Saturday, 15 November 2014

Pattern Testing: The Chloe Blazer from Jolie Marie Louise (and giveaway winner!)

So I'm going to start out by introducing project as a garment I completed quite some time ago now, in fact I made this back in April when I tested the pattern. I got a fair bit of wear out of it in the spring but putting it on again today to take photos has really highlighted for me how much my sewing has come on in the last six months. Don't get me wrong I'm still really proud of this garment as my very first blazer style jacket and these thoughts are in no way any reflection on the pattern or instructions, I've just learnt a lot about how to achieve a more professional finish and fit recently.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Polka Dot Chloe Jacket from Jolie Marie Louise

This is the recently released Chloe Blazer from Jolie Marie Louise. I had a choice of patterns to test and was instantly drawn to this one because of the classic style and feminine lines. I was really excited to test this pattern from the point of view of someone who had never sewn a garment of this type before. I was a little daunted by the task of a structured garment but the instructions for it are fantastic. My favourite part is the 'Quick Guide to Adjusting Your Pattern' which includes instructions for shortening or lengthening and on how to do an FBA. I was really impressed with this as soon as I opened up the pattern instructions as doing alterations like these is something I used to breeze on past as, not knowing how to do them, I was quite intimidated by the thought. With instructions for how to alter this specific pattern included (complete with really clear diagrams) it seems much more easily achievable. Having said that I cut a straight size 2 but next time I think I'll go down a size and do a slight FBA as there's quite a lot of room through the lower front. I do like the cut and fit of the back on this as it is though. I'd also shorten the sleeves to be three quarter length when the cuff is rolled back.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Polka Dot Chloe Jacket from Jolie Marie Louise
I'd like it to be a little more nipped in at the waist

It was quite an intensive project as there are simply so many pattern pieces to deal with once you have your main fabric, underlining, interfacing and lining cut out and there are many steps to work through (including basting all your underlining pieces to the main fabric to begin with!). If you like an involved project though this would be a great first step towards full on tailoring. Although many elements of this construction process were new to me each step made total sense and it was a really enjoyable journey. The part I was most apprehensive about was the welt pockets. Thanks to the clear instructions and plentiful diagrams these came together without any frustration. I'm pretty pleased with the final pockets although I definitely think I need some more practice at them to get all the corners nice and crisp.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Polka Dot Chloe Jacket from Jolie Marie Louise

As well as my first attempt at welt pockets it was my first attempt at using sleeve heads; in fact I didn't even know what they looked like when I went through the supplies list! I bought mine in a length off the roll from Kleins in Soho and cut them to size. They were surprisingly simple to put in. I lined up the ridge along the edge of the head itself with the seam line of the armhole and sewed them in along that line by hand.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Polka Dot Chloe Jacket from Jolie Marie Louise

For some reason I could not get the idea of a polka dot blazer out of my brain when first thinking about fabric choices for my jacket. After visits to Goldhawk Road and Rolls n Rems in Lewisham came up with nothing similar to what I had in mind I turned my search online which is pretty unusual for me. At first when it came to polka dots all I could find were endless options in quilting cotton then I came across this beautiful linen look cotton from Fabrics Galore. It comes in quite a few different colour ways and I went with the smoke grey. I bought 2.5m (it's only 44"/112cm wide) and just about squeezed the jacket out with scraps to spare.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Polka Dot Chloe Jacket from Jolie Marie Louise

The lining is a duck egg blue 100% cotton poplin which I'm having a hard time remembering the source of, it was either A-One Fabrics or Rolls n' Rems! As it was before the time I started keeping a good record of each project I also have no idea how much I used... I probably bought just over the recommended amount and I do know I had no trouble getting it out of that. For the underlining I used the recommend cotton muslin (which is known as calico here in the UK, muslin is an entirely different thing!).  The combination of these three fabrics I think has ended up a little thick and crisp for some elements of the design. I don't think any one of them was the wrong choice but that each was just a little on the heavy side and I should have altered my choice of underling and lining to compensate for the hand of the main fabric. Next time I'd like to line it with a soft and fairly fine silk and I'd look for a lighter weight of calico or heavy poplin for the underlining.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Polka Dot Chloe Jacket from Jolie Marie Louise

The lining has a pleat at the centre back and was super straight forward to install. I love the way it looks inside with the duck egg lining next to the soft grey facing. It's an unusually girly combination of fabric choices for me but with this tailored silhouette I don't feel too twee. I even stitched the button holes in the thread to match the lining to bring and element of that colour to the outside. Being able to make little design choices like this it one of the things I really love about sewing my own clothes.

