Saturday, 16 November 2019

Wine Red Maxi Mayfair Dress

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I was incredibly excited about the Mayfair Dress when it was released by Nina Lee over a year ago and I snapped up a paper copy soon after release. For years I'd had this favourite style of French Connection dress that saw me through many summers; flattering, comfortable and seemingly suited for any occasion. I owned versions in various prints, colours and lengths but may favourite by far was a maxi length version. The previous summer I'd been wearing it with too many holes in to repair, hoping that the little purple, black and dusky pink print disguised them. It had been on its last legs for a while and sadly French Connection stopped making them a while before. I couldn't bear to throw it out so I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted the Mayfair and realised it was almost an exact match. I could make my own replacement!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

Why then has it taken me so long to make one you may ask? I had a really hard time finding fabric that was going to live up to my expectations of this dress. The RTW version has been on such a pedestal in my wardrobe that I wanted to love any version I made just as much. The print and colours of the existing dress so suited me and various ways of styling it that I think part of me was hoping to find a print near identical but of course that was going to be too much to ask. Any prints I found which I quite liked were on too heavy, too fine, or too stiff of a jersey. Which is why I eventually opted for a solid. At least now I have a version of this dress to wear again and when the right print eventually comes along I can make another.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I actually found this fabric in Valencia of all places when I was there for a girls weekend trip a few weeks ago. Pauline Alice recommend to me Julian Lopez in the city centre and what a treasure trove that place was! Four floors of fabric at various price points including traditional Spanish brocades on the top floor and a marvellous shopping experience. No one spoke a word of English and I speak no Spanish so it made for a rather hilarious game of charades getting fabric cut! I also have no idea about the fabric content. At first I thought it was a viscose jersey because of the lovely drape and movement but after sewing with it I now think there might be a bit of cotton in there too as it seems a little more stable than other viscose jerseys I have worked with.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

Choosing a soft and drapey knit is very important for this style. The gathering at the waist means you don't want anything to bulky and you want it to drape softly across the bust. I would shy away from a fabric that might potentially be clingy around the hips. This soft jersey is spot on and I knew as soon as I touched it that it had a similar hadn't and weight to my original dress. It was lovely to sew with and I had no trouble with the fabric stretching out as I sewed which can often be a problem with knits of this light weight and drape, particularly when using the twin needle around the hem and cuffs. It did want to curl up at the edges a bit but that was nothing a good press couldn't fix. It responded really well to a medium heat iron with some steam.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I constructed the majority of this dress using the triple stretch stitch on my Brother Innov-is F420. Usually with knits I'll use a zig zag or one of the many other faux overlock stretch stitches. However, as this dress doesn't have negative ease (meaning the garment doesn't stretch around the body so the seams don't need to stretch too even to take the dress on and off) I opted for the slightly more resilient and slightly less elastic triple stitch. This is a great stitch if you want to press your seams open which this dress requires you to do in a few areas; the other stretch stitches generally catch the seam allowances together. I finished all the seam allowances on my overlocker as usual, just because I personally like a nice professional looking finish inside!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I think my favourite thing about my Brother sewing machine is how accurately it enables you to sew! The adjustable speed and reverse button (which sews just the one stitch if pressed once and multiple if held down) mean you can stop at exactly the point you want with ease. I went into the menu and adjusted the settings to finish with the needle down each time I stopped sewing for this project. This made pivoting around the angled neckline seam a breeze and topstitching the waist tie on worry free.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I found the instructions a little confusing in the way explanations of techniques were sometimes worded (but I was quite distracted keeping one eye on the puppy while I read them!). It is a fairly speedy and straightforward sew for a very elegant looking garment though. The trickiest part is attaching the collar/facing to the back of the neckline and shoulders using the burrito method; and is particularly fiddly when you are making the maxi version as you have so much fabric in the roll. If making the maxi I wouldn't recommend using a thick jersey as you will struggle at this point. I was very worried about catching some of the dress in my stitching along the edge of the roll but it turned out beautifully and I love the clean finish. Nina's tip to use the zipper foot to stitch this part accurately along the edge of the roll is great.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I love the pleated detail at the back of the neck which creates the lovely soft drape of fabric over the bust. The fabric then gently gathers in at the front of the waist to emphasise the female shape. I also love the right angled seam where the collar meets the back at the shoulder. Very clever pattern cutting and I always enjoy sewing something a little different. Using a piece of clear elastic to gather the front (as well as stabilise those shoulder seams) is a really intersecting and useful technique. I thought attaching the waist tie as well as gathering the front evenly would be tricky but it was actually very straightforward thanks to the clear markings and measured piece of elastic. The elastic is sewn to the right side of the garment so that it is hidden between the shell fabric and the waist tie once that is attached. Despite the elastic being hidden the inside of the garment doesn't look particularly pretty in this area as you see the zig zag stitch for the elastic and then the topstitching for the waist tie either side. Speaking of the waist tie...this was the first project I've sewn in the company of my new puppy and she was very good apart from the moment when I found her all tangled up in the yet-to-be-attached tie!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I cut a size smaller than the size chart suggested after measuring my favourite French Connection dress as I love the fit of that. This meant I cut the size 8. I don't think the size 10 would have overwhelmed me so I wouldn't say the sizing is necessarily over generous, I just prefer this slimmer cut and the similarity to my original dress. The only thing I would tweak next time is the size of the sleeves as they are a little snug around the arm. I don't think going a size up would have solved that problem so I think I'll just slash and spread the pattern piece to give me a little more room. At 5ft 3" I was surprised to find that the length was spot on straight out of the envelope. I like my maxi dresses skimming the ground but even if you don't if you're taller me I'd recommend adding some length to the pattern before you start. Nina is quite petite too so probably drafts on the short side!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

