Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Handmade Christmas Gifts 2017

At almost a month on from Christmas (already?!) I though it was high time I showed you the handmade gifts I sewed up this year. I was lucky to have a fairly quiet run up to the festive season at work so was fairly ambitious with my unselfish sewing but have learnt from giving myself to much to do in previous years! I started early, tried to choose projects I knew wouldn't be too problematic and limited myself to only making for people when I thought of something I could make that they would REALLY like and use. As a result I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of making each of these things. I think the most fun part of sewing for others is getting to make items and use fabrics that you wouldn't necessarily choose for yourself and the idea started with the fabric for nearly all of these projects.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Jacquard Named Lourdes Cropped Jacket

First up a special tote bag for my Dad who is an avid vinyl record collector. I have a few second hand vinyl stores in the area I live in so whenever he comes to visit we always stop by for a rummage and he normally comes away with a handful. To combat the need for plastic bags I'd spotted these vinyl collector totes online for an extortionate amount of money...but luckily could make my own! As well as being the exact size for 12" vinyl records the key feature of the tote is being super strong and durable as those records can really get heavy once you get a few in a pile. I had a nice think piece of selvedge denim which seemed perfect for the task. For extra strength the webbing straps run right down the sides and under the base of the bag. I got my webbing from my local fabric shop, Rolls & Rems in Lewisham. It was a pretty straightforward project. I decided that a bag without a base would be fine for the quantity of records Dad buys at once, although you can buy totes with a solid base and sides for more room. I cut two squares the size of a 12" vinyl record in sleeve, plus seam allowance and 1/2" extra on all four sides to allow some ease and room for more than one disc (I reckon this could hold about 5 at a time). I then cut two facing pieces at 4" deep plus seam allowance on top and bottom. I hemmed the bottom edges before attaching each facing to a square. I then sewed the two squares together along the base so the four pieces formed one long strip. Before sewing up the sides I attached the webbing straps; pinning carefully in place at an equal distance from the sides and using a tote bag of mine as a guide to strap length. After stitching down both sides of the straps along the body of the bag I sewed up the side seams, turned in the facing and finished with a 'Handmade by Fiona' label! If anyone is interested in making their own and would like clearer instructions let me know and I could do a quick tutorial with pictures.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim Vinyl Record Collector Tote

Next I made a table runner for a well-traveled friend of mine who hosts a book club brunch or dinner at least once a month and also has me round on a fairly regular basis to feed me wonderful feasts! I took a little trip to the Cloth House and picked out a couple of Japanese hand-printed cottons which I knew she would appreciate both the design and origination of. Again it was quite a straightforward project once I had thought through how to put it together and as the cotton is so beautiful to work with it came out beautifully. If you're going to work with a hand printed fabric like this for a gift make sure to pre-wash it using the retailers instructions and include washing instructions with the gift. You wouldn't want your hard work getting ruined in the first wash!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Japanese Cotton Table Runner

To make it I only needed three quarters of a metre of the main fabric and half a metre of the trim (and still have an amount left over which I've just used a bit of on a facing for another project!). The amount you need will depend on how wide and long you want your runner though. Also if you didn't want a centre seam you'd need the length of your runner in one piece. I cut two rectangles of the main fabric and sewed the centre seam, finishing on the overlocker and pressing to one side. Then I cut two long strips of the contrast fabric twice as wide as I wanted them plus seam allowance. To achieve a clean finish I sewed one long edge to the central piece and pressed in the seam allowance down the other long side. Then folded the piece back on itself wrong sides together concealing the raw edge of the central piece between the two layers and topstitched to secure in a matching indigo thread. This achieved a nice clean finish similar to how you would attach a waistband. All that was then left to do was hem the two short ends. I was really happy with this gift idea and would definitely think about doing this again, perhaps with the addition of matching placemats. Its not a particularly time consuming project but you can make it really personal with the choice of fabric and as it doesn't take a huge amount can use something special too.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Japanese Cotton Table Runner

Last on the list of homeware gifts was a pair of oven gloves for my brother to go along with some other home related things I had bought him. Most of my family have had a pair of handmade oven gloves from me now, my brother is one of the last on the list to get some! They're a really enjoyable project and you can have a lot of fun choosing novelty fabrics you wouldn't usually make clothes with. My brother and I both really like Star Wars and it has become a yearly Christmas tradition to go and see the new movie together so I was hoping to find something along that or the Game of Thrones theme. I was delighted when I discovered this Star Wars print in the new fabric and craft shop in Greenwich Market at the end of November. Miss Ginger's mainly stocks quilting cottons but has a number of other crafty items including a small selection of Indie patterns; I'm really excited to have a little sewing shop so close by!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Star Wars Oven Gloves

