Saturday, 10 December 2016

Silk Reef Pyjamas

I know its the time of year for some unselfish sewing but the project I've got to share with you today was a real treat to myself. A treat to sew and a treat to wear! About a month ago I visited a new fabric shop in Richmond. Loving the Fabric has an absolutely gorgeously curated collection of fabrics for dressmaking many of which have been collected during the owner Gay's travels around the world. Her knowledge of and appreciation for beautiful and unusual fabrics was so impressive and I spent a very happy two hours there talking all things fabric and sewing! It was a real pleasure to browse an independent fabric shop filled with charm and passion; the whole experience felt very personal.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric
Apologies for the slightly poor quality of these indoor pics; there was no way I was getting out on my balcony in these bad boys during December!

Gay very kindly offered me some fabric for any upcoming projects I had in mind. I'm sometimes reluctant to take advantage of such offers as the feeling of then needing to make something brilliant with it can remove some of the creative enjoyment but I was so inspired by the selection on offer I couldn't say no! A couple of weeks previously as a thank you for testing her beautiful Dove Blouse pattern Megan Nielsen offered me the choice of another PDF pattern from her collection and I'd been giving her also fairly new Reef Camisole & Shorts Set some serious heart eyes for some time so pounced on that! It was the silks in Loving the Fabric that really grabbed me and this seemed like a match made in heaven!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Loving the Fabric in Richmond, London

This stunning floral print silk charmeuse jumped right out at me and I was thinking to make the whole set from this when Gay suggested combining it with a solid silk for part of the set. We spent some time pulling out various bolts and I was torn between the mauve and light pink in the photo above but eventually settled on the pink because of it's hand and drape. It's a super fine crepe with a very subtle sheen. I don't think I've don't think I've come across one so lightweight before, I think the best word to describe it is diaphanous! I decided to use the print for the top and pink for the shorts, tying the two together by using the print for the curved border along the hem. I had 1.4m of the charmeuse and 1m of the pink crepe and had just a little of the crepe left over.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric

As I knew I was going to want to wash the set fairly regularly and didn't want the hassle of hand washing I pre-washed both silks on a 30 degree delicate cycle in the machine which is how i have been washing them since with no problems. I was concerned about dulling the satin finish on the charmeuse so tested a little sample first but the was no change whatsoever. The cutting out was a little tricky (especially with the super fine crepe) as these types of silk are so shifty and difficult to get laid out on grain. I cut them out on carpet as I've found this gives the silk something to grip to and the fact that the main pieces of the top are cut on the bias actually really helped as cutting out in a single layer means the silk isn't slipping against itself.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric

Sewing wise this was a bit of a dream of a project for me. I love working with silks, especially top quality ones and any excuse to use a french seam and I'm sold! The only trouble I had was with the rolled hem. I used the special foot on my machine and for the most part it was fine but whenever I have to cross over a french seam I run into trouble. I'm never sure how to deal with feeding this bulk through the foot and have to resort to turning and pressing this part by hand.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric

I cut the XS top and between the XS and S size for the shorts which has worked out pretty well. As I'm fairly short I was worried about the strap length and the fact that you can't really tell if it's going to be right until the top is made but I'm really happy. The PDF for this pattern is quite big as all the pattern pieces for the top are whole so they can be cut on the bias rather than half pieces to be cut on the fold. The bias cut of the top might be my favourite thing about the design. I love the way it skims the body and how this feels in the silk. I really liked the front page of the PDF which gives clear instructions on what pages to print for what variation but this page is in fact page 1 of the document so when the pattern says to print page 1-10 for example you actually need to print pages 2-11.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric

I used the lightest weight of interfacing that I had but do think it is just a tad heavy for this silk as the yoke feels quite firm compared to the fluid drape of the rest of the top. I'm not sure what else I could have used as this is the lightest weight I have come across with the exception of silk organza which I think might have been to crisp also. Is there such a thing as a soft sheer weight interfacing? I would be tempted to omit it entirely but this area does need the strength. I was pleased that my silks pressed so well as nice crisp edges around the curved yoke pieces are tricky to achieve but important.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric

