Category Archives: Indie patterns

Testing testing: Arielle and Southport

Southport dress

I’m not asked to pattern test that often, but I have happily done so for a couple of my indie designer buddies. Two recent patterns which I tested have just been released – the True Bias Southport dress and the Tilly Arielle skirt – so I thought I’d share my takes on the results. I find pattern testing a really interesting process, which is why I’m happy to give my time to do it. Firstly it often lets me try out patterns that I wouldn’t necessarily choose or buy for myself, and secondly I’m quite interested in the whole process of pattern development and how best to optimise instructions for maximum usability. I love submitting my feedback and seeing it applied to the final product.

Arielle skirt

First up Tilly’s Arielle skirt, which comes in mini or knee lengths and offers a wiggle fit with lovely offset buttons – no zip, hoorah!

Arielle skirt
Arielle skirt

I used a brown twill for my skirt and it’s lined in black silk. Slight changes were made to the hip ease due to the testing feedback, but I actually graded up at the hip anyway because I’m between sizes – it’s an easy one to blend sizes and get a good fit. Pencil skirts aren’t a typical choice for me, but I’m pretty fond of this and it’s so easy to wear with tights and a little tee and feel a bit dressed up.

Arielle skirt

I really enjoyed testing this because it was quite a challenging sew for me – I think it’s the first faced-and-lined skirt I’ve ever put together so I really relished trying a new skill. For an easier sew the lining is totally optional and wouldn’t really be necessary in many fabrics.

Southport dress
Southport dress

Next up – I’m a big fan of Kelli of True Bias’s pattern line, so was really pleased to be asked to test her latest. The Southport is a casual summer tank dress with a half-buttoned front (YASSS, sew all the buttons) and drawstring waist. It’s got above-knee and maxi length options and is recommended for any breezy, drapey fabric. I used a fairly nutty archive Liberty print called Clara – Roisin has used it in another colourway and I scooped this 1.3m piece on eBay for pretty cheap.

Southport dress
Southport dress

Welp, this dress is pretty adorable, right? I love the overall shape and style. Tank dresses are super hard to fit on my body due to my narrow shoulders and hollow chest, but this is pretty darn close. I graded from 4 at the top to 8 at the hips, and Kelli has altered the armsyce/bodice fit a bit based on feedback (so don’t use this as a final fit guide). If we get more of a sniff of summer weather or I book a nice warm holiday I’ll definitely be making a couple more of these.

You can get hold of Arielle here and Southport here. Obvious disclaimer than I sewed up test versions so my review doesn’t apply to the finished fit or instructions, and I got the patterns for free in exchange for testing. Will you be adding either to your S/S sew plans?

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!

Camisole crazy

Hallo! Thanks so much for the kind comments on my swimsuit. In a happy twist of fate, I am unexpectedly taking a pattern-cutting crash course this week (more on that soon – it is blowing my tiny mind) so if you fancied the pattern do watch this space. Now for something silly…

cami gif

Sooo, these projects are all so quick and kinda throwaway that they don’t seem worth a post of their own. But I’ve been rigorously testing out seemingly every cami/tank/singlet pattern under the sun lately (and wearing them almost daily – London is HOT, by the way) so I thought I’d jot down my thoughts on each of them.

(What do you think of my new photo setup by the way? I actually finally found a wall in my flat that’s plain white and gets decent light. Can’t decide if it’s a bit boring, though…)

Camisoles

You probably recognise this first cami from its background role in some other posts – I barely took it off for like two weeks straight when I made it. It’s a Salme double-layer cami made from a slinky viscose remnant from Abakhan. Unfortunately, a quick learning for me was that the seemingly simple camisole proves tricky to fit on my body. I have a very small high chest / overbust measurement compared to full bust and overall frame. That means I get mad gaping through necklines (fixed here with a crafty front box pleat) but then get tightness through the bust and underarms if I size down too much. I’m working to perfect the fit with each cami I make, but luckily I actually rather like the pleat detail here. From what I’ve already learned in pattern class this week, I could/should have pivoted out that excess into the bust dart.