The oven gloves I've made have improved in quality over the years and these are definitely my best pair to date. I buy a special thermal batting to help protect the hands from the heat of a hot tray, using a single layer in both sides of the mitt. I've learnt that using a walking foot on the machine and sewing all lines of stitching in the same direction when quilting is the best way to keep things flat and prevent any twisting or shifting out of shape. I use quite wide strips for my binding to enable good coverage around the thick corners of the mitts. My quilting lines are 1" apart and I use a chalk pen to mark them as I know for sure that will come off!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Hacci Knit MIY Collection Longley Waterfall Cardigan

I made two items of clothing this Christmas. The first of which was finished way back at the start of November! I was at the Great British Sewing Bee Live with my Mum when she spotted this beautiful hacci knit made up into a cardigan on the Girl Charlee stand and said she thought my Nan would love something like that. I'd never worked with a hacci knit before but have always been taken by their gorgeous slinky drape and fine hand so took the plunge and picked up a metre and a half. I knew within about 30 seconds which pattern I would use...my trusty MIY Collection Longley! This is a great choice for a gift as it doesn't require much in the way of fitting and you can take a good guess at the size as there are only four generous ones to choose from and the stretch fabric is forgiving. I've made this pattern twice for myself now and love how it comes together and sits on the body. Drapey knits are ideal for it and I thought it would be really interesting to make up in something as fine as a hacci; it certainly works just as well as the merino. I put the cardigan on for a while and the fabric is so lovely against the skin. The cool, smooth feeling will be a lovely fine layer in the spring and summer.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Hacci Knit MIY Collection Longley Waterfall Cardigan

I've always found slinky knits quite tricky to work with and this was certainly no exception. I have no trouble with silks, even as fine and shifty of a chiffon but I think slippery knits are my personal nemesis! The sewing of this was pretty straightforward and the fabric presses really beautifully but it was the cutting I had trouble with. I find it so trick to get a knit like this laid out on grain and without stretching it out of shape. As I was trying to pattern match stripes I should have remembered that I found it tricky and cut all the pieces on a single layer but I thought the stripes would actually help with getting everything straight. Of course cutting on the fold led to things not lining up well at all and the stripes match perfectly down one side and sleeve seam but the colours alternate down the other! Ah well, at least looking at one side at a time it looks intentional and it is mainly hidden in the drapes and folds anyway. I do love how the vertical stripes of the front band cut through the horizontal stripes on the body. The finishing with wide bands is my favourite thing about this design as it gives the waterfall some weight which I miss in other designs in this style which leave the edges raw. I won't say a huge amount about sewing the pattern up as I've covered it pretty thoroughly previously but I did have some trouble with getting the sleeve length right again. I had to cut off 4" in total on my original version which is a huge amount but I am fairly short so I played it safe and kept the length for my Nan. They were crazy long on her too (3" this time) but luckily it is an easy thing to fix and at least I could measure it on her and make them the perfect wrist length she wanted.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Jacquard Named Lourdes Cropped Jacket

The most complex project I worked on was this Lourdes Cropped Jacket from Named for my Mum. I've had the idea for this kicking around for ages and it solidified when I spotted her eyeing up this beautiful jacquard on the Fabrics Galore stand at the Great British Sewing Bee Live in the autumn. I thought this would be a great match for the pattern and luckily they had it on their website at the time so I snapped it up during their Black Friday discount sale! I've not ordered from them before online but was so impressed with the customer service. I ordered it Friday morning and a beautiful parcel turned up on the Saturday! I used a fairly weighty but slinky poly satin in a dark navy from Rolls & Rems for lining and a lightweight fusible interfacing and slim shoulder pads both from MacCulloch & Wallis. Once I had the pattern pieces cut out and interfaced it dawned on me that this was actually quite a big project but it came together surprisingly quickly and smoothly and was a lot of fun.

My Mum and I are very similar in size, particularly in height and through the shoulder so I felt really confident making this up in the usual size I'd make for myself from Named. It fit me well when I finished and fits her beautifully! The jacket is fully lined with a facing and has two piece sleeves. The finishing of the lining is well thought through so it all sits in place well. The instructions are really thorough and give you a beautiful finish. I followed their guidance to the letter including where and how to interface and where to hand stitch. I don't think there was any point in the construction process where I was confused or had to figure out an alternative method. I really could not be happier with how this turned out and was almost reluctant to hand it over!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Jacquard Named Lourdes Cropped Jacket

There are a tonne of lovely little details in this pattern that make it unique from a lot of other cropped jackets I've seen whilst still remaining in 'classic style' territory. My favourite things are the deep box pleat at the centre back which gives it a slight sixties swing coat vibe coupled with the stunning curved vent finish at the cuffs of the three quarter length sleeves. The sleeves also have a facing which means a nice crisp and clean curved edge is easy to achieve. The faux welt pockets being set into the darts on the front are also a really interesting feature that is fun to put together.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Jacquard Named Lourdes Cropped Jacket

