Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Gingham Linen Aura Dress

Now that I have been sewing for a good number of years it is very rare that I see an item of clothing and think 'I want that, exactly as it is. Same fabric, same cut, same fit, same details, no tweaks necessary.' The inspiration for my sewing projects generally comes from an assortment of places and I like to tweak the details of a pattern to suit the image in my head. However, when I saw on Instagram the Aura Dress that Sandy made I absolutely had to have it. And so I did! 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Aura Dress in Gingham Linen from The Fabric Store

Sandy used paprika gingham linen from The Fabric Store to make her dress and I did exactly the same...even down to the same colour! I'm really drawn to warm and spicy tones like this paprika at the moment and I think the richness of the colour helps to make the gingham feel contemporary rather than twee. I've definitely been sucked right into the gingham trend this summer and have a few pieces waiting to be cut. Linen (in particular this mid-weight linen) is such a great choice for this pattern as it retains a bit of crispness and oomph when washed which is great for this dress as I think you want a bit of structure to hold the clean lines of the front wrap and of course to really make the most of that sleeve shape. I love that the sleeves definitely hit that perfect balance of being a bit statement sleeve which remains very wearable and not too dramatic. I marvelling at how lovely this linen was while I worked. It has such lovely slubs and a beautiful rumply softness and which makes it delightful to wear (and sew with). I can see why Sandy got more of it in a different colour to make her beautiful version of the Hallon Dress which is also on my summer wish-list.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Aura Dress in Gingham Linen from The Fabric Store

I'd already been considering making an Aura Dress (a design from the most recent collection from Papercut Patterns) as it felt like a really good choice of attire for a summer wedding and combines a number of things I'm feeling drawn to right now; big sleeves, wrap styles and midi lengths. But I felt like it might be a tricky style to get right on my body. I normally find fitting Papercut patterns a little tricky - they're just not drafted for my body shape so usually require more alterations than some other pattern companies. So for this one I assembled my PDF and prepared to put in some work to get this style to suit me. I began with grading between the sizes which best matched my bust, waist and hip. This is quite a fitted style so I wanted it to fit correctly in all three areas. I currently measure 33.5" bust, 27.5" waist and 38" hip - which translates to size 2-3 bust, 3-4 waist and 3-4 hip in Papercut sizing. I opted to cut the 2 at the bust as I'm quite small in the shoulder, 3 at the waist (as there is a bit of extra ease for wrapping in that area) and a 4 at the hip to be on the safe side as I've previously found their patterns to be a little snug in this area.

The next step of fitting for me is always to check the length as I'm 5ft 3" and most patterns are drafted for taller people than I. On a number of occasions I've been able to resolve problems I've had with fit by shortening the pattern so that everything is sitting in the right place. If a dress is tight across the hips and you're short it might be that the widest point of the garment is sitting too low and your hips are trying to fit into the narrower area just below the waist e.t.c. For me it is quite often that a pattern is too long in the upper chest/shoulder as that is where I am short proportionally. For the Aura Dress I looked carefully at the finished garment measures and measured the length of my pattern pieces and was amazed to find that it looked to be the right length for me. It looked like the bust darts would sit at the right height and the waistline. I was really doubting myself but decided not to shorten it at all in the end and am beyond happy with how it turned out!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Aura Dress in Gingham Linen from The Fabric Store

Looking at the photos it looks like I have a tiny bit of excess above the bust on my right hand side but I actually think that it is to do with the way the dress is sitting as I haven't noticed it otherwise and it feels very comfortable. The dress doesn't fall down off the shoulders but due to the wide v at the front and back it does move around a bit and feel like it might. There is no tension at either the back or front keeping it in place if you get what I mean. To combat this and make it suitable for dancing at weddings (SOON PLEASE SOON!!!) I think I'll add a couple of little loops for my bra straps at the shoulder.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Aura Dress in Gingham Linen from The Fabric Store

I was worried about the wrap front gaping open if the bodice was too long for me and one of the adjustments I considered was taking it up a little bit at the shoulder. However, I'm pleased I didn't fiddle around with it as I could not be more delighted with the fit of the bodice. Plunging wrap necklines are notoriously hard to fit but this sits nice and snugly against the body and the neckline is the perfect depth for me. I'm really pleased with how smoothly the back v sits against the body too. This linen is quite tightly woven but I was really careful with these bias cut edges so that they didn't stretch out as I worked. It helps that the facing is interfaced and therefore doesn't stretch so when you pin this to the main fabric you can check they are still the same length.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Aura Dress in Gingham Linen from The Fabric Store

I love every aspect of this design, the length, the size and length of the sleeves, the proportions of the waist tie and the shaping at the ends of them. I've said it before and I'll say it again; I always enjoy sewing a Papercut pattern as there is usually something a little bit unusual about the design and construction which makes me think and often try something new. When I'm sewing I really enjoy learning something about how fabric pieces come together to make three dimensional shapes and I think Papercut are really good at being creative about this whilst still remaining accessible and wearable. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Aura Dress in Gingham Linen from The Fabric Store

