Saturday, 18 January 2020

Looking back at 2019

Happy New Year blog friends! The turn of the decade kick started my sew-jo and I’ve been on my machine as much as I can over the last couple of weeks. Now that I’ve got a few completed projects under my belt the motivator to blog again is kicking in too...though not so much the desire to get dressed up and take photos of myself! I thought it might be nice to start the year with a look back over the previous one. 2019 was a big year for me, in many wonderful ways. But one which saw sewing pushed down the list of priorities a couple of notches and I missed it. Looking back I think I sewed more than I realised but there are noticeably fewer additions to my handmade wardrobe than in previous years.

It is actually quite tricky to look back across what I made in the last twelve months as the limited time I had for sewing I wanted to spend actually sewing so this poor old blog became quite neglected. Something I hope to rectify in the coming months. I’ve had to rummage in my wardrobe to remind myself what I’ve been making! I do know that I started the year with a two week frenzy of sewing and scheduling blog posts, making extra pieces to add to a handmade holiday wardrobe. I spent most of January and February travelling in Southern Africa and then the Philippines for a wedding. I enjoyed the opportunity to work on some slightly different projects that would be suitable for camping in scorching National Parks and lounging on tropical beaches.

At Victoria Falls with my Desmond Backpack

The most successful thing I made for my trip wasn't actually an item of clothing! I made the Desmond Backpack from Taylor Tailor and absolutely love it to bits. It went everywhere with us on holiday and was the perfect size for all our day to day needs. It has then been used nearly every day of the rest of the year to cart around everything I need for work. Definitely one of my most used sewing projects and very enjoyable to make too. Other big handmade successes on holiday were the Summer Jumpsuit Tofo from Half-moon Atelier and this zero waste kimono cover-up from Elbe Textiles. We are off to Uganda for two weeks next week and I’m looking forward to sharing with you what I’ve made for this trip after reflecting on what else would have been useful last time.


Back in the UK in early March I kicked off what was going to turn into a very busy year of work for me. I work in the theatre as a freelance costume supervisor so move from production to production throughout the year. Over the last ten months I’ve supervised 6 shows and worked on the next series of The Great British Sewing Bee. Long hours and overlapping projects left me little time for sewing but seeing what the amazing costume makers we have on each production can do is very inspiring. Watching the sewers beavering away at the challenges in the sewing room certainly left me with itchy fingers to get back to my machine!


I did tackle a couple more complex and lengthy projects last year and they are definitely the ones I'm most proud of! I think my Hampton Jean Jacket might be my favourite thing I've ever made and it has already racked up a large number of wears. I can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can get this on my back again.


In May my Mum got married which was one of the happiest days of the year and my life. I made my bridesmaid dress using a combination of the BHL Elisalex bodice, the Emmeline Tee from The Little Tailoress for the beaded overlay and a self drafted half circle skirt. The dress was all about showcasing the fabrics really. The beaded chiffon for the top came from Goldbrick Fabrics and the AMAZING satin backed crepe for the dress was from Borovick Fabrics. I was so happy with how it turned out and loved wearing it.


My favourite patterns of the year were the Zadie Jumpsuit from Paper Theory and the Evie Bias Skirt from Tessuti. Both of which I've made twice and still have plans for more of! The Zadie is such a great unique, yet easy to wear design. I miss my first version of this when it is in the wash. I love patterns which have quite classic cuts but interesting design details to elevate the garment from the norm and Paper Theory seem to do this really well. I've just made their Olya Shirt which I can't wait to share. Another brilliant pattern. The Evie Skirt I just love for its versatility as well as the care Tessuti put in to their finishing techniques. I've worn both versions I've made so much right through all seasons of the year. It works with trainers and an oversized jumper for day to day yet effortlessly dresses up with some heeled ankle boots and a fitted turtleneck for evening.


Towards the end of the year I FINALLY made my first bra! I used the Cloth Habit Watson Bra pattern and whilst I can't say I fell in love with bra making I was really pleased with the result. More practice is needed but I'm looking forward to moving on to more structured bras with underwires. This project was part of my 2019 #makenine selection which I was so close to completing! Just two sleeves to go on my knitted jumper.


I also remade quite a few patterns I've used previously this year as the initial versions of them see so much wear! It was quite a satisfying way to use small amounts of sewing time as the projects weren't particularly taxing as I'd made them before and I knew the finished garment was going to be a winner. Most of them didn't make it onto the blog or Instagram as the only change from the first version was the fabric. I've been wearing a lot of True Bias Nikko tops this winter, the Basic Instinct Tee from Sasha at Secondo Piano has become my go to tee for warm weather and I made myself another Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater (#2) as my black version was getting worn nearly every day!

