I'm sure many of you will have seen by now the latest release from By Hand London, the Zeena Dress. I'm also sure those of you who don't live in London will have heard about the little heatwave we've had here recently as when we British get a bit of proper summer sunshine we do like to shout about it from the rooftops! Well Zeena has been my saviour in the muggy heat of the last week or so and has rapidly proved itself to be somewhat the perfect summer dress.
I tested this pattern and as BHL are no longer producing patterns in a printed format it was my first experience with one of their PDF patterns. I had absolutely no problems printing or assembling mine, just make sure to check that your printer is printing at 100% scale and not shrinking anything to fit or your dress will end up too small! There's a post here if you need any tips. From a testing point of view I thought the instructions were as thorough and clear as I have come to expect and include some great tips such as how to tell when you've reached the ideal point to pivot when sewing up the side seams and around the pocket pieces.
What you see here isn't actually my test version of the dress as I felt the bodice on that one was a little too roomy particularly at the neck and shoulders. This is mainly due to my weight fluctuating a little recently and my own personal fitting preferences with a design with a relaxed fit. As I'm quite petite but am by no means straight up and down I often feel like loose fitting clothing doesn't suit my proportions and a bit less fabric hanging around the body makes me feel more comfortable. I also often find By Hand London patterns to be big through the shoulders on me as I am quite narrow and taking a wedge out of the neckline is a common adjustment for me to make.
I cut my usual By Hand London size UK10 when testing but the version you see here is actually the UK8. I chose to use view 2 which has the shorter sleeves, shorter skirt length and lower/wider neckline. I took 1" out from each side of the front neckline which I did by slashing and overlapping the pattern from the required amount at the neckline to nothing at the bottom of the armhole. If you're after a bit more in depth guidance to do this yourself I referred to Sonja from Ginger Makes' tutorial on how to do the same thing to the back bodice of the Anna Dress. I'm so much happier with how the neckline sits now. The only other adjustment I made was to shorten the bodice by 3/4". I'm slightly short waisted so this is probably an adjustment I should make on more patterns than I actually do! As I had my test version to hand this time I took the extra couple of minutes it warranted to get this spot on. I was worried about the skirt ending up too short as it is described as mini length but it's turned out ideal for me personally. The length you see here is as the pattern comes and I'm 5ft 3".
The fabric is actually a very special piece which it has taken me ages to decide what to make with as I really didn't want to waste it on the wrong project! It's an absolutely stunning silk/cotton voile which I purchased in Mood Fabrics when visiting NYC with my sister over two years ago now and before I was a member of the Mood Sewing Network. I was pretty overwhelmed by the amount of choice in Mood (and my non-sewing sister showed amazing levels of patience considering the amount of time i spent browsing on two separate occasions!) but this fabric leapt out at me as something I just could not leave without. I've considered pairing it with various patterns over the last couple of years but nothing seemed 100% right and I couldn't bear to cut into it until I was certain! I wanted something simple that would showcase the beautiful print but also something I would get a lot of wear out of as I didn't want to wear this fabric just once to a wedding. After testing Zeena I knew I had found just the thing and luckily managed to squeeze it out of just the 1.6 yards I had.
The voile is so fine and lightweight that it is very sheer and so both the bodice and skirt needed to be underlined. I found the perfect mint green silk/cotton voile in Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road for £4/m. I've used this before for lining my circle-skirted Elisalex dress and they usually carry a good selection of colours. I'm really pleased with how the mint green backing increases the intensity of the colours in the print. I could have lined it rather than underlined but I thought the voile was so sheer that there would be a risk of seam allowances showing through and decided to keep it as simple as the pattern is intended to be. Underlining the skirt has given it a bit of body but avoided adding too much fluffy volume which a separate lining layer might have done.
Ignoring the amount of time it took to hand baste the pattern pieces to the underlining this is such a speedy garment to sew! The bodice pleats are much quicker than darts and kimono sleeves cut out so much construction time. No faffing about setting in sleeves! The pattern is unlined and the neckline is finished with a simple facing so there's no fiddly bias binding to contend with either. To add to the speed of this project I finished all the seam allowances on my overlocker using a light grey thread.