The jacquard, whilst textured, has a soft and smooth hand thanks to the inclusion of some viscose in the fibre content. It is the perfect match for this style as it hangs well but still has the body to hold a structure and moulded well under a steamy iron. I am REALLY delighted with how the pattern matching turned out on this, especially across the shoulders which I spent some time thinking through. The pocket welts not matching was intentional as I didn't want to loose them into the patterned fabric. This is the only thing that I'm not quite sure about my decision on. I don't dislike the way it looks but do wonder if I would have preferred a cleaner line running across the front. I loved sewing up this this pattern. I'm not sure if the jacket is quite my style but I'm trying to find some sort of excuse to make myself one as I enjoyed sewing it up so much! I think it would definitely come in useful for weddings and that kind of special occasion outfit.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Winter Wardrobe Staples

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Merino Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater and Seamwork Neenah Dress

Just before Christmas I gave my winter wardrobe a little top up by remaking two of my most worn garments from winter 2017. The way I dressed for winter turned pretty much on its head when I started sewing with merino wool about 14 months ago. No more Michelin Man in a hundred layers, one (or sometimes two!) fine layers of breathable merino jersey were all I needed to tackle the confusing combination of bitter winds on the train platform and furnace like environment of the tube. Its soft and smooth against the skin, not itchy, I can throw it all in the washing machine on a 30 and as an added bonus it dyes like a dream so is available in a wide range of rich colours. Yes its not cheap (for reference the standard merino from the Fabric Store is about £23/m once converted) but considering the amount of wear I've had out of my merino garments so far...its worth it's weight in gold. I've found myself at a loss when either my black Toaster Sweater or green Neenah Dress (both patterns a perfect match for merino jersey) are in the wash so what's a woman to do but make herself some more to plug the gap?!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mulberry Merino Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater

For the last few months I've been lucky enough to be a brand ambassador for The Fabric Store who stock a huge range of top quality merino including some lovely stripes and sports fabrics. I've actually made a little pact with myself recently to put a stop to accepting review posts for a little while as it was putting too much pressure on my sewing and blogging and I wanted to get back to doing it purely just for fun with no obligations. However, The Fabric Store are probably my favourite place in the world to get fabric from so I caved and said yes! (I will just take a moment to point out that despite my love for their fabrics I always give my honest and true opinion in my posts whether I've agreed to a review in exchange for fabric/patterns or not). For my December order I decided to wean myself off their range of regular weight jerseys in all the colours of the rainbow and get creative with some different weights. The shape of my previous toaster sweater really benefitted from the slightly heavier structure of a merino sweat shirting so I ordered this Charcoal Grey Marle Merino/Polyester Sweat-shirting to recreate that. Grey is such a neutral staple in my wardrobe! For the Neenah Dress I wanted another strong rich colour and was immediately intrigued by what the new Double Faced Merino Jersey in Mulberry would be like.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Charcoal Marle Merino Seamwork Neenah Dress

You may notice that the garments are actually made up in the opposite of what I ordered! When it arrived the double faced jersey had much more structure to it than I anticipated (in a totally amazing way!) so I rethought my plan and decided that that would be much better suited to the sweater and the dress suited something a bit softer. The sweat-shirting has a bit more stretch and is actually a fair amount finer which makes it softer with more drape. Its a loop backed sweat shirting and is probably lighter than any other sweat-shirting I have worked with but still retains some of that slightly spongy feel and body. I will say that after a number of washes and wears over the last month it has tarted to pill which is the first time I have EVER noticed that with a Fabric Store fabric. Perhaps it is down to the polyester content? Any other merino I have had from them still has a lovely smooth and luxurious finish even after over a year of wear and the black in the same fabric is still good as new. The double faced jersey on the other hand is washing and wearing a dream. It is a truly amazing fabric which I think would make a great cocoon shape cardigan/relaxed coat. The body it has is kind of like a fine boiled wool.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mulberry Merino Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater

I don't have a huge amount to say about either pattern that I haven't said before, other than that I still really love them! The burgundy sweater (pattern from Sew House Seven) in particular has barely been off my back since I finished it and works so well with loads of my wardrobe. I cut the small like last time but kept the sleeve length long rather than removing 1/2" as before.. I'm really delighted with how the thicker, denser structure of the double knit emphasises the shape of the top and that lovely funnel neck whilst still having movement and drape. Those mitred corners at the hem vents turned out so beautifully in this too. My top tip for achieving a neat finish around those edges is to draw your stitching line on in chalk or your chosen fabric marker so you know exactly where to stop and start. if you're using a twin needle like me you'll have to sew each line individually but if using a single needle and zig zag or straight stitch you'll be able to keep your needle in and pivot at each corner. My favourite thing about the double knit is that technically both sides are a right side and each is a different colour. As I was originally going to make the dress I've got a fair amount left over so am giving some serious thought to what I can now make that makes use of both sides with a bit of colour blocking.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mulberry Merino Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater

I also cut the same size of the Neenah Dress (pattern from Seamwork Magazine). I used the small which is slightly larger than my measurements as i didn't want too much cling and the only change I made was to take approximately 6" off the length. I liked the midi length in the green but also thought I'd like it above the knee...plus as I'd bought enough of this fabric to make the jumper it meant I could just about squeeze it on! This pattern is pretty much my ultimate knit dress pattern. I love the amount of ease all over and my favourite feature is the slim sleeves and skinny little cuffs. I am usually irritated with a high neck but the width of the collar is spot on. The collar is quite thick in the sweat shirting because it is doubled over in the construction and then due to the height I folded down on itself again to wear. Its really lovely and snugly but I certainly wouldn't recommend using a thicker fabric than this unless you were going to reduce the height of the collar so it was worn as a single layer.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Charcoal Marle Merino Seamwork Neenah Dress

Both garments I made up exactly the same way I handle most knit fabrics; using a narrow zig zag on my regular machine to assemble accurately and then finishing the seam allowances on my overlocker. I will say that overlocking around the bottom edges of the collar facing on the Toaster Sweater made a big difference to how flat that sits. I didn't finish this edge on my black version (you don't need to on knits as they don't fray) and it tends to roll/curl up and create a ridge unless I give it a good press flat. I twin needled the hems of both garments although I was a little hesitant as this is the only thing that has been a problem with my original iterations of both. The twin needle stitching has popped and started to come undone after a while. Is the stitching too tight and would a longer stitch length help this? Or is this just something that happens with twin needle stitching on stretch garments and really only a cover-stitch machine would solve it? I don't really want to have to use a zig zag as I much prefer the clean look of the twin needle.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mulberry Merino Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater

I realise some of you may be reading my gushing about merino and thinking 'yes yes but that fabric is just way out of my price range' so I just wanted to sing the praises for a moment of sewing with good quality fabrics. I started out sewing with the cheapest fabrics I could find on Goldhawk Road. I was all over that poly crepe but after a while I began to realise that not only was it not particularly pleasant to wear, it wasn't particularly pleasant to sew with either. Yes when you're starting to sew and bound to make some mistakes you want to practice and get any of those early disasters out of the way on something inexpensive but I highly recommend treating yourself to something of better quality once in a while (maybe make the most of those January sales!). I reached a point where I decided I had a stash full of cheap fabrics which I was never going to get through. I could probably buy less and buy from a higher price bracket without spending any more.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Charcoal Marle Merino Seamwork Neenah Dress

From the moment I made the decision to sew less but using better quality products my sewing improved immensely. Better quality fabrics and natural fibres make the sewing experience so much more pleasant. They are easy to shape and mould under the heat and steam of the iron and a well pressed seam improves the appearance of a garment ten fold. No more bouncy poly seams. Plus garments last longer when made of a nice fabric that washes and wears well. But ultimately I think the real improvement in my sewing came from the slight pressure of not wanting to waste a beautiful piece of fabric. I discarded the 'ah well if it doesn't work it was only a fiver' attitude and began to think more carefully about fit and appropriate sewing techniques. I slowed down and developed a new patience with going back and correcting my mistakes to get things as close to perfect as possible.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mulberry Merino Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater

I understand treating yourself to fancy fabrics is just not financially viable for some of us and sewing is a pretty expensive hobby as it is when you first start out anyway. Plus I am aware that I am in the very fortunate position of sometimes receiving beautiful fabrics free to review. But perhaps set yourself a goal to save up for some top draw fabric for a special project which will take some time to make and I promise you will be so much more delighted with the finished garment.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Charcoal Marle Merino Seamwork Neenah Dress

Anyway, getting back to the garments this post was originally about I couldn't be happier with these new additions to my wardrobe and am sure they are going to be seeing a lot more wear as we battle on through winter. I always find it really interesting sewing up a pattern for the second time in a different fabric and seeing how that affects both the sewing process and the finished result! I definitely recommend having a good feel when buying fabrics for a project where possible so you can really imagine how it will behave when sewn up. The Fabric Store do offer a swatch service which I have made use of previously but this time I just took the plunge and fortunately my gut instinct worked out right this time!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Merino Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater and Seamwork Neenah Dress

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

New Year Reflections and Goals

Happy New Year guys! Its my first post of 2018 and as I've really enjoyed reading all your round ups and sewing plans for the year I thought I'd kick off with a little look back and forward of my own. 2017 was a tricky year. It was incredibly busy for me work-wise (which I'm not complaining about!) but it left me with very limited sewing time and when I did have the odd day off I was left with a lack of motivation and creativity. In previous years my freelance lifestyle has given me the odd week or two between jobs to take a little sew-cation and blitz through a number of projects and ideas whirling around my head. Overlapping jobs all year meant no such luck and I had to adapt my sewing practice to sew in smaller chunks, grabbing the time when I could, rather than completing projects in one stint at the machine. I improved at this as the year went on and I found a better balance between professional and other responsibilities and taking time for myself. Working on this is a big goal for 2018!

