Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Pattern review: Papercut Patterns Kochi Kimono in Nani Iro linen

The kimono-inspired jacket trend has been around a few years, and we're the first to admit we are not always first aboard the trend-train. Bt slowly, slowly, these things can sneak up and then lo and behold, there's a kimono-shaped hole in our wardrobes we never noticed before.
Papercut Kochi Kimono pattern line drawings
Fiona first tried the Kochi Kimono by Papercut Patterns (released June 2017) in a 'wearable muslin' made from a variety of linen and light denim scraps. She decided the shape wasn't working for her and put it aside. (But she's currently working with another kimono-inspired pattern so stay tuned!) Then recently I needed to dress for a Japanese-themed dinner and borrowed Fiona's Kochi. What do you know, I loved it, and immediately wanted one of my own.

There are several variations in the Kochi Kimono pattern: with or without neck band, lining, patch pockets and tie closure. I made the simplest, most pared-down version which has just four pattern pieces: front, back, sleeve and neck band.

It comes together in almost no time. I like the look of it fastened simply at the front with a brooch.

The fabric I used is the divine Nani Iro linen 'Situation'. It's a match made in heaven if I do say so myself. We have quite a few new season's Nani Iro linens in stock (see the Nani Iro section of the store here) and they would all make the most beautiful Kochis.

Fabric requirements only specify 140-150cm fabric but the Kochi is entirely possible out of 110cm wide fabric. After laying the pattern out I cut 2.1m. There was about 5% shrinkage when I pre-washed the linen, and I had a bit of a panic when I thought I'd ended up short. But after a lot of 'pattern Tetris' I was very pleased to actually end up with about 20cm to spare. It took a lot of juggling and single-layer cutting (especially with a directional pattern) so beware! It's a fairly fabric-hungry beast with all that volume. If you'd like to play it on the safe side I'd recommend around 2.25m of 110cm wide fabric, possibly more for larger sizes.

One of the advantages of making a popular pattern when it's been released for a while is the number of reviews you can find on the internet, which help guide the making. Fiona read many reviews suggesting to size down, and made Size S. I was very happy with the fit of that and so also made that size.


Seam finishes
Looking around the web at other sewists' Kochi Kimonos, I noticed some nice details and suggestions like bias binding all the raw edges, or increasing the seam allowance (which is 1cm) to make French seams easier to achieve. Either of these would be a nice touch, especially if you like to wear your Kochi like an open jacket, because seam finishes will be somewhat visible. After reading right through the instructions, I overlocked all raw edges except neckline before assembly, and turned the overlocked edge of the hem under again to hide it when I completed the sleeve and body hems.

'Fusing' = fusible interfacing
The instructions for the view I made said to cut strips of 'fusing' and attach to the hems of body and sleeves. I found this a little ambiguous, but yes it does mean you should use strips of fusible interfacing to stabilise the hems and give them a bit of structure. I feel this is a subtle but important part of the lovely shape of the Kochi, so don't skip this step. Our lightweight cotton woven fusible interfacing is ideal for this.

Follow the order of construction
I wanted to attach the neckband earlier but then I realised other parts needed finishing in (surprise!) the written order.

It's ideal for dressing up jeans
Been wearing jeans all day but need to go out and look presentable somewhere? Throw on a Kochi and instantly feel a bit fancy! And despite the amount of volume in those sleeves, they're cut the perfect length to not get in your way at all. So you can still do all your jeans-wearing practical things while feeling a bit fancy.


PATTERN: Kochi Kimono by Papercut Patterns, Variation 3
FABRIC: Nani Iro 'Situation' 100% linen, 110cm wide, 2.1m
SIZE: S, no alterations
COMMENTS: The hardest part about this make was fitting all the pieces onto my fabric. With the different views and different fabrics you can use (pretty much anything woven!), the Kochi is a versatile pattern that could produce quite varied garments. Simply lovely.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Monday, August 20, 2018

Pattern Review: Closet Case Ginger Jeans

It's fair to say we are in the midst of a denim phase at the moment. Here we are blogging about jeans making again. Sewing your own jeans is a fair undertaking, what with all the top-stitching and hardware, not to mention the fitting... it’s time consuming. But at the end? You feel like you’ve unlocked a new sewing achievement. Even better? YOU NEVER NEED TO GO JEANS SHOPPING AGAIN.