Ruby at 2 months 'helping' me assemble a PDF pattern!

In the summer I took the big step to move out of London to Dorking where I now live with my boyfriend and our six month old Shiba Inu puppy called Rhubarb (Ruby) who came home with us in August. You can expect to be seeing a lot of her in future blog photos! We love her to pieces but training her (and training her to leave my pins and fabrics alone!) has been very time consuming indeed and therefore rather detrimental to getting lots of sewing done. I'm settling in to these changes now and we are finding a nice balance of countryside walks and sleeping at my feet while I sew. Dog walking calls for a different wardrobe so I'm foreseeing my 2020 sewing being a mixture of the very practical (waterproof coat, t-shirts and jeans!) and the very impractical, things which are just fun to make and wear!

In my new sewing space in my totally impractical for dog walking Mayfair Dress

Over the course of the past twelve months I found myself enjoying sewing a little less because I had less time to do it and was therefore only managing to find time to work on the projects that I felt obliged to do because I had agreed to post a review/try out a new pattern/make something for someone as a gift. There should always be a place for sewing a fun and frivolous garment on a whim purely for the joy of making and wearing it. I always try to make careful choices with my sewing; whether that be pattern, fabric or whether I really need another of that particular type of garment in my wardrobe. But I also firmly believe in enjoying my hobby and sometimes that means throwing caution to the wind and trying something completely new and outrageous because you feel inspired to do so. I sew for enjoying the process of doing it and the therapeutic nature of creating rather than necessarily to reach the end and have a completed garment. I want to make sure I remember this going forward as sometimes feeling pressure to finish something and rushing the steps can take all the fun out of it. 2020 is going to be all about bringing the fun back into my sewing time!


Speaking of sewing fun I'm going to The Stitch Festival (formerly the Knitting & Stitching Show) at the end of February. There will be over 200 exhibitors selling craft supplies, 200 workshops to participate in and demonstrations and interviews with numerous craft stars. I have five pairs of tickets to giveaway! The tickets are valid Thursday 27th February to Sunday 1st March but if you would like to attend on the Saturday there will be a £5 supplement to pay. Head on over to my Instagram to enter. If you'd like to purchase more tickets you can use the code DIARYOF2020 to get £2.50 off standard advance adult tickets and £1 off concessions. The discount can be used for advance bookings only up to Wednesday 26th February and there will be a £2.20 fulfilment fee per transaction (£2.50 for posted tickets). I hope to see lots of you there!

Monday, 23 December 2019

Tencel Twill Zadie Jumpsuit

I haven't had time to blog much of late but I have been squeezing in bits and pieces of sewing when I can. I've got a few completed projects to share with you but this jumped the queue to be my final post of the year as I loved it so much after putting in the final stitches a few days ago. It seems appropriate to wrap up the year with this pattern as my first version remains a favourite in my wardrobe and is my most worn handmade garment of 2019! It is the Zadie Jumpsuit from Paper Theory made up in a glorious sand-washed tencel twill from Patterns and Plains.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Tencel Twill from Patterns and Plains

As I've previously made this pattern and reviewed it in depth here I don't have a huge amount extra to say other than that I love it just as much with sleeves and feel like I could comfortably wear this casual everyday with trainers or equally dressed up with heels. I took an inch off the length of the sleeves as they felt kind of in the middle of long and three quarter on me as they were. It feels sophisticated in that chic and understated way whilst still having an interesting contemporary cut and design details. I think it might become my go-to press night outfit! This is partly to do with the fabric choice which has the potential to feel much more glamorous than the cotton twill I used for my original version due to it's gorgeous soft texture, drape and sheen.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Tencel Twill from Patterns and Plains

I'd heard good things about tencel and seen some gorgeous projects popping up on Instagram using it. However, it is actually quite hard to come by here in the UK so it wasn't until I discovered that Patterns and Plains are stocking a selection of colours that I decided to take the plunge and try it.  They stock this 'Helsinki' sand-washed twill in seven rich colours (all of which I would happily wear and fit in to my current wardrobe so you can probably expect to be seeing quite a lot more of this fabric!) and also have the 'Trieste' modal, bamboo and tencel blend which I'm tempted to try. This is the new sage green colour which I'd say is slightly less green than you might expect, in some lights more of a grey with a hint of green but I absolutely love it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Tencel Twill from Patterns and Plains

