Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Pattern Review - Christine Haynes Lottie pattern

The Christine Haynes Lottie is one of those patterns that we were really keen to buy for the shop as soon as it was published. In a similar way to the Lotta Jansdotter Esme dress, the Lottie is the kind of easy sew, easy wear top/tunic/dress you could make a few of in different fabrics and call it your uniform. Even better, the pattern itself is a fulsome offering, with shirt and maxi-length options as well as a sleeves of varying lengths and style - 18 different combinations in total.

In light of this being such an appealing and versatile pattern, I honestly can't tell you why it has taken me so long to make this sample and blog about it. I suspect we were at the height of our Fen fever when it arrived and poor Lottie has been overlooked. But she is no less worthy.

I made View B - the one with the 3/4 length sleeves. Pockets were left off ('cause, let's face it - the wall in our shop where this will be displayed does not need pockets), but rest assured there are patch pockets included in this pattern, plus it would be easy to add side seam pockets to should the need arise.

Working with a 1.8m remnant of 150cm wide fabric meant that I needed to leave 5cm off the dress length, so this version falls squarely into tunic territory. The full length dress would be easily eked out of 2m rather than the 2.3m stipulated in the instructions, unless you've got pattern matching to do where you might want more. This version is a size 10 as per my measurements but note that this pattern makes a roomy frock. Christine kindly gives finished garment measurements, so I'd recommend you refer to those as there's a decent amount (more than 4 inches) of ease built in. I'd size down next time, especially after seeing these photos.

Of course you can leave the sleeves off this pattern as it has a decent cut-on dolman sleeve already, but I was keen to add them for cooler days - plus, the way the sleeves come together is a nice touch. There is a different piece for the front and back of each sleeve which are cut on an angle so they drape well. This also helps them to look nicely finished if your fabric is directional or patterned. The top-stitching is a nice touch here too.

The pattern itself is an easy sew (Christine rates it as 2/5 level of difficulty) - there are no closures or fitting, and the neckline is finished with bias tape. It's very beginner friendly. 

This fabric is an Art Gallery printed denim - a lovely crisp, soft cotton, available in our online shop here.

The top version of Lottie would be great with jeans, sewn up in a variety of lightweight fabrics - linen, double gauze or chambray. We're also thinking that a light wool Lottie would be a useful winter layer too… I suspect there will be more Lotties around here.

- Fiona & Jane xx

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pattern Review: Thread Theory Belvedere Waistcoat

Thread Theory is a Canadian independent pattern company designing for men (with a couple of women's patterns in there too). The Belvedere Waistcoat is their latest release, currently available only as a pdf but eventually to be in print like their other patterns.
This is the third Thread Theory pattern I've sewn. I find their attention to detail and level of instructions to be excellent, and felt confident the Belvedere Waistcoat would be likewise. And it was!

My husband Andy is a great fan of waistcoats as part of his work wardrobe. The Thread Theory Fairfield shirt is a good fit on him with minor alterations, so I was hopeful this pattern would be too. I was also able to compare the Belevedere pattern pieces to one of Andy's favourite waistcoats and it seemed a good match.

The Belvedere is exactly what I was hoping for in a waistcoat pattern, being fully lined, having front and neck facings and proper welt pockets. Several optional add-ons are in the process of being released, including patch pockets, a back waist cinch and a collar.

Morgan, the designer behind Thread Theory, explains that the Belvedere is drafted to pair with higher-waisted formal pants. People wanting a waistcoat to go with jeans or other pants that sit lower would probably wish to lengthen it. I also read this review by a pattern tester who found it quite short on her partner. After comparison with Andy's ready-to-wear waistcoat I decided to add 2 inches in length. This was an easy alteration to the relevant pattern pieces at the clearly marked 'lengthen and shorten' lines.

I made two other alterations to the pattern:

- shortened the front darts - after adding the 2" of length, which goes right across the centre of the darts, I lowered the top point of the dart 3". This means the entire dart is just 1" shorter than on the original pattern, but the top sits 3" below its original position. This is more in line with the position of darts on Andy's existing waistcoats.

- altered side seams a little (in at the top, out at the bottom) at the 'trying on' stage suggested in the pattern instructions. This small adjustment changed a good fit to a great fit.