These jeans were started in my head a couple of years ago. I gathered together pattern and fabric then promptly decided that I really wasn’t much of a jeans wearer anyhow, so into the stash they both went.

Fast forward two years and I was becoming “jeans curious” again, missing the ease of a good pair of jeans in my wardrobe. So out came the pattern and fabric which had now marinated in my stash long enough for me to feel ok about using it for a wearable muslin. Jeans were on once more! Maybe I’d be a jeans-wearer after all? (And if not, I could use them in the shop as a sample, so nothing lost, except perhaps a fair whack of time). 

Fabric choice
I used a 10oz black cotton denim with 2% lycra content from M Recht - purchased over 2 years ago before we had found a good source of black stretch denim. Even though the pattern calls for at least 2% stretch, I suspect there's not quite enough stretch in these (actual stretch in stretch wovens seems to vary according to thread weight and type). I’d recommend you get your hands on a few stretch denims before making your fabric choice. We currently have both black and Tarragon cotton/spandex stretch twills plus these coloured cotton blend stretch denims (though the latter may be slightly too light for View A). Lining is a light cotton from the stash.

I decided on View A, stovepipe option with low rise. Fitting and sizing was always going to be a bit tricky for me, falling across 2 different sizes for hips and waist. (Does that make me apple shaped? An inverted triangle? Gah!) After much deliberation I chose the size to fit my waist, figuring that removing fabric to fit my hips would be easier than adding it at the waist. (Incidentally, the Cashmerette Ames jeans pattern (available in store) carries lots of different options to accommodate apple and pear shapes, I think that might be an interesting jeans pattern to try too). 

black garments, so hard to photograph, and omnipresent dog/s not really helping to illustrate jeans, sorry!

So much good stuff has been said about the Ginger jeans pattern, and I can see why. If you are at all teetering about making jeans, then this is a great pattern to start with. Heather Lou’s instructions are extremely clear, and there’s an excellent online sew-along with great photos if you have any head scratching moments. The directions for the zip fly are the best I have ever come across. (I look forward to doing it again - seriously!)

Another thing about jeans making: you may think you need a significant amount of kit in order to get started, but that really isn’t the case. As a test to see if it was up to it, I sewed this pair entirely on my 1981 Bernina. I needed to flatten some of the bulkier seams with a hammer and use the hand wheel to push the needle through thicker layers, but it managed just fine. As far as using one machine goes, using the same colour topstitching thread as the construction thread helped because I didn’t have to change bobbins constantly, only needles and top thread. Next time I’d have two machines going (and probably an overlocker), but this was entirely doable just with a little bit of switching stitches, needles and thread (and making notes about tension settings etc along the way!) 

Made a cutting mistake, so the coin pocket ended up on the right hand side, oops. 
We stock the very handy Closet Case Jeans hardware kits at the shop. These are great, but - sewers of black jeans take note - that these contain only 7 inch BLUE zips. For the Ginger pattern, the length of the recommended zip differs according to not only which style you’re sewing (high or low rise) but also your size. I ended up using a 7 inch (black!) zipper when according to the pattern I should have used an 8 inch one. However, I still ended up cutting mine down by more than an inch, so don’t worry too much about sourcing the perfect length, at least for the low rise option. 

The kits include rivets and jeans buttons too. It was a first time rivet install for me - and my only piece of advice is to follow the instructions. There really is a reason she recommends using a cast iron pan/steel base for these! Incidentally, I needed to cut my rivets down as the posts were on the long side (perhaps too much hammering down of seams?!) but some heavy garden snips did the trick.

note broken rivets on table. use an anvil or cast iron pan, folks!

Before I started this project, I read a few pattern reviews and it seemed like almost every sewist raved with glowing enthusiasm about how their Ginger Jeans fit like a glove first time. Because of my measurements - no surprises - I wasn’t one of them. These have taken plenty of tweaking, and I still have a laundry list of adjustments for next time. The fitting guide on the Closet Case website is a brilliant resource that really takes the mystery out of the intimidating world of pants adjustments. On this pair I did a partial flat seat adjustment and a full calf adjustment. Despite my size deliberations, they were were also too big at the waist and in the leg - in part style preference (turns out I prefer a skinny leg to a stovepipe) and other part the reason why we make muslins. After taking out about an inch from each side seam from the hips down this pair is wearable with a belt to help rein in some of the excess at the waist.

