Amber Abroad!

This is my first more ‘spring-like’ make of 2018, finished partially in honour of a pre-baby holiday to Lanzarote. It was tricky deciding on my packing for holiday because I didn’t want to buy a whole summer maternity wardrobe, but knew it should be warmer over there than Devon in February! This t-shirt was one of the compromises that I decided upon- it is short sleeved, for warmer weather, but is going to be something I can wear again and again back at home.


The fabric is some of my favorite Girl Charlee cotton spandex in a grey marl colour. I’ve used the same one before in a t-shirt for Matt, and a bodysuit for me last summer. I just love the way that this fabric washes, wears and feels. The pattern is the Megan Nielson Amber– a top and dress pattern which is probably a bit under appreciated being as it is super versatile (one of the reasons that it made it onto my make 9 for the year). It is designed as a maternity and nursing pattern, but I can definitely see me making it with a few mods just for non-pregnancy wear. The shape is very similar to a much loved ready to wear dress that I’ve had for years!


Lanzarote was beautiful, though maybe not quite so warm as we had hoped- there was a strong wind most days, but this top was a great comfortable staple. It looks great just with my basic maternity leggings too. I’m definitely going to be making more in a few other colours, and have some fabric waiting in my stash to make at least one dress version too.


I like that unlike some maternity wear, this top still gives me some shape. I think it’s due to the empire line waistband before it flares out to make space for bump. There is a nifty little panel in the front which both stops the crossover feeling too low, and is designed for easy access when nursing. I haven’t tried that out yet, but I can see it being pretty practical.


I stabilised all the neckline sections before sewing them with fusible hemming tape because I didn’t want it to stretch out. It seems to have worked well, so I think I’ll do the same on the next one too. I didn’t really feel the need to switch to a twin needle for hemming and just used a zigzag stitch there instead. All the main seams were stitched on my overlocker.


This top does have just one tiny flaw- when I was stitching the waistband to the wrap over front, and the panel, I did manage to catch the modesty panel under the overlocker knife and took out a tiny piece. Just goes to show that I should have been less lazy and basted it in place on the sewing machine first, but I’ve patched it, and it’s not at all visible because it is under the wrap anyway so I’m not going to fret about it!



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.


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.


Rowan Bodysuit

I decided that to keep improving as a dressmaker I need to keep trying new things.  When this pattern came out a couple of months ago, I really liked it, and thought it would be a little different to the rest of my wardrobe.  This is the Rowan Bodysuit by Megan Nielson, and is one of a couple of new patterns I have purchased recently.


I made this in the same heather gray cotton spandex from Girl Charlee as one of Matt’s latest t-shirts.  The pattern calls for a fabric with quite a bit of stretch in both dimensions, and Girl Charlee helpfully list the stretch percentages of most of their fabrics.


There is a whole range of variations included in this pattern, and also some additional advice and options in a series of tutorial posts on the Megan Nielson website.  I did find the one about sewing the crotch lining and snaps particularly useful.


I think I might be a bit Megan Nielson obsessed- this summer there have been quite a few of their patterns making their way into my wardrobe, including my Flint Shorts and Darling Ranges Dress.  One of the reasons that I like them so much though is that the instructions and drafting are top notch.  Everything works and is clearly explained.  This was my first attempt at a v-neck, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.


The advantage of a bodysuit is that when you wear it tucked in, it stays there!  I did take this away to Italy and wore it with shorts and with my Sew Over It Carrie Trousers, but the pictures were taken a bit late at night, and ended up a little grainy.


Still, I had lost of fun trying to take these pictures- turns out, it is quite tricky to photograph cartwheels!


I would love a few more of these for layering in the autumn.  There are loads of options included in the pattern, including both sleeve and neckline options.  I think a long sleeved turtle-neck version would be great layered with knitwear or dresses.  I do like the sample shown by Megan Nielson in a lovely deep navy.



Darling Ranges in Dawlish

I’ve had some fun this Bank Holiday Weekend, getting out and down to the seaside in my latest project Sew My Style pattern, the Darling Ranges dress by Megan Nielson.  This was perfect for a sunny Saturday because it is such an easy-breezy dress. I felt cool and comfortable even though it actually got pretty warm for a change!


I sewed my version up in some viscose from my stash which has been there for about a year.  It is very lightweight and drapey which did make some of the cutting and sewing a challenge as it really wanted to shift around.  I have managed to mostly subdue it, though I can’t be certain that my hem is actually all the same length!


I was also a little unsure while I was sewing that the viscose was going to be opaque enough, but having worn it for the day I am feeling sufficiently happy that the whole world can’t see my underwear!


