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Fibre Mood Amira- Check out that Tartan

I made a new thing. Nothing new there I hear you say, but this new thing was a little  bit different for me.

For a while now I’ve felt that I needed more long skirts in my wardrobe. Before this one, I only had one. I’m more of a short skirt with thick tights kind of person. I have plenty of dresses too but, long, full skirts was something I wanted to try.

As well as being drawn to try a long skirt, I had recently begun obsessing about checks and tartans after seeing a fabulous collection from Endelea. Their colours and print choices was inspired by the Maassai people of Northern Tanzania in particular.

Fabulous or what!?

These gorgeous bright, bold statement making skirts and shirts had me drooling. Those colours against the beautiful dark skin was something I was keen to emulate. So I began my search for checked fabric and a good skirt pattern because unfortunately, the Endelea prices were out of my budget. Even though I wasn’t sure that a full skirt would suit me or if I was bold enough to wear a checked fabric with it’s body widening horizontal lines on my lower half, I still badly wanted to give it a go.

While we’re here, let’s talk a bit about body issues. I have spent the vast majority of my life vacillating between embarrassment, dislike and hatred of my thick thighs, wide hips and prominent bottom, and also feeling guilty about not accepting my body shape. Add to that more recently a thicker waist and tummy. Part of my sewing journey has been about making clothes that fit me and thus avoiding those dressing room dramas. It has also been about making clothes that suit me, that work with my shape. While that all sounds good and well, I fear that I am not doing as well at accepting my body and loving it as I thought I was. For far too long I have bought the lie of beauty belonging only within a certain combination of body measurements and it’s a hard thing to shake. I have avoided wearing tight clothes on my lower half, I’ve avoided wearing too much fabric or loud colours and prints on my lower half. Pleats and horizontal lines have also been avoided. So this skirt was a bit of a departure for me.

I am fortunate to receive a free pattern to preview every month from the latest Fibre Mood pattern magazine. Issue 17 was packed with some really cool, on trend patterns. But choosing just one pattern was made easier by the fact that I had my mind set on a skirt. Cue the Amira, a midi length skirt with shaped waist, yoke,  invisible side zip and pleats. This was the one!

All I needed was the fabric. I wanted either a blue and black or a red and black check. I could only find this red, black and yellow check from Fabrics Galore in a brushed cotton within my price range. I wasn’t 100 percent sure. It was giving me Bay City Rollers vibes that I wasn’t sure I was ready for! I also wondered if the brushed cotton would look too much like pyjama fabric. I needn’t have worried, the fabric was perfect.

The pattern was easy to construct after the fiddly and time consuming job of ironing the pleats was done. I don’t often make pleats but when I do, it’s usually just one or two on a garment. This had about 24 pleats and they were a little bit tricky to press and place correctly. My only tip with pleats is to go slow! The cotton holds the pleats better than I thought. I was really pleased that I managed to keep the rows horizontal and match the pattern at the side seams. I also managed to match the centre yoke piece quite nicely. I cut a size 14 and I’m a little bit cross with myself for being lazy, I should have made a muslin. The skirt is too big at the waist and I’ve had to add some elastic in the back. I should have made a 12 waist and graded out to a 14. Will I ever learn that a muslin is nearly always worth it?

Anyway, I really enjoyed the construction of the skirt. The instructions were clear. The hem was hand stitched, and even though I rolled my eyes at that instruction it was actually very pleasing to do it. The hand stitched hem looks very neat and professional.

I love the way the pleats fall from the yoke, giving shape and fullness and plenty of movement. I know that the pleats, the fullness and the bright print accentuate my lower half and I am ok with that, really. I am so pleased with how the skirt turned out and how warm and cosy it is, the perfect autumn to winter garment. It’s pretty much the look I was going for. I’ve already seen how I can style it with existing garments like the ready to wear mustard jumper.

I also tried a little checks on checks look which I thought looked a bit punk.

Another great look from the Endelea Collection.

The amira is such a great pattern suitable for many fabrics. I’d like to try it with chambray or a crisp poplin, with a matching shirt perhaps.

I am really hoping I get a lot of wear out of this skirt this season. Checks and saturated colours are on trend for autumn/winter 2021, so I’ve nailed that! I’m also hoping to work more on exploring different shapes and ignoring the little voice in my head that says I shouldn’t wear this or that.

Fibremood Tilda

I am fortunate to receive previews of the Fibremood magazine each time it comes out. The last time round as I looked at all the patterns the Tilda shirt dress called to me. The dress has elbow length sleeves, a relaxed bodice through the waist, a tapered midi length skirt and a wonderful statement collar. For a shirt, it is simple in that the collar is attached without a collar stand and there are obviously no shirt cuffs or plackets to contend with.

