Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pattern Review - The Diago Top by Pauline Alice (in linen, three times!)

Spanish pattern designer Pauline Alice has recently released several new patterns, and this one, the Diago Top, caught our eye for summer. It's a very simple dolman-sleeved top with a slight high-low hem and stitched down facings. Our new linens came along, and some hot weather, and the deal was sealed.

The Diago (available only as downloadable PDF from her website) is designed with beginner sewists in mind. The instructions are not quite as hand-holdy as they could be for absolute beginners but that shouldn't put anyone off, either. This is a lovely pattern with a forgiving fit, nice finishing like the faced hem, and thorough steps like French seams, clipping and understitching.
Can anyone tell I was fighting off a cold and had an afternoon nap in this outfit?
Sometimes you have to go with messy reality or things will never be blogged.
And for a not completely crumpled version, here's Fiona!

Fabric hungry?

The pattern, in my size (44), calls for 2.1m of 150cm wide fabric. That's a lot for a simple top! The layout shows even the little neck facings cut on the centre fold of 150cm wide fabric. Maybe because it's designed for beginners and this makes it really easy... but rather wasteful!  I cut the pink one from 1.5m and the checked one from 1.6m (a little extra for pattern matching). The hem facings line up directly under the front and back body, and the neck facings cut easily from the scraps at the sides.

The pattern is too wide for 110cm wide fabric. However you could use it if you don't mind shortening the sleeves a little. You'd probably need to allow an extra 20cm or so for the neck facings in this case.

Staystitch the neckline

This is not suggested in the instructions but I recommend, if your fabric is at all shifty. The other step I'd add is to trim down down the seam allowances after the first step of French seaming. Oh and if you like, pop a little label (Labels by KATM) in the seam.

Hem facing tip

In case you get spatially confused by curved hem facings like I do, let me save you some pain and say MATCH THE CURVE SHAPES. In garment sewing there is often fiddly pinning of opposite curves (e.g. at sleeve caps) so they lie correctly when opened out. This is not the case for facings, which are turned back. Okay. Now I've written that down I hope I never have to unpick a clipped and understitched hem facing again!

Simple but worth it

The Diago is beautifully loose and comfortable and those dolman sleeves are the kind of airy fit I want on a hot day. I feel the proportions are spot on, and the hem hits perfectly so I'm covered but not swamped. These are the reasons we are more than happy to pay an independent designer for her work in creating something apparently so simple. Simple, but so right!
Subtle high-low hem. Shorts are an iteration of the Papercut Palisades as I went through fitting and pocket adjustments.


PATTERN: Diago Top by Pauline Alice (available as pdf only from her website)

FABRIC: Lithuanian washed linens: Seaglass Check 1.6m, Sorbet 1.5m, Granny Smith 1.5m.

SIZE: 44, as per measurements, check also finished garment measurements given.

COMMENTS: If you can, get this printed at the A0 copy shop size. I pieced together the A4 and the margins/overlaps were quite large - it seemed to use a lot more paper than it should have.

Measure pattern pieces for your size; you can probably use less fabric than pattern states.

Make one or several in our Lithuanian linens, you won't regret it!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Monday, September 23, 2019

Pattern Review: the Kalle Shirt Dress by Closet Case, in Lithuanian Natural Linen

The Kalle pattern by Closet Case has been around for a couple of years now. The dress or shirt has a roomy fit with dropped shoulder and no bust dart, a lined back yoke and dramatic curved hem. It's lovely, and we've been meaning to make it up for ages.

By the way, the pattern name is pronounced 'Kal - ee' (rhymes with Sally). I checked that with pattern designer Heather Lou when it was first released. It was driving me crazy not knowing how to say it, either aloud or in my head! You can imagine how I felt reading the first Harry Potter book many years ago. Her-mee-ohn? Herm-yon? Hermi-oh-nee?

The Kalle has a fair few minor variations that can be mixed and matched as you please:

This Kalle, made in our heavyweight natural Lithuanian linen, is a shop sample. You can swing by and have a look and even try it on if you like. It's a straight size 12, dress length, in 'popover' style with box pleat and band collar.