I sewed version 1, in a size XS and made no alterations.  I wasn’t sure how the fit was going to turn out, but it is actually pretty good.  The bust darts could do with shifting slightly on the next version, and the bodice side seam does pull forward sightly because I need a little more bust room, but nothing to make this unwearable. The placket does gape slightly between the first two buttons, which I fixed temporarily with a safety pin, but I am going to go back and insert a hidden button to keep it closed.


The buttons are little flowers from my button stash too so I felt very smug sewing this without having to buy any fabric or notions.  I have no idea how I chose things like buttons before Instagram and the sewing community were around to help me out though.


The dress does have options for ties at the back, which I have so far left off.  I quite like this looser silhouette, but it can be brought in a little with a belt too.  I think the loose shape it a bit more casual, but with a belt this could probably be dressed up, and may still make an appearance at a wedding at the end of September.


The next project sew my style pattern is the Yona Coat, but I already have a part completed coat from last year which I am going to substitute in instead.  Seems a little mad in this last burst of summer weather to be thinking of working with wool and coats but that’s how it needs to be to be ready for the changing weather.  For now, I’m just happy to be in the sun for a little while longer.


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!


Rocks, mountains and Flint shorts

I think these might well be my new summer favourite piece of clothing.  I’m so glad that I made time to sew them (finishing at 3am) the day before we went on holiday!


These are the Megan Nielson Flint Shorts, and as you may have spotted- I love them!  They are also very straightforward to make, and there is extensive tutorial help on the website too for almost every phase of the sewing.  They do have a very clever closure that means you step in through the pocket, which means no fiddly zips, just buttons or ties.


Before I made these, I had seen lots of versions of the cropped trouser variation, but not really any shorts.  This is definitely an oversight, because the shorts are very flattering and comfortable too.  I wore them almost continually in 30 degree heat in Italy and they were just perfect.  They are worn here with my Briar tee, so I think Megan Nielson might be one of my favorite pattern designers.WP_20170728_15_18_51_Pro

I think I also love these shorts for the fabric too.  This was a charity shop bargain which I bought last summer with the vague plan for shorts anyway.  I think it may once have been a curtain because it had some very well established creases from a deep hem and a variety of stains to cut around.  It always feels good though to have snaffled a bargain, and it made these shorts very economical!


I think I may have to make another pair immediately (though there are quite a few things in my sewing queue so something will have to give).  They work well with a heavier weight cotton, so I’m thinking possibly the cotton twill left over from covering my dining chairs might do the trick!


If you are wondering, the amazing lake in the background of these photos is the Lago di Sorapiss, a glacial lake in the Dolomites.  It is freezing cold, which explains why there is no-one swimming even on a hot day, and the colour is a result of all the glacial sediment.


Head to Head- dipped hem t-shirts

Introducing the Patterns:

Molly Top & Dress by Sew Over Ita staple  kimono sleeved top with an option to add full length sleeves.  It has just 4 pattern pieces (3 if you choose not to add the longer sleeves) and is billed as “The perfect pattern to try sewing jersey for the first time, a hit with anyone who likes a quick, satisfying sew.” It also has an option for a jersey dress.

Briar Sweater and T-shirt by Megan Nielsona simple and stylish t-shirt or sweater.  Comes with a scooped front hem and dipped back to create a hi-lo profile.  Both cropped and full lengths, and a range of pocket, sleeve and neckline options.

Sizing and Fit:

Both are loose fitting drapey tops and I cut the smallest size in each.



Ease of Construction and Instructions:

Both patterns have clear instructions and illustrations.  I think the Molly top is probably slightly simpler to construct and understand, but that is partially due to having fewer pattern pieces and options.  I did learn how to do a neckline binding in the Briar instructions, but I did also have to check the Megan Nielson tutorial for some extra photographs just to be sure what was going on.


Value for Money:

This is a little tricky to compare because the Molly Top only comes as part of the Sew Over It eBook- My Capsule Wardrobe.  The Briar top is £13.49 on the Megan Nielson website, but has two lengths and a variety of styling options.  I think if you would be interested in some of the other items in the eBook such as the Alex shirtdress or Mia jeans then at £20 it is pretty good value for 5 patterns, most of which also have pattern variations included.




Both have dipped hems at the back.  Molly has a dipped hem at the front, while Briar has a slightly cropped front for full hi-lo effect.  My personal preference is that I prefer the Molly front hem for tucking into skirts and I think the length at the back is also more flattering.  The Briar does look great though with jeans or a pair of shorts.


Briar does give options for a regular neckline band and for a clean finished neckline binding.  Molly just includes a simple jersey neckband.  Both necklines are scooped, with Briar being a little deeper.  Both seem to lie flat and even.