I've always found making a couple of Top 5 lists (as initiated by Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow a few years back) a really great way to reflect on my sewing over the last year. This year I have been surprised by both how much I did manage to sew and how many of those were successful projects! I think in a way the limited sewing time made me really think through what I was going to use it for and led to more careful choices. I didn't want to waste any of those precious hours! However, I think in response to that I fell back on patterns I had already made or simple styles which I knew would be likely to be a success rather than challenging myself with new skills and techniques or getting creative. You'll see in my plans for 2018 later on that my focus for the year is going to be getting back into learning some new skills and trying out some garments I haven't made before.

Top 5 Hits

  • In chronological order I'm starting with the Kelly Green Party Dress I made to wear to my step sister's wedding in February. I spent a long time on this one and I think out of everything I've ever made it's the closest to having nothing I'd change that I've ever got! It worked hard on fitting a muslin of the bodice and that really paid off. This stuck with me through the rest of the year and I think my patience with fitting improved as a result.
  • The biggest and most surprising hit in my wardrobe in 2017 were the Flint Trousers. They were a real departure from my usual style and I didn't expect to love them but I have worn them to absolute death. I feel so very me in them and have found them to be surprisingly versatile to style. I made a second pair in chambray but these in black stretch gabardine remain my favourite.
  • Another style of garment that I never saw myself wearing and yet was in constant repetition from July onwards were my linen Turia Dungarees. They are comfortable, yet feel stylish in the linen and I had compliments whenever I wore them. It was difficult choosing between these and the denim McCalls pair I made recently but the summer styling won out.
  • I haven't even considered wearing another coat since I finished my Oslo. I had high hopes for this project, yet didn't expect to love it as much as I actually do. It was one of those incredibly happy culminations of beautiful pattern combined with fabric which just worked perfectly for it. The interesting construction meant I loved every second of making it and the cashmere coating and silk lining combo mean I love every second of wearing it.
  • My final pick is my last project of the year; the black tuxedo jumpsuit. I'm really proud of this one as the project really pushed me and unleashed my creativity. I think the challenges involved really sum up how my sewing has improved this year as I branched out from using a single pattern, drafted and figured out the construction of the collar element of myself and tackled a tricky fit.

These were really hard to pick this year as I've made quite a few things which I have loved and worn an absolute tonne...in fact I found myself staring at a list of 10 garments and not knowing how to whittle them down! Other projects worthy of a mention for either the amount of times they've been worn or for pure sewing enjoyment are my birthday Lonsdale maxi dress (for pure sewing enjoyment), my green fitted party frock (for the accomplishment of making such a challenging project work) and my grey merino Longley cardigan (for being one of the most worn items in my handmade wardrobe and also really fun to put together).

Top 5 Misses

  • I've worn my black merino Toaster Sweater day-in, day-out throughout the course of the year and loved the idea of it in a more structured fabric to show off the shape. Whilst the shape is great in this teal boiled wool one it only got worn a couple of times as it just didn't sit right as I moved around throughout the day. I have since made another though which is a huge success and I'll share soon!
  • The second choice I don't even have a picture of as it was such a disaster it ended up in the bin! Its very unusual for me to give up on a project but the fabric I chose for my Half Moon Atelier Delphy Top made the fiddly construction of the straps nigh on impossible. I used a metallic woven poly for it which refused to hold a sharp press, I very much recommend a nice natural fibre which likes the iron if you want to make this one!
  • I adored making this ombre batwing top from Chinelo's Freehand Fashion book. The completely different cutting and construction method really freed up my brain to think about garment sewing in an entirely different way. However, I found the completed top really hard to style and didn't feel like myself in it.
  • My military Archer shirt was a UFO from years back that I forced myself to finish. I'm still not quite sure what went awry but it ended up way too short and snug for me. Despite being pleased with the construction it just wasn't the look I was going for with my heavy twill fabric choice.
  • My last choice I haven't entirely given up on yet! I love the design of the Papercut Aomori and it was another project which expanded my thinking on how clothes are put together. But I haven't yet found a way to work it into my wardrobe which I love. The twist front means a risk of exposing stomach and I haven't yet hit on the right balance of volume between top and bottom half.

Again these were really hard choices as only one ended up in the bin and it was really hard to find projects I was unhappy with. The mark of a good sewing year I guess! Although looking at it perhaps I need to up my top making game...one pieces seem to be good for me!


Looking back over the year I've noticed a couple of things that have really changed in my sewing. Firstly the speed at which I sew. I can only put this down to time behind the machine but something really clicked this year and I found myself whipping through projects without forgoing technique and accuracy. I've really found a rhythm with sewing now and my preferred ways of doing things so its almost like muscle memory kicks in at some points! I find batch cutting projects really works for me. I spend an afternoon or evening cutting out a handful of projects and preparing pattern pieces with markings and interfacing so I'm ready to crack on and assemble at a moments notice. I've also been getting in to the swing of production line style sewing now I'm more familiar with the construction process, which leads me on to the second thing I've noticed; an improved confidence in my sewing skills and knowledge. I'll look ahead in the instructions and see what I can pin, sew and press at the same time. For example, if making a t-shirt I'll pin the shoulder seams of the front and back, pin the sleeve seams and pin any cuffs or bands together. Then move to the machine and sew all of these one after the other. Then to the ironing board to press. Getting each of the elements ready to put together in this way can save loads of time and is also a really satisfying way to work. I could actually ramble on about this for ages and perhaps I should save it for another post another day!