Even though I was drawn to this pattern I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to make it as a dress. It had an eighties feel about it and I’m not a fan of that fashion era. Also I wasn’t sure that the tapered, button through skirt would suit me. I had visions of sitting down and buttons flying off! But still it kept calling me.

I did however like the idea of making it into a shirt, I mean, that collar! I had seen a similar shirt in H and M which I’d pinned on my Pinterest. A black shirt with the large collar highlighted with a ruffle. That seemed like a simple enough hack, so I picked the Tilda pattern and made my shirt.

The shirt turned out so well, simple and stylish in a black poplin. I thought that I’d make like a Shoreditch hipster and style it with black jeans. I made a bit of an error with attaching the collar, it doesn’t quite sit right. Also the overall fit is a little tight around the arms, so I clocked that I’d have to make some changes next time. And I really did feel there would be a next time and I even had the right fabric for it, maybe.

I had bought a floral cotton poplin with a black background a while back with the intention of making a shirt dress, probably the Saraste from Named Clothing as I had that pattern cut out already. But the more I looked at the fabric, the more it seemed to be telling me that it didn’t want to be made into something with too many seams. Yes, fabric does talk to you and so do clothes patterns! The diagonal flow of the floral print wanted to be disturbed as little as possible,  cut into as few pieces as possible.

And so my mind went back to the possibility of making the Tilda as a dress. The bodice and skirt of the pattern are one piece rather than bodice pieces which need to be joined to a skirt. That would work really well for the fabric. To compensate for my large thighs I would most likely have to grade up 2 sizes compared to  my bodice. I hoped this wouldn’t change the style of the dress too much

And so I got to work banishing the little voice in my head that was telling me not to make the dress. I cut a size 14 bodice and began to grade out to a size 18 just before the hip notch. I also cut the size 18 sleeves because I don’t like my arms to feel imprisoned! This then meant I had to sew a row of gathering stitches at the sleeve head so that the sleeve would fit the size 14 bodice. So I have a little bit of a puff at my sleeve heads which is fine.

I’d previously bought some large vintage buckles from Selkie Patterns, one in black and another in orangey red. I thought the reddish one would be perfect for this fabric and I knew that I’d want to style my Tilda with a belt.

Making the dress was simple. Before I got on to attaching the collar I thought I’d watch the sew along on Fibremood’s IGTV. It was helpful and my collar is sitting so much better than my shirt version.

I totally forgot that I wanted to make a belt with a red buckle and went ahead and sewed 10 black buttons in place before I remembered! I thought I’d do an Instagram poll to help me decide which buckle to use, because at that point I was vacillating between the two, seeing as I’d sewn on black buttons. But again the fabric spoke to me and so did the reddish buckle, so I was glad when the poll overwhelmingly said to go with red buckle and buttons.

If you look closely you’ll see that I’ve balanced the red buttons on top of the black ones!

The belt wasn’t difficult to make. I used an existing belt to gauge the length and width. The only thing now is that I think I might add some belt loops to the dress to help the belt sit more securely. I love the shape that the belt gives. What can I say, I love a bit of waist definition on me. And the red buckle and buttons are just great.

I am a bit in love with this dress. The shape really suits me, the print is gorgeous, the collar is dreamy, everything has lined up to make a great garment. I love it when I manage to match up the right fabric and pattern, the skill is to listen to the fabric, hear what the pattern is say too, try it. Oh, and so far I’ve managed to sit in this dress without the buttons popping off ๐Ÿ˜„

Ankara Appreciation Week:Paloma Dress by Emporia Patterns

There is a particular, traditional way of wearing cloth among the men of Ashanti that my dad really doesn’t like. It involves taking a large yardage of wax print or kente and carefully wrapping it around the body, draping over one shoulder and gathering over an arm. Always worn over shorts. My dad says he feels exposed in it, but often has to wear one to funerals or fancy occasions in Ghana.

Image from Pinterest

I wanted to capture something of this garment in my show stopper outfit for Ankara appreciation week this year. I chose to make the Paloma dress, a new pattern from Emporia Patterns. They gave me the pattern in exchange for some feedback. The dress is a halter-neck which can be made as a maxi or knee length dress. I wanted the drama of a maxi and I think I got that! It has a belt that gives more shape to the dress.

It is a very simple pattern and it came together quickly. I made a straight size 14 but I feel I could have got away with a 12. I didn’t toile-tut tut. I chose a gorgeous wax print from Ankara Shop UK, an earthy, muted version of the popular traditional Kente cloth. Kente is the cloth of the Ashanti people of Ghana and is made of woven silk strips stitched together. It’s a work of art and is expensive thus making it the original cloth of royalty. It is a celebratory cloth often worn at weddings. Printed, wax print versions make it affordable. And I felt this was the perfect cloth for a showstopper piece. Ankara always comes in a narrow width and this dress with its full circle skirt used up almost the whole 6 yards of fabric.The maxi length combined with the stunning fabric elevates this halterneck from glam beachy vibes to grand gala vibes I think.

