Category Archives: Frankenpattern

Autumn uniform ii: Mountain-Plantain

Plantain + Cardigan

Like my Coco-Sandra, this outfit is another one I’ll be wearing all autumn. I wasn’t going to blog the dress since it’s pretty darn basic, but I snapped some photos of this outfit in the morning when I wore it because I happened to have made the cardigan too. I love a 100% me-made day!

Plantain dress

The dress is a Deer & Doe Plantain tee ‘hack’, which you can find Anna’s tutorial for here. It’s made from one of Leah Duncan’s newest collection for Art Gallery, which I got from M is for Make (though it’s nearly sold out – Finch Sewing Studio have it for a good price too). I was interested to see what the quality is like of the Art Gallery knits, and overall I’m pretty happy with it. I’d call it a light-medium weight, but it’s stable and easy to stitch. It’s got plenty of 4-way stretch and good recovery. Ideal for a tee or babydoll dress really, and I reckon it’d make some pretty comfy leggings too. I’ve washed it a few times already and it seems to be holding up well.

Plantain dress

This was a no-brainer sew – all overlocked and the hem straight stitched since it doesn’t need to stretch. I should really have tried harder with lining up the print because the waistline is a bit skewiff and the mountains are upside down on the skirt and sleeves, ooops. It’s kind of a secret pyjama dress – sooo comfortable – which is why it’s shot to the top of my most-worn list despite the wobbly bits. Must make more!

Cardigan

I made the cardigan pattern myself by tracing off a very beloved Madewell knit that I bought last winter. It was really simple to trace and sew – I made the entire thing from pattern to finishing in an evening. The fabric is a cable textured double-layered knit from Minerva. It’s only £3.99/m and is really snuggly since there are actually two layers of knit bonded together.

Cardigan

It’s got a raglan sleeve construction with the hem and neck bands sewn on afterwards. I topstitched down the overlocking around the neckband to encourage it to stay flipped outwards. I put buttons on for that genuine knitted cardigan effect but didn’t bother with buttonholes since I’ll never wear it closed, ha.

Plantain + Cardigan

Unfortunately it turned out just a little bit too small all over, mostly because I didn’t allow for the fabric I chose having much less stretch than the original cardigan. Next time I’ll just add an inch or so all over and perhaps choose a looser fabric. It’s finally actually starting to feel cold here in London so I think Project Coat will be my next big project.

Saturday Silk Sewathon

Polly-Anna top
True Bias Sutton blouse

I had a fun Saturday, getting reacquainted with my machine after two weeks away (a long time in my books!). Josh was away too, so I stuck some catch-up TV on and had a little silk sewalong. I’ve just started a new work contract which is vaguely in the fashion industry, so my mission was make some slightly smarter yet still comfy tops. Enter some lush fabrics and two brilliant little patterns: a BHL Polly-Anna lovechild, and True Bias’s brand new Sutton Blouse.

Polly-Anna top

I was inspired by the current BHL #Patternhackathon contest to have a go at mashing together the the Polly top and the Anna dress to make an autumn-appropriate top. It’s a Pollyanna! – that name reminds me of that horrendous film that’s regurgitated every Christmas, but I suppose it’s too good not to use.

Polly-Anna top

Hacking the patterns together was very straightforward. I simply laid the Anna over the Polly, lining up at the neck edge and along the shoulder line, and drew Anna’s extended kimono sleeve and underarm curve straight onto the Polly. I also copied over Anna’s lovely neckline.

Polly-Anna top

The main fabric is a black sandwashed silk from Goldhawk Road, with the dull side facing out. I love how it looks and feels, but it was kind of a pain to work with because the rough surface doesn’t feed through the machine that easily – I had a few skipped stitches and ripply seams to deal with. The front panel is a beautiful printed lightweight silk that I actually bought the same day at a local Peter Jensen sample sale which Kathryn and I popped along to in the morning. The Polly pattern piece just fitted onto the little scrappy remnant, so it was clearly meant to be.

Polly-Anna top

I can’t get over how well it fits: I suppose it makes sense since I’d already tweaked both patterns to fit me, but I absolutely love them together. The guts are just as pretty: you gotta do french seams, narrow double-turned hems and self-bias necklines when working with a sumptuous silk. Only the curved panel seam is overlocked, but I bet you could french seam that too if you were feeling brave. Fingers crossed for the competition – there’s a heck of a prize hamper at stake, I hear.