I pinked the bottom edge of the facing pieces on the top as I wasn't sure what other treatment to use that could handle those tight curves without creating too much bulk under the fine silk. I considered using a rolled hem but didn't want that fluted effect that that sometimes produces in this area. As the facing pieces are interfaced the pinking is holding up really well even after washing but I do prefer a finish that looks a little more professional. Any ideas?!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric

If you're planning on sewing this set I would recommend marking your notches with some other method to snipping them as some seams, particularly around the yoke are sewn at just 1/4"(to make the curves easier to handle and ease together) which means your snips will be going into the body of the top. Its also worth noting that i the instructions Megan describes both stay-stitching and basting with the term stay-stitching. I use a short stitch length for stay-stitching and keep it within the seam allowance to stop curved raw edges stretching out which is particularly useful along those bias cut necklines. There are a couple of areas where you would need to remove the stitches after sewing (e.g. holding the pocket bags in place at the waist) where its better to use a longer stitch length and what I would refer to as basting.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric

I actually omitted the pockets in the shorts as I don't find I have any need for them in pyjamas and in a silk this delicate they wouldn't hold much anyway. I usually don't stitch around the centre of an elasticated waistband but I definitely recommend it for pyjama shorts as with sleepwear you don't want the elastic twisting around uncomfortably in the night. I love the finishing method for the hem. These curved pieces are faced so the raw edge of the bottom of the short pieces is enclosed and the instructions have you under stitch the curved hem of the facing so you end up with a nice clean edge. You could topstitch the top edge of the facing down (where it meets the body of the shorts) but with such beautiful silks this didn't seem like the right treatment so I slipstitched it closed using the smallest stitches I could!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Silk Megan Nielsen Reef Pyjamas in charmeuse and crepe from Loving the Fabric

I'd heard a rumour that silk was dreamy to sleep in and these are definitely the comfiest and most luxurious thing I've ever worn to bed! Not only does the fabric feel amazing against the skin but the back yoke design feature of the top absolutely does as advertised and stays put all night. I really like wearing camisoles or slips to bed but find the straps dig in and you get all twisted up in the middle of the night. There's none of that with this because of the slightly racer back shape of the yoke. Big thanks to both Gay and Megan for providing what I needed to sew myself up such a treat!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sand-Washed Silk Vogue 1247 Top (and bonus sewing for the home!)

I adore the skirt I made from the ever popular Rachel Comey Vogue 1247 pattern and have been meaning to make up the top that comes with it for ages. In fact the top was what interested me in the pattern in the first place. I finally got my hands on just the fabric I had first envisioned the top in when Stoff Stil got in touch a few months ago to see if I'd like to try out some of their fabrics. The silk section is one that I gravitate towards whenever I'm checking out a new fabric site as I just love working with it and Stoff Stil did not disappoint with a particular gorgeous colour range of sand-washed silks among other things.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Rachel Comey Vogue 1247 Top in Sand Washed Silk from Stoff Stil

For those of you who have not come across sand-washed silk before it's a silk (usually satin) which has been washed with the addition of sand or small stones. This gives the satin side of the fabric a texture and lustre that is hard to describe but it's much softer in the way that a brushed fabric or peach skin might feel touch. You might say it has a more casual appearance than a satin as it doesn't have that vivid sheen but it certainly feels just as luxurious to wear! Its one of those fabrics that I can't resist stroking in the shops. I chose this sand washed silk in 'nature' and as it was 135cm wide ordered 1.25m for my blouse.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Rachel Comey Vogue 1247 Top in Sand Washed Silk from Stoff Stil

The pattern definitely gives you a good challenge with all those seams to line up across the front. In this pale, solid colour any mistakes are really going to show up too! As I was using a lightweight silk I opted to use french seams throughout which not only pretty much doubled the construction time but made getting the intersection of the seams to match accurately even more difficult! I was really pleased with how this turned out to begin with (full story on why they aren't so beautifully matched now coming shortly!) and made a real effort to get as small a french seam as possible.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Rachel Comey Vogue 1247 Top in Sand Washed Silk from Stoff Stil