I used a couple of pewter metal buttons I had in my stash as they were the right size but I've never been entirely sold on them. Buttons in the same colour as the lining was too much, and also restricts what I can wear the jacket with as at the moment I can wear the sleeves rolled down and hiding the colour. What kind of buttons would you choose?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Polka Dot Chloe Jacket from Jolie Marie Louise

Now I've got a bit more complex sewing experience under my belt I'd really love to make this pattern again with a better choice of materials and better technique. As well as making the fit adjustments I've already mentioned I think my jacket would benefit from taking more time and care with pressing and steaming throughout the construction process. There is no underestimating the difference a good press of each and every seam can make which it comes to a crisp and professional finish is there?! I love the way Anto has styled the sample version and the brocade fabric she has chosen, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for interesting jacket suitable fabrics from now on!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Polka Dot Chloe Jacket from Jolie Marie Louise

To finish up on a slightly different note I've got a giveaway winner to announce! The lucky recipient of the copy of 'Hollywood Costume' by Deborah Nadoolman Landis is Amy Gallagher from Made in a Normal Person's Kitchen. Congratulations Amy, I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have! If you could send me an email (address on my about page) to let me know your address I'll get it in the post this week

Saturday, 8 November 2014

A Trio of Renfrew Tops


One of my main sewing aims this year has been to develop my skills and confidence when it comes to working with knits. I'm happy to say, despite a somewhat mixed start, I've been really delighted with my last couple of knit garments. I've made a handful of Sewaholic's Renfrew Top over the last six months or so but as yet have not got around to sharing them with you guys. I thought it might be a good idea to group them all into one post as I made them all at various points on my knit sewing journey and there's quite a mixture of results!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt

I gave myself a good challenge with this first one, not only choosing the most difficult neckline option with the tricky point to sew but also using a stripe! The one thing I am actually pleased about with this is the stripe matching! It was fairly straight forward as both colours are a nice wide stripe. I cut everything out on the flat and when pinning the side seams I used a pin at the top and bottom of each stripe to make sure everything lined up. I made this right back in March and at the time wasn't sure what to do about matching the sleeves so just made no attempt at it at all! Now I know what I'm looking to match up.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt
I'll explain the awful state of the holes in that seam in a moment...

For all three of these tops I cut exactly the same size (the Sewaholic size 6). I sometimes cut a size 4 with Sewaholic but I like my t-shirts to have quite a relaxed fit. Looking at the second and third versions that come next can you believe that I cut exactly the same size?! I like relaxed but this is just way too big! Because it's so oversized it hangs and drags under the bust in a not very flattering way. Part of the reason this happened was because it was constructed entirely on my overlocker. I'm getting better at accuracy when it comes to the width of seam allowances with the overlocker but I'm no where near as accurate as on my machine. At the point of making this I was worried about cutting off too much and making the top too small so erred far too much on the side of caution and my seam allowances were much too narrow and this added up to make the t-shirt far too big all over.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt

The other aspect of the sizing issue is the quality of the jersey. This was one of the very first knits I bought when I had no idea about what to look for in a good jersey. This particular fabric I picked up for super cheap on Goldhawk Road and is very fine and synthetic feeling. It doesn't have a particularly nice drape, which I can recognise now I've worked with other knits which so, and the grey stripes are crisper than the white. Plus it has pretty appalling recovery and has really stretched out even though I've barely worn it. At the seams the fabric itself has started to tear away from the stitching and fall apart. As this was one of the first projects I made on my overlocker I thought it was something to do with not having the tension settings right. However I haven't had this problem with any other knit projects, so I've come to the conclusion it is the fault of the cheap fabric! Still I'm glad I started off with something cheap and cheerful which I've learnt a lot from.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt

The second version I also constructed almost entirely on my overlocker but I got a better fit through the body by being more careful about using the correct seam allowance. Plus the jersey hasn't stretched out of shape! This is the same fabric I used for my Coppelia Cardigan which I still love, it's lovely and soft to wear. On this version I omitted the hem band and chose instead to turn it up once and use a twin needle to finish. I'm fairly short and I think the intended length of the Renfrew is longer than my personal preference for t-shirts so loosing length wasn't a problem. I'm much happier with the length on this one and it has actually had some wear unlike the first!