True Bias Sutton blouse

My second make of the day was the True Bias Sutton blouse. Kelli asked me to test the pattern but the dates fell over when I was away in Mexico. I was so disappointed because I loved the design at first sight, so Kelli very kindly sent me over the finished pattern anyway. Yeah, I’m wearing it with my Hudsons, not that they really go together but I couldn’t resist.

True Bias Sutton blouse

I used the last scraps of the sandwashed silk for the all-in-one shoulder yoke, and another silk that I got from a House of Hackney sample sale for the main. Again it was a small remnant that the pieces only just fitted onto, and then only if I cut on the crossgrain hence the sideways leopard print. I do get an odd sense of achievement from fitting a pattern onto the scrappiest of scraps.

True Bias Sutton blouse

The pattern came together really easily. The instructions are great and I made no fit adjustments, just grading from a 6 at the top to an 8 at the hip. I love the technique for finishing the front V-neck nice and precisely, and you’re instructed to use French seams throughout for a swish finish. The only design tweak I made was to leave off the side splits and level off the hem so that I could French the side seams too. I’m pretty sure I’ll make both of these tops again – just keep me rolling in fancy silk!

Holly dress, and a how-to

Holly dress

Ahoy-hoy! I’m in beautiful Mexico right now, but I have a little project from earlier this month to show and tell – it’s another By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit dress hack, and I’ve also guest posted the tutorial on BHL’s blog. Scroll to the bottom for a link…

Holly dress
Holly dress

I love how this version turned out! My paper pattern tweaks from first time worked out well, though looking at this pic I could probably go down a size as it’s a bit loose above the waist, which shows up more in this crisper fabric. BHl have done an amazingly comprehensive sewalong for Holly by the way, with all sorts of useful fitting tips from swaybacks to the dreaded neck gape.

Holly dress

I think the fabric really makes this dress. It’s a Ghanaian wax cotton that I bought from a lovely lady at Spitalfields Market; only 5 or 6 quid for 4 yards. Wax is so nice to work with, especially when you have to do any kind of folding/pressing since it holds a crease so well. A wash with fabric softener before and after sewing really helps it to relax into a soft and comfy cotton, and it stays surprisingly un-creasy all day. I used to feel a bit uncomfortable in garments made from stiffer woven fabrics, but I think getting the fit/ease right means they feel a lot better to wear. I don’t get changed into sweats when I get home after wearing this, a sure sign that a garment is comfy!

Holly dress

The fabric also let me do one of my favourite things: get nerdy with print placement! I ran the directional print horizontally on the bodice and vertically on the skirt, doing my best to centre and mirror the design across the fronts. The darts get pleasingly camouflaged into the geometric print rather than breaking it up too much. The blue stripes across the waistline and down the button band weren’t intentional but have become my favourite feature. I totally zoned out when it came to matching the side seams and sleeves though, ha.

Holly dress

Such nice tidy guts, mmm. I finished the neckline with bias again instead of facings. This is a bit of a slovenly confession but I only very recently started threading my overlocker with 4 threads instead of 3, literally because I couldn’t be bothered to re-thread that one extra spool when changing colours. Turns out the 4-thread looks way neater and has a much stronger finish, so consider me convinced.

Holly dress

Soooo, if you want to see my walkthrough on exactly how to draft and attach the gathered skirt to the Holly bodice, I’ve done a tutorial as a guest post on the official Holly sewalong, so pop over to the BHL blog and have a read.

Holly dress

This is the LAST button-down dress I have to show for a while, you’ll be pleased to hear. It’s so hard to pick a favourite from all the ones I’ve made recently, but this one has racked up the most wears (and compliments) so far. I wore it to the SewBrum meetup and it’s come out to Mexico with me – I’ve been doing very well on wearing handmades here, as well as a bit of fabric shopping… update soon!

Holly (not-a-)jumpsuit

Holly Dress

Forgive the slight repetition – I’ve got a thing for button-down(up?) dresses at the moment. Two makes in a row, and two more to come! I think it comes down to a combo of my distaste for zips (yes, sewing fifteen buttons and buttonholes is somehow preferable) and a love of the shirtwaist look but actually disliking the whole collar part on myself. If it helps, this isn’t another Darling Ranges at least – it’s a wee hack of the new By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit.

