Friday, 22 July 2016

Big Vintage Sew-Along Reveal! - Vintage Vogue 9082

I'm really excited to share this finished project with you today. I'm sure most of you have spotted some of the gorgeous projects that have been made by other bloggers as part of the McCalls Big Vintage Sew-Along. Today it's my turn! To get us inspired McCalls have selected a number of designs from the 1930s through to the 1960s. The proceeds from the sales of these patterns will be donated to The Eve Appeal, a charity who raise awareness of and fund research into gynaecological cancers. I was keen to join in as, whilst not really a vintage dresser, I love all the unique details in vintage designs. The market today is awash with a lot of 'clean lines' and simple designs that after a while all seem quite similar so it's been lovely to get stuck into a project with some interesting design features and different construction techniques.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

It was tough to choose between such a plethora of gorgeous styles but I eventually settled on Vogue 9082 from the 1960s. I chose this design because whilst the idea of sewing vintage really appeals to me it's not a look I generally wear a lot of and I felt this pattern had the potential to be given a slightly more contemporary vibe. Especially that little view B crop top! I made the dress and top as I thought the jacket had too much of a distinctly mid century look to it for me personally. The only change I made to the design to better suit 5ft3" me in the early 21st century was to take a whopping 6" off the length (then using 2" for the hem) and make it above the knee. Everything else was sewn up exactly as intended.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

I was really unsure about what fabric to buy as I wanted something that would work with the vintage design yet still look contemporary enough for me to get some wear out of. I wanted it to keep a classic feel but still be interesting. I was at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia at the end of last year with my Mum and this bolt practically leapt off a stall at me. It's a really unusual cotton fabric which has the feel of a barkcloth about it. It's made up of a variety of monochrome yarns which give it that lovely mottled look and it has a springy, crinkled texture. It was everything I had been looking for and now I've sewn it up I could not be more delighted with my choice.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

I found it on the Fabrics Galore stall and although I'm yet to make it to their shop in Battersea I really need to make the trip at some point as every time I see their stall at a show like this I am impressed by the quality and end up buying something. I'm normally tempted by their Paul Smith shirtings and chambrays. Their online shop is pretty great but tends to focus on prints (this fabric isn't on there) and nothing sells a fabric like touching it does it? I probably would have overlooked this particular fabric online as a picture wouldn't have conveyed the unusual texture.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

Being cotton it was really straightforward to work with, the only thing I had to be careful of when sewing was the mechanical stretch in the fabric provided by the shrunken, crinkled texture. I think this is actually a positive to this fabric though as the spring in it gives it body and the dress in turn some shape. I really like how it doesn't cling to the figure but produces smooth, soft curves. The structure of the fabric works particularly well for the crop top as it holds it's boxy shape away from the body.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

Possibly my favourite thing about the fabric is how stitches sink into it almost invisibly. Although in a way you do loose some of the beautiful design features in it like the angle of the darts on the front of the crop top and the topstitching around the hem which would be lovely on a plain linen. There's a fair bit of hand sewing involved but the texture of this fabric means that it doesn't show through to the right side (I was still careful to only catch a couple of tiny threads on the right side anyway) and this meant I could hand stitch down all those facings without a care in the world. I've decided I'm a big fan of more traditional finishing techniques and one thing that really pleased me about this outfit was that almost all the edges are finished with a facing. The facing along the top of the dress is part of bodice pattern piece and just folds down which I found really interesting. A hem facing is the best way to hem that crop top for sure as it avoids any complications with that lovely v shaped cut out at the front and also give a bit of weight to it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

I do usually just scan instructions nowadays as I'm pretty confident in the techniques I like and what will work best for particular fabrics but I really stuck to them with this one, mainly out of intrigue for how sewing techniques differed decades ago and also as the fabric felt quite authentic too. The only modern methods I veered off into were to use a fusible interfacing (although the instructions to lap and hand stitch your interfacing intrigued me) and to get my overlocker involved. As beautiful as this barkcloth is it does fray like crazy and I knew just pinking the seams probably wasn't going to hold up all that well.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