A method I discovered to keep up my motivation to sew and challenge myself was to mix simple little projects in with the big ones so you feel like you are achieving something. When you've only got little spurts of time to sew in working on a big project can be really frustrating as it takes such a long time to reach the end. Sewing a t-shirt or repeat of something you've made before in the middle of this process can really help to reinvigorate your desire to sew. In the latter part of the year I also made a decision to chose projects also for the enjoyment of making them rather than the finished result. I've always got the most out of projects which either challenge me or have an interesting construction and so force me to think rather than just go through the motions. Now I've sewn quite a lot of garment types multiple times I can almost go without the instructions which isn't as satisfying.

Looking Forward

I've already discussed the wider goals for my sewing in 2018 but in terms of more specific plans I'm participating in the #2018makenine challenge over on Instagram. I love this challenge as I think its great to encourage a bit of thought about the direction you want to take your sewing in over the course of the next year. It was dreamt up by Rochelle at Home Row Fibre Co a couple of years back and the idea is for you to pick nine patterns or projects you want to make over the course of the year and then report back and see how you did at new year! My 2017 grid was a total failure. I completed none (yes thats right, ZERO) of the projects and only got two of them cut out and started despite getting the patterns/supplies ready for a couple. In my defence I have over the Christmas break made progress on a couple more so perhaps all I needed was a bit of time to focus! Despite that disaster I'm still keen to take part this year and I've tried to make some better choices which I'm confident I'll still want to be part of my wardrobe in 6, 9 and 12 months time rather than the impulse decisions I made this time last year.

From left to right, top to bottom...

  • First up the Berlin Skirt from Orageuse Patterns. I adore the style of this skirt (those big pockets set in the side panels!) and can see me getting a lot of wear out of it. Plus its one of those designs that really makes me want to put it together! Its been on my wish list for ages.
  • I took my first paddle in the world of knitting this year with a simple scarf and would really like to push myself with a bigger project but with no fixed decline! Something I can pick up and continue when it takes my fancy. Ideally I'd like to try for a sweater or cardigan and love this Risin' Sun Cardigan from Wool and the Gang.
  • Long time readers of my blog will know how long sewing lingerie has been on my list of new year goals. Probably the last three years! I got Norma from Orange Lingerie's book for Christmas (thanks Dad!) and am determined that 2018 will be the year it happens! I've got my eye on the Fenway Bra but may have to build up to it.
  • The Ultimate Trousers from Sew Over It are the one pattern I've carried over from my 2017 Make Nine mainly because learning how to fit trousers properly is one of my big goals for the year. I have their e-course on trouser fitting and construction so will probably stick with their pattern but the classic cut of the Closet Case Patterns Sasha Trousers has also caught my eye.
  • I'm always taken with patterns with wearable clean lines that have a unique twist and the Sirius Sweater from I Am Patterns is just that. I'm going to try out making that pleated back panel in lace and the fabrics are ordered and on their way!
  • I fell in love with the Kew Dress from Nina Lee London when it was released at the end of the summer; in particular view B with the cold shoulder dropped sleeves. I picked up a copy at the Great British Sewing Bee Live show in September and can't wait for the warmer weather to come around so I can make it.
  • McCalls 7542 is a style I already know will be a big hit in my wardrobe and I'm in desperate need of more interesting tops to pair with jeans. With 5 sleeve variations to choose from I'm hoping the fit will be good and I can make multiple. Eyes peeled for beautiful rayon fabrics!
  • I've had the Papercut Patterns Pneuma Tank in my stash for years. I love the design and am intrigued with the construction but I wasn't sure how useful it would be for running. But I've recently been bitten by the yoga bug for which this would be ideal! Got high hopes for this one.
  • Finally a pattern I've actually already made once but which I think I could get a lot more mileage out of; the Named Kielo Wrap Dress. Firstly I want to make a short winter version using the sleeve expansion pack and then I want to make a sleeveless maxi version for summer to replace my favourite RTW jersey maxi which I've finally had to admit is beyond repair.

I already own the majority of the patterns and have fabrics stashed to suit a few so hopefully this list will be more achievable this year. Aside from these plans I'm not going to limit myself to much as I know the changing seasons, fashions and new releases will provide plenty of inspiration throughout the year. Before I'm allowed to get inspired by anything new though I've made a pact with myself to tackle that big pile of projects cut out and waiting to be assembled under my desk! Writing this post has actually really motivated me to crack on and finish some of those garments I was so excited about months ago...I might go and start my Kelly Anorak this afternoon.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

December Indie Pattern Update!