Despite being as lightweight and fluid as a satin the sand-washed finish of this silk gives it a bit of grip against itself which makes it easier to handle and sew. It also presses beautifully which was massively helpful to me when trying to create neat little french seams. As it has a matt lustred finish to it you don't need to worry about damaging a satin sheen when washing so I just throw this in the machine on a delicate 30 degree cycle. It's a really good quality silk that also comes in a lighter weight but I stuck with the regular because I wanted a little body in my blouse and didn't want it to be too sheer in this pale colour. The nature colour is lovely as it's bright but a little kinder on a pale skin tone like mine than a pure white.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Rachel Comey Vogue 1247 Top in Sand Washed Silk from Stoff Stil

A feature I really love about the pattern is the pleats at the shoulders; the top hangs beautifully in this area because of them. I am particularly proud of the neckline binding. Many patterns I've used before that include using binding as a facing don't instruct you to under-stitch the binding before turning it to the inside. This pattern does and that extra step makes such a difference. I first did this when binding the armholes on my flannel Alder Shirtdress and it was a revelation to be able to get binding that neat! I knew I was in for a challenge trying to get binding that narrow even in a silk with so much movement but it was surprisingly well behaved when given a good steam!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Rachel Comey Vogue 1247 Top in Sand Washed Silk from Stoff Stil

The only thing that proved tricky in this fabric and therefore turned out not quite as neat as I had hoped were the sleeve cuffs. I do really like the technique used in the pattern but it means you can see your under stitching on the outside once they are turned back and mine was a little wobbly on the shifty silk!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Rachel Comey Vogue 1247 Top in Sand Washed Silk from Stoff Stil

I was warned that the top for this pattern runs large but I stuck with the size 12 as that is what I cut for the skirt which fits beautifully. I quite like the oversized look in a top this style particularly when using such a lightweight fabric so was hopeful that it would turn out the glamorous little number I had in my head. Unfortunately when I basted up the side seams it drowned me! I didn't so much mind the excess of fabric as the silk hangs so nicely I didn't feel overwhelmed; the problem I had was the size of the neckline which was, in proportion with the rest of the top hugely deep and wide. The top does look to have a very relaxed fit on the pattern envelope and the neckline is wide but no where near as deep as mine turned out and I didn't want to have to wear a vest underneath. I hadn't bothered to make a muslin as I figured any problems in a style like this could largely be rectified by taking in the side seams but the rather revealing neckline scuppered that plan. The only way I could see to save it was to take it in down the centre front seam but that would undo all my beautiful seam matching! I took the plunge in the end after mulling it over for a day or two and took it in a whopping 2" on the double down this line. It has turned out better than I thought it might have but the seams don't match as well as they did to begin with and that bugs me. I feel much more comfortable in it now but next time will take that width out of the sides before cutting. I'd love to try it in a cotton voile or lawn, something where you can get really crisp, sharp seam lines.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Cushion Cover in Tropical Leaf Print Brushed Cotton from Stoff Stil

Stoff Stil are based in Denmark and as well as a range of dressmaking appropriate fabrics they stock a great selection of fun home furnishing prints and brocades. I seized the opportunity to spruce up my flat with a few fun new accessories and first selected this tropical leaf print brushed cotton to make some cushion covers with for my outside chairs. My flatmate and I appear to have serious issues with keeping plants alive so I figured why not sew my own foliage! Now winter has descended the cushions have moved inside and I love how they fit with the rest of the room.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Cushion Cover in Tropical Leaf Print Brushed Cotton from Stoff Stil

I could not be more pleased with this fabric choice, it's the ideal weight for a cushion cover or other kind of soft furnishing and has a truly gorgeous brushed finish. I gave it a good hot pre-wash and the print has lost none of it's vibrancy at all. Such good quality. I deliberated over adding a contrast flat or corded piping to the seams but in the end decided to let the print speak for itself and kept it clean and simple, using an invisible zip to fasten them.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Oven Gloves in Pineapple Brocade from Stoff Stil

