Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Pattern Review: The Calendar Dress by Frankie & Ray in Japanese Military Chambray

That's quite a mouthful of a blog post title, isn't it? But when it comes to pattern reviews, very descriptive probably beats snappy headline any day.

**NB: post edited to add - pattern errata alert from designer: front panel of dress is 3cm too long... we advise cutting as-is then trimming before hemming**

We were eager to try out the brand new Calendar Dress by Australian designer-maker Jo Dunsmuir of Frankie & Ray. Jo's other releases the Box Top, Anna Knickers and West Coast Skirt have really hit the mark as wardrobe basics, and are excellent for beginners onwards.


(Apologies, it's my rubbish photos, not the printing, or your eyes.)

The Calendar Dress is a classic 'smock dress' style which can be made sleeveless or with a mid-length sleeve, designed for easy rolling up. It has magnificently large, lined patch pockets and a gentle gather under the front bodice, and falls straight at the back. Neckline is bias-bound and the dress pulls on easily with no closures. You can also make it in a shirt length (particularly gorgeous in Liberty Tana Lawn as you can see if you haunt the Frankie & Ray Instagram.)

This was our first time using our 8oz Japanese Military Chambray and we were very taken with how it came out of a pre-wash: much softened but still a good mid-weight, and with the indigo aglow.

The sizing on the Calendar Dress is very generous and for the first time in years I found myself cutting a size S. (I'd be lying if I said this didn't give me a small thrill, although I shouldn't care, and a large part of me - perhaps my hips - doesn't.) The dress is quite loose through the waist and hips so bust measurement is most critical. By some black magic there's no bust dart which makes this an even friendlier project for beginners.

The pockets, being lined, hold their shape well and the lining also makes it easier to achieve the lovely rounded bottom corners. (Hands up - with scalded fingertips - if you've ever struggled to press nice curves into patch pockets with just a turned in edge? I'm never making an unlined curved patch pocket again.They're wonderfully capacious and would make a great feature if you decided to use a contrast fabric. They'd look great with topstitching or some embroidery, although we were enjoying the chambray so much we just left them plain.

If you are making the sleeved version, be sure to mark front and back of the sleeve as shown on the pattern piece: it's written on, not notched. I forgot to, then took the project home and left the pattern at the shop and had no reference. I sewed the first sleeve on the wrong way, but figured out my mistake when there was more ease in the front, oops. On the whole this came together quickly and easily, with the trickiest part being easing in the sleeves (although this is done 'on the flat' before the arm and side seams are sewn as one, so it's less fiddly than a set in sleeve).

We've both worn this dress for photos to show how it looks on different shapes. Very conveniently, for pattern trial purposes, we are similar sizes yet different body shapes. This version is made with no alterations so it's an accurate shop sample.

On Jane, who has narrow, sloping shoulders, the sleeve cap feels a bit high. There's enough ease in the sleeve that this could probably be helped by just shaving a couple of centimetres off the top of the sleeve curve. For an example of this fit issue and solution in another dress, see this review of the Papercut Skipper.  The sleeve has a nice deep hem, perfect for wearing cuffed, as we both have here.

Yes, those pockets are irresistibly gigantic and magnets for hands! Fiona managed to tear her hands out of there for a moment to better show the sleeve shape.

Fiona has broader, straighter shoulders, and whilst it's a subtle difference, the shoulder area sits better. On both of us, there's loads of room in the sleeve. The chambray still has quite a bit of body so with softening (or a drapier fabric) the sleeve would relax a lot.

It's a comfy sleeve and good for layering, but we'd both choose to make this as a sleeveless pinafore, or take some volume out of the sleeve, for personal preference. I'm extremely tempted to remove the sleeves, bind the armholes and take this Calendar Dress home but... the shop needs a sample! I think a sleeveless version for me might be on the cards though because I keep thinking about it every time I look at this one hanging in the shop.

