Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Spring Top Series final In the Folds Peplum Top

We're rounding up our Spring Tops series today with another item to add to the growing Drapery "never say never" file. A top with a peplum - and a frilled peplum at that! I'd sworn off both of those things in the past as a no-go zone for me and my shape, but, well, here we are.

Let's lay the blame squarely on the lovely Emily, whose pattern company In the Folds produced the Rushcutter dress, a Drapery favourite from last Winter. The Peplum top is a free downloadable Emily produced for Peppermint Magazine's Sewing School series. At 21 pages it's not a very big PDF - and, honestly the Rushcutter was such a pleasure to sew, I was fairly sure that the Peplum pattern would be cut and paste worthy.

And indeed it was. The Peplum Top comes together so nicely, the drafting - as with the Rushcutter - is spot on. This is the perfect beginners pattern, the directions are very thorough and there's a nifty glossary of terms as well (over and above for a freebie pattern!) 

My top was made in one of our new washed linens, Creamsicle, a slightly nubbly off-white linen with a teensy hint of peach. Emily suggests lightweight fabrics for this top, and this linen leans on the bulky side of lightweight, so I was ready to take out some of the gather-volume if needed. But there's something weighty and pleasingly swingy about wearing a big-ass frill in this fabric, so it's staying put. Note also, that because of the width of the peplum pieces, this top can't be made in a fabric under 150cm wide (though I think you could probably get away with 140cm width too). I cut this out flat as per Emily's suggestion and was able to get this out of 1m rather than the 1.2m.

As far as sizing goes, I sewed size E based on the finished measurements, but I could have stuck with the same size that my Rushcutters were made in (D). It's a loose-fitting style, though, so it's not a big deal. The pattern is drafted for a B cup, and even though I wear a D, there was no need for any adjustments. Yay!

The back - with swing! Again, I went outside my comfort zone and resisted the urge to round off that deep point at the back with a higher back neckline. (Much discussion about age and baring of flesh going on in these parts lately, but we say forge ahead and show those upper arms none the less, yeeks). On the baring-of-flesh theme, it's also worth mentioning that the finished length of this top is around 40cm, so if I was going to make it to go with jeans I'd personally want to lengthen it

Close up of the shoulder panels - a lovely extra detail, and I think they help achieve a nice fit too.

The verdict? The Peplum Top is fun to wear, and a quick summery sew. Ticking all the spring top boxes!

So, there ends our foray into Spring Tops. Thanks for coming along for the ride with us! Now it's time to fill those wardrobe holes with something to go with all these tops - or perhaps even a Summer frock...

Read about our other Spring Tops here:

Thread Theory Fairfield Buttonup
Pattern Fantastique Aeolian Tee
Deer & Doe Ondee
Modal-Tencel-Spandex t-shirts
Cashmerette Springfield Top
Vanessa Pouzet Hippie Top
Deer & Doe Melilot Shirt (View B)
Grainline Studio Willow Tank

- Fiona & Jane xx

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pattern Review - The Farrow Dress by Grainline Studios

When we received the preview email about the new Farrow Dress by Grainline Studios, we knew this was a Good 'Un. We both wanted to make it up for ourselves and we knew it would appeal to lots of Drapery customers. The swingy shape is flattering to all kinds of figures, the diagonal seam lines lift it out of the ordinary and the pockets - well they just seal the deal!
 Naturally, we leapt upon the pattern delivery and set about tracing and sewing like mad. Here's mine, made up in a 50/50 cotton/linen lightweight denim. (There's a small amount left in the shop, and this light denim would give a similar result.)

From previous experience with Grainline patterns I know they are drafted for a figure with wider shoulders and a smaller bust than my own. Grainline always provides finished garment measurements on the pattern envelope which is a great help in selecting size. The swingy shape of the Farrow means there is more ease than usual at the bust. So I selected my size by my high bust measurement (to fit narrow shoulders) and made a quick muslin of the top half of the dress. It still needed a bit more room at the bust so I made a 3/4" Full Bust Adjustment, adding in a dart where there is none in the pattern. (I.e. I added 3/4" to the pattern piece, resulting in an extra 1.5" width in the front bodice.)
I then cut-and-spread the front skirt piece by 3/4" in width so the top and bottom pattern pieces would match. If anyone would like more details on these adjustments feel free to ask in the comments!

