Sunday, 15 January 2017

Merino and Boiled Wool Toaster Sweaters

My first completed project post of 2017 is actually one of my favourite pattern discoveries of last year. I didn't include these sweaters in my round up of 2016 as I hadn't shared them with you guys yet but if I had they definitely would have won a slot in the top 5! These tops are both made using the Sweater #2 variation of the Toaster Sweater pattern from Sew House Seven. It has become such a staple in my winter wardrobe and was really enjoyable to make too. The style is right up my alley with simple lines and interesting details.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Merino Knit Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

I've waxed lyrical about my love for merino wool knits when I shared my Neenah Dress a couple moths ago and I used another piece of my prized stash from The Fabric Store for my first version of this top. This is a sweat-shirting rather than their standard jersey knit and I want to make everything in it now. Its loop backed and spongy and warm but still quite fine and lightweight. Unfortunately it seems the one I ordered is no longer stocked online as all I could find was this merino/polyester blend and I'm sure mine is 100% wool. I cut the size small and the only change I made was to tale 1/2" off the sleeve length and use a 1" turn up for the hem. Its snuggly and comfortable with the perfect amount of ease not to feel swamped in. Perfect to layer over pretty tops and underneath coats.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Teal Boiled Wool Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

The teal version is made with this petrol boiled wool which Dragonfly Fabrics kindly offered me a chance to review. They have a huge selection of beautiful rich colours and team there were so helpful sending me samples of a variety so I could get just what I wanted. Its top quality stuff with a lovely thickness and body to it. They do now stock another slightly finer boiled wool made with viscose which I have seen a sample of and it has the most beautiful drape. I'm very tempted to make another sweater in that! I did almost have a total disaster with this one before I even got started. My merino had been coming up so well with a wash in the machine that I sort of mindlessly threw this in on a cold wool wash...and it came out smaller than it went in! I didn't notice at first as the shrinkage doesn't really affect the qualities of the fabric as boiled wool is felted up already. When I came to lay out my pattern pieces I didn't have quite enough though! I spent some serious time doing a pattern piece jigsaw puzzle and eventually worked out that I had enough if I made the sleeves shorter. A very happy accident as I absolutely adore the three quarter length sleeves on this now! I think it works really well with the more dramatic shape. This baby is going to be hand-washed from now on and I think I'll be sticking to non washable projects with boiled wool in future. It definitely hasn't put me off boiled wool though as sewing with with was such an enjoyable experience. I've just ordered some more in a beautiful mottled grey to make my mum a coat to go with her wedding outfit!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Teal Boiled Wool Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

By the way the skirt in the pictures is my second Rosari Skirt from Pauline Alice. I used a fairly heavy black denim from Mood Fabrics for it and love the way that emphasises the A-line shape. Its exactly the same view as my first one but I think I'll still post about it soon as I had quite the adventure with the snaps!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Merino Knit Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

I have worn the black version pretty much day in, day out since I finished it. I could not be happier with my decision to use some of my precious merino knit for it and am genuinely gutted when it has to go in the wash! I think the softer drape of the fabric plus the neutral colour makes it more versatile day to day and something about it feels so vey much more me than a chunky, more structured jumper. Having said that I am quite taken with the sculptural effect that the body of the boiled wool gives the second version and adore the colour. There's proof right here of how dramatically fabric choice can change a pattern!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Teal Boiled Wool Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

My absolute favourite part of this pattern is the split side seams and the mitred corners at the hem. The method and instructions for this are fantastic and I am so delighted with the finish I have achieved. I used a twin needle for the hem on both versions although you could even get away with a normal straight stitch as the relaxed fit means this area doesn't need to stretch. Concentrating on my aim to sew slower and more carefully I marked the stitching line with tailors chalk so I knew exactly where to turn and this really paid off. I stopped and started again at each corner as you can't pivot with a twin needle and am so pleased with my crisp little corners!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Merino Knit and Teal Boiled Wool Toaster Sweaters from Sew House Seven

The instructions are really thorough and clear with great illustrations. Its a really speedy and satisfying sew. Even with finishing the split hem it takes no longer than making a basic t-shirt but you end up with a much more interesting garment. The only thing I did differently to the instructions was to use and narrow zig zag stitch for construction and then my overlocker to give a professional looking finish to the seams, which is my preferred method for sewing knits. The pattern recommend using a double stitch which I have never tried. This involves sewing a straight stitch along the seam line and then a zig zag 1/4" away from it. The instructions say that the zig zag allows for some stretch but surely the straight stitch negates that? I guess for this relaxed style stretch isn't essential along the seams so that works out ok? Anyone else had any experience with this technique?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Merino Knit Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

