Rachel’s Archer

While I was at home of Christmas, my sister decided that it wasn’t fair that she hadn’t been to model on my blog yet, so we had to take some photos of her Christmas present from last year- one of my favourite patterns, and a real TNT for me, the Grainline Archer.


I have made quite a few of these for myself now (3 of the regular version, and a popover), and still have fabric waiting to become another one.  I just love the fit- a bit oversized, but not too much.  You can wear it over t-shirts, but still fit it under a jumper.

Rachel is actually pretty similar to me in size.  She is may be a little smaller than me, but generally prefers her clothes a little less fitted, so I was pretty sure that making this to the same size that I wear for myself was probably going to fit and be on to a winner.  Does anyone else have that dilemma- you want to make something for someone, but want it to be a surprise and don’t know how to get hold of their measurements?  This year I think I’m going to have to take some sets of standard measurements for all the people in my life that I would like to surprise with handmade!


I asked Rachel for her view on what it was like to receive something handmade.  I think as makers and sewists we are often too hard on ourselves, seeing all the flaws and pointing out all the tiny mistakes.  I wanted to know if that was how things were received too.  It turns out that we are almost certainly not appreciating ourselves, and the things we make as much as we should.


Rachel said: “I  loved receiving my very own personal shirt made lovingly by my sister.  I’ve had several people comment on how much they like the shirt, and all astounded that it is homemade and was once not a shirt, but simply a piece of material!  (In fact it has started conversations about my sister’s sewing and has lead friends to be avid readers of the blog, always intrigued as to what the next item could be…)  I love the detail in the shirt, especially the pattern matching, and the pleat in the back.  Also it is a great material, chunky but not too thick, and doesn’t need ironing which is brilliant.  (Especially as a student with no ironing board!)”


Perhaps we should just relax, enjoy, and realise that sewists and dressmakers are just pretty awesome!



Top 5 Hits and Misses of 2017

It’s always good at the turning of the year to review, so I thought I’d go through my makes from this year with the benefit of hindsight and see which had been ultimate successes, and which hadn’t got as much use as I had hoped.  Reviewing makes like this does help to gain an overview of what sorts of projects did or didn’t work in my lifestyle, so I’ll be using that to start making my plans for next year too!

Top 5 Hits

Ginger Jeans


I think my first attempt at jeans definitely was a highlight this year. They fitted great, the fabric choice was spot on and I felt justifiably proud with the result.  Sadly, because they are fitted and fairly high-waisted, they don’t fit over the bump any more, so I will have to wait a while before I can wear them again, but I have plans to make jeans again in the future and will just have to wait and see if I end up the same shape post baby or need to make some other fit adjustments to the next pair!

Archer Shirts

Maybe this is a cheat, because I actually made two archers, and mended another with some sashiko mending, but I love them all and they have been in regular wardrobe rotation all year.  I think I love most that they are so versatile.  The relaxed fit is spot on, and there is something so satisfying about the precision involved in shirt making.

Kwik Sew Coat


The slightly oversized fit of this coat has been an unexpected bonus- I think I will fit into it for most of the winter, even as I grow!  That aside, I would change a few things next time I make a coat, but you have to start somewhere, and this project has given me the courage to try some other trickier and more involved sewing projects again in the future.

Flint Shorts


No longer a weather appropriate option, but these flint shorts were all I wanted to wear on holiday this summer.  I felt put together in the cities, sufficiently cool to belong in Italy and they were comfortable and practical too.  The fabric might be one of my favorite parts of these, and was a lucky charity shop find.  One to make again next summer.

Men’s Metro Tees

Another multi garment pick, but these t-shirts have been a big success.  I don’t make much for anyone other than me, but these were worth the effort because Matt wears them all the time.

Top 5 Misses

Valley Blouse


This top is one of those projects that just doesn’t quite materialise as you envisioned it.  I quite like all the components- fabric, buttons etc., but the pattern wasn’t the right choice for me.  There is more volume in the sleeves than is really my preference (it makes it really hard to wear with a cardigan), but maybe I can modify them at some point to slim them down and make this more ‘me’.

Pocket Skirt


My first problem with this skirt is that the sizing from the pattern chart seemed to be a little off, so this skirt was much to big at the waist.  I was able to bring it is with the elastic at the back waistband, but I’m still not really sure about the fit or the length.  It doesn’t really get worn, and I don’t think I will be using the pattern again because there are other patterns which were simpler to construct and more successful for me.