I had some problems with the facing flipping out even when tacked down at the shoulder seams and to the zip tape at the centre back. I had under stitched the neckline and vigorously clipped and pressed the seam allowances but it didn't want to behave. As I had underlined the fashion fabric I was able to slipstitch the facing to the underlining all the way around and eliminate this problem. The printed voile is so fine that any catch stitching to the outer layer would have shown right through however neat.
Of course no practical summer dress is complete without pockets and these are set into the side seam and cleverly concealed beneath the pleats. This is the one step when I veered off of the instructions slightly as I chose to finish the edges of the pocket pieces before attaching them to the skirt pieces and the side seams after but before putting the skirt together. I also under-stitched the pocket openings which isn't strictly necessary but as I had so little of my printed voile I used the plain mint green for the pocket linings and didn't want to risk them poking out.
What makes this design a firm favourite for me among the By Hand London collection is that it can be so easily dressed up or down depending on fabric choice. Lots of my BHL dresses are party dresses or suitable only for weddings and events rather than being right for everyday wear so I love that this one can be in regular rotation. It's so great to throw on on a hot day as the loose fit makes it less sticky and obviously the silk/cotton content of the fabric I've used is super breathable. It's so great in fact that I've actually already made another in an equally breezy fabric which some of you may have spotted on Instagram last week. I can't wait to share all the details of that one with you soon! What are your favourite fabrics to sew with for summer?
Friday, 3 July 2015
Tuesday, 30 June 2015
The arrival of some real proper heat and sunshine in London this week has got me really inspired to sew up a whole new summer wardrobe! I've been working with a lot of breezy cottons and silks this month and colourful summer prints have been catching my eye. Those of you in the southern hemisphere must be looking forward to changing up your sewing for winter too! There's plenty of new patterns to choose from this month if you're looking to add to your collection anyway!
New Pattern Companies
- Charlotte from English Girl At Home has just released her very first pattern the Lou Lou Dress. It's a sleeveless a-line dress with three views including options for contrast panels and colour blocking. I love her sample of View B with the sheer polkadot hemline!
- Sew Over It released the latest in their line of classic designs; the Vintage Shirt Dress. I had the pleasure of testing this pattern and have been getting so much wear out of my cotton lawn version now summer has arrived in London! They also released the PDF version of the pattern from their tie kit.
- Technically this happened back in May but it slipped through the net in last month's update so I thought I should include it here! Hey June Patterns released the Biscayne Blouse which has a relaxed fit and features a hidden button placket.
- The new pattern from Tilly and the Buttons is the Agnes Top. It's a close fitting design for knits and features various neckline and sleeve options to mix and match.
- After the popularity of her Marlborough Bra pattern and lingerie sewing book I was very excited to spot that Norma from Orange Lingerie released a new bra pattern this month, the Boylston Bra. I did decide in January that sewing lingerie was one of the things I wanted to try this year so maybe I should give this a whirl...
- Style Arc's new patterns this month included the Veronica Vest, Eddie Woven Pant, Ethel Designer Pants and Top, Ricki Top and the Marlo Knit Top which was this month's freebie with every purchase.
- Aime Comme Marie released several new patterns this month! There are four shirt/shirtdress patterns (including one for men!), a jumpusit, a romper and a skirt. I think my favourite is the Metropolitan jumpsuit with the strappy bodice, I've got them on the brain at the minute! They've also updated their packaging, using different paper and a new format.
- I love the design of both the new patterns from Pauline Alice. The Sorell Trousers are so Katherine Hepburn with their high waist, wide legs and masculine design details. I wish I had long enough legs to look elegant in them! The Xerea Dress is a shift which looks like it would be perfect for beginners or to showcase a spectacular fabric.
- Jalie released some really cute sportswear related patterns. I'm really drawn to the style lines of the Anne-Marie tennis/cycling dress despite not playing tennis!