I've not done much stitching in the ditch on the machine before (I love a bit of hand stitching so tend to plump for that option where possible) so found stitching into the shoulder seam to secure the neckline facing down a little tricky. I decided it was easiest to do this from the right side and then if things were a little off inside it didn't matter so much! I did a much better job the second time around so practice must make perfect in this case.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Teal Boiled Wool Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

There's something so chic about the shape of the neckline; its like a subtle version of a turtleneck which feels really elegant on. I actually doubted that just securing the facing at the shoulder seams would keep things sitting securely and was tempted to hand-stitch the edge down inside. It actually sits beautifully when on and the folded top edge of the neckline just needs a good press into place when it comes out of the wash. I used tailors tacks in a garish coloured thread to mark the neckline fold and stitching point for the hem vent originally. I love a tailors tack for when you want to be super accurate!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Merino Knit Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

I made the other version of this pattern (they are available to purchase individually or as a combined pattern which I think is great) in an incredible striped boiled wool from Fabric Godmother (currently on sale!) to review for an article in Sew Now magazine. Here's a quick pic of that one! Although this variation was the style that initially appealed to me I'm not as much of a fan of this one as I don't like anything too bulky around my neck and I don't think the proportions suit me so well. But I do like that the wide collar sits away from the neck and I loved the slim fit, slightly cropped length and wide hem and cuff bands.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Boiled Wool Toaster Sweater from Sew House Seven

You might have heard about Project #SewMyStyle which Alex from Bluebird Fabrics is running throughout 2017 to raise awareness of the slow fashion movement and encourage people to sew their own wardrobes. There's a different pattern to sew each month and make your own and January is actually Toaster Sweater month so my timing is quite appropriate! I'm looking forward to seeing lots more of these popping up on my Instagram feed at the end of the month...and possibly even in my wardrobe! I'm pleased that I've dabbled in a bit of wool sewing this year as I haven't used it a lot before and my handmade winter wardrobe is reaping the benefits. I've now got a good amount of wool knits and boiled wool under my belt. What else would you recommend giving a try?

Monday, 2 January 2017

A Look Back Over 2016

I so enjoyed spending a couple of hours reading everyone's round ups of 2016 yesterday that I figured it was about time I got around to looking back over my own year. I feel like the last year has been really successful for me in terms of sewing and its made it really difficult for me to pick my favourite projects to share in this post! I have sewn so much (particularly over the second half of the year when I was settled into my new flat and sewing space) but I've also WORN so much handmade too. I've been much better this year at identifying patterns and fabrics which I know I will wear and will work as part of my current wardrobe and I wear something I've sewn most days now without even thinking about it. My handmade garments are definitely the most loved part of my wardrobe!

A fair bit of my sewing (including some of my most worn garments!) hasn't even made it to the blog yet so for the purposes of this little round up I'm just going to include projects I've got pictures of an reviewed. I've definitely felt more inspired to sew than blog this year which is absolutely the way I want it to be but I have at times felt frustrated by the long list of garments I've got waiting to photograph and share. I used to make sure garments were photographed and usually blogged before I wore them but I've found it much more interesting this year to write a review after something has been worn a while and I can accurately assess any problems. The thing that holds me up is taking the photographs as I really don't enjoy that part! Hopefully that is all about to change as my fantastic Uncle gave me a GorillaPod, remote and lenses for my phone which fingers crossed will make the whole process a lot less painful! Just need to get the hang of feeling comfortable in front of the camera now!

It was hard to decide and there are so many more projects that I am incredibly proud of and get a lot of wear out of, but these are my favourite five garments of the year. Other un-blogged highlights which deserve a mention are the Butterick 6385 Coat which I completed just before Christmas and can't wait to share, the Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater pattern which I have been living in recently and the Sew Over It Mia Jeans which were my second pair of jeans after my Gingers and have turned into my more popular choice.


  • An easy choice, both my versions of the Sallie Jumpsuit from Closet Case Files. These basically became my uniform in the summer. They are so practical for the physical kind of work I do, kept me cool and comfortable in the heat and also kept me feeling stylish 100% of the time. The longer version has also seen me right through until the winter temperatures kicked in, styled with trainers and a cropped jumper thrown over the top. Nothing is going to stop me making more of these this year!