I chose to keep both sleeves short, so the cut on sleeves of the Molly top to save a step.  That said, the Briar tee sleeve did ease in neatly without an gathering or puckering, so as sleeves go, this was easy to insert.

Overall Impressions:

I think my overall preference is for the Molly top.  The length of the dipped hem seems particularly flattering, and not having to insert sleeves for the short sleeved t-shirt does make this a very quick summer make.  If I make the Briar again, I will be shortening the dipped back hem a little.

However, I will add that it is very simple to alter the hemline of a jersey t-shirt, so if you already have one of these (or something similar) this is a very easy way to change up a pattern.  Katie from the Creative Counselor has just been doing a series on modifying a basic t-shirt pattern, so check it out if you want some ideas or techniques.

More t-shirts! Briar and Molly

I have included two different patterns in this post today because I think they are quite similar and the pattern comparison might be interesting. (A full rundown on the two is coming shortly).  The Megan Nielson Briar is June’s project sew my style pattern and I just felt like I needed another Molly after making it! (See my previous versions here)

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Lets look at the Briar first.  This pattern has a cropped and full length version, and various sleeve lengths.  It also provides pattern pieces for both a neckline binding and a neck band.  I chose the longer length, short sleeves and decided to try out a neck binding for the first time.  The pattern is designed to be loose and swingy so I went with the smallest size.


It all came together pretty well.  The pattern is well drafted and the instructions are very clear.  There are notches in the right place that all match up as they should.  My fabric did not make this the easiest of makes- it is a Girl Charlee cotton-rayon blend so it is drapey and light.  The stripes are actually wavy, not straight, so I decided not to worry too much about pattern matching.  Interestingly, despite the stripes having a wave, on one side seam they match almost perfectly.  They do also match at a couple of points on the other side, but not so well.  My only pattern placement decision was to put the cream stripe low down, rather than over my bra so that it wouldn’t be so see through!

Now that it is all sewn up, I like the length at the front, but I wonder if it is a bit too long at the back.  This pattern has quite an exaggerated high-low hemline.  I’m sure this will get worn quite a bit if the weather ever warms up again though!


I had planned on making a white Briar to go with my Califaye Pocket Skirt, but I was not quite so sure about the long dipped hem tucked into a skirt.  I do like the optional pockets that come with the Briar top though and decided to use them on a tried and tested favourite t-shirt pattern- the Sew Over It Molly Top.  I thought the more subtle dipped front and back hem might be more versatile.  It is also really quick to sew, with only three pieces if you go for short sleeves.


This fabric is also a Girl Charlee blend, this time cotton, rayon and modal, and it is heavenly to touch!  It cut and sewed beautifully and I am so glad I bought a couple of metres because I want all my t-shirts to feel this soft!


I was feeling a little lazy when it came to hemming this t-shirt, and so I experimented with using my overlocker’s narrow rolled hem on jersey.  It isn’t perfect, but seems to have turned out fine, and if at some point in the future I get fed up of it, I can always turn it up later.


I’m happy with how this has come out, and there is not really much more to say about a top that I have made many times before!  I’m sure there will be more…



Kelly Skirt

This skirt has been a staple in my wardrobe, year round, whatever the weather!  It is amazing to find patterns that are really versatile and practical and this is one of them.  It is the Kelly Skirt pattern my Megan Nielson, but I received it free with Love Sewing magazine in 2015 when dressmaking was new to me and it is still going strong.


I wanted a skirt that could be worn with anything and so chose a classic denim to keep it fairly neutral.  It didn’t want it to be totally plain though, so I decided on contrast topstitching.  It did take a while to choose a colour that I was happy with.  I chose this red because it does add a bit of character, but without making it difficult to wear with lots of other colours.  To make it stand out a little more, I did double rows of topstitching, using the edge of my presser foot as a guide to keep the spacing even.


This skirt is super simple to construct as was for me a great introduction to pleats.  There are 4 box pleats, 2 front and two at the back to give the nipped in waist and then flaring to make space for the hips.


Like the topstitching, choosing buttons was another dilemma.  I wanted something neutral but not boring!  These hexagonal shell buttons are just lovely.  They have a subtle shine and pick up the colours around them.


And obviously, I couldn’t make a pattern without showing you the pockets!  These pockets are in a star print cotton and are the scraps from another project.  I think exciting pockets are my favourite use of scraps of fabric.


I have since made another in aubergine needlecord and it is also a popular wardrobe pick of mine, though is getting less wear in the spring as it is a little dark.  It does have good pockets though too!