Sleeves or no sleeves, this pattern is very approachable for beginner sewists, suitable alone or for layering and forgiving in fit for a wide range of body shapes. It's a 'smock' in the best sense of the word. The neckline is a lovely shape, the gathering under the bust gives visual interest and swingy comfort, yet combined with the straight back, it has quite a compact silhouette and is fabric-efficient. Hooray for a designer who sews and sells her own designs and thinks carefully about wise fabric use!

I chose to bind the neckline with some self-made Liberty bias tape (I thought 'What Would Jo Do?' and the answer was definitely 'bind with Liberty!') but there would have been enough fabric to cut self-bias for this purpose, too.

PATTERN: The Calendar Dress by Frankie and Ray

FABRIC: 100% cotton 8oz Japanese Military Chambray

SIZE: S (range XS, bust 94-102cm to XL, bust 114-116cm), no alterations for this shop sample, which customers are welcome to try on.

COMMENTS: Note errata at top of post. (We assumed it was our mistake and corrected as we went, it's no big deal.) We can imagine the Calendar Dress being one of those friendly garments you just reach for over and over, for its simplicity, ease and practicality. And for that 'art teacher smock' vibe. What do you think?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

In the Folds/Peppermint Magazine Pleated Summer Dress

Spending time in the shop talking to sewing people most days, it’s always interesting to us to hear which sewing related tasks entice some people and send others running. We all have our favourites and the things we dread, whether it’s inserting collars, installing an invisible zip or sewing buttonholes. On my personal Top Ten List of Enjoyable Things To Sew, plackets would have to bring up the rear around 10. Perhaps minus 10. Give me a collar or a buttonhole over a placket any day! Love the look of them, I’m just not a fan of sewing them.

So when Emily from In The Folds released the (free download!) Pleated Summer Dress for Peppermint magazine's Sewing School last year, I was excited, yet also not excited to get cracking. I did suspect though, that if anyone was going to help me join team placket it would be Emily. 

The Pleated Summer Dress is a midi length dress featuring in seam pockets, waist pleats and of course that good looking yet pesky concealed front placket. I chose to make mine from this very soft, striped washed linen (now sold out, but other striped linen options here, here and here).

Like all In The Folds patterns, this one is beautifully drafted and thoughtfully written with thorough directions. It’s a loose fitting dress with lots of ease built in. This one is for a more intermediate sewist. It’s a methodical make, but nothing too challenging. Pleasingly, even for the placket averse like me, even the placket was fine, its one-piece construction was something I’d never come across before. Fun even… who knew!?


Style wize, this was a bit of a fingers-crossed make for me. I’m only 5’6 and on the curvy side so I wasn’t sure if the volume of all those pleats would suit me. But, after whipping up a muslin I decided to give it a crack with roughly 20cm off the length and without the in-seam pockets.

As far as 'accidental modifications' go, I made a mistake when binding the collar about which was the right side of my fabric (right and wrong are practically identical on this linen), so I ended up with the bias turned to the inside instead of exposed. Rather than unpicking this soft, loosely woven linen, I just went with it and did the same for the arm binding too in the hope that it looks intentional. 

back yoke
I also ended up taking about an inch out of each side-seam at the bodice and top of the skirt. My muslin was made using a fairly stiff cotton fabric, so when it came to the real thing in this extremely soft, slightly loose weave linen, the whole thing grew a bit. We know that some of the softer washed linens can have this effect, so I should have known better, but I hoped the drape of the linen would compensate and make this oversized frock work on me. Nope! But all fixed after some side seam surgery.

Even though it’s Autumn now in the southern hemisphere, I anticipate I’ll still get a lot of layered-up wear out of the Pleated Summer Dress. It would work so well pinafore-style made out of a heavier washed linen like this or even this washed denim. I’m even tempted to placket again!

The Pleated Summer Dress pattern is downloadable for free via Peppermint Mag here

- Fiona & Jane xx

Friday, April 6, 2018

In The Folds / Peppermint Jumpsuit in Japanese Selvedge Denim

I posted about my first version of the Jumpsuit pattern designed by Emily of In The Folds for Peppermint Magazine, back last spring. I've had a tremendous amount of wear from it, both on its own and layered over t-shirts. (As an aside the Outback Wife barkcloth is holding up extremely well.) The idea of a denim version has been building in my mind's eye for a while. And you know how we like to selflessly test out our new fabrics for you, don't you? The new Japanese 'Nep' Selvedge Denim wasn't going to test itself. So a denim jumpsuit came to be.