This has only just come off the sewing machine and is yet to have an outing but I'll report back on how it washes and wears on Instagram. I'll definitely be making more of these and am very excited to have this style of dress back in rotation again! The pattern also includes three quarter length and full length sleeves which I'm looking forward to trying for winter.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Liberty Print Well's Bay Bikini

This project is the one thing from my handmade holiday wardrobe wish list that I regret not getting finished back in January. I had the pieces all cut out but just ran out of time before we flew to South Africa. The pattern is the basic bikini Well's Bay from Halfmoon Atelier and I absolutely adore the clean and minimal aesthetic of it. The most exciting thing about the pattern is that it is completely reversible so you are effectively getting two bikinis in one! There are no fiddly fastenings to contend with as it simply ties at the back.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Half Moon Atelier Basic Bikini Well's Bay in Argyll Liberty Print Swim Fabric from The Fabric Store

The minimalist design is perfect for showcasing a special swimwear print which is exactly what I chose with this Argyll print swim fabric from the Liberty range at The Fabric Store. There are some amazing prints on their website and I have at least one more squirrelled away! What I love about them is the quality of the fabric base, which is dense and matte and also that the print retains it's vibrancy and clarity when stretched. I've used this print before previously on the inner bra of my Pneuma Tank and it is washing and wearing really well. Meghann recommends using a print for one side of the bikini and a plain for the other in the pattern instructions. For the plain I used some scraps of grey lycra I had in my stash from previous activewear projects, I think I got it from Mood Fabrics way back in the day.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Half Moon Atelier Basic Bikini Well's Bay in Argyll Liberty Print Swim Fabric from The Fabric Store

I veered away from the instructions and used the plain where she suggested print and the print where plain was recommended as I preferred the print and wanted the straps to match that side. Whilst I love the print side I'm not so keen on the grey side now it is finished as the straps look a little odd. Next time I'll stick to what is recommended! What I do really love about the contrast reversible side is how it slightly peeks out and defines the edges of the style. It looks really great where it ties at the back too.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Half Moon Atelier Basic Bikini Well's Bay in Argyll Liberty Print Swim Fabric from The Fabric Store