- There have been a couple of swimsuit pattern releases this month; it's so exciting to have such a variety of swimsuit styles to choose from now if you are considering sewing your own! The first was the Maison Fleur 8101 Halterneck Swimsuit which grabbed my attention straight away as I flicked through my blog roll. It has three variations and features side seam ties.
- The second swimsuit release if from Seamstress Erin; the Nautilus Swimsuit. The twist detail on the front is lovely and I love that it comes with pattern pieces for a variety of cup sizes. You have the option of making a one piece or a bikini with different styles of bottoms and straps.
- Compagine M released the Nina Skirt and Culottes pattern at the end of May. It's a simple a-line skirt pattern with the option to turn it into culottes.
- Megan Nielsen treated us to a FREE pattern download! Named the Veronika Skirt it is a full circle skirt which can be made up in a knit or woven fabric and with or without beautiful scallop-edged pockets.
- Maria Denmark released the Rachel Wrap Dress. It's a classic design to be sewn up in a soft jersey and is a flattering style for all body types.
- The latest Closet Case Files pattern is the Sallie Jumpsuit and Maxi Dress. It's designed to be made from super comfortable knits and looks to be a fairly straightforward sew. Plus the muse behind this pattern is the super stylish Sallie Oh who never fails to inspire me! I'm definitely seeing a couple of versions of this in my summer wardrobe!
- By Hand London's new dress is a real simple stunner. Zeena features a relaxed fit bodice with kimono sleeves and pleated skirt. I tested for the girls again and have already made two in some amazing fabrics I've had stashed for a while which I can't wait to share with you later in the week!
- Steph from Cake Patterns is back with the first half of her new Tidepool collection! This first release features the Pipi Shell, Janthina Shell and Endeavour Trousers and Shorts which feature a really cute sailor style front fastening option.
- Sarah from Ohhh Lu Lu has just released a whole collection of new lingerie and loungewear patterns. Vintage inspired but with a modern twist I'm literally drooling over all of them! I think my favourites are the Emma Romper and and Josephine Bralette. I need to stock up on some silk...
- Hey June Handmade have been running a sew-along for their new Biscayne Blouse over on their blog. I really like the fabric they've been using for their samples!
- To accompany the launch of her Nautilus Swimsuit Seamstress Erin will be running a summer swimsuit sew-along over on her blog during July which will be filled with lots of tips and variations that can be applied to other swimwear sewing patterns too!
- Pauline Alice has created a step-by-step photo tutorial to accompany her new Sorell Trousers pattern. It's available to download over on her blog and sounds like a great way to get an extra bit of guidance if you're sewing up one of your first pairs of trousers.
- Fleur from Maison Fleur has been offering up some great posts over on her blog about how to make the most of her new swimsuit pattern.
- Kennis from Itch To Stitch put out a call for testers mid-month for her upcoming Kathryn Top and Dress Pattern. Her Angelia Shorts should also be coming soon! You can see the full details for both patterns over on her blog.
Other Exciting News
- As well as releasing their Vintage Shirt Dress the new 'Sew Over It Vintage' book from Lisa Comfort was launched this month! The book instructs you how to use your own measurements to draft patterns for a whole range of projects which is an approach that really interests me.
- Katie from Papercut Patterns has been busy working through her pattern catalogue and releasing some older patterns as downloadable PDFs. This month's additions to the PDF collection are the Bellatrix Blazer, Ensis Tee and Meissa Blouse.
- A selection of Colette Patterns are now available with downloadable instructions in German, Spanish or Italian along with the French instructions that were already available. Check out their site to find out which.
- Alongside her new Agnes Top Tilly has released an online workshop 'Learn to Sew Jersey Tops'. It's aimed at people who are new to sewing knits and want to use a regular machine. Spoiler alert...despite having a fair few knit projects under my belt now I'm currently trying it out and loving it!
- It's been a busy month for Heather Lou from Closet Case Files as she relaunched her patterns with a number of changes including an expanded size range (now covering sizes 0-20), french translations, a regraded Bombshell Swimsuit and some slight tweaks to the Ginger Jeans.
