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

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Maroon Crepe Evie Bias Skirt

Hello readers, it has been a while! An extremely busy few months of long hours at work has left me with limited time to sew and often little motivation to do so. When I have been sewing I've had two quite big projects to work on (more on these soon!) which has seen my sewing output dwindle considerably. The project I'm sharing with you today is actually quite a quick make which I finished before my sewing slump but it has seen a considerable amount of wear since then!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tessuti Evie Bias Skirt in Maroon Polka Dot Polyester Crepe from The Fabric Store

This is the Evie Bias Skirt from Tessuti and I'm not sure what possessed me to make it as it is quite a departure from my every day style of late! I think I kept seeing gorgeous versions on Instagram and as I've only had great experiences with Tessuti patterns previously this tempted me to give it a try. It is such an easy to wear shape and dresses up or down well too. The only slight niggle I have with it is that I don't love the bias cut over the tummy area so pick and choose my days when I feel happy wearing it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tessuti Evie Bias Skirt in Maroon Polka Dot Polyester Crepe from The Fabric Store

The fabric is this Little Square Poly Crepe from The Fabric Store...yes a polyester! I'm usually wary of buying polyester online as often it can feel quite nasty and be unpleasant to work with but I fell in love with this print when I spotted it in the New Arrivals section a few months back and I trust the quality of fabrics from The Fabric Store in general. I was very happy with it when it arrived. Yes the hand isn't as smooth or pleasant to touch as a viscose but the drape is glorious and it works for the shape of this pattern well as it retains a bit of weight. You don't want anything too fine that might hang a bit limply; although I am considering a version in silk chiffon lined with a fine crepe as I think this might have a nice frothy effect.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tessuti Evie Bias Skirt in Maroon Polka Dot Polyester Crepe from The Fabric Store

At first glance it looks like a classic white polka dot print and in this colour it has a real 1940's vibe to me. However, on closer inspection the polka dots are actually little squares which gives the print a contemporary twist. I've been wearing a lot of this warm wine colour over the past season and adore it. The simple shape of the skirt is a great blank canvas to showcase beautiful fabric, although if you are considering using a print remember that it is cut on the bias so a directional print will end up on a diagonal. I love that this turned my print from a regular regimented polka dot into something a little more interesting. The bias cut means you need a little more fabric than you think for a simple looking skirt. The pattern recommends 1.65m for my size and I needed it. If you're the type of person, like me, who pretty much always assumes that pattern companies suggest a lot more fabric than really necessary and never follows the pattern cutting layout, it is worth noting that Tessuti are quite economical with their quantities.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tessuti Evie Bias Skirt in Maroon Polka Dot Polyester Crepe from The Fabric Store

I have hardly sewn anything on the bias before and even then just the odd panel rather than a full garment so I was quite nervous about the pattern pieces stretching out, particularly around the waistline. I was really careful with my pattern pieces after I had cut them, keeping them laid flat. Tessuti patterns often use tear away Vilene for stabilising seams but I've never got any to hand so I switched out that step for regular stay stitching along the waistline and zip opening. I did this before I did anything else. I left the skirt to hang for a while before hemming as I expected it to drop unevenly but I had no trouble and simply hemmed it as it was without trimming anything off

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tessuti Evie Bias Skirt in Maroon Polka Dot Polyester Crepe from The Fabric Store

The pattern comes with two options for finishing the waistline; either with a narrow scallop edged elastic or a bias facing. I opted for the bias facing as I've never been a huge fan of an elasticated waist and I wanted to avoid anything about this style clinging as far as possible. I really liked the method for attaching the bias tape which has you turn it over and stitch it twice to conceal the raw edges rather than fiddling around with trying to turn everything under in one swoop. On this version the skirt is fastened with an invisible zip and hook and eye at the side seam which is nice and clean.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tessuti Evie Bias Skirt in Maroon Polka Dot Polyester Crepe from The Fabric Store

The hem is finished with a narrow hem although there's also instructions to create a raw hem with linen. I don't do a narrow hem very much but loved sewing this and the resulting effect. For a polyester this crepe presses and holds a crisp edge very nicely. Everything about the chosen finishing techniques for this feels delicate and classy which is something I've noticed with a lot of Tessuti patterns. I like their way of sewing.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tessuti Evie Bias Skirt in Maroon Polka Dot Polyester Crepe from The Fabric Store

I cut the size 8 which is a tad larger than my waist measurement and it fits like an absolute glove. There is a little room around the waist but for me that equates to the perfect amount of wearing ease to feel comfortable in this style. The finished garment measurements indicate no ease and for me personally that is too snug. The pattern is described as being drafted to flatter the body and I have to agree. I love the cut around the waist and hips and the a-line shape has just the right amount of flare to it. The midi length trend has never seemed that wearable to me being petite; I've always wound up shortening things but for some reason in a bias cut like this I love it. It is quite a short midi but I think I've accidentally found my ideal length; I need a bit of leg on show to balance my proportions.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tessuti Evie Bias Skirt in Maroon Polka Dot Polyester Crepe from The Fabric Store