A few minor changes make this version more kind of overalls/workwear style:
  • Zip changed from centre back seam to centre front (I used a shorter zip which ends at about my navel, as the roominess of the jumpsuit still makes it easy to get on and off). 
  • Snap tab added at top of zip.
  • More patch pockets, five in total.
  • Topstitching on leg inseam, neckline and armholes.
  • Small triangles of leather reinforce stress points at underarms and centre back neckline.
  • Optional tie belt omitted. 

The only other change from the pattern was as per my first version, with 1.5" removed from the bodice and 1.5" from the legs at the lengthen/shorten lines.

I topstitched in orange and cream and added rivets to the pockets, for strength and, let's face it, because adding rivets to denim is just incredibly satisfying!

Zip is a sturdy metal YKK brand from The Button Bar. I used a couple of different tutorials - mostly this Papercut one - to work out how to insert it in the 'exposed zip' style. I thought a zip shield on the inside might be needed to protect my skin from the back of the zip but so far, no discomfort. Some sort of button or snap tab for the top was part of my orginal vision. When I miscalculated my zip insertion and the top ended up a couple of centimetres shy of the v-neck edge, well, it became a necessity! You know, we sewists like to call it a 'design feature'. Snap was from my stash, but Adelaide Leather and Saddlery have quite a few of these kinds of things, as well as the rivets used here. (Sold in packs of 100. Rivets on all the things!) They also have Tiny Anvils, which just might be the sewing tool you never knew you needed, until now.... #enabler

Since the outer leg seam of the Jumpsuit is too curved to be placed on the fabric selvedge (for look-at-my-selvedge cuffs), I featured the denim selvedge on a couple of the pockets instead.

Other than the zip and my extra embellishments, construction was pretty much as per the instructions. I had to add a seam allowance to the front facing and cut it in two pieces instead of on the fold, and the reverse for the back facing, because I swapped the zip from back to front. When it came to attaching the all-in-one facing, I was pretty sure the pattern's clever burrito method wouldn't quite work with the bulk of my denim. I used the method but stopped sewing before the narrowest part of the shoulder, and started again on the other side of the shoulder, so that stayed open to help me pull the fabric through. Once all turned, the remaining seam allowances were then quite easily tucked in and topstitched. Even so, a few stitches at the centre back V ripped with the effort of wrestling all that fabric through small openings. After hand-stitching it back together, I decided to reinforce this point with a scrap of leather. It's rather neat how many denim details - rivets, topstitching, bar tacks, button tabs etc - are born from a need for durability and function, but also serve as attractive visual features.

After a couple of days' wear, one of the side seams was showing stress at the underarm, so leather patches went on there as well.

The denim was lovely to sew with: not too thick, very stable, presses beautifully. After a few wears I gave it a machine wash for the sake of fabric research. (It wasn't really dirty and one of the things we love about denim is its infrequent washing needs.) It has softened up beautifully, and the slight fluffy/hairy appearance of the surface has become more apparent. Dye bleed was minimal, shrinkage little to none and the indigo colour has lightened/brightened just a touch.

I'm ridiculously pleased with this jumpsuit; it was one of those visions with a slightly uncertain outcome, because I strayed quite far from the fabric recommendations for the pattern and fiddled about with it a bit, but I couldn't be happier! Unlike traditional overalls, the coverage of this style means it doesn't always need a separate top underneath. In our current variable autumn weather I've been wearing it (ahem, a lot) alone and layered. Is there such a thing as too much jumpsuit? I may have to be the guinea pig for that research.

