Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Pattern Review: The West Coast Skirt by Frankie and Ray

I love learning new sewing skills. I love a challenging project that pushes me to conquer a new technique and achieve professional looking detail in a complex garment.
But.
There are times I also long for simplicity. That effortless chic of a design market stallholder-type (you know what I mean don't you?) with her minimalist jewellery. Pure, simple lines that are obviously handmade, but with thoughtfulness, not fuss. Garments you can pull on time and again and never tire of. Garments you can dress up, or down.
Jo of Frankie and Ray has that aesthetic down to a fine art. Based in seaside Victoria, she designs, makes and sells beautifully simple garments in gorgeous fabrics (lots of Liberty and linen!). And she's begun releasing patterns so we can all join in the fun.

The West Coast Skirt is just that kind of effortless style I have in mind. Pull-on, pockets, elastic and drawstring waist. Below the knee, just a little bit A-line. Extremely achievable for beginners and a breath of fresh air for more experienced sewists.

I made this up in our 6oz denim: firstly in the washed denim and absolutely by-the-pattern, with side seam pockets.

The sizing is pretty generous and I was looking for a slightly narrower shape so that first one is now our shop sample. (Come on in, you're welcome to try it on!) For my next one I sized down, tried the non-washed 6oz denim and swapped the side seam pockets for front patch pockets.
Top is Marilla Walker Roberts Collection in Liberty. Shoes are Duckfeet.

 Actually I'm not sure which pockets I prefer - the side seam ones are nicely placed for putting your hands in and low enough not to add much bulk at the hips. But I do love a good big patch pocket.

I added a wee strip of colourful linen down the side of one pocket for fun, although it kind of draws attention to the angle between the side seam and the pocket. (These were applied parallel to centre front.) Patch pockets might look better if applied at the end of construction, parallel to and overlapping the side seams.

The instructions are good - my only note is that I couldn't find mention of the standard seam allowance (for side seams), although that could be my misreading. I used 5/8"/1.5cm which worked fine.

On my second skirt I made the drawstring by folding, pressing and topstitching rather than making a tube and turning it, because my denim was a bit of a bugger to turn and I don't have a bodkin (turning tool).

After wearing this for the afternoon I unpicked a little of the back waistband, pulled out the elastic, snipped a bit out of the middle and rejoined it to tighten it. I think this is mainly because I used thinner elastic than specified (whatever I had on hand). You might like to cut the recommended amount and then hold it up to your back waist to see if you'd like it any shorter. I think a thicker, stronger elastic as per the pattern is best.

The simple shape of this skirt fits comfortably now and promises to take on a more personalised fit over time. All in all I look forward to wearing this a lot and it becoming a softly worn-in and well-loved wardrobe staple. (Editing this later and I've worn it 4 out of 6 days since!)

It's nicely fabric-efficient, with all sizes using just 1.2m of 150cm wide fabric, and very little left over. I also think this would be great cut on the bias. It reminds me of a linen skirt I had years ago, elastic waisted and bias cut, that I wore pretty much to death. Hmmm.... (sewing a few more West Coast skirts in my mind....).

PATTERN: West Coast Skirt by Frankie and Ray
FABRIC: 100% cotton 6oz denim - washed and regular
SIZE: 3 then 2
ALTERATIONS: None in first, changed to patch pockets in second.
COMMENTS: Great for beginners and anyone keen for an elegant casual and easy-to-wear skirt. Love the length. Bicycle-friendly. Would be a great base pattern for creative customisation. I'd love to try it bias-cut.

- Jane & Fiona xx




Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pattern review - Tessuti Leni Top in natural washed linen


I’m a bit of a one trick pony at the moment. I have a favourite skirt - it’s a slightly modified, midi length Colette Ginger, made from a heavy black stretch denim. I want to wear this skirt every single day, preferably with an In the Folds/Peppermint Peplum top. Problem is, even for this lover of a personal uniform, this combo may be getting a little too predictable. So I’ve been searching for another top to wear with my basic black skirt, and the Tessuti Leni top looked to be just the thing.


The Leni pattern is a v-necked sleeveless top with some nice top stitched facing details. I love a stitched down neckline facing, and this a proper big feature one. There’s also a topstitched yoke at the back.


