Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Theory Linen Knit Bowline Sweater

Let me introduce you to my new favourite top! This little number was one of those projects led by the fabric. For some reason my favourite handmade garments always begin like that and this one has pretty much only been off my back to be washed since I finished it. I found this Theory Linen Knit in store at Mood Fabrics NYC on my trip last month. Can't find it online but there are a handful of other gorgeous linen knits or the full Theory range of lovely unusual neutrals.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater in Theory Linen Knit from Mood Fabrics

I love a good browse of the Mood website but I find it's only when I get a fabric in my hands that I work out exactly what I want to make with it. I knew I wanted to make the new Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater as soon as it was released and purchased it just before my trip. I had various iterations of it made up in my head in sweater knits and merinos. It wasn't until I spotted this bolt upstairs in Mood that I realised the pattern's full potential. It was a real ‘ding ding jackpot!’ moment. Out of what must be thousands of bolts in store this linen leapt off the shelf at me screaming to be made into that top.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater in Theory Linen Knit from Mood Fabrics

I think this particular fabric might have passed me by online as I’ve never come across a knit quite like it so wouldn’t have been able to imagine it correctly. It’s quite an open knit (you can see the loops of the knit which gives it it’s texture and semi sheer quality) but yet doesn’t have a vast amount of stretch. It’s quite fine with a textured hand and soft drape which is ideal for the pleat front and loose fitting drape of the design. Being linen it does crease like crazy and that’s the only thing I’m not 100% happy about when it comes to the match of pattern and fabric; that front pleat is pretty much impossible to press nicely because of the way it is constructed. I took these pictures after a few wears and washes and I have to say that pleat looked a whole lot better when I had first finished it! My dissatisfaction with this is more than made up for by how lovely it is to wear though. The linen is airy and breathable and feels gorgeous against the skin.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater in Theory Linen Knit from Mood Fabrics

The areas which are easier to press come up beautifully though. As well as liking the slim style of neckband I was really pleased with the finish I got on it because of how well the linen responds to a steamy iron. I gave it a good hot pre wash so now I can throw this in the machine without worrying about shrinkage. It was really straightforward to sew with. I used a ballpoint needle in my machine and constructed everything with a narrow zig zag stitch before finishing all the seams on my overlocker. I’ve never experienced a knit which frays before but this one shed little pieces everywhere when you cut it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater in Theory Linen Knit from Mood Fabrics

It was difficult to decide which colour thread to use as there are so many colours within the weave of this fabric. It’s kind of hard to see in the pictures but it’s a lovely mixture of greens and greys, the mottled finish of which is a lovely combination with the organic texture of the linen. The right side is a dark green/grey and the reverse more of a light grey. In the end I stuck with trusty grey; I’ve never forgotten the tip that grey thread works with most colours of fabric and my overlocker is almost permanently threaded with grey!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater in Theory Linen Knit from Mood Fabrics

Despite being beautifully behaved most of the time this was tricky to cut. It took me quite some time to get everything laid out with the grain nice and straight. It kept wanting to twist all out of shape so I’d definitely recommend cutting in a single layer which for the front piece of this sweater you have to do anyway because of the asymmetric design. My cuffs I think did end up slightly off grain as whenever it first comes out of the wash they look a bit twisted. Nothing a good press can’t sort out though! Does anyone have any tips on truing the grain of a wonky knit like this?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater in Theory Linen Knit from Mood Fabrics

The pattern itself I absolutely adore. It’s exactly the kind of thing I need more of in my wardrobe. A casual basic which goes with lots of other things in my wardrobe but that has interesting design details that stop it from being boring. I think I really need to carve out some time to try draping as this kind of style really appeals to me at the minute and I’d love to be able to create some unique pieces for myself. I cut the Papercut size XS and am really pleased with the fit straight out of the envelope. It’s like it was made for me. The height of the neckline is exactly what I like. The length is spot on for with jeans or skirts. I love the slim sleeves, where the cuff hits and the amount of ease around the waist. High fives all round. I bought a yard and a half of fabric which was plenty. I’ve been able to squeeze previous sweatshirt patterns out of a mere metre but I would recommend getting more for this one.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater in Theory Linen Knit from Mood Fabrics
The pleat forms part of the neckline

I was apprehensive about the construction of the pleat as I had a feeling it was one of those details which looks lovely and simple on but is actually quite tricky to get looking like that! It actually wasn’t too bad. There was a bit of head scratching and re-reading of the instructions when it got the burrito point but it turned out right in first try. I would recommend being reasonably confident working with knits if you are going to try this one as you kind of need to take the plunge at this point and trust your instincts and the instructions. It was definitely one of those ‘I’m not sure if I’m doing it right’ projects!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Bowline Sweater in Theory Linen Knit from Mood Fabrics

Overall I am delighted with how this combination of fabric and pattern turned out. It’s a perfect lightweight summer sweater to keep the chill off those gorgeous London summer evenings which I hope we get to see a lot of this year!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

April Indie Pattern Update!