In one respect I am pleased that I waited until now to sew it up (not only to enjoy making it in my new sewing space!). Waiting has given me time to get to know my new machine; in particular explore all the stretch stitch options and work out which are my favourites! The Brother Innov-is F420 comes with a huge number of stitches, both decorative and practical. There are lots of stretch options from a regular zig zag to triple stitch and overcasting stitch. My preference so far is to use the triple stitch for any seams that need to be pressed open and the no.17 overcast stitch for any which will remain unpressed or can be pressed to one side together. The majority of this I sewed up using stitch 17 apart from attached the elastic with a fairly long and narrow zig zag.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Half Moon Atelier Basic Bikini Well's Bay in Argyll Liberty Print Swim Fabric from The Fabric Store

You can sew up this pattern entirely on an overlocker but with knits I prefer to assemble the garment on the machine, usually using the overlocker just to finish my seam allowances. I find my sewing to be more accurate that way. As this design is cleanly finished in order to make it reversible there was no need to finish the seams so I didn't even touch my overlocker. Proof that you don't need one to sew knits, swim or activewear! Both the top and the bottoms are bagged out and pulled through an opening in the side seam which made for a few worrying moments when I envisioned everything being sewn together incorrectly once I had pulled it through!


As the design is reversible it uses a few slightly different construction techniques to those I might have employed previously. This made the construction process really enjoyable, which is something I found with the other Halfmoon pattern I've tried too (the summer jumpsuit Tofo). To bag out the bottoms you sew the leg holes using the burrito method. This is a really fiddly job, particularly as you are attaching elastic at the same time. It took some patience and a little bit of skill handling stretch fabric and is the one element of construction which I would say gives the pattern the Intermediate sewing level with which it is labelled.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Half Moon Atelier Basic Bikini Well's Bay in Argyll Liberty Print Swim Fabric from The Fabric Store

The needle down function and sensitive speed control of the Innov-is F420 allow you to be really accurate with your sewing which is a great help when sewing tightly angled areas like the ends of the rear ties on the top. The pattern has a seam allowance of 1.5cm so I made sure to trim it all right down close to my stitching to reduce any bulk. With a bikini you definitely don't want any lumpy, bumpy seams showing through and to ensure a nice clean shape at the end of the ties grading is essential. To ensure even better stretch at the seams than the stitches provide I used Maderia Aeroflock thread in the bobbin which is similar to wooly nylon thread in that it has a small amount of stretch and is also soft to the touch. The machine has no trouble at all with using this thicker and fluffier thread.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Half Moon Atelier Basic Bikini Well's Bay in Argyll Liberty Print Swim Fabric from The Fabric Store

The only thing I'm not completely satisfied with is the fit of the bottoms as they are a bit snug. Meghann does warn in the instructions that the bottoms are quite low cut so it is worth thinking about that before cutting in to your fabric but it isn't so much the height of the waist that bothers me as the room in the seat and width-wise. They are particularly snug around the leg holes, although this is probably more due to my overzealous stretching of the elastic as I applied it than the cut of the pattern! As the elastic is stretched as you sew rather than pinned on in quarters I found it quite hard to judge how tight it needed to be and think I went a bit far, you can see that in how much they bunch up when not worn!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Half Moon Atelier Basic Bikini Well's Bay in Argyll Liberty Print Swim Fabric from The Fabric Store

I used narrow rubber swimwear elastic but Meghann includes instructions for elast-ish; a product of her own invention as she lives on a remote island where supplies are hard to come by! It is basically skinny strips of swimwear fabric used in place of the elastic. I'm wondering if this would have more give than the string elastic I had and so is a little more forgiving around the leg holes. I'm going to give it a try next time! I'll also either go up a size in the bottoms or use a smaller seam allowance. I cut the size 4 and the top is great as it is. Stretching the elastic tighter is good on the top as it fits snuggly and adds security, I might even stretch it a little tighter in future.