This skirt paired with a Nikko Top and ankle boots has been my go-to outfit over the last few months when I want to feel a little dressed up and ladylike. I'm on the hunt now for a fabric to make a summer version in to pair with tees and pumps for day and strappy sandals by night.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Striped Cotton Zadie Jumpsuit

Do you ever see a new pattern release and feel like it was just made for you? When I first spotted the Zadie Jumpsuit (the latest design from Paper Theory) I felt like it was a garment that should already be in my wardrobe. I love that it has got buckets of style, lovely unique design features, is effortlessly wearable and practical for my lifestyle too. I know jumpsuits aren't for everyone but I am a HUGE fan and they are genuinely amongst some of the most worn garments in my wardrobe (see evidence here, here, herehere and here). So much so that I am more than happy to put up with the hassle of using the toilet!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Hairline Stripe Indigo Cotton Twill from The Fabric Store

The fabric is this Hairline Stripe Cotton Twill in Indigo from The Fabric Store. It is completely dreamy fabric to work with and wear. I adore the workwear vibe of this fabric with the combination of deep inky blue and fine stripe. adore the workwear vibe inky blue and hairline stripe. When I first saw this fabric online I instantly saw it as a traditional French workwear jacket like the Julien Chore Jacket from Ready To Sew but had to admit to myself that there probably isn't a place for one of those in my wardrobe. I was very excited when I realised I could use it for this jumpsuit instead! It was a pattern and fabric match made in heaven. When the fabric arrived it was a lighter weight of twill than I imagined which is great as it gives a bit of movement to the jumpsuit and despite it's soft hand it retains a bit of crispness which works well to emphasise the lovely cut of those legs. I would never have worn this cut of clothing a few years ago but now it is absolutely what I feel happiest in. A wide leg and semi fitted bodice...with pockets of course.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Hairline Stripe Indigo Cotton Twill from The Fabric Store

Since I first saw it the online sewing community seems to have fallen for this pattern big time. Every new version I've seen has made me like it even more. I was frustrated not to have the time to sew this up straight after the pattern releases but actually having to wait and read some reviews has paid off and saved me making a muslin! A lesson in patience and not diving head first into a new project perhaps. Quite a few people have mentioned feeling like the suit was too long through the crotch. Being fairly short at 5ft 3" and with a short body I took a gamble after measuring the pattern pieces and shortened both the bodice and crotch by 3/4" each at the lengthen shorten line. I'm so pleased I did. The waistline and those wrap ties now sit just at the point I want. I think I could actually stand to loose a little more length form the crotch as there is some room in the rear but I do like a bit a freedom to move around!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Hairline Stripe Indigo Cotton Twill from The Fabric Store

This style is designed to be worn oversized and while I like the look I was wary of my petite frame being overwhelmed in fabric, preferring a slightly neater fit at least on the top half. After analysing the finished garment measurements which are helpfully thorough in these instructions I opted to cut one size down from my measurements, the size 8. I deliberated going down to a 6 but I'm glad I didn't in the end as I wouldn't want this style to look fitted. I've had a bit of trouble fitting wrap fronts in the past and feeling exposed but this feels incredibly secure and modest without being overtly so. I think the key in a wrap is getting the bodice length right.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Hairline Stripe Indigo Cotton Twill from The Fabric Store

I've seen a few people on social media asking for fit help on this garment because of creasing around the armholes. For me, this is just the way this grown-on style of sleeve sits and in a fabric with a bit of body and crispness like this cotton it is always going to happen. It doesn't bother me one bit! I've always had a pretty relaxed attitude to fitting and my general attitude is that if it looks as good as something you'd buy in the shops (both in terms of fit and finish, and to be honest it is usually better) that is plenty good enough.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Hairline Stripe Indigo Cotton Twill from The Fabric Store

For a jumpsuit it is a pretty speedy and straightforward project. I had it sewn up in about 4 hours at the weekend without rushing. The construction is remarkably straightforward, the most fiddly element being applying the binding to the curvy front edge. My life was made considerably easier by the fact that I was using a sturdy cotton which pressed well. A nice steamy press is certainly your friend in getting this to look neat and tidy! If you're struggling in a trickier fabric I would recommend breaking down the application of the binding into smaller steps. The pattern instructions have you assemble and press the bias strip and then simply slide it over your raw edge before stitching through the whole thing in one fell swoop. You could if you liked open up the binding and stitch it to the wrong side of the fabric first, before folding it over and stitching it in place. That might give you more control around the curves and is the method I am most used to seeing in pattern instructions.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Hairline Stripe Indigo Cotton Twill from The Fabric Store

