Category Archives: Grainline Studio

Dos Alders in Mexico

I’ve just got back from a short holiday to Mexico; it was our third time there as it’s probably my favourite country in the world (vying closely with Japan!). In the week prior I decided I needed a couple of new holiday dresses, so spent some very enjoyable evening and weekend time sewing up some simple frocks ideal for the spring heat. I also did a few crafty things out there and a spot of fabric browsing!

(Yep, I found a sewing sign!)

I dug out an old PDF that I haven’t used for a while, Grainline’s Alder pattern. Thanks to past me I had View B adjusted for fit as I’ve made it twice before – one, two – plus an uncut copy shop version of View A which I decided to try this time. I applied similar fit and style adjustments to View A: converting the collar to a V-neck (Jen’s tutorial here), a small FBA and swinging out from the hip to add more needed pear-shape space. I’ve made so many simplifications to the pattern that it’s now only two pieces!

Both dresses have the same construction: French seams throughout (well, there’s only the shoulder and side seams so hardly a huge effort) and self bias tape to finish the neckline and arm edges. Some hate it but I quite like making self-bias and it always seems to behave better than any bought stuff. I’m that weird sewist who likes doing buttons and buttonholes too so this was quite the dream sew. They both have my little custom labels that I designed and had made by Nominette too.

Onto some in-situ holiday snaps… (sorry these look kinda pixelly? Something weird going on with my exports.)

The first one is in a beautiful lightweight but opaque printed linen from The Fabric Store. I ordered this fabric actually expecting to use it to make some cushions, but once it arrived the drape and smooth handle were so lovely I couldn’t resist a dress instead. (And I have enough left for those cushions, yay!)

I spent a while at the cutting stage trying to get the print lined up across the seams and centre front. Giving myself a B+, it’s pretty darn close!

These pictures were taken in the lovely suburb of Coyoacán, fitted with scented flowers, cobbled streets and colourful walls.

The second one is made from Kokka double gauze that I bought in Tokyo last spring. This abstract print was far less critical to match! I adore the colours in this fabric and it’s butter soft.

Happy to report it was both heat- and cycle-friendly! I can’t wait until the English summer or another holiday to wear these again.

Onto some other crafty stuff I did over there. One day we did short workshop in the lovely San Angel area to learn about alebijres, the richly-decorated little folk animals you find in every Mexican craft market, and to paint our own versions. They have an interesting history that merges pre-hispanic traditions with the work of one of Diego Rivera’s proteges, Pedro Linares. I made a little pink ‘n’ green kitty and Josh painted the crazy lightning lad.

We also took a class on another day to make a small weaving using yarns mainly dyed with natural products such as indigo, cochineal and flowers. This took place in the Chapultepec Forest and was also really fun and relaxing. We booked both of these days (along with some other trips) on Airbnb experiences, and I really recommend those as a way to meet locals, hear their stories and maybe do a little holiday crafting.

The artisan markets are full of wonderful crafts too. I brought home a lovely blackwork Otomi embroidery like in the right-hand photo above, which I’m going to hang on the wall. You can read a bit more about Otomi’s history and how it’s made here.

Finally, I did a spot of fabric shopping in the city of Puebla, a couple of hours east of Mexico city, where we decided to spend a night fairly last-minute. It was a good decision as Puebla is a beautiful place, with an amazing antiques/flea market, stunning old churches, and plenty of fabric shops!

Like most Mexican cities, similar shops tend to clump together along a street or block, so there were several fabric shops conveniently next to each other around Calles 2 Ote and 8 Pte towards the north of the small city centre. Josh handily entertained himself by going to buy tacos árabes, a local speciality (another interesting read), while I poked around a few of the stores.

There were the usual suspects that I encountered on my first trip to Mexico, the large chains called Parisina and Modatelas. These usually contain haberdashery and other crafting / misc household stuff too, and the fabrics are mostly synthetic and very bright! However I did spot some nice rayons, linen blends, ‘crepe ghost’ whatever that may be, and traditional style woven stripes and smocking.

I liked the smaller shops better; these typically have sections for knit/woven dress prints, costume type fabrics like tulle and sequin, and a wall of more premium cashmere and wool suitings. Prices are mostly in the $50-150 MXN (£2-6 GBP) per metre range, thought probably more for the fancier stuff.