I made a couple of small changes to mine. I added in seam pockets instead of the patch, hip pockets. And I doubled the length of the neck ties because I like a bigger bow and longer ties hanging down.

Like my dad in his traditional garment, I feel a bit exposed in this dress, it certainly steps out of my comfort zone. It shows more back and arms than I’m used to showing. Also the dramatic length, fulness of skirt and beautiful print mean that this dress stands out, I cannot be a wallflower in this!

Also like my dad, I am quite introverted, even though I enjoy being with people in small doses. But both my dad and I were teachers used to putting on a show in the classroom for the sake of the children. So I am hoping that I will pull off wearing this dress. That I’ll put it on and step out confidently, pretending I have somewhere great to be. Because it is a beautiful dress and I felt really special in it taking pictures at the Horniman museum gardens. It doesn’t deserve to languish in my wardrobe.

I don’t really sew showstopper pieces, I like the everyday garments because I want my clothes to work for the life I lead, which sadly isn’t very glamorous. But a couple of special me-mades in the wardrobe for dressing up can’t be bad. I’d like to make another Paloma in a chambray maybe and see how I feel in that.

Follow #SewAnkaraFabric or #SewAnkaraFabric21 on Instagram for some amazing wax print inspiration.

Ankara Appreciation Week- Saraste Dress Hack

As I write, it is the day after the beautifully bright and colourful week of Ankara celebration that Juliet Uzor and I had the pleasure of hosting over on instagram. Ankara appreciation week was first launched in 2020 and it really seemed to hit the mark so we thought we’d do it again. Back then in 2020, there was a lot of pain and heart ache surrounding George Floyd’s killing and the week of black joy and unifying creativity was such a welcome. This year the week of celebration coincided with the racial abuse 3 young footballers faced for missing penalties in the Euro finals. So sad and such a reminder of the never-ending struggle and the need to find joy in this broken world. The week was indeed joyful. I want to share some of my looks from the week in my next few blog posts.

First up is this hacked Saraste dress. I have had the book Breaking the Pattern by Named Clothing for about 3 years and have been very slow to make the patterns even though I think some of them are really lovely and classic. To me though, they all need re- imagining to fit my lifestyle and preference in colour and fabric and it’s taken me time to think how I would make the patterns. The Saraste shirt dress was a particular favourite and in my mind had been made in so many fabrics. I had wanted a chambray one, I think I may still make one. I saw a really lovely one made in white broderie anglais and set my heart on that till my daughter nabbed my fabric! Then I was thinking a black shirt dress would be good but I hadn’t found the right crisp, deep black poplin.

Then I came across this dress by Toast and I knew I had to have a leafy print shirt dress.

I knew I also had to have it in waxprint, so the search began and Ankara shop, an online seller of amazing ankara fabric had what I was looking for. Ankara fabric is slightly stiff, holds it’s shape well and can be very crisp. I felt it would work very well for what I was going for.

I was a little nervous to make this dress as I expected it to be fiddly and tedious but it actually wasn’t, I very much enjoyed the process. There were three things I was unsure and undecided about. Firstly the sleeves, I really felt I wanted them to be bigger and longer. Secondly I didn’t want too much gathering and thirdly, should I add pockets?

My measurements fell between the size 5 and 6. Recently I have been feeling that I need to allow my clothes to be a little less fitted, after all, breathing is essential, also comfort is key. I love the fitted silouhuette on me but that obsession has led to me making clothes that fit just for that moment and not being that comfortable because my weight fluctuates. So I cut a 6 for the bodice pieces and a 5 for the skirt pieces so that I would have less gathers.

For the sleeves, I used another pattern, the Carol by Fibremood patterns, and I decided to cut out a couple of large rectangles for some generous patch pockets which I added over the side seams.

The sleeves are gently gathered at the head and have elastic at the hem.
I do like an elbow length sleeve and a little bit of puff is good I think.

The finished dress made me chuckle just a bit. I ended up unwittingly making a dress similar to dresses I’ve seen on my fellow ankara week host Juliet. Also the finished dress seemed unrecognisable as the Saraste shirt dress! The wax print totally transforms it, as do the sleeves and pockets. This is one of the amazing talents us sewists have, we can choose a pattern and make it totally our own in our fabric choice and even by the smallest hack or adaptation.

This dress is so lovely to wear. The bodice has room to move freely without looking oversized. The gathers hit at just the right place at the back and because of the flat front pieces in the skirt, the whole shape isn’t bulky. The print on the fabric is busy enough that I don’t think it matters that I didn’t bother to pattern match, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway! This is a pattern I will return to.