The only part of the instructions I got a little confused about was basting the ties in place before attaching the binding. Now I've done it once I understand but it made no sense to me to begin with and I felt this step could have used a better diagram, additional notch or more explanation. On first try my ties ended up basted on to point upwards instead of towards the sides! When you first sew them on it looks like they are pointing in the wrong direction but once the binding is applied you fold them back over the binding and secure in place.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Hairline Stripe Indigo Cotton Twill from The Fabric Store

I absolutely love the construction of this jumpsuit; the way it is put together and finished. It is really unique which makes it both fun to make and wear. The slit in the side seam for the tie to pass through is easy to finish in a clean and sturdy fashion and I don't feel like I've got a big hole exposing my side once done up. Throughout the process I was questioning how the area below the waist and the bound edges could possibly be finished neatly without risk of exposure but it sort of came together well without me really having to think about it. If you're not using an overlocker to finish your seams you'll probably want to go back in and extend your crotch seam stitching up to the top edge of the binding once you've applied it as that will help that area sit right. It is a little unusual to have that volume of fabric in that area but I got used to wearing it very quickly. I love the effect of the fold here. It reminds me of wrap front fisherman's trousers or a pattern from the Japanese Pattern Magic books!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Hairline Stripe Indigo Cotton Twill from The Fabric Store

The weather here in London seems to have taken a turn back to the chiller and damper side of things which is frustrating as this is about all I want to wear right now. That combination of feeling so comfortable you forget you've even got clothes on yet wearing clothes so cool you get compliments at every turn is a rare one. If you follow along with my Me-Made-May on Instagram you might get bored of seeing this soon! Speaking of Me-Made-May, I now wear mainly handmade most days so my goal for the month is to actually whittle down my wardrobe to garments I really love and get a lot of wear out of. It is hard to admit sometimes that a sewing project hasn't turned out quite the way you hoped after all the time, energy and expense put into it and even harder to part with them. I'd like to spend some time this month refashioning, repairing and altering pieces in my handmade wardrobe to give them a new lease of life. I'm also going to try and get rid of the things I'm genuinely not going to wear anymore and need ideas of how to do this in a way that feels good! I'm considering giving some away to family and friends, donating to charity, possibly a little Instagram de-stash/sale and making use of H&M's textile recycling scheme.

Are you choosing to join in with the Me-Made fun this month? And if so how?

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Waxed Cotton Desmond Backpack

The project I have to share with you today has been on quite the adventure with me over the last couple of months! This is the Desmond Roll Top Backpack from Taylor Tailor and I have definitely tested my workmanship and the pattern to the full, using it almost every day when travelling around Southern Africa and the Philippines. The picture below is at Victoria Falls and further down is another of the pack in use at Blyde River Canyon in South Africa  It has also been with me on boat trips and hikes including to the top of the second highest waterfall in the world! Now I am home it is in daily use again travelling around London for work and it has proved to be a great backpack for all purposes.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

I chose a lovely warm red waxed cotton from Cloth House on Berwick Street and all the hardware and webbing straps I bought in a kit from Guthrie & Ghani. I'd spotted these kits at the Knitting & Stitching Show in October but been too indecisive about it to buy on the day. Luckily when I emailed them they still had a couple left! The kit is fantastic as it saves a lot of time searching for the correct findings and webbings in the colours and finishes you want. It also includes a 15% discount off the PDF pattern. Taylor does sell hardware kits for the pattern in his online shop too but they ship from the US. It certainly isn't a cheap project once you've assembled all the hardware and the waxed cotton wasn't cheap at £18/m but it was all 100% worth it for a backpack which I love and have been getting so much use out of.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

I saved some pennies on the lining and made use of some plain black quilting weight cotton from my stash and fused it with mid-weight woven interfacing to thicken it up. I was questioning how important the mid-weight recommended choice of lining was but you really will benefit from the extra strength and structure and it will make those interior pockets nice and sturdy. I really liked the shape of the interior back pocket piece which has angled sides rather than just being a regular rectangle. This means that wen you sew it on to the rectangular markings you end up with a three dimensional shape and a roomier pocket. Very clever.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

When I'd completed this project I really felt like I'd put my recently acquired Brother Innov-is F420 through its paces! The coating of wax on the fabric makes it very dense and tough and in some areas the layers of fabric got quite thick so your machine needs a bit of oomph to get through it but mine coped beautifully. I started out with a size 90 universal needle following recommendations online but ended up going with a size 80 microtex needle as the larger size was making quite unsightly holes where it punched through. The sharp point of the microtex needle seemed to pierce through the waxed fibres more cleanly. Speaking of unsightly holes, if you are working with wax cotton you want to avoid unpicking anything if you can! I had to in a few places and those holes won't go away! I struggled to get pins through the fabric and worried about holes so resorted to clips for the majority of construction.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