There are a lot of different techniques involved in sewing this pattern, the first of which is definitely the ability to sew a nice dart! There are approximately a million and one involved in this pattern. I'm not a big fan of sewing a dart, I find them a painfully slow process when you just want to get going so had to knuckle down at the start of this one and get on with it. I remember when I first started sewing my Nan taught me how to do tailors tacks (posting me some examples!) and it's now my go to method of marking pattern pieces because it is so accurate. It sure came in handy for this. I like how on vintage patterns darts are marked with a few little circles along the sewing line. I tailors tack at each circle which means more accuracy when drawing on the dart leg. When you're just going the notches and the point there's a lot of potential for fabric to shift and give you a wonky line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

One thing which delighted me when I first read the instructions for the dress was the inclusion of a waist stay. I've only put one of these in before (to my chiffon Oscar de la Renta dress) but they are so simple to do, make such a difference to the way a garment sits on you and just give your dress that little extra something that makes it special. I used a piece of black petersham ribbon from my stash for mine and this pattern comes with a pattern piece for it so you can get the length right and where it should hit the seams with not effort at all.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

Based on my measurements I cut the size 12 and there's probably just about the right amount of ease all over, it's very comfortable. If you're after a more Christina Hendricks wiggle dress look you'd need to size down though. I'm really pleased with the fit through the back, which I think is partly due to the zip being on the side and partly down to vintage pattern drafting suiting my petite frame. I really love the wide position of the shoulder straps combined with the height of the straight neckline, something about it feels very Brigitte Bardot to me! Construction wise I wasn't sure about the the straps being sewn on top of the facing. As the facing is part of the bodice rather than being attached separately you can't sandwich the ends of the straps between the facing and main fabric when you sew the neckline as I usually would. It does mean that you can get the length of your straps absolutely spot on later on and this fabric is so forgiving that you can hardly tell the ends are there but I'm still on the fence.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

A real personal challenge (appropriately for the Big Vintage Sew-Along) were my first lapped zips! I put the zip into the bodice first which being only 4.5" long turned out pretty well for a first go! It's actually a much more straightforward technique than I had envisaged but I was lucky that this fabric is so forgiving. I'm sure it would have looked a total mess in something plain coloured and crisp! I initially somehow managed to get mixed up with the dress zip and had the back edge overlapping the front. This looks terrible as from the front you could see inside the lap to the zip so out came the quick unpick. My stitching was pretty wobbly on that first try so it actually worked out for the best because even having just one practice attempt made my second one so much better! I understood what I was trying to achieve the second time and it's much tidier. I'm looking forward to trying to improve on this technique now and will be busy today flipping through my sewing books and googling tutorials for tips!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

One last thing that I liked about the instructions is that they very clearly tell you which type of hand stitch to use and where and that there is a lot of hand basting involved. They are so thorough with a mind to achieving beautiful and long lasting results. It was really nice to invest some time in sewing a pattern which involved some different construction techniques and therefore required me to really concentrate, slow down and follow the instructions. It felt like 'proper' sewing and has made me really proud of the final garment as I know just what went into making it. Slow sewing often makes the best sewing don't you think?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Big Vintage Sew-Along Vintage Vogue 9082

Many thanks to McCalls Pattern Company UK for providing me with the pattern and fabric for this project and for the girls over at The Foldline for inviting me to challenge myself and take part. I hope the blogger tour has been getting you inspired to join in with the fun and sew up one of these beautiful designs!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Berry Ailakki Jumpsuit

I've been on a bit of a Named Patterns binge recently. I've been slowly buying up the styles I just can't resist, there's a guaranteed couple with every new collection released, but I somehow never get round to finding the perfect fabric and sewing them up. I've finally taken the plunge and once I'd made one I just couldn't stop! There's something youthful and fresh about their designs that really appeals to me and I think every collection offers something unique to what is already available in the pattern market. The collections also cover speedy and simple sews to garments that are a bit more complex.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