This is definitely a swim suit for sunbathing rather than too much activity as because of the ties I don't feel hugely supported in it (definitely best for small busts) but it is incredibly comfortable. I'm off to Valencia for the weekend soon and this is going to be perfect for lounging around on the beach. I've actually got a little bit of another Liberty Print swim fabric in my stash which I might try and get sewn up into a second Well's Bay before I go!

Thursday, 22 August 2019

A Very Special Bridesmaid Dress

I have got a very special project to share with you today. My bridesmaid dress for my Mum's wedding back in May. I was really excited about making it, but knew it could turn into quite a stressful project and a real sewing challenge. It was a big deadline to meet and I knew because of my work schedule I was going to have very limited time to put towards it. So, as much as I would have liked to make a complex and challenging gown, I kept the design and construction simple and focused instead on finding some really beautiful fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

Mum had only a few requests. That all three of us bridesmaids (my sister, step-sister and I) wore floor length dresses and that they were a neutral colour (in the end we all ended up in shades of grey, Mum's favourite!). Once my sister had bought her dress Mum also asked if we could all have some beading on the bodice too. I slightly panicked as that meant my simple project was likely to get considerably more involved and complicated!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

However, I managed to stop the beading from becoming too time consuming by constructing that part entirely separately to the main dress. I could have underlined the beaded chiffon with the crepe backed satin and sewn up those pieces into a fitted bodice but that would have involved unpicking all the beads from around the seam line/seam allowances and then sewing some back on to fill in any gaps after construction. Much too fiddly for this time-poor seamstress! To save unpicking and hand sewing any beads I assembled the whole top by hand. This may sound equally time consuming but there weren't too many seams and I thoroughly enjoyed a morning of hand sewing at my kitchen table!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

I used The Little Tailoress Emmeline Tee pattern for the beaded top. I've made this previously and really like the clean lines and easy to wear style. I used view 3 which has very small grown on sleeves, rather than the raglan or cuffed sleeve. As I hadn't made this version before and I wanted it to fit quite neatly but still pull on over the head I made a quick muslin to check the size. I used a remnant of some lovely blush heavy viscose from Fabrics Galore that I had in my stash and now wear the muslin all the time!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

Having the muslin was really useful as I could put it on over the dress once that was made to check how it sat over the bodice and also get the length of the top just right. I wanted the hem to sit right on the waistline of the dress. I didn't want the waist seam to show but I thought hitting at the narrowest point of my body would be the most flattering. I toyed with the idea of keeping the centre back of the top open and fastening it at the nape with a single button and loop but I wasn't sure what the dress would look like peeking through that opening and had a feeling that everything might end up a little busy and messy at the back there.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

Keeping the back closed meant I only had the shoulder and side seams to sew, then the neckline, armholes and hem to finish. To assemble the seams I used a small backstitch and then hand overcast the seam allowances to finish them and caught them as delicately as possible to the shell at the same time. This is a technique I picked up in Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques; I love that book! I did the same to finish my hems and tried to keep my stitches as small and even as possible in case they showed through to the right side but they are happily pretty much invisible amongst the beading.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

The neckline is bound with bias binding in the original pattern instructions and I made up some slim binding in the fabric of the dress with the intention of finishing that way. However, when I laid it around the neckline it felt a little heavy alongside the chiffon and beading so I opted to just turn that edge under and hand finish it like the other hems. I made the neckline and armhole hems slim at 1/2" but used a full inch around the waist to give it a bit more weight.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

I spent a long time sampling and choosing fabric. I wanted my shade of grey to fit with the other dresses; to be different enough but not stand out. Lots of people said to us on the day that we must have spent ages finding the right shade of dress/fabric to compliment each other but actually we did it pretty much entirely independently! My step-sister lives in Paris so we didn't have the opportunity to see each other and our dresses in person before the day of the wedding! Mum got her dress first, then my sister and I did hold my fabric samples against both of theirs but took a guess at the shade of Laura's from a photo. Luckily I think they all work together beautifully.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