Tencel is a branded Oeko-Tex certified fibre that is made from wood pulp using environmentally friendly processes. The fibre production is more eco-friendly than cotton because it uses a 'closed-loop' process, reusing 99% of the water and solvents. Eco-friendly and a dream to work with and wear; what's not to love?! My usual go to fabric choice when sewing a garment that requires drape and movement is viscose and that is certainly more widely available, especially in prints. However, I'll certainly be putting tencel at the top of the queue from now on if I can find it in the right colour. it has the same amazing luxurious hand as a sand-washed silk (at a much more purse friendly price) combined with a weight, drape and opacity that makes it a match for so many different projects. I imagine there will be some variety in weight, weave e.t.c between different suppliers so would recommend ordering samples to see if it works for you.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Tencel Twill from Patterns and Plains
I'm really pleased with my finishing on this version

This is my first project using fabric from Patterns and Plains (which I received in return for a review after receiving some samples of the tencel colour range) and I was very impressed with the customer service, speed of delivery and quality of the fabric. The price is very reasonable for an eco-friendly quality fabric and they also offer a thread matching service which is always a plus point when ordering online. It means you can get started right away when the fabric arrives! Amanda is very kindly offering all readers 20% off until midnight on New Year’s Eve excluding postage costs. Just enter the code DIARY20 at the checkout. The offer will work once per customer.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Tencel Twill from Patterns and Plains

I'd expect a fabric of this weight and fluidity to have a somewhat slippery feel but the sand-washed finish makes it buttery soft, sort of similar to a peach skin. This also makes it much easier to cut and sew as the surface of the fabric has a slight grip against itself so pieces don't shift around in the same was as might a satin or chiffon. There is still a risk of pieces stretching out and distorting, especially edges cut on the bias and curves so I would make sure to follow the instructions to stay-stitch the neckline of the bodice before adding your binding. The beauty of this jumpsuit is that the wrap lays nice and flat and secure across the bust, you don't want it stretched out and wobbly.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Tencel Twill from Patterns and Plains

Applying the bias around the curves of the front wrap is probably the trickiest part of making this jumpsuit (and the most time-consuming part turning through those long ties!). It's fiddly but nothing to put off an advancing beginner. If you're finding it hard I would recommend opening up the tape and stitching one side on first before folding it over and securing with a topstitch. The pattern instructions have you sandwich it over the raw edge and stitch in one go which can make it difficult to get a neat finish if you haven't had much practice with the technique. This tencel makes beautiful bias tape and I love the finished effect of the wrap.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Tencel Twill from Patterns and Plains

For anyone who hasn't read my previous post and is thinking about making this jumpsuit there are a couple of things I think it is important to bear in mind. I personally think that this style looks best when the waistline and ties sit at the natural waist and accentuate that. The pattern is drafted for someone 5ft 7 tall I believe and quite a few people have noted that it seems quite long in the body. I'm 5ft 3 and shortened the bodice by 3/4" and the crotch depth by 3/4" too and this feels just about right. You do need some depth in the crotch for ease of movement.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Paper Theory Zadie Jumpsuit in Tencel Twill from Patterns and Plains

The fluidity of this amazing fabric probably shows best in the flat photo. The way it hangs of the body and flows as you move makes this jumpsuit feel so elegant when you're wearing it. I might have to make a shorts version with short sleeves for summer in either the cinnamon or saffron colour!

Thanks to you all for reading and commenting over 2019! You really keep me inspired to sew and try new things. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! 

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Black Scalloped Lace Watson Bra

The garment I've got to share with you today has been a long time coming! Years in fact. Bra sewing has been on every project list for the year/season or goal setting challenge like #makenine on Instagram for quite some time. I'm not quite sure why but other garments seemed to continually jump ahead it in the queue. I think my delay was partly due to it being a project out of my comfort zone; when sewing time is limited and I'm tired it always seems easier to sew something that feels familiar and I can complete satisfactorily without too much thought. What is also really off-putting about bra sewing is gathering all those different supplies! What with different elastics, fabric, lining, hooks and eyes, straps and sliders I never felt like I had quite all the right matching bits and pieces for a bra. However, in the end I decided my first bra was never going to be perfect anyway so just dove on in there with what I had accumulated.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