  • It was the year of the jumpsuit for me. I was really excited to make the Ailakki Jumpsuit from Named Clothing but didn't think I'd love it half as much as I did! I couldn't be more pleased with this project which I really took my time over. Its quite a bold style so I half expected it to be one of those projects which gets a once a year wear but its had three outings in the last six months and each time I've felt fantastic. More Named patterns are high on my wish list for 2017; I've absolutely loved them this year.


  • My Green Merino Neenah Dress from Seamwork Magazine has been an unexpected hit late on in the year. Its been worn almost a couple of times a week since I whipped it up in November. I have never been a fan of a high neck or a midi length so the success and comfort of this has taken me by surprise! I spent so long agonising over what to use this beautiful merino for and this project is the proof that sometimes a simple style is the best way to showcase a quality fabric.


  • With two slots left in the top five this is where decisions got tough! I made my last two choices based on what I've had the most wear out of this year and my Floral Dove Blouse from Megan Nielsen has definitely been a wardrobe star! This top has solved a wardrobe quandary on countless occasions and just feels so very me. The fabric is dreamy and my ideal match for this style; it can feel casual one minute and glamorous the next. A win on all levels.


  • I've made two Rosari Skirts from Pauline Alice over the course of the year and I doubt I'm going to stop there! My mustard needlecord version has been worn to death and still looks as good as the day I made it. I've since made a dark denim version which has proved an equally popular part of my wardrobe. As well as being a good style fit for me making these skirts actually taught me a lot and I went on quite the snap-setting journey trying out different tools and having wildly different levels of success!

All of these are contemporary garments with clean lines which suit my lifestyle and I feel like myself in. I can definitely learn from this when planning my sewing for the next year. Making good fabric choices has also been key and the success of all of these projects has largely depended of picking the right drape and weight of fabric. I do love the occasional fun print but it appears solids generally work best in my wardrobe. I've discovered a love for a seventies vibe and wearing strong, rich colours, although I do stray to my old favourite of black a fair bit!

Thinking about the not so successful projects there haven't been all that many total disasters this year. Here's the five projects which were not as successful as I had hoped.


  • Its very unlike me to give up on a project before completion, I definitely have a determination to make things work somehow. But I gave up on my By Hand London Sophia Dress once I had installed the zip and realised the fabric choice was all wrong and the remnant I'd thought was such a bargain was actually discoloured and clung in all the wrong places.


  • As much as I loved both the Named Kielo Wrap Dress pattern and this Anna Sui rayon print I had to give up on this dress after only a few wears as the fabric started disintegrating along the seam lines. I usually wash all my rayon/viscose on the delicate 30 degree cycle in the machine but I think that proved too much for this delicate crepe and that wasn't apparent after the prewash. I also trimmed down my seam allowances inside the ties quite aggressively which I think exacerbated the problem.


  • My floral Colette Laurel Blouse which I made in a beautiful silk crepe from the House of Hackney sample sale was worn a couple of times but was never quite what I had hoped it would be. I was excited about the little bell shaped cuffs but once made they seemed a little bit on the small side and combined with the slim fit of the blouse didn't have the boho vibe I was after. Luckily I nailed it later in the year with the Dove Blouse and the beautiful fabric hasn't gone to waste as I had enough let over to make some pyjamas shorts!


  • I've unfortunately not had any wear out of my MIY Collection Brightside Shrug. Shrugs have never been part of my wardrobe but making this has definitely opened me up to trying these out again. I think this would have been a more successful project if I had sized up for a slouchier look. I think a lightweight, drapier fabric in a neutral colour would have made this feel a little more me and it could have been worn a lot over the summer.


  • My final choice is a recent project; my Tilly and the Buttons Marigold Trousers. The gabardine fabric is a fantastic match and I've had quite a bit of wear out of them around the house but am yet to find a way to style them that I want to venture out in. I really WANT to like them and quite like the look of them in photos but for some reason the style just doesn't feel like me when I'm wearing them! I'm not going to give up on this type of trouser entirely as I think perhaps a style with a no elasticated waistband and slightly less volume in the seat and crotch might work better. At least I've got one step closer to a pair that suit me in making these!