My bust darts match the lines of the diagonal front seams, and I'm going to pretend that was completely intentional....

The construction of the Farrow is pretty straightforward and it all comes together quite quickly. It can be slightly tricky to envisage how the front bodice and skirt pieces come together, with the pockets, but when you have them properly aligned the pocket stitching lines will match perfectly.

The clever in-seam front pockets mean there are three full layers of fabric at that point all the way across the front of the dress. Initially I was concerned about the bulk of this, but on wearing I realised that the weight works to nicely balance the extra length and swinginess of the back of the dress. Ingenious.

The sleeveless version has neckline and armholes finished with facings. Now I have to admit I'm not generally a fan of loose facings as I find them annoying to iron and a bit unfinished-looking. However, I can see the point of them in the Farrow, because of the clean lines they produce, so I put my trust in Jen (pattern designer Jen Beeman who really knows what she's doing) and went with the facings. They're stitched down by hand at the shoulder, side seams and centre front and back so they're not too flappy and when I'm wearing the dress I'm unaware of their existence. I wouldn't say I'm a facings convert but the Farrow is worth it. (Also, it would be a very simple matter to finish the armholes and neck with bias tape instead, and not stress about visible topstitching. I certainly wouldn't rule out doing this on a future version, especially on the armholes.)
The pattern suggests to close the back neck opening with a hook and eye, but I'm always keen for an opportunity to use a cute button from my stash so created a thread chain loop for this little red number.
Grainline Studios Farrow Dress
Sizes US 0 - 18 (bust 32 - 44"), finished garment measures up to 49" at bust.
50/50 cotton linen lightweight denim, 150cm wide, 2m
8 with  3/4" full bust adjustment (high bust 35.5" full bust 38"... ish, measurements seem to vary by the day/stars/mood!)
A fabulous wardrobe staple for year-round wear. Sleeveless version could easily be layered, the long-sleeved version would be great in a wool for winter, and it would be easy to adapt to make a short cap-sleeve for those who prefer a bit of shoulder coverage. The Farrow has a similar appeal to the very popular Merchant & Mills Trapeze Dress, and offers a point of difference with the diagonal seaming and those awesome pockets.
The Grainline Farrow suits a wide variety of fabrics, and here are some suggestions:
100% Linen, washed/softened, Slate, Olive (and more)
Linen/cotton in Emerald, washed/softened
Linen/cotton print 'Rhombus'
Linen/cotton Brumbies
100% Linen, Mid-heavy weight, Natural
Japanese Wool Blend, Herringbone
Linen/Rayon blend
100% Cotton Lawn by Cotton + Steel, fish print

We'll see you round in our Farrows!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Spring Tops Series - the Grainline Studio Willow Tank

As far as we're concerned, no run-down of Spring Tops could possibly leave out one of our favourites, Grainline Studio. Jen Beeman's well drafted patterns and cleverly clean design always give non-fussy and (we think!) eminently wearable clothes. How's that for some introductory fan-girling?!

And, you guessed it, the Willow tank is no exception. It's been doing the rounds since its release during the past American Summer, and now our weather is finally warming up, it's our turn to give it a go. This is a great pattern for first time garment makers. There's a few useful (but not scary) techniques in here, like sewing darts and understitching a bias-facing, but the directions & diagrams are clear and there's a handy glossary at the back. For experienced sewists, it's a nicely drafted, quick sew. Not to mention a good wardrobe basic to thrash.

I made my Willow up in this light/mid-weight cotton denim. Because it's a non directional fabric (and I didn't follow the suggested layout plus I was happy to piece my bindings ), I was able to scrape it out of around a metre of this 150cm wide fabric. Very pleasing! This is one of those garments that seems to work well in a variety of different fabric weights - so far in the shop we've seen Willows in linen, double gauze, and lightweight canvas like this one:

Yep, Willow is a dress as well!  This gorgeous version was made from a Nani Iro cotton linen (now sold out) by our lovely friend Amanda (who always hand stitches her hems - honestly, it's a thing of beauty!)

 View from the back, making it appear that I have neither arms or legs. Moving on...