Before waistband and adjustments. So baggy!
After. A bit better.
Pre-waistband and side adjustments, compared to a pair of rtw jeans (on the top)
The thing about jeans is that you can’t really fit them properly until the garment is quite advanced. By which time your investment is considerable and you are really wanting these puppies to WORK. I got these to the point of the side seams and then baste fitted them (I’d read this tip somewhere and it really helped). But, I also reckon subjecting your jeans to some good old wash and wear is the best way to really find out how they fit.

Aaaand, from the back. Looking super wrinkly without a belt to hitch them up!
Next time, I’ll do a proper flat seat adjustment and will be more generous with the wide calf adjustment (there are probably a few too many wrinkles around the knee). I’ll go down a size and sew the skinny leg option, adding about 1-1.5 inches to the low-rise. I’m also going to use the pocket stay option from version B because more, erm, stabilizing in that area can never be a bad thing! I’ll lift the back pockets and endeavour to put the coin pocket on the right side too, oops. So, yup, basically make a whole new pair of Gingers. That said, for a wearable muslin these will do - I’ll get plenty of wear out of them. 

It’s terrifically satisfying to get really stuck into a big project like this and end up with something that looks like the real deal. I’ve learned a lot - not only about jeans adjustments but also about how I like to wear them. All artillery for next time. The idea that I can work toward making the perfectly fitting pair of jeans is, well, a bit thrilling… (but perhaps I need to get out more, ha!)

The Closet Case Ginger Jeans pattern can be found here

- Fiona & Jane 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pattern Review - Merchant & Mills Francine Top

Francine is a top & dress pattern from British company Merchant & Mills' recently released Denim Collection. It's a stylish and simple take on a workwear style, 'inspired by the fishermen of Brittany'.

For the purposes of a true-to-the-pattern shop sample I made a size 12 top with no alterations. 

This size was chosen based on my previous experience with Merchant & Mills patterns, but my measurements would put me in a size 14. Not all Merchant & Mills patterns are quite so generous in ease, as I discovered! If I was making this specifically for my own wearing I'd have made a muslin first, so please bear in mind the fit comments below are not intended as criticisms of the pattern, but as observations that may be helpful to others who make it.

The process

I find Merchant & Mills instructions to be quite good, but often a bit different to methods I'm used to. I don't mind this, and quite enjoy surrendering to the process, trusting in the instructions and usually learning along the way.

For example, the front neckline slit is staystitched on the bodice and facing separately, then each is snipped open, and the two not joined together until somewhat later. You get to sew the front collar edges and neckline slit all in one smooth line which is quite satisfying.

The collar is attached to facing and bodice necklines separately and you end up with a bunch of seam allowances pressed open and kind of floating about loose inside the collar edge. It seems fine for now but I do wonder how this would go through wash and wear. Might the seam allowances decide to move around and maybe fold the wrong way and make lumps? Hmmm.

A quirky feature of the Francine is the option to place the pocket on the outside or the inside. I didn't notice until I read the instructions, but the garment on the pattern cover has the pocket sewn on the inside. Perhaps this is a traditional 'fishermen of Brittany' feature but honestly I just find it a bit weird so I opted for an outside pocket!

There's a lot of satisfying topstitching on this pattern and as per when I sewed my jeans, I set up a second machine for this because it requires special thread, needle and tension and it's done at many different stages of construction. It makes a relatively simple top take a bit longer to sew but the extra detail is what makes it special.

Everything came together nicely. There's minimal ease in the sleeve head, although it appears there's a bit at first because of the generous seam allowance.

I recommend pinning as close as possible to the actual stitching line, and having the sleeve side down towards the feed dogs of your machine as you sew, to help ease the curves together.

I'm not sure that I've really mastered the split side hem on any garment yet. I found the end result difficult to visualise so again just walked through the steps as instructed and it worked well enough. I added extra topstitching and then, later, a bartack along the top of the split because it looked to me like it needed a bit of reinforcement.