I've definitely learnt a lot from each of these projects, whether that be fabric choice or interpreting the illustrations and fit information from the pattern envelope correctly. I always think that however disappointed in a finished garment you may be, no sewing project is a waste of time as you learn so much along the way and for me most of the enjoyment is in the process!

One of the things I've been most proud of this year is how much handmade I've packed for holidays and how well planning that has worked for me. I've sewn and packed practical city clothes for NYC, summer clothes and swimwear for the South of France, activewear for Centre Parcs and warm clothes for sub-zero temperatures in Russia! I wrote a post about how I used my capsule handmade wardrobe in France and really enjoyed keeping a track of that. I'm considering writing more of this type of post in the new year as I find reading posts about the life of a handmade garment beyond the initial 'hooray I made this!' post really interesting. 

I'll be writing some more about my sewing plans for 2017 soon but in general my plan is to have more fun! Now I feel like I've really found my handmade style I think its time to get creative within that and play around with fabrics, pattern hacking and adding in trims and interesting details. I'm also taking part in the #2017makenine on Instagram as I really enjoyed it this year. I think choosing nine garments/patterns you'd really like to tackle over the course of the year is a really achievable goal and selecting mine has helped me focus my sewing ambitions for the year. Last year I really wanted to try making my first coat, jeans and bra. The bra has carried on over to this year and I'd also like to improve my trouser fitting, make my first pair of classic pyjamas and work with some more vintage patterns. 

In the coming year I also want to sew slower, take the time to think things through and also go back and perfect my mistakes. I have a lot of handmade filling my wardrobe now so I can take my time and make less but better. Work and life in London can be very demanding on my time and over the last year in particular I've found myself in a constant state of feeling overwhelmed by how much I have to do. I don't want sewing to be a part of that. Whilst I know I'll always have a never ending list of things I want to sew I'm keen for it to stay as a hobby with some spontaneity in it rather than another commitment. Now I've got a more easily accessible sewing space set up I'm tempted to try the 30 minutes a day approach rather than thinking I need a good few hours open to sew. I'll definitely be making as much time as possible for my favourite way to relax in the next year but also want to make more time to read, walk, cook and take care of myself.

My sewing is definitely a positive to take with me from 2016 and I'm looking forward to a very creative year ahead! Thank you all for the inspiration, motivation and guidance. Wishing you all a wonderful 2017!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

December Indie Pattern Update!



Well here we are with the final Indie Pattern Update of 2016! I had intended on blogging some of my backlog of completed projects over the festive period but I fell into enjoying a proper break and bit of downtime. I've been indulging in reading, movie-watching, puzzling, board-gaming with the family and other non sewing related activities and I must admit it has been nice to switch off for a little while. But now I'm back and raring to go with sewing projects for the year ahead and my latest projects will be filling your feed in January instead. I always find everyone's year round up posts really inspiring and the New Year is a great opportunity to make plans so to kick start yours here's all the new releases and news from the Indie Pattern world in December.

New Pattern Companies


  • Sew It With Love launched their first sewing pattern this month; the Delia Top. Its a simple semi-fitted raglan knit top with the option to add a small peplum to the hem. It looks great made up in the striped jersey they've used for one of the samples.
  • Trend Patterns also launched this month with an exciting range of four patterns including a cape, bomber jacket, dress with asymmetric hem and oversized sleeve top. Owner Lucy has put her creative pattern cutting experience in the fashion industry to good use to give us really unique styles. There is 25% off until Tuesday 3rd January.
  • Thanks to Francesca, who just let me know in the comments about the existence of Hana Patterns who create clean and modern minimalist designs. Their first collection consists of three patterns and I like the look of the Yono Convertible Overalls in particular!