- Straight Stitch Designs launched their Stitch Kits which include all the supplies you need to sew up one of their patterns including beautiful fabrics from the Art Gallery Collection.
- Kate & Rose Patterns had a sale to celebrate their paper patterns being back in stock. They all now have new re-branded instructions.
- Waffle Patterns released a new free customise option for their Blouson Jacket pattern to make it into a hoodie. I love the idea of these 'add-on' packs that mean you can get a lot more out of patterns you already own and make an almost entirely different garment.
- Thread Theory are currently having a 25% sale to celebrate moving into their new studio! Orders won't be shipped until they are settled back in on July 6th but it's the perfect opportunity to do some selfless sewing!
- The Lakeside Pyjamas and Maritime Shorts from Grainline Studio are now available in print format. I've long been tempted by that shorts pattern...
- Sarah from Ohhh Lulu has started a YouTube channel featuring video demos of various techniques. If you're tempted to take the plunge into sewing lingerie with her new patterns this could be really useful!
As always let me know in the comments or send me an email if you can think of anything I might have missed...it's impossible to keep track of everything that's going on nowadays! To finish up here's your monthly dose of indie sewing inspiration. Funnily enough many garments that have grabbed me this month have been made by indie designers from other designer's patterns...love that! Keep sharing yours with me on Instagram and Twitter with #indiesewing
- Pauline has such a great sense of glamorous style and she looks so amazing in her maxi version of BHL's Flora Dress. Love those earrings too!
- Sometimes you just can't beat a classic black dress and Heather Lou is looking the epitome of chic in her black linen Lonsdale. I must dig out my own black version immediately!
- I adore Megan's midi length version of her Tania Culottes pattern. The fabric is an absolutely perfect choice for them and the style suits her so well.
- Morgan from Thread Theory made the most gorgeous feminine Kim Dress as part of her Spring Wardrobe project. She used some of the By Hand London printed fabric and it holds the shape so well.
- Inna's second version of the Jessica Dress from Style Arc suits her so well! I love the way the stripes of the fabric work with the twist front of the design.
Sunday, 28 June 2015
I was really intrigued when I spotted this Rag & Bone Navy/Blue Cotton-Rayon Crepe in the new arrivals section of the Mood Fabrics website! It sounded so unusual being of a medium to heavy weight yet fluid. I'd been after something unique to make myself a biker style jacket after seeing Pauline Alice's amazing short version of her Quart Coat so decided to take the plunge for this month's Mood Sewing Network project and order myself enough of this to investigate. When it arrived it was kind of what I was imagining and kind of not...whatever it was it was beautiful! It's fairly thick and spongy with something of a boucle texture to it at the same time as having a wonderfully soft drape. I love the slub effect of the vivid electric blue flecked through the navy.
I cut a size 36 and used just 1.5 yards of the crepe. Despite the fabric being reasonably thick I thought perhaps for this style of jacket it could do with a little more support and structure so I fused all my pattern pieces with a lightweight cotton interfacing. I'm really pleased with this choice as without adding much weight it helped prevent the pattern pieces from stretching out of shape as despite being dense and opaque the weave is fairly loose and prone to fraying. To combat the fraying I overlocked the edges of all the pattern pieces before assembly. In addition to the lightweight interfacing I used a medium weight as a back stay, following the guide on the pattern piece for the shape.
One of the great things about this fabric is that the reverse is the opposite colour way, with the electric blue the dominant colour flecked with navy. I really wanted to make use of this and considered using the contrasting side for small elements such as the pocket welts but in the end the fact that I wanted this to be a classic jacket which I could wear with anything won out and I decided to keep it simple. I'm still keeping my eye out for patterns suitable for colour blocking which I could us this for though!