My first bra is not perfect indeed but I'm actually very pleasantly surprised with what I've managed to make. I've wanted to make the Cloth Habit Watson Bra since it's release and thought it would be a good starting point as the stretch aspect makes the fit more forgiving and it doesn't involve underwires or too much structure. I've had this black stretch lace stashed away for absolutely ages and actually forget where I got it from beyond a stand at one of the Knitting & Stitching shows! It was quite narrow at 25-30cm wide and I had just enough to cut my pieces out of a metre. I fell in love with the Art Deco/early 20th century feel of the pattern in this lace and of course wanted to make use of the beautiful scalloped edge. However trying to incorporate the scallop was obviously going to make my first foray into bra making much more complicated as I was veering off piste!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Lace with Scalloped Edge Watson Bra from Cloth Habit

But my advice to beginner sewers is always to make exactly what you feel like and to make things you are excited about rather than things you think you should make because they are marked 'beginner'. You might not get great results first time but you'll put your all into making it work and learn a huge amount along the way. So ahead I went with the scallops! There's actually a great post on the Cloth Habit blog as part of the Watson Sew Along about how to cut a scalloped lace cup which involves slightly altering your inner cup pattern piece. I wanted to use the scallop along the lower edge of the band too so had a look at Lladybird's post about how she made and finished the edges on her lace version. To finish the lower edge I basted the power mesh and the lace pieces together as instructed then simply stitched the elastic to the inside above the scallop and trimmed away any power mesh beneath the elastic to leave a beautiful delicate scalloped edge. I used the wider picot elastic despite not being able to see the decorative edge as it was all I had to hand with the soft plush back. As I didn't turn that bottom edge in as instructed this left my back edge too wide for the hook and eye pieces so I had to trim down the top edge as advised in the instructions.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

I'm not loving the look of the clear elastic which I used to finish the inner edge of the cup. It needs an elastic here to stabilise it and prevent it stretching out over time but I couldn't use picot as recommended as I wanted to retain the scalloped edge. Perhaps if I'd had a narrower clear elastic I wouldn't mind as much? Lauren used a strip of selvedge from her power mesh which looks much better but as I was working with scraps I didn't have any selvedge left. Does anyone have any alternative finishes they can recommend? I'd also appreciate any advice on where you lingerie makers in the UK get your fabrics and notions from, particularly kits that contain everything you need as this would definitely encourage me to make more lingerie! Sewing Chest is great but I'd like to shop around for a bit more variety.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

The only thing I'm not happy about in terms of the scallop is where the cup meets the ring at the top. Because you've straightened out the front edge of your pattern piece and lined up the scallop so low points of the curve meet at the centre front you loose the narrowing of the cup at the top point and I ended up trying to pull quite a wide piece of scallop through the ring. It doesn't look terrible but isn't ideal. Next time I'd also cut longer pieces for the straps. I cut the recommended 18" after measuring myself but think I'd like a little more room for adjustment.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

For lining the cradle I used some fairly thick black power mesh I had left over from sewing activewear and as my lace is quite delicate I used it to line the rear band pieces too. The strap elastic, plush back picot elastic and hook & eye piece all came in a kit from Sewing Chest which again I've had for absolutely ages. The one missing piece of the puzzle were the sliders and rings which I got from MacCulloch and Wallis in the end because I happened to be nearby, but they do only stock black and white in two sizes. I definitely made my life easier by using black; trying to find all those elements to match in any other colour but white must be a nightmare and I'm no natural with a dye pot!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Lace with Scalloped Edge Watson Bra by Cloth Habit

I usually love doing really accurate sewing, particularly since I got my Brother Innov-is machine as it makes it so easy, but to begin with I found working with those tiny seam allowances quite frustrating. It took some patience, practice and a bit of time with the unpicker before I was achieving results I was happy with. Again I probably didn't make my life easy with this buy choosing such a fine lace for my first attempt! The bra uses 1/4" seam allowances throughout which makes sense for such small pattern pieces but is much smaller than I'm used too. It took me a while to figure out how to keep to that distance accurately as the markings for such small seam allowances are quite hidden on the machine. There is one before the bobbin cover and one behind the foot but no groove in the standard machine foot to line up with. I could have done with a marking on the bobbin cover and in hindsight could have used masking or washi tape to create a temporary one.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

I found stitching along the elastic, particularly where the strap elastic joins the back band in a curve quite difficult to keep in the right position and have had a bit of a wobble here and there. Hopefully practice witll make perfect with that one. I love that as the lace is black with a bit of texture you can't see the stitching in it at all. Very forgiving for those first time wobbles! I was nervous about inserting the cups correctly but that was actually really easy and I love the shape. I'm particularly proud of how neat and tidy the central tip of my cradle is where the two cups meet. I make full use of the needle up/down button when sewing tight little points and corners like this. Pressing this button rather than using the foot allows you to sew individual stitches so you can stop exactly at the point you want then pivot rather than accidentally going a stitch or two too far.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

