Category Archives: Fabric

Grey and Sunny 

Winter sewing continues apace and spoiler, I don’t think I’ll be removing this one till April. (See also: my spangly new boots, which give me LIFE of a grey autumnal morning. They’re from Mango.)


It’s a Style Arc Sunny top: a 25% off their PDFs dropped into my inbox (code PDF25, valid til Friday!); I typically buy their paper patterns but this was a good excuse to try the PDFs out for a fiver. It’s nice that you get three sizes bundled – albeit as separate files, so blending is tricky – and assembly was smooth, although I was annoyed to find that the pieces are mostly symmetrical but were printed full/flat. Such a waste of paper and taping time!


This pattern came together incredibly quickly and was really fun to whiz up on the overlocker. I wasn’t initially sure how the cocoon-y ‘skirt’ panels would look, but I trust SA’s drafting and always find their stuff looks and feels very RTW in terms of fit and ease. I love the resultant shape. The only tweak i made was to take an inch off the hem before hemming. I’m sure I’ll be making more of these, a snuggly cocoon is perfect for wrapping myself in on those don’t-wanna-get-out-of-bed days.

The gorgeous fabric is from The Fabric Store, specifically this cotton/modal blend salt’n’pepper sweatshirting. This New Zealand-based shop, who have sent me fabric before, asked me to be an ambassador for a few months and it didn’t take me long to say yes.

I’m always impressed by the range and quality that The Fabric Store offers. Personally I appreciate that they largely focus on both natural fibres and on solids/textures rather than prints. It seems like no coincidence that garments I’ve made in their fabrics in the past, like my rayon crepe Ninnis or this tied Inari tee dress, are firm wardrobe regulars. I think the garments I’ve made with my latest haul will be no exception – stayed tuned for more soon as I had a bit of a weekend sewathon with it. I should add that I have been a paying customer in the past and can vouch for their great customer service, and international postage is pretty reasonable / free over about £100 (though watch out for customs charges).

This fabric was a perfect match for the Sunny; it’s medium weight and stable with a smooth grey on one side and the salt-and-pepper marl effect in a loopy textured finish on the rear. You could definitely use either side as the right side and I was very tempted to reverse some of the panels to highlight the seamlines, but I’m glad I kept it simple and used all of the looped side as my good side. I can show the smooth side a little if I roll the sleeves at least.

It was a delight to sew with and pressed well – especially important to get a slick finish with this top and its directional seamlines. Even the neckband stretched willingly and went in nice and flat; I was concerned it wouldn’t as it’s not super stretchy. I think I have enough from my 2m left for another little top, so I can use the other side too – hurrah!

Here’s how I wore the Sunny out later in the day. I’m glad it works with a baggier bottom half as well as slim (these are RTW Monki jeans), and of course it matches my coat!

Bonus kitty snuggle, another winter essential <3

Iceland meets Kyoto

This was a fun wee project! Contrado, a London-based print on demand factory which I visited a while back, recently gave me some budget to make a new pattern and have it printed on whatever fabric I liked. Luckily I’d just returned from a quick holiday to Iceland, and being up on a glacier really reminded me of fabric prints – Liberty’s Manning springs to mind, which was literally also inspired by glacial landscapes. Here I am on said glacier and some of the pictures I took which acted as print-spiration:

I followed this tutorial to create a repeat pattern from one of my photos, and the file below is the one I entered into Contrado‘s online tool, from which you can set up scale and repeat styles.

I chose the Vintage loop-back sweatshirt fabric, a cosy and stable knit with an off-white base, a poly front side and cotton looped back. I was super pleased when I received the fabric a week or so later, it looks just how I imagined it and apart from a slight chemical smell that dispersed in the pre-wash you’d think it was any regular printed fabric.

I sewed it up into a Papercut Kyoto sweater, minus the cute sleeve ruffles, as I thought a simple sweatshirt would show off the print the best, and I only had 1.5m to play with.