Sewing went really smoothly and includes some intermediate techniques like a lined yoke, placket and collar attachment, with good instructions and diagrams. There's even a full online sewalong on the Closet Case blog if you need any extra tips and photos. When attaching the sleeve cuffs I switched steps around a bit so my final step was to attach the cuff from the outside with topstitching, which I find more accurate than the suggested method which was topstitching from the outside in order to catch the unstitched inside edge. The shaping of the cuff at the underarm seam is a really nice touch that helps stop the armholes from becoming a window-to-your-underwear.

I used the suggested flat felled seam finish for the side seams which means that the entire garment has clean finishes inside and out.

The lined yoke is attached with the 'burrito method' and I'd strongly recommend that unless your fabric is super-stable, you stay-stitch the neckline to stop it stretching out during the step where the whole garment is pulled through the neck opening. This is mentioned in the instructions, but not until after the burrito part which is, in my opinion, where it's most required.

And here she is on a human:
With half a day's worth of linen-y rumpledness

The back yoke and pleat create shaping and visual interest

There's that swooping hem

And here you can see a bit of the movement of this heavyweight linen even after only minimal wash & wear
The button placement as marked sits pretty much above and below the fullest part of my bust, unsurprisingly creating a bit of gaping in the middle. For the photos I put a safety pin in behind to hold it closed. I'm going to leave this one as-is for the shop, but if making again for myself (quite likely), I'd simply double the number of buttons, to secure where it pulls a bit. I'd suggest you try your Kalle on with the button markings pinned closed before committing to buttonholes, to make sure you're happy with the placement on you.

I've never sewn a garment in this heavyweight linen before but it was great to work with. It has a bit of shrinkage on first wash so (of course) please, please pre-wash. Due to the thickness I did a fair bit of grading of seams where several layers were coming together. I like the earthy, rustic vibe of this fabric. I don't want to sound too woo-woo about it but it's easy to feel more connected to the living plants that made this simple, lovely fibre.

It looks pretty creasy in the photos but we like to embrace that about linen - and this is the fabric after only one pre-wash and one garment wash. I can imagine it developing a lovely worn-in look and even greater softness over time. It also makes the best teatowels and yes, I'm fine with wearing the same fabric I wipe my dishes with, haha!

If making again I would consider how to add a functional pocket or two. I think hidden side seam pockets (or just one) would be best so as to preserve the standout features of chest pocket and curved hem.

In summary:

PATTERN: Kalle Shirt + Shirtdress by Closet Case Patterns

FABRIC: 100% Linen, Mid-Heavy Weight, Natural Flax, made in Lithuania, 1.8m

SIZE: 12, no alterations (current body measurements for reference: bust 39" waist 33" hip 43" height 5'3")

COMMENTS: A minimalist design dressed up with some statement shaping, easy to fit and comfortable to wear. It's easy to see why Kalle is such a popular pattern that has become a favourite repeat-make for many sewists. I am pretty keen to make myself one to keep, probably in our Blue Jean linen.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Pattern Review: The Assembly Line Box Pleat Dress

Please don't mind us as we slowly sew our way through every Assembly Line pattern on our shelves. After great success with The Puff Shirt, Hoodie Dress, the Wrap Jacket and Almost Long Trousers (unblogged) we’re kicking on with the Box Pleat Dress.

A note about these patterns. We sometimes hear from customers that they find the price of the Assembly Line patterns surprising. At $38 a pop (that’s everywhere, not just us by the way!), they are indeed pricier than the average of $30 for other indie patterns - so we understand the surprise. But frankly, we have trouble keeping up with the demand for these, despite the higher price point. We suspect that’s because these patterns are classic, simple shapes with some extra added interest. The kind of wearable things you can sew a few times to get your money’s worth. Plus they’re printed on nice sturdy thick paper. All this makes for a most satisfying sewing experience.

So! The Box Pleat Dress. It’s an a-line frock with a gently exaggerated sleeve and - hence the name - a nice big box pleat at the back.

I’ve seen a number of these made up and they often fit quite loosely all over, but I decided that I wanted mine to fit more snugly - at least across the shoulders. So I used the finished garment size to give me a good 5-6cm of ease in the bust and cut accordingly.