PATTERN: Jumpsuit (free downloadable pattern) by In The Folds for Peppermint Magazine.
FABRIC: Japanese 'Nep' Selvedge Denim, 3.1m x 120cm wide.
ALTERATIONS: shortened by 3" total, changed invisible zip at back to exposed zip at front, added patch pockets, snap tab, leather patches and topstitching.
COMMENTS: Pardon me if I wear this at least every second day for the forseeable future.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pattern Review: Closet Case Morgan Jeans

This post is to celebrate the fact we now stock Closet Case patterns at The Drapery, including the Ginger and Morgan Jeans, and also beautiful 11oz Japanese 'Nep' Selvedge Denim. Mmmm... look:

Of course we love to trial new sewing patterns for you so here's my experience with the Morgan Jeans. I'm not even much of a jeans wearer so how did it happen?

I think it was probably The Refashioners 2016 (a sewing challenge to refashion old jeans) that sent me down a one-way path to denim fascination. I mean, I'd always liked denim, but the beauty of aged and repurposed denim and the construction of jeans was quite beguiling. From there I delved into visible mending of denim in the Japanese 'boro' style (check out this inspiring Instagram account), and repaired and altered a pair of my husband's old jeans for my own casual wear. And I happened upon Heddels, a website devoted to the beauty of high quality denim and related gear. Loads of great information and lustworthy items there!

Last year I was lucky enough to travel to New York to join my husband on a work trip, and I spent a little time at the legendary Mood Fabrics (three floors? four floors? it's overwhelming anyway).

I was there right at the time the news broke of the closure of the White Oak Cone Mills Denim plant. Sadly, the last major denim manufacturing plant in the USA. Naturally, I panic-bought a pile of Cone Mills selvedge denim.

We ordered in the Closet Case patterns and wouldn't you know it, in February, Closet Case was having a 'No Fear Jeans Month' of inspiration and encouragement (so much great info, check it out!) on its blog. Project Morgan Jeans - perfect for selvedge denim - was go.

The Morgan description: "slim boyfriend jeans designed for non-stretch and selvedge denim. Inspired by old school denim style but with a fresh, modern cut, Morgan Jeans are engineered to flatter. Featuring a mid-rise, traditional five pocket construction, contoured waistband, tapered leg and button fly, Morgan fits snugly through the hip but relaxes and conforms to your curves with a little wear."


Selvedge denim refers to denim woven on old-style shuttle looms, where the shuttle loops a continuous thread back and forth from edge to edge creating a smooth finished selvedge left and right. This is in contrast to the fluffy selvedge of thread ends produced by modern projectile looms. Selvedge denim is narrower; generally a good width to cut jeans from with little waste. The selvedge can create a visual feature on the outer leg seam of jeans worn cuffed, and this also means there's no need for other seam finishes here.

We are thrilled to now have beautiful, high quality Japanese selvedge denim available for you at The Drapery!


By some miracle my measurements fit almost perfectly into the Morgan pattern specs, but I made a quick shorts-length muslin from calico, sans-waistband. There's a lot of mention in the pattern about sizing up, for a slouchier fit or in case of being between sizes, so I was curious to see if I liked my size. I did - not restrictive but not baggy - and the fit was very pleasing! I just had to shorten the legs a bit and game on.

After some research I determined that all Cone Mills White Oak denim is (was) sanforized, which means it's pre-shrunk with a big steamy machine. So I (gasp) didn't pre-wash my fabric and am trialling the minimum washing, natural wear/fades kind of thing.


If you're using selvedge denim for your Morgans and you want to maximise the use of the selvedge on those side seams, you'll notice that the sides of the pattern pieces are not 100% straight. No doubt this gives a nice subtle shaping to the leg in non-selvedge denim but I laid the pattern pieces along the selvedge as best as possible and made the side seams totally straight right up to a few inches below the waist. Blokes can probably get away with a completely straight side seam but ladies need to accommodate the curves! I zigzagged the small amount of raw edge caused by cutting away from the selvedge at the top.

I also used the selvedge as a feature on the coin pocket and inside, on the fly shield; details I'd noted in ready-to-wear.