Not a lot to say about the construction, it was super easy and the only fitting amend I made was to shorten the body and sleeves by a couple of inches each. This sort of drop-shoulder style isn’t really the most flattering on me to be honest, but for a cosy sweatshirt I don’t really care!

The fabrics I had printed through Contrado over a year ago are still holding up super well with repeated washing, by the way – I still wear my emoji Inari and Olivia dress a lot, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to get some more made, and end up with a cool wearable holiday souvenir. Thanks Contrado!

Olivia

Style Arc Olivia1

Another recent-ish addition to my summer wardrobe, this is a Style Arc Olivia dress I made a month or so ago. It’s about the simplest project you could imagine with its kimono sleeves, elastic waist and gently flared skirt. I always feel a bit lazy buying patterns like this, but the unfussiness means they actually get used more often than more unique or complex designs, so it’s definitely an economical purchase. It’s also a great canvas for pretty fabrics and ripe for a few design hacks.

Style Arc Olivia5

The proportions overall are really nice: I like how the slightly longer bodice blouses over the elastic waist, and the skirt’s the perfect fullness and flare – it’s another cycle-friendly gal. As Meg noted when she made her Olivia, the neckline as drafted is really quite wide and scoopy. I’ve actually got the facings safety-pinned to my bra straps to anchor it in place! Next time I’ll alter the flat pattern to make it a little snugger.

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A little design alteration I made was to do a deep baseball-style scoop at the hemline. I still haven’t actually hemmed the skirt – it’s just overlocked – because I’m a bit stuck on how to do it neatly with a fabric that likes to ripple and won’t take a nice press. I have a rolled hem foot which would be ideal but I’ve never got the hang of it; ditto a serged rolled hem. I’ll deal with it sometime. Or just wear it unhemmed forever…

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It was the perfect pattern to use my treasured self-designed French crepe fabric, printed by Contrado. Like all springy poly crepes it didn’t like to take a press very well, but it was mercifully non-shifty for cutting and sewing and feels great to wear. I wouldn’t hesitate to get more of their crepes printed with other designs.

Style Arc Olivia1

Considering how fast and simple this was to make, it got INSANE praise when I wore it to work today. I think every girl in the office commented on it, along with gaining boyfriend seal of approval. I’d better get designing more fabric and making it into more Olivias!

Printing with Contrado

A bunch of us sewing bloggers took a trip to Harlesden last weekend, to check out Contrado‘s amazing mini printing empire.

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Contrado started as a tiny family business called Bags of Love (which still runs, through a separate website), printing photos onto bags in the early days of the internet, and has grown year on year, expanding their range and bringing as much of the processes and production under one roof as possible. Now they have Contrado as a specialist arm focusing on fabric printing: they print onto over 75 substrates and have a loyal customer base in students, creatives and home sewers.

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After this company background from founder Chris Childs and a rundown of how the online design software works, we were let loose to upload our designs and send them to print.

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It was pretty exciting to see the orders come in live on the big screen. There’s some impressive software powering the company’s printing process (they employ seven engineers) which means that the layplans can be as efficient as possible, resulting in a minimum of wastage. They can also turn around orders in two days due to everything being automated as much as possible under the one roof. As a startup and tech nerd I found all this fascinating and inspiring.

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Then it was down to the printing room to see our designs come to life. Depending on the substrate, some fabrics are printed directly and some are printed onto huge transfers before being heat-bonded to the fabric.

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The we took a walk around the rest of the factory floor. They have in-house pattern cutters and sewists to make up a lot of the readymade garments they sell through sister company Bags of Love. Cue lots of cooing from the assembled sewing bloggers over the lovely industrial machines.

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Back to the printing room because our final fabrics were starting to be revealed!

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Here are the two fabrics I was lucky to get printed on the day, back at home and prewashed ready to sew. I gave myself no time at all to design anything fancy, so knocked these up in the morning before I left. The ditsy emoji-type print is on 190gsm cotton jersey and the blobby abstract one is on French crepe. I’m so thrilled with the fabrics, they’re without a doubt the nicest fabrics I’ve seen custom-printed and the substrates both have a fabulous handle and softness. I can’t wait to sew with them!