Holly Dress

I’m by no means anti-playsuit (I love View 1 of the pattern as it is), but decided to hack the Holly onto a simple skirt for a much more everyday-wearable garment. The skirt is just a wide gathered rectangle with the button placket continued right down the front. Easiest hack ever.

Holly Dress

I had to make a couple of minor fit adjustments to the bodice itself, similar to those I made for the BHL Anna: taking a wedge out of the back neck, raising the waistline a bit and a swayback adjustment. I did these on the fly because I was sewing this dress up chez Tilly but I’ve now transferred them to my paper pattern for next time. I also sized up to a 14 because I like more ease than is built in (props to any pattern company that, like BHL, gives finished garment measurements so you can work this out ahead of time!). The four front darts and two back darts all hit the right places and give good shaping – it’s a slightly more tailored look than the casual babydoll of Darling Ranges. Good to have button-down dress options, right?

Holly Dress

I actually pinched an idea from Darling Ranges and used narrow bias binding to finish the neckline instead of the included facings – if I can avoid a facing, I will. The neckline is such a pretty shape: the perfect collarbone-showing off scoop. The sleeves have a sweet turn-back effect cuff using a separate pattern piece – a lovely detail that gets kind of lost in this print. It would be cute to do them in a complementary fabric like the envelope model.

Holly Dress

This fabric was an eBay scoop, just a cheap poly but it’s got nice drape and a pretty rad distressed triangle print with flashes of colour. I had some small coral buttons in my stash that matched one of the colours quite well so on they went. I tend to add more buttons than recommended because I’m scared of malfunctions… also I secretly quite like sewing buttonholes with my one-step foot. I also just got a button-sewing foot which makes the whole process dead speedy.

Holly Dress

This dress was a really fun sew and I’ve already worn it twice – it’s a nice one to pair with coloured tights as I’ve got lots of accent colours to pick from! Holly is such a lovely pattern and, seemingly like all BHL patterns, ripe for a bit of hacking fun. BHL are just about to kick off the official Holly sewalong – and watch this space if you want a bit more guidance on how to make this dress hack as I’ll be sharing a full tutorial (and my second take on this pattern!) next week. Anyone else take a button over a zip any day?

Celebration Anna

Anna dress

This dress is a double celebratory one for me. Firstly, I think it shows how much I’ve progressed in my sewing, even since March when I made my last Anna (which I cringe when I look at now!). Secondly, I got round to re-making the Anna in order to wear to By Hand London’s Kickstarter celebration party on Friday!

Anna dress

This time round my Anna fits like a glove, and a few little tweaks here and there have got it just to my liking. I used Ginger’s tutorial to take out some back-neck excess (quite a lot in my case) and lowered the front neckline a little.

Anna dress

I moved the zip to the underarm side seam – I’ve grown to dislike centre-back zips a lot, both from an aesthetic and practical point of view. The zip is even hand-picked! I’m a changed sewist, man.

Anna dress

The bodice is lined in my beloved stretch mesh instead of using facings. I burrito’ed the lining to attach it to the sleeve edges with all raw edges enclosed, but found that I needed to both understitch and edgestitch the neckline and sleeves to keep it tucked inside. Like with my Centaurée, I didn’t make a duplicate bodice for the lining but traced the constructed bodice, leaving the bust pleats off. I like this technique with a stretch lining as it lies very smoothly with no additional bulk from two sets of pleats.

Anna dress

I swapped out the gored skirt for one of my all-time favourites, Simplicity 1610 – same as my kitty dress (which has recently undergone surgery to make it fit better). I maintain that it has the quickest and cutest yoked pockets ever. I had a feeling it would be a successful match for the Anna bodice and love how it turned out.

Anna dress

The pocket edges match up nearly exactly with the first set of bodice pleats, and I pleated the centre of the skirt by eye to match the other line of pleats. Looking at this makes me happy.

Anna dress

The back is just gathered between the darts and the skirt hem is a deep machine blind. Look at the perfectly fitting back! Don’t think I’ve ever had a non-stretch bodice fit so well.

