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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Sew over it Silk Cami

By the time you are reading this I will be on a flight out to Italy with a suitcase full of last minute completed sewing!  I’m going to have quite a backlog of things to write up once I get back.  This is also a slightly belated post.  Even the pictures were taken a couple of months ago on a short trip to Swansea.

When Sew Over It was having one of their sales, I decided to get a printed copy of their Silk Cami as part of a fabric/pattern kit.  They make up small numbers of these kits with a suitable fabric for a few of their PDF only patterns, and if you hate the printing and sticking that a PDF pattern entails, this is one way to access a couple more of their designs!

IMG_2466.JPGI decided not to use the fabric which came with the kit for my first attempt, because I wanted to check out the fit.  Instead I used the very last pieces of this cotton lawn (seen before in my Beausoleil Top and the English Tea Dress). You may also have spotted that I am wearing my handmade espadrilles in these pictures.  They still look so cool!

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This is a very simple top.  There is no shaping or darts to deal with.  Just a front and back, and facings to finish the neckline and armholes.  Given it’s simple shape, I actually really like the fit of this and definitely have plans for more.

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About the only place that I’m not 100% happy is the back neckline which seems to be gaping a little.  I think I might take out a dart in this version, and then correct it in the pattern for future attempts.

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The only other little gripe if that my front facing doesn’t lie totally flat.  I’m not sure if that is a drafting error, or a tracing off the pattern error. (Probably more likely the latter.)  It means that for my next cami I will need to double check the pattern pieces too!

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I do have a slightly exiting plan to hack this at some point too with the Grainline Archer Popover variation to give a little cami with a popover button placket at the front.  I think that will look really cute when I get around to it!

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I do have plans for a few more of these once I have sorted out the slight neckline issues.  This one was always planned as a wearable toile before cutting into a couple of other lovely fabrics which have been earmarked of this pattern.

#sewtogetherforsummer shirtdress

Hot on the heels of the Moneta Party has been another Instagram sewing community challenge.  This one is certainly very inclusive, giving you the option to sew any shirtdress from any pattern, and try to get them finished for the start of the summer.  I already had the Alex Shirtdress printed out and stuck together so this seemed like a great opportunity to get stuck in.

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The Alex dress is part of the Sew Over It ebook (My Capsule Wardrobe).  It is quite a loose fitting dress with no darts or gathers over the bust which did make it a quick and simple sew.  I found it a little too oversized, especially in this stiff cotton, and so made a few changes to help it feel more flattering.

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This fabric was very inexpensive, and the graduated criss-cross pattern did not really need any pattern matching.  It was from the textile centre and was a bargain at £1.99 a metre!  I even found some cute flower buttons in my stash, so this was a very cheap make.

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The first change that I made was to take a couple of inches out of the side seams at the waist, grading to nothing at the armscye and the hip.  With a belt, this was enough to give me some shaping, and I can now wear this both with or without a belt without feeling like I am wearing a