I have salivated over YouTube videos of industrial machines working effortlessly on denim (yes yes, I'm a little obsessional). But with the right needles and threads, and preferably a second sewing machine set up for topstitching, great looking jeans are absolutely possible on domestic sewing machines. The Morgan instruction booklet was great and in any moments of confusion, the Closet Case blog provides a huge backup resource of all things jeans-making. I used the Schmetz jeans needle (2 provided) from the Closet Case jeans hardware kit on my vintage Bernina machine, which powered through the seams in my heavyweight (I think 13.5oz) raw denim. My overlocker, however, slowed to a chug and broke a needle, poor dear, at eight layers. A big ask. Zigzag to the rescue! I only attempted proper flat felled seams at the back yoke due to the bulk. Elsewhere the seams are finished together and topstitched to one side (except for the selvedges).

To topstitch I set up my mum's old Singer 201k on which she learnt to sew as a child. This model is renowned as a powerful machine with a beautiful straight stitch, and with a Schmetz topstitching needle it made the task actually enjoyable rather than stressful. On occasion I used a folded up piece of cardboard to raise the back of the presser foot in order to move over large seam joins more easily, but on the whole it just powered on through. I've never had such luck with topstitching before and if you have access to one of these machines I highly recommend it. Something pleasantly surprising is that topstitching on denim looks impressive even if it's not perfect. Perhaps it's to do with denim's own unpolished charm, its gutsy twill weave and natural coloured weft. In any case I think the eye is quite forgiving and takes in the overall effect. Also, any really bad mistakes are easily visible for unpicking!

I agonised over back pocket topstitching designs on Google, Pinterest and also the fabulous download of 30+ templates from Closet Case. In the end I decided a simple small loop was just right for my budding topstitching skills, and I'm really happy with it. But hey, did you all notice? PINK TOPSTITCHING! Make your own jeans and the power is in your hands to topstitch in any colour you like. I am grateful to the Instagram community for encouraging me to go for pink because I have not regretted it one iota. I also used regular thread in a cream colour for bar tacks, a nice little contrast idea suggested by the lovely and very experienced Marilla Walker via Instagram.

Oh, and we now have a full stand of Gutermann topstitching thread at The Drapery!


Heather Lou of Closet Case was able to give me a good answer to what I thought was an impossible question: how does one sew jeans for weight fluctuations? Because honestly, my girth varies from week to week and this was one of the things making me nervous about sewing jeans. Aside from having pairs in a couple of different sizes, Heather Lou suggests to omit interfacing from the waistband, to create more 'give'. It's great to hear from someone experienced that this is okay to do, and helps with comfort. Having worn these jeans quite a few times already, I'm really glad I asked, and followed the advice. I also wear a belt which, obviously, can be adjusted as necessary.

Because my denim is so heavy I thought I could also omit interfacing in the fly. However I hadn't considered that this is to reinforce for buttons and buttonholes. It's fine, but I am treating my buttons with a bit of extra care because I know they're only set in two layers of denim.

Again due to heavy denim I used my pocket fabric (a cotton lawn/shirting, also from my NY trip) for the inner waistband.


Jeans/denim sewing can involve serious hardware. Like hammers. And when instructions suggest you use a hammer to persuade your seams to flatten out a bit for easier sewing, do NOT grab something else a bit hammer-like and start bashing away on a concrete floor. Okay? That heavy shifter spanner is NOT a hammer and you just don't know which bit of it will hit where and before you know it you'll have an unfortunate hole in the crotch of the jeans you haven't even finished yet in your irreplaceable Cone Mills denim and you'll feel a bit like crying.

And then you'll make it worse with a hasty machine repair and leave it until the morning when you decide to make the best of the situation, cut it out and make a careful, considered, semi-visible repair by hand and just move on. Yep. Please don't do all that. (It's okay, really not visible when I'm wearing them, and I've come to terms with it as part of the long-term mending that will eventually happen as these jeans age. Or a humble tribute of imperfection to the sewing gods. Or something.)


Let's play Spot The Crotch Repair

Yep, it's pretty exciting to reach this part of the process, but also nerve-wracking because you have to put holes in your jeans and use hammers again! A trial run on scrap is a very good idea.