I used this beautiful 'Cashmere Finish' 100% Wool coating in Silvered Black, which was a pleasure to work with and gives the waistcoat a luxurious feel. Wrangling those welt pockets, situated right in the middle of darts, was certainly a test of fabric manipulation. It required a lot of careful steamy pressing, which made me grateful to be working with pure wool that wouldn't easily singe/melt! I can understand the use of a wooden 'clapper' better now, because pressing down with my hands on steaming wool after the iron is removed is a bit... toasty.

The layers of wool also proved too challenging for my beloved Singer buttonholer attachments (which can whip out a series of shirt buttonholes in minutes). After some trial and error I became friends with the 3-step buttonhole on my vintage Bernina, and was very happy with the result.

The lining and back is an acetate from DK Fabrics - using the darker, greyer side for the outside and the fancy gold on the inside. Shell buttons were also from DK. The acetate was a bit tricky to work with (not least because my hands are a bit dry and rough and my fingers caught on the fabric, ugh!) and it seemed like a minor miracle when the final waistcoat was turned right way out and all the wispy frayed seam allowances were hidden neatly away. It's a beautiful result and after a bit of recovery time I'll have probably forgotten the pain of sewing with acetate and attempt it again. You know how it goes. Pretty shinies!

And here we have my cooperative model, who knows the price of a lovingly tailored garment!
Real, functional welt pocket!
As soon as the waistcoat was finished Andy claimed it and has hardly taken it off, although I do want to grab it back at some point and re-sew the buttons on with a bit of a thread shank to allow some room for the thickness of the wool.
Altogether a very gratifying sew, and I'm sure there will be more Belvederes in the future.

There's a full step-by-step sewalong for the Thread Theory Belvedere Waistcoat in progress on their blog right now, and this will be available as a valuable resource for anyone sewing it in future.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Extremely practical, fairly unglamorous

I'm sandwiching this post in between two 'pretty' projects because it's firmly in the category of Dull But Necessary. Sometimes sewing is like that. The rewarding part is not in the sewing or the finished object, but in the repeat upon repeat wearing of the garments.

With the onset of cooler weather we're all rummaging through our wardrobes and drawers for the longer layers. More than likely, some have seen better days or you realise you're down to those same two tops you had on repeat last winter. I realised I needed neutral-coloured long-sleeved tops and leggings. Yawn. We have a great selection of knits in store at the moment so at least the fabric selection part is a bit fun!

Cut to the chase: I made two versions of an Alabama Chanin top (machine-sewn rather than hand-sewn as the pattern is intended), one in this beautiful fine tencel/linen jersey:
and another in super-soft modal.

No modelled shots I'm afraid as they're a) boring and b) quite fitted and meant for layering only!

I also made some leggings (I use the Cake Espresso leggings pattern) in a similarly neutral colour from some organic cotton/spandex (available in store). Scintillating photo:
Are you still awake and reading?

Dull as each of these garments is, I am incredibly grateful to my recent-past-self for making them and they are already in heavy rotation. So do yourself a favour -
- and sew some basics. Check out our knit selection here. We have also just restocked on the Grainline Lark Tee pattern which is a great place to start if you're looking for a go-to knit top with lots of options.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Friday, May 26, 2017

Grainline Tamarack Jacket in Velveteen

Have you ever sat with a quilt on your lap in winter and thought how cosy it would be if you could actually wear it? Well the Grainline Tamarack is your opportunity to do just that - and look socially acceptable at the same time!
Jen of Grainline Studios first released this pattern in October 2015. Since we were heading into the Aussie summer we didn't really think a lot about it. But Jen seems to have a way of being a little ahead of trends and designing long-lived classic garments, and the Tamarack has been sneakily growing on us. I loved this one by Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns, and the final push for me was seeing this quilted jacket by Kate of Bombazine. I was in need of another casual, warm jacket that I could throw in a bag and take anywhere. My Grainline Cascade Duffle has been possibly my most worn/thrashed item of handmade clothing ever, and although it's holding up pretty nicely in its third winter, it could use a little respite.
I'd been hanging out to do something with the beautiful new cotton velveteens we had in the shop, so I chose Cherub (Millennial pink, anyone?) and carried it around the shop until I found it a partner in this subtly awesome Cotton + Steel print of grey and silver bunny heads. Add a puff of pure Australian wool quilt batting (available in store) and I was off.