Fabric & Preparation
This version of the Box Pleat Dress is made from Robert Kaufman Essex blend (55% linen + 45% cotton) in ‘Espresso’. It’s a light to medium weight fabric that holds the a-line on this frock nicely, not to mention the shape of those sleeves. As the linen component of this fabric softens with wash & wear, I expect the drama to die down, somewhat. :)

Since Assembly Line patterns only give quantity suggestions for 140cm wide fabric I needed extra to accomodate for the 110cm wide Kaufman. So, for any of you wishing to sew the size M, here’s a PSA: this dress used 2.8m of an 110cm wide fabric (as opposed to the recommended 2.1m for 140cm wide).

As with other Assembly Line patterns, the drafting is reliable and the directions are clear. The Box Pleat dress has a slight high-low back hem which is separated by a split, all with lovely wide mitred corners which were very pleasing to sew.

pockets in action

For a fairly simple silhouette, there are a few things that lift this frock above your simple A-Line dress. There’s those sleeves for one. Then there’s the nice spacious side-seam pockets, and some lovely feature topstitching down centre front. For my money though the best take away trick I learned from this pattern was the triangular support stitching that lies under the box pleat. It really makes the pleat feel nice and, well, trustworthy. That's important since said pleat sits right at the middle upper-back where seams get subjected to lots of movement and stress.

creases courtesy of a days wear 

There’s a definite whiff of Gilead about this frock (I’d be careful not to make it in red!) Its exaggerated a-line and sleeves make it incredibly roomy - which is fine by me, but may not be for everyone! A relaxed washed linen would drape nicely and soften those lines if it’s too much for you. The Box Pleat Dress is super comfortable and layers well. A solid Spring frock, and it layers well too. I think I’ll be reaching for this quite a bit.

- Fiona xx

The Assembly Line Box Pleat Dress pattern can be found here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Pattern Review: Maven Patterns Rochester top

 I’m always on the look out for woven top patterns that have a couple of interesting details. Something that can be worn with jeans that feels slightly less casual than a boxy top. Far be it from me to diss the boxy top - my cupboard is full of them - but, bless them, they are not for all occasions. 

Frankly, the Rochester  pattern (named for Jane Eyre, surely?) had me at that neckline. I found the narrow elastic casing really appealing, and you may be relieved to hear that it doesn't sit *too* high around the throat, either (never a comfortable feeling).  The elastic casing can be set right at the neckline edge as I have done, or 15mm lower for a spot of added neck frill. I love how the gather cleverly forgoes the need for bust darts and additional closures. But wait, there’s more! The Rochester also has a nifty pleat in the back plus a nice wide curved hem facing. It’s a dress pattern too, with inseam pockets and a waist tie.

I chose our washed linen in Slate, which is super soft and has a lovely amount of drape for the swingy hem. Next time, I’m tempted to try one in Liberty, or perhaps some double or triple gauze.

No dramas here. The pattern instructions are chock-full of extra details, hints and links to tutorials to get the details just right. All the notches match up and the set-in sleeves both went in perfectly first time with no puckers (win!) More on the shoulders later, though…

loving the wide curved faced hem sick
Despite all the extra information included in this pattern I found selecting my size slightly confusing.  There is a finished garment size chart but unfortunately the bust measurement (which is all you really need too take into account when fitting this pattern) is taken with the back pleat closed - so that’s roughly 10cm of ease unaccounted for. For the record I chose the sized closest to my bust measurement and it worked out fine. Be aware that the size range is standard: the largest size offered here is an 18 with 42 inch bust and 46 inch hips, although considering that back pleat there is a lot of extra ease included within that range. 

So. Overall I’m thrilled with the fit - the edge of the shoulder hits right where it should and the extra ease created by the back pleat makes this a comfy but not too puffy shirt. All good! That is until I lift my arms and… cue a whole bunch of excess fabric pooling at my shoulder tips. Waaah! 