Alex Shirtdress


I think the problem with this Alex dress is the fabric/pattern combination.  The cotton is a little too stiff, and doesn’t drape well enough for me to feel comfortable in this dress.  It is all just a little too oversized, and the fabric emphasised that.  This one it savable thought I think, when I eventually get around t putting some darts in the back to take out some of the extra volume.

Saunio Cardigan


There is nothing ‘wrong’ with this Saunio Cardigan exactly, except that it never makes it off the coat rack and out of the door.  I think it is the fact that it just doesn’t quite fit my lifestyle.  3/4 sleeves on a jacket aren’t sufficiently practical on Dartmoor.  If I want or need a coat or jacket, it needs to have full sleeves!

Virginia Leggings


Not actually a disaster of pattern, or of lifestyle, but unfortunately this lycra couldn’t really stand up to running in these Virginia leggings and so some of the seams have started to split.  I have some other fabric in mind to give this another go at some point though, so definitely not a wasted pattern.


Sashiko Mending Archer

This is my first ever Grainline Archer.  I have since shared a few more recent versions, but this first one has always been a favourite.  I meticulously pattern matched the plaid across the front, learned how to attach a collar and install plackets, and even inserted my first snaps.


Favorite, that is until a hole appeared right where the button placket meets the front piece.


I deliberated for ages about what to do.  I didn’t want to just throw away something that represented a lot of hard work and some fairly major achievements, but I also didn’t know how to mend it in such a way that I would be happy with the end result.  And I really didn’t want to have to do loads of unpicking to sort it out!


I have come across Sashiko a few times before, often as a piece of decorative art, or sometimes as a means of mending the knees of worn jeans, but only recently did it occur to me that this might be the way to salvage my much loved shirt!  I did still have some of the fabric from the original shirt left, so this felt like a logical place to begin my mending journey.  I took a large rectangle, overlocked all the edges and pinned it in place behind the hole.

Next I chose a complimentary embroidery thread.  I wanted something that toned in with the colours in the shirt, but I also wanted to embrace the fact that this mending was going to be visible, and I could be proud of that!  This seemed like a good compromise.


Because the shirt already has such a strong geometric pattern, I decided that there was no need for complex embroidery shapes.  Sticking with the grid of the plaid would help keep my stitches even and straight anyway so no need for guide lines.


Sashiko mending is designed to reinforce the fabric, anchoring it to a solid base, but I think I may still have to be a little careful when using the poppers that I don’t put unnecessary strain on the fabric.  I think it looks pretty cool, and now I can wear my Archer shirt again with pride, knowing that it is even more unique and special than before.  Embrace the uniqueness and the mending.


Wise up Wednesdays: Matching fabric to your pattern

Many patterns give suggestions of the types of fabric which might be suitable.  But how do you know if you could substitute something else (perhaps something special from your stash) if it isn’t listed in the suggestions.  There may be times when you can deviate from the pattern suggestions and end up with an even more special garment, personalised to you.

If this is something you are thinking about, here are my thoughts and process for deciding if a fabric will be suitable for the project I have in mind.

  • How similar is your chosen fabric to the suggestions?

If you are substituting one fabric for another similar one then you will probably be fine without making any modifications.  For example, using an upholstery weight cotton for a skirt pattern which suggests denim, cotton twill or corduroy.  Here all the fabrics are all woven and of similar weight and drape, so there will not be any real change to how the pattern fits or is constructed.


However, if you wanted to make the same skirt in a lightweight cotton lawn, this is significantly lighter than the pattern suggestions.  To get the same effect, you may need to line or interline your fabric, and consider adding interfacing to keep the structure of your garment.


In making my K4015 coat (which will be revealed on Sunday) the fabric recommendations include double-sided pre-quilted fabrics, laminated fabrics, or water repellent fabrics. I chose to ignore them and made my coat in a wool/acrylic blend with no changes to the pattern, because I was ok with my coat being a little sloucher than the pattern samples.


What if you want to make bigger changes though?  Keep reading on for my thoughts!

  • Woven or Knit?

What qualities does you pattern require.  One of the first decisions might be about stretch- how much do you need to make the pattern work and how will you get the item on and off if previously it relied on stretch rather than fastenings.  My Rowan bodysuit needed fabric with stretch in both directions to help get it on, off and to fit.  Many jersey or knit patterns need stretch to fit the neckline over your head.  Substituting for something with less stretch may mean you can’t even get your new outfit on, let alone move in it!