Leni is very wide and boxy so it’s perfect for something with a decent amount of drape. I wanted a plain fabric to show the topstitching so chose our lightweight washed natural linen. If you’re happy to really emphasise the wonderful boxiness of this pattern, we think Leni would also work really well in something slightly more structured like a barkcloth.

Because there’s a decent amount of ease in this pattern I made one size down from what I measured for. (If it helps, I measured for the M and made the S).


Tessuti rate this pattern for intermediate sewists. There are a few techniques required like binding, a semi burrito-style yoke attachment and topstitching that do require some experience, but there’s nothing overwhelmingly challenging. Like the other Tessuti patterns I‘ve made, this one is beautifully finished, plus - win - this can easily be knocked over in a couple of short sewing sessions.

Pattern modifications:
- Because I wanted it quite cropped to wear with high waisted skirt, I omitted the wide hem facing. I lengthened the body by about 5cm and gave it a deep hem. The facing is such a nice detail and really balances the garment, so I’m keen to include it next time.
- I didn’t sew the back yoke as directed as I was opting for the top stitched facing option anyhow, so I just finished the hem on the outside back facing, folded back the seam allowance then topstitched it in place.
- I stay stitched the arms and necklines instead of using tear away Vilene. Just a personal preference (usually because I never have any Vilene at hand!)


Verdict:
Love it! Natural linen goes with everything (especially my old friend black), plus the big facing is the perfect place for a brooch.

Download the Tessuti Leni pattern here. You can print it at home (it’s only 30ish pages so not too stick-a-fork-in-your-eye annoying) or there’s a copy shop option. Alternatively you can buy the paper pattern direct from Tessuti.

The washed natural linen is available from us, here. Our other linens can be found here, plus we've got a big lot more winging their way towards us now. 


- Fiona + Jane xx

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pattern Review: In The Folds Jumpsuit (free pattern for Peppermint Magazine)

Did someone say jumpsuit? Free pattern? By fantastic Australian designer In The Folds?
I was onto it like a shot! Pattern promo pic:
I certainly hope Emily of In The Folds is paid quite well by Peppermint Magazine for the patterns she designs for them, because she's a thorough professional. This is a great pattern, a really well-constructed blank slate for individual interpretation or just a really clean, simple silhouette. So thanks Peppermint Magazine, for making this available to sewists everywhere (and for encouraging sewing in general)! And thanks Emily for the fab designs (more online here).

I made a muslin, which we always recommend and is particularly wise for a fabric-hungry pattern like this. You really don't want to use your 'good' fabric until you're sure of what you're doing.
Muslin legs not full length because that was not necessary to check fit

The pattern states that it's designed for a height of 5'7" which is a good four inches taller than me. So before I even made the muslin I removed 1.5" at the bodice 'lengthen/shorten' line and another 1.5" at the line on the leg (front and back, of course). Apart from that my measurements fit nicely into one size, which is unusual for me but no complaints! And the muslin was a great fit, hurrah. Didn't even need a full bust adjustment.

I wanted to add pockets, and thought large patch pockets on the front would suit this very minimalist silhouette. A template made simply by folding a piece of A4 paper in half looked just right to me. So I used that and added seam allowance and top hem allowance.

I kind of fell in love with the green of my muslin (an old bedsheet) and couldn't get it out of my mind. That drew me to the 'Eucalypt' green Outback Wife cotton barkcloth by Gertrude Made. I generally find green a bit hard to work into my wardrobe but when we're talking single-garment-as-entire-outfit, all I need to match is shoes! And I already knew how lovely this barkcloth is to sew and wear, thanks to my Laneway Dress. Voila - green Jumpsuit!

Hmm what else do I need to say about this? I love it! The all-in-one neck and armhole facing gives a nice clean finish and the instructions to achieve this are great.

I was all geared up to try an invisible zip as specified, which I haven't tried in years and usually avoid like the plague. But all I could find (without travelling too far) was a regular zip in a good colour match. So I decided now was the time I would give the ol' "hand-picked zip" a go.
(speaking of colour match, please ignore the colour variations in my photographs!)
Basically this just means hand-sewing the zip in, using a backstitch that picks up just a tiny bit of fabric on the outside. I followed this tutorial at the Sewaholic website and am pleased with the result. I'd do it again! I'm also pleased to report that the jumpsuit is quite easy to get in and out of, even after a couple of drinks....