The final Indie Pattern Update of the year is upon us and what a year of pattern releases it has been! I expected a slightly slower month of news as things slowed down for Christmas and designers took a well deserved break but there have still been a vast number of new releases and some absolute gems amongst them. I know many of you are making plans for 2018 sewing at the moment so hopefully this round up will give you some more ideas. I know I want to challenge myself next year so have got my eyes peeled for unusual and complex patterns to help me do that. What patterns are you looking out for?

New Pattern Companies!

  • Coffee and Thread released their very first ladies pattern this month (they already have some children's designs) in the form of the Sirocco Top and Dress. I love the way those bell sleeves fall and would like to own multiple in sandwashed silk. Looking forward to seeing more from them.
  • Pipe Dream Patterns launched with their first pattern; My Sew Called Sweater. This is a pattern for an oversized, slouchy sweater than drops off the shoulder and has options for adding ribbing. Love their sample idea in a sheer knit.
  • The third new pattern company for the month is Rochad Studio who launched with the Mary Jane Coat. A loose fitting design, with raglan sleeves, patch pockets and a snuggly ribbed collar with detachable scarf. I'd love to see one of these made up in a lightweight boiled wool.

New Patterns

  • Lisa Comfort launched her new magazine which included the new Sew Over It Cocoon Coat pattern. This has been a popular Sew Over It class for a while now and is currently only available with the magazine. A great winter project the start the new year with and a very manageable coat.
  • The two patterns released with the December edition of Seamwork Magazine were the Erica Dress and Jill Coatigan. Both of these are great winter wardrobe staples and I'm really tempted to make up the wrap dress in a merino knit. Such a flattering style.
  • New from Wear Lemonade are the Francesca Trousers. I think these kind of high waisted, wide legged trousers are going to be a big trend throughout 2018 so this pattern is high on my wishlist!
  • Named Patterns released the Lahja Unisex Dressing Gown as part of their advent calendar. I love the simplicity of this; it looks like it would be fun and satisfying to put together and great to make as a gift.
  • A pattern I missed last month but is definitely worthy of a mention is the Truffle Coat from Lara Sanner. Its a pattern for a raglan-sleeved coat which I love made up as a raincoat as version 1 has all those classic features with the hood, zipper placket and patch pockets. The sunshine yellow waterproof sample is a delight!
  • I also managed to miss the release of the Chestnut Sweater from CocoWawa Crafts which is now also available in a mini child size. The ribbon tie across the back neckline is a gorgeous detail on a classic style. I love it made up in a fluffy pastel knit.
  • Measure Twice Cut Once released the Henrietta Swimsuit which I adore the low strappy back of. I'm sure many of you have spotted on Instagram that Susan has had a truly awful December with her flat in Australia being destroyed by fire while in the UK over Christmas, on top of a very difficult year. If any of her patterns take your fancy I do urge you to make a purchase and help her to get back on her feet and replace her studio sewing equipment. Let's make 2018 a better year for her.
  • Mood have continued to rapidly add to their collection of free pattern downloads. December's releases included a wide variety of designs including the Caladium Coat, D'Arcy Bralette, Dahlia Coat and Evergreen Accessories, plus the Daphne Smoking Jacket for men and even a couple of Cosplay designs in the form of Andromeda and Atlas.
  • The latest release from Just Patterns is the Yasmeen Skirt. I love the glamour of the fishtail on this beautifully fitted maxi skirt and think it would make up in a whole variety of special fabrics. The clean cut allowing the fabric to shine. 
  • Noodlehead released the Minimalist Wallet PDF pattern which includes mini and regular size versions, both featuring various card slots and zip-up pouches. If you'd prefer the pattern in print this is one the three patterns included in Anna's new Everyday Essentials Booklet which is all about guiding you through sewing accessories. The other two patterns included are the Wool & Wax Tote and Petal Pouch.
  • The Nixie Briefs are new from Jennifer Lauren Handmade. Designed for knit fabrics the curved overlapping sides give you opportunity to play around with contrast fabrics and trims with instructions included for finishing with fold-over or lingerie elastic.
  • DP Studio launched their third collection which is packed with interesting style lines and pieces that make me want to sew them just to see how they come together! The asymmetric sweatshirt would probably have more of a place in my wardrobe than most but I'm quite taken with the drama of the ruffle skirt and coat with incorporated scarf.
  • The Santi Skirt is new from Designer Stitch. Its an interesting 8 gore panelled skirt which I love made up in different shades of blue denim in the sample. I'm also really taken with the options for the tied front on the waistband.
  • Amongst the releases from DG Patterns in December were the Hannah Top & Dress, Roma Dress and Leah Shirt. I'm most taken with the asymmetrical gathered panel running across the front of Hannah; a contemporary take on the ruffle trend.
  • There were a number of free pattern download treats released from the festive season and Tessuti's offering was the the Athina Top which is also available to buy in printed format. A lovely, simple and wearable cuffed top which might soon be making an appearance in my wardrobe!
  • Another lovely free top pattern download is the Uvita Top from Itch to Stitch. Its a dropped shoulder knit top with a relaxed fit which I think would look great in a soft viscose jersey.
  • Sew Over It's PDF release for December is the Full Circle Skirt. A fairy quick and simple make and an easy way to add glamour to any outfit.
  • Wardrobe by Me released the men's Boxer Short pattern just in time to whip up a pair or two as Christmas gifts. They also updated their Hubert Hoodie pattern to include their increased size range and a print at copy shop option.
  • I've got stacks of large-ish fabric scraps left over from recent sewing projects that I'm struggling to work out what to do with but can't bear to throw out. The new Reversible Beanie pattern from Savvy Patterns could be just the thing.
  • Opian Patterns released the Rigi Jumper. A cropped or hip length jumper with batwing sleeves and the option to make with or without a centre front box pleat, I think this could be really interesting made up in chunky textured knits.
  • New from Red Rabbit Mercantile is the McGregor Field Tote. I've only just discovered these practical, durable bag designs and love the utility vibe of the samples made up in waxed cottons and webbing.
  • Kommatia Patterns had a few new releases this month including the Tonare twisted mini skirt (currently on sale!), the Andy turtleneck sweater with dropped shoulder and the fab Susan cropped denim jacket. Love the 80s vibe and details of the jacket!
  • The Priscilla Body Con Dress is the latest release from the relatively new Rosy Pena Patterns. It looks great made up in stretch velvet and has a couple of neckline and sleeve options.
  • New from Joost on FreeSewing is the Carlton Coat which is an absolute winner for me and I wish I had a man to make one for! The style is Sherlock Holmes inspired and I love how many measurements the sizing options take into account. Such a well thought out and detailed pattern considering its free!
  • Schnittchen released the Marion Coat. This feels like a longer length bomber to me with the little ribbed collar and exposed centre front zip. I love this style and the addition of the rounded hem is a nice touch.
  • Megan Nielsen gave us a free Christmas treat in the form of the Acaia Underwear pattern. These are a low rise bikini style which profess to be easy to cut and sew and I've already spotted a few good reports on Instagram. To get the pattern are you need to sign up to her newsletter.
  • The 1225 Fast & Fabulous Glamour Poncho was new from Hot Patterns. Rather than just a simple throw on square with neck hole this has a double breasted panel inserted at the neckline with optional stand collar.
  • By Hand London released the dreamy Rumana Coat. Its a super classic and timeless style which you'll be wearing for years with tailored princess seams, shoulder darts and a notched collar. The samples are beautiful and I wish I had reason/need for another coat.
  • New from Style Arc is the Valentina Dress which is a lovely feminine design with pussy bow neck and high-low ruffled hem. You could have a lot of fun picking fabrics for this one as the pattern includes a slip with the suggestion that you make the dress sheer. The Emery Knit Top with puff sleeves was also new and a freebie for the month.
  • Fresh Press Patterns released the Vera Knit Dress. A simple fitted knit dress with a surprise in the hem ruffle at the back. This would be great to dress up or down with different fabrics, the kind you could have multiple of in your wardrobe.
  • Last but by no means least is the 271 Sunset Wrap, new from Folkwear. Its a 1940s inspired design for a shoulder wrap and I love their idea of making it up in cashmere for real luxury.