Of course for my first garment I chose one of the most complex of the bunch! The Ailakki Cross Front Jumpsuit was released as part of Named's second collection and was probably the pattern which piqued my interest in the company and had me eagerly anticipating every future release. I actually chose the pattern as part of my #2016makenine on Instagram (you pick nine patterns/projects to make over the coming year) and it is the third one I've completed so I really need to pick up the pace. Anyway, despite this jumpsuit being released a good couple of years ago I think it's actually even more on trend in 2016! The pegged trouser, cut out front and shoulder exposing neckline are all over the shops this season.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

The fabric for this project was every so kindly provided for me by Remnant Kings. I had a hard time trying to choose from the vast variety of fabrics on their site especially as they have a rather lovely array of prints which I consistently find myself succumbing to when shopping for fabric online. However, knowing that I desperately wanted to sew this pattern in particular really helped me to focus my choice and I settled on this beautiful maroon colour of their triple crepe. It's a lovely quality, pretty heavy weight crepe which is nice and opaque and spongy. I love the texture of crepe and the scrummy matte finish that gives to the vivid colours it is available in. It does fray like crazy as it's made up of so many short fibres which go EVERYWHERE and also can be difficult to get a nice press in because of it's polyester content and bouncy nature. Despite it's handling issues I'm really pleased I chose it for this project as the lovely drape means the trousers hang nicely but it's also got enough body to give them a bit of shape and add emphasis to the pleats at the front waistline.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

The only thing I was a little concerned about regarding the fabric was how well it would hold the shape of the bodice. You want nice clean, angular lines along that cross over neckline for it to look good. To give it a bit more structure I used a piece of reasonably weighty purple cotton sateen from my stash to line it. It's more tightly woven than the crepe and has a crisper drape so combining it with the crepe has kept things looking sharp. The pattern has you under stitch as much as possible along the top edges of the bodice but I've still found that my lining wants to creep out to the right side a little. Next time I might cut my lining pieces just a little smaller to make the seam line roll to the inside.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

To line the pockets I had a rummage in my stash of quilting cotton scraps to find something nice and sturdy with a fun print. (O yeah this pattern has pockets! Could it be any more perfect for a night on the dance floor?!) I love the firework style print I found! The red tones tie it in with the colours of the fashion fabric and the metallic gold flecks make it perfect for a party outfit! I originally used this cotton to replace the back of a dinner shirt for my Stepdad to wear to my Stepbrother's evening wedding reception. It was entirely my Stepdad's idea and fabric choice and so perfect to reveal when it was time for dancing!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

I used a lightweight fusible interfacing on the waistband and pocket facings which was a good match for the soft crepe. I opted to change the exposed zip the pattern recommends to an invisible, purely because I don't really like the look of exposed ones, never really got that trend. I prefer the sleek, clean look of an invisible. Another thing I did differently to the instructions was to cut away the fabric taken into the bodice darts and press them open. Although the darts in the lining are pressed in the opposite direction to those in the fashion fabric to reduce bulk, in this dense triple crepe I still felt there was too much bulk around the waistline for this style.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

The deep v back is one of my favourite features of the design. It's super flattering and just the right amount of sexy. It's also just the right depth to still be able to get away with a strapless bra, however the front cut out unfortunately scuppers that plan! You kind of only get a glimpse of bra as I love around though so I feel like if I make that cut out just slightly smaller next time it would be fine. I was worried I'd feel a bit exposed without a bra in this but actually the coverage is pretty great and the bodice fits so neatly that you don't feel like things are going to shift around or reveal anything.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

