Wednesday, 30 April 2014

April Indie Pattern Update!

I've got lots of exciting bits of news to share with you this month if you haven't already spotted them, plus many of our favourite Indie designers have been dropping hints and sneak peaks of upcoming releases and plans so we've got that to look forward to too!

New Patterns

  • The new Hepworth Dress pattern from Sinbad and Sailor is coming at the end of the week. I'm a big fan of the style of Hannah's other patterns so am really excited for the big reveal of this one.
  • Caroline from Sew Caroline has been extra busy this month and has released not one but two new patterns! The Tank Dress is a real summer staple and looks like a fantastic blank canvas if you're feeling creative. The lovely Sugar Pop Top was just released on Monday and is a really cute alternative to a tee.
  • Jennifer Lauren released her very first pattern - the Afternoon Blouse. It's got her lovely vintage style to it and gets it's name from the fact that it's such a speedy make it can be made in an afternoon!
  • I was lucky enough to be a pattern tester again, this time for the new pattern from Sew Over It - the Betty Dress! Inspired by Betty from Mad Men it's a flattering 50's style with circle skirt, fitted bodice and an extremely lovely neckline.
  • Colette Patterns have branched out and released two new patterns which are not only knit designs but also incorporate new plus sixes up to a 3X! Both the Mabel Skirt and Moneta Dress look incredibly versatile and wearable with plenty of variations. I've been really enjoying looking at the Curvy Sewing Collective's versions on their blog tour.
  • Republique du Chiffon released an entire new collection for us to drool over and dream about. I particularly like the Melinda playsuit/dress combination. What's your favourite?
  • The Sewaholic Belcarra Blouse which Tasia released the design for along with their recent Gabriola Maxi Skirt is now available to buy. It'll be the perfect top to tuck into any summer skirt and with no darts promises to be a simple and speedy make.
  • After releasing her hugely popular Bombshell Swimsuit pattern last year Heather Lou from Closet Case Files has done it again and given us another completely unique pattern with her Nettie Bodysuit and Dress. It's another one of those patterns that you don't realise you needed til she made it!
  • I spotted a sneak peak on Instagram the other day indicating that there's another Blue Ginger Doll pattern coming very soon. I'm already keen to make the Winifred Dress so it looks like I'd better get onto that quick!
  • There's a new collection from Papercut Patterns coming soon which I'm incredibly excited about. It's usually tough trying to restrict myself from buying the entire collection so I'm looking forward to seeing what I'll be restraining myself from purchasing this time!


  • Heather Lou's sew-along for her new Closet Case Files pattern the Nettie Bodysuit and Dress will be starting in a few weeks and is sure to include some great tips for working with knits and how to get a good fit on that backless version.
  • Sew Over It will be running a Betty Dress sew-along on their blog soon. This should be well worth keeping eyes peeled for as the pattern is one of the first Lisa designed for the classes in her sewing cafe so will be incorporating tips and tricks from the class.
  • Colette will be running sew-alongs for both their new patterns on their dedicated sew-alongs website. The Mabel Skirt sew-along will be an special express version which sees you whipping up a skirt in a weekend!
  • Caroline from Sewaholic will be leading the sew-along for their new Belcarra Blouse which starts on Tuesday 13th May. It will no doubt be packed with handy tips as usual so make sure to keep an eye out if you've snapped this pattern up.
  • After releasing her first collection of knicker patterns last month Susan from Measure Twice/Cut Once is running 'Everyone Deserves Pretty Knickers Week' to encourage us all to take the plunge and try out making our first pair. They seem like a fairly quick project so I'm thinking why not give it a go?!

Other Exciting News

  • Colette Patterns released their brand new book 'The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits' in association with Alyson Clair alongside their new knit patterns. I haven't taken the plunge to purchase yet but have read through a freebie chapter they sent round and that excerpt alone was packed with fantastic tips.
  • Thanks to many of you the wonderful ladies at By Hand London made the target of their kickstarted campaign! They're now well on the road to printing their own and our own fabric designs and have actually just announced the winner of their first fabric design competition. I can't wait to get my hands on some of the beautiful 'Secret Garden' inspired designs.
  • Victory Patterns ran an Easter sale! Did any of you pick up any pattern bargains?
  • Tilly and the Buttons shared a couple of pictures of her already released PDF patterns being printed, as with the Coco Dress they come with colour photographs of each step rather than illustrations! I think the paper version may be what finally breaks me and sees me buy that cleverly simple Miette Skirt.
  • Pauline Alice has also been busy getting her patterns printed up for us to enjoy in paper format. They should be ready sometime at the start of May along with a new pattern! If you liked my version of her Carme Blouse perhaps a paper copy of the pattern could tempt you into making your own...
  • Simple Sew have a free pattern, the Brigitte Dress, now available to readers of this issue of the new 'Love Sewing' magazine. It's a lovely classic design and they have just started a sew-along for it too!