Camisoles

Another Salme one using the offcut from my Anna dress. This time I folded the excess fabric out of the neckline, but forgot that the pattern doesn’t include seam/hem allowance and merrily cut my fabric without it. Luckily it does still fit as I sized up anyway as I always do for woven tops, but it’s a wee bit snugger than I generally like. I like the Salme pattern because the underlayer is attached RS together all around the neckline, meaning you don’t need to finish the raw edges with anything fiddly like bias or facings. I’ve been using my seemingly endless stash of stretch mesh as linings to avoid adding much weight or bulk.

Camisoles

Lucky number three, a plain black self-lined slinky viscose version of the Salme – perfect fit!

Camisoles

Ummmm, this one has tiny tumbling cats on and I have run out of things to say. Cats.

Camisoles

Here’s a different pattern, the free Diana cami from Sewloft, made up in a beautiful Liberty tana lawn that I bought as a pre-cut 1m from Liberty’s sale. (Anyone know the name of this design? I love it so much!) I had exactly the same gaping issue, and pinched it out with a front tuck this time. It doesn’t hang quite as nicely as the Salme one as it has no bust darts – notice the ripples down the sides – but that could also be a side effect of the crisp lawn.

Camisoles

I love the back detailing on this one, even if it’s not so bra-friendly. I lined it in white cotton voile to make the print ‘pop’ a bit more and get the same clean neckline finish as the Salme one (the pattern as written is unlined with self bias to finish the neckline). I treated the lining and main as one when sewing the side seams, but I think I prefer the lining hanging loose inside like the Salme one for an easier drape.

Camisoles

Finally the free By Hand London Polly top. I don’t know why I held off making this so long – it’s so sweet, fast to make, and a really good scrapbuster. This is made in a Ghanaian wax cotton that I scooped up from a lovely lady at Spitalfields market for just £2. It was already half-sewn into a skirt so I had to cut carefully to make it fit; the awkward seam right up the front is an unfortunate effect of that. The fabric has two ‘good’ sides with a nice colour contrast; I think the centre panel is supposed to be the wrong side.

Camisoles

I cut a 10 at the top, grading to a 14 at the hips – next time I will pinch more a bit still out of the front and back necklines and perhaps attempt a sway-back adjustment. I only had enough fabric left to cut self bias binding for the neck; the armsyces are just turned and topstitched which luckily worked fine in this easy-press fabric. I really love this top and can see it becoming a TNT as the potential for colour/print blocking is high and it’s so fast and fun to sew. A Polly dress might be on the horizon too…

Fabric cat

So there you go, a veritable bevy of camis. Be rewarded by my cat lounging inconsiderately on my pile of to-be-photographed tops, the adorable little jerk.

Fabric cat

Which is your favourite, Yoni? No surprises there.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Yikes, three blue printed makes in quick succession? At least this is a different kind of garment! You might have noticed a distinct lack of skirts from me until now. I’m not really sure why that is, as I wear skirts pretty often and have a few RTW ones in regular rotation. I suppose maybe it’s because I don’t see many skirt patterns that particularly inspire me, and I’m quite particular about waistband level and flare amount on my skirts. It’s something I’m keen to put right now though, and this awesome little pattern is a good kick-start to some skirty sewing.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

This is the Liesl & Co Everyday Skirt. I was tempted to go the self-draft route for my dream skirt, but this pattern is basically it: flat side panels for hip-skimming effect, pockets tucked into in a front-shifted seam and a flat-fronted waist with just the back elasticated. There are some very cute versions of it in the blogosphere which sealed the deal: Kelly, youandmie, Fa Sew La. The PDF pattern is really good – unusually, you cut the pieces out first, before sticking together. This saves both paper and tape – the printout is only 20 pages. Top marks for that, Liesl!