Another month has flown by but it's been another month packed with gorgeous pattern releases! I'm well and truly in the mood for some Spring and Summer sewing now I just wish I had the time and the weather felt the same! What have you guys got planned to sew for the new season?

New Patterns


  • Tilly and the Buttons was hot off the mark this month with the release of the Martha Dress. It's got a gorgeous late sixties vibe to it with the mandarin collar and flared skirt.
  • I'm still really keen to try a Wear Lemonade pattern. This month they released the Lila Skirt which is seventies inspired so of course I love it! It's a wrap around style and I really like the denim version they are selling.
  • The Tailoress released the Ellie Easy-Fit Tank and Crop Top Pattern which features two neckline options, either straps or a classic racer back.
  • Kathleen from Grosgrain Green released a free pattern for the Pinwheel Shorts. They are relaxed fitting and feature tulip style overlaps at the front.
  • Marilla Walker released her Mercury Collection first as a PDF download but now paper copies are available too! I like that a lot of Marilla's patterns include more than one garment, such good value for money. This one features two top variations and two trousers; I love the wide leg style myself.
  • Heather Lou from Closet Case Files might have to be renamed the queen of jeans. After the success of her Ginger Jeans she has just released the Morgan Boyfriend Jeans. They are a slim cut, traditional style designed for non-stretch and selvedge denim. I really need to jump on this jeans making band wagon!
  • Sew Red Edge released a range of trouser print kits. There are four designs all printed on 100% cotton poplin and the fabric is all marked out and ready to cut so you don't have to worry about pattern matching! This style of trouser is one I'd like to try for summer, maybe this would be a good way to start.
  • The latest release from Colette Patterns is the Selene Skirt. It's a modern design with their usual vintage inspired twist with three variations giving you the opportunity to try out various techniques such as welt pockets and a lapped zip. 
  • Jenny from Cashmerette's latest addition to her collection of plus size patterns is the Concord T-Shirt. It's designed for curves and has plenty of options to choose from with three lengths, three necklines, three sleeve lengths and two finishing options for the cuffs.
  • Ann Normandy released the Sleeveless Shift Dress. I love the simplicity of her designs and how beautiful they look in quality natural fibres. This one has been specifically designed for heavy, rustic linens and looks gorgeous in it.
  • Another company that does simple, clean lines really well is the Maker's Atelier. This month they released the Pleat Detail Dress and Top. It's got grown on sleeves and an inverted pleat detail. I particularly like it as a top in the cotton eyelet they've used for the sample.
  • Tessuti added to their line of patterns with the Audrey Shirt. I'm not sure that the tie at the front would suit my body shape, but it looks super chic on their model in solid black.
  • Megan Nielson released the Sudley Dress and Blouse which is very on trend with it's loose fit and key hole neckline which can be work to the front or back. The perfect pattern for a lovely rayon boho print.
  • One of my favourite releases this month and one that will probably be making it's way into my pattern collection soon is the Hannah Dress from Victory Patterns. I love a unique design that looks like it would be challenging and different to sew and there's lots of little details in this that just set it apart.
  • Sew Over It released their Doris Dress as a pattern. It looks like a lovely design for summer, easy to wear with it's fluted, panelled skirt and perfect to showcase a lovely print. They also released a Weekend Bag Kit. It includes everything you need to make a beautiful overnight bag and you have two options of canvas prints to choose from.
  • Blue Prints for Sewing released the Geodesic Sweater which has a tessellating pieced design inspired by the geodesic dome. I imagine you could have great fun colour blocking with this one!
  • One thing still on my never ending sewing to do list is trying out some lingerie making. Make Bra have reminded me of this with their latest release the DL04 Bra. It's an underwired foam bra with two part cups for shape and support and can also be made as a bikini top.

Expansion Packs and Re-Releases



Sew-Alongs




Upcoming!