Modifying a jersey pattern to a woven is not terribly common, partially because many jersey or knit patterns rely on negative ease to fit, meaning that the finished measurements are actually smaller than the body measurements.  This is fine when your fabric has stretch, but patterns for woven fabrics need to include ‘ease’ or a bit of extra space for you to move, breathe and take it on and off.  Melly at Melly Sews has a good set of questions and considerations that you may need to think through when changing your fabric from the pattern suggestions.

If you are planning on making a woven pattern in a knit fabric you may need to make a few pattern modifications, such as sizing down, removing fastenings/zips and switching out facings for bands at the neck or sleeves.  It does depend though on what type of knit fabric you use.  A Ponte de Roma or scuba doesn’t usually have a huge amount of stretch, nd is pretty stable so may not need huge modifications. Tilly at Tilly and the Buttons does have two blog posts talking about adapting woven patterns for knits.  One is all about using Ponte and the other talks about modifying a pattern for a lighter weight jersey.  I would say, that for both of these options, the key to success is actually looking at qualities of the pattern you are going to sew, which brings me neatly onto my next consideration.

  • Drape or Structure?

Another consideration is how should the fabric move? Should it be fluid and drapey, or does it need structure and weight to hold the shape of the pattern?  This is something which I do struggle with from time to time.  My basics pocket skirt was made with a linen, but unlike the light linens in the samples, mine was a bit stiff and heavy.  This means that my finished skirt is a bit more structured than it should be. I’m still hoping that as it keeps getting washed it will soften up, but this is an example of not quite matching the requirements to the desired end resultIMG_1787

I now try to think through what is the shape of the garment? Will it be close fitting or will it need to skim over my body? This has helped my more recent projects to meet their intended purpose.  There is no point in dreaming up a flowing evening gown if the fabric that it is constructed in is too stiff to move and drape.

  • Print or Plain?

The other major consideration in my mind is about balancing the desire for lovely printed fabric, with the practicality of solid colours.  When I first stated sewing I was enticed by every cute print going, but they were hard to pair into my wardrobe because they didn’t go with anything.  In the last year, I have been more disciplined in thinking about what do I need.  Do I need another printed skirt, or is a plain t-shirt actually what is missing from my wardrobe.  If you are struggling t=with style considerations like these then perhaps the Colette Wardrobe Architect project posts might be useful in defining your style and what you want to wear and sew.  I am contemplating going through these posts for myself on the blog, so let me know if that is something you would be interested in reading.

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So I hope that has been helpful in considering what fabric to use for your next project.  Feel free to break the ‘rules’ though. Sewing is also about creativity and problem solving so go your own way if that is what you like.  Look back in next week for some thoughts on prewashing fabric ready for sewing.


Another Archer (or two)!

This is not my first Archer Shirt, and I am sure there will be more (I have a lovely soft brushed cotton which would be perfect), but I am pretty proud of creating proper basics.


These are my 3rd and 4th versions of the standard Archer button-up, and I have also sewn the popover variation before too.


I decided that the best way of creating these shirts would be to sew both simultaneously so that I only really had to look up the instructions for each stage once.  Grainline have a fantastic sew-a-long with detailed pictures or videos of every stage.  I definitely found them invaluable the first time I made an Archer.  This time I was able to get away with just looking up and checking a couple of stages.


Fabrics are maybe not the most exciting here, though this lightweight denim from my stash is amazing.  Not sure where it is from, but it doesn’t wrinkle at all, which made it great for packing on holiday.  The flowers are a Rose and Hubble polycotton from Trago, which I chose largely so that I could sew both shirts in the same navy thread without it being strange, and because the print is busy enough not to bother matching.


So why do I love this pattern and these shirts so much?  It’s because there is something magical about creating a complicated garment out of a flat piece of fabric.  And the Archer pattern is so good and clear, that it really does make it do-able for most dressmakers.  Every notch matches up, every instruction is illustrated, and the sizing is accurate too.


These shirts are both a size 4.  Its roomy enough to stick a t-shirt underneath and use the shirt as a cover up, but not so huge that I won’t be able to layer them under jumpers in the winter.


The only change that I made this time, was to add a button tab, so that I could roll up the sleeves.  I based it on the Alex Shirtdress, but picked my own positioning and dimensions.  I actually changed up the construction order a little to finish the sleeves first so that I could check they were in the right place.  I really like the contrast that you get in the denim with sleeves rolled up and the paler reverse side visible.


To vary it up (and to stop me needing about 30 buttonholes!) I used buttons on one shirt, but on the other I went for silver snaps.  I think they look lovely and casual with the denim, and they were certainly faster.  (Love my vario pliers for this.)