The arm and neck binding method Jen uses is to attach the short ends of the bias tape first before attaching the facing to the garment. Because of that ace drafting we keep going on about, it goes in neatly every time. Also, check out that deep hem with no frustrating excess of fabric/annoying bubbling. It's the little things, right? 

We find that Grainline patterns seem to be drafted for a reasonably straight up and down kind of body shape. Whilst I'm definitley not lacking in the curve department, I find that they fit me fairly well with no adjustments required so this one was made this in my usual Grainline size (10).

I think I'll be getting a fair bit of wear out of this. This plain denim version has already been in service with a cardigan and beads, but I reckon that this pattern might also be a handy go-to for fabric with a large pattern repeat or one of those fabrics that you love but don't quite know how to use. I'm looking forward to making the dress version next.

Willow is available on our website here.

- Fiona & Jane xx 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Spring Tops: Deer + Doe Melilot view B

Are we really banging on about the same pattern for the third time on this blog? Well, yeah. In our defence: 
1. it's a really good pattern;
2. this is a different version;
3. how could we not include the Deer and Doe Melilot in our Spring Tops series? 
So there you go, it was unavoidable.

The Deer and Doe Melilot view B has short, dropped/cut on sleeves with cuffs and regular button placket. As shirts go, there are refreshingly few pieces - the placket is a folded over number and is included as part of the shirt fronts, plus there's no yoke at the back. 

Our English language booklet instructions had gone awol, so I doddled along with the French instructions, the (excellent) diagrams, an online translation service, a wing and a prayer. It worked out fine! It's labeled as difficulty level 4/5 but I found that it all came together without too much confusion.

To be honest I was also really just looking for an excuse to use this fabric, because I've been a bit in love with this fish print since it arrived in the shop. It allows me to stay in my comfort zone (black) with a little nod of fun (we've got it in blue too, just in case black isn't your thing). It's a crisp cotton lawn by Cotton and Steel and it's light, silky and very tightly woven. Yup, no ease at all, which makes it perfect for shirt making (so precise! takes a good crease!) but also perhaps not ideal if you have a tendency to wing it and you're working from directions in another language to your own. Thank goodness for seam-rippers.

Changes to the pattern: very few! I tried on one of Jane's Melilot shirts, so I knew the fit was fine without needing any fit adjustments. This is the 42, graded out slightly at the waist to a 44 (note to future self, probably not necessary). I only added one pocket instead of the two, plus I shortened the back shirt length so it matched the front.

A close up of the collar and my shabby ironing job. You might also notice that I didn't do any pattern matching - I was happy to embrace randomly scattered fish, hope I'm getting away with it.

I wasn't sure about the button down shirt for me but it's already seen a bit of wear so I can see more in my future. I'd love to incorporate the rounded collar in my next one, too. (I have my eye on this blue cotton gingham). Melilot would work brilliantly in some of our new linens, too.

Read about our other Melilots blogged here (view A, with sleeves) and here (popover version). We're currently out of stock of this pattern but please call or email us if you're interested and we'll let you know when it returns.

- Fiona & Jane xx

Monday, October 24, 2016

Spring Tops (for teenagers): the Hippie Top by Vanessa Pouzet

Like many thirteen year olds, my eldest daughter has a burgeoning clothing habit. I've been dropping hints about how useful sewing can be for a clothes-lover - how liberating it is to be able to make exactly what you want to wear or to even replicate a favourite garment or style, but I wasn't sure it was getting through. So when she recently asked me if I could reproduce a ready to wear top she liked, I was all over it.

Audrey wanted a simple, lightweight off-the-shoulder top. A couple of Google searches later, enter the Hippie Top by French pattern maker Vanessa Pouzet. A summery top/dress which can be made with or without shoulder straps. The pattern is PDF only, but mercifully the version we were after only needed 3 main pieces so it was printed and sticky-taped together in no time.

I decided on the size 36 according to Audrey's measurements (she's 173cm tall, so the smallest adult sizes are usually good for her now). Even though this kind of style is fairly forgiving, I decided to make a quick muslin and found a slightly faulty piece of lightweight organic cotton voile we had in the back room of the shop. But - bingo! - she actually loves this. If you're after something similar, this Japanese yarn dyed shirting we currently have in stock is very a close match. This top suits any light fabric with good drape - a voile, light washed linen or double gauze would be perfect.