The fit

I'm used to Merchant & Mills patterns being on the generous side for fit so it came as a bit of a surprise to me that the Francine was quite snug across the bust, with a feeling of pulling my shoulders forward. (It has no darts so perhaps not so surprising really.) As mentioned above, my size per measurements is really a 14 so this would have provided me with more breathing room. However the shoulder width in the 12 fits me, so I would choose to do an FBA on this size.

Without an FBA the top rides up in front. Once corrected, it's possible I still might want this top a little bit longer. I like the length but this girl needs to move without flashing her belly.

These are certainly long enough. The shoulder sits nicely when my arms are by my sides. However, if I raise my arms the entire garment lifts... a lot. It's another case of high sleeve head and sleeve fitted in at a sharp angle, such as I experienced with the Papercut Patterns Skipper Tunic. I'm not sure if this is specific to my body shape, but for me at least, I will redraw the armscye and sleeve head from a favourite fitting pattern (Deer and Doe Aubepine) to give myself freedom of movement without indecent exposure!
poor quality photo for the sake of sewing information!

I find the top a little bit of a struggle to extract myself from, around the shoulder area. Possibly an FBA will also help with this. Overall there seems to be significantly less wearing ease in this pattern than the other two Merchant & Mills dress patterns I've made (Factory Dress and now out of print Union Dress). I expected that the fit might be a bit like the Top 64 (I've tried on our shop sample size 12) which is also quite generous on me. However it's much more of a shirt-like fit than an overshirt, and it's a fair bit shorter.
perhaps one day I will learn how to adjust something without a waist seam to fix that pooling in the back


Merchant & Mills Francine Top (& Dress)

100% cotton Japanese Denim, 'Schist', 1.65m x 110cm wide (as usual with M&M patterns I found the fabric allowance accurate and pleasingly non-wasteful).


None for this sample, would add bust dart and change sleeve head/armscye for personal fit.

A very appealing style, more fitted and shirt-like than I was expecting. Versatile, because it works well in denim weight but I can also imagine it in a light cotton or linen with short sleeves - and also as a dress - for summer. Measure yourself carefully and if in doubt, make a muslin!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Monday, July 23, 2018

Pattern Review: the Pippi Pinafore by Jennifer Lauren Handmade (with bonus Ostara Top)

Personally I love the style of patterns by Jennifer Lauren Handmade of New Zealand. They combine a little vintage flair with everyday wearability. I had great success with the Laneway Dress last year and her latest release, the Pippi Pinafore, was impossible for me to resist. Pinafores, jumpsuits and overalls are my favourites! I bought the pattern immediately, and by the time Jennifer put out a call for pattern reviewers I had it sewn up and happily volunteered. (Just for transparency: reviewers can be sent a free copy of the pattern but I had already purchased it for myself, and in any case Jennifer encourages entirely honest reviews.)

From the pattern:
 With a fitted bib, deep patch pockets and fun side button fastening, Pippi is a fresh take on the classic overall dress, combining comfort with a sleek and playful silhouette.
The Pippi Pinafore is your new favourite weekend dress — darts and gently curved sides shape the bib, creating a flattering silhouette for multiple bust sizes. The pleated front skirt and side button placket create a relaxed look while also stepping your sewing repertoire up a few notches. Straps cross over at the back and fasten to the bib using your choice of overall hardware or buttons (depending on what you have in your stash). 

With cup sizes A to D, Pippi is perfect for the adventurous beginner seamstress and beyond.

Jennifer's patterns are currently only available in PDF format, so I had mine printed as A0 size at Aish Solutions just down the road from our shop. They're probably not the cheapest option for this but they're extremely convenient and helpful, which is just what I want when I can't get my hands on a printed-and-packed sewing pattern.

I ummed and ahhed for ages over fabric selection. The Pippi would be extremely versatile in denim or another neutral mid-weight plain colour. However it had been ages since I'd made something in a fun print. This fabulous dandelion cotton canvas by Kokka had been calling my name and I decided it was time for a bit of bright joy. Why the heck not?
Pre-washed and ready to go
Pippi has a lined bib and waistband so I chose an equally happy Cotton + Steel print for those.

