Monday, 22 September 2014

Floral Miette Skirt (and Bonus Playsuit Combo!)

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tilly and the Buttons Miette Skirt in John Kaldor Crepe

Today I've got a fairly simple make to share with you that makes a whole lot of difference to the wearability of my Holly Playsuit which I shared a couple of weeks ago. This project came about for a couple of reasons. After making my first cotton twill Miette Skirt and realising what a speedy and wearable make it was, I knew I wanted to make another in a less crisp fabric to achieve a softer and less obviously a-line look.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tilly and the Buttons Miette Skirt in John Kaldor Crepe

Secondly the silhouette of the bodice and shorts combo from the initial design of By Hand London's Holly Jumpsuit  (which just to reiterate is not the bodice variation included in the final pattern now available) gave off a bit of a 1950s pin up vibe to me. My boyfriend said to me while we were taking the pictures that I was pretty much as exposed in Holly as I am in both of my Bombshell Swimsuits so I might as well model them for the blog. It was at that point that an image popped into my head of those stunning 1950s sewing patterns for bathing suits or beachwear that come with an additional wrap skirt to wear over the top. I've always loved the idea of these and thought why not whip up my own, slightly more contemporary version? I realised that the perfect solution for making my playsuit a little more modest already existed in my plan for a second Miette, and the ideal fabric for my second Miette already existed in the generous leftovers of crepe from my playsuit.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Miette Skirt with Holly Playsuit

The John Kaldor French Crepe I used for Holly is the absolute perfect fabric for the silhouette I wanted to achieve with this skirt, it has a good weight to it but still a beautiful drape which suits the simple silhouette and wrap of this perfectly. The skirt has been worn separately, paired with a simple t-shirt or cami, quite a lot over the summer. It's an easy thing to reach for in the morning on a hot day and suits my fairly active working lifestyle perfectly as it does not crease or wrinkle at all and falls back into place neatly.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Miette Skirt with Holly Playsuit

The crepe also worked out great for the skirt and playsuit combo. I was worried about things getting a bit too bulky around the waist area with the wrap of the skirt on top of the waistline of the playsuit but it's just light weight enough for this not to be an issue. It feels great as a dress and I think from a distance you can't even tell that it's not! It's got me excited about using this and the two released variations of the Holly bodice as part of a dress.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Miette Skirt with Holly Playsuit

I don't have much to report on the Miette Skirt pattern from Tilly and the Buttons as I sewed this up exactly as before; cutting between a size 2 and 3 at the waist, grading out to a 3 at the hips and taking a good 4" off the length. I again omitted the waist ties in favour of two buttons fastening each end of the wrap at the back of the waist. I used exactly the same buttons as I did for my first Miette. They are a good size for the waistband and the colour looked great with the gorgeous vivid colours of the print.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tilly and the Buttons Miette Skirt in John Kaldor Crepe

With the exception of the ties I followed the throughly detailed and pictured instructions pretty much to the letter and was again incredibly pleased with the tidy finish. The crepe presses beautifully and holds a lovely crisp edge to the wrap. After much deliberation I used white thread throughout with the exception of the buttonholes for which I used purple. The white showed up nicely against the colours as a topstitched line but I felt when used for the dense stitching of a buttonhole and combined with those purple buttons it might have been too bright and jarring. I overlocked all the raw edges with white thread.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tilly and the Buttons Miette Skirt in John Kaldor Crepe

We've had a little bit of a muggy wave of heat passing through London over the last week which has meant I've had a surprise extra bit of wear out of these two garments. I've got a feeling we're saying goodbye to summer for now though so I'm already looking forward to the next and any possible trips to the beach so I can wear the outfit complete!



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

5 Tips on How To Insert an Invisible Zip


After I posted my Silvia Dress a few of you lovely people requested a tutorial for the method I used to insert the side seam zip (which I am still so proud of!). It was my very first time inserting a zip in that fashion (where the seam is closed both above and below the zip) so I don't feel like quite enough of an expert to be volunteering up my slightly 'trial and error' method as a guideline for others to follow! However, I have picked up quite a few invisible zip tips from a variety of sources over the time I have been sewing and I think making use of these definitely made that tricky insertion more successful. I thought I'd share with you some of my favourites and those which I think have made the biggest difference in terms of accuracy and first time success.

  • Make the very first thing you do to press the zipper teeth away from the tape. Be gentle and use a cool iron as you don't want to melt the plastic teeth! This is one of the first tips I picked up (from some By Hand London pattern instructions) and I've been doing it ever since. On a couple of occasions I've forgotten and could really notice the difference. It means you can stitch really close in to the teeth which really affects just how invisible that zip is.

  • The next preparation step is to add a strip of fusible interfacing to the seam allowances where you are going to insert the zip. I first saw this mentioned in Lladybird's fantastic invisible zip tutorial and it really has changed how accurately my zips go in first time. You just need a slim strip the length of your zip on each side. It prevents your fashion fabric from stretching out as you pin or sew in your zip which means you don't end up with one centre back mysteriously longer than another and some serious misalignment going on.