It was great to be able to meet up with Juliet and take pictures in our Ankara dresses. Puffed sleeve wax print shirt dresses for the win!

If you missed out on Ankara Appreciation Week you could head over to Instagram and search the hashtags #sewankarafabric and #sewankarafabric21. You’ll be sew inspired!

My Birthday Dress: Lessons from Millie

For my 50th birthday I wanted to make a simple dress in my favourite fabric, African wax print. I had been gifted the book “Sewing with African Wax Print Fabrics” by Adaku Parker and she asked if I was happy to blog a review of one of the patterns. I chose the Millie dress as it had the vintage vibes I was looking for. Adaku also gifted me 4yards of this gorgeous fabric.

The orange and white is a bit brighter than what I would usually go for, I tend to avoid white backgrounds but I was drawn to this striking fabric. I think it goes well with this dress pattern.

The Millie dress is a simply constructed pattern. The bodice with the grown on sleeves makes it easy to sew. The skirt is fairly straight. It features exposed bias binding for the neckline which I am not a fan of so I decided to line my bodice, enclosing the raw neckline. I chose an electric blue lining which looked so striking against the orange that I wanted to include some of that same colour fabric to the garment in some way. I was also inspired by this dress by Katie Kortman who is a colour boss!

I also made a couple of other changes to my Millie, some intentional, some unplanned.

Looking at the dress and the measurements that can be found here on the Dovetailed website, I knew I was going to struggle a bit. The dress is quite roomy in the bodice and more fitted through the hips. I am a bit of a skittle shape, small bust, smallish waist and wide around my bottom and hips. There are no darts in the bodice or skirt so I knew I was going to have to do some grading out and maybe add darts to the skirt.

I decided to make the dress in the lining fabric first to act as a toile. I cut a 14 bodice, grading out to a 16 at the waist. It was silly of me to cut a 16 skirt as the measurements were putting me between an 18-20. But this was so outside my normal measurements so I assumed there must have been a mistake. Lo and behold when I sewed the skirt lining up I could barely pull it on! The top seemed okay. I decided to change the back and cut it as a v-neck. The bodice did seem a bit roomy by I thought it would still work, so I stuck with the 14.

Now what to do about the skirt? A 14 bodice grading out to a 20 at the hips could work. But I still felt it needed some darts to give it shape. I found a skirt pattern from another dress that I knew fit me well and used it over the Millie pattern to mark in some darts and make the hips a bit more rounded.

I really tried to make this a neat sew because truth is, I like to sew as quickly as I can, so I often don’t bother to do things like iron seams open or finish seams. I know, bad eh? But even with sloppy sewing, projects always take me way longer than I plan. Anyway with this dress I lined the bodice and finished all the seams neatly with a long and narrow zigzag stitch. I don’t have an overlocker and when not doing french seams, this is my favoured method of finishing.

In the pattern the invisible zip is lapped, but I discovered that after I inserted the zip normally. That’s what happens when you’ve been sewing for a while and just glance at instructions! My zip was a joy, no unpicking was needed. I have decided that I will always hand baste my zip in place before machine stitching it, this always gives satisfying results. I haven’t got round to buying an invisible zipper foot for my new machine but because the machine needle can be moved a lot, I can still get really close to the zipper teeth using an ordinary zipper foot.

I had bought some lovely blue poplin from Fabrics galore which I used to make this sash belt. Unfortunately it’s not long enough to tie into a bow.

When the dress was made, I was happy with most of it but I still felt the bodice was too big and puffy. This was really frustrating, I wished I’d cut a size 12 bodice but I really couldn’t face unpicking it all and starting again. So I began to play around with lifting the dress up at the shoulder seams and adding pleats to reduce the fullness and raise the neckline. In the end I stitched a bigger seam at the shoulders, about an inch and then I made a little pleat at one side to create a gentle assymetric neckline. You can’t see it too clearly on the pictures but I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Instead of unpicking the whole bodice, I just had to unpick a section of the neckline and hand stitch it back up.

What have I learned from this project? Toile it! Make a muslin! I have so resisted doing this, like I said before, I just want to get on and get finished. But actually, not making a toile is often a false sense of being speedy. It’s like with sewing zips. I used to feel that just pining and sewing was quicker but I was never able to sew a zip in perfectly and would have to unpick and start over. Hand basting actually saves time and frustration. So I am being converted to the sensible process of making a mock up, I’m being slowly converted.

I would just encourage you to measure carefully when working with this pattern and even measure the pattern pieces to ensure you get it right. When talking to Adaku that was the tip she gave, always measure the pattern pieces especially at the widest parts, the hips and bust. I think again my desire to get things done quickly means I tend not to want to bother with this. The Millie dress has a lot of ease in the bodice but little in the skirt, so thoughtful measuring is needed. The patterns go up to a UK 26, 54 hips. I am usually a UK 12 -14 , but these measurements put me at a 14 -20 and I actually needed a 12 bodice, grading to 14 at the waist, to 20 at the full hips.