I knew the beading would be the trickiest thing to find (at least on a reasonable budget!) and I shopped around a lot before I found this little chiffon gem at Goldbrick Fabrics on Goldhawk Road. I loved that it wasn't too ostentatious and that the beading was delicate and fairly subtle. I originally sampled a paler colour of chiffon than this, although the beads were the same. But unfortunately when I went back to buy it they had none in stock. Goldbrick have pieces of all their fabrics hanging on racks which samples can be cut from from. Whilst I love that system for ease of browsing it has happened quite a few times that a fabric I've sampled they don't actually have in stock which is frustrating. Luckily this time it worked out for the best as I think I prefer this chiffon to the original.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

I thought the beaded fabric would be the star of the ensemble but in fact the fabric I used for the dress completely stole the show. It is an amazing crepe backed satin from Borovicks which I fell completely in love with after buying some in the wine colour for a dress for Sally Field in a show I costumed earlier in the year. It comes in a variety of colours and feels and looks like an expensive silk, for a fraction of the price! It has an amazing weight to it without compromising on the drape or movement and feels so luxurious against the skin. It is completely opaque and heavy enough not to require lining (a great time saver for me!) and is also washable (a good thing too as one of the waitresses managed to spill red wine on me!).

I almost used the matte crepe side of the fabric as the right side as it seemed a slightly better tonal match to the beaded chiffon and we had used the matte side for Sally's dress and it looked so rich and wonderful on stage. I'm so glad I didn't though and went the whole hog with satin on the outside! It felt so glamorous and that satin seems to glow. I don't feel like photos really do it justice as you need to see it move but the top photo when I'm walking gives you a good idea.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

I avoided any time consuming fitting problems and construction confusion by using a tried a tested bodice pattern. The By Hand London Elisalex. This is a classic princess seamed sleeveless bodice with scoop neckline. Having made this and many other princess seamed bodices before made the construction quite quick and simple. The fit on the finished bodice actually could be better but it is thankfully hidden by the top. I'm not sure if this is because my body shape has changed since I last made it years ago or that I am much more picky about my fitting nowadays! The only thing I'd really change though is to narrow the shoulders of the Elisalex bodice slightly as the neckline of the Emmeline is quite wide and as I moved around it would occasionally shift and the satin bodice would peek out of the neck. In hindsight I wonder if I would have been better using the BHL Kim bodice instead as this is a similar princess seamed shape but with a lower neckline with skinnier shoulder straps.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

I self lined the bodice rather than opting for a lining of a lighter weight to give it a bit more of a defined shape and structure without going as far as adding boning. I'm really pleased with my finishing and use of techniques like under stitching to get everything to sit just so. The matching of the waistline across the zip worked out spot on first time too!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

The skirt is a simple half circle skirt which I drafted from my measurements. I think a half circle is my favourite kind of skirt. I like the skim of the bias cut over the hips without the bulk of a gathered or pleated skirt around the waist. You get a nice dramatic swoosh with a half circle skirt too without being weighed down in fabric. Even doing a half rather than full circle made this full length dress quite the fabric eater! I think I had 3m and used the whole lot! I made the skirt as long as the fabric would allow and then hemmed it on my dress form once I'd left it to hang and drop for a couple of days. I chose the hem length when wearing the high sandals I'd be wearing on the day and opted to go a good inch or so off the floor to avoid a trip hazard - I was terrified of falling over as I walked down the aisle! I hand stitched the hem using a blind catch stitch to keep a clean finish on the right side.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Beaded Silver Bridesmaid Dress - BHL Elisalex Dress & Emmeline Tee

As well as enjoying the feeling of wearing a dress I had made myself in such gorgeous fabrics I felt SO comfortable in it all day. It was so nice to not have to feel self conscious or be aware of what I was wearing on a day like that and concentrate on just enjoying myself. The skirt was so great to swish around in and it held up to some fairly vigorous dancing too!! 