Pattern Updates and Expansion Packs



  • I've been easing off on Instagram over the festive season so haven't spotted much in the way of pattern sneak peaks but I did spot a gorgeous sleeve on the soon to be released Harmony Woven Top from Style Arc! Please do feel free to add in anything I may have missed in the comments below as usual.

Other Exciting News

And thats it from me for 2017. Have a wonderful evening celebrating the joys and successes of this year and welcoming in the new one whatever you may be doing. I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store! I'll leave you as usual with a bit of sewing inspiration to get your January off to a good start.

  • Marie didn't seem all that keen on her Aldaia Dress which she made up in incredible pleated velvet but I love it! The fabric choice is perfect and I think the cut of it is lovely.
  • I do love a green dress and Bianca's Sew Over It 1940s Wrap Dress is one of the best I've seen of late. Her fabric choice really shows off the lovely collar and waistband details and has made me look twice at the pattern. Beautifully sewn.
  • How wonderfully festive does Sarica look in her beautiful red Named Olivia Wrap Dress?! Love the big bow, tulip shape of the skirt and the fit she has achieved.
  • It seems I should have made festive dresses the theme of this month's round up as it appears to be all I'm drawn to! Erin's rich green velvet Highlands Wrap Dress is an absolute stunner.
  • A slightly different take on the Christmas dress from Helena as she's sewing for the heat of Southern California! The print and weight of the fabric she chose for her Named Inari Dress works so well for the style and this post made me take a second look at her amazing hack of the Lourdes Jacket!