I’ve also learned that I just can’t leave patterns alone, I always want to tweak a bit here, hack a bit there and that’s okay. I’m all about making those unique, “this is me” garments and I love what I’ve done with this pattern.

The Calia Skirt by The Patterns Room

I’m pretty much a knee length dress or skirt with thick tights and boots kind of person. And that’s fine for most of the year here in the UK. But last year, I began the search for the ultimate skirt I could wear on those warmish to warm days when I could ditch the tights. My criteria was midi length, fixed waistband, minimal or no gathering and pockets. The Calia skirt has all this and more!

The main skirt pieces are cut across the grain and that coupled with the suggested light weight fabric give the skirt beautiful movement and a high twirl-ability factor! I used a lovely red viscose crepe with white dots which I got from Sew Me Sunshine- sold out I’m afraid. Now, I don’t love viscose, it’s too shifty and slippery for my liking but I do think it is the perfect pairing for this skirt.

Another thing I love about this pattern is that it is gently gathered. I really don’t like the bunching and pouffing that can sometimes be created with gathers and elastic, I prefer a smoother silhouette. But these few gathers emanating from a flat, deepish waistband work well in giving the skirt a nice shape. I love the midi length, there is an option of an over the knee length skirt too which I may try. I also like the invisible zipper which helps make this a chic garment.

Although in many ways this is a simple pattern to sew up, I’m not sure that this is the skirt pattern to start with if you’re a garment sewing novice. The instructions assume a knowledge of sewing. You’ll need to be able to insert an invisible zipper and understand waistband and pocket construction. This and be able to handle slippery fabric. Maybe if you’re a confident beginner you could try this pattern with a more stable, well behaved fabric like a lightweight chambray.

If you’re a fan of big, deep pockets, you might be disappointed with the Calia, the pockets are not big. I think they’re okay, a hanky, some lip balm and my hands if I’m feeling shy or awkward are all I’ll be needing these pockets for. You could always swap them for larger pockets from another pattern.

The Calia pattern comes in two size bands, 10-18 and 20-28. I sewed a 14 and the waist is a little big but it feels comfortable. The Patterns Room is a digital pattern company. All the patterns are available only for downloading at home or at a print shop.

I’m looking forward to making a couple more of these, I’d quite like one in a denim blue tencel. I do believe that I’ve found the ultimate skirt pattern I was looking for!

Batik and Mindy

Well, I have had the absolute joy and privilege to work with some gorgeous African batik fabric. I was very interested when Comfort from Letasi design studio  asked if I would like some of their fabric and as I scrolled through their website I got very excited and just could not choose!

Letasi design studio specialise in East African hand batiked fabric.  Batik is a wax resist process whereby hot wax is poured onto fabric and then dyed, the areas with the wax resist the dye. Heat is then used to remove the wax. Batik can also involve the use of stamps to print on a design, or brushes can be used to paint dye on or splatter dye on. The process of waxing and dying can be repeated to add more colour. That’s my simplified version of it, correct me if I’m wrong. It is an involoved process.

As I looked at the fabric on the website I was drawn to big, geometric designs as well as some amazing splatter designs that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock art piece.

I ended up choosing this design with pinkish red circles against a black/ green background and was sent about 2.5 yards of it. The fabric feels very similar to good quality ankara that I  love to work with. It is 100 percent cotton and it has a tiny bit of stretch to it.  The fabric is waxed as I’ve said but it feels a little less stiff than ankara fabric.

The fabric was a dream to work with. A strong, stable fabric which will withstand being unpicked and allow you to work quickly because it stays in place and you can get away with not pressing every seam as you work. With fabric like this, I adopt my mum’s method of “hand pressing” with thumb and forefinger, it works.

Perhaps you’re wonder what the difference is between African batik and ankara/ African wax print. At a basic level ankara is imitation batik and mass produced by machines. Ankara tends to be more bright and bold where as batik produces more muted tones generally. As a lover of story and as someone who takes a lot of interest in how things come to be and who makes my stuff, I get a little fuzzy feeling as I look at this fabric, thinking about the crafts women and men who eorked on it. Every dribble, dot and blob,every crackle, every bleed and blend make each piece of this hand made fabric truly unique and the colour hard to pinpoint.

A close up of my fabric showing green, yellow,  brown,  pink and black bleeding into each other.