  • One of the most notoriously difficult things about inserting a zip is getting seam lines to match up, usually at the waist or waistband. The instructions for Sew Over It's Betty Dress gave me a great tip to help solve this one. You sew in one side of the zip as usual. Then, before you pin or sew in the second side, do up the zip. Make a tiny snip or draw a tiny mark on free side of the zip tape at exactly the point where the waistband (or any other seam lines intersecting the zip) meet the centre. Undo the zip and pin then sew it in, making sure that mark or snip you made lines up exactly with the seam line on the second side.

  • Another Lauren tip which has made a subtle yet significant difference to the alignment of my zips is to sew both sides in the same direction. It's again to do with the stretching out of fabric and things shifting ever so slightly as you sew. You may have pinned the second side of that zip in perfectly but, especially if it's a long zip, the pressure of the foot and the differing feeds of the fabric and the zip may cause things to move enough to be out by just a couple of millimetres. If you sew the right side from top to bottom, make sure the left side is sewn top to bottom too.

  • The fifth and final tip is something I only really do if I'm working with a really tricky fabric or on a super special project. Sally includes some great instructions for invisible zips in her Capital Chic patterns which involve basting the zip opening closed before insertion. This means you've basically got not chance of misaligned intersecting seams (unless you've basted them wonky to start with!) and results in a perfectly neat and today finish. It does add on a bit of time but is definitely worth it if you're working with a fabric which really won't hold up to any unpicking or multiple layers such as lace and and underlining.

I know a lot of people dread inserting an invisible zip as they have a reputation for being tricky and a bit temperamental. However, I kind of love them and really believe there should be nothing to fear! I like the sleek clean finish they give to the outside of a garment and, as many of my projects have now involved them, I feel quite confident about putting them in without relying on my seam ripper! I hope these tips prove as useful for you as they have for me. Have you got any other zip tricks you can;t live without?!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Colourful Canvas Cushion Covers

I've got something slightly different to my usual completed projects to share with you today. To celebrate the opening of Mood Fabrics NYC's brand new showroom for home decoration fabrics the Mood Sewing Network bloggers were invited to do an extra home related sewing project for the network. I jumped at the chance to try out something new. I spotted a peak of the new store on the Mood Fabrics Instagram earlier in the week and I so wish I could visit in person!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Cotton Canvas Print Cushion Covers

I've been wanting to brighten up our lounge for a while now and what better way to do this than with colourful scatter cushions in a variety of prints? To be honest while browsing Mood's range of home dec appropriate fabrics online I did get a little carried away and briefly consider a larger project such as curtains or a roman blind. I was also getting seriously sucked into dreaming about what could be done with some of the gorgeous laser cut velvets. However, this 'sewing for the home newbie' needed to keep things simple at first!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Cotton Canvas Print Cushion Covers

First up I wanted something bright and contemporary to liven up my front room so I went for this Village Green/Natural Zig Zag Canvas. It's a lovely thickness for a home dec canvas which I can see being useful for many different projects. I think the zig zag is a really good size for these cushions which are 35cm x 35cm. Despite being such a bold print they almost appear fairly neutral as a whole compared to the other two!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Cotton Canvas Print Cushion Covers

My favourite of the three now they are made up is definitely the Graceful Garden Floral Cotton Print; the colours are so vivid and really bring some life to the set. I also love the scale of the print and the way the flowers just seem to flourish across the cushion. As with the zig zag versions I just made simple envelope cushions with an overlap of about a third at the back.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Cotton Canvas Print Cushion Covers

I did get a little more creative with the last cushion. This lovely Italian Black and White Floral Canvas jumped out at me straight away. I thought the monochrome print would work really well with the other colourful canvases I had picked but it was screaming to me to be paired with a splash of colour in the cushion itself. I took a quick look through Mood's trim selection and decided a bit of fun piping would be a good way to go. I absolutely love how the Pink Leather Trim I chose looks with the scale and style of this print.  I also chose to do my stitching along overlapping edges on the back of the cushion in matching hot pink to carry that colour choice through. This canvas has a slightly different hand to the other two; it's a lighter weight and feels finer and smoother to the touch which I really like. It was lovely to work with.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Cotton Canvas Print Cushion Covers

It was really easy to add the trim to the cushion. I just sandwiched it between the layers before assembling the cushion, pinning it carefully in place with all the raw edges lined up. I sewed it up as usual using my zip foot. I didn't use any kind of special needle to handle the piping as the leather is pretty fine and soft. My machine handled it fine. I made sure to clip in from the raw edge right up to the cording at each corner point to help it curve round smoothly.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Cotton Canvas Print Cushion Covers

After realising how speedy and enjoyable cushion covers are to make and the difference they've made to the room I can't believe I have not delved in sewing for my home before. The heavier weight and stiffness of these fabrics were such a nice change to all the delicate silks that I've found myself working with recently for dressmaking. I've now got all sorts of ideas and think my next project may be a beanbag or footstool!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Cotton Canvas Print Cushion Covers