While it is a vast improvement on the first t-shirt the issues I have with this one are the bands to finish the sleeves (they make them too long and tight to the arm for me personally) and the width of the neckband. It's come out a wider than in the Sewaholic promotional versions, again down to my lack of accuracy and nervousness about trimming too much off on the overlocker! Because of the extra width it doesn't sit nice and flat against the body despite topstitching the seam allowance down.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt

I briefly tried to use the twin needle on my first version but it was having absolutely none of that nasty jersey! I didn't have a particularly good time with the twin needle on this one either, some stitches were being skipped no matter what settings I fiddled with or how slow I sewed. I did eventually manage to achieve a finish I was fairly happy with but it's created a bit of a ridge between the lines of stitching. is this to do with the tension or purely the width of space between the needles do you think?  At this point in time I wasn't the twin needle's biggest fan!

However...I had much better results with the twin needle on my third version which I only made last week and at the moment holds the title of my best knit project yet! I used the same method for matching the stripes and check out this lovely smooth twin-needled neckline!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt

Something clicked with the twin needle and this project. I wasn't doing anything particularly differently to my first few projects, I was fiddling with the same settings, but perhaps my handling of knit fabrics has improved. I used a viscose jersey from A-One fabrics on Goldhawk Road for this one  (I used less than a metre at 150cm wide and as far as I can remember it was £4.50/m) and it pressed, sewed and wears SO much better than the jerseys for my first two. I think the quality of the knit had some kind of impact on how well the twin needle worked, has anyone else found this? Soon after I had another good twin needle experience with my Bronte Top for which I used a lovely bamboo knit which seems to back this up. I know twin needles have a reputation for being unexplainably temperamental but I'm wondering if there's a kind of rule as to what fabrics they respond best to?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt

As you may notice I made a couple more changes to how I constructed this final t-shirt and now think I've pinned down my ideal t-shirt pattern when it comes to style, fit and construction. I omitted both the bands for the hem and cuffs on this version, turned and pressed the raw edge up twice by half and inch each time and then used the twin needle to stitch in place. I much prefer the shortened sleeves.

I constructed this t-shirt using a narrow zig zag stitch on my machine rather than ploughing straight in with the overlocker. It's turned out so much more accurate than the other versions and the seams are actually a lot neater and appear stronger. I finished all the seams on my overlocker, trimming them down as much as I dared, as I just like the professional finish it gives. Sewing it up on my machine made such a huge difference to how the neckline turned out too. I used a 6/8" seam allowance here (more than recommended by the pattern) to achieve a nice and skinny band which I really like. I'll definitely be using the combination of sewing seams by machine and then finishing on the overlocker in future.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt

This pattern is a great starting point for sewing knit garments; partly because it's a great, simple and classic shape to begin with and includes a variety of necklines and sleeve lengths. Also the instructions, as with all Sewaholic patterns I've tried so far, are thorough and clear. Included are useful techniques for working with knits such as adding twill tape to the shoulder seams to strengthen and stabilise which I did on all three of these. I've learnt a lot from making this pattern three times and will definitely be making it again. I live in jeans and comfortable tops for work so this is just the kind of basic my wardrobe needs. As winter has well and truly arrived here in London now I think I need to try the cowl neck and three-quarter length sleeves in a cosy stable knit next!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Renfrew Top T-Shirt

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Blog Hop and a Giveaway!

I've got a slightly different post lined up for you today. I've been a bit slow about it but I'm finally catching up with the writing process blog hop that's been doing the rounds! The ever so cool Nicole Needles nominated me for it a few weeks back, sorry that it's taken me so long Nicole! I've got to answer four questions to give you guys an insight into why and how I write my blog so here it goes:

What am I working on?
Despite taking a couple of 'sew-cation' days last week and blitzing through a few UFOs and projects that were cut out and waiting for me as always I've got more sewing ideas buzzing around my head than I've got time to sew! I'm part way through a pair of Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers which I'm having a few fitting issues with as they are my very first pair of trousers! I've made some alterations already which has made a vast improvement but I think I might be posting some pictures for advice soon as I've still got some weird wrinkles under the bum and behind the knees...Anyway once I've cracked them I've got a muslin of the Jamie Jeans cut out and ready to go. Plus I'm working on a shirt for my stepdad which I'm absolutely determined to finish soon as it was his birthday present from April and he chose the fabric in May! Other than that I think top of my own list are some Laurel blouses and dresses as I love how my first blouse fits me and think my wardrobe could benefit from more simple shifts.