I’m also excited to see the next phase of Contrado because they have exciting plans to build a marketplace of user-submitted designs that you can order direct – if I knuckle down and design some prints with a bit more time I’d definitely put them up. For now though, Contrado‘s fabrics start at only around £14.50 a metre so if you’re in the market for printing unique fabrics in the UK I couldn’t recommend them more.

Thank you so much to Contrado for the tour and chance to sample the printing process, to Rachel and Kate at The Fold Line for organising the trip, and my fellow bloggers Marie, Janene, Jane, Elena and Charlotte for being excellent company.

Memphis Moneta

Sprout Moneta

I’m back at work full-time these days for the first time in years, and despite having grand plans, it is taking its toll on my sewing productivity. I’ve been less willing to take on more ‘serious’, involved projects and drawn more to fun and fast sewing that I can work on in an hour or two in the evenings. Enter Sprout Patterns! As you may have heard, they’re an offshoot of Spoonflower who print pattern pieces directly onto fabric yardage, meaning no prep required – just cut and sew. Caroline at Sprout contacted me to review the offering, so after spending way, way too long going through a million options of fabric and pattern, I settled on the Colette Moneta dress in this incredible Memphis inspired print.

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With several indie pattern brands signed up, coupled with the entire Spoonflower library of prints, there’s an awful lot of scope for playing designer on Sprout. You can see a shortlist of my favourited prints here, and I’ve already dipped back in for more orders. I especially like that as you’re designing your project you can see a 3D preview and move around the print placement to your liking. My order took a little over a month to arrive from the US but that’s atypically long; I think it got holed up in customs somewhere. Shrinkage value is factored in so I threw the fabric into a delicates prewash and let it air dry before getting sewing.

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Here’s what the pieces look like – a thick white border makes it foolproof to see where to cut and each piece is labelled here too.

In the interest of sewing science, I timed exactly how long it took me to do each stage of the construction.
– Cutting the pieces with my rotary cutter: Seven minutes
– Main overlocker construction (incl a couple of baste-and-try-on sessions): 32 minutes
– Finishing (hemming sleeves and skirt): 12 minutes
So that’s a dress fresh from prewash to finished in well under an hour!

Sprout Moneta
Sprout Moneta

One clear issue with Sprout for some is that obviously that you can’t do flat pattern alterations, as the pieces are already printed onto the fabric. Hence why I picked a knit project as they’re much more forgiving in the fit department. Fortunately the Moneta dress in straight size M fitted great, which was honestly quite a surprise – I was prepared to hack around with seam allowances if needed. I’ll probably make more Monetas sometime as I really like the shape – a Sprout bonus is that you get the full PDF pattern included with your order.

Sprout Moneta

Even given the prescriptiveness of a cut and sew pattern I did make a couple of tiny style alterations. One was to add a band to the neckline rather than turn and hem it – I don’t think turn and hem is a good solution for knit necklines, no matter what Colette thinks. There was plenty of spare printed fabric around the pattern pieces to cut a neckband from. I also left off the pockets because they seem useless and bulky in a knit, making things even faster. Finally I turned back the sleeve hems to the reverse white side for a touch of contrast.

Sprout Moneta
Sprout Moneta

Overall I’m pleased with the quality and handle of the fabric – my first experience of a Spoonflower knit. This is the Modern Jersey substrate, a poly/spandex knit, which is medium weight, drapey, nice and soft, and easy to sew both on machine and overlocker. The print is sharp and vibrant, though not quite as saturated as I was expecting from the screen swatch. If i was being picky it does seem to show a bit of the white backing colour through where it’s under stress at the seamlines (see above), and I’m interested to see how it holds up with repeated washings, but so far so good.