Monday, 8 September 2014

Pattern Testing: The Holly Jumpsuit from By Hand London

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe

Today I've got a finished garment to share with you which I've been absolutely bursting to share with you for what felt like months! It's the most recent release from By Hand London - the Holly Jumpsuit. Now before we get into the nitty gritty details I do need to explain that this version here is what I made when testing the pattern, after which this variation of the bodice was redesigned completely so if you purchase the pattern you will not be buying the pattern for the bodice you see here. The BHL ladies took the decision to redo this variation of the bodice, not because of any drafting or pattern related issues but because they had unknowingly replicated another pattern designer's work and wanted to release something fresh and new. This however is not going to stop me from making many more versions of this particular bodice as I absolutely love it!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe

As previously with my test of the Flora Dress I was provided with the fabric for my pattern test by SewBox. Susan was as helpful as ever and I had my pick of fabrics from her wide range of Liberty, John Kaldor and Michael Miller prints. When I picked my fabric I wasn't yet sure which variation I wanted to tackle so I wanted something with a bit of body and drape and something which would withstand my pretty active working day without wrinkling too much. As we were just heading in to summer I had bright prints on the brain so opted for this stunning French Crepe from John Kaldor. It's a lovely weighty crepe which was so enjoyable to work with; cutting, pressing and sewing. I was so delighted with how well it worked for the pattern and the lovely smooth, crisp finish it provided.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe

I always like to sew up the pattern exactly 'as is' when testing so I can give accurate feedback on the pattern without questioning whether any issues I come across are to do with my alterations. I cut the size UK10 as I always do with BHL patterns and this fit me pretty much like a dream straight out of the packet. In fact the first thing my boyfriend said to me when he spotted me in this was 'Wow that fits you so well!' and if that's the first thing he notices, in fact if he even notice the fit at all, it really must! There are in fact a couple of little things I would change next time fit wise. Firstly this version is slightly loose around the top of the bodice so the side seams are gaping away from my body a little. It'd very minor but I'd probably trim a little off at each side seam next time. Secondly, I did shorten the straps by 1" as I knew from previous experience with BHL patterns that they tend to be long on me in this area. Next time I'd take off maybe an inch more as, as you will be able to see in some of the pictures, they slip and sag a little when I stand in a particular way.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe

You may have noticed that this is pretty short! It's actually shorter than I think is intended as I kept trimming and trimming until I felt like the proportions looked right in this bold print. I ended up taking off about 3" in length which actually is pretty standard for me with patterns from this company as I'm such a short ass. The waistband sits in the perfect place on me though so you might want to consider lengthening the bodice if you are tall.

I personally love the way the shorts fit me for this quite figure skimming version but I know one change that was made after testing was to give a bit more room in the bum. I think this would give more of a relaxed fit which would suit the short sleeved bodice of variation 1, plus if I had made the trousers they would have hung differently and perhaps have required more ease in that area.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe

Construction wise it was super enjoyable as it has such a lovely clean finish.  I only had one head scratching moment when I was attaching the band to the neckline and convinced myself that seams were going to end up on the outside. In fact all the seams are wonderfully hidden beneath the band and I should have just trusted the instructions! I finished all the seams on my overlocker which produced a beautifully neat edge on the crepe, it's strangely satisfying to look at all those tidy and even intersecting seams inside!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe

I'd say this was a slightly trickier sew than By Hand London's other patterns as there's more to it but it's still a fairly straightforward make as I think the shape of the trousers/shorts is quite forgiving and princess seams are the simplest to fit. There is an invisible zip in the side seam but I've always found their zipper instructions to be particularly good.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe

Because of the length, summer style and loud print it's not the most easily wearable garment I've ever made but I absolutely adore it for beach/holiday wear and a spot of sunbathing in the park. I also came up with a little trick to make it A LOT more wearable on a daily basis which I'll share with you very soon. I feel fantastic in it which I think is down to the great fit and and clean and tidy finish. I'm really keen to use this bodice to make a dress but I also want to try the variation 2 bodice as released with the cowl neck as a dress in the style of Sew Busy Lizzy. For me one of the best things about this pattern is the scope it gives you for creating almost an entirely new wardrobe. You've got jumpsuit, playsuit, two very different bodices to mix and match with simple self drafted skirts plus separate trousers and shorts! I wish I'd had more time on my hands to sew this summer and I would have made every single one.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe

Just in case you were wondering I did test the new bodice too. I only had time to whip up a quick muslin with no bottoms attached in some slinky poly crepe I had in my stash (and sorry I didn't get any photos) but that was enough to tell me that I definitely NEED to make that one up for real too. I was a little sceptical about the design at first as that cowl neck style is not something I would usually go for but this sits really beautifully. For me it has the perfect amount of drape as I don't feel like I'm at risk of exposing anything I don't want to. The bias binding used for the straps is a little fiddly and time consuming as I always find binding to be but is another great trick for a clean and professional looking finish.

The only question left is which variation do I make up next?!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit/Playsuit in John Kaldor French Crepe