I've noticed a trend for large, shaped patch pockets on many indie patterns lately: e.g. Sew House Seven Burnside Bibs, True Bias Lander Pants, Closet Case Jenny Overalls & Fiona Sundress. It produces a nice flat pocket and gives the opportunity for topstitching detail. However I'm not convinced it's always the most flattering look on my shape, pasted over the widest part of my body. (For example I think on my Burnside Bibs the pockets are too long and curved on me and I mean to summon the effort to unpick and shorten and square them off.) In hindsight the Pippi's pockets are a better proportion for me, so not really an issue, but initially I wished to alter the pattern to have inset pockets. This wouldn't be difficult (here's a great tutorial for the alteration on the Lander Pants) but then I wondered whether an inside pocket would pull out of shape with the Pippi's side button closure. Again, in hindsight, I think this would not have been a problem because there is a decent amount of ease in the hip area. However I was concerned enough to stick with the pockets as drafted, and pattern-match as well as possible to make them less prominent. This meant I needed to cut an extra 60cm of fabric to find the correct part of the pattern repeat to match, which felt a little wasteful. But most fabrics in my scrap drawer end up being used in one form or another!

As many female sewists are aware, a large floral pattern like this is fraught with potential for The Dreaded Flower Boob. So I selected my bib pattern placement carefully. With help.
Helper dog is helpful. Model wears Greyhound size S by houndtees.com.au
Jennifer's patterns include a wonderfully broad range of sizes (6 - 24) and the valuable option of different bodice cup sizes (A - D). I found the Laneway Dress size 12D fit me well with just a little shortening of the bodice and loosening of darts around the waist. This experience and my measurements led me to select the 12D bodice, grading out to 14 at the bottom of the bodice, through to the waistband and skirt for Pippi. I didn't make a muslin (gasp) because I had confidence in the sizing, and the pinafore bodice is forgiving and adjustable via the straps. Ultimately my straps are shortened a decent amount, which is consistent with the bodice shortening I required in the Laneway. (Let's face it, most designers draft for a greater height than my 5ft 3/163cm.)

I have to admit I had a bit of head scratching and unpicking to do when making the front skirt pleats and attaching the pockets, but I think this was really my fault for not adequately marking the notches. It all came together in the end! Everything else went smoothly.

The pattern offers a couple of different suggestions for attaching the straps to the bib. There's also no reason you couldn't simply sew them on once you determined your personal length. I chose jeans-style hammer-on metal buttons and overalls-type clips because I'm into the overalls vibe. Unfortunately I ordered the wrong size sliders to match the overalls clips so my straps are just secured underneath with safety pins for now (and possibly forever). I could probably just stitch the ends down and be done with it. It's not like I'm going to grow any taller, is it? So here's Pippi, worn on a bright day to match the bright print!

I really love my Pippi Pinafore. I think I'll wear it more in the warmer months because the busy print I chose requires a bit much thought to co-ordinate with all the other necessary layers during winter. I'm pleased with the comfort and happily surprised by how well the straps stay on my shoulders, thanks to the crossover at the back.
If you look carefully at the top of the strap on the left you can see the end of the strap peeking out, which shows just how long these ended up on my short torso - NB the overalls clips do add some length, too.

On the subject of winter layering, in all pictures I'm wearing the Jennifer Lauren Ostara Top in organic cotton jersey. I made this pattern for the first time this winter and highly recommend - I'm up to version three. Great neckline!
As worn during Me Made May

PATTERN: The Pippi Pinafore by Jennifer Lauren Handmade (available at this stage only as PDF from her own online store)
FABRIC: 100% cotton canvas by Kokka of Japan, Dandelions, 1.75m + extra 60cm to pattern match pockets, and 50cm Cotton + Steel quilting weight cotton for lining.
SIZE: 12D bodice graded to 14 through waist and skirt. I found it very true to size/measurements.
ALTERATIONS: None except for above.
WORN WITH: Jennifer Lauren Handmade Ostara Top, Cake Espresso Leggings, Duckfeet Australia boots
COMMENTS: The darted bib, cup sizes and waistband make Pippi a shapely, slightly 'dressed up' pinafore that's nonetheless very comfortable to wear. A garment to make you smile!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Friday, July 6, 2018

Pattern review: Jedediah Pants by Thread Theory in Wide Wale Corduroy

I've had the Jedediah pattern for a while now, but we've recently begun stocking the Thread Theory pattern range at The Drapery, so it was time for a review. I have made several pairs of the shorts for my teenage sons, with great success. This was my first time making full-length trousers from the pattern, but really the sewing is no more complicated because all the detail is above the knee!