New Patterns


  • Style Arc released the Bobbi Bomber Jacket which comes in a bundle with a free pattern for a Baseball Cap (individually $18 and $10). Also released in December was the Josie Hoodie, Imogen Knit Skirt and gorgeous Rosemary Blouse with twisted neckline detail.
  • The two patterns released with this month's Seamwork Magazine are the Willie Tank Dress which has on-trend tiered ruffles and the Ida Knit Dress which is a classic figure hugging style with a boat neckline. 
  • A few pattern companies gave us a Christmas treat with new free patterns available to download. The first of which is Straight Stitch Designs with the Bell Town Vest which is designed to be made in faux fur.
  • Also free is the new Boho Ruffle Blouse from See Kate Sew. This seventies inspired design has a deep gathered peplum and cuffs and a ruffled feature across the bust.
  • Lisa from The Avid Seamstress launched the adult version of her Raglan Top & Dress pattern after much clamouring after a grown up size of her children's dress. It has a lovely swingy shape and two pocket and sleeve length options to choose from.
  • Ready To Sew released the Jane Shirt a really original design which I'd love to sew up just to figure out the constriction! It has a twisted front, no side seams and lovely little round collar.
  • New from Di Nuvole Di Cuori is the Olivia Dress. Its a panelled knit dress with horizontal hip pockets creating interesting opportunities for colour blocking. 
  • Fehr Trade's latest activewear pattern is the Knot-Maste Yoga Set. Melissa always finds away to make sportswear designs exciting with really interesting constriction details. This time around its the semi open back of the top which is tied at the waist and the little twisted knot details at the cuffs and hems.
  • Hot Patterns released two new patterns this month; the HP1211 Weekender Swingy Sweatshirt and the HP1212 Fast & Fabulous Princess-Seamed Trackpants. I love the boho feel of the sweatshirt with those wide sleeves and neckline and would never have thought to try making the style of the dress variation in a stretch fabric. I'm intrigued!
  • I appear to be all about the high necklines and turtle necks this winter and Wardrobe by Me has just released a cracking classic in the form of their Trudy Turtleneck Blouse. A straightforward sew in knits with two collar heights and 5 sleeve lengths to choose from.
  • Schnittchen released the the Amy Parka; I love the oversized shape, longer length and deep pockets. Their second pattern release for the month is the Betty Top which is also available in plus sizes 48-56. It has big dropped shoulders which look great sewn up in neoprene or scuba.
  • New from Wear Lemonade in December was the Thelma Cape. I love so many of their designs but am yet to try a pattern out; I think I need to make that one of my resolutions for 2017! The ideal opportunity to do just that may have presented itself in the form of their Christmas freebie PDF pattern for some beautiful classic Pyjamas from Princess Tam Tam! Get me to a fabric store!
  • I absolutely love the style of the new Lazo Trousers from Thread Theory; their second womenswear pattern. Its not a style I would usually be drawn to, nor am I sure they would look great on me but I think its good to try new shapes once in a while! 
  • So Zo... released her Dolores Maternity Dress pattern which is adapted from her popular Dolores Batwing Top. Specifically created to be worn during the third trimester of pregnancy it still has the easy to wear batwing shape and two sleeve options. 
  • Lingerie sewing is topping my list of sewing goals for 2017 and Ohhh Lulu continues to tempt me with her new releases. The Ultimate Lace Thong & Panties and Claudia Panties patterns might be the ideal way for me to dip my toe in and get to grip with finer fabrics, lace and elastics. 
  • Til The Sun Goes Down released the Ritz Pleat Dress; a classic 1930s design with a bias cut skirt and beautiful bodice with pleats that drape from the shoulder. I've long been an admirer of their vintage inspired prints and authentic vintage fabrics and this design is ideal to showcase a real beauty.
  • I've been having a think about projects I could use up some of my smaller scraps for. I can never bear to throw away any amount of a beautiful fabric and seem to have amassed quite a collection over the last year. The new free Kitty Sleep Mask pattern from Ohhh Lulu could be a great stash buster for my precious silks.
  • In The Folds released their third free pattern in collaboration with Peppermint Magazine. The Beach Coverup is a simple summer kaftan with split high low hem and waist ties. 
  • The final free pattern offering of the month was the Harvest Apron from Jennifer Lauren Handmade. Its a little waist apron, either square or circular in shape with a gathered option. The pattern download includes full illustrated instructions. 
  • Scroop Patterns released the Wonder Unders pattern which includes a slip, camisole and knickers. They are all designed to be made with knit fabrics and I'd love a slip made in silk jersey; how luxurious! 


Pattern Updates and Expansion Packs


  • Sew Over It gave us a free pocket pattern piece for the popular and recently released Ultimate Pyjamas pattern. You can download the file from their blog post which includes the instructions for adding pockets to your trousers.
  • By Hand London launched the updated version of the Elisalex Dress pattern which was one of their very first! It includes new bodice pattern pieces for the sleeved versions combined with new sleeve options for better fit. The skirt has also been reduced in both volume and length for a slightly subtler tulip shape. I may well give this design another whirl as I swapped out the skirt for a simple circle last time.