Their instructions are well thought out and give you all the information you need to achieve a lovely clean finish but don't hold your hand through the techniques as some more beginner friendly patterns do. I did get a bit confused about why some areas of the design involve topstitching (the rear facing of the bodice and hem) but then you finish off that long front facing by slipstitching it down by hand. I felt like you should either just topstitch the whole thing or hand sew. If I make enough I think I'll put the time in and hand sew it as it was well worth the effort down the front. The centre front facing is shaped and varies in width so might look a bit odd topstitched. I love the clean finish across the front wrap.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Aura Dress in Gingham Linen from The Fabric Store

The cuffs of the sleeves are elasticated which I was a little put off by as I never find elasticated elements very comfortable. However, these worked out great! And you really need the tension of the elasticated cuff to get the sleeve to sit high enough up forearm to give the shape.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Papercut Patterns Aura Dress in Gingham Linen from The Fabric Store

The pattern also includes a skirt variation which I will definitely be making! Possibly in a winter appropriate gingham... I love the straight cut and the way the wrap crosses over just enough to retain modesty but still flashes a bit of leg when you move. Had I not made this dress I don't think I would have really looked twice at the skirt. This has really made me think about additional variations of patterns that I may have overlooked before... dresses often steal the limelight of a truly beautiful skirt or blouse variation don't you think? I'm going to have to look back through my pattern library to find those hidden gems. 

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Viscose Print Wilder Gown

I usually tend to start with the pattern when I'm planning sewing projects. I'm either inspired by the pattern itself or by a style of garment and then find a pattern to match or hack. However, on this occasion I started with the fabric and am so pleased I did as this has turned into one of the most joyous items of clothing in my wardrobe! A couple of months ago Polina from Good Fabric reached out to me to see I would be interested in reviewing a fabric from her online store. I was very happy to have the opportunity to work with her as all of the fabrics she stocks have a variety of sustainable and eco-friendly credentials and are drop dead gorgeous to boot!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Friday Pattern Company Wilder Gown in Cousette Viscose Print from Good Fabric

Monday, 17 May 2021

Yarn Dyed Linen Zero Waste Gathered Top

I have been intrigued by zero waste sewing patterns for some time now and there seem to be more of them available lately. I recently updated my list of Independent Sewing Pattern Designers to include a number of companies who have zero waste patterns if you'd like to explore. The idea of a zero waste garment is that it uses up every little bit of the fabric you have, using clever tessellating pattern pieces to leave you without even a tiny scrap left over. I'm always quite careful when buying fabric to not buy more than I need and often lay out the pattern pieces prior to purchase to figure out how little I can get it out of as pattern designers often over estimate to avoid disappointment. Despite this I still end up with large amounts of unusable awkward shaped and sized scraps which I never know what to do with in an environmentally responsible manner. A lot of work and resources go into the making of every single piece of fabric so shouldn't we do our best to use and not waste every single scrap?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

The designer I have been particularly drawn to is Birgitta Helmersson who sells zero waste clothing as well as the digital patterns for some of her designs. I love the aesthetic of her designs and the patterns felt quite accessible. I've also seen some gorgeous versions of the ZW Gather Dress and ZW Cropped Shirt on Instagram. This here is the ZW Gather Dress hacked into a top.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

Looking at the different cutting plans for the three pattern hacks included with the pattern actually taught me a lot about the creativity and problem solving that goes into zero waste cutting. I opted to use the gathered sleeve hack which involves omitting the side seam pockets to enable you to increase the width of the sleeve and add a band to finish the cuff. Seeing how the pattern cutting layout changed for the different hacks really helped me to understand what is possible on a simple level with rectangular shapes. For example you could also omit the side seam pockets to increase the width of the sleeve and use patch pockets instead.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

I've had this beautiful yarn dyed linen (originally from The Fabric Store) in my stash for a while now. I've had various ideas for it but when I was rummaging through for something to suit this project it seemed like the ideal candidate. However, I only had 2m and this dress requires 2.6m. I carefully looked over the cutting plan for the pattern to see if there was anything I could do to make it work and ultimately decided to make the longest dress I could with the fabric I had. This meant a dress 30cm shorter than intended. Unfortunately, once sewn up it was just a fraction too short for me to be comfortable in. The billowing nature of this dress means it moves around a lot while you walk and there was too much potential for flashing! I did think about using a tiny hem instead of the deep hem the pattern has but the neckband piece is then not long enough as it is cut at the same length as the dress, then the extra band you need to get around the back of the neck is accounted for by the deep hem. Instead I decided to turn it into a top which I now absolutely adore! Obviously cutting a chunk off the hem no longer makes it zero-waste but at least I have a bit useable rectangle and no little annoying scraps to throw out. If you'd like to make the top version without wasting anything this top used exactly 1.5m of fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