Carmen gave me a great tip on Instagram to make sure I held my thread ends as I started sewing. One of the biggest problems I encountered was getting a seam started without the thread knotting up or fabric getting sucked down into the throat plate. My F420 sewing machine has a thread cutting function which means the bobbin thread is hidden in the machine after cutting the last seam you sewed. I found I needed to ignore this function and lift the presser foot and snip my own threads like I used too so I could leave two nice long thread tails and get my next seam started smoothly.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

I treated this as a bit of a wearable toile and sewed the whole thing on my machine for accuracy rather than risking mistakes with such fine seam allowances on the overlocker. The visible seam allowances inside are trimmed right down and topstitched so I don't really mind the finish. I also think the seam through the cup which is just lace is much less visible and bulky this way. My duck billed appliqué scissors where invaluable when it came to trimming down seam allowances in such delicate fabrics.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Lace with Scalloped Edge Watson Bra from Cloth Habit

I cut the 34D after measuring myself and following the pattern instructions which is different to my RTW size but I trusted the pattern and it has turned out pretty great. The band is slightly roomy and the centre of the cradle doesn't lay quite flat but I think this is more to do with the way I applied the elastic than the sizing of the pattern. I think I didn't stretch the plush back elastics enough (as the armhole gapes a bit too) and stretched the clear elastic too much as it bunches up a little! Working with the elastics and figuring out how tight to apply them as I sewed was probably the hardest part of this project and is something I hope will improve with more practice; I was getting more of a feel for it towards the end.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

The pattern was fantastic and I highly recommend it as a starting point for any beginner lingerie sewer. The sizing information is particularly good and I like that the PDF pages you need to print for each size are clearly listed (also that it is such a small pattern to assemble!). The instructions were thorough and well illustrated. I didn't find myself left feeling unsure at any point; which is saying something considering bra making felt so foreign to me when I started! I particularly appreciated the tips scattered throughout the instructions and also the inclusion of recommended stitch type, length and width when zig zagging. Thanks to Amy my bra turned out great!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Black Scalloped Edge Lace Cloth Habit Watson Bra

I expected bra sewing to rapidly become an addiction but can't say it is yet. I did enjoy the process and was amazed at how quickly and neatly it all came together once I got going but I feel like I've still got a lot to learn. I've got some white stretch lace for a second Watson but think I'd actually like to try a version in a plain mesh so I can finish all the edges as the pattern intends and work on my accuracy. Then I'd love to move on to more structured non stretch bras using the Orange Lingerie patterns as I have Norma's book already and think working through that could really help. I certainly won't be leaving it years before my second bra anyway!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Wine Red Maxi Mayfair Dress

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I was incredibly excited about the Mayfair Dress when it was released by Nina Lee over a year ago and I snapped up a paper copy soon after release. For years I'd had this favourite style of French Connection dress that saw me through many summers; flattering, comfortable and seemingly suited for any occasion. I owned versions in various prints, colours and lengths but may favourite by far was a maxi length version. The previous summer I'd been wearing it with too many holes in to repair, hoping that the little purple, black and dusky pink print disguised them. It had been on its last legs for a while and sadly French Connection stopped making them a while before. I couldn't bear to throw it out so I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted the Mayfair and realised it was almost an exact match. I could make my own replacement!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

Why then has it taken me so long to make one you may ask? I had a really hard time finding fabric that was going to live up to my expectations of this dress. The RTW version has been on such a pedestal in my wardrobe that I wanted to love any version I made just as much. The print and colours of the existing dress so suited me and various ways of styling it that I think part of me was hoping to find a print near identical but of course that was going to be too much to ask. Any prints I found which I quite liked were on too heavy, too fine, or too stiff of a jersey. Which is why I eventually opted for a solid. At least now I have a version of this dress to wear again and when the right print eventually comes along I can make another.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I actually found this fabric in Valencia of all places when I was there for a girls weekend trip a few weeks ago. Pauline Alice recommend to me Julian Lopez in the city centre and what a treasure trove that place was! Four floors of fabric at various price points including traditional Spanish brocades on the top floor and a marvellous shopping experience. No one spoke a word of English and I speak no Spanish so it made for a rather hilarious game of charades getting fabric cut! I also have no idea about the fabric content. At first I thought it was a viscose jersey because of the lovely drape and movement but after sewing with it I now think there might be a bit of cotton in there too as it seems a little more stable than other viscose jerseys I have worked with.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