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Overall, it’s certainly a thumbs up from me on Sprout. I love my crazy cosmic 80s finished dress and it was such a lovely fast and stress-free project – exactly what’s needed sometimes. I’ve placed a second order for some Grainline Lark tees for me and my sister already in some equally excellent prints – watch this space.

Here are some final pros and cons of the service to consider before making your own Sprout order:
Why’s it great?
– Serious corner-cutter for the time-poor and/or lazy (of which I’m both)
– Endless possibilities of amazing prints and patterns
– If you pick a TNT pattern or if the pattern is easy to adjust as you sew there’s few worries about fitting. Also for kids’ clothing or accessories, where fit isn’t much of an issue, it makes total sense.
– Good value, considering you get all the fabric you need plus the reusable pattern included.
The drawbacks:
– You can’t make significant pattern alterations or grade between sizes. I wouldn’t be able to buy most woven dress designs as I’d need to make considerable flat alterations before cutting my fabric.
– On complex patterns you’ll still need to transfer dart and other markings.
– Shipping to the UK is around $30 and you may get stung with a customs charge too (though I didn’t) so it could work out expensive for non-Americans. I used a free shipping deal for my Lark order and there’s a discount code below!

Sprout Moneta

If you fancy a go with Sprout yourself, there’s 20% off all Moneta dress orders in March with code MONETAMADNESS! Thanks very much to Sprout for providing the order to me for review.

Swatching for spring

With the spring equinox this weekend marking the official end of winter, I feel like the slight fug that’s surrounded my sewing motivation (and perhaps brain generally) might be lifting. What’s more fun than finally feeling able to plan for lighter fabrics, camisoles, dresses sans tights, midi skirt and moar jumpsuits? To that end I ordered a bunch of fabric samples to kickstart some ideas forming.

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First, I revisited this little colour palette graphic that I made myself a while ago so I didn’t go crazy and order a bunch of things that wouldn’t fit cohesively together. This winter I definitely tended towards black as a default more often than not, and I’d like to reintroduce a bit more colour back into my clothes. I want to hunt out some pinks and greens, and I’m tending towards solids over prints these days. Plus I just always throw in some good neutral denims and trouserings as good ones are so far and far between! Assuming others are as interested in fawning over fabrics as me, here’s the swatches I ordered and what I thought of them.

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From Ditto fabrics: Indigo stretch denim, Washed Mid Blue Stretch Denim, Ivory linen jersey, Tropical Leaves Silk Noile.

Both of these denims are lovely and appear to have great recovery (they’d be perfect for skinny Ginger jeans), but the colour of both is not quite right for what I’m after. The silk noile is absolutely luscious and I don’t think I can resist it for a simple pullover tee. The linen jersey (my sample was actually Stone not ivory, but it seems to be sold out) is a delicate, loose knitted and slubby with a slight sheen – lovely, but not for me. I’d definitely spill stuff down it or snag it within five minutes.

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Croft Mill: Life’s a Peach, Premium Viscose Jersey – Forest, Premium Viscose Jersey – Silver Marl, Peach Fleck

I’ll be getting the peach and forest green jerseys for t-shirts, they feel very nice quality. The peach fleck is a little too thin and shiny, and while I love the grey I do have a LOT of grey t-shirts already…

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Croft Mill: Give a Little – Navy, For The One and Only Kate Moss, Beste – Tan, Beste – Khaki

I find it really hard to test trouserings from a little swatch. The tan and khaki gabardines are beautiful colours, light-med weight, no stretch, but get pretty creased when I crumpled them. The navy gabardine has elastane in for stretch and seems to drape better. The ex-Topshop ‘Kate Moss’ crepe feels gorgeous and doesn’t crease at all – could be a winner for some culottes or a jumpsuit.

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Finally, Merchant and Mills sent along these swatch cards because I’m going to review a forthcoming pattern for them. But clearly I’m going to be ordering more for myself too. Some tottorri seersucker and tomari twill will be top of the list.

Anyone else (in the northern hemisphere) starting to look forward to spring sewing?