The instructions are detailed and thorough and made complete sense. Despite it being my first backpack I didn't feel lost at any point. Assembly was fairly straightforward but I wouldn't recommend it as a beginner project as it is quite lengthy and involved and some aspects are a little fiddly, especially using heavier weight fabrics which can be tricky to manoeuvre. The most complicated elements were topstitching the edges of the three dimensional front pocket in place neatly and the straps. The straps I made more challenging for myself as my stiff fabric choice made them really difficult to turn through. I'd also opted to add batting inside the straps to give them a little padding which made turning impossible! In the end I gave up and unpicked my stitching around the straps. The holes from the stitching gave me a nice clear line to follow and press under the raw edges so I could place the strap pieces wrong sides together with the batting sandwiched in between and edge stitch them closed. The finished straps are definitely not my neatest sewing but they work! I'd highly recommend adding the padding if you are intending on carrying a bit of weight around in your pack and sort of wish I had added two layers of batting instead of one on full day hikes when my pack was heavy.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

I love that the instructions give you a nice clean finish which is also super strong! The band along the top of the backpack is a good example of this. It serves the dual purpose of concealing the top end of the straps and all the extra lines of reinforcement stitching whilst adding a bit more strength. I didn't need to finish the edges of the wax cotton as it doesn't fray. The instructions only have you finish the edges of the patch pocket pieces as all the other raw edges are concealed within the lining. I finished the ends of webbing which would be concealed within the seams with fray check and the other ends I turned in twice and stitched. This particular webbing frays like crazy.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

As there were only a couple of hardware kits left I didn't get a choice of colour of webbing and findings. I'm really happy with how the black and brass finish looks in combination with the wine red anyway! Switching between purple thread for the exterior and black for the webbing and webbing was a bit of a pain but luckily the F420 is really fast to thread. Everything in the hardware kit is top quality and the notions are all Prym brand. Initially the fact that the sliders are 30mm wide rather than 25mm like the rest of the kit irked me a little as they looked big on the webbing straps but actually that extra width is really useful when tightening and loosening to adjust the strap length.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

A wonderful feature of the waxed cotton is the way it marks and wears. My backpack is now looking really quite weathered in a beautiful way! It had a few flaws in it when I bought it and now has a lot more scrapes and discolouration in it. It has a lovely beaten vintage look which compliments the style of the backpack. I absolutely adore the design, both aesthetically and practically. It has loads of pockets (three external, four internal) and the only thing I wish I had done differently was to check the size of the exterior side pockets before construction and make them a little larger. They are just a fraction too small to hold my water bottle. The interior pockets are really useful to keep small things that would easily be lost in the roomy interior. It is a good size for a laptop and it can be rolled up fairly small or kept quite big. I felt like the roll top makes it really secure and safe but it does also make it quite fiddly to get into in a hurry! I was a little concerned that my fabric choice was going to end up too structured for the roll top but it holds a nice shapely roll and softens up nicely with a bit of use. It won't stay as crisp as you find it on the roll! You definitely need something with a bit of structure for this design to hold the nice boxy bottom shape out and give the front zip pocket shape.

I didn't set out to make my bag waterproof but the combination of the waxed cotton and the roll top design does a great job of keeping everything inside dry...even at Victoria Falls where we got drenched in 'upwards rain'! You could easily make a fully waterproof version of this bag with a properly waterproof fabric and waterproof seam tape. Closet Case Patterns have some great tips on this in a post for their Kelly Anorak pattern.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

There are quite a few features of the Innov-is F420 which help with the accuracy of your stitching and these were exceptionally useful for sewing all the tight corners on this and getting topstitching to finish neatly in the right places. I like to have the speed of the machine it cranked up to high speed for long straight lines like the side seams but turn it right down slow for curved edges like the bottom of the straps. The pedal is nice and sensitive so you can get a good variety of speeds and control going on. Being able to control the speed of the reverse stitching really helped too as there is a lot of sewing back and forth over your stitching for reinforcement. On this machine if you press the reverse button it will sew a single backwards stitch. If you press and hold the button it will very slowly slow a line of reverse stitches. If while you are holding the button down you put your foot on the pedal it will sew at the usual speeds but backwards!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Taylor Tailor Desmond Backpack in Waxed Cotton from Cloth House

I loved putting this bag together as it was so different to what I usually make and working with wax cotton was a new experience too. I am so pleased I took the time to make just the backpack I wanted rather than buying one. It was a really enjoyable project which I highly recommend if you're looking to make something a little bit different.