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Denim and Copper Hampton Jean Jacket

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

I love sewing outerwear. I'm not sure if it is the challenge of a big sew and complex techniques or the thought that this garment will be one I can get endless wear out of but I just love it. I have loved every minute of sewing this Hampton Jean Jacket and already know it is going to be one of the most worn items in my handmade wardrobe.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

The pattern is from Alina Sewing & Design Co and it was my first time using a pattern from them. I cannot emphasise enough how impressed I was with both the instructions and pattern itself. Considering what a lengthy project this is, the instructions are packed with detail and advice without seeming overwhelming and the illustrations are all clear and helpful. There wasn't a single moment when I found myself scratching my head over the next step and the end result is beautiful. The pattern is well thought out and packed with detail which produces a true classic denim jacket. I love that all four front pockets are functional and the addition of elements like the back tabs on the waistband elevates the design to the next level. I can't think of anything else I'd add, there is even a hanging loop. I particularly love the seaming on the front and how the breast pocket sits within that which is highlighted by the double lines of topstitching.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

Speaking of topstitching, I'm really proud of how mine turned out. It is one of my favourite sewing techniques as I think it makes a garment look more professional and I enjoy doing it. The pattern does include instructions on how to flat fell your seams but also recommends a faux flat felled seam, particularly in areas with a lot of layers of the denim. I went with the faux flat fell as I thought I would get a tidier finish on the outside with this method and also for speed. To faux flat fell a seam you finish the seam allowances together (I overlocked mine) then press to one side and topstitch twice.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

I was hesitant about using topstitching thread as I had some trouble with it snarling up when I made my Ginger Jeans and have tended to avoid it since. Then I picked up a tip on Instagram about using Gutermann Extra Strong thread instead and it has changed my life! It is a fraction finer than top-stitching thread and I actually prefer the less bulky effect once sewn. I encountered much less tangling of thread on the rear side than I had before, although that might partly be down to the machine. I chose this lovely coppery tone thread (Col. 448) to match the copper buttons from Prym I had picked out. Hammering those buttons in at the end is always a tense moment as you don't want to do irreversible damage to your garment in the final moments but not as tense as I felt sewing the final bits of topstitching! I messed up one of the buttonholes and had to unpick (never fun) and then realised I was running out of top-stitching thread! A particularly stressful game of thread chicken ensued and I couldn't believe it when I finished with less than a metre of thread left. In case you were wondering one 100m reel of Extra Strong thread is JUST enough for this jacket, allowing for a few mistakes!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

There are some fairly tricky elements involved that seem a little daunting but the instructions guide you through no problem and I enjoyed the opportunity to work with some nice stable denim. I've had this denim in my stash for a while now and can't remember if it came from Mood Fabrics or The Fabric Store. It is a nice sturdy mid-weight denim with a rich inky colour that is slightly more blue than shows up in photos. The copper thread and buttons show up so beautifully against it. I love it looking crisp and new as it is but also can't wait to see how it wears in and softens up.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

I was uneasy about tackling the welt pockets on the front of the jacket as they are so visible with contrast topstitching and are also one of the first things you sew. I haven't sewn a huge amount of welt pockets and need to build up my confidence and skill but am really pleased with these ones! The method is a little different to those I have sewn before but I didn't question it and followed the instructions to the letter, taking particular care to sew the sides accurately to achieve a nice clean rectangular opening. A large chunk of the instructions are given to the welt pockets, breaking them downing small steps. I thought they were brilliant. To line the pockets I used scraps of cotton ikat left over from my Tofo Summer Jumpsuit.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

Whilst part of me can't believe I haven't sewn a denim jacket before now (it such a wardrobe staple and sewing achievement!) I'm pleased I didn't attempt it before I had my shiny new Brother Innov-is F420 machine. Whilst I adored my very basic Janome the process of making this would have been a lot more challenging and a lot less enjoyable. When working with layers of denim as thick as this I would have had to hand crank through a lot of it to the detriment of my topstitching. If you're struggling to get your machine going on the edge of a particularly thick area of fabric you can fold up another piece of fabric or card to put under the back of the foot and level things out. Think about it like the machine trying to sew up hill, it is much easier to run on the flat!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