The fly buttonholes are created earlier in the process and my vintage Singer buttonholer attachment made a nice job of these. I used the same cream regular thread (not topstitching) as per the bar tacks. The waistband buttonhole was a different matter as the buttonholer does not like to cooperate with lumpy and thick fabric layers, so I switched over to the three-step buttonhole in satin stitch on the Bernina.

Again I used the great Closet Case instructions (on her blog) for the buttons and rivets and all went well. I love the look of the pinky copper with my pink topstitching against the dark denim.


It's a big undertaking, this jeans business, especially the first pair. But it was absolutely worth every moment, and one of those projects where I was continually spurred on by the exciting results of each step. So here they are being worn!
How do they feel? Like cardboard... but like cardboard that is softening up with wear. Apparently 20oz denim (eek!) is a 'thing' for hardcore raw denim enthusiasts!

A bit jolly excited to have MADE JEANS

PATTERN: Morgan Boyfriend Jeans by Closet Case

FABRIC: 13.5oz Cone Mills Selvedge Denim from USA. Japanese selvedge denim (slightly less hefty and more manageable at 11oz!) now available at The Drapery. You'll need 2 - 2.5m depending on your size.

NOTIONS: Gutermann all-purpose thread and topstitching thread, both available at The Drapery. Closet Case Button Fly Jeans hardware kit, available at The Drapery.

SIZE: Me! (well, 14 if you want numbers, and pattern has US sizes 0 - 20)

ADJUSTMENTS: shortened pattern 2 inches through legs and also removed extra before hemming.

COMMENTS: Sewing jeans makes you feel like a sewing rockstar, kind of invincible. The Morgan pattern is a casual, classic style that I feel comfortable in and for me, the sizing and fit are excellent. If I made these again I'd try making a few small fit adjustments, but one of denim's loveliest features is its ability to shape to your body over time, so I'm expecting these to get better and better with wear. It's hard to make general comments on fit because of course body shapes are so different. However I recommend you take careful body measurements as instructed (e.g. waist measurement = your natural waist, but finished garment measurement is larger because waistband sits lower).

If you've been on the fence about this jeans thing, Closet Case will hold your hand all the way, and we can sort you out for all the makings. And really, if you've read this far, you must be pretty interested... that was a marathon! You deserve your own me-made jeans. Go for it.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The True Bias Ogden Cami in gingham seersucker

Are you thinking ‘here we go… yet ANOTHER person rabbiting on about that camisole pattern? Yes? If so I fully admit to knowing where you're coming from. The True Bias Ogden Cami must be be one of the most sewn patterns in the indie pattern/Instagram/sewing/blogging world since it was released back in 2016. It’s been almost impossible to scroll through ones Instagram feed without seeing another version of it sewn as is, lengthened into a dress, turned into PJs or otherwise customised. Not being much of a camisole person myself, I guiltily admit to having glazed over now and again when it has come to all this cami-love.
So. You know where this is going, right?

the front!
Lots has been said about this pattern, so I’ll keep it brief. It really is a good one, and now I see what the fuss has been about. It’s a simple garment, but those basics are sometimes challenging to get just right. It’s true - the Ogden is nicely drafted, comes together in a jiffy and the fit and shaping are spot on. There’s a good size range too (81.5-113cm bust measurement), plus there's also a mini/kids version available as a PDF from the True Bias website.

the back!

Considering the broad size range, I thought this would be a good one for my 14 year old daughter. At first she didn’t seem very excited about the pattern but chose this Japanese cotton gingham seersucker. I thought I’d just sew it up in her size and offer it to her, then use it as a shop sample if she didn’t want it. But, after getting her to try it on before hemming she declared it “legit” and nicely asked if it might be ready for her to wear for school casual clothes day later in the week. Win!

The Ogden has a half-lining/facing whereby the strap ends are fastened and enclosed between each layer, so the inside finish is nice and neat. With precious few pattern pieces here (front, back, lining front and back plus straps), and nothing tricky to sew, I think this would be an absolutely sterling gateway drug for a beginner garment sewer. Ideal for teens! I have been trying to make non-bossy suggestive noises about how great this would look in other colours to try to entice mine into letting me help her sew her own Ogden next time.