I am pretty much totally in love with the final garment, with the exception of a few minor fitting tweaks which I'll get onto in a minute. I did love making it too but the process wasn't without it's fair share of frustration! There was a lot of unpicking involved in the bodice as it's very easy to get confused about which bits are being sewn to what and I got a bit twisted! There are also quite a few steps which involve sewing a seam and leaving a certain length open at one end. If you've got a brain like a sieve like mine I'd very much recommend adopting the technique of putting two pins in at the point where you need to stop sewing. The amount of times I went on autopilot and just kept chugging along, removing pins then had to go back and unpick!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

The instructions are generally pretty thorough but there are a few tricky/unusual parts to the construction that I felt were skimmed over or not described in enough detail. To sew the corners where the straps meet the neckline at the back you need to pivot at the right point to get a crisp shape and under stitching is fiddly. In the instructions there is no mention of this aspect and it's illustrated as a curve. I found the pocket construction method to be unusual (compared to what I am used to) and will stick to my usual method of attaching the pocket bags to the trouser pieces before sewing the side seam next time. I do love that there is a pocket facing piece though!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

I cut the size 38 and made no changes with the exception of taking 2" off the length of the trousers when I hemmed them which is not an unusual alteration for me. I'm really happy with how the trousers fit, which is actually the aspect I thought I'd have most trouble with! I think there's quite a bit of ease built into the style but my hip measurement is slightly larger than the Named size 38 and I'm happy with the slightly less roomy fit around the bum. The one change I would make next time is to shorten the bodice a little, probably from the shoulder now I've had a fiddle with this one on. I'm quite short in the shoulder so this is a common adjustment for me to stop straps slipping down but I'm actually mainly doing it with this to lift the position of the waistband. It hits me right where the waistband hits the model in the sample on the Named website, a little below the natural waist. But I think I'd feel more comfortable with it sitting at my narrowest point. I have quite a pronounced high hip so a waistband that should sit there always tends to want to ride up to the waist and that in turn make the bodice shift around.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Berry Triple Crepe Named Ailakki Jumpsuit

All in all I'm delighted with the project. I don't know if I need another in my wardrobe but I'd definitely like to make the bodice and trousers again as a dress/separate garment. This is a fairly bold style for me so I'm really pleased that I went for a dense solid colour and matte finish. Thank you to Remnant Kings for providing me with such an ideal fabric. Definitely a garment to be accessorised with a cocktail, who's going to join me?!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

A Handmade Holiday Wardrobe

If any of you follow me on Instagram you'll probably know that I've just got back from a little break to the French Riviera. I was staying in the town of Antibes which is just so drop dead beautiful I couldn't resist filling all your feeds with holiday spam! For that I apologise. It was a bit of a last minute decision and booking to visit a friend but I realised that my wardrobe is severely lacking in clothes for real hot summer weather, the likes of which we don't really see in the UK. Of course I like to cause myself as much stress as possible before a holiday so I planned to sew myself up a storm over the few days off I had before I departed! It was actually a very enjoyable few days as for once I didn't over stretch myself and made some simple but fun to sew and new to me things.


I was only taking cabin baggage with me as the trip was just for four nights but I needed outfits appropriate for the beach, exploring the local area and long lazy evenings of wine and food along with possibly a spot of yoga. I endeavoured to take just what I needed and to be prepared for every eventuality whilst wearing as much handmade as possible. I was really chuffed with my case of 60% me made clothing when I left and thought it would be fun to look back on that now and see how it worked out. A fair few of these garments were whipped up just before the holiday and so haven't made it to the blog yet but full reviews of the patterns and fabrics will be following.

Day One

Luckily it was a nice day in London when I departed so I didn't have to worry about wearing anything warm. I chose my recently completed Mustard Viscose Midi Skirt and grey cotton lycra tee to wear on the plane. Both are super comfy and were perfect for arrival in sweltering hot Nice being breezy and breathable.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mustard Midi Skirt & Renfrew Tee

That evening I just chose to swap the top for a RTW (ready to wear) black cami to freshen up a little before watching the final of the Euros on the streets on Antibes. The mustard viscose does wrinkle up quite badly with wear but in quite a nice soft way so I stuck with it!