I decided to make my fabric intoย  a dress,ย  I like dresses. I chose to make the Mindy dress by Fibremood. I have really liked the various versions of this dress popping up on my Instagram feed. I’d even seen a couple of wax print ones that caught my eye. But I was concerned about the shape, it strays out of my usual leaning towards fitted waists and away from gathers. Also I’m going to confess that I’m not a massive fan of big sleeves. My thought is always “will they fit in my cardigan or coat?” However the feeling to make one was strong.

Am I sorry that I made a Mindy? No! Am I a little bit uncomfortable wearing it? Yes! Why? Because if I don’t stand in a certain way it sits on the lower curve of my back, billowing around my bottom looking odd!

A side view picture would better explain my comment above but I didn’t capture one – I wonder why

That said, this dress is super comfortable to wear, that could be because I actually remembered to add the seam allowance which is something I sometimes forget when making Fibre Mood patterns. It has an empire line a side zip and is gently gathered. I added about 3 inches to the length. The sleeves can be left big and floaty or puffed by adding elastic to the sleeve hem. Most of the making process was really straightforward but when it came to adding the facing to the front and back necklines I was stumped. I couldn’t understand the picture instructions or the more detailed instructions on the website. My facing pieces also seemed longer than they needed to be. I eventually worked something out and it looks okay. I have heard people complain about the scanty instructions for Fibre Mood patterns and I tend to agree.

The one thing missing from the Mindy are pockets. I think I might retrofit some patch pockets on the side. I really like the neckline and the shape of the bodice. The Mindy and this batik fabric are a perfect pairing. It could just be me but I find that when I wear unlined wax print garments with tights, I get a lot of static and the fabric clings to my legs. I haven’t lined this dress but am wearing a slip to combat the static.

I think this particular fabric design is sold out but do head to the Letasi website and see what other beautiful designs they have in stock, and if you chose to purchase, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Cozi by name, cosy by nature

I pattern tested for one of my favourite indie pattern companies again. The Pattern Scout’s patterns are really cool, totally wearable, every day garments. What I love about these patterns is that there are always options so you get more for your money and they are so hackable.

The latest from Pattern Scout is the Cozi Jacket, an oversized cropped zipped jacket with funnel collar or hood, and with deep a waistband and sleeve hem, which can be elasticated. It can be made from a wide range of low stretch fabric, woven or knit. Talk about options! The size range is from a US 0-30.

I started off making my test version out of some rather garish fleece I had stashed away in my craft coffin- a large chest in the attic where crafts and failed projects go to die! I had bought the fabric some 10 years ago when my youngest was a toddler intending to make some cute things from it and never did.

I cut a size 14, Version A, funnel neck.The jacket came along nicely and quickly, turned out a bit big though. I did everything apart from adding a zip and elastic.

While making this toile, I couldn’t get out of my mind some images of padded, quilted denim jackets I’d seen in Gap. I really wanted to make one even though I hadn’t quilted anything before, I didn’t have any batting and I had just under a week to make it!

I did however have some denim and some beautiful Ankara fabric that would look great as the lining. And I did have the fleece- how different is that from batting? Not much, I decided.

And so I got to work. I unpicked the fleece toile and then cut the pattern out in the denim and the Ankara. To make the jacket up, I sandwiched the fleece between the denim and Ankara and pinned them together. I decided to go for a simple grid design. I played around a bit to learn how to use my quilting tool, which stitch to use and how big my squares should be. It was fun learning a new thing with my fairly new machine.

With each pattern piece I chalked a line down the centre as my guideline. I chose a basic quilting stitch and worked my way straight down and then straight across. For the pockets I did a smaller grid and for the back I did squares along the lower half but left the top with just the vertical lines. It was all very easy, the quilting tool made sure that my lines were straight. But it was very slow. I’m glad I persevered though.

I love the denim with the wax print

The actual cozi jacket is an easy make and the instructions are so clear and easy to follow. But I made things difficult for myself by sewing with padded, lined fabric. My seams were so thick! I was joining six layers of fabric together. When I came to add my zip, my machine made lots of angry noises and I managed to break a needle! I couldn’t add tape to the inside of the zip to finish it or do top stitching along the zip and pocket edge for fear of breaking another needle.

I love so many things about this jacket. Lining it in this beautiful ankara was very pleasing. I love making garments that are truly unique, one offs. If I had more time and will power, I could have worked out how to make this jacket reversible, but I had neither! Besides, I feel that when you’re pattern testing it’s kind of respectful to stick closely to the designer’s intentions. My inside seams are visible and not super tidy but I still love to look at the fabric and smile ๐Ÿ˜Š

When I made my toile, I was ok with the sleeve length but with my denim one,as I tried it on and moved around in it, I felt it could do with a bit more length, about an inch. I wasn’t sure what to do. The pattern has the cuff and waistband included in the sleeve and bodice pieces respectively, you just fold them up. Because I had intended to do that, I had made sure I didnโ€™t allow the fleece fabric into the cuff and waistband allowance, because it would have made the hems too bulky. I decided I would add a ribbing cuff and Casey, aka Pattern Scout was happy for me to do that.

