaints with a slightly thicker needle and occasional employment of my walking foot. I probably spent more time at the ironing board than the machine though! There is so much work to be done with steam to create smooth, flat seams and shape and this wool responded so well to it; it was amazing to see how it could be shaped and moulded. All the sewing tools in my arsenal came out for this; a tailor’s clapper, ham and sleeve roll proved essential. Also invaluable were my Ernest Wright & Son appliqué scissors as every seam allowance needs to be heavily graded to reduce bulk.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

I knew this was going to be a time intensive project and it really was. The preparation and accumulating all the supplies actually seemed to take the longest and just cutting out took over five hours because of the numerous pattern pieces, marking everything with tailors tacks and the fact that you’re cutting coating, lining and interfacing pieces for most of them! The thickness of the coating meant the pattern pieces became a little distorted if you tried to pin them so I drew around them with chalk. Although not as visible as the pile of a velvet I did need to carefully consider the napped surface. All the pattern pieces needed to be cut in the same direction and I had to be careful when pressing to apply only light pressure with the iron and only move it up and down not side to side on the fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

I am so delighted with my bound buttonholes. I followed the method in Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques as the photographs and steps made complete sense to me. I also looked at advice from Colette in their Anise sew-along when it came to making the backs neat. I found making them a little terrifying as they have to be done so early on in the process and you are slicing into one of your biggest pattern pieces to make them so there is no room for mistakes! I was especially concerned because of the thickness of my fabric but actually found them more straightforward than anticipated when broken down into small steps.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

I wasn’t sure about the buttons at first (which I bought from MacCulloch & Wallis near Berwick Street) but they’ve grown on me now. I wanted something fairly subtle but still inserting and thought these 1″ corozo nut buttons fit the bill nicely with the pattern carved in. Once sewn on I thought perhaps they looked too small and delicate against the weight of the coat but I quite like them in the pictures. I think ideally I should have used a shank button to deal with the thickness of the fabric around buttonhole but I haven’t seen anything I like. After making a coat for my mum which has a covered button (I’ll be sharing this soon!) I thought this could be a great way to go but my coating is so thick it would be a nightmare to make them. Perhaps I should bite the bullet and get DM Buttons to make some for me.  I find button choices really difficult for my own clothes yet love picking them for costumes at work! Does anyone else struggle with this?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

I was worried about setting in the sleeves as this has never been one of my strengths and with this thickness of wool I thought it would be extra tricky. Luckily the sleeves are beautifully drafted and as this wool shapes so beautifully they both went in first time with no trouble. I did have this tutorial from Amity at Lolita Patterns on standby if I did have problems. It involves using tie interfacing to ease your sleeve head; has anyone else tried this method? I also used her method to draft my own backstay for which I used a piece of strong cotton calico. I referred back to my own post about placing the sleeve heads and shoulder pads in my Quart jacket and purchased these from MacCulloch & Wallis. I inserted these before attaching the lining for easier access…this step comes in a really strange place at the end of the instructions! Apart from this the instructions are really great by the way. Considering it was my first coat of this kind I didn’t feel lost at all.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

A coating this special needed a lining to match so I chose this amazing blush pink silk charmeuse from Mood Fabrics. I’ve always loved the combination of soft grey and blush but don’t tend to wear a lot of pink so the lining on this was a great excuse to try it out. This slipperiest of silk satins was tricky to work with but worth the patience as it is wonderful to slide in and out off and also adds an extra layer of warmth without getting sticky. This coat is soooo warm. Honestly the cosiest coat I have ever owned. I’ve been out this winter in just this and a fine merino jumper and been totally comfortable when everyone else around me is shivering. Totally worth investing in those quality wools and silks. To elevate the lining I decided to add a flat piping around the seam where it joins the facing. I made my own with a jacquard in a similar pink from Rolls & Rems in Lewisham. Its actually a leopard pattern but I just wanted something with a bit of interest in it to break up the line between the solid grey and pink. I love how the combination of silvery ivory and pink in the brocade compliments both the wool and the silk. My piping is 3/8″ wide. I also used this fabric to make a hanging loop which actually isn’t included in the pattern. I just sewed together a little tube, turned it through to the right side and then pressed it flat then into the shape I needed before sandwiching it in the neckline seam.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