Sew-Alongs


  • The is a sew-along coming soon from In The Folds for their gorgeous Acton Dress. This pattern is high up my wish list of summer sewing projects so I shall be keeping my eyes peeled for construction tips.
  • The sew-along for the Grainline Studio Farrow Dress has just finished up over on the Grainline blog. As usual Jen has packed it with tips and techniques for achieving a professional finish. 


Upcoming!


  • Cashmerette has a new pattern coming in January. Eyes peeled for this one, I'm wondering which hole in curvaceous ladies' wardrobes Jenny is going to be filling next!
  • The patterns from Victoria Jones Collection are a new discovery to me, I love her range of beachwear and am definitely bookmarking these patterns for any potential future beach holidays! She is releasing a Ranch Shirt pattern in January.
  • Schnittchen are looking for testers for their summer collection of patterns, most of which will be the designs that won their recent pattern design competition.
  • Coming in the next few days from Pearl Red Moon at Boho Banjo will be the A Couple of Loopholes Dress. It has a really interesting sculptural skirt which I am intrigued by the construction of.
  • The next Tilly and the Buttons pattern is named Zadie and we can expect its release in February! It sound like fun with the opportunity to play around with combinations of fabric.


This update seems a little lighter than it has done the last few months which I hoping is due to the independent pattern designers of the world taking a well earned break! I may have missed quite a bit during my own time off so please, as always, feel free to add in anything else you know of in the comments and I'll do my best to update the post. I'll leave you with a final bit of sewing inspiration from the blogging community. My heartfelt thanks go out to all my readers for the support you've shown me and this blog throughout 2016. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and heres to a 2017 jam packed with sewing!



  • Tasha's western inspired Ginger Jeans are jaw-droppingly awesome! I love all the little changes she made to create her dream pair of jeans; that curved back yoke is something else!
  • I was really inspired by Heather Lou's leather sleeved version of her Clare Coat pattern. She has such a great eye for putting fabrics and details together to make something wearable yet o so cool.
  • Jenny from Cashmerette is an absolute festive delight in her burgundy version of her Appleton Dress pattern. I love the shape of this simple wrap, especially in a bold colour and it looks great on her.
  • How gorgeous is the velvet that Helen used for her Seamwork Kennedy Dress? It was actually refashioned from an old skirt and I love her decision to use a plain black chiffon for the yoke.
  • I love how the texture and rich colour of the gorgeous wool Peggy chose for her Jenna Cardigan brings interest and a luxurious feel to a classic, simple style. So cosy! 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas Velvet Slip Dress

Its Christmas week and appropriately enough I have this year's Christmas party dress to share with you! And making it was quite the adventure! I've been really enjoying all the velvet thats about this season and knew this was the route I wanted to go down this year. I'd also been drawn to the slightly nineties trend for strappy little slip dresses so decided to do two trends in one with a velvet slip dress! I feel like velvet is quite a statement in itself so pairing it with a simple style and silhouette makes it feel infinitely more wearable.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Velvet and Satin Ogden Slip Dress

Just as I was formulating this plan Fabrics for Sale got in touch to see if I'd be interested in trying out any of their fabrics in return for a review. I knew after making a devore scarf for my Nan earlier this year that they stock a particularly lovely selection of velvets so it seemed like my dress was meant to be! The devores (velvets which have some areas of the pile burnt out to create a pattern) are particularly lovely and I was sorely tempted by this checked beauty. However, the final decision was this grey silk velvet which I couldn't be happier with. I love the way the sheen and nap of the velvet makes it shimmer like silver in reality and you can't beat the drape of silk. Perfect for a Christmas party dress!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Velvet and Satin Ogden Slip Dress

I probably should have made my life a bit easier by either choosing a fabric that was more straightforward to handle or a pattern which was going to work right out of the envelope but no I went down the difficult route! My love for the True Bias Ogden Cami pattern is well documented (here, here and here) and as I loved the clean finish plus the shape and fit through the bust I decided it would be an excellent starting point. I traced off the camisole pieces onto a piece of paper and first of lengthened along the centre back and centre front lines as long as my metre of fabric would allow, enabling me to finalise a hem length once I had it on. Then I needed to extend the side seams to the same length but I didn't want to follow the line of the cami side seams right to the hem as they flare out slightly and I was after a straighter silhouette. I worked out that the width of the dress would need to fit around my widest point (the hips) with at least a couple of inches of ease. I followed the line of the side seam down until it reached that size and then drew a line straight down to the hem line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Velvet and Satin Ogden Slip Dress