My yarn dyed linen has stripes which you will noticed are nowhere near matched. Zero waste pattern cutting prescribes where each pattern piece has to be cut in order to use all the fabric and therefore you can't move your pattern pieces about to match the pattern. Pattern matching can actually create an awful lot of fabric waste, particularly when attempting to match a large print. Not matching the stripes on this doesn't bother me at all as I'm not particularly fussed about pattern matching unless it is a really obvious bold stripe or check.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

One thing you will notice about this dress is that it is a VERY oversized style. I could quite literally take 4" out of each side seam and it would still be roomy! But I kind of love it...If we get a hot summer I will definitely be making more versions in the dress length to swan about in. When making the dress I probably would reduce the width of it slightly...but then of course it might not be zero waste. What I'd need to do to avoid wastage is use a fabric which is narrower to begin with. The width of this dress hinges entirely on the width of the fabric you start with. The pattern has only two sizes (I made the smaller which covers UK sizes 8-16) and it does state that you can use fabrics from 135cm to 155cm wide. My linen was 140cm wide so on the lower end of that but it is still big! I would suggest that if you are on the smaller end of the size range you can definitely get away with even narrower fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

As the top is so roomy I sewed the buttons on directly through both layers and the closed button holes as I'll never need them to function to get it on and off. The little wooden buttons are also from my stash and the label is from The Craftivist Collective. The linen has a crispness and body that gives this style great volume and shape. I love the wearable drama of it. Many of the versions I've seen have been sewn up in linen or cotton but I also like the idea of making this in a fluid and drapey Tencel or viscose for a completely different effect. However, I think making it in this type of fabric would be more challenging as the crispness of the linen made it easy to draw the shapes directly on to the fabric and sew it up accurately.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

Despite being drawn directly onto the fabric using the measurements in the instructions there are still notches to follow and the garment comes together very smoothly and easily. The most time consuming part is certainly the gathering. The instructions are fairly thorough with hand drawn illustrations and some different constructions techniques that definitely feel a little more commercial than home sewing. The instructions reminded me a little bit of Tessuti patterns which I like as they usually get me to try something new.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

This pattern is mainly based around square and rectangular shaped which are obviously fairly straightforward to tesselate together to use up all the fabric. However, doing a bit of reading into the subject has made me aware of much more complex curved and spiral shaped pattern pieces which can also be zero waste. Mind boggling! This pattern eases you in to the zero waste thought process with a couple of curved and small pieces cut away from the neckline which are added back into the garment as facings. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

The neckline facing serves a bit of a purpose (as well as being decorative) as it reinforces that edge and also gives you a place to insert a label. The two triangular pieces cut away from the front neckline are inserted into the side seams just above the hem which is a purely decorative feature. I really like this unique little touch and it opened my mind to the creative thinking involved in making a pattern zero waste. Every tiny scrap of fabric is incorporated into this dress. You don't even trim or grade any seam allowances. Inserting the side seam facings was the one step of the instructions that I did get confused about and I had to refer to the handy photographed tutorial on the Birgitta Helmersson website to make sense of it. There are a handful of other tutorials on there as well as additional pattern hacks.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

I feel like making this encouraged me to drop a lot of my traditional thinking about sewing and construction and go with the flow, joining flat pieces of fabric together to make a three dimensional garment. I REALLY enjoyed it. It felt really freeing and reminded me of working on pattern's from Rosie's book 'No Patterns Needed'. The patterns in that book aren't zero waste but are constructed out of geometric shapes that you measure out directly on to the fabric. The deep v tunic in there is constructed out of rectangles and is one of my most worn garments to date. I made this top 5 years ago when I was less comfortable in my sewing skills. At that time the lack of pattern pieces made me a little panicked but this time around, now I understand garment construction better it was really liberating! I'm keen to try more zero waste patterns - do you have any you would recommend?

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Broderie Anglaise Coeli Blouse

I was drawn to the Coeli Blouse from Pauline Alice when it was first released last year. It was the sleeves which hooked me! I love the big balloon shape combined with the beautiful tuck detail. But two things delayed me from sewing this up. Firstly I wasn't sure about the high neck collar in combination with this voluminous style on me; it felt like it could potentially be a bit overwhelming and I might get a bit lost in it. Secondly I had a hard time deciding what fabric to use. You obviously don't want anything too thick and bulky with all that gathering but I wanted something with enough body to really amp up the drama of the sleeves. I didn't want to use a print and loose the tucks in it but I also felt like the fabric needed a bit of texture or something going on in it to break up the expanse of fabric. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pauline Alice Coeli Blouse in Broderie Anglaise from Simply Fabrics