Ikat Everyday Skirt

I didn’t bother with a toile as it’s elasticated at the waist, and cut straight into my lovely Michael Miller ikat print, which I bought a while ago on Fabric.com. It’s a quilting cotton, but good quality and with a little stretch/give which makes it very comfy to wear.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Making the skirt up was really fun and the instructions are great. It’s got a particularly good way to add the faced front waistband – you sew it to the wrong side of the skirt first, then fold it over to the right side with the seam allowance tucked under and topstitch. This is the opposite way to how waistbands usually go on, but it makes way more sense, giving a cleaner and more accurate finish since you don’t need to stitch ‘blind’ from the RS to catch the loose folded edge underneath. I’ll be adding it to my list of go-to techniques.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

I got a little bit confused about how to finish the last side seam with the elastic enclosed, but just ended up catching it in the side seam which seems fine. The pattern recommends sewing two channels and using thinner elastic, but I just went for one piece of wide elastic (as I recently bought a whole reel in bulk), topstitched down the middle so it doesn’t twist.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Even though I sized down to a small, the skirt ended up a bit too big so I had to pull the elastic quite tightly at the back. This gives me a bit of bunching at the back and also pulls the side seams backward, but it’s not toooo noticeable because I matched up the pattern pretty well. Next time I’ll reduce the width of both the front and back pieces by an inch or so. I also probably cut it a shade too short since I like it near my natural waist, oops.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

GRATUITOUS POCKET CLOSE UP. It’s a good pocket, perfect size and position.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Tidy guts, all allowances overlocked, except I just missed catching all the pocket tops in the waistband. I’m really happy with this pattern: I need more skirts in both prints and solids so once I’ve tweaked the fit I think this’ll be a TNT for me. I can imagine it’d be great in loads of fabrics, from chambray to floppy viscose – even a ponte knit perhaps – and will transition well into cooler weather with tights. Truly an everyday skirt!

Minerva network: Tessuti Pia dress

Quick thanks first for all the lovely comments on my Anna! I’m so proud of it and reading your encouraging comments only make me want to continue doing better and better with my sewing :)

Tessuti Pia dress

Here’s my Minerva make for this month. It’s a (slightly modified) Tessuti Pia sundress, using this luscious batik print cotton lawn. I actually made this quite a while ago and even wore it to the Minerva meetup day back in June! It’s a bit different in style to what I usually go for (I mean apart from all my obvious usual hallmarks: abstract print, blue/black colours, pockets…) but I’ve been wearing it a lot in this sunny London weather.

Tessuti Pia dress

It’s the first Tessuti pattern I’ve made and I’m afraid it gave me a bit of grief, mostly down to the PDF itself. It is SIXTY NINE pages long (!) so very intensive on paper and ink. I literally had to print it out in chunks over a few days to make it seem less daunting, then felt like apologising to some trees. The main reason is that the pieces aren’t nested, ie the XS/S are laid out separately to M/L/XL, which would be fine if that was noted somewhere so you could selectively print only the size you wanted, but all but impossible to deduce before printing them all out. I ended up recycling at least twenty unused sheets which is pretty unacceptable. There are also a bunch of pieces which have to be cut out of something called Vilene Shield (used to temporarily stabilise the arm and neck edges for finishing, I think). I’ve never heard of it so didn’t use any of those pieces either.

Tessuti Pia dress

Luckily after the nightmare of printing and assembly the dress was simple to put together. The instructions are good and each step is clearly photographed. I especially liked how the instructions show where and how to finish raw edges with an overlocker as you go – so often that is missed out. The front pockets are constructed so the inner pocket is smaller than the outer, causing them to droop open in quite a pleasing way. I think this would be even more effective in a slightly drapier fabric than this crisp lawn.

Tessuti Pia dress

As I mentioned, I didn’t use the Vilene method to finish the neckline and armsyces but instead drafted a simple all-in-one facing which was burrito’d and topstitched. Another example of deviating from instructions and swapping out finishes and techniques to suit my own preferences.

Tessuti Pia dress

I cut the smallest size because it’s designed oversized, and made quite a lot of fitting adjustments directly to the paper pattern. I took about 4″ off the bodice length and at least 10″ off the skirt because looking at other versions of this dress I figured a higher waistline and shorter length would be better on me. Halfway through making it I was still convinced it would look awful on me, but actually I really like it – it’s different to my usual silhouette but very easy to wear and nice and breezy for hot days.