Did I mention that the directions are all in French? This didn't cause too many problems, as the very clear diagrams plus a little high-school French were mostly enough.  The only part that really stumped me was the point at which the beautifully named "Volant" (much more elegant than "Frill"!) is attached to the bodice. Even though I couldn't quite get my head around why the volant seam allowance needed trimming as in step 7 above, I ended up just following the diagram and it worked out fine. Lessons learned? Sometimes trying to understand the process gets you nowhere. Also, this online translation service was much more helpful than Google translate (which in some parts was downright hilarious - although I hear they've just upped their game).

All in all this came together painlessly, and it looks pretty darn close to the RTW inspiration.  Even though it's a quick & easy make it was an interesting one to sew, what with the absence of sleeves and the whole off-the-shoulder thing. Plus french seams make it nice on the inside as well. The newly minted teenager even wore it on her birthday last month, and has since hinted for another version. Plus yesterday she asked me if I could reproduce another coveted top... so, wins all around. Thumbs up for sewing!

- Fiona & Jane xx

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spring Tops Series - Cashmerette Springfield Top in Cotton + Steel

Jane here! Grab a cuppa, or scroll on down. Musings ahead.

Genetically, I was unlikely to ever be the willowy type. I'm 5ft3", decidedly pear-shaped and I've had an on-off relationship with a bit of extra plumpness most of my life. Last ten or so years, it's been more of an 'on' relationship. I'm mostly good with it.

During my twenties I maintained a size 8-10 figure with quite some effort. If I knew I was going out for dinner, I'd often starve myself the whole day beforehand. Eat literally nothing. Maybe a few cups of tea. I lived alone for some time and maintained a fridge and pantry that contained pretty much two minute noodles, cheese and beer. Sometimes I'd have half a packet of noodles for lunch and the other half for tea. And I was riding my bike to and from work or walking or doing yoga. So yeah, I looked in good shape. But looking in good shape was a priority for me then and I'd hardly say I had a healthy relationship with food, looking back.

Twenty years on and there are bound to be some changes, yeah? So much of it for the better. I'm not going to waste time wishing my body was different. Besides, my husband is a sensational cook. And I love to bake for our hungry boys. And we love to share a drink or two (or three).

Sewing most of my clothes has been a double-edged sword for body-positivity. On the one hand, I can create clothes that fit me well, regardless of my size and shape. On the other hand, this requires constant measuring, adjusting and technical scrutiny of oneself in the mirror and photographs. And then there's putting up photos online, and comparing oneself to other sewists who might make the same garment. It's not necessarily negative, it just involves a lot of thinking about one's own dimensions.

It's not all about the numbers, either. Sewing has taught me so much more about the differences in individual bodies. Short-waisted, long-waisted, broad or narrow shoulders, full or small bust... and on. Statistically there is an 'average' figure but pretty much no-one fits it!

Which is a bit of a long-winded way of saying that I'm so glad that there are different pattern companies that design for different body shapes. (This is becoming like one of those food blogger posts where you have to scroll past reams of childhood reminiscences all the while thinking "just give me the recipe already!" Where's the flippin' Spring Top??)

Cashmerette Patterns by US-based Jenny Rushmore are specifically designed for curvy women. All the common adjustments that Jenny herself used to have to make to other patterns, like full bust and sway back, are already built in, people! They range from US size 12 - 28 and have separate pattern pieces for cup sizes C-D, E-F and G-H. Halleluja! Being a sewing enthusiast and blogger, rather than professionally trained pattern designer, Jenny has the Cashmerette patterns professionally drafted. Smart move. I've only heard good things about the patterns so far and my experience backs this up.

I tried the Springfield Top, a simple sleeveless summer basic but with shape!
 And let me tell you, there is so much amazing shaping built into this thing. Both View A and B have a back yoke, and I chose View B which also has back princess seams for extra fitting.
Cashmerette patterns are drafted for a height of 5ft 6", and I'm 3" shorter. I made a muslin and found the bust darts were sitting about 1" too low on me. When I pinned up the shoulders, they sat well and I found the back also fitted better.