My third choice of fabric was a pineapple brocade which is unfortunately no longer available but there are hundreds of other designs along these lines on the site. I couldn't resist picking a fun pattern as they really hit the right balance being modern and too kitsch or twee. I made a few pairs of these oven gloves as Christmas presents a few years ago and the fact that I had a much easier time making them this time around must be a sign of how much my sewing skills have improved over those years! The binding is a lot neater this time around and I chose to make my own rather than using shop bought. I learnt from my previous experience with the binding to trim the insulated wadding right down within the seam allowances once the layers were basted together as it means the binding has a lot less to stretch around and it applies more evenly. The use of the walking foot on my machine made the quilting stage much easier too, I didn't have that wonderful little tool last time! Looking at the pineapple print hanging over my oven door makes me smile every time, it really brightens up the kitchen. The fabric is so nice I don't want to dirty them though!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Oven Gloves in Pineapple Brocade from Stoff Stil

There is so much I want to say about the website itself but I'll keep it as brief as possible and just focus on the fabric part even though they stock much more! I do have some qualms about buying fabric online as I'm definitely someone who likes to touch the fabric and assess the suitability of it for my project by judging it in person but this site makes it as easy to buy online as I think I can be. Individual written descriptions about the weight and drape of the fabrics are perhaps a little lacking but each fabric type is given a thorough explanation and they use other means to give you a good idea of what to expect. Each fabric page shows images of that fabric made up into different things and I love the thorough care instructions including how much shrinkage you should expect when pre washing so you can factor that into the amount you order. The fabric selection is excellent with some surprising inclusions. I'm intrigued by their rainwear fabric and soft shell but my favourite section is 'design pieces' which includes one off large scale prints in various sizes, some of which are designed to be the ideal shape and size to be made into a particular cushion, bean bag or even doll.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Rachel Comey Vogue 1247 Top in Sand Washed Silk from Stoff Stil

I am thinking about making some kind of colourful throw or quilt for the bottom of my bed and and will definitely be coming back for more of their bright and unusual prints when I do. I'm not normally so keen to jump at the chance of trying a new company then writing such a long and praise filled review when I do but the Stoff Stil range really grabbed me with their fresh and modern designs that really appeal to my home decor tastes.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

November Indie Pattern Update!



I can't believe I'm writing the second to last update of this year already! I spent part of November on holiday and wasn't on the internet much of the time I was away so I'm fairly sure there will be a few holes in my info this month. Please feel free to update me in the comments and I'll edit the post! Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday happened last week and seemed to be bigger than ever within the sewing community this year. Many indie pattern designers offered huge discounts off their patterns over the weekend; did you pick up any bargains?

New Pattern Companies


  • Coco Wawa Crafts launched their very first sewing pattern this month. The Marshmallow Dress is available as a PDF download in either English or Spanish. Its a trapeze style dress with peter pan collar and lightly gathered skirt attached to a dropped waist.
  • Another company with their first pattern release this month is Savvy Patterns with the Runway Skirt. Designed by Audrey from Skirt Fixation its a fitted skirt in three lengths with a number of narrow back panels with flippy godets between. The midi length looks so 1930s!


