Monday, February 25, 2019

Pattern review: the Frankie & Ray Anna Knicker

Knickers! Undies! Dacks! Do you like buying them? I hate it. They're either ridiculously expensive or yawningly utilitarian, or even both.

The Frankie & Ray Anna Knicker has transformed my knicker drawer (actually the overflowing mess of a shelf in my tiny, cramped wardrobe... but let's for a minute pretend I have a pretty knicker drawer where everything is folded and perfumed with embroidered lavender sachets, shall we?).

Anna in 'Strawberry Humbug' linen (sold out)

The bias cut woven knicker is your friend, friends! I have written about this before, using another good pattern. I find the Frankie and Ray Anna Knicker an even better fit for me. The waist is a little higher and more snug, keeping these right where they need to stay, all day. Plus you have the option of two waist heights and a French knicker version.

Try any lightweight, natural fibre woven fabric

The Anna Knicker is a great scrap-buster or one to use for that adorable print that made you think 'I love it, but what can I do with it?'. I've made the Anna (lower waist, elastic leg) in Liberty Tana Lawn, cotton seersucker, voile, quilting cotton and linen, and they've all worked well. The linen may be a little less durable over wash & wear but it was from a scrap piece, so I'll enjoy them while I can! The gusset can be made out of the same fabric, which was a small revelation to me (why the heck not when it's all natural and breathable?) and I think it makes these all the prettier.

Aren't they kind of puffy?

If you haven't tried woven knickers before, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to wonder.
(Image source)
I'm certainly not going to model the knickers for a blog post but you'll have to believe me when I say the bias cut allows woven fabric to be cut quite closely to your body shape and smoothly conform to your curves. There might not be knit spandex-style negative ease 'hugging' happening, but no, they're not going to look like baby bloomers!
Top: finished. Bottom: in progress.
You might be able to see the untidy contrast stitching on the white elastic. I changed my thread colours for sewing the elastic on the second pair for a more pleasing result!

A note on elastic.

I was lucky enough to be a tester for Jo of Frankie & Ray when she was developing this pattern, which was over a year ago. So this means that I've been wearing my first versions of the Anna for over a year, and they're mostly still holding up well. But I used various picot-edge underwear elastics on them and some of that has not gone the distance. I replaced the waistband elastic on one pair, which was laborious, but I loved the fabric too much to let them go. It's well worth making sure you use quality elastic. If you have a supply of reliable decorative picot-edge knicker elastic, that's great. Otherwise I suggest you try an 'extra strength' 1/4 inch elastic like this one we stock. It's important to note that it is less stretchy than many other elastics, so you will need a bit more. I found a ratio of about 77 - 80% of the waist and leg measurements to work well. If in doubt, make sure you hold the elastic around your leg and waist to find the right length for your own comfort.

It can take a bit of practice to gain confidence applying the narrow elastic around curved edges. I found it best to take it a very little bit at a time, holding the lightly stretched elastic firmly in place with my fingers (with the other hand normally guiding the fabric and elastic behind the presser foot, but it's holding the camera in this photo).

Give it a try. You could be whipping up your own Anna Knickers in no time!

PATTERN: The Anna Knicker by Frankie and Ray

SIZE: Luscious (X-Small, Small, Medium, Luscious, X-Luscious, XX-Luscious)

FABRIC: Various remnants, scraps and small cuts in lightweight cotton and linen

NOTIONS: 1/4 inch elastic, Extra Strong Non-Twist

NOTES: Read elastic advice, above. A lovely pattern for comfy, stay-put knickers in all the pretty and fun woven fabrics!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pattern Review: Pattern Fantastique Calyx Smock

When Pattern Fantastique released the Calyx pattern late last year, I suspected it would be only a matter of time before one passed through my sewing machine. So tempting were its nice deep hem facing, raglan sleeves and loose, heat-wave friendly cut. Another PF pattern, the Aeolian, has been a firm favourite of mine (ahem, 6 and counting…) and so the Calyx called as an appealing alternative.

From the front.

Inspired by Nita Jane (owner of PF) and her talk of a denim Calyx for layering, I chose to make this version in some of our 6oz washed cotton denim. It’s a lightweight fabric that has good drape but is still quite sturdy. Certainly not the floaty tencel I had originally thought I might make this in, but I guess that leaves options for next time! And there will be a next time. When I first saw this pattern I could only imagine it being made up in something super lightweight & very drapery (tencel, washed linen, cupro) because of all the gathering at the neckline. But NJ encourages the use of different weights of fabric from the floaty to not so floaty (corduroy!) Somehow, the cleverly drafted proportions of the Calyx seem to make this pattern work in a variety of fabrics, despite all that gathery volume.

From the rear.

I sewed size 12, even though my bust measurements put me closer to the 14. This is a great fit, and there’s still loads of ease. 