I went all out and lined the jacket with silk charmeuse in 'midnight'. I wish I could afford to line everything in charmeuse from now on! It feels so luxurious when I'm wearing it over a sleeveless top. I had to get a little creative with the cutting as I only had one yard...I ended up piecing the under sleeve pattern piece as there just wasn't quite enough space! I cracked out my walking foot for the first time when sewing it up and it was so helpful when trying to keep those seam lines smooth and pucker free. I didn't have much trouble cutting it just using good old shears and pins as the pattern pieces are nice and small and I used a fine sharps needle in my machine to assemble these pieces.
I followed Pauline's instructions to adapt the pattern into a short zipped jacket rather than the full length buttoning coat. I drew my cutting line at 10cm below the waistline as recommended and moved the pockets up. I'm fairly short at 5ft 3" and I wouldn't want the jacket any shorter so if you are considering following this tutorial I'd think about leaving a little more length.
The pocket welts are an addition I drafted myself following Pauline's tutorial again. They are really simple to add in as the pocket openings are in the princess seams. I did make up the epaulettes and pin them onto the jacket but I decided not to use them in the end as I liked the look of a sleeker shoulder.
There were a few elements of the construction of this jacket that had me feeling a little hesitant as they were so new to me. Firstly there was dealing with sleeve heads and shoulder pads. Setting in sleeves is probably my least favourite sewing task at the best of times so thinking about trying to create a beautiful tailored shoulder for this jacket was slightly off putting! I'm going to talk about my process for doing this in more depth later in the week but for now I'll just say I'm totally delighted with the result I managed to achieve and this was largely down to how well this lovely fabric responded to being shaped with heat and steam.
The pattern is great and I'm definitely considering making it up as a full length coat this winter. If I do I think I'd go down a size at the waist as looking at the finished measurements there's quite a lot of ease in that area. It's sort of semi-tailored so I think good for a first foray into coat sewing; there's some challenging elements involved and you could certainly add things like bound buttonholes but there's no pad stitching or collar roll lines to deal with. I would recommend having a bit of sewing knowledge under your belt to tackle this one though. The instructions are good and the illustrations small yet clear but it would help to have experienced some of the techniques beforehand (for example how to sew in a sleeve head). I did find myself looking up some extra advice at certain points and making my own additions to the instructions such as under-stitching the lining at the pocket openings and stitching by hand in the ditch between the collar and jacket body to secure the two layers together. Not that this is a problem with the pattern at all; I never think it's the designer's responsibility to explain every single step in immense detail and if you're taking on a coat project it's fair to assume you have a bit of experience and will know the basics.
The fabric was so lovely to work with throughout. It's one of those fabrics that's so inspiring it kept me motivated all the way through what was a fairly tricky project. With time consuming projects like this I think it's always worthwhile picking a fabric that you really love so you're not going to get fed up of looking at it half way through and fall out of love with the whole idea! That being said I always enjoy a project like this where there are lots of fiddly little construction elements and pattern pieces to work with! I like seeing it all come together and taking it one little step at a time.
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
So ok, this is basically a post about t-shirts so may not seem that exciting but bear with me here because I'm super happy with how these turned out and the fabrics themselves are lovely! I have (on a number of occasions!) previously documented my love for the Grainline Studio Scout Tee pattern. It's such a great simple, wearable wardrobe staple and I think my favourite pattern to use as a basis to play around with my ideas. Over time I've used it almost as a block to create different styles of loose fitting woven tops. My hammered silk version with a dipped hem got worn literally to death (I was so sorry to see that go!) and I keep meaning to make another with a chevron of diagonal pleats across the front after the success I had hacking the pattern for my pleated cotton voile version. I love the neckline, cap sleeves and the way it fits around the shoulders so when I spotted that a few of you had made it up in knit fabric rather than woven I had a bit of a moment of revelation...this may be my perfect pattern for a relaxed fit tee!
The fabric for both of these tops came from the crazy Cloth House moving sale a couple of months ago. I can't remember exactly how much they were to begin with but both were in the £10-15/m price bracket and were down to just £1/m! I had to show some serious restraint and only allow myself to buy fabrics which I could 100% imagine as a particular type of garment and that I could see myself wearing. The inky blue burnout jersey jumped straight out at me as it was so unique and the striped cotton jersey was a must buy after I touched it and discovered how beautifully soft it is! I needed less than a metre for each so as I already had the pattern these are a total bargain at £1 each!
