Saturday, 31 January 2015

January Indie Pattern Update!

I don't know about you but I don't know where January has disappeared to! It's been a wee bit hectic around this parts and from the looks of the amount of news I've got to share with you it's been a hectic one in the indie pattern designer community!

New Pattern Companies/First Releases!

  • Erin launched her new pattern company Seamstress Erin Designs. There are currently just accessories patterns available but she has got some garment patterns in the works!
  • The next new indie pattern company in town is Lileth & Eve and they are looking for pattern testers! It sounds like they've got some really good drafting and design experience between them so I'm looking forward to seeing their first release.
  • Beth from Sew DIY released her very first PDF pattern; the Lou Box Top. It's a simple and versatile top with six possible variations. It's probably the exact kind of thing I need more of in my wardrobe at the minute to be honest!

New Patterns

  • Hot on the heels of her stunning Quart Coat Pauline Alice has released the Eliana Dress. I love both the sleeveless and raglan sleeve variations of this peasant blouse style dress.
  • Kennis from Itch to Stitch has been a busy bee recently and has released two new patterns this month! The first was the Idyllwild Top and Dress which along with having 42 different variation combos is available for the bargain price of just $1! All proceeds from the sale of this pattern are being donated to charity. The second pattern was released just this week and is the Paulina Top which is pattern for knits with a woven fabric contrast.
  • I know a lot of people have been waiting with baited breath for the Grainline Studio duffle coat pattern and after it's release this month I've seen quite a few Instagram posts of the paper versions landing on doormats across the world! It's named the Cascade, has hood and collar variations and I love the front zip feature concealed behind the toggles to provide extra warmth.
  • Sewaholic released two beautiful shirt/blouse patterns this month; the beautiful sewing of the samples had me drooling! The Granville is a classic and fitted shirt drafted as usual for the more pear shaped of us and the Oakridge is slightly more feminine with a neck tie variation.
  • Sew Over It released the kit for their Pencil Skirt pattern this month and many of you may be pleased to know that they have now released the pattern to purchase separately in PDF form. I had the pleasure of testing the pattern and I love it to bits! Just need to find some time and light to take photos and I can share it with you!
  • Marilla Walker released the Alice Pattern for tights and leggings. I love it when I see patterns released for garments or items which you less usually see sewn. I'm really intrigued by how you would even begin to sew tights!
  • The Jasper Sweater/Dress is the most recent release from Paprika Patterns. It's designed for thicker knits and has options for a hood or chunky collar. There will be plenty of tutorials and tips available on the site to accompany it.
  • The new Raglan Sleeve Shirt Dress from Salme Patterns is just as chic and classic as I have come to expect from Elisa's patterns. Make sure to sign up to her mailing list for discounts!
  • Style Arc's new patterns for January were the Elita Designer Top, the Fern Woven Top, the Brooke Woven Skirt, the Melinda Knit Tunic, the Rita Ponte Skirt and the Lani Woven Tunic. I'm always impressed with the contemporary and unique designs Style Arc put out and am sorely tempted by more than one of these!


  • There's a new dress pattern coming from Jennifer Lauren Vintage at some point in February. From her last post it sounded like it was back from the testers and being brushed up before release!
  • The next pattern from Blue Ginger Doll is named the Alicia Shorts. I love the unique design details that Abby includes in her designs so I'm really looking forward to seeing her twist on shorts.
  • Thread Theory's second womenswear pattern is coming soon. They are the Lazo Pants and if you fancy a bit of a preview they were photographed with their recently released Camas Blouse. Love that waistband!
  • There are two new patterns coming from Skinny Bitch Curvy Chic this month! Betsy hasn't yet let slip even a clue as to the type of garments the might be for so I can't wait to see!