As with my velvet version of the camisole I decided this would need a full lining rather than the facing that is provided with the pattern. This is really easy to do as you just use the same pattern pieces as the shell.  The silk velvet was going to be nice and slinky so I was keen for the lining to match that feel and not have the body that a crispy acetate lining usually would. I asked for some help choosing something to match and a reply came back suggesting this silver polyester satin. It was a great choice as it is quite fine so doesn't affect the drape of the velvet. Big thanks to the team at Fabrics for Sale for all their advice!

Original image from Urban Outfitters - Silence & Noise Satin Inset Velvet Cami

As well as hacking the pattern into a longer and slimmer silhouette I'd spotted the cute little velvet cami above on Pinterest a while back and wanted to try out the satin/velvet combo along the neckline. The lining was such a good match colour wise for the velvet that this was ideal for the border around the neckline. Drafting this was easy enough. I just drew the shape I wanted onto my traced pattern, cut along the line to give me my separate pattern pieces and added 5/8" seam allowances to both edges. I made my satin insets 1 3/4" wide plus seam allowance. As easy as it was to draft, it was equally difficult to sew! Sewing into those points and trying to get keep the seam-line neat and even was a nightmare. Both fabrics were prone to stretching out along bias cut edges and also slipped about on each other like crazy. I used plenty of pins, a short stitch length and took it really slow. There was a lot of going back and unpicking short sections to make it as neat as possible and a lot of patience was required! It would have been much easier to do a curved style line but it was worth the effort as I love that the shape mimics the shape of the neckline.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Velvet and Satin Ogden Slip Dress

Despite thinking I'd been o so clever slimming down the amount of flare in the dress when I put it on after sewing up the side seams I wasn't happy with the shape. I thought a straight cut shift would look effortlessly chic but in reality that style looked a little strange and heavy on me in the velvet and I decided I needed more shaping through the waist. Taking a wedge out of the side seams to achieve this might have been a simple task in another fabric but in this shifty velvet it was a total nightmare! I drew on the alteration I wanted to make and carefully pinned back along the side seams to help hold everything in place but as soon as it got under the machine the pile started shifting about and my side seams turned into a hot mess. I fell down a rabbit hole of trying to rectify my mistakes until the dress got a time out slung over my dress form for a week. After all the work I'd put into sewing the neckline I didn't want to give up on it but I needed to not look at velvet for a while!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Velvet and Satin Ogden Slip Dress

When I returned to it with a clear head I went right back and unpicked those side seams to make a fresh start of it. A much better approach that has resulted in nice smooth seams. I found a microtex needle worked best with both the velvet and lining and I reduced the pressure of my machine foot a little to protect the pile. I used a cool iron and pressed the velvet against another piece of itself, again to protect the plush surface from being flattened out. It would have been easy to do with this particular velvet as I found it to have a quite a thick pile, the cutting of which resulted in a fine coating of velvet fibres all over my room! The thicker the pile the trickier it is to sew and the longer fibres have more movement in them which means the fabric shifts about more as you sew.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Velvet and Satin Ogden Slip Dress

The straps are made from the lining fabric as I thought that would carry through best from the neckline and the subtle appearance of the satin strap suited the feel of the dress more than a chunkier velvet one. I pinked all the seams allowances around the neckline and finished the side seams on the overlocker; by this point I was looking for the easiest solutions at every opportunity! I machine stitched the lining hem but did take the time to hand stitch the hem of the velvet so it didn't show through to the right side. I wanted to keep as much of the length as possible so I overlocked the raw edge and just turned it up once by the width of the stitching.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Velvet and Satin Ogden Slip Dress

All in all not the most pleasurable sew or my best work as perhaps a project involving silk velvet isn't the time to wield some creativity and attempt some fly by the seat of my pants pattern hacking but now I've got some distance from the sewing process I'm really glad I found the determination to see it through. I love the finished dress and have already made some happy memories in it wearing it to the Foldline Christmas party where velvet was a popular choice on the night. Have any of you tackled velvet for the festive season this year?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Velvet and Satin Ogden Slip Dress
Sally from Charity Shop Chic and I at the party