So here's the jumpsuit with and without the waist tie.
 I've also worn it with a fitted t-shirt underneath and love it like that, too. This is a year-round winner! It would be cute cut with short legs too, I think. I can imagine this being a real wardrobe staple in denim or chambray, or quite special in this linen viscose. And naturally our drapey, cool, soft washed linens would be a summer delight.

PATTERN: Jumpsuit by In The Folds for Peppermint Magazine (free pdf download, printable in large format AO or piece-together A4)
FABRIC: 100% cotton barkcloth, Outback Wife by Gertrude Made, in Eucalypt, made in Japan 2.6m
SIZE: E - this pattern is available in sizes A-K, full bust measurement 76cm/30" to 131cm/51.5" and designed for height of 170cm/5'7"
ADJUSTMENTS: 1.5" length taken from bodice and legs (3" total)
COMMENTS: A very nicely drafted pattern that came together well. I really appreciate details like angled ends of seam allowances that fold back to fit beautifully along the body pieces. I think this has a pretty forgiving fit, which makes it more beginner-friendly. The armhole is a wee bit low on me and I did mean to raise it a tad but forgot and then I'd cut out the first piece and it was too late... but I don't mind. If you've never tried the 'burrito method' of attaching facings before, you'll be introduced to this magic to create a lovely neat finish (trust in the instructions, it's very hard to visualise!).

I think this pattern will be an absolute winner this summer. Will you give it a try?

- Jane & Fiona xx











Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pattern Review - Grainline Hadley top view A



The Hadley is the new offering by Grainline Studio. It's a loose fitting top with both sleeved and sleeveless variations, plus the choice between a round/jewel and v-neckline, with back pleat or without. I opted for view A, the sleeved top with the round neck and the billowy back.


If I was a jeans wearer I would be all over this pattern. Late last year I decided to give jeans the flick. I just didn’t feel any good in them any more, and, frankly, with the short hair, I felt like a bit of a boy wearing them. (I know, I know. It's a can of worms). So I made this top as a shop sample, thinking that it’s really not something I’d wear much during this jeans-free phase. However, this top has me questioning my no-jeans policy because a couple of Hadleys plus a reliable pair of jeans could really be a useful sort of Spring uniform. (I’m wearing another Grainline make in these photos, the Moss Skirt).  


There’s a lot of detail in this top that might not be immediately obvious from my choice of plaid fabric here. The nice topstitching down the centre front is one. The Hadley is also a facing frenzy. This version has not one but three sets of facings, for neck, sleeve and hem. With that there’s a healthy amount of clipping and understitching, but the combined effect is that the finish is great. Thankfully every piece is so well drafted they come together without any swearing or unpicking (other than that caused by user error, ahem.) I like the way the hem facing gives the whole thing a pleasing weightiness and helps to add some extra swing to the pleated back.


As is usual with Grainline patterns, Hadley was a pleasure to sew. I usually ignore set in sleeves unless they are really necessary, but in order to sew up the sample and be familiar with the pattern I followed the instructions to the letter and the sleeve went in first time like a dream. Possibly the nicest set in sleeve I’ve ever made! So satisfying!  I love how a well drafted pattern can make you feel accomplished, when all you are really doing is following some thoughtfully prepared instructions.


Fabric choice
This is one of those patterns where the amount of drape in your fabric is all important. I love this yarn-dyed textured cotton fabric (it’s one of the co-ordinating cottons from the Ella Blue/Gertrude Made Outback Wife range) and I really like the finished top, but I don’t think they are a perfect match. With its medium drape, there is a touch of the ‘maternity effect’  in this top when viewed from the side. With a swishier fabric this would not be an issue at all. In fact, this top would be gorgeously flowy in one of these linen/viscose blends, or one of our new washed linens. Or, indeed a rayon.

Cutting
I cut this out of 2.3m of 110cm wide fabric which is spot on the recommendations. Using contrasting fabrics for the facings would suck up less fabric if you're looking to save a little. As you can see, I was careless when cutting, so after sewing the bust dart any hopes of my side seams matching were kicked to the curb. Jen of course suggests to cut more for plaid matching, and that certainly would have helped. I'm not terribly fussed about it in this case, though. 