I have discussed previously that Grainline drafting 'out of the packet' doesn't work for my shape. With my full bust measurement putting me in a size 12, and my high bust in a size 8, I decided to split the difference, trace the size 10 and make a small full bust adjustment, adding a dart. Whilst an 8 might have been ideal in the shoulders, I didn't want to end up putting a giant bust dart in a pattern that was intended to have none.

There's plenty of wearing ease in the Tamarack pattern (and Jen very helpfully always includes finished garment measurements in her patterns) but actually getting this to fit across my bust was not the only concern.  It was more a matter of how the finished garment would sit: without a dart, a jacket can tend to be pushed up and back over my narrow shoulders and ultimately, hang really poorly. A dart will give me a nice sloped roof and straight wall below, if you get the picture!

How did the bust dart work in quilted fabric? It was a bit of a gamble but in fact it worked quite well. I thought I may need to trim off the dart inside but it folded and pressed just fine. There are two things to watch out for:
- what does the dart do to your quilting pattern? In my case it meant that the quilting lines at the jacket side seams did not meet up below the dart. Not ideal but I can live with this. A more complex quilting pattern would help hide this difference.

- how will you deal with the bulk of the fold in the side seam? You'll end up with 3 layers of quilt, which is 9 layers of substrate, at one point! My regular sewing machine was quite happy to chug through this but my overlocker struggled... and the result was ugly. Perhaps a blessing in disguise though, because I decided to bind the seams to hide all the mess. I simply sewed bias tape over the seam allowance. After sewing down the first side I trimmed the seam allowance back considerably to reduce bulk, then folded it over and sewed the second side. Much, much better and a finish I would highly recommend for all the interior Tamarack seams. (I wish I'd done the shoulder and armhole seams this way but by this stage I'd overlocked them neatly and they were joined to other seams and they're not visible when I'm wearing the jacket anyway.)
The slight patchwork effect on the pocket bags is a long and uninteresting story but I get bunnies on the inside and outside!
Apart from adding the bust dart, the other small changes I made to the pattern were:
- shortening it and straightening out the bottom, cutting off just below where the curved hem begins on the pattern. In a colder climate the extra warmth of a longer jacket would make a lot of sense but a shorter one seems more versatile for an Adelaide winter.
- rounding off the corners of the front edges. I simply took a small saucer from the cupboard and traced the rounded edge of that, after the jacket was constructed but before binding. I was a little worried the binding may bunch up a bit around the curves, but I stretched it out a little (it's bias cut) on the first pass and it folded over and sewed down beautifully.
The majority of construction is pretty straightforward. I followed the quilting instructions (making the sandwich and basting) to the letter and my fabrics, with the help of a walking foot on my Singer, behaved very nicely. The welt pockets were a bit different to my previous (limited) welt experience and it was one of those occasions where I couldn't quite picture the end result and just had to walk through it with blind faith. And it worked. Since I shortened the jacket, I had to also shorten the pocket bags but they're still a really useful size.

I am simply delighted with my Tamarack. It's so cosy, so comfy and really, really like wearing a quilt. (#secretquilt ?) Go on. If you've been on the fence, hop on over into Tamarack land. You'll like it here.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easter trading hours

We are hitting the hills for Easter, folks! Our Easter trading hours are:

April 14th, Good Friday: CLOSED
April 15th Saturday: CLOSED

Normal opening hours will resume next week from Wednesday April 19th. 
(Wed/Thurs/Fri 10-4 & Sat 12-4). 
Wishing you all a relaxing and safe break!
May your sewing time and chocolate supply be plentiful.

- Fiona & Jane xx

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pattern Review: Named Kielo Wrap Dress

You know this dress, right? Named  Kielo Wrap Dress pattern has been kicking around the traps since it's release in 2014. So many bloggers have busted out Kielos in a variety of fabrics, stretch and woven. It's fun to make, fun to wear and really versatile what with all the wrapping options.

So why are we only just discovering our love for it now? Well, we have no answer for that! In the past month we have made three Kielos between us. And since I just made two in quick succession, one from a light and drapey jersey and the other from washed linen, we thought it might be interesting to compare the pair here.