Next time I make this, I’ll swap the arm hole and sleeve head with one from another pattern that works well for me to get around this problem. This shape arm block must work well for some people, but not for either Jane or I unfortunately! Perhaps for you it will present no issues… garment drafting is fascinating like that.

you can see some the excess shoulder fabric remains on the left here, post arm-hole surgery
In order to fix this without wasting the linen, I reluctantly removed those pucker-less sleeves and trimmed a crescent-shaped piece from the top of each. Fortunately they went back in without a hitch. Some excess fabric is still there when I lift my arms, but less so and I’m happy to live with it now.

This will be worn to bits. Other than the shoulder drama, this is a really pleasing shirt with beautiful proportions and some really lovely details. Initially I wasn’t sure about the deep high-low hem facing (not really my style) but it’s turned out to be one of my favourite features of this top. Definitely worth the time. It’s a win!

The Maven Rochester pattern is available as downloadable PDF (with copy shop option) from the Maven website here.
Slate washed linen can be found here.

 - Fiona xx

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Pattern Review: The Assembly Line Wrap Jacket (times two)

Some patterns sneak up on you. This project started out as a practical shop sample which took me a couple of weeks to slowly cut out and put together, as a job - a not unpleasant one, granted - rather than a passion project.

The moment I tried it on however, I wanted one for myself. In a cosy wool. NOW!

Adelaide has been so cold lately (by Adelaide standards) and I lacked the mid-length jacket or cardigan this weather demands. The Assembly Line Wrap Jacket combines unlined, raglan-sleeve softness with long, clean lines for a mix of comfort and put-togetherness. This pattern was formerly known as the Kimono Jacket but, as with a number of similarly-named patterns by other designers, has changed name to respect the cultural importance of the traditional Japanese garment.

The shop sample shown above is made in 'This Way Up' Japanese Textured Indigo Cloth, a white print on yarn-dyed indigo-coloured cotton. This fabric is 110cm wide, while the pattern only states fabric requirements for 140cm+ width. I laid out my Size M pattern pieces and this took 2.5m of 110cm width. My fabric was directional but I think you would still need 2.5m in a non-directional.

For 'my' version I cut 2m as per pattern of our Velvet Finish 100% Australian Wool in Deep Navy. I didn't consult the pattern layout before I cut, and this actually has pieces running in both directions - but my fabric has a nap - gasp! With some careful juggling I managed to squeeze the Size M jacket out of the 2m, folded, as shown below. So please bear this in mind if you're working with a directional fabric. An extra 20 - 30cm might make all the difference.

The construction is rather nifty, especially the creation of the collar which also makes a dart for shaping on the front bodice. I followed all instructions to the letter, except I bound my seams and hem edges with Liberty.

It just makes me so happy to see Liberty bound seams in an unlined jacket. In the wool version, I bound everything except the small shoulder darts. Here it is inside out:

This pleasingly used almost every last scrap of a single fat quarter cut of our new 'Isadora C' tana lawn (cut in 1.5" bias strips and folded using the red Clover bias maker). You can see I also added a 'me made' label by Kylie and The Machine.

And here it is in action.

My only comment on the fit is that the sleeves are quite long, but this allows me to fold them up and show a bit of binding if I wish, or roll them down for extra hand warming. Yes, it does have a little bit of a dressing gown vibe but you know? I don't care. I think it's actually something I love about The Assembly Line patterns: they're not afraid to make a little bit of a statement, while being comfy as heck.

Both fabrics were a pleasure to work with, and the wool especially was a dream. It's so stable, cuts like butter, barely frays and really doesn't distort at all. I used a walking foot for the majority of the wool construction, which helped the thick layers pass smoothly through the machine. The wool responded well to pressing using a 'pressing cloth' (i.e. teatowel), pressing on the back of the fabric wherever possible, and using a 'clapper' (improvised bit of flat wood pressed down after the iron) to hold in the steam and set the crease. When pressing the belt straps, I also used fine Entomology Pins to hold the seam flat - pinned right into the ironing board padding, you can just see the tiny ends below - before I lowered the iron.

This wool, also available in Mulberry and Black, is excess stock from a local, ethical design company. It's incredibly beautiful and a feel-good purchase to boot.

Note here that if you are using a fabric that is shifty and/or fray-prone, there's a fair bit of handling of the garment while some raw edges, particularly angles and curves at the top, are still unsewn. It might pay to use quite a bit of stay-stitching or other stabilisation technique.