New Patterns


  • Sally from Capital Chic Patterns launched her second collection this month. Featuring a number of dresses and shirts in classic yet unique styles designed to push your sewing skills to the next level. I photographed my test version of the Sangria Dress this weekend and can't wait to show you all! It's become my go-to going out dress.
  • Style Arc's new patterns this month included the Sadie Set (which is a pull on trouser and tunic) and the Winsome Designer Dress. Their two freebie patterns to choose from with an purchase were also new; the Josie Hoodie has a funnel neck hood and corded hemline and the Rae Tunic Top has on trend split sleeves.
  • I love Seamwork Magazine's two new loungewear patterns this month. Both the Monroe Silk Pyjama Trousers and Charlotte Tunic Blouse have an elegant early 20th century feel to them.
  • Tessuti released the Isla Top which features dolman sleeves and a back yoke piece. It's designed to be a knit wardrobe staple. Also new from them this month is the Nina Pant which is a classic slim legged style which I've already got my eye on to wear with pumps in spring.
  • The Auden Men's Cardigan is the first menswear pattern from Jennifer Lauren Handmade. Influenced by the 1950s its got saddle shoulders and an optional contrast neckline and elbow patches.
  • Simple Sew released the Anneka Tunic inspired by the clean lines of Nordic design. I think the deep centre front box pleat and patch pockets would look fab in a wool tweed.
  • The Karl Dress from Schneidernmeistern inspired me to make my green merino turtleneck dress. There is something so chic about the combination of high neck, midi length and loose fit.
  • Waffle Patterns continued their trend of releasing cleverly designed modern coat patterns with the Bamboo Straight Cut Coat. It's two styles in one with two lengths and pocket options to choose from and either a notched classic collar or high round neck.
  • There is so much that appeals to me about Megan Nielsen's new Karri Dress; the challenge of sewing all those panels accurately, the deep v in the back and the variety within the samples (piping, colour blocking and stash-busting patchwork) showing you just how much fun can be had with the pattern.
  • I'm just venturing into the world of coat making so any new coat release has me intrigued! I like the way the raglan sleeves on the new Cocoon Coat from Wardrobe By Me extend into a yoke at the back but the timeless cut and features of the recently released Classic Coat also appeal.
  • Designer Stitch released the Gypsy Tunic Dress. Its easy to wear with an elasticated waist and comes in four lengths; I really like the high low hem and maxi length with side seam splits.
  • I had the pleasure of testing Tilly and the Buttons' latest release; the Cleo Pinafore & Dungaree Dress. Its an ideal balance between practical/casual and yet on trend and pulled together. 
  • Itch to Stitch released the Vientiane Skirt. I'm very tempted to give this a whirl as the idea of something fitted around the hips but flared at the hem really appeals. Super classy.
  • With the Farrow Dress Jen from Grainline Studio has yet again nailed a simple and utterly wearable pattern that is deceptively well designed with diagonal seaming concealing front pockets.
  • I AM Patterns launched the I AM A Star collection. I love the big funnel neck of the Mimosa Cape but the Sirius Top with that pleated back insert really appeals the most.
  • I am wishing summer back around all the quicker now I've seen the new Acton Dress from In The Folds. I adore that neckline and the fit of the curved under bust seam. The wrap skirt is a really intriguing variation that I'm keen to try.
  • Ready to Sew released the Joseph Jacket. Its a boxy style with lovely details like the little pleats along the raglan sleeve seams.
  • At the end of last month Eglantine et Zoe launched the Colibri Blouse; the tulip style cuffs on all three sleeve lengths mimicking the curved wrap hem is a beautiful touch.
  • I also missed last month the new collection from Louis Antoinette. There's a competition running to make up a winning version of their new Imagine Dress but it closes on 4th December so you'll have to speed sew to get involved!
  • Cashmerette released the Turner Dress and in doing so filled another gap in plus size sewists' wardrobes. Its a staple knit dress with a slightly flared skirt, v neck line and three sleeve lengths to choose from.
  • New releases from Kommatia this month included a long cardigan with welt pockets, a ribbed crop top and jersey dress with draped feature at the waist. I really need to make some time to try one of these as I am always drawn to the youthful styles and appeal of a speedy knit project.
  • Pauline Alice released the Aldaia Dress which is a knit pattern with three variations, the design details of which can be mixed and match to create endless dress options! The gored skirt is my favourite, so feminine!
  • New from The Maker's Atelier is the Seam Detail Dress. Scandi chic yet comfortable with no fastenings and pockets concealed in the waist seam; it must be a winner.
  • Pearl Red Moon released her next Boho Banjo pattern End Point; a maxi, bell shaped dress with panelled front. She also updated the instructions and cover art for the Adeline Dress.
  • Just in time for Christmas and the perfect gift for a new seamstress Sew Over It have released the Ultimate Pyjama Bottoms pattern download and kits (although the kits are already out of stock!). Perhaps the ideal thing to whip up last minute?
  • Vanessa Pouzet released Haut Vol. Currently only available in French its a top featuring a deep opening back with centre back exposed zip and a truly gorgeous cuff detail! 
  • New from Snapdragon Studios is the Villager Blouse & Tunic which features a button back and lovely neat cowl collar. It's currently available in their Esty shop as they are working on a new website!
  • Swim Style released the Rashie Top/Swim Vest for women. Designed for lycra and high stretch fabrics it can be sewn up as a crop top or hip length and with cap or long sleeves.