Other Exciting News

  • The two new patterns from Sewaholic include lots of new features which are set to become standard for all their designs at some point. They now include sizes 18 & 20, have free downloadable French instructions, metric measurements on the envelope and are available in PDF format straight away!
  • There are also three more Sewaholic patterns available in PDF form alongside the paper; the Pendrell Blouse, Cordova Jacket and Robson Coat.
  • I'm so excited to see Jen over at Grainline Studio doing so well and her business developing into selling paper patterns as I love her designs and drafting. The Tiny Pocket Tank and Portside Travel Set patterns are now available in printed form.
  • Straight Stitch Designs have also branched out into paper versions of their patterns. Sometimes there's nothing better than some lovely packaging is there?! They are currently available for pre-sale in Kimberley's shop.
  • Also printing up a paper pattern storm is Elisa from Salme Patterns! Sometimes there's nothing better than some lovely packaging is there?! I can't wait to see these as I love her simple, clean design aesthetic. 

Phew, after all that I feel like I can't have missed much this month but as always if you know of any more news you'd like to share let me know in the comments and I'll add it in! To finish up here's your monthly dose of inspiration from the sewing blog community. Make sure to remember to share your finished garments with the hashtag #indiesewing on Twitter or Instagram, it's a great way to find some new blogs to follow and get some ideas!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Little Black Laurel Dress

The first completed garment I've got to share with you in 2015 is actual one of my final projects of 2014. It racked up a fair few wears in those last few weeks of 2014 too! They don't lie when they say having a classic little black dress in your wardrobe will save your bacon for any occasion; this dress worked perfectly for pre Christmas cocktails, pub drinks, lunches and even an afternoon tea!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

Ever since making my polka dot version of the Laurel blouse from Colette Patterns I'd had a plain black version of the dress variation on my mind. I'd had such success with the style and fit of the blouse on me that I'd been dreaming about it in all kinds of fabrics and variations to be honest! For this dress I used this gorgeous wool sateen from Mood Fabrics and only needed just over a metre. It's kind of like a fairly lightweight suiting with a small amount of stretch, I bet it would make a lovely pair of trousers. It's hand is very smooth and it was lovely to sew with. I pre washed it on a gentle cycle in the machine as I was hoping this would be a big success and I'd want to be able to easily and regularly wash it. Then I gave it a good steamy press and it came up beautifully. It didn't need any other special treatment and I finished all the seams on my overlocker.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

I dove straight in and cut the size 2 as I had done with the blouse, presuming that it was drafted exactly the same. Spoiler alert, they're not! If you lay the front blouse piece onto of the front dress piece you'll see that the main difference is in the shape of the armhole. On the blouse pattern piece the armsyce dips inward quite dramatically just above the bust which seems a little odd to me and incidentally my blouse is slightly tight across the chest at this height. The dress pattern piece doesn't dip in in the same way and the armhole shape looks much more normal so I didn't make my planned alteration of adding some width in this area. The fit turned out fairly well but I do have a couple of small wrinkles here which I think indicate that I need a little more room across the lower bust next time. I think the bust points could also do with being lowered a tiny bit.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

Once the basic shift was assembled and before the sleeves were set in I popped it on to assess the fit. To be honest it felt like a bit of a tent and not the flattering, figure skimming shift I imaged. Comparing the pattern pieces the width of the dress and blouse are very similar but I think the blouse still feels flattering with this much ease because of the shorter length and the fact that you are not hiding any of your shape below the waist. A bit of pinching and pinning later, I decided that it could be salvaged by taking it in down the side seams. I took out 1" on the double from each side seam from the waist to hem and graded out to nothing at the underarm as I didn't want to loose any ease across the bust. That's 4" in total that I removed from below the waist!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

My rather makeshift fitting worked out pretty well as I love the shape of it now. I've transferred the alteration to the pattern pieces so I can copy it next time. However, it does tend to ride up a little/not fall back into place without a tug when I stand so I think I could do with a little more room around the bum. I'll probably take slightly less out of the side seams from just above the hip to the hem. The only other change I made was to take 1 1/2" off the length. I expected that I would need to as I'm fairly short and (after pinning the hem up at different heights and inspecting in the mirror) I found going as short as I dared made this silhouette work better for me. After a number of wears I feel like I got the length spot on as I feel comfortable sitting, standing and even going up and down the escalators from the tube! It's not really practical for work but I've got a lot of evening and weekend wear out of it as I say. I hemmed it with two turns of 1/2" before machine stitching.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