I have comfortably worn this jacket all day whilst doing a number of tasks at home and at work. The inside button fastening keeps it securely in place while done up. If worn open, the jacket ties don't make a nuisance of themselves. The pockets are a fabulously useful size and perfectly placed. Small details like elbow and shoulder darts and topstitching elevate this jacket's finish but it's a really achievable one-day sew. Can you tell I love it?


Pattern: The Wrap Jacket by The Assembly Line

Fabric: 2.5m 'This Way Up' Japanese Textured Indigo Cotton plus a fat quarter (50cm x 67.5cm) Liberty Tana Lawn 'Dapper Dogs' (version 1), 2m Velvet Finish 100% Australian Wool in Deep Navy (also available in Black and Mulberrry) plus a fat quarter Liberty Tana Lawn 'Isadora C' (version 2)

Size: M

Alterations: None except seam finish - bound instead of overlocked

Comments: I loved this more than I expected to. It's another winner from The Assembly Line!

- Jane xx

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Pattern freebie: mini dachshund jacket

When we published a photo on Instagram of one of our dogs (wee Lola, above) wearing a jacket made from the scraps from one of our projects recently, we had a few requests to share the pattern. So here it is! A quick guide to how I make a my dog jackets. This is a super simple pattern that is easily adaptable to the size of your dog. But please note that the straps are short and the body long on this pattern to fit the long n’ low dachshund in particular as most jackets are too short for their gorgeous sausagey bodies. 

Pattern pieces are below in JPG format (sorry, couldn't upload PDFs to Blogger, please send us an email if you'd like the PDFs!) They may or may not print to scale, so please check the measurements for a mini dachshund outlined in the directions -  and you might want to smooth out some of those roughly-drawn curves! There's also a picture of the finished product out flat to give a guide as there are no diagrams here. 

Enjoy and feel free to distribute to others. But of course this pattern - rough as it is - has been shared because we love dogs and is not for commercial use. :)

Please note that seam allowance is not included in this pattern. Please add your desired seam allowance before cutting, 1cm should be ample.

You’ll need:
- 35cm fabric of any width for outer (we recommend a light to mid-weight washable woven wool (these Japanese wool blends are perfect) or a soft canvas).
-  35cm lining fabric (light woven cotton or linen)
- Velcro (less than 10cm)
- Thread, fabric marker, scissors, point turner, iron, sewing machine.

Cut out dog jacket pieces as per pattern, transferring all markings from paper to fabric. 

Pattern size guidelines for a miniature Dachshund: the length of the body pattern along the centre back fold line is approximately 35cm long by 14cm wide; the length of the under body strap 23cm long by 7cm wide, and the length of the neck strap about 20cm long by 5cm wide (all measurements given are before the addition of seam allowance).

If you don't want to assemble the straps, you can easily substitute some thick, soft elastic and sew it into the seams as you assemble the body of the jacket instead.


1. With right sides together pin one body piece to one body lining piece, matching head end with head end and tail end with tail end. Sew around perimeter (using the seam allowance you selected and added during preparation) but leave an 8cm gap in your stitches at the tail end of the jacket, backstitching at each end. Finish seams with a zig zag and set aside.

2. Repeat as above for under body strap and neck strap, leaving a smaller gap in your stitching along the longest sides of each strap.

3. Using the turning tool, turn all pieces inside out through the gap in the seam then press well, tucking the seam allowance of the unfinished gap/hole back inside the jacket.

4. Topstitch around the entire edge of all jacket and strap pieces, enclosing the turning holes.

5. You might want to do a quick fitting on your dog before this next step to ensure that you are getting the position and length of the straps right for the size of your dog. Using the cross on one side of the body piece as a guide, top stitch the short end of the under body strap to the body piece on the outer side of the jacket. Repeat with the neck strap, affixing one short end of the strap to the head end of the body piece using the cross on the pattern as a guide.

6. Cut two small lengths of velcro, about 3cm each, and separate the pieces. Sew one side of the velcro onto the body pieces at the remaining crosses on under body and neck. Then sew the other side of the velcro to the lining side of each neck and under body strap.