The pattern instructions have you leave the lining hanging free at the hem but wanted my insides all sealed in so bagged out my lining which is basically complete magic! You sew your assembled lining/facing piece and coat shell together all the way around, leaving jus`t a small gap and then pull the entire coat through that hole to turn it right side out. I found Heather Lou’s tips for this in the Clare Coat sew-along the most useful and left my ‘hole’ at the hem of the coat rather than in the sleeve lining seam as I had so much bulk to wrestle through. As instructed I caught the lining to the shell at the underarm with a short swing catch (I love doing these!) and tacked the coat hem up the shell at the seam allowances. Doing this has made a huge difference to how the lining sits inside the coat and stops anything dropping down. Don’t miss these steps! The only part I found a little confusing was what to do with the lining where it meets the facing at the hem. I think I’d over complicated it for myself by adding piping here too and ended up winging it with a bit of hand stitching to keep it tidy. I unpicked this part once to go back in and reduce bulk with more grading and trimming. The pressing stage after the lining was bagged seemed to take forever and for this I used a silk organza pressing cloth and whacked up the heat.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

If I’m brutally honest with myself I think I would prefer a slightly closer fit although this slightly more relaxed look is on trend right now. I think this problem stems from making my muslin in standard calico which is obviously a lot thinner and behaves quite differently. Following the measurements I cut the size 12 at the bust and graded out to a size 14 at the waist and hips. I could see there was room in the muslin but was pleased with the shape and I was concerned that in a thicker fabric the addition of lining, shoulder pads, interfacing e.t.c would eat up the ease and I wanted to be able to layer it over thick jumpers. However, my favourite RTW coat is much snugger, particularly through the sleeve and shoulder yet still fits comfortably over all my winter clothes. I should have been braver and gone for a closer fit. It might well be someone’s ideal fit the way it is but it isn’t quite how I imagined it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

I shortened it by 2.5″ to hit just above my knee. I took it off the hem as the waistline was hitting me at the right point. The sleeves I shortened by 1.5″ taking 3/4″ off at each lengthen/shorten line. I pinched out a little through the back at the waist as I prefer a closer fit in that area rather than a straight cut and love it. I took out just 1″ in total spreading that equally across seams where the back joins the side back pieces. I think there’s a bit of excess room in the upper chest and maybe I should have started smaller and done and FBA but the shoulders themselves fit nicely and the bust darts hit the right spot. Looking at the pictures I’m thinking maybe I should have reduced the collar depth slightly but in reality this seems comfortable. Again this was tricky to assess in softer calico!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

I don’t mean all that to sound down on the finished article at all as I am delighted with it and it has been seeing a lot of wear including to Denmark and my step sister’s wedding over my green silk dress! Making this was such a huge learning process in so many ways. I learnt a lot about working with heavy wools, a lot about structure and interfacing and a lot about the fit and shape of outerwear. I’ve got so much to take forward with me into my next tailored coat I think it would be an entirely different experience next time!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Butterick B6385 Coat in Grey Burberry Coating

Again I feel the need to congratulate you on making it to the end of possibly the longest post and most fact filled post I’ve ever written! Sewing geek right here. Hopefully you’ll find some of the tutorials and information I gathered useful in making your own coats. I’d love to hear your opinions on tailoring and which methods you prefer. What experiences have you had?