Day Two

The second day I headed straight down to the beach. I made two bikinis for the holiday and I really couldn't wait to wear this watermelon version of the Named Beverley Twisted Bikini. Over it I put on my hot off the machine Navy Sallie Romper. This was the real star of the holiday wardrobe but more on that later!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Navy Sallie Romper and Watermelon Print Beverley Bikini

My fair British skin doesn't deal well with all that sun it's not used to so I made sure to escape the beach before midday. It was super hot so I threw on a shop bought trapeze dress which I bought recently in American Eagle for a mooch around the beautiful little streets and big port of Antibes.

That evening we went out for dinner and wine and I went for casual evening style with my new Tropical Shorts (posted yesterday) and my Black Silk Sutton Blouse which is a total wardrobe staple of mine. I wash it in the machine and over time it has developed such a lovely sand-washed quality.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Silk Sutton Blouse & Tropical Holly Shorts


Day Three

Another baking hot day and I headed in to Cannes to explore so needed something suitably on trend for arguably one of the most glamorous spots on the Riviera. I thought my Tropical Shorts were a great little combo with my self drafted Off The Shoulder Top and I was really comfortable in it, although a little concerned about the risk of shoulder sun burn! Lots of sun tan lotion required!


Returning to Antibes and a dinner which mainly consisted of amazing French cheese the glamour of Cannes most have got into me and I pulled out my new By Hand London Holly Palazzo Pants. I paired them with my trusty black cami tucked in to show off the lovely high waisted style.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Blue Crepe Holly Palazzo Pants


Day Four

The aim of my final full day was pure relaxation. I headed down to an almost empty beach mega early and went with my plain black version of the Named Beverley Twisted Bikini this time. Again I popped my Sallie Romper on over the top and stayed in that all day with the exception of a change of bikini for sun bathing later in the afternoon! That romper is a real trooper. Easy to dress up or down I felt great in it on the beach, at the market, in the Picasso Museum and on the little train round to Juan les Pins. I even felt good in it when I had it on back to front by accident on my way down to the beach!


That evening we had a leisurely dinner on the terrace of the house my friend Izzy is staying in and then wandered down the the beach for fireworks. My Tropical Shorts made another appearance, this time with the the top that I had made to wear with them; the Named Inari Tee with back cut outs which I posted yesterday.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Tropical Holly Shorts and Black Inari Tee with Cut Out Back


Day Five

To make the most of my morning before heading to the airport I headed down the the beach early, Black Beverley Bikini again with the second RTW sundress I had packed. After this the Inari Tee made it's second appearance with my Mustard Midi Skirt again. I wanted to have a last look around the shops before catching my flight so I needed a cool and comfortable outfit which wouldn't be too chilly when I got back to London. I thought shorts might be a little optimistic for the UK despite it being mid July!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mustard Midi Skirt & Black Inari Tee with Cut Out Back


So all in all I'm pleased to report that I wore mainly handmade all holiday! I didn't wear the RTW bikini I packed nor a pair of H&M palazzo style trousers. I did fall back on a couple of super easy RTW summer dresses though, I seem to make dresses too fancy for the beach! The only handmade garment I didn't get around to wearing were my favourite Pacific Leggings which I packed for yoga as the day we had planned to go was exceptionally hot and I decided I just couldn't face any exercise after a day of wandering around Cannes in the heat. (I was much more in the mood for wine!). I was intending on pairing them with the grey Renfrew tee from earlier in the trip.

The main thing I've learnt about trying to pack light and for various eventualities is that separates are great! Being able to mix and match means getting more wear out of each item. I think it was really good for me to sew for a purpose like this and it made me make good choices. I've also learnt a thing or two about some holes in my self sewn wardrobe, namely that I need to make some simple, neutral camisoles. I might just copy the black vest pictured above as I really like the shape of it but can anyone recommend a good cami pattern? I'd also like to make myself a couple of draped cardigans with slim sleeves as the Zara one I took with me was very useful for taking off the chill, which was pretty much only on the plane and the journey to and from the airport in the London! I've got some delicious bits of merino stashed away which might work for this but perhaps for a more summer appropriate one I could try a linen knit.