As usual if I've missed anything you know of please let me know in the comments below so I can add it in; it's impossible to keep track of everything!

And finally here's a few projects made using Indie patterns to inspire you for next month!

  • I absolutely love Sally from Sally Bee Makes' decision to change the straps on her BHL Flora Dress into a trio of skinny straps crossing at the back. It's such a beautiful feature which I may have to copy...
  • I've been seriously tempted by Grainline Studio's Portisde Travel Bag since it's release and Andrea from Four Square Walls' version has pushed me over the edge! I love the combination of the leather and wool.
  • I always find myself attracted to ikat prints when the sun starts to appear and Lauren's Ikat Moss Mini Skirt (also from Grainline) has definitely got me in the mood for summer! The insides look so lovely too, check them out!
  • I luurve Roisin's latest hybrid of By Hand London patterns. The Elisalex bodice and Flora skirt made up in such a stunning spring coloured sea urchin print! After Sew Dolly Clackett took the blogosphere by storm this month I just HAD to include Roisin too; wishing you and Nic the absolute best wedding day and a future filled with Cava lovely lady!
  • While I'm on the subject Jenny from Sewing Pies made 14 (yes 14!) dresses for the contest. My favourite is the combination of Sewaholic Cambie bodice and BHL Charlotte skirt in a beautiful bird print Roisin herself has previously used.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Friday Fun!

My boyfriend sent me this photograph from 1939 and I just had to share it with you guys. It's of a rather strange invention; a bicycle that fits a family of four...including sewing machine!!

Picture from this page here. It's worth checking out as there are some other fantastic unusual images including 'face cones' to protect yourself during a snow storm, stunning 1950s dresses and a little boy who looks as excited about getting new shoes as me!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Easter and the Betty Dress Winner!

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are all enjoying a lovely restful bank holiday weekend with family and friends!

I'm just dropping in with a quick post today to announce the winner of my giveaway for the newly released Betty Dress pattern from Sew Over It. There were a huge number of entries so I've chosen the winner using the random number generator. Without further ado the winner is...

Sherri E! Congratulations Sherri. I can't find any contact details for you on your profile so please send me an email (address on 'About' page) with your details for me to post the pattern and I'll get it sent out pronto! Looking forward to seeing your Betty.

Right I'm off to enjoy a Sunday Roast and plenty more chocolate!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Pattern Testing: The Betty Dress from Sew Over It (and a giveaway!)

I was lucky enough to be asked a few weeks ago by Lisa from Sew Over It to test their latest pattern release; the Betty Dress. I jumped at the chance as it's a gorgeous classic design with the potential to be made up numerous times, each completely different from the next as Lisa herself has been proving by instagraming pics of her own 'Bettys' every day for the past week! Sew Over It is a beautiful sewing cafe and shop in Clapham South London that strangely enough I lived literally around the corner from when it first opened quite a few years ago now. Betty was one of the first patterns Lisa designed for her classes in the cafe and as the name suggests is based on the early style of Betty Draper from the ever popular Mad Men. As you may therefore expect the design features a full circle skirt and fitted bodice reminiscent of the 1950s.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Pattern Testing the Betty Dress Sewing Pattern from Sew Over It

I made mine up in a lovely lightweight cotton sateen which I came across in Simply Fabrics in Brixton. It's such great quality I knew it was perfect for this dress the second I saw it. It's that perfect weight that's drapey enough for a dress of this style yet completely opaque even in bright sunlight. This dress would be gorgeous in a floral but I was concerned about how much wear I'd get out out of such a feminine dress. This print on the other hand gives it a more modern twist (or at least I hope!). It's exactly the kind of print that I like, slightly random with no obvious motifs.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Pattern Testing the Betty Dress Sewing Pattern from Sew Over It

I cut the skirt on crosswise grain as I thought the directional pattern would look best this way. I really like how the lines of the pattern meet to form a different kind of pattern around the waist.
If you're thinking of making this up it's worth bearing in mind that that beautiful skirt is a real fabric eater! You will need around 3m of 140cm wide fabric (although to be honest I managed to squeeze mine out of less than 2.5) or 4.5m of 115cm wide. Totally worth it though, I love a circle skirt!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Pattern Testing the Betty Dress Sewing Pattern from Sew Over It