Pattern Updates and Expansion Packs


  • Waffle Patterns gave us a free downloadable pattern piece for a box pocket with accompanying tutorial. This would work great on any of their fab coat patterns.
  • I hit download immediately on Heather Lou's new free pack with 33 topstitching design templates for the back pockets of the Closet Case Patterns Ginger or Morgan Jeans. What a great idea.


Sew-Alongs




Upcoming!


  • I'm itching for the cold weather to disappear before it's even really hit so I can make up a Kelly Anorak from Closet Case Patterns so I was very excited to spot Heather Lou's tips for underlining in flannel for extra warmth. She is planning a lining expansion pack to come out in the spring.
  • Spotted on Instagram was a call for testers for Designer Stitch's up coming pattern - the Bridget Blouse.


As I said I'm sure I've fallen a bit out of the loop with the news this month so please do add in anything I've missed in the comments and check them out too. It'll be a group effort this month! I've needed a little kick start to my sewing motivation over the weekend with post holiday blues kicking in and these indie sewing makes from you guys have sure helped!



  • Katie's velvet Martha Dress is exactly what I want to be wearing right now! The velvet, the print and the seventies style all together are too much to handle!
  • Ping's Tosti Jacket is one of those projects that you think no one is ever possibly going to think that that's handmade! The plaid lining, fur trim and all those professional looking design details...beautiful stuff!
  • Also inspiring my coat sewing is Jasika's pink Kelly Anorak. Maybe it's good that I've got to wait a while for the appropriate weather for this lightweight a coat as it will give me some time to mull my own choices over! This has made me see the pattern in a whole new light.
  • I've got a bit of a merino wool addition going on this winter and Kelli's festive red merino Esme Maxi Cardi has got me desperate to get my hands on more! Great match of pattern and fabric.
  • Totally out of season in my neck of the woods but bookmarked for next summer's sewing queue is Rachel's Holly-Anna hybrid dress. I would never have thought to pair that bodice and skirt and it's fab in that print. Plus the halter neck looks ace.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Genoa Tote in Bamboo Print from Fashion Formula

I've got a project slightly different to my normal dressmaking to share with you today, it's a bag and a fun print! The pattern is the Genoa Tote which Pattern Fantastique released in collaboration with Blogless Anna a couple of months back and the bamboo print fabric was sent to me by fabric printing company Fashion Formula; more on that in a moment! It looks like a super simple tote but there's actually more to it than it may seem, being fully lined with a zipped pouch and key clip inside. You end up with a very professionally finished bag and you can tell that the best method for construction has been well thought through. For example as one of the final steps the box corners of the lining and exterior are secured together inside to keep the lining from shifting around which is a lovely touch. The top edge of the bag is faced and under-stitched so you have a nice clean top edge.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

I had great fun picking a fabric from the Fashion Formula website. You can create your own prints on the site and as well as fabric they'll print on wallpaper, gift wrap and even accessories such as cushions, aprons and tea towels although I'm guessing as sewing addicts like me you'd prefer to sew your own! I can't review the custom design service as I opted to choose from the database of prints designed by over 500 independent designers. The database is really easy and clear to navigate; there's a search function or you can filter results based on a keyword or colour. The biggest difficulty you'll have is making a choice from the huge selection! Once you've chosen your print there are around 35 fabric bases to choose from including a variety of silks and cottons as well as stretch fabrics and even speciality fabrics like velvet and fleece. Fabrics are available in a 20cm x 20cm sample size, as fat quarters or in metres. If ordering in metres it's worth noting that the fabric bases vary in width so check carefully what yours says. Mine was 140cm wide and that's the width of the print, the base fabric was actually 150cm wide with a white border along each selvedge.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

My exterior fabric is 'Bamboo' printed on the canvas base as I wanted something hardwearing. The pattern actually recommends using three fabrics; one for the exterior, one for the lining and one for the zipped pouch inside. I was trying to use only fabrics from my stash with the fabric from Fashion Formula and didn't have anything that went quite right so I decided to use the exterior fabric for the pocket too and some duck egg cotton poplin for the lining. You could have great fun mix and matching prints and fabric bases on a project like this and I think a poplin lining in a tropical print with a striped pocket would have been exciting. I'd really like to make a completely leather one at some point as I think I'd get a lot of use out of it. Marilla's two leather versions of the pattern are really inspiring!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