The Kielo is intended to be made from a fabric with 20-60% of stretch, woven or jersey. I had planned to make mine from a distinctly non-stretchy linen, so muslined a size 42 in a old (clean!) sheet. It fit, but with little wriggle room since I'd forgotten to add the seam allowance (earlier Named patterns require the addition of seam allowance, so check the directions).  

In the meantime, I got waylaid seeing Rachel's lovely version in navy knit on Instagram. I wanted a comfy knit Kielo too! So with some of our Hemp/Organic Cotton jersey I forged ahead and sewed the same size as my muslin, but still without seam allowance instead of sizing down to accommodate the drapey knit. Although this hemp jersey is light, its weight and drape of course made the whole dress head south. The armholes pulled down and gaped, which I "fixed" by sewing the side seams up a further 5cm toward the underarm than the notches on the pattern were marked. The downward pull of the knit also means that the ties hit lower than my waist, limiting the number of ways I can wear this one, so I tend to just tie it loosely at the front instead of going for the full-wrap experience. If you compare the width of the shoulders on both linen and knit versions you can see how much the knit pulls down by the narrower straps on my black version. 

I hope this doesn't sound like laundry list of complaints, because it's definitely not. It's just a natural consequence of having not taken the time to muslin a knit version. Had sensible past-Fiona done so, she may have decided to size down. She also may have chosen a more stable jersey to work with. (Note for future Fiona who hopefully learns from experience… stay away from knits with spandex too). So, live and learn. It only took a couple of small deviations to make this wearable. For me this is the perfect summer dress, and I'm already wearing the heck out of it. 

By now the charm and ease of this pattern had got me under its little wrappy wings. I was on a Kielo high. We were also in the middle of a heat wave, and I couldn't resist the washed linen any longer (this one is "Blue Jean"). Since I was reasonably happy with the fit of my woven muslin, I just cut a generous 2cm seam allowance at the side seams between underarm and where the ties meet the wide wrap section at the waist. Everything else was sewn as per the instructions. It's amazing what a difference fabric choice can make to fit. 

As I was sewing this linen version, Jane tried it on and caught the Kielo bug too. Another washed linen Kielo is born. We love how versatile this pattern is - how great does hers look tied at the back?

Pattern Notes
The Kielo is supposed to be maxi-length to emphasise its interesting cocoon shape, with an added back split. That length just doesn't suit me me so I cut off the hem at the top of the split. I'm 5'5"/167cm for reference. For this length I cut both Kielos from 2.1m of 160/150cm wide fabrics.

On their scale of difficulty Named rate the Kielo as "Simple" - and we'd have to agree. With three main pieces and no closures I think this would be a great pattern for a beginner with a few projects under their belt.

There's also a downloadable sleeve pattern on the Named website if you're keen on a Kielo for cooler days. So, if you need us, we'll be partying like its 2014 right through to next Summer.

- Fiona & Jane xx

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pattern Review: Fen Dress by Fancy Tiger Crafts

The Fen Dress pattern was released a year or so ago and for some reason did not grab our attention much at the time. But suffice to say it's grown on us, a LOT, and we now rate it as an absolute winner!

Fancy Tiger Crafts is a fabric and yarn shop in Denver, USA. They have released a small range of patterns and we've just stocked the Fen, Sailor Top and Adventure Tank.
I made the Fen dress in a washed linen (sold out but lots more linens here). It works beautifully in linen, and we can also imagine this versatile dress made up in a woven wool for winter, a breezy seersucker for summer or a light denim or chambray for year-round wear.
To test the fit I made a quick muslin of the bodice in size 12, which most closely matched my measurements. The fit (such as it is, in a loose-fit pattern) was great and the only adjustment I made was to narrow the neckline, curving it in about 2cm on the front and back pattern pieces. It really is quite a wide neckline and I didn't want to have bra strap issues.

The other change I made to the pattern was to make a neck facing instead of binding with bias. This was a personal choice - I'm fond of stitched down neck facings at the moment - and I also thought it would help stabilise the wide neckline in this soft linen. I had admired a large scooped stitched-down facing on the back of a RTW garment recently and made one similar. It gives a neat finish when the garment is on a hanger, which I guess is a RTW requirement, but I also like the look of it on the outside back.
I added a small strip of fusible interfacing just at the seamline on the neck facing, and also on the inside edge of the pocket openings, to prevent stretching.