The 'brief'
The 17y.o. wanted corduroy trousers and was very taken by our wide wale cord. I asked him to find some reference pictures for his 'vision' of the ideal shape, to help me pick the pattern. In the end, after some research, I went back to the good old Jedediahs because I knew they fit him well, and I thought a couple of minor adjustments would achieve the style he wanted: a bit baggy, yet fitted in the waist, and tapered to the ankle.

What did I change?
I changed the front pockets to a higher, curved jeans-style opening. If you would like to do this, remember you also need to change the shape of the pocket facing, which is in 'self' fabric and attached to the pocket lining. It's the bit that shows above the pocket opening. In hindsight I should have made my pocket facing a little bit wider at the top because the lining wants to peek out. However a strategic rivet is helping to keep everything in place.

I also changed the leg shape a little: narrowed a bit at the hip (the Jedediahs have the slightest hint of jodhpur about their roomy hip and slim leg, on my long thin teens), and then widened a little at the inseam and outseam through the lower thigh, knee and upper calf, tapering to the original narrow ankle. My changes were extremely un-technical... just re-drawing lines and making sure the back alterations matched the front.

The instructions have you flat fell the inseams and bind the outer leg seams, which makes for a great feature, especially in the shorts with rolled up cuffs. For reasons I can't actually remember (probably accidental), I flat felled both inner and outer leg seams. It was tricky to do the second side but I like the finish.

For a slightly more jeans-like vibe (and because I am in possession of a large pack of rivets), I added rivets on the back pockets as well as front.

Sewing them up
I find the Thread Theory patterns to be beautifully drafted and the instructions are excellent, resulting in a satisfyingly professional-looking finish. Additionally, they have great online sewalong blog posts to help with each step, so if you get stuck at any step there's plenty of information and helpful photos. I was grateful to my past self for writing a few notes in my instruction booklet, especially around the fly insertion. Once I had my head around it, the fly insertion was the simplest and most fuss-free method I've used.

Having said that, I had a little trouble with getting the fly to sit straight once I'd attached the waistband. I think this was more in my waistband sewing than the fly. I hadn't checked how the waist ends met at the top of the fly, and the buttonhole end was sitting a bit higher. So when I attached the waistband evenly all the way around, the overlapping buttonhole end also sat higher. I did some unpicking and adjusted this and it's much improved, although not perfect. Just a little something to keep in mind next time.

One of the lovely tailoring details in the Jedediah Pants is the easing of the front leg into the back. You're instructed to use an iron to give the fabric a bit of a stretch in specific places to assist the easing, and the result is a natural leg shape that accommodates a knee bend with comfort. (I guess the only drawback of this would be that a plaid fabric would not match front-to-back, so no plaid pants!)

The corduroy behaved itself beautifully and has washed and worn very well.
You can see the slight wonkiness at the top of the fly here, but fortunately Mr 17 is not into tucked-in shirts!

The critical question

Did they meet with the teenager's approval? Why yes! The proof is in the wearing, and these have been worn at almost every non-school-uniform or pyjamas opportunity since they were finished. I'd say that's a thumbs up! (It's hard to photograph teenagers 'in the wild' so pardon the casual/messy pic below but it's proof of the wearing!)


PATTERN: Jedediah Pants by Thread Theory
FABRIC: 100% Cotton Wide Wale Cord in Tobacco (3 colours available)
SIZE: 30
ALTERATIONS: pockets and leg, as detailed above
COMMENTS: Pleasing contemporary, slim-shaped pants or shorts. An excellent base pattern for minor style alterations. I've had great satisfaction from sewing shorts and pants that look really polished and have been worn a lot.

- Jane & Fiona xx

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