How does my work differ from others in it's genre?
This is such a tough question! I think my blog is very similar to a lot of others the genre as I generally blog about things I have sewn and the process of making them. It's very much focused on sewing! I don't think my blog or sewing fits clearly into any particular aesthetic as I draw influences from all kinds of places. I like to think I make quite classic garments with an element of fun and frivolousness here or there. These projects often happen just because I enjoy/want the experience of making them! I think the way I write my blog is influenced by what I enjoy reading on other blogs so I try to include some technical construction information and close up pictures of insides and details. I'm always pushing myself to try new things in each project, whether it be a new technique or new fabric and I'd like to think that is reflected in my blog and that a sense of progress comes across.

Why do I write/create what I do?
I started this blog mainly as a way for me to document my sewing progress; a place that I could refer back to my thoughts on a technique I had tried before, what alterations I needed to make to a pattern and what needle and stitch length I used for that tricky fabric. It still functions as that for me today but I hope that what I write about my discoveries, failures and successes benefits other people in their own sewing adventures! Before sewing with a new pattern I usually Google the pattern name or number and find blog posts and reviews from other people who have made it to get an idea of how accurate the sizing is, what fabrics and techniques have worked well for it and which common adjustments people with a similar figure to mine have made. I try to include as much information as possible in my finished garment posts so that my blog can be useful to others in the same way.

As I have connected with more members of the sewing community my blog has become so much more than a personal record. I spend so much of my time sewing and so few of the friends I had before blogging also enjoy it that it's great to have a blog as a way to talk to other people who share the passion for stitching! I sew for the challenge, because I enjoy the process, I enjoy creating and I enjoy trying new things. I'm always trying to challenge myself as I say, so my blog is a great way to ask for advice and feedback from people who have experienced the same thing. I absolutely welcome constructive criticism from more experienced sewers as there is so much to sewing that I don't even know about yet. If you can spot something that I could do better by doing it differently I want to know so I can make something that bit closer to perfect next time!

I'm starting to enjoy the photographing of garments a little more now I'm not just using my iPhone!

How does my writing/creative process work?
I don't write to a schedule or plan but post when I've got a finished garment to sew or something else to share. The content of my blog is very much dictated by what I want to sew next. My actual writing process is that pretty much whatever comes into my head ends up on the page! I've often got so much to say about a garment that I have to quickly type out some bullet points that don't make much sense before going back to elaborate or make sense of it. Otherwise my fingers can't keep up with my head and I end up forgetting half of it! I keep a notepad by me when I sew so I can jot down the size I've cut, alterations I've made and any notes about the construction or things I'd like to change next time. It's a great quick reference guide to look back at but also really helps when it comes to writing my blog posts as often when I finish a garment I don't get around to photographing or writing about it for a couple of weeks. I also like to have the garment by me as I write a blog post as another prompt. I usually photograph a project before writing about it, but sometimes don't get around to it until after and tend to not write around the photographs but add them in after. Taking the photos is definitely my least favourite thing about sewing and blogging!

The final part of the blog hop is to nominate three other bloggers to answer the questions. To be honest I've read so many of these posts I've lost track of who has or hasn't done it already so I'm taking the easy route and opening this hop up to anyone who hasn't answered yet and would like to!

As you've made it through those long answers I've got a treat for you!


As a thank you to all my readers for the support, advice and encouragement you give me through the blog I've got a giveaway for you today! A bit of a happy accident (brought on by the fact that my wonderful family and friends know me so well!) means I've ended up with two copies of the book 'Hollywood Costume' by Deborah Nadoolman Landis which was released to accompany the incredible Hollywood Costume exhibition at the V&A a couple of years ago. It was possibly the best exhibition I have ever been to; as well as exhibiting some of the most infamous costumes in history it gave such an amazing insight into the design and production process and explained brilliantly how important an element costume is in telling a story. The book is, in it's own way just as fantastic. 