I omitted the zip in this as I knew from making the blouse that I could get it on and off without a fastening. Thankfully, partly due to the stretch in this sateen, this still worked once I had taken in the side seams! If making in a fabric with no stretch whatsoever I would need to include the zip now I have slimmed it down. You can see from the rear picture that I had some trouble setting in these sleeves and I'm not particularly happy with the final result but they are at least comfortable and wearable. I'm wondering if the issues I had with easing the sleeve heads in compared to blouse version were caused by the fact that the armholes are different shapes so the length the sleeve head has to be eased into is different? Despite my issues with the sleeve heads I do love this length of sleeve!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

I drafted my own facing for the neckline (as I did for the blouse) instead of using bias binding to finish it as recommended by the pattern. I don't often have much success with this technique and trying to get the binding to sit flat around this shape of neckline on my first version of Laurel was a total nightmare which I ended up giving up on. I still had some trouble getting the neckline to lay flat but clipping, under stitching and thoroughly pressing the edge sorted that out. I also caught the facing down with a few hand stitches at the centre front and back and shoulder seams to prevent it trying to flip to the outside.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

Despite the construction issues and tweaking of the fit that I still need to do on this pattern I'm delighted with this super wearable addition to my wardrobe! It dresses up or down with different shoes and I love it with a skinny belt too. Have any of you got any other pattern recommendations for a classic little black dress?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

2014 Round Up!

It's taken me a little while to get motivated to write this round up of last year and onward look into the next but finally writing it has made me feel incredibly inspired to get sewing! It's been so satisfying to look back at how much my sewing has improved over 2014; it was a great sewing and blogging year for me and my interest in and passion for garment sewing has only increased the more I've sewn. Some of my personal highlights of 2014 have been sewing related, in particular meeting up with many of you in person in London and making friends from all over the world online. I'm continually amazed by your lovely comments and how many people are interested in reading this blog!

Some of the brilliant sewing related memories from 2014! Pics thanks to Katie, Alex and Brian Doherty

I did a quick count up and I made 41 garments this year which was a lot more than I thought I had! Although I end up posting completed garment posts fairly regularly throughout the year (as I often don't post things until they've had a couple of wears) my sewing productivity goes up and down in fairly irregular peaks and troughs because of the time I get to sew. I'm self-employed so sometimes I go through spells of working weekdays, evenings and weekends with very little time to sew and then I'll end up with a couple of weeks free to sew to my heart's content. I kind of love it that way and thoroughly enjoy my little 'sew-cations' but it does make any kind of sewing schedule impossible! I'm so pleased to discover that I've managed to be that productive though!

I'm fairly happy with how successful I was at achieving the goals I set myself at the end of last year although I totally failed at making myself a pair of trousers! I did sew up a muslin of Sew Over It's Ultimate Trousers but got way too bogged down in and confused by the fitting issues I had. I'm hoping to have more success with a different pattern then revisit them as you'll see below. I do feel a hundred times more confident about working with knit fabrics than I did this time last year, being excited about using my overlocker made such a difference! I do still prefer working with wovens as there's something about the unpredictability of one knit compared to the next unnerves me, but I'm more confident about getting a good result now. My final goal last year was to push myself to try new sewing techniques and I really feel like I achieved this one and then some! This year I worked with so many fabrics I never thought I'd try, I boned garments, mastered zips and rolled hems, used every foot on my sewing machine and made shirts, t-shirts, dresses, skirts, coats and cardigans.

To look back in more detail I've roughly adopted the format of Gillian's Top 5 Series as it's a great concise way to look back over the year. I'm just going to do hits, misses and goals and I'm starting with the hits!

  • Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress - This dress is hands down the best thing I have ever made. And I can't believe I'm saying that about something made from silk chiffon! I put a lot of time and thought into all elements of this and it's proof that taking your time and putting in the effort pays off.
  • Striped Italian Cotton Shirt - Second best thing I've ever made. It's the fourth shirt I've made, counting two Archer's for myself and one previous Negroni, and the closest to a professional finish I've as yet achieved. So proud of that collar and stripe matching.
  • White Russian Sweatshirts - I know these are technically two of my five garments but I'm counting them as one. These have become total wardrobe staples and I feel great in them. They would be my most worn garment of the year if it wasn't for...
  • Polka Dot Laurel Blouse - I love this top. When I don't know what to wear in the morning I fall back on this every time. It's flattering and comfortable and fits so great. I've since made three more variations of this pattern which will be making an appearance soon!
  • Pink Floral Flora Dress - I had a hard time picking my 5th hit as there are so many other garments I made this year which I love but in the end it had to be this dress. It was one of those instances when the match of pattern and fabric work out perfectly and despite the pink being a total departure from the norm feels just so very 'me'.

And now for the misses. I haven't made anything this year which I would count as entirely a huge failure as every project has taught me something important but there's often something about a completed garment which means I'm not quite satisfied with it once worn. Next year I'm going to take some projects a little slower and set myself more realistic deadlines. Towards the end of this year I taught myself that a bit of time with the unpicker can make a huge difference!

  • Polka Dot Chloe Blazer - Despite being really proud of this as my first venture into tailoring and wearing it a lot in the spring this has recently found it's way into the charity shop bag as now my skills have developed I can't stop seeing the flaws in it.
  • First Striped Renfrew Top - I'm still not entirely sure what went so wrong with this one but it ended up huge compared to the other two. Add to that the poor quality fabric and this one was destined for the bin.
  • Tie-Dye Gabriola Maxi Skirt - I adore the swish of this skirt and fit over the hips but my super cheap fabric choice let this garment down. The thin polyester sticks to my legs and feels horrible to wear. I've got plans for a soft voile version for this summer.
  • Dior Linen Look Silvia Dress - I'm so disappointed that this isn't the success I wanted it to be as the fabric is so gorgeous. Luckily I still have enough left for another project. The fit on this is poor and the tulip skirt doesn't feel flattering. 
  • White Floral Flora Dress - I really liked this dress when I finished it but it got the grand total of zero wears this summer as every time I put it on something just didn't feel right. The skirt length feels odd on me without heels and my decision to self line the bodice in the cupro was a bad one. Despite actually being a good fit, in a double layer of this fabric combined with the scale of the print it feels voluminous and unflattering.

The main thing I established last year is that, whilst I enjoy the satisfaction of completing a quick project in an afternoon, it's the learning aspect of sewing that I enjoy the most and giving myself new challenges is what inspires me to keep going. Whether it be working with a different fabric, learning a new technique or making a particular type of garment for the first time there's always more to learn and I love that. I've managed to tick off a fair few things on my technique checklist this year as well as adding quite a few new ones! Next year I'd like to keep going with this, keep learning and keep trying new things. Some of the specific challenges I'm interested in are:

  • Sewing jeans. Despite sewing up some fairly frivolous garments (mainly for the enjoyment of learning how to make them!) I spend a lot of my time in jeans, tops and trainers for work. So I think it's about time I made myself a pair of the most used things in my wardrobe! This goal will hopefully be ticked off fairly quickly as I'm already armed with Heather Lou's Ginger Jeans pattern (exactly the style I like), my supplies and her detailed sew-along to hold my hand.
  • Tailoring. After my dabble in tailored garments with the Chloe Blazer piqued my interest in sewing this kind of clothing I decided I needed to go right back to basics and do some research into tailoring techniques before trying again. My brother got me Claire Schaeffer's 'Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques' for Christmas and I'm enjoying this as much as her initial couture book. Does anyone have any more recommendations for tailoring advice or good patterns to begin with? I would definitely like to make a coat but don't think I'll get time to do my research and make one well before the end of winter so that might have to wait until autumn.
  • Bra making. I've been going back and forth on feeling inspired to try this one, I think as it seems like SUCH a different thing to what I normally sew. Just getting to grips with the materials required gets my head into a bit of a spin! But then I see some of the bras that you guys have been making (I'm looking at you Novita, Tasia and Caroline!) and I don't think I'm going to be able to resist trying it myself! I'm tempted to treat myself to 'Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction' by Norma Loehr from Orange Lingerie which I've heard really good things about but think I might leave this goal until later in the year when I can give it some more focus.
  • Working on fit. I tend to dive into new sewing challenges headfirst without much fear but the one aspect of sewing which I still feel nervous about is fit! This was actually one of my goals last year and while I have got better at noticing problems with the fit of my clothes (and now find it so difficult to buy RTW because of this!) I still feel quite overwhelmed by the enormity of the subject at times. It's the identification of the correct resolution to the problem that I tend to find difficult as there seems to be such a huge number of possible adjustments and reasons for wrinkles/excess fabric or drag lines. I'm going to try and not get too bogged down in labelling the problem and instead look at it more simply in terms of where fabric needs adding or removing. All advice will be much appreciated so if you ever spot a fit issue please feel free to comment!
  • Drafting my own blocks/slopers. The main reason I'm keen to do this is so I can compare my blocks to commercial patterns to get an idea of the fitting problems I might encounter before I even begin. I'm particularly hoping this will help when it comes to trouser fitting! Upon the recommendation of a few people I asked for Winifred Aldrich's 'Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear' for Christmas to help with this goal. I've never been all that inspired to start drafting my own patterns but a quick flick through the guidance that this book provides has already slightly changed this...we'll have to see what happens!

Despite these ambitions all I aim for next year is to continue enjoying sewing as much as I do now. I do want to sew clothes I'll wear but I also want to sew what I WANT to sew. Although I wear a lot of handmade clothes sewing is my hobby and is more to me than a way providing myself with something to wear. I sometimes like to sew things that I might not wear more than once just for the enjoyment and experience of making them and I see that on it's own as a worthwhile investment. I'm definitely going to continue this in 2015! I also don't want to put pressure on myself to complete projects to unrealistic deadlines (or even to complete them at all!) or to sew when I might not be in the mood. Here's to a year of successful and enjoyable sewing in 2015!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

December Indie Pattern Update!

Sorry that last month's update of news from the Independent Sewing Pattern community is coming to you a little later than usual. I allowed myself to become completely absorbed in the festive season this year and am only just getting back on track! I hope you all enjoyed some time off with your loved ones too and are looking forward to 2015! It's been a slightly quieter month as I'm sure designers have all taken some well earned time off but I'm sure more snippets of news have fallen through the cracks than usual so feel free to make additions to the list in the comments. I've only included news up to the new year, anything that has happened in the last couple of days will be included in January's update.

New Pattern Companies/First Releases!

  • I've long been a fan of The Little Tailoress so I was really excited to see Ami launch her very first PDF pattern this month. The pattern is called the Emmeline Tee and is a versatile dart-less tee for knit or woven fabrics; I particularly love the sequin version. It's also worth taking a look at Ami's tutorials as she has some amazing sewing skills, just check out her collection of coats!