I only bought one thing, this irresistibly silly cat print knit which I’ll use for a simple pyjama top. But it’s still always a treat just to browse in fabric shops while traveling! Here’s a list of some of the shops in Puebla in case you are travelling there:

Telas La Moderna, Av 2 Pte 106
Telas Janina de Miguel Velázquez, Av 2 Pte 310,
Modatelas, Av 2 Pte 304
Parisina, Av 2 Pte 111
Telas Boaltex, Av 8 Pte 116
Telas Rafa, Av 8 Pte 307

TNT, or not TNT…

This is my second outfit using my ambassador fabric allowance from The Fabric Store, and it ties rather nicely into this month’s Sewcialists theme of TNTs, or ‘Tried and True’ – the patterns you love and reach for over and over again.

I’m a big TNT fan: once the fit is right and you’ve vouched for a pattern fitting into your wardrobe and lifestyle, why not make it again and again?! I even used to buy RTW clothing I liked in several colours so it’s sort of the same practice at work. Plus of course it’s always easier to sew a garment once you’ve made it once or twice, and you can have fun applying your own little hacks and tweaks to get it perfect.

One of these patterns is a TNT and one isn’t, and guess which was was the most fun to sew and will get more wear…?

Yep the trousers are another pair of Named Ninni Culottes. I wear my first pair in navy aaaaalll the time so really wanted a black pair to match my winter boots! (I’m really glad they pair rather well with boots, meaning I can still wear them in this fairly mild autumn weather).

These are actually a very true TNT because I used basically the exact same fabric too: a crinkle rayon from The Fabric Store. My navy ones have held up beautifully and while they go oddly crispy when the fabric is washed and wet, they straighten out again beautifully with a quick iron. I think this black fabric is slightly thicker and more structured, which makes it easier to work with and a little more suited to cooler weather. I love how smart black projects look inside with matching overlocking, and I used my yoke pocket pattern hack to make more practical pockets. Other than these I’ve made two more pairs of Ninnis, in bubblegum pink and in stripes, so it’s definitely a TNT that’s here to stay for me. The fact it takes like an hour to sew is a bonus!

The tee is the non-TNT, although it’s a pattern I’ve had for ages but hadn’t used yet: the Grainline Linden sweatshirt. I just wanted to try a raglan as opposed to my usual (and very much TNT) Plantain tee. I cut view B with the elbow-length sleeves and slightly dipped hem and eugh, it just didn’t work for me at all! The sleeves looked really dumpy and the fit around the top was poor, plus the neckline gaped like crazy. It seems like Grainline’s block fits like magic on some people and not on others, and I definitely fall into the latter camp. I’m afraid I threw the PDF straight into the recycling as I don’t think I can be bothered working on the fit to make it work for me.

In the end I cut the sleeves right down and finished them and the neckline with some proper ribbing (left over from my Joni pants): the fit is still not perfect but at least this is very wearable now and I didn’t waste the lovely fabric, which is The Fabric Store’s lightweight merino in skinny black/slate stripe. This fabric was again beautiful to work with and didn’t even complain too much about the hacking and altering I had to do to get this tee to fit. The merino should provide a cosy base layer for the cold, too.

I love the colours in this outfit and The Fabric Store’s luxurious-feeling fabrics means it’s really comfortable, and I know it will stand up to repeated wears and washes. I plan to make more TNTs this month for sure, and while I don’t often share repeated patterns on the blog I may make an exception to celebrate this month’s great Sewcialists theme.

Faux jumpsuit

Oooh, this weekend’s project is one of my favourites for a while. It’s a fake jumpsuit, i.e. actually separates made up in the same fabric – Named’s Ninni culottes mashed up with Grainline’s Tiny Pocket Tank.

I wasn’t going to buy the Ninni pattern as it’s so simple and I’ve hacked this sort of wide elastic-waist pant before, but I just love their drafting and it was only 10 euros for the PDF. I was glad for the purchase as everything about the drafting is just right for me: the rise, width, waistband etc. I’m happy to pay 10 euros for someone else to deliver me what I want!

Sewing them up was fast and easy, except the part where I dozily sewed the back to back and front to front at the side seams instead of a back to a front, and had to unpick it all, on BOTH legs. Don’t sew when hungover, kids.

I was going to be extra-lazy and graft the leg pieces together as the outer side seam is pretty much straight, but decided I wanted the inseam pockets. I’ve tacked across the pocket top and bottom to try and keep them facing forwards.

The Tiny Pocket pattern doesn’t seem to be available any more; it was Grainline’s first-ever downloadable pattern and I assume the Willow tank has replaced it in the line-up. It’s a real nice well-drafted basic so I’m glad to have it in my PDF stash.