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I even remembered to sew in some ribbon between the yoke seam and the body as my tag.


On holiday I was reaching for these shirts all the time (along with the much loved Flint shorts), and that is when you know they were a success.  I didn’t wear either of the cardigans that I had packed, partially because it was warm, but also because the shirts were just right.


You are even getting a sneak peek of something else coming to the blog- my latest guest blog for Minerva Crafts, featuring some green stretch denim.  Sadly you will have to wait for a couple of months for the full reveal, but I can tell you that I am totally in love with the result!


A night out with Archer

Some slightly different pictures today from a lovely evening out at an amazing little cinema in Swansea called Cinema and Co.  If you are in the area, it is definitely worth checking it out.  There was something very special being able to sit in a cinema on a sofa, eating pizza and drinking a glass of wine!


And now on to my shirt!  This was my second Archer Shirt.  My first was a classic Archer and unfortunately is wearing out.  This one is the Grainline Popover variation, and is sized down for a slightly closer fit.  This one is a size 0, although my measurements would direct me to cut a size 4.


I made a couple of tweaks to keep this very simple shirt unique.  The main shirt is a polycotton from Trago, but I used a contrasting floral cotton in a couple of places including the inner yoke collar stand and the cuffs.  I also used this tutorial from Grainline to change the pocket construction and make them a subtle feature too.

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Shirt making does seem quite a undertaking.  There are a lot of pattern pieces, buttonholes and processes, but it is well worth the effort.  Each stage is actually not difficult in itself, but I would advise taking it slowly.  There is also an excellent sewalong for the archer shirt on the Grainline website which is very helpful.


I would say that there are a couple of fiddly parts to this shirt, simply because they need to fit together properly, and there is also quite a bit of accurate topstitching required.  In particular, the collar and plackets are sections to take your time over.


If you are considering it, I would say that this was certainly not something to attempt as your first project, but if you are comfortable following pattern instructions, sewing straight and (fairly) accurate topstitching and have a few projects completed, then there is no reason that you couldn’t complete this pattern.  The instructions and drafting really are that good.


I do love this shirt, though it is perhaps a little small over the bust.  I have plans for a couple more of the basic Archer shirts and I think I will size back up to the 4 for some extra wearing ease.



Grainline Moss- An Everyday Skirt

Yay for clothes that get worn everyday!  This skirt got hemmed then put on immediately and has hardly been taken back off since.  This is the Grainline Studio Moss Skirt, and I made the mini length in size 4 with no pattern changes.  The fabric is a larger scale corduroy from an eBay seller and can be found here.  I bought the zip, jeans buttons and lining cotton locally at Trago.


I decided to make this skirt for two main reasons: One, it reminds me of a ready to wear skirt that I have had forever and wear all the time, and two, I am hoping to make a pair of jeans this year (having signed up the Closet Case Patterns online jeans making workshop) and wanted to have a first attempt at a front fly zip insertion.


I feel like it has been a great success in both counts.  My zip went in really well, and the instructions in the pattern and the Grainline tutorial were fantastic.  Each step was explained simply and added up to a new skill mastered.  You would never know that this was my first attempt!

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The little details in the pattern are great too.  You may already have noticed that I like patterns with pockets and the pockets on the Moss Skirt are especially good.  They have a little extra space included to make them perfect for sticking your hands into, and have a clever facing that allows you to use a pretty lining fabric with no chance for it to peek out.

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The only changes that I made to the pattern were fairly minor.  I didn’t cut my fabric very well and ended up without enough to cut the waistband facing so I decided to cut it from my lining instead.  I also changed the construction order of the waistband because I was feeling too lazy to hand stitch down the facing so I switched to the instructions for adding a waistband from Tilly and the Buttons book Love at First Stitch.  This just meant that it was easy to ‘stitch in the ditch’ on my machine instead of pesky hand sewing.



In a slight quirk, I set my jeans button in using the marks on the pattern without checking that it lined up properly.  This meant that it didn’t sit very well and the waistband was a little loose.  As a quick fix, rather than trying to remove it, I just added another button in the right place. Now you would never know once I am wearing it!

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This skirt is a little shorter than I would usually wear, but I love it’s casual vibes.  I’m sure I will make another at some point and perhaps lengthen it a couple of inches.  The pattern does include a knee length version with a hem band, but I think I prefer the clean look of the skirt as it and will probably just lengthen the pattern piece instead.