Sewn as per the pattern, but shortened by about 4-5cm and hemmed straight as per the request of the recipient. There’s a gentle shirt tail hem in the pattern, which is lovely too.

This seersucker has less drape than the pattern asks for, but we both liked the boxy shape we ended up with. The Ogden would also be lovely in washed linen, liberty lawn, a polished cotton like this Nan Iro or one of our new cotton/silk blends.

The Ogden has recently been introduced to print and we have copies in the shop, and online here.

- Fiona & Jane

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Pattern Review: the Charlie Caftan by Closet Case

When Heather Lou of Closet Case patterns released the Charlie Caftan last June, it flew under my radar a bit. Of course, it was our Australian winter (her Canadian summer) so my mind was on wintry patterns. But once our Adelaide summer took hold the Charlie looked like the most appealing thing ever. Must Make Now.

If you Google the pattern you'll find heaps of lovely versions to look at, and many people rock the maxi version with gathers. I was more drawn to the simple-but-interesting pleated version. In fact there are multiple variations possible, with gathers or pleats, maxi or above the knee, two armhole heights and an optional waist tie. Both times I opted for a straight View A, above the knee and higher armhole.

For my first Charlie I used a sample of some lovely cotton poplin (actually close to a lawn in feel).

We are presently working on bringing you this fabric and more, soon, so stay tuned! I had a bit less fabric than required so I left out the side seam pockets. In fact I made this with the intention of it being a swimsuit coverup, but I love it too much to only wear it for that purpose. Into high rotation it went.

It's so cool and breezy, extremely comfortable but also, I think, a bit polished with its v-neck, pleats, inset panel and slightly tapered shape towards the hem.

So how was that inset panel to sew?

Yeah, a bit of a bugger. It's constructed in a similar way to a welt pocket, and I wouldn't say I've totally mastered those. It's one of those situations where you're torn between clipping further into a corner to straighten things out on the right side, and not wanting to clip too far in case it loses all structural integrity and you get fraying on the outside. However, I do love a sewing challenge and I really like the clean look of the end result. So I say go for it. There's a detailed blog post walking you through here. And if you have a few pull lines on the right side, even after a heck of a lot of steamy pressing, after a couple of wears you will forget all about them in your state of easy, breezy Caftan love.

Or... you could simply fold all the seam allowances of your panel under, pin or hand baste carefully, and topstitch the panel in place. No-one's going to call you a cheat and you may just save some stress.

I opted for the fully hand-stitched inside panel (which covers all the guts of that inset piece) because I don't mind a bit of hand-stitching, and the machine stitching instructions ... oh, I didn't even attempt to understand! But all power to you if you do.

I was pretty keen on making another Charlie, with pockets. When a piece of this Clark Gable linen sort of fell in my lap, it was decided.

I love the way the clever lines of the pattern interact with the lines on the linen. Pleasingly, the side seam pockets don't seem to add any hip bulk, whilst being wonderfully practical and capacious.

I cut straight into this washed linen at the shop, and its soft and slightly rumpled state, as well as the general nature of washed linen, has meant this Charlie has turned out a bit roomier on me. Next time I cut a washed linen I'll at least give it a good press first, if not a pre-wash also, in order to help prevent this 'growth'. That said, I'm not complaining about an extra-loose, soft linen Caftan on a 40 degree Adelaide day! (Okay, 38.7 degrees at time of photos.)
Skims over all those festive season indulgences.

PATTERN: Charlie Caftan by Closet Case Patterns
FABRIC: sample poplin, and Clark Gable washed linen, approx 1.8m
SIZE: 12 - NB if you sew View A, Hip is probably the most important measurement due to tapered shape - take note of Finished Garment Measurements
ALTERATIONS: none (except omitted pockets on first version due to fabric constraints)... yes NONE!
COMMENTS: This pattern has a lovely loose, forgiving fit, great if you're not keen on alterations and also (ssshhhhh...) if you hate making muslins. Let's just say it's the ideal project for a 'wearable muslin' from less precious fabric. Then move on to the 'good stuff' and you may well end up with two new dresses you love, like I did. Yay! The inset panel is the only challenging part of this garment, and it's definitely worth a go. Practice on scrap first if you're worried. I simply love the Charlie Caftan. We hope you do too.