Things I love about the Fen dress:
- oh so comfy, and great for bicycling
- pocket perfection
- bodice darts front and back make this shapely-casual, not baggy-sack
- slight high-low hemline sits right where I want it (for reference I am 5ft3"/163cm)
- layer-ability, I can see myself wearing this year-round
- easy-fit and easy-sew, truly beginner-friendly
- good instructions
- as others have noted, the skirt gathers are placed so they don't puff out over the hips
- this would work in so many different fabrics! Fiona and I are walking around the shop at the moment saying 'I could Fen the heck out of that!'

There are just two things I would caution about with this pattern:
- the round neckline, as drafted, is very wide. Easy to alter though, and I recommend you make a bodice muslin to check this for personal preference as well as general fit.
- the fabric requirements stated on the pattern are on the generous side. I managed to eke this Fen out of 1.75m of 140cm wide linen - BUT I did have to narrow the back skirt a couple of cms (not a problem with the gathers) and I made a neck facing instead of using bias. The stated fabric requirements would have had me cut 2.7 metres - almost a whole metre more! If I had not cut the skirt pieces side by side (which I did to save on fabric and help me match the plaid across the side seams), I would have needed about 2.2m. So be aware of requirements if you have pattern matching to do, or if you need the width for larger sizes. But use a bit of common sense and you can probably get away with less fabric than stated.

There are many variations you can choose with the Fen, including a shirttail hem (may account for extra fabric needs), a long sleeve, v-neckline and a lovely simple top. Personally I'm currently blinded by my love for this dress version and can't see past that but never say never....

PATTERN: Fancy Tiger Crafts Fen - view B dress
FABRIC: Washed linen, 175cm x 140cm wide (see notes above)
SIZE: 12
ADJUSTMENTS: narrowed neckline, made neck facing
COMMENTS: Can I wear this every single day?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Friday, January 20, 2017

Outback Wife by Gertrude Made - what to sew with these beautiful barkcloths!

There was a great suggestion on Instagram that we do a blog post on pattern recommendations to go with the gorgeous new cotton barkcloth fabric range Outback Wife. They've been selling very quickly though so please don't hesitate to snap some up - otherwise we have plenty of other fabrics that will be equally well suited to the patterns below.

From parent company Ella Blue's website:
"Outback Wife is the debut collection of Cathi Bessell-Browne, the hands and heart behind Gertrude Made. Each fabric has been a labour of love and they have taken more than a year to complete.
Inspired by the beautiful floral barkcloth fabrics of the 1940s and 1950s, each detail of this collection has been meticulously and sincerely considered to create a range with an authentic vintage voice. The stunning hand-painted floral designs printed on an exclusive cotton barkcloth base, tell the story of four Australian rural women. Outback Wife is an ode to the strength, passion and courage of rural women across Australia."

At 150cm wide, these fabrics are fantastic for dressmaking, with a medium-to-light weight, soft hand, a little give and medium drape. Produced in Japan, the quality of the basecloth and the printing is just beautiful. It really is like original mid-century barkcloth that was often used in curtains.

So what sort of garments could you make with Outback Wife? Here are some suggestions:

Deer and Doe Belladone Dress
Anna Maria Horner Painted Portrait Dress 

Grainline Willow Tank Dress and Top
Grainline Alder Shirtdress
For little girls: Merchant & Mills Trapezette Dress

 Named Patterns Lourdes Cropped Jacket
Merchant & Mills Trapeze Dress

Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt
For the blokes: Merchant & Mills All State Shirt
Merchant & Mills Top 64
Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt

With the vintage vibe of these fabrics we can also really imagine them in a 1950s fit-and-flare style dress. People have also been buying Outback Wife prints for use in quilting. What would you use them for?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pattern Review: Papercut Patterns Skipper Tunic in Washed Linen

I have to say this project fought me somewhat along the way. However I was so in love with the fabric, a beautiful blue/green crossweave washed linen from our late 2016 delivery, that I was determined to make it work. And I'm pretty happy that I got there in the end. (End-of-the-day crumpled photos because we like to keep it real.)