I'd previously fiddled around so much with the Scout Tee pattern, changing the hemline e.t.c that rather than try and work out what changes my currently traced version of the pattern involved I decided to revert back to the original. I cut a straight size 4 as the size guide indicated despite briefly considering going down the 2 as I was using a stretch fabric. I'm pleased I did this as I like the relaxed fit and also the burnout jersey doesn't actually have a huge amount of give.
I like how these each turned out so differently because of the varied stretch and drape of the two jerseys. The blue burnout is closer fitting, the pink and white stripe is much more relaxed and slouchy; I think the colours and designs of the fabric suit the fit of each one! The pink and white stripe is also slightly heavier which means the hem hangs a little little longer when worn oddly enough. The stripes are so fine that I wasn't all that bothered about matching them. I simply made sure that the same coloured stripe was at the armhole and hem of the side seams on both front and back pattern pieces then lined everything up when I was pinning.
As has become usual practice for me with knits now I used a narrow zig zag stitch on my regular machine to assemble all the seams then overlocked them for a nice professional finish. I love how this looks on the inside of the pink striped version especially. I always have to remind myself as I go that Grainline patterns have a 1/2" seam allowance - that tripped me up on the Archer Shirt before!
I used a stretch needle in my regular machine for both, but for some reason it didn't like the burnout jersey as much and I had some issues with skipped stitches. I think it struggled moving so regularly between the two thicknesses of fabric where it was and wasn't 'burnt out'. The burnt out areas are super fine and basically sheer. I have to wear a little black cami under this one!
My stretch twin needle worked great on both tops to finish the hem, cuffs and neckband. I turned up a slim hem twice to give some weight and body but turned up the cuff hems just once as I didn't want those little sleeves to end up so short they looked odd. I just stitched with the twin needle close to the edge and left it raw as you don't have to worry about knits fraying like wovens.
Apart from altering the stitches I used and adding a little piece of twill tape to the shoulder seams to stop them stretching out, I pretty much sewed these up following the same instructions as for a woven version. The major difference was of course the neck band as I didn't need to use a bias tape facing as my fabrics had stretch. I cut the band on the cross grain (so the stretch was running through it) and looked at the width of bands on other tops I own before settling on cutting them at 1.75" wide including seam allowance. After a bit of blog research I decided to make the band 7/8 of the length of the neckline. It needs to be shorter than the neckline opening as stretching the band out slightly as you sew will help it sit flat against the body when worn. I attached it in the same way I've attached every other knit neckband I've sewn and really feel like I've got this technique nailed now!
I'm sure this is the way that everyone else does it but following these steps has given me the best results:
- Sew together the two short ends of the band then fold it in half lengthways and press.
- Divide both the band and the neckline into four equal quarters and mark these with chalk or a washable pen.
- Pin the band to the right side of the neckline, aligning raw edges and lining up these marks. By dividing both pieces into equal quarters the stretch of the band ends up more evenly distributed around the neck.
- Sew the band to the neckline using a narrow zig zag stitch.
- Press the band up towards the neck and the seam allowances towards the body of the top.
- Stitch with a twin needle or zig zag stitch around the neckline, close to the seam line to secure the seam allowances in place.
I have previously finished the seam allowances at the neckline on my overlocker but with both of these tops I just trimmed it right down as close as I could get to the twin needle stitching. This is much less bulky and looks a lot better with the sheer burnout jersey.
It is well worth trying this pattern in a knit fabric in my opinion and it's got me thinking outside the 'recommended fabric choice' box looking at my other patterns now too. I think the key to why I love these is in the close fit around the shoulders so I don't feel swamped by them as I sometimes do when I try on oversized ready to wear tops. I'm glad I turned my head away from some more exciting and intricate sewing projects for a while to whip these up as they are the perfect additions to my summer wardrobe; comfortable, washable and infinitely wearable.