My favourite part of the design is definitely the neckline, skimming under the collar bone at the front and plunging into a deep v at the back it's so elegant. Mine unfortunately gapes slightly at both the back and front which I think is due to it stretching out slightly. Naughty me, should have stay stitched my neckline! I don't think this is helped by the fact that my fabric has a bit of crosswise stretch to it but I would recommend to anyone making this pattern to use twill tape to reinforce the whole neckline to give it a bit of stability. That deep v means the neckline edge is on the bias so very prone to stretching.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Pattern Testing the Betty Dress Sewing Pattern from Sew Over It

I finished all the inside edges on my overlocker so I just love how neat and professional it looks inside. The hem is, I'm not going to lie, pretty gargantuan so as this is quite a busy print I cheated for once and hemmed by machine. I used a trick which I picked up from the girls at By Hand London and Jen at Grainline Studio for dealing with the curved edge. I machine stitch around the hem 1/2" away from the edge first and then use this line of stitching as a guide for pressing up the first turn of the fabric. Not only does this save you the pain of measuring all the way around the hem but the tight row of stitches really helps to ease that slightly longer edge of fabric into the slightly smaller circumference you are turning it into.

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Pattern Testing the Betty Dress Sewing Pattern from Sew Over It

The pattern is not lined but includes 'all-in-one' neckline facings. The method for attaching the facings caused a little head scratching to start with but a brief bit of fiddling about later and I was super impressed with the result. The facings also finish off your straps and there's a bit of pulling through to the right side to be done which reminded me very much of a scene in the most recent series of Great British Sewing Bee! Following Lisa's instructions for the construction will ensure that you get a lovely finish all round to be honest. It's all very simple techniques but is well thought out and ordered to come together as smoothly as possible. The instructions also include a great simple tip for helping to insert your invisible zip evenly and thanks to it my waistband matched up perfectly first time!

I cut a size 8 (the smallest size) and the fit came up pretty much ok but a teeny bit large all over. I think it's definitely worth tweaking to get it right though as I love this flattering style so much. It's slightly longer in length than I'd wear a skirt this full usually and perhaps a little long in the bodice but that's purely down to my lack of height at 5ft3! This picture below is a little odd but you can see the excess fabric under the bust quite well. Maybe I need to try Roisin's trick of sticking it in a fairly hot wash to shrink it a little! 

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Pattern Testing the Betty Dress Sewing Pattern from Sew Over It

Speaking of Roisin, once I'd made this up I realised it was perfect to enter in the Sew Dolly Clackett challenge! Roisin is getting married at the end of may and as a little wedding gift some of my favourite blogging ladies have arranged an amazing surprise for her. There's a contest running in the sewing blogosphere to make up a dress inspired by Roisin's unmistakeable handmade style. She's a big fan of printed cottons, a fitted bodice and a full skirt and was even one of the other Betty Dress pattern testers! There's some brilliant prizes up for grabs which the bride herself will be judging the winners of. If you'd like to get involved you've got until April 23rd to get a pic of your make uploaded to the Flickr group. Roisin and Nic, I hope you have the most amazing day and wish you all the happiness in the world for the future!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Pattern Testing the Betty Dress Sewing Pattern from Sew Over It

Now to what you've all been waiting for! I have one copy of the Betty Dress pattern to giveaway to a lucky winner. The dress comes in a range of sizes, comes complete with instruction booklet and is printed on some rather lovely (which may be an odd thing to comment on!) pattern paper. It's perfect timing too as I know Lisa has a sew-along planned for this pattern on the Sew Over It blog soon. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post saying you'd like to be in with a shot. You have until 6pm (GMT) on Saturday 19th April to enter and I'll announce the winner on Sunday. Good luck!

EDIT: I should have said the giveaway is open internationally so feel free to enter from wherever inthe world you may be!

Diary of a Chainstitcher: Pattern Testing the Betty Dress Sewing Pattern from Sew Over It

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Swiss Dot Archer Shirt

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

Just to warn you, this post is going to get all kinds of photo heavy and talky talky about construction details but I'm so proud of all the new sewing techniques I accomplished with this shirt I'm not going to spare you any of it! I completed this shirt (and actually a shirt for my boyfriend too) before I made my tester version of Pauline Alice's Carme Blouse, so the whole sewing a blouse/shirt thing was entirely new to me. It's is by no means perfect but I feel like I did a pretty great job on this one, especially considering it was my first time sewing most of the major parts of a shirt including, collar, plackets and cuffs!