Fit 
I usually fluctuate between an 8 and a 10 for Grainline depending on the pattern, so I didn’t bother making a muslin (also, shop sample!) This one is a 10, and the shoulders are fairly narrow - not uncomfortably so, but I think they sit too far in from my actual shoulder edge. Also, for me the arms are long on this top, so I need to roll them up with facing on the outside to stop them getting in the way. Jane tried this on and noticed the same, so perhaps the arm length is intentional… a design feature? There are lengthen/shorten lines on the arm pieces in any case, so they'd be easy to shorten without needing to mess with the facing. The sleeve facings could also be nice in a contrasting fabric.

On the subject of fit, there's a nice sew-along on the Grainline blog, with a guide to making a full bust adjustment here.


Will I Hadley again? That depends on my ‘difficult’ relationship with jeans. ;) If anything is going to push me back over the edge, though, it could very well be this pattern.

 - Fiona & Jane xx

Monday, September 4, 2017

Pattern review: Merchant & Mills 101 Trousers in washed linen

The Merchant & Mills 101 Trouser pattern states:
"A gentle drawstring trouser with side pockets and a false fly, cut to sit right on the waist. Features 3 versions - cropped & tapered trouser, wide straight trouser or shorts."
I made these trousers as a shop sample and I put them on for blog photos to demonstrate the fit. They're not really my style or fit (explained below!) but we hope this review is helpful if you're considering the pattern for yourself.

I used one of our washed 100% linens - this one in 'Tapenade' - since the pattern calls for something soft and drapey (washed linen suits just about every Merchant & Mills pattern, and we have a lovely new shipment due any day!).


SIZING
Merchant & Mills patterns tend to run on the generous size, and a size 12 in their dresses has always been plenty roomy on me. My measurements, and the finished garment measurements (provided) for the 101 Trousers however put me in the size 14. Made up, I think this was the correct size for me. So be aware and measure carefully rather than just choosing your regular M&M size. Also, check the leg measurements. These babies are LONG!

REFER TO THE PATTERN LAYOUT!
Ahem... learn from my mistake, yeah? I am a fabric miser and tend to assume my fabric ninja skillz will outsmart any given pattern layout. I merrily started cutting without laying out all the pieces and ended up with one much-shortened front leg. Fortunately these pants were so long on me that it didn't matter in the end, but please, trust me: this pattern layout (for 150cm wide fabric, at least) knows what it's doing.

CONSTRUCTION
In general the instructions were good and there's always some nice detail in M&M patterns - in this one, the pocket construction is rather satisfying and you could use the separate facing and lining pieces to insert a different fabric as lining and have hidden pretty pocket insides, if you like. At Step 2, attaching the False Fly, I couldn't make sense of the left/right description but followed the diagrams without problem. That said, it's a bit of a flimsy false fly so I'm not sure it's worth the bother. While I'm being nitpicky, at the end of Step 14 there should be instruction to finish seam and press open (I like that these details are included everywhere else).

FIT
I chose the wide, straight trouser because I thought it was the best one to have as a shop sample. And hey, it looks great hanging on our wall. Rumply, drapey, gently gathered. On me?
 Like I predicted, not really my thing. But that's okay!

As promised, these really are cut to sit right on the true waist - the narrowest part of the torso. Having a particularly short waist/torso, this brings the 101 Trouser up comically high on me. Hello, Tweedledum!

There is, fortunately, an easy fix for this, because Merchant & Mills have included a lengthen/shorten line in the hip area of the pattern. If I was to try it again I'd remove at least 10cm length there (to be honest I was hoping for a good new pyjama pant pattern and hope is not necessarily lost). The drawstring waist is pleasingly not-too-gathered or bulky. Comfort is good.

I used cotton piping cord for the drawstring for expediency but would recommend something a bit wider/flatter/softer because this cut in a bit uncomfortably when I sat down. In fact, I'd probably do a full elastic band and half drawstring just at the front.