The Skipper Tunic was released by NZ designers Papercut Patterns last year as part of their nautically-inspired 'Ahoy' collection. I loved the simple shape, square neckline and lace-up placket. Papercut offers free worldwide shipping (how?) so I bought this from their shop and in fact added another pattern because, to tell the truth, I wondered how they could make any profit on single pattern purchases with free postage. I can't help thinking of other small businesses.

Initially I made a basic muslin to test the sizing and fit. As I expected, I felt it worth sizing down and adding a full bust adjustment, a very common alteration for me. I also lengthened the pattern quite a bit because I wanted it to be a just-above-knee dress rather than mid-thigh tunic.

Then I went ahead with the linen. It all came together quite nicely, tra la laa... until I tried the almost finished garment on. Meh. It felt baggier and more boxy than I was hoping. And when I lifted my arm, the shoulder bunched up and the side seam 'tented' out, while it seemed to pull at the centre front of the sleeve/armscye join. I'm afraid the poor quality pictures below are the only remaining evidence, but you should get the idea.

There were a few contributing factors here.
- The washed linen has a bit of 'give' so probably increases the size and bagginess a bit.
- The neck facing (which I had omitted in my muslin, simply cutting a square neck hole), which is interfaced and goes right across to join in at the top and sides of the armholes, added quite a bit of structure to the shoulders. Omitting the interfacing would have softened this off a bit. I probably could have left the interfacing out of the placket pieces too because these ended up quite stiff as well.
- The sleeve shape simply didn't suit me. I guess I hadn't done enough moving around in my muslin to work this out.

I compared the shape of the Skipper sleeve pattern piece (on top, below) to a sleeve I like, from the Deer and Doe Aubepine dress (underneath).

As you can see there's quite a dramatic difference. The Skipper sleeve cap is tall and pointy, meaning it joins in to the armscye at quite an acute downward angle. The Aubepine sleeve cap is much more rounded and, for me, gives a more natural shape and range of comfortable movement. I compared the armscye shapes and sizes of Skipper and Aubepine and they were very similar. Solution found!

I was able to unpick the sleeves and recut the sleeve caps using the Aubepine pattern piece. I basted the sleeves in place and also basted the side seams, narrowing the dress a bit more through there. Once I tried it on I was much happier with the sleeves and fit, so I sewed it all up properly. Arm movement restored!

I still felt the whole dress was a bit 'boxy' on me, so to soften it off a bit I brought in the ends of the sleeves with a bit of elastic. I added patch pockets to break it up a bit and also because, well, pockets.
The placket lace holes are meant to be made with metal grommets, but my one and only grommet experience so far had been disappointingly fray-prone. So I chose to make very small buttonholes instead.

With no appropriate lacing cord to hand I tried a bit of folded and zigzagged selvedge, which I don't mind and I haven't got around to changing yet. So it's probably staying!

Beer: Prancing Pony. Shoes: Duckfeet.

Pattern: Skipper Tunic by Papercut Patterns
Fabric: 100% linen, washed/softened, Marine (sold out) but more linens here
Size: Sizing for the Skipper (I'm not sure about their other patterns) seems to run on the large side. I measured around a Size M, sized down to S with an FBA and then took the sides in. The sizing ranges from XXS to XL.
Comments: This is my first Papercut Patterns make. They have quite a few lovely designs and seem to have a good reputation with sewists around the interwebs. I find the Skipper sleeve shape odd but it may well be a design choice that just doesn't suit my shape. The patterns are beautifully presented, the instructions are clear and thorough and it's all printed on recycled paper. I've worn this dress quite a lot already, it's comfortable, easy to wash and iron and hits a great mid-point between casual and dressy that suits my wardrobe.

One last note: I sifted through every available blog post about the Skipper to see if anyone mentioned gaping at the placket, because it certainly dips down way past where I would be comfortable with giving anyone an eyeful. No-one did. In the end my placket pieces ended up overlapping a few millimetres at the bottom, which was not intended but I decided it would help with keeping things secure. I also increased the number of lace holes. And I'm happy to report no flashing so far.

- Jane & Fiona xx