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

So anyway, on to the details. I'm sure many of you will recognise this as the every popular Archer Shirt from Jen at Grainline Studio. I love Jen's patterns for their versatility and wearability; she designs the kind of garments that are handy to have in your wardrobe and that end up being worn over and over again because they work as part of so many different outfits. This is exactly how I feel about this finished shirt and it has been getting a lot of wear, especially as spring finally seems to have hit the UK!

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

After seeing so many fantastic makes out there on the internet using this pattern I've ended up with plans for many, many more versions of the Archer, but I wanted a bit of a practise with the techniques before I branch out into anything too wild! This is partly why I chose a simple white cotton swiss dot first one; as well as just loving having a reason to use swiss dot and thinking it would work well with most of my wardrobe. The fabric is from Simply Fabrics in Brixton, in fact the same place that the buttons and interfacing for this project came from. I discovered some amazing reasonably lightweight cotton fusible interfacing there a while back which is a better quality than any other I have used before and it really does make a difference. I bought a fair few meters when I found it but supplies are already rapidly dwindling so fingers crossed they have more!

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

I cut a size 4 as I didn't want it to be too roomy around the waist and managed to squeeze it out of 1.5m. I love how relaxed fit shirts look on other people, and may try making one of these up in a drapey silk or rayon, but I didn't love the idea of that style in a cotton on me. It fits just how I like it across the shoulders and back but has turned out just a teeny bit snug across the bust as you can see above it pulling in that area, although that may be partly to do with the way I'm standing. Next time I'll probably cut a 4 at the shoulders, grade out to a 6 at the bust then back in to a 4 at the waist. It's fine as it is for this version though as I've been wearing it mainly open over vests or under crew neck jumpers.

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

I knew this project was going to be a challenge for me so it was quite nice just to relax into allowing myself as long as it took to make it without imposing a deadline on myself. I made it alongside a couple of other less challenging makes so I could step away if I was struggling with a particular aspect and come back to it later with fresh eyes and a bit calmer! It's a really great make to spread out over a period of time as there are small involved parts to it that you can break up into individual sewing sessions. I found the whole thing really satisfying to put together as there's plenty of ready to wear aspects that you can feel super pleased with yourself for achieving. Lots of little pats on the back to be given the whole way through!

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

I used Andrea from Four Square Wall's tutorial for 'sewing a collar in a different order' as I've seen this referred to a few times. I can't really comment on how good a technique it is, it being the first stand collar I have ever sewn, but I can say that I found it so much easier than I had imagined it to be! There's plenty of photos and she includes some really great tips and tricks. As an explanation it read more clearly to me than others I looked at and the order of construction just seemed to make sense.

I'm really proud of the collar itself but not so pleased with the collar stand. I gave it a few goes and tried shortening my stitches e.t.c but sewing around those tight little curves at the very front was pretty difficult! I think maybe I need to treat myself to an edge stitching foot at some point as the topstitching on Andrea's collar looks so perfect.

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

With the exception of the collar stand I found the cuffs the most fiddly construction aspect. It was more the binding of the slit and how that joins the cuff than the cuff itself. I've since discovered how to do cuff plackets like on men's RTW shirts which I've managed a much neater finish on and will probably add to the Archer when I make it again. For now I'm not fussed though as I wear the sleeves rolled up most of the time.

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

Is it strange that I really love topstitching? I think it's one of my all time favourite sewing techniques for the professional look it gives. There's plenty of it on this shirt and I love how it turned out, especially around those patch pockets which, can you believe it, I almost left off! I can't wait to make another and get some contrast topstitching going on. Another aspect I had no trouble with were the buttonholes. I used to be so apprehensive and wary of making buttonholes (only my absolute determination to make a Robson coat cured me of my avoidance!) and it's now one of my new favourite things to do. I whizzed through these like lightning!

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern

I overlocked all my seams on my lovely, shiny overlocker so I'm in love with how it looks inside. Jen's instructions for creating the look of a flat-felled seam without doing one create an awesome finish really easily, even around those pesky armholes.

I think the majority of sewing bloggers have already given this pattern a huge thumbs up and I'm definitely adding mine to the mix. Jen you're a bit of a pattern drafting wizard and I'm looking forward to seeing what else you've got on the way! Now just to decide what to make my next Archer out of...chambray or silk? A floral or a plaid? So many ideas!

Diary of a Chainstitcher White Swiss Dot Grainline Studio Archer Shirt Sewing Pattern