You’re done! Pop the jacket on your hound and pat yourself on the back for keeping them warm.

- Fiona xx

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Pattern review: The Puff Shirt by The Assembly Line

Many sewists find themselves on the hunt for a simple-but-stylish top pattern for woven fabrics. One you could potentially repeat in a number of different fabrics, maybe use as a basis for long and short sleeved versions; a go-to, pull-on woven top.  I have a couple of these in my repertoire: the Roberts Collection top by Marilla Walker and the Breezeway Top by Frankie and Ray; excellent everyday tops. The Roberts Top now offers a free downloadable sleeve option and the Breezeway can use the sleeve from the Frankie and Ray Friday Shirt so they both have year-round potential.

But how about something a little more tailored and dressy? The Assembly Line Puff Shirt has been a popular pattern and has a charming mix of simplicity, elegance and a little bit of fun with those dramatic gathered bell sleeves. I was particularly inspired after seeing versions made by our delightful customer and blogger Pips (she's made quite a few of the Assembly Line patterns and has a fabulous personal style, well worth a look - on Instagram and blog.)

Having had success with the Assembly Line Hoodie Dress pattern (in fact I made a second one because I wanted to wear the first all the time and they've become my winter 2019 uniform), I felt fairly confident diving straight in to a Size M in the Puff Shirt.

I used a Japanese yarn-dyed brushed cotton, for a bit of winter cosiness.

The Puff Shirt is quite a simple pattern to sew and I found all the notches lined up perfectly, the sleeves had just the right amount of ease and it was an enjoyable project. I feel like a bit of an expert on the elastic cuff now (that's what's tucked inside those sleeve ends, and used to great effect on the Hoodie Dress). When I tried on the finished shirt I was very pleased with the fit through the body, the length and the proportions. 

And that sleeve - just enough drama to feel a bit special but not ridiculous. It's possibly a little long on me but surprisingly doesn't get in the way of anything. The instructions ask you to fold the cuff to the inside of the 'puff' and stitch down to keep them tucked in, but I haven't stitched them down. They stay put on their own and this way the cuff can be turned out fully to help the shirt dry after washing.

Sleeve drama!

As with the Hoodie Dress, the lovely angled French darts provide enough shaping without need for a Full Bust Adjustment. Hurrah.

The envelope neckline gives a lovely boat-neck shape. On me it tends to pull a little at the front shoulders, so it doesn't sit completely flat. In fact in the photographs above I have a small safety pin under the overlap on my left shoulder, which is keeping things in place quite well. I wonder if the pulling is because of my sloping shoulders. Or possibly I do actually need a small FBA. Or to narrow a little through the back shoulders? Hmm. If it bothers me I could potentially put buttons and buttonholes at the join, which might look nice, or perhaps a pair of hidden press-studs to hold the overlap in place. There is surely a small fitting adjustment I could make to help with this. Here's a quick snap of the offending part after wearing the top for a while without the safety pin, and after that, a photo of the back of the shirt. If anyone has any fitting suggestions I'd be grateful!

There is a centre back seam so I could possibly attempt some shaping through there.

It's very comfortable to wear and I am really pleased to find a simple woven top that fits me through the bust without being too wide in the shoulders. With the elastic cuffs, the puff sleeves are easy to push up out of the way, for example, when washing hands. I also quite like the idea of trying this without the puff; it would be simple to trim the sleeve to a narrow tapered shape that would be easier to wear under jackets and cardigans. I think this top could be a useful 'base' for variations.


PATTERN The Puff Shirt by The Assembly Line

FABRIC Brushed cotton - yarn dyed, made in Japan 1.9m (amounts are only given for 150cm wide fabric so I laid the pattern out)

SIZE M (my measurements approx. bust 39" waist 32" hip 42", height 5ft 3/163cm)

ADJUSTMENTS None, but would investigate for a second version to help with pulling at front overlap

COMMENTS Another lovely wardrobe-builder from The Assembly Line. I like it with jeans/pants and it will also layer well with my pinafores and overalls. It works in a fabric with light body like this brushed cotton, but the sleeves would have more 'swish' in something drapier like a washed linen, Tencel, Cupro etc.

- Jane x