The ribbing cuff was a good move, I have longer than average arms and it’s good to have a jacket that doesn’t expose my wrists. Several of the other pattern testers were reporting that the sleeves were too long, not me!

Sometimes when I sew something, I spend a lot of time looking at it, trying it on, twirling about in it and saying “I can’t believe I made this!” I did all of that with this jacket, I’m so proud of it.

I really enjoy being a pattern tester. There’s something about being involved in this process that gives you an appreciation of the work a designer does. I also pick up tips on fitting and adjusting and learn and glean ideas from the other testers. But one of the best things is that it makes me try something new. I don’t think I would have chosen to make this jacket as I am a bit of a lazy sewist, I love those quick and easy projects. At one level, this is quite a quick project, but not if you quilt your own fabric. I also tend to get stuck in a style rut and pattern testing can help break this.

Many small pattern companies can’t afford to pay you, the minimum they offer is a free copy of the pattern to test and a completed one at the end. Some like Pattern Scout give a little stipend to help with the cost of materials. Some may totally cover the cost of materials and give you access to other free patterns, it varies.There usually isn’t a requirement to do a review or plaster it all over your social media, but hey, if you love the garment, you’ll want to.

I see pattern testing as a win win situation, the designer gets to iron out any issues with their pattern and I get at least a free pattern and some experience to tuck under my belt. As long as I don’t say yes to everything and over burden myself, I’m happy to pattern test. I do try only to test what I like the look of too, what I think suits my style.

So yes, the Cozi is a winner for me. You can find it here. You can also see a round up of some of the jackets made by the testers here. Lots of great inspiration there. I’m planning to make a fluffy, snuggly one to wear at home because our old house is a bit draughty. My daughters have put in their orders too.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on pattern testing ๐Ÿ˜Š

Stretch African Waxprint! What’s this?

Back in December Jacqueline who owns Wax and Wraps selling African print subscription boxes and lovely African fabric got in touch with me with an irresistible offer. She had some stretch fabric in some popular wax print designs. Yes, stretch African waxprint is a thing! Amazing right? I was really excited to be able to choose a design in exchange for a review. So let’s review.

One of the best features of African waxprint cotton is the vibrancy of the colour and happily this vibrancy has transferred very easily on to this stretch polyester fabric. The fabric is single knit, I think, the print is only on one side as the picture below shows. It has a good widthways stretch, but less stretch vertically. This makes for a fairly stable knit that behaves very well under the sewing machine. It has a fluidity to it that puts it somewhere between a viscose jersey and a ponte roma.

Even before I got the fabric I had my mind set on active wear, leggings and a vest. But my plans changed a little when the fabric arrived. The stretch fabric isn’t actually performance fabric and I’m a sweaty thing when I work out. I really need breathable fabric that wicks sweat away from my body. Too much detail? That’s life! So I decided to mix the fabric with some cotton jersey I had in my stash and make something a little more loose, but still with a workout vibe.

I opted for a vest and pants combo from Madeit Patterns. I have to say that I’ve been flirting with Madeit Patterns for a while, not so you’d know. I have stalked them and have loved spying on makes by @needleandted, one of their designers. It was high time I made a move and commited to a purchase. So I clicked and shopped the Rest Vest and Slow Pants.

The cotton jersey I had in my stash was white and I had planned previously to tie dye it, but for the purpose of this project I stuck the fabric into the washing machine with some Dylon denim blue dye. It came out quite well I think.

The rest vest has a muscle fit back and is designed for colour blocking fun. The trousers also allow for a contrast band down the side. I decided to use my stretch waxprint as the contrast accents. Both the vest and pants were easy makes. The instructions are fun, clear and simple. I was so excited that the trouser pattern showed you how to make a high rise adjustment and also a full butt adjustment- happy days! I actually just ended up making a straight size 14 for both pieces but I will make changes for my next. I will size down to a 12 for the vest and for the pants I’ll sew a size 12 at the waist with a high rise adjustment and grade out to a 14 at the hips. I really love this style of loose fit straight leg trouser on me- both uber comfortable and suits my shape. The bright contrast of the waxprint lifts the whole outfit.

But I wasn’t finished with the stretch fabric just yet. I loved that it featured heavily on the back of my vest and I wanted to give it more visibility. So to complete the look, I made a very simple, loose fitting t- shirt to throw over my vest. I chose the Clara top from Fibre Mood. Again it is such a really, easy make, just 2 pieces and some neck binding. And I’ll let you into a little secret, I left the sleeve and bottom hem raw. I think I might revisit that soon, for the sake of the longevity of the garment.