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A Finish – the yellow dress

I find it difficult to be completely satisfied with garment making but I refuse to make a muslin because of the extra time and money; maybe I need to decide which is most important! So this dress is finished, not without issue, though I finally understood how vents work and I learned to make a […]

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Handmade Gifts: Laurel Blouse and Chef’s Apron

After that fairly mammoth post about my boned silk dress mid week I thought I’d share a couple of slightly more straightforward projects today! Thank you all for the lovely comments and likes for my dress. Its so great to hear that so many of you enjoy…

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Typical

Sometimes, there is really no reason to try and be original. It can be very nice to just make something which is very typical for an era in fashion that you like or even for your own ‘signature look’.I think this skirt is like that. The shape, a half c…

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Kelly Green Silk Occasion Dress

The dress I’ve got to share with you today has been a real labour of love and I enjoyed every single second of making it. Even the whole day spent fitting the bodice! I like nothing better than a reason to sew myself something special and challenging a…

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New loose shapes

This past month, I have been sewing and I have enjoyed it… It just took me a long time to take pictures of what I had made. I finally caught up. Today, E took pictures of three different new garments. Actually, four new garments but two of those are …

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Handmade Gifts: McCalls 6614 Hoodies for Men

I have been desperate to post about the dress I worked so hard on to wear to my step-sister’s wedding last week but the gloomy London winter light is making it impossible to get any decent pictures. Fingers crossed for the weekend! In the meantime I’ve…

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Handmade Gifts: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I made a fair few handmade gifts that I was really proud of back in December. The first of which was this silk robe which was a birthday gift for my friend Checca. I wanted to give her something super special as it was a special birthday plus I knew she’d appreciate something I had sewn as she sews too (and is very talented at it, I keep on at her to start a blog!). That did mean the pressure was on to make a really good job of it though as she’d spot any mistakes! I do enjoy sewing gifts for the home and other small soft goods but what I really like to sew is clothes. However, when making clothes as gifts I always come a bit unstuck when it comes to the fit as you can’t try it on them without ruining the surprise! For Checca’s present I thought about what clothing I could make that had a more generic size range and wouldn’t need a fitting. I suddenly remembered that I’d chosen the Almada Robe pattern with some of my original Seamwork credits as I couldn’t resist the beautiful and unusual kimono inspired design and I was sold on the idea.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

All I needed now was the perfect fabric. I’d originally chosen the pattern with the idea of making it up in a double gauze (and this is still high up my personal sewing wish list, I’ve been eyeing up Nano Iro for months!) but wanted to use something really luxurious for such a special occasion. I’m not usually a huge fan of Liberty prints for my clothing but this kind of garment is perfect to showcase one of their more ornate designs. I remembered spying some Liberty print silks in Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road a while back so took myself on a little jaunt and was delighted to find a whole array of designs for even less than I remembered! I have now of course entirely forgotten how much this was but it was somewhere in the region of £14.95 per metre. An absolute steal if you consider that Liberty silks are £45/m in store! If you can’t get to west London Liberty are currently offering 50% off a whole load of their archive fabrics including this very print in both this and the purple colour-way!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I felt like the trees in this design had a slightly oriental feel to them and loved how that complimented the kimono style of the pattern. They had at least three colour ways of this print in stock and I had a hard time picking but eventually settled on the green as Checca has amazing red hair which I thought would bring out the rich red of the leaves. When buying it I did forget to note that its only 139cm wide so had some trouble squeezing it out of the two metres I bought. I was forced to make the cuffs slightly narrower to fit but this turned out to be a happy accident as I think the delicate silk suits the change and the wider cuff would need a fabric with more body to support it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I had some cream sand-washed silk satin leftovers stashed from when I made my Vogue 1247 blouse which was the perfect match in weight for the Liberty print and worked out great for the binding along the front edge. The matt sand-washed texture makes it slightly gripper than the satin which I fin makes it slightly easier to work with. This and the fact that it presses well with crisp folds is a godsend when doing something fiddly like the narrow binding. The pattern does recommend you interface the tie and cuff pieces but I decided to omit it for a couple of reasons. Firstly I wanted to retain the delicate fluidity of the silk and secondly I was concerned about using a fusible on something so fine. I considered hand basting in silk organza which is my go to choice for special projects but it has way too much body to be paired with this silk.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