The canvas is an ideal weight and quality for the project (the bag is actually deigned with denim in mind and this canvas has very similar qualities). It has a crispness to it and is nice and tough but with a soft and smooth hand. I gave it a good hot pre-wash before sewing and didn't notice any shrinkage which I think is really good in a custom printed fabric as you don't want your print getting distorted or changing in size. After the pre-wash I have noticed a slight softness in the surface texture which is nice but I am wondering if with further washes it would start to go a bit fluffy and loose the density of colour in the print. As it's a bag it won't be seeing all that much washing but I will report back! Being a tightly woven cotton it sewed up and pressed really beautifully. I wasn't expecting to enjoy sewing a bag as much as I do a garment but found it a really satisfying project to get absorbed in.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

The most tricky thing I found about this project was actually getting together all the supplies! The zip I actually had in my stash and is one of a selection I picked up in SIL Thread in the NYC garment district earlier this year as I couldn't believe how cheap they were! You could easily do without the swivel key clip but I really liked this feature so was determined to locate one! I tracked one down at MacCulloch & Wallis but the opening was smaller than the pattern requests so I made my fabric loop piece narrower to work with it. I might add key clips to all my bags now; so useful!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

Attempting to find leather straps turned into a bit of a saga and as you can see was a quest I gave up on. Pattern Fantastique do actually sell leather handle kits at a more reasonable price but sadly for me they are based in Australia so that wasn't an option. I'd highly recommend it if it is an option for you though! I found some leather strapping in MacCulloch & Wallis but it was all either too skinny or too expensive. The pre-made bag handles by Prym are also very pricey. I did consider purchasing some leather to make my own straps as there are some excellent leather merchants in London (my favourites being Walter Reginald, JT Batchelor and Alma) but most of them only sell whole skins so that turns into another expensive option. As I had chosen a nice robust fabric for the exterior I decided to make some matching straps out of it. My straps are an inch wide and I cut strips of two times the width plus a 5/8" seam allowance on each side. I then sewed the raw long edges together right sides together, trimmed the seam allowance and turned them through to the right side. I then turned the ends under by an inch and topstitched around every side. I attached the straps with rivets as the pattern recommends for the leather straps as I liked the look. I was worried that the might be too tough a treatment on the cotton rather than leather but as it's fairly thick and I was riveting through six layers it's worked really well.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

I made this before I made the Aeolian Tee I posted last week so it was my first experience of a pattern from Pattern Fantastique. The instructions are VERY thorough and there was a lot I liked about them, particularly how they are broken down into very brief points. It makes it impossible to go wrong really! There are lots of instructions to clip corners and grade to reduce bulk which I like and even tips on when to change needles and machine feet for inserting the zip and working with different fabrics. The assembly of the PDF was a little different to what I am used to. There were no diamonds or little squares to line up, you just had to line up the borders and the pattern lines themselves and there is a diagram on each page showing where that page fits into the pattern as a whole. As I was using the medium size I wasn't sure if I'd need to print every page but a diagram of the layout of the pattern across the sheets isn't provided. In this case I did need to print all of the 21 pages but when it came to the Aeolian Tee when I made the shortest length I didn't need about 12 of the pages so took some time looking through the PDF to work out what I needed to print. For this pattern the printer scale test square is on page 18 and as I like to print this page individually first to check the size I found it a bit frustrating to have to scroll through the whole PDF and find it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

All in all I'm really happy with how this combination of fabric and pattern has worked out. It definitely feels like more of a summer print but I'm constantly using canvas totes for carting around work stuff and this is the perfect size to hold a folder, script, notebook and my laptop! I made the medium size and it's very roomy, the large would be huge and great for a beach bag. It would make a great Christmas present; the interior pocket and key clip detail really set it apart from a standard handmade tote and you could pick or design prints appropriate for each recipient at the click of a button!

Disclaimer: Both the pattern and fabric were provided free of charge by Pattern Fantastique and Fashion Formula respectively but the opinions are all my own!