So, there you have it, a simple workout/ lounge outfit. With names like ‘rest’ and ‘slow’ you get the impression that this set is for taking life easy!

I plan to purchase more stretch fabric from Wax and wraps. Cotton waxprint will always be my favourite hands down but it’s great to have a stretch fabric option too. I would happily recommend Wax and wraps, you’ll be overwhelmed by the gorgeous fabric on her website. You may opt to make a fitted, sexy little number with yours. I think I’d quite like to make a jumpsuit with my next aquisition. But for now, I’m loving my new set and I know they’ll get a lot of wear.

Claudette Trousers- The Power Pants for 2021

I am so in love with these trousers. I feel ready to take on anything wearing these! Bring it on 2021, I’m ready for you. These trousers are seriously ‘the boss’!

When Adaku of Dovetailed London asked if I’d like to have some of her gorgeous fabric and her Claudette palazzo pants pattern in exchange for a blog, I didn’t take too long to reply! I had already been stalking the Dovetailed website and had my eye on this ‘ A river runs through it’ fabric.

Let’s talk about this make. Do you know, the best thing about this pattern is that my lovely daughter is the cover girl! Hehe. She and I got to do some modelling for the new Dovetailed packaging a while back, it was fun.

This pattern is given a difficulty rating of 3 out of 5, but I think a beginner sewist could handle this. There is no zip or buttonholes to worry about. However, I  do think the instructions assume a knowledge of sewing trousers that a beginner wouldn’t have, thus the 3 stars I guess.

There are just 4 pattern pieces, front leg, back leg, pocket and waistband, simple. The construction is really straightforward too.

The size range is from a U.K 8 -26. My measurements fell between a 12 and 14. I checked the finished garment measurements and saw that they allowed about 2 inches of ease. I decided to sew the 12, grade out to a 14 at the hips and back to  a 12. On the pattern the sizes are colour coded and the size 12 is a pale yellow which was a bit difficult to trace, you might want to go over the actual pattern in a darker colour, if like me you need the size 12.

The pattern suggests that  smaller scale prints work best for this pattern and I see the sense in this. These are a large pair of trousers, how much of a statement do you want to make?! Large scale print also makes it more complicated if you want to pattern match. Well,  I went for a large scale print, although when I ordered it I  couldn’t really tell how large the circles were. I knew that I wanted to make some adaptations to make my trousers a little less of a statement and I hoped the fabric would work well. I think it did!

I’m not a huge fan of elasticated or gathered waists, I prefer flat fronted garments as I like a smoother  silhouette. So, making a size 12 waist when my waist measurement was actually for a 14, I hoped would give me a little less gathering,  and it did. I also adjusted my pattern to remove some of the fullness just because I like a less flared wide leg trouser. To do this, I took both the front and back leg pieces and marked the knee point and then drew a line down to the hem. I cut along the line, see picture:

Then I overlapped the piece by 3 inches and stuck it down to create a new piece. I don’t know if this is the correct way to reduce fullness, but it’s my way and it worked.

One New year’s resolution I made was to be a bit neater with my sewing. I often rush through things like finishing the seams because I want to get the project done. I finished my seams with the overcast foot as I don’t have an overlocker, but a zigzag stitch would work too.

There’s a sense of magic in sewing up a pair of trousers, or at least that’s what I felt when I made my first pair. Join each front to a back at the inside and outside seams, put one leg inside the other, right sides together and join the crotch seams together, pull one leg out and voila, you have a pair of trousers,  nearly. Probably best that you read the instructions!

And now for the waistband.  The pattern calls for 1 inch elastic but I only had 1 and 3/4 inch elastic and seeing as I actually prefer a deeper waistband I used that. So of course I had to adapt my waistband piece by adding three quarters of an inch to its depth. For the second part of the attaching the waistband process, I decided to hand stitch the waistband in place. I  always find it so hard to catch the wrong side of the waistband when I topstich from the right side. Hand stitching the waist was slow but neat. Finally, the hem, I didn’t hand stitch them! My trousers are a little longer than ankle length as they’re designed to be because I’m 5.4, but that’s ok  as I wanted them longer.

I’m really loving the way the trousers have turned our, they feel balanced despite my alterations. These are great trousers for dressing up or down. I intend to wear these with chunky white trainers or chunky sandals, that’s me. I enjoyed wearing them with a plain black top and blazer, then switching it up with my denim jacket.

Now, for all you pattern matching lovers out there, I made no attempt to pattern match and I’m not sorry. I wanted to break up the pattern and not spend ages and take up more fabric than I needed trying to line up the print. I still think the overall affect of the trousers is good, better than good, pretty cool really ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Pattern: Claudette trousers                                  

Fabric: ‘A river runs through it’

Claudette sewing kit