Tessuti Pia dress

Once constructed I felt it was still a bit too straight-up-and-down, so added a little smocking detail into the front and back to add a touch more waist shaping. Really pleased with how this worked out: it’s just small pieces of thin elastic stretched and sewn onto the inside. This lawn was really scrummy to work with and feels great to wear – perfect for a loose summer sundress. I think it’s got a nicer handle than Liberty lawn, which I find can be a bit clingy and crease-prone, especially unlined. This one resists wrinkles much better but still has the characteristic fine weave which makes it delightful to sew and to wear. You can find the fabric here, and the Tessuti Pia pattern here.

Jimmy shorts times two

Jimmy shorts

I’ve got to say, I’m an eternal optimist about the British summer. It gets to about May and I tuck away my winter coat and sweaters and start thinking about little dresses and shorts. This often backfires obviously, but I feel really comfy in these kinds of clothes, and if nothing else our flat is like a little greenhouse whenever there’s sun outside so these shorts are great for working at home. (I don’t, however, advocate indoor sunglasses: I just couldn’t be bothered to put make-up on for photos! Yes, I am also living in this cami, which was a half-hour make.)

Jimmy shorts

These are the Jimmy Shorts, a free pattern from new to me blogger/designer Fine Motor Skills (if the download link doesn’t work, they are also on Burdastyle here). I found the pattern thanks to Sarah and her excellent round-up of of free patterns. I’m kind of blown away that this pattern is free: it appears to be professionally graded and the instructions are thorough and illustrated. These are my dream shorts in terms of details and fit: mid-waisted, fly front, blousy/flared, pleats, pockets… and for an extra pro finish they are fully lined (though I left it off both of these, ha).

Jimmy shorts

The diamond pair was my wearable toile. I’m sure you recognise the fabric from my Centaurée; I guess this fabric is blessed or something because both toiles I’ve made from it have turned into (pretty fabulous) wearable garments. Sadly it’s all gone now, but I definitely got my money’s worth from it.

Jimmy shorts

They fitted amazingly well straight off the pattern. Not even any back gaping to deal with, due to a nicely curved waistband piece. I cut a smaller size than the size chart would suggest after measuring the waistband and hips on the pattern pieces – I guess they run large, so be aware of that if you make them. The only changes I did make were to lengthen the hem by about an inch and convert the front pleats to release tucks. I’ve been enjoying playing with pleats and tucks recently, pressing them to different sides and so on to find which I like best on me. It can make a real difference to the fit and flatter-factor of pants so it’s worth trying a few out.

Jimmy shorts
Jimmy shorts

My second pair are made from a polycotton twill I got in Ecuador. I bought it with shorts in mind because I wanted to use the embroidered selvedge as a hem, but unfortunately it was quite a small piece and there wasn’t enough embroidered edge to make it all the way around. So the back uses a plain selvedge, which amazingly was already hemmed with a neat narrow hem. Man, I wish more fabric came with pre-hemmed edges! Not always practical obviously, but worked great in this case.

Jimmy shorts

I used some of the remaining embroidery for a couple of belt loops, and for the fly facing and shield for a bit of fun. The instructions have a new-to-me method for the fly front which is really smart and intuitive, and produces a super tidy result – worth downloading the pattern just to take a look if you’re interested. There’s a second button inside the band as well for a nice secure fit. Ignore the rather twisty waistband and poor topstitching, ahem.

Jimmy shorts

The side seam pocket insertion is also done a bit differently to what I’m used to but again worked great. You sew both pieces to the front and secure then along the waist so they sit really flat. I love finding new little techniques like this.

Jimmy shorts
Jimmy shorts

These are a really quick sew, even with the fly front – a two-session leisurely weekend project for me. I can imagine them in loads of fabrics – a silkier pair with lining would be really sweet. I’m also kind of intrigued to lengthen the legs to knee or full-length to see if they work as pants, since I like the fit around the top so much. I reckon these are on their way to becoming a TNT for me, while the British summer lasts…