New Patterns

  • April Rhodes released the Popover Poncho pattern. It looks like a great pattern for a beginner and features a cosy cowl neck and hoodie style front pocket. A lovely way to showcase a spectacular fabric I think.
  • There have been some great seasonally appropriate new releases over the last couple of months and Jennifer Lauren has just added the Enid Sweater to the mix. It fits perfectly with her usual Vintage aesthetic and has a bias cut bodice with options for a square or rounded neckline. This is also the first of her patterns to be available in two additional larger sizes.
  • I've been toying with the idea of making myself a coat as I desperately need a new one but I don't really have the time at the minute to do it properly. Seeing the release of Pauline Alice's new Quart Coat nearly made me take the plunge anyway. I absolutely love the unique design details of it and have a feeling that if I don't make it this winter I will for next!
  • Another coat pattern to tempt us is Marilla Walker's Freemantle Coat. It's an on trend cocoon style with three variations including a shorter jacket. She also shared a knit version on her blog the other day which looks great as an oversized cardigan!
  • If you're on the hunt for the perfect t-shirt pattern for you Lindsay Woodward has recently released the Phlox Tee. It's a lovely basic with a number of sleeve and neckline variations. 
  • Thread Theory released their very first womenswear pattern! I must admit that I have bought a couple of the men's sewing patterns but haven't yet sewn them up because the lure of sewing something for myself normally wins...maybe I'll have more success with the Camas Blouse! It's an elegant design with a yoke, v neck and narrow front button plackets.
  • Cali Faye released the Brenna Coat. It's a PDF pattern with a modern oversized cut and relaxed draped style. I'm looking forward to seeing this made up in a variety of fabrics!
  • The most recent release from Compagnie M is the Julia Sweater. It fears dolman sleeves and large cuffs and is a PDF pattern for knit fabrics.
  • Melissa from Fehr Trade released the Surf to Summit Top which I think has to be her best activewear release yet! Not only are there patterns for both women and men, it has numerous variations and optional extras to make it suitable for a whole variety of sports from a surfing to cycling.
  • The third and latest release from Muse Patterns is the Natalie Dress. It's another pattern for knits and has three length options. I love the slightly 1940s style gathering and triangular panel at the centre of the bust!


  • Marilla Walker hinted that she will be releasing a tights pattern soon after drafting a block to make up a number of really impressive pairs for herself over December. Those lacy ones are my favourite!
  • Itch to Stitch put out a call for testers for the new Idyllwild Top & Dress at the start of the month. I'm really looking forward to this knit pattern. With all the variations of necklines and sleeves it's possible to create 42 different garments! Kennis has set up a private Facebook group for testers to discuss their findings which I think is a fantastic idea.


  • Rhonda from Rhonda's Creative Life ran a sew-along throughout December on the Sew News blog for the Sewaholic Robson Coat. I absolutely love this pattern and highly recommend it for a first experience of sewing outerwear, the addition of the sew-along will make it even easier!
  • The sew-along for Christine Haynes' Marianne Dress is starting on her blog on 6th January. If you've ever wanted to make yourself the perfect breton knit dress now is your chance!

Other Exciting News

  • Papercut PatternsSigma Dress and Riegel Bomber patterns are now available as PDFs. I've had my eye on that bomber for ages and what with the Riegel Bomber January challenge happening too it's now even more tempting!
  • The latest addition to Sewaholic's PDF pattern arsenal is the Alma Blouse. Tasia must be getting close to having her whole collection available in digital form! 

And here's your monthly dose of Indie sewing inspiration to give your 2015 sewing a kick start!

  • Sonja's Isabel Marant inspired sweatshirt version of Papercut Pattern's Undercover Hoodie made me want to straight up copy it I liked it so much! A great use of colour blocking to personalise a wardrobe staple.
  • Amanda's pineapple print Colette Iris Shorts are so fun! What a brilliant fabric. I can't wait for summer to come around this side of the equator so I can make up some printed shorts of my own!
  • Carly in Stitches actually made up the Thread Theory Finlayson Sweater for her nephew but I love it on her! I love the fair isle ponte she found and her decision to combine it with plain black for the collar, cuffs and hem.
  • Jennifer did an amazing job on her electric blue Sewaholic Minoru Jacket. Doesn't that colour look amazing on her?!
  • Karen used an absolutely stunning silk for her Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse and got such a beautiful finish on all the lovely details. The buttons and loops on the cuffs are to die for!