The quality of the silk is absolutely as you would expect from Liberty. This is their Belgravia silk satin and it has a stunning sheen on the right side and a super smooth matt finish on the reverse which feels amazing against the skin. It weighs practically nothing but retains an opacity and as you can see it moves and drapes beautifully. I pre-washed it on a 30 degree delicate cycle in the machine. I usually do this with my silks and as it was a gift I wanted it to be easy to care for.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

Cutting out was tricky as the pieces are really big so there’s plenty of room for the silk to shift about and move off grain. I cut everything in a single layer on my carpeted bedroom floor. I like doing this for silk as the carpet grips the fabric a little and prevents too much shifting. I know some people advise to use as few pins as possible as they tend to leave holes in the silk but I personally like to use lots of pins in a slippery silk like this as it makes it so much easier to control. I just make sure to keep all my pins in the seam allowances and now have some super fine Merchant and Mills entomology pins for use with fine fabrics which are awesome. I used the finest microtex needle I had to hand and a Gutermann Sew All Thread; a combo I find somehow cures most problems I have with skipped stitches!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I’ve been generally quite impressed with Seamwork patterns so far but have only tried four; this, the Mesa and Neenah Dresses and a Paxon Sweater I made for my Dad. I had some fitting issues with the Paxon and Mesa (I don’t seem to get on with Colette armholes!) but was impressed with the instructions and style lines. I’m not a fan of every design and some of them seem very basic but to build up a wardrobe of staple garments quite quickly as they advertised I they’re a good a good bet. The simple lines of the patterns also mean they’d be a good starting point to try a bit of pattern hacking and experimentation. The PDFs do drive me a bit mad as I feel like I’m wasting a huge amount of paper but that’s pretty much the only negative I’ve found.

The finishing on this pattern in particular is well thought out. Just because the designs are simple and patterns affordable doesn’t mean they skimp on basic instructions and construction techniques; they’re well chosen for the styles and intended fabric. My favourite part is how the ties are attached really neatly by sewing them on right sides together then folding them back on themselves and using two rows of topstitching to hide the raw end.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

As I was using this lovely fine silk and I wanted this to be a gift to treasure for years to come I used french seams throughout. I made them as tiny as I could! I love this technique and was really happy with how they turned out on this. How well silk responds to heat and steam helped no end when it came to getting clean even finishing. It was really time consuming though as there were so many long seams! I liked that the way the cuff is attached meant I could use french seams here too and it looks really lovely. Even though my cuffs were narrower than intended I think having a cuff rather than the same binding finish that is along the front really lifts the design and gives it that extra something.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

Fit wise there’s not a lot to say as it’s such a loose fitting garment! It is fairly short so I’d be more inclined to wear it with PJ bottoms or shorts than a slip. It becomes even shorter when you tie it up tight so I’m tempted to lengthen it when I eventually get around to making a version for myself. The other thing I would note is that the kimono style of the sleeves mean that the armholes are very deep and as the sleeves are short this means you can see right inside when you lift your arms! Definitely more of a luxury item for layering rather than a robe to be worn for modesty.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Liberty Silk Satin Almada Robe

I can’t now find how long this one was supposed to take to make but all Seamwork patterns are advertised as taking between 1-3 hours. Making it in silk and french seaming meant this took WAY longer than that and to be honest I think this pattern would take me longer whatever the fabric as it requires some accuracy and concentration. I don’t think I’m a particularly slow sewer but I am careful and I think most of the patterns will take longer than suggested if you are too.

Thank you to Checca for inspiring this project and giving me a reason to sew something so frivolous and with such a wonderful fabric. It was hard to hand this over when the time came so I really can’t wait to find the perfect fabric for my own now!
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