Guts shot; I’m proud I got the binding so neat and flat because this fabric was so difficult to press. I actually self-drafted an all-in-one facing but didn’t have enough fabric left to cut it and no suitable plain stash fabric; there was only just enough left to cut a few bias strips! I sewed the armhole binding flat before French-seaming the side seams, and the neckline binding was done in the round.

The fabric is a poly crepe from Minerva Crafts. Their description of it is spot on: it’s a dream to sew with (apart from not taking a press very well), has a little comfy stretch, is pretty much opaque but very lightweight with a wonderful drape. I love it! I got my culottes and top out of the two metres with very little scraps to spare.

I’m thrilled with these separates; I can see myself wearing them all summer both together and mixed up with other garments.

Tamarack in Yosemite


Ahoy there! I’m on my travels again, currently in beautiful Yosemite, California (via fabulous Las Vegas, as my sweatshirt attests). It seemed an appropriate place to grab some photos of my new coat since its namesake tree can be spotted here. Yup, it’s a Grainline Studio Tamarack jacket which ended up being my Slow Fashion October make.


As you might recall I basically had a design idea for my dream coat fully formed in my brain a while ago, then Jen went and released this pattern that was basically it, so I could change tack and get sewing quite rapidly. Just in time to finish it for my holiday, handily enough.


The other funny thing is that for a slow fashion project, the Tamarack is actually a pretty speedy make. Three main pattern pieces, no facings, no bagging: my sort of coat project. Obviously there’s all the quilting and binding to do, but those happen to be amongst my favourite sewing tasks so it was all good and extremely enjoyable to make.


I used a Nari Iro double gauze for my outer fabric, and it’s lined in a thickish viscose twill. There’s Vilene fusible batting inside the layers, both to make quilting easier and to add strength to the double gauze. The resulting fabric is just the right level of cosiness for me, and saw off a bit of chilliness and drizzle on our hike today no worries.


The pattern suggests hook and eye front fastenings, but I switched them out for a zip. There seemed to be a fair bit of interest in how to do this on my Instagram sneak peeks, and honestly it’s really easy (although there are probably better ways to do it than I did). I just bound the neck and hem separately, then finished the raw front edge with the overlocker, pressed it back about 1cm and topstitched the zip in. If you were feeling fancy you could bind the loose seam allowance and zip tape edges together and slip stitch it to the lining (I might go back and do that) or try to add an underlap fly shield. I used a 24″ metal open ended zip, but because I lengthened the pattern I think 22″ would fit the pattern as drafted. Sorry I didn’t get any pics of it fastened but it basically fits nice and slim.


A few other pointers on the pattern:

– I did a quick toile in my usual Grainline size (4 shoulder graded to 8 hip) and found the fit perfect. I just added two inches at the lengthen-shorten line for more of a bum-covering coat length. Bear in mind your finished jacket will feel slimmer than the toile due to the thicker quilted fabric. Also try the toile on with what you intend to wear underneath the finished jacket, ie a cardigan or sweater, to check there’s enough ease.

– Essential tools of the trade for painless quilting: walking foot, basting glue (way way better than pins), gridded cutting mat, chaco chalk pen, clear gridded ruler. There are some good tips in the pattern and on the Grainline blog too. I used a walking foot for nearly all the construction, bumping the stitch length up to about 2.8. It only took an evening to get all the quilting done, and another for the main construction.


– The welt pockets give the project a bit of meaty interest. I was so worried about doing them into the quilted double gauze that I nearly did patch or side seam pockets instead, but I’m glad I went for it. Jen’s instructions are the best I have tried, particularly as you end up with all the raw edges nicely concealed inside.


– I bound all the seams inside but it’s really not my finest work – a bit patchy and sloppy. Sorry, slow fashion spirit. But I did handsew all the bias edgings down inside – way easier and faster than doing neat ditch-stitching.

All in all I’m super pleased with my new coat and reckon it’ll see me through all but the coldest bits of winter. It definitely won’t be the last time I pick up the Tamarack pattern as I think it’d make a great coat block for design modifications.

Be-zazzled Franken-dress


Finally, I made a new dress! I haven’t had much time to sew properly since before New York, so on Sunday and Monday I carved out some time especially to knock out a fun new frock. Plus the fabric’s a bit special too…


This is a true Franken-dress by design. The bodice is a sleeveless Darling Ranges, with the shoulder line extended out to make cut-on cap sleeves rather like the Burda 7078 I just made.. The skirt is from the Grainline Alder, lengthened by 3″ from my previous ones.