The Calyx comes with a bunch of different variations: top and dress lengths (with in seam pockets), a couple of sleeve lengths, optional cuffs and faced or turned hem. I opted for the short sleeved top.

Tie back and that nice wide facing.

Straightforward, and quick to sew! Nita Jane classes this pattern as intermediate, which seems a fair call.

I strayed from the (very thorough) instructions in two minor places. Firstly, I opted to stay stitch instead of using stay tape to stabilise the bias cut edge on the sleeves. The pattern suggests a particular kind of stay tape with built in basting thread (which sounds like rather an excellent product we reckon!) but I had none. Because this denim was already fairly stable, I didn’t think this was too much of a risk, but if I was going to make this with something very lightweight, I’d probably want to use stay tape or apply some lightweight interfacing to stabilise the seam. 

The other place I strayed from the directions was when it came to applying the bias to the neckline. The instructions call for sewing the tie end of the neckline bias tape in kind of tube, then turning them inside out, which would give a lovely clean finish. But, because denim, I just pre-folded & pressed the ends of the ties rom the right side and topstitched over the whole lot. I’d already done some light topstitching on the raglan sleeves so felt that a little more wouldn’t look out of place.

The Calyx also comes with an optional hem facing, which I cut out but at the last minute decided to go for the narrow turned hem instead. I love the look of the wide hem but made the call against any further volume the extra fabric on the hem would bring to the party since I was already using fairly substantial fabric.

I am so pleased with my Calyx top. It plays nicely with jeans so it’s the first thing I’m reaching for at the moment when we are lucky enough to score a cool day. I love the tie closure. And the back pieces fold back on themselves to make a great wide stitched-down facing which is such a pleasing detail, especially in a solid coloured fabric. All around thumbs up! 

The Calyx Smock pattern can be found here, and our 6oz washed cotton denim is here.

Fiona & Jane xx

Monday, February 4, 2019

Grainline Hemlock Tee in Hemp & Organic Cotton Jersey

We're thrilled to have four colours of this beautiful 55% Hemp 45% Organic Cotton Jersey in store at the moment. Even better, it's very affordable (in the realm of hemp fabrics) and particularly sustainable because it's leftovers from a local maker.
'Rose' colourway

To demonstrate the loveliness of this knit fabric I whipped up a simple sleeveless t-shirt using the Hemlock Tee pattern by Grainline Studios, a free downloadable pdf. And I really do mean 'whipped up'. A garment could barely be any simpler and this was done and dusted in between helping customers on a weekday morning in the shop.

The body of the pattern is quite long, and I shortened it by about 5cm.

I prewashed my fabric and it shrank in length (as can always be expected from a jersey) from 75cm to around 70cm. This was barely enough to cut the shortened tee from so I'd recommend using a little more! I also didn't have enough fabric to cut the neck band across the grain. Seeing as this fabric has a reasonable amount of stretch down its length as well as across its width, I defied all good knit sewing sense and cut my neckband the wrong way i.e. along the grain. (I can hear you gasping.) It worked fine! After a wash the neckband looks a tiny bit wavy/lumpy, which is probably the price I'm paying for this, and I'm totally fine with that.

To make the Hemlock sleeveless, I used the sleeve notches as my guides and folded in a small hem. When sewing the body sides together, I started on top of the ends of the hem (see pics below). I pressed the seams open.
Armhole hem folded and pinned.

Sides sewn, starting by sewing over the end of the armhole hem.

Bottom of armhole from the outside, after pressing.
I sewed this whole garment on a regular machine with a ballpoint needle, zigzag stitch and cotton thread, with the idea that the entire garment would ultimately be biodegradable. Just writing this I have realised that the clear elastic I used to stabilise the shoulder seams mucks up that intention, but it's close. Usually we would recommend a polyester thread for sewing knits, because its strength holds up better to the stretch of seams. The Hemlock is such a loose fit that none of the seams or hems will ever be under much stress so I am confident of them being quite durable. I didn't even use a walking foot, which can be helpful when sewing knits (because I didn't think of it) and this jersey behaved itself very nicely indeed.
Bottom hem, after a wash.
And here's a hasty shop-selfie to show what it looks like on a human! It may be 'sleeveless' but the boxy shape gives a little cap-sleeve. (If you're after a pattern for this shape but in a woven fabric, we can recommend the Box Top by Frankie and Ray.)

I'm happy to report that this tee is insanely soft and comfortable and I'm wearing it right now as I type. We're not sure how much of this fabric we'll be able to get hold of so if you're keen, don't leave it too long, okay?

Oh and a clever sewist on Facebook commented that this pattern also looks great with a pocket - I can just picture that, can't you? And it would mean even fewer scraps left over!

- Jane & Fiona xx