IN SUMMARY:
PATTERN: Merchant & Mills 101 Trouser
FABRIC: 100% Linen, washed/softened - Tapenade, 150cm wide, 2.15m
ADJUSTMENTS: Shortened leg (accidentally - but would have needed to anyway!)
COMMENTS:  An easy and fairly quick sew. Definitely high-waisted - but that can be shortened. Carefully consider your preferred rise. The pattern gives all finished measurements and the 'back crotch depth' refers to length from top of waistband to bottom 'drop' of fabric when on a hanger or laid flat. Other than that the fit is pretty forgiving. Probably the epitome of rumpled, casual elegance on someone with a long waist and legs.

OTHER FABRIC CHOICES FOR THIS PATTERN:
Any of our washed 100% linens
Linen/Viscose Twill
Cotton Double Gauze
Cotton flannels

Have you tried the Merchant & Mills 101 Trouser pattern? What did you think?

- Jane & Fiona xx






Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pattern review: The Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade, in Outback Wife barkcloth

When New Zealand designer Jennifer Lauren put out a call for pattern reviewers to help spread the word about her designs, I shot up my hand.  I've admired many of her patterns but had not yet sewn one. And I'd recently purchased her latest, the Laneway Dress, on first sight. I'd even had it printed already, so this was the perfect incentive to make it happen.


What I loved about the Laneway Dress pattern before I even made it:
  • inclusive sizing from 6 - 24
  • separate bodices for B, C and D cups (yayyy!)
  • that fabulous asymmetrical collar, plus two other options
  • pockets
  • flared, hip-skimming skirt without gathers
  • bust shaping with tucks at centre front.







I had some precious Gertrude Made 'Outback Wife' cotton barkcloth stashed for a summer frock. The retro floral was the perfect match for the Laneway. But first, using some old fabric from out the back of the shop, I made a muslin of the bodice and sleeves. Here's a (thankfully) very poor quality photo of the back, when tried on:

See that big crease happening in the centre? With the help of wonderful Instagram sewing friends I determined that the bodice waistline was both a bit tight, and long on me. Which is no surprise since I am not tall and my 'natural waist' (narrowest part) is proportionally high on my torso. Also, my measurements compared to the pattern's sizing chart indicated I may need a smidgen more room at the waist. These are common alterations for me. Being able to custom-fit clothing like this is one of the most satisfying parts of sewing!

My alterations
  • Let out the back darts and side seams a little at the waistline.
  • Shortened the bodice by 1 inch from front to side seams, increasing to 1.5 inches removed at centre back.
  • Widened front and back skirt panels to match extra room at waist.
The rest of the bodice and sleeves fit so nicely that I was confident to move to my 'good' fabric without a second muslin.

I'm thrilled to report that the Gertrude Made barkcloth - designed in Australia, made in Japan - was such a pleasure to work with. It has just the right amount of body and drape for this pattern, and it cut and sewed like a dream. The combination of beautiful pattern drafting and great fabric made easing the set-in sleeves an absolute pleasure, and the result is a sleeve that sits 'just so' and allows excellent freedom of movement.

So. Wanna see the finished frock? Please pardon a few creases.


Yes, I did attempt some pattern matching at the back seam and I think it's 'good enough'!

Inspired by a vintage dress I own, I added self-fabric piping at the waistline, and I'm delighted with the effect. I used cotton piping cord (we have it in the shop) and bias strips, and basted the piping to the skirt before joining skirt and bodice.
My only deviation from the very thorough instructions was to use a regular zip rather than invisible. I have a bit of a fear of the invisible zip and besides, I thought it would probably be incompatible with the waist piping. I'm quite happy with the look of a regular centre back zip, although I can appreciate the very clean finish that an invisible one would provide.
The little collar is created simply and cleverly with a facing and I decided to use one of the Gertrude Made solid colour barkcloths for a touch of contrast. I *may* have enlisted Fiona's help to try all eight of the colours we have in stock and honestly, they pretty much all could have worked! It's such a clever and beautiful range of fabrics. The Yellow Ochre ultimately seemed the most fun. The instructions suggest tacking the collar points down with a few stitches or even decorative buttons, but I love the way this gently falls, as-is.