  • Charlotte Kan is currently testing her next release; the Garconne shirt and dress. It looks like a classic button up to me and I'm liking the look of the simple slim cut of the dress variation.
  • Pauline Alice has three new patterns set for release in May! They're inspired by travel and I really can't wait to see these as I have been loving Pauline's designs of late. I've just made the Rosari skirt and am living in it!
  • Emily from In The Folds is currently testing her next and second pattern. All she's given away so far is that it's a dress wit two variations!
  • After the release of her Mercury Collection Marilla Walker has set straight to work on a summer dress design. 
  • Kennis from Itch to Stitch is currently testing two patterns; the Sirena Dress and Lisbon Cardigan. I love the lace sample she's made of the cardigan and would never have thought to use lace for that type of garment!
  • Christine Haynes hinted at the fact that she has a new pattern coming soon called Lottie; I couldn't work out what type of garment it was going to be though!
  • There sure is a lot of pattern testing going on at the moment which suggests next month could be a big one for pattern releases! Paprika Patterns are also currently testing for a summer trousers pattern called Amber.
  • Jennifer Lauren Vintage has a new pattern called the Hunter Tank coming soon!
  • Schnittchen have hinted at the release of a collection of summer patterns. Eyes peeled on 23rd May!

Other Exciting News


  • Good news for all you menswear sewers who hate taping together PDFs; Thread Theory PDF patterns are now available as copy shop files.
  • Christine Haynes is also now offering all her PDF patterns with copy shop size print options.
  • Deer and Doe updated their Centauree Dress pattern so it now has their new style of packaging and also is more fitted through the waist. 
  • The Wedgwood Skirt and Montlake Tee patterns from Straight Stitch Designs are now available as paper patterns as well as in the original PDF format.

Feel free to add into the comments any news I may have missed. As always here's you're monthly dose of indie sewing inspiration. It was hard to pick just a handful to share this month, there have been so many gorgeous projects catching my eye and making me want to run to my machine/nearest fabric shop!




  • Erin from Miss Crayola Creepy chose the perfect pattern to showcase the amazing fabric she used for her Camden Cape. Look at how the weight of the fabric emphasises the shape!
  • There are Inari Tee Dresses taking over the internet! Liz's is the most recent one to tempt me to take the plunge and make my own. They just look so easy and chic
  • Another instance of perfect fabric and pattern choice. Isn't the print Elena chose perfect for the Fen Dress?
  • Elisalex's ballgown version of her Kim Dress is jaw droppingly beautiful! That fabric! I love her decision to make it ankle length too. It gives it a real classy mid 20th century feel.
  • Does Pauline ever not look super chic? In her Named Isla Trench Coat she is the epitome of that and I was really interested to read the alterations she made to suit her petite frame too.



Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Shopping the Garment District in NYC

I've been back from New York almost three weeks now, time has flown by and it already seems like forever ago! Of course my case returned a lot fuller than when I left...and mainly full of fabric! For sewing addicts like us what trip to the Big Apple is complete without an afternoon in the garment district?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC
Thanks to my sister for the excellent action shots in Mood!

I was travelling with my sister and Dad, neither of whom sew so rather than bore them to death following indecisive me from store to store I peeled off one afternoon to focus on the task at hand. There are so many stores in the district that it's kind of impossible to do it properly in an afternoon. The main stretch is around about 37th-39th streets between 7th and 8th avenues and that's where I concentrated my time. I knew I was going to need a fair bit of time to spend my MSN allowance in Mood Fabrics but didn't want that to end up taking the whole afternoon so headed there last with a good hour and a half to spare!

I'd met Devra, Jennifer and Sonja for a cocktail or two the night before (thanks so much for an awesome evening guys! Marcy...next time we WILL make it happen!) and they gave me some great tips. I think my favourite place was SIL Thread. I don't think I would ever have ventured in if I hadn't been told about it as it's quite a discrete little sign and window but it's a treasure trove inside. I wish there was somewhere like that in London. There's similar haberdashery and wholesale shops that I visit for work but NOWHERE over here can you get such a wide selection of quality zips for such good prices. If I'd known about it before I left so I could have made a plan of what would have been really useful for upcoming projects/what I use a lot of. I did come away with some YKK metal jeans zips though...for $1.15 each when they would be around £6.00 a zip here in the UK. That's how good it is! They also stock all the Clover tools.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC

I knew the choice was going to be overwhelming and my suitcase space was limited so I restricted myself to only buying things which I wouldn't be able to get hold of in the UK or that was a lot cheaper out in the States. So despite popping in and out of numerous shops I only picked up one other piece of fabric...some watermelon print swimwear lycra from Spandex House! It's got Named Beverley Bikini written all over it. There seemed to be quite a few different stores specialising in stretch fabrics and spandex but this was definitely my fave. Even if you have no intention of buying stretch fabric it's worth it for the experience! Never have I seen so much colour, sequin and crazy print in one place.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC

I've been to the garment district before but that was a few years ago when I'd only been sewing a short while. My knowledge of what fabrics would be good for what and what's a good find was no where near what it is now and I found the whole thing quite overwhelming! I still had a great time but this experience I enjoyed a lot more as I felt at home and like I knew what I was looking at. On that visit I really loved Paron Fabrics and I enjoyed a mooch around there again this time. I like how well organised it is and the fabrics appear to be top quality for good prices. I very nearly bought a piece of super soft striped french terry in there but decided against it at the last minute as I didn't know what I'd use it for. The one place that I didn't make it to but wish I had as a visiting Kashi came highly recommended was Metro Textiles. I didn't spot it on the street and it slipped my mind to look for it but that's top priority for the next visit!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC
I'm wearing the Rosari Skirt from Pauline Alice in the pics which is my new favourite handmade garment but has yet to officially make it onto the blog!

One of the best things about our hotel was that it was on the same street as Mood! Just about a four block walk away. In exactly the same fashion as last trip I ended up making two trips as the first time I was paralysed by choice and couldn't make a decision! Seriously that place is huge. I'd seen it before but nothing prepares you for it. My Dad and sister accompanied me on the first trip and were gutted not to get to meet Swatch despite some serious hunting. Dad did get very involved in helping to find me some options though...I might even go so far as to say he enjoyed it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC

So what did I buy in the end you may ask?! I had no plan...which may have been a mistake when faced with that much choice but I really wanted to buy things that leapt out at me as being special so that's what I did! The cotton eyelet on the right was my first choice and was the one piece that remained on my list from the first visit! I really like the small repeat in it and am hoping to use it for something which makes the most of the lovely scalloped edge. On the left is a beautiful linen knit from Rag & Bone. I've never come across anything like it in the UK and it's got a gorgeous drape. In the centre is a lightweight cotton twill which is exactly the colour I was looking for to make myself a classic spring coat/jacket in the style of Papercut Pattern's Waver.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC

The silks are what always really grab me over in the US and I always think Mood's are really reasonably priced for the quality if you think about what you might pay in store on Berwick Street over here. Both of the silks below are an absolutely delicious heavy weight, somewhat like a silk morocain. They have such a gorgeous hand and drape. The paper chain print jumped out at me straight away as a fun design for spring. I'm planning to make a boxy little top with it, maybe the Inari Tee? The green was a special treat which pushed me way over my allowance but I fell in love with the colour and feel of the fabric. My stepsister is getting married early next year and I'm planning to use it to make a special occasion dress for that. Perhaps it's time for me to delve into the world of bias cut garments!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC

Despite working like a mad woman since I got back I have managed to squeeze in a bit of time to sew up one of these luscious bits of fabric already. Which one do you think it is? I wore it literally straight of the machine and haven't stopped since! You may have spotted it over on Instagram already but full details will be up on the blog next week.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures from my trip. Such a brilliant week packed with amazing experiences!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Shopping the Garment District in NYC

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Haptic Lab New York Quilt and Grand Central Station Ceiling Cushion

It seems very late in the day to be showing you guys some gifts I made for Christmas but I'm so proud of them I can't skip sharing! Despite deciding that trying to make too many gifts each year wasn't worth the panic during the run up to Christmas, I expected to have a fair bit of time in December and knew my family deserved some treats so went all out with the sewing this year. Of course I then ended up working some fairly crazy hours and with much less time to sew than I hoped it all became quite the rush! Some late nights were involved but it was worth it to see the looks on their faces on Christmas Day. I've sworn I'll cut down this year but I doubt that will happen again...partly because it's too difficult to resist the opportunity to sew some things which I'd never make myself! First up are my Mum's and Sister's which have a New York theme as both of them love the Big Apple. If you follow me on Instagram you may have spotted that I've just got back from a trip there with my Dad and Sister so expect a post with all my garment district adventures in soon!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Haptic Lab New York City DIY Quilt

My Sister's was definitely the most time intensive of the lot and I decided on what I was going to make her way back in April of last year. I thought at that point that it would give me plenty of time but of course I didn't actually get round to starting it for a good few months and a project like tis sure eats up the hours. Luckily I love a bit of hand sewing in front of the tv so I enjoyed every minute of this project and am even contemplating making another for myself now I've had a bit of a break from looking at it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Haptic Lab New York City DIY Quilt

Some of you have probably recognised it as one of Haptic Lab's quilt kits. I spotted one on Instagram and hopped over to the website in a flash. They are absolutely gorgeous. You can buy them ready made (prices are steep but now I know how many hours are put into hand sewing each one I'm inclined to see them as a total bargain!) but of course the maker in me wasn't having any of that when I spotted the DIY kits. They are a template of the design printed on tear-away stabiliser, so you sew through the template and all the layers of your quilt then tear away the paper when you are done (which takes FOREVER FYI as there are so many little bits between the stitches and you have to be really careful not to tug your stitches loose). They come with a brief set of sewing instructions but there is more detailed help available on the website. The one I've used here is the New York City Quilt, but I almost went with the Central Park design!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Haptic Lab New York City DIY Quilt