To adjust the pattern, I removed an inch from the front below the shoulder seam, and an inch from the middle of the back yoke, and then lowered the bottom of the arm holes an inch to add that space back in there. I also took out an inch at the waist 'lengthen/shorten' line which fixed that fabric pooling you see at centre back. In total a 2" length adjustment, nothing more. See those grey grid lines on the pattern peices? Not only did they make it much easier to stick the printed pdf together accurately, they also made for easy and accurate pattern adjustments!
Front bodice with shortened shoulder strap and re-drawn armhole line
Back yoke, shortened horizontally by 1" and side back panel with re-drawn armhole line
I was so pleased with the fit I decided to move right on to some fabulous Cotton + Steel 'From Porto With Love' fabric I'd put aside. Check it out. Technically just a quilting cotton but that metallic fish print turns it into something so special!

 Check out the way the back of this garment sits (slightly oddly) on the hanger, below. You can see how much clever pattern shaping is going on right there.
 And on?

The side splits and back panels give this simple top some lovely design detail as well as shaping and comfort. You can see by this side view that there's pretty much zero armhole gaping yet it's not at all restrictive.

I can imagine making up a few of these in different fabrics. I'd be particularly keen to make it in something a bit drapier next time; a linen or possibly a rayon.

I have a question for the collective sewing mind out there though. I love the way the back of the Springfield looks on me, but for my personal style, I think the front is kind of plain. The bias bound neck and armholes, the plain round neckline. What do you think I could do to 'dress it up' a bit next time? A stitched down neck facing? A small Peter Pan collar? Squaring off the neckline? I'm also thinking this would be great extended into a shift dress, but probably with the same wish for 'dressing up' the front. I'd love any suggestions!
PATTERN: Cashmerette Springfield Top, available only as pdf, here
FABRIC: Cotton + Steel gold fish print on 100% cotton
SIZE: 12 C/D
ALTERATIONS: took out 2" in length as detailed above
COMMENTS: I'm really impressed with how much thoughtful shaping is put into an essentially simple garment. Very nicely drafted, great instructions. I think I'll be reaching for this a lot!

PS we currently have printed copies of the Cashmerette Appleton Dress in store/online. Her other patterns are on our (long) wish list.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spring Tops Series - Modal-Tencel-Spandex T-Shirts

Today we'd like to show you how beautifully our Modal-Tencel-Spandex striped knits make up into spring tops. With 60% Modal, 37% Tencel and 3% Spandex these knits are super-soft and drapey, but also hold their shape and have good recovery.
Modal and Tencel are both man-made fibres created from wood pulp cellulose, similar to rayon. They have decent environmental credentials since the chemicals used are contained and recycled or re-used and by-products are also put to use. Additionally, the wood can generally be more sustainably grown than cotton. It's hard to believe a fabric so soft can be made from timber!
First I made a simple t-shirt for my 15 year-old Charlie from the blue stripe. I've only ever sewn with cotton or cotton/spandex knits before, so I wasn't sure how I'd go handling something this drapey and soft. However it behaved really well, perhaps just needing a few more pins here and there to keep seams in line.
 To achieve the stripe right on the edge of the neckband, I cut carefully, pressed it right on the stripe and basted the raw edges of the neckband together before attaching as normal.
As you can see here, the fabric has a lovely softness and drape, but also holds it shape really well, thanks to its medium weight and touch of spandex. The pattern I used was an out-of-print Ottobre that I've enlarged, so I can't really direct anyone to that. However I believe the Thread Theory Strathcona Henley pattern would be an excellent men's t-shirt.
Charlie was so pleased with this t-shirt that he asked for another, from the red stripe! I was delighted to oblige.
Since he's such a teenage beanpole I was able to make each t-shirt from just one width of fabric, using just 90cm each. I pressed the hems carefully and topstitched them with a twin needle.

Stripe matching on these fabrics was a cinch: the stripes seem to be the perfect width to make it easy to line up when cutting and sewing. And the fabric is fluid enough that any minor cutting imperfections can be fudged over with a little extra stretch here and there!

The Modal-Tencel-Spandex Stripe Knit is available here in red or navy on white, and also here in navy with white stripe. Fiona recommends the latter made up in the free Grainline Hemlock tee pattern! Other pattern suggestions: Grainline Lark Tee and the Deer and Doe Ondee.

- Jane & Fiona xx