The only trouble I have is that I've returned with (as well as the ambition to make perfect macarons) the desire to sew a whole new summer wardrobe as I was so inspired by the fashions of the super stylish French women around town! They sure know how to look super chic in the heat.


I'd like to finish up by saying that after five gorgeous relaxing days in the area I was stunned to wake up to the news from Nice the morning after I flew home. It seemed impossible to relate that tragedy to the peacefulness and beauty I had experienced in that part of the world during my break. My thoughts are with everybody affected by this kind of unexplainable cruelty anywhere in the world.
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Saturday, 16 July 2016

Tropical Shorts and Back Cut Out Tee

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Tropical Denim By Hand London Holly Shorts and Black Wool Named Inari Crop Tee with Back Cut Out

This month's project for the Mood Sewing Network was all about sewing a holiday wardrobe. With a couple of trips planned I had my eye out for summer prints which I'd still be able to get some wear out of at home in London. This Tropically Printed Denim jumped right out at me and I was ordering it without a second thought. Unfortunately it's now sold out in both colour ways which I'm not surprised about. It was one of those instances when you see the fabric and instantly know what you want to make it into. In this case high waisted, tropical shorts for wandering about Cannes in. Mood do have a whole host of other tropical prints on their site at the moment though; I'm a particular fan of this cotton.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Tropical Denim By Hand London Holly Shorts and Black Wool Named Inari Crop Tee with Back Cut Out

When the fabric arrived it was just what I was hoping for, the fabric descriptions on the Mood Fabrics website very rarely disappoint. A pretty lightweight denim, almost verging on a chambray, with a smooth and fairly crisp hand. I absolutely love the scale of the print. I didn't attempt to pattern match but did take care to ensure that the fairly clear rows of palms in the print did run around the body to keep things looking even. I actually opted to use the wrong side of the fabric as the right side after much deliberation. The print is nice, strong and inky on the right side but I preferred the softer finish of the paler grey background for this summer garment.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Tropical Denim By Hand London Holly Shorts

I chose to use the shorts part of the By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit for a couple of reasons. Firstly I already know it fits me well around the hips and secondly the simple, clean shape is perfect for showcasing a bold print. I usually make up the UK size 10 from BHL and get a lovely figure skimming fit but as I wanted these shorts to be a little more relaxed I went up a size. I only needed a yard of fabric. I wanted to feel comfortable wandering around all day in these and also possibly working in them in London when we get our usual two weeks of proper summer temperatures so lengthened them by 2.5" then used a nice deep hem. I'm happy with how this has turned out and also really like the amount of ease around the leg opening which is because the pattern is actually for palazzo style wide legged trousers (more on these another time hint hint!).

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Tropical Denim By Hand London Holly Shorts

One of the things I really like about this pattern is the slim waistband and where that sits. I used a lightweight fusible interfacing as I didn't want anything too stiff around my midriff in the summer heat and hand-stitched down the inside. For once I remembered to add in one of the gorgeous 'Made with Mood' labels that came with my order! I'm very happy with my invisible zip insertion and realised when I was making this project that this is a technique that doesn't phase me at all anymore. I used to hesitate when I got to that step in the instructions and I don't know when that changed but I found myself zooming through this one without a second thought. That must be some kind of landmark in learning to sew!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Tropical Denim By Hand London Holly Shorts

Despite the large print being quite an unusual choice for me these shorts have become a great basic addition to my wardrobe because of the fairy neutral colours and the fact that they work with so many different tops. In the heat of the French Riviera in July I knew I wasn't going to want to be wearing a high waist with anything tucked in so decided I needed a breezy boxy top to pair with them. I kept it clean and chic with a solid black and managed to squeeze this out of the fabric I had left over from my little black Laurel dress, made way back at the end of 2014. It's wool sateen (long since sold out of course) which you may find an odd choice for a top made for hot climates but it's very lightweight, super smooth on the skin and the natural fibres meant I was cool all day long.