The patterns fudge together fine since you can just adjust the gathering at the top of the Alder skirt to match the bottom bodice edge. I could well have just used my v-neck Alder piece for the top, but I think the DR is just a slightly better fit around the chest and shoulders for me.


I love the drama of the full, swoopy Alder skirt at the back, especially when lengthened. Lots of swish-factor!

kimono sleeve

Tip for converting a sleeveless dress into a kimono sleeve: you’ll want to raise the pitch (angle) of the shoulder line or you’ll find it a bit tight and hard to move your arm up and down. You may also need to drop where it hits the bodice by an inch or so for more wiggle-room. I’m sure there’s a more technical way to make this adjustment, but eyeballing the angles and drawing straight lines worked for me.


OK, the fabric! I was really excited to be asked by Zazzle to try out their custom fabric offering recently. You can choose from their premade design library (there are some really cute ones), customise a design, or upload your own design entirely – which, being the control freak type, I went for. It was super easy to add my design (a simple moon and stars repeat that I made in Illustrator) and I was amazed that the fabric took only three days to get to my door from the US.


(I didn’t mean to have the print going in opposite directions on the bodice and skirt by the way, oops.) This is a Pima cotton, described by Zazzle as ‘high-quality, luxurious fabric… extremely soft to the touch and easy to work with…’ I’m REALLY happy with this fabric and would say the description is totally accurate. The handle reminds me of a cotton sateen but without the stretch – it’s smooth and silky, more drapey than crisp. The print is good and sharp and it doesn’t have that papery or coated feel like some digitally printed fabrics do. It had a slight inky smell but that was removed in the prewash (a 40 degree delicates cycle). Zazzle promise no colour fade despite their eco-friendly inks, and I didn’t notice any fading in my prewash. I’m keen to see if that keeps up as I wash the dress some more.


I’m really pleased that this dress turned out how I imagined in my head, and that it’s super unique thanks to the Franken-pattern and me-designed fabric. The question is will I ever make a non-buttony-up dress again? The jury’s out.

Zazzle gave me a voucher to try out and review their fabric printing service. Views my own!

Alder-ish + NYC


I’m back from a luuuurvely week in NYC. The weather was mostly kind – and the food/beer/fabric shopping most definitely was (a bit more about that below). Here’s a little dress I made before I left with my trip in mind. I know NYC gets humid, so a breezy cotton dress was order of the day.


This is my second Grainline Alder, but it’s pretty far removed from the original pattern by this point! I’ve switched the neckline to a V like before and this time I removed the back yoke seam to cut the back as one piece, and cut the bodice and skirt as separate pieces rather than the continuous front panel piece of the pattern. So is it still an Alder at all really?


I used a random quilting cotton find from Manchester’s Abakhan – I think Alder works fine in a fabric with a bit more body and structure. I did slim down the skirt pieces by about an inch so they didn’t stick out quite so much. I meant to add a wee bit of length as well, but forgot. Still a super fun dress to wear and ideal for hot weather.


The day previous I went over to Mood for a little meetup with three of my favourite Stateside bloggers – Katy, Kelli and Sonja. Best shopping buddies ever! It was so great to meet those girls and we all bought some pretty amazing fabrics, with lots of egging-on from each other.

NYC shopping

My mission was to buy silk crepes for more Ilsley skirts or similar, and I did succeed! Baby pink with white scribbly dots, and a lovely olive/emerald green.

NYC shopping

A Liberty stretch poplin and a rayon jersey print. Amazingly and bizarrely, the Liberty in Mood is cheaper than nearly everywhere I’ve seen it in the UK at $20/yd, and they have an excellent range. I’ve never used the stretch poplin before – I think it has a bit of extra body and drape compared to the lawns that will make it even more suitable for unlined dresses.

NYC shopping

Second part of the shopping mission was denim for more jeans. Charcoal grey and bright-ish spring blue (this one was from B&J Fabrics over the road).

NYC shopping

In fact I’m well in for denim now, because I was lucky enough to also meet up with the adorable Jennifer from Workroom Social and she generously gave me some of the famous Cone Mills denim as used in the Ginger jeans kits. It feels amazing so I’m really excited to get sewing with it. Thank you Jennifer, it was great to have a beer with you!

NYC shopping

Finally, some more frivolous and fun purchases from the lovely Purl Soho. Robert Kaufman tie-dye print cotton and chambray, and a delicious Nani Iro double gauze. The Nani Iros are only $18 a yard at Purl – about a third cheaper than the prices over here!


Finally finally I also managed to pop into City Quilter and Brooklyn General just for a little looky and gift purchases. A highly successful trip all round, really. Better get pre-washing…