Anna dress

The fabric is part of my Quito haul. I wish I’d bought more of this one as it’s totally dreamy: it’s a fairly heavy poly crepe so hangs really beautifully, sews easily and doesn’t require lining. The subdued but fun (Pacman, anyone?) print and colours make it suitable for day and evening occasions: a real wardrobe workhorse but still a bit special. It reminds me of something that my ultimate brand crush Sessun might make. Luckily I think I have enough fabric left for a little cami or something as well.

BHL Party
BHL Party
BHL Party

As I said, I wore this frock on Friday to the By Hand girls’ party to celebrate reaching their Kickstarter goal to fund their foray into fabric printing. Naturally there was a bunch of beautiful By Hand dresses on show, including no less than ten Annas. It was an amazing night, which culminated in a circle-dance lovefest to ‘Let’s Get It On’ before a sprint down the road to catch the last train home. Congrats, girls!

Bridges dress

bridges dress

I’ve been a bit stuck on what to make next since the new year. I keep looking between my fabric stash and sewing sketchbook, sighing and dithering. It’s a bit of a battle between picking projects that I find challenging and interesting to sew, and what I actually like to wear. Those two criteria often seem diametrically opposed unfortunately, as I’m constantly seeking new sewing challenges, but basically live in simple shapes and fabrics. To that end, I’m rather pleased with this simple cotton dress that I made leisurely last weekend. It did end up presenting quite a challenge: not in the actual construction, but in designing it to fit into my everyday wardrobe without getting carried away with unwanted details.

bridges dress

Challenge the first to surmount: shock horror, it isn’t made from my beloved jersey. I had a gift voucher for The Village Haberdashery and chose this ‘Waterfront Park’ quilting cotton as I love the colour and print. I wouldn’t usually make a frock from quilting cotton but this stuff is super nice, with quite a bit of cross-grain stretch and a good drape which makes it suitable for garments. It doesn’t even crease as badly as I was expecting during a day’s wear.

bridges dress

I learnt from my 2013 review that I do not wear non-stretch dresses on a regular basis, so how else to make this work for me? – choose an easy elastic-waist shape rather than try to do anything too structured and fitted, like the Belladone or Elisalex I first considered. I used Salme Patterns’ Kimono dress as a basis, but altered it quite a lot. I cut the skirt and bodice together as single pieces (front and back) and omitted the facings, meaning the dress is just two pieces. I cut more of a scoop neck (a bit too wide, bra straps tend to peek out), flared out the skirt by an extra inch or two at each side, shortened and rolled back the sleeves, and took it in at the armpit as it was looking a bit batwing. It isn’t really the same pattern at all after all that, ha.

bridges dress

I was really set on keeping the design simple, simple, simple to make sure it stayed everyday-wearable, so resisted the urge to add any little details like pockets, collar or pleats that would tip it into fussy. I stuck to this until right to the end, when I was rooting through my sewing box for some bias binding to finish the neckline and came across the grey metal zip, unused from my biker coat. I can’t resist a chunky zip detail, so sliced my dress right up the front and sewed it in. The zip was a touch shorter than the length I wanted so it looks a bit weird that it ends above the hem, but I can deal with it.

Bridges dress

Otherwise I’m dead pleased with this dress and I think it will definitely be in regular rotation. I even wore it yesterday, my birthday, for drinks and dinner. It’s just as easy to wear as a knit dress, so I’m going to look out for more sweet quilting cottons that could be used in a similar way.

bridges dress

Following on from this, I think one of my missions for this year is to draft my perfect day dress that can be made up in either knits or wovens. This was a good first stab, but I would do a couple of things differently next time:

1. Pockets. I keep reaching for them on this dress! I want to learn how to draft curved hip yoke pockets as I find them more interesting and flattering than side seam or patch ones. Then add them to everything.
2. Sleeves. Kimono sleeves are comfortable to wear but can look a tad sloppy, especially in more rigid fabrics. I would experiment with raglan or regular set-in sleeves.
3. Waistline. I like an elasticated waist, but they can also look a bit lazy and not drape well in stiffer cottons. Could try semi-elasticated (flat-fronted, elastic in back), smocked or drawstring instead.
4. Other details. A keyhole at the back neck? Chest pocket? Peter pan collar? Loads of scope for variations once the basic shape is sorted.