It might look simple but the fun is all in the back with this top!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Tropical Denim By Hand London Holly Shorts and Black Wool Named Inari Crop Tee with Back Cut Out

I really love interesting back details in clothing as I think it's very easy to only think about how you look from the front but actually people see us from all angles. This particular idea is one I've been mulling over for a while and I thought the simple lines of the Inari Tee from Named Patterns would be the perfect style to try it on. I did also briefly consider the Grainline Scout Tee but opted for the looser fit through the shoulder.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Tropical Denim By Hand London Holly Shorts and Black Wool Named Inari Crop Tee with Back Cut Out

Altering the pattern was actually very simple to do. After measuring how far I would like the v to come down my back I drew that shape on the pattern piece itself, remembering to add a 1cm seam allowance to match the rest of the pattern. I then drew on the position of the 'cross bars' working out the spacing and their width. I attempted to ensure that one bar would be covering the point where the back band of my bra is which has semi worked but things tend to shift around over the course of the day! The final step was to draft a new back facing from the altered back pattern piece. Drafting a facing is very easy to do, there's a good tutorial over on the Colette blog for it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Black Wool Named Inari Crop Tee with Back Cut Out

The trickiest part was the construction. I couldn't really figure it out until I was doing it and I'm not sure I could explain to you now how I did! I first made the straps by simply sewing along the long edges of each rectangle and turning them through. Then when you get to the point of attaching the facing the ends of these bars need to be sandwiched between the facing and main bodice pieces. It sounds straightforward enough but the trick is in working out exactly how the straps need to be positioned so they lay flat across your back when worn without pulling the v neckline together and out of shape or sagging away from the body. This is really hard to do because it can't all be laid out flat and pinned in place as it needs to be sewn right sides together a turned through. It's very hard to explain with words but essentially you are sewing one side of the facing and straps down and then the straps have to fold back on themselves for you to sew the other!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Black Wool Named Inari Crop Tee with Back Cut Out

The fabric has a little bit of stretch which it's important to be conscious of as you sew, much as you would when sewing a seam line that's on the bias. Other than that this kind of suiting weight wool is really lovely and straightforward to work with. It doesn't fray particularly badly so I just overlocked my raw edges to control it and pinked the hidden neckline seam allowance. I always finish the edges of my facing before attaching it to the neckline. It's much easier to handle.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Black Wool Named Inari Crop Tee with Back Cut Out

One great thing about it is how well it presses. You can get lovely crisp hem lines which was a real bonus when creating this back detail so that v shape and straps have lovely flat, straight edges. The facing is really skinny so I was concerned about it wanting to flip out to the right side but a good press and some under stitching has eradicated that possible problem. As the pattern was new to me (and at that time Named patterns in general) I made up a muslin of the top in a polyester and had real trouble with the shape of the sleeves and getting them to sit correctly around the arm despite really liking the small amount of ease in the sleeve head. I omitted the cuff band on this version as I wanted the back to be the stand out feature, instead just doing a tiny turned up hem. I think this coupled with the quality of this fabric and how well it stands to be shaped by the iron got rid of these issues this time around.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Tropical Denim By Hand London Holly Shorts and Black Wool Named Inari Crop Tee with Back Cut Out

I was a little between sizes in the Named size range but opted for the larger 38 as I was keen on the oversized look. After making up the muslin straight from that size I decided I liked the cropped length (and will definitely be making up further version of this length) but wanted this particular top to be one that I felt comfortable wearing with some of my slightly lower waisted jeans too so added 3" to the pattern. I'm really happy with the proportions now.

Both of these garments were a big hit on holiday and were worn as part of various outfits throughout my break. I'll be back soon to show you my handmade holiday wardrobe as a whole if you'd like to see what else I made and how I wore these!