Choosing a soft and drapey knit is very important for this style. The gathering at the waist means you don't want anything to bulky and you want it to drape softly across the bust. I would shy away from a fabric that might potentially be clingy around the hips. This soft jersey is spot on and I knew as soon as I touched it that it had a similar hadn't and weight to my original dress. It was lovely to sew with and I had no trouble with the fabric stretching out as I sewed which can often be a problem with knits of this light weight and drape, particularly when using the twin needle around the hem and cuffs. It did want to curl up at the edges a bit but that was nothing a good press couldn't fix. It responded really well to a medium heat iron with some steam.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I constructed the majority of this dress using the triple stretch stitch on my Brother Innov-is F420. Usually with knits I'll use a zig zag or one of the many other faux overlock stretch stitches. However, as this dress doesn't have negative ease (meaning the garment doesn't stretch around the body so the seams don't need to stretch too even to take the dress on and off) I opted for the slightly more resilient and slightly less elastic triple stitch. This is a great stitch if you want to press your seams open which this dress requires you to do in a few areas; the other stretch stitches generally catch the seam allowances together. I finished all the seam allowances on my overlocker as usual, just because I personally like a nice professional looking finish inside!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I think my favourite thing about my Brother sewing machine is how accurately it enables you to sew! The adjustable speed and reverse button (which sews just the one stitch if pressed once and multiple if held down) mean you can stop at exactly the point you want with ease. I went into the menu and adjusted the settings to finish with the needle down each time I stopped sewing for this project. This made pivoting around the angled neckline seam a breeze and topstitching the waist tie on worry free.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I found the instructions a little confusing in the way explanations of techniques were sometimes worded (but I was quite distracted keeping one eye on the puppy while I read them!). It is a fairly speedy and straightforward sew for a very elegant looking garment though. The trickiest part is attaching the collar/facing to the back of the neckline and shoulders using the burrito method; and is particularly fiddly when you are making the maxi version as you have so much fabric in the roll. If making the maxi I wouldn't recommend using a thick jersey as you will struggle at this point. I was very worried about catching some of the dress in my stitching along the edge of the roll but it turned out beautifully and I love the clean finish. Nina's tip to use the zipper foot to stitch this part accurately along the edge of the roll is great.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I love the pleated detail at the back of the neck which creates the lovely soft drape of fabric over the bust. The fabric then gently gathers in at the front of the waist to emphasise the female shape. I also love the right angled seam where the collar meets the back at the shoulder. Very clever pattern cutting and I always enjoy sewing something a little different. Using a piece of clear elastic to gather the front (as well as stabilise those shoulder seams) is a really intersecting and useful technique. I thought attaching the waist tie as well as gathering the front evenly would be tricky but it was actually very straightforward thanks to the clear markings and measured piece of elastic. The elastic is sewn to the right side of the garment so that it is hidden between the shell fabric and the waist tie once that is attached. Despite the elastic being hidden the inside of the garment doesn't look particularly pretty in this area as you see the zig zag stitch for the elastic and then the topstitching for the waist tie either side. Speaking of the waist tie...this was the first project I've sewn in the company of my new puppy and she was very good apart from the moment when I found her all tangled up in the yet-to-be-attached tie!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

I cut a size smaller than the size chart suggested after measuring my favourite French Connection dress as I love the fit of that. This meant I cut the size 8. I don't think the size 10 would have overwhelmed me so I wouldn't say the sizing is necessarily over generous, I just prefer this slimmer cut and the similarity to my original dress. The only thing I would tweak next time is the size of the sleeves as they are a little snug around the arm. I don't think going a size up would have solved that problem so I think I'll just slash and spread the pattern piece to give me a little more room. At 5ft 3" I was surprised to find that the length was spot on straight out of the envelope. I like my maxi dresses skimming the ground but even if you don't if you're taller me I'd recommend adding some length to the pattern before you start. Nina is quite petite too so probably drafts on the short side!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey

This has only just come off the sewing machine and is yet to have an outing but I'll report back on how it washes and wears on Instagram. I'll definitely be making more of these and am very excited to have this style of dress back in rotation again! The pattern also includes three quarter length and full length sleeves which I'm looking forward to trying for winter.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Maxi Nina Lee Mayfair Dress in Wine Red Jersey