I've never done any quilting before so buying batting was a whole new experience for me. I didn't want anything too thick or dense as it would make it harder to sew through by hand but I wanted a nice spongey finish at the same time. I looked at a lot of reviews and went with Hobbs Heirloom Premium Cotton Quilt Batting which I wound sold by the metre on Minerva Crafts. I was really pleased with this choice and would definitely use it again. The two colours of cotton I bought from A-One Fabrics on Goldhawk Road and I made my own binding with it. Excluding the extra fabric for binding you only need a metre of each fabric as the quilts are 42" by 36" so supplies wise they are fairly inexpensive.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Haptic Lab New York City DIY Quilt

I made sure to carefully follow the preparation instructions; laying out everything flat on the floor then using safety pins to catch the layers together at regular intervals. This is really important as otherwise things will shift around as you sew and the quilt will twist out of shape. I found a really long fine needle was best to glide easily through the batting. I took to rolling up the ends and clipping them in place to get to the centre so I wasn't wrestling with a big bit of quilt every time I took a stitch.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Haptic Lab New York City DIY Quilt

It took me a while to figure out how tight to pull my stitches etc but once I'd got into the rhythm of it I thoroughly enjoyed the process. The only thing I struggled with was trying to keep the back looking neat and everything knotted off securely. If it was just for me I think it would have been fine but I wasn't happy with it as a gift so I covered it with another bit of cotton when it was done; securing it at at a few points to keep it nice and flat . I couldn't find any tips for making the back look nice and tidy...has anyone else made one and can offer me some advice?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Haptic Lab New York City DIY Quilt

There is so much room for creativity with these quilts. I actually kept mine pretty simple, just picking a colour way which I knew my sister would love and using different stitches to highlight different lines on the map as recommended but if you take a look at the DIY quilt listing page you can see amazing things that can be done by appliquéing patches of printed fabrics or marking your favourite locations with embroidery and lettering. I followed the instructions to use embroidery floss to mark coastal boundaries in a solid bold line, then hand quilting thread for the rest. I used backstitch for a solid line to mark primary streets, a running stitch for secondary streets and then tiny running stitch for the construction lines which keep the quilt together across empty bodies of water.

These quilts are genuinely amazing and in writing this and remembering the process I can't wait to get stuck into another one. I'd really like to look into some different embroidery stitches to use and would love to try the constellation quilt that Jenny from Cashmerette made.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grand Central Station Ceiling Cushion

My Mum's gift started again with a spot on Instagram. I don't think it was actually this specific fabric but another along the New York theme that led me to the City Quilter website. They're based in the Chelsea District but have a lot of fabric available online and once I saw the prints I caved and splashed out on the international postage. I did have a few issues with the delivery going walkabouts that I found a little difficult to resolve but I got my hands on a piece in the end! The fabrics in the 'City Collection' are designed by the store and since I bought this last year a whole heap of amazing new prints have been added. I particularly like 'All the Buildings in NYC' and 'Subway Tiles'. For my Mum's gift I settled on 'Grand Central Constellations' as it stood out to me as a design that would look nice on display at home as the theme is a little more subtle. Funnily enough when I gave it to my Mum she knew all about City Quilter's NYC collection as she'd made a special visit to the shop during a trip a few year's back to get me a few yards of the unique designs!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grand Central Station Ceiling Cushion

I settled on a very simple cushion cover design as I wanted to get this project spot on and also showcase the stunning fabric. The scale of this print is also a little larger than most and I wanted to keep as many constellations whole as possible so the size of a cushion was perfect. I was also trying to pick a project which I could use these amazing metal buttons for and I only had two! These are a real find that I spotted when shopping for work one day. I've totally forgotten where they came from as they've been in my stash for soooo long, deliberately saved for the perfect project for her as the Art Deco style structure of the top of the Chrysler building is her favourite and this is what they reminded me of.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grand Central Station Ceiling Cushion

I did consider using metallic gold thread for the buttonholes but kept it simple and chic so the fabric could speak for itself. I think this would be an amazing fabric for a quilt if you quilted the main features of the constellation design in a gold thread. Perhaps I should use a turquoise cotton and gold thread for my haptic lab constellation quilt and make it grand central station inspired?!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grand Central Station Ceiling Cushion