What I love about the Laneway Dress now I've made it:
  • The fit which is excellent with only minor (typical for me) alterations.
  • The comfort: with all the style of a fit'n'flare, the Laneway is not at all restrictive. I can move! I can eat! I intend to wear it a lot once the weather warms up. I was freezing in these photos!
  • The pockets - a little extra attention to detail means the pocket openings are set just inside the side seam, for a very neat and 'hidden' finish, and the top is secured in the front waist seam so they don't flap about.
  • The lovely soft-pleated shaping provided by those 'open-ended' bust darts, which I've not tried before.
  • The perfect amount of ease in the sleeve cap: it's a subtle, but beautiful thing.
  • That collar. And all the rest of it!
helpful posing suggestions from my 9y.o.

the obligatory canine accessory shot
it's just a damn great frock

To summarise:

PATTERN:
The Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade, pdf only from Jennifer's shop, sizes 6 - 24, B, C & D cups.
FABRIC: 100% cotton barkcloth, Outback Wife, Kirstine in pink, by Gertrude Made (sold out but others available here and new range soon to be launched), plus coordinating Yellow Ochre
SIZE: 12D
ALTERATIONS: shortened bodice and increased waist as detailed above.
COMMENTS: This dress was an absolute pleasure to make (aside from a whole lot of unpicking because of a silly mistake I made when I neglected to cut off about 4cm outside the 'cut on fold' line of the front skirt pattern piece, resulting in a fully assembled skirt that was waaaaay too wide... yeah don't do that). I really, really appreciate the bust size options. The 12D has plenty of room for me and I would suggest slightly larger than a D-cup may be able to fit without alteration, too. The instructions were excellent and I highly recommend the pattern if the style appeals to you!

- Jane & Fiona xx





Thursday, July 13, 2017

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket - again!


We're revisiting the Grainline Tamarack Jacket pattern on the blog today, because after trying on Jane's excellent version I knew I wanted some warm, quilty goodness of my own.

I also had a very specific hole in my wardrobe to fill. I needed something in the form of a jacket or cardigan, hip length and (somewhat predictably) black. Something I could get away with wearing both inside and out. I'd been admiring the gorgeous Bernadette Jackets made by Kate and Klarissa at Bombazine, and thought I could crop the Tamarack to a similar length. Three cheers for sewing, hey?


After choosing the outer fabric (a basic black top-dyed Japanese cotton, not online), and inner (100% Australian wool batting, also in store) I kept returning to this gloriously pretty and slinky Rifle Paper Co. for Cotton and Steel rayon for the lining. 


I’ve done a bit of quilting before but I was worried if I was up to quilting with rayon - I was worried it's slinkiness might see it end up a puckered mess once it met with my walking foot. In the end though pretty won out, and I found myself doing something I never thought I'd do - using a spray on quilt basting glue. (Insert scream-face emoji - not the most environmentally sound choice!) Thankfully, Jane had an old can left over from a previous stencilling project, so hey, we were just combining forces and using up what was already out there in the world on this occasion. 


A note on the quilting if you've not done much before and you're considering using a less-than-stable fabric for your Tamarack: baste then baste some more! My basting strayed way into OTT territory. I used the wicked spray glue, (both sides), plus I did more hand basting than the pattern recommended. But all that nerdy preparation paid off and it quilted like a champ: nothing fancy,  just straight lines, 3.5 inches apart as per the pattern suggestion - I didn't want to push my luck. I used my walking foot and also did a few test runs on offcuts to be sure I was happy with the stitch length, tension etc.


After the quilting this came together very quickly. I enjoyed sewing this more than any other garment I've made. Perhaps it was the quilting, perhaps it was knowing that this will fill a much needed gap in my wardrobe or perhaps it's just a fun pattern? Perhaps because it's terrifically warm but light to wear and, handily, mid-winter here? Perhaps the pretty lining had an intoxicating effect (could be... check the slightly mad eyes above).  In any case, I've worn this almost every day since sewing the last of that binding into place. Finally - an excuse to walk around in a quilt! Don't know why I waited so long. 


Pattern notes:
- I machine stitched the binding on one side, then hand stitched it into place on the inside. Jen's instructions for mitred corners are great! Mine aren’t perfect, but they were very satisfying to make.
- I cropped around 20cm off the length (comparing it to a much loved denim jacket, about 60cm from neck to hem). 
- Because I took so much off the length, I omitted the welt pocket. 
- This cropped and pocketless version of the Tamarack used 1.9m of 110cm wide fabrics for each lining and outer, plus an extra half metre of outer fabric for the binding.

 - Fiona & Jane xx