I am of course, holding on to one of the copies but the second copy is still shrink wrapped and ready to be sent out to one of you lucky readers! Unfortunately, due to the cost of posting this hefty tome, this giveaway is only open to UK residents. To enter simply leave a comment below. For extra entries follow me on Bloglovin', Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and let me know in the comments that you have done so. If you already do then let me know too! The giveaway is open until midnight on Wednesday 12th November and I will select the winner by random number generator and announce the lucky recipient the following weekend. Good Luck!


And just to finish up I've got a little bit of news for any London based sewing/fabric addicts! Biddle Sawyer Silks, whose shop is based on Berwick Street in central London, are holding a two day Factory sale next week! Most fabrics will be 30% off which is a pretty great deal considering that their usual rates are quite reasonable for quality fabrics on that street. I often shop there for work so know their stock and standard well. As well as the wide range of coloured silks they specialise in they stock cotton prints, leather, wool, lace, and I even picked up some great swimwear fabric in there over the summer! The sale is on all day in store on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th November and I'll definitely be popping along at some point. Who else fancies it?!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Black Viscose Holly Shorts

I've been wanting to make up this garment for absolutely ages. I loved the fit of my By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit pattern test and as my plan for this winter is to nail making trousers for myself I decided why not start with a shorts version of a pattern I already know works for me?! I went through a pretty crazy spell of work a short while ago but the determination to wear these to the press night of the show I've just finished meant I somehow managed to squeeze in a bit of sewing time to get them done! They were actually the perfect make to get me back at the machine as the whole process from cutting to hemming only took about 3 hours.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Viscose By Hand London Holly Shorts

I actually returned to my test version of the Holly Jumpsuit pattern to make these rather than using the final release. I was really happy with the fit of my playsuit and knew that a little extra room had been added to the bum of the pattern after testing so decided to stick with what I knew worked! I'm really pleased that I did this as the shorts are in no way too tight, the amount of ease is just perfect for me personally. I cut the straight UK10/US 6 as I did before. My measurements fall exactly into this size on the size guide and I almost always find I get a good fit out of the envelope with BHL patterns.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Viscose By Hand London Holly Shorts

The fabric is a plain black viscose which I picked up in Crafts & Home down in Chichester when I was away for work. They had a great selection of colours and all on offer for the bargain price of £4.99 a metre. I may have come away with some grey too! It was a little slippery to work with as most viscose tends to be but has just the weight and drape I wanted for these shorts. It's lovely and and soft with a kind of fine crepe-like texture and less of a sheen than the viscose I used for my Clover Dress. It's probably my favourite type of fabric for everyday wear and this particular one is a great fabric for basics.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Viscose By Hand London Holly Shorts

I know the black is a little boring (and also pretty much impossible to photograph well!) but these shorts are a fantastic wardrobe basic for me and I am going to get so much wear out of them over the next few months. I love the slim waistband, zip in the side seam and the flattering fit of the high waist. I've worn these a few times with tops tucked in and can envision them working with tights, boots and a chunky jumper further into the winter too. They are really comfy and practical but still feel chic which is exactly the aim for much of my sewing at the moment.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Viscose By Hand London Holly Shorts

Construction wise they were very straightforward and I followed the instructions almost exactly. I finished all the raw edges on my overlocker and machine stitched the hem. I interfaced the waistband with a medium weight interfacing as this lightweight viscose really needed some support. The waistband of these is one straight piece with a fold along the top and the raw edge inside is pressed up and slipstitched by hand. I added a small strip of interfacing to the seam allowances of the side seam where I was going to insert the zip to stop it stretching out or bubbling.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Viscose By Hand London Holly Shorts

The only change I made was to insert the zip so it fastens right to the top of the waistband as I find I can achieve a much cleaner and neater finish that way (rather than having the waistband overlap, fastening with a hook and bar or button as recommended in the instructions). I can never get the flap to lay nice and neat and flat! I have previously tried one great trick recommended to me by Carly from Away We Sew after making my Emerald Charlotte Skirt and moved the hooks and bars so the overlap fastens inside the waistband, much tidier if you ever want to fix that problem on a RTW garment!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Viscose By Hand London Holly Shorts

Actually looking back at that skirt post has reminded me that I was after suggestions for what I could make with the remaining metre of gorgeous green wool crepe that I had left and Sonja from Ginger Makes had come up with the idea of a pair of dressy shorts to wear with tights. That wool crepe is absolutely being turned into a pair of Holly shorts pronto!