Some other suitable fabrics:
Cotton lawns, voiles, rayons and soft shirtings (more Liberty in-store)
100% linens
Washed linen/cotton blends like this patterned natural, this vintage-look jacquard and this 'toffee apple' check
Double gauzes

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Papercut Moana top using Gertrude Made solid cotton barkcloth

My peplum kick is showing no signs of slowing down. After firmly believing that peplums and I were not for each other, I met the Peplum Top by In the Folds for Peppermint Magazine last year, and have since churned out 2 tops plus a dress version. For me, these are perfect summer wear and I could easily have a wardrobe full of them, should that not be cause for an intervention.

So despite the fact that I probably have reached peak peplum, I felt duty bound to try the Moana pattern when we recently started stocking New Zealand’s Papercut patterns in the shop. The Moana is a double duty peplum top and dress pattern, with exposed zip at the back, slight high/low hem, front and back darts plus facings. The frill is cut on the bias rather than gathered for less bulk around the waist. All together it’s… well to be honest it’s a fair bit of detail for a sleeveless top. But that makes it feel a little bit fancy too, and I could certainly do with a touch more fancy now and then.

I used an 100% cotton barkcloth from The Gertrude Made essentials range in ‘Rust’. This fabric is a gorgeous, textured, stable thing that was a joy to sew. It worked brilliantly for the bodice, but in retrospect, it isn’t the greatest fabric choice for the narrow peplum of the Moana. I’m hoping it will relax downward somewhat with wear ‘cause its a bit too sticky-out for my liking at the moment. A drapier or lighter-weight fabric would totally get around this problem. Because the barkcloth is substantial, I opted not to interface the facings, instead just finishing the edges before sewing.

Construction & Adjustments
Papercut patterns come in beautiful die-cut brown paper boxes and are printed on nice light recycled paper, both of which makes the tracing experience really rather nice. The patterns are well drafted too, and being produced in NZ means the seam allowance is a delightfully easy to remember metric 10mm.

I cut 140cm of 150cm wide fabric and had around 30cm left, so if you’re using similarly non-directional cloth, best test how much you need before you buy.

I’ll admit that I was lazy with this top and decided not to muslin. In the process I was reminded (again) why that’s rarely a good idea. 

First, there was a fracas with the zip whereby I changed my mind about which length/style of zip to use after having already prepared the opening. This left a gap at the base of my zip which necessitated a cover up using a “design feature” (cough) patch. I was hoping the patch would disappear and look intentional, but looking at it in the photos now, it's too big and obvious so I’ll be needing to change that. I wasn’t on board with the idea of wearing something with an exposed contrast zip either, but I have to say I don’t hate it. Who woulda thought?

Dodgy Instagram photo - evidence of underarm triangle. Please excuse bingo wings...
Second, I ended up with a fair whack of excess fabric at the front underarm. I suspect that the most likely reason for this is that the bust dart sits way too high on me (of course I would have discovered this had I made a muslin, and then moved it down…) After turning to Instagram for help, I ended up basting out a wedge of fabric at the underarm - and it worked well enough. Ideally inserting another dart above the existing one would have been a better solution but I couldn’t do that without changing the line of the front armhole. The bust dart is still comically high, but it’s wearable now. Lesson re-learnt. Muslin!

The only other thing to note about the Moana is that it was a bit of a bugger hemming those extreme curves on the frill. The instructions suggested either rolling the hem, a small double turn (which is what I did) or a simple finish then stitch down. I think the latter would have worked best for this fabric. I’d also recommend stitching down the facings at the side to avoid any flipping.

Other than the completely avoidable problems I had sewing the Moana, I’d have to say it’s a lovely pattern. Does it suit me? I’m not sure, but as a sewn thing, I like this top a lot. The dress looks rather nice too - the gathered skirt option is particularly tempting. But first? A muslin!

The Papercut Moana pattern can be found on our website right here, and the Gertrude Made barkcloth here.

- Fiona + Jane xx