I was particularly nervous about the instructions to sew very visible bar tacks through quite thick areas of fabric as my old machine did not get on with these at all. This Brother machine was an absolute trooper and has produced a beautiful finish. There are a couple of areas on the long ones at either end of the welt pockets where there is a little wobble but that was operator error rather than the machine. I assumed that as the layers were so thick the garment might need a little encouragement through the machine and as the stitching is so dense it is hard to judge whether it is moving cleanly through the machine or not. I should have trusted the machine and left it to it's own devices because it was doing just fine without me! This machine does have a setting to sew bar tacks to a given length but I chose to use the zig zag stitch on a 2.5mm width and 0.4mm length.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

Another thing the machine needed no help with was buttonholes. I love, love, love the one step buttonhole on this machine. So quick and easy, it even tidies and cuts the thread for you. I also love that the machine comes with the choice of several styles of buttonhole. For this project I went with a keyhole shape with a bar tack on the end for extra strength in this tough fabric (stitch setting no.64 if you're interested!). It looks so professional I am delighted. I do recommend that you try out a couple of buttonholes on a scrap piece of fabric first so you can get used to the placement and check the size.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

The most difficult part for me was surprisingly the simple task of top-stitching around the armhole. As it is right towards the end of the process you are dealing with a lot of fabric and weight at that point. I found as I moved the jacket around to allow me access around the armhole as I sewed sometimes the fabric shifted slightly under the foot so my topstitching is a little less even in that area than elsewhere. I'm being really pernickety thought! I was thinking I should have increased the pressure of the presser foot at this point to hold the garment in place but perhaps I should get into the habit of keeping the needle down. There is a function on this machine to finish stitching with it down so I could have just turned that on in hindsight...I'm not used to all these bells and whistles!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

The only element I wasn't sure about the construction method for was the back tabs on the waistband as interestingly the pattern pieces aren't that shape but are square once sewn together and you have to poke the top corners inside to create the point. I thought it would be difficult to achieve a nice sharp and even point and then was concerned about the bulkiness of this area when sewing the buttonhole. But it turned out really nicely and my machine had no problems. I do infect think the extra bulk helps hold a nice crisp shape and you eliminate the risk of frayed edges if you trim and turn through that point too aggressively.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

The only thing I would potentially change about the jacket is the length of the sleeves. I think they look a touch long (not unusual for me) but then again I quite like long sleeves for warmth on outerwear. I'm more than happy with the fit and length overall, although it isn't as tailored or cropped as I might have previously chosen. However, I think this slightly boxy cut has a contemporary feel and is ideal for my current wardrobe. It is going to look great with cropped trousers or slung over summer dresses. I cut the size 6 which matches my measurements and whilst I could have gone down a size for a snugger fit I think this is perfect as it will layer well over sweaters on chilly evenings.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

I am incredibly happy with this project and glad I took my time over it. I knew it was going to be a big sew so it took me a while to get started on it as I felt like I wanted a good clear day of sewing which over the last few months has been non-existent. I constructed the jacket in small stints in the evenings which actually prevented stupid mistakes when I got tired. I think there is always at least one mistake or element that you wish you could have done better on any project but the slow pace and care I put into making this has produced sewing I'm incredibly proud of. This pattern is a great one to sew in small bursts as there are lots of little elements that you can tick off so you still feel satisfied at the end of each session. Approaching it in small chunks makes it feel less overwhelming. Sewing this has taught me how much you can achieve in limited amounts of sewing time and that you don't need a whole day or weekend to try and sew something start to finish.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket

This project also cured my recent sewing slump. I've been working so much over the last few months that when I have had time at home it has been hard to motivate myself to sew. I'd always thought a quick and satisfying tee or camisole project is best to kickstart the sew-jo as you can achieve that satisfaction of a completed project quickly. However, I so enjoyed every step of making this that I couldn't wait to get back to my machine and sew some more! Looking at the result achieved with this machine I can't wait to sew a pair of jeans now. Next on the list is a pair of Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans in dark denim.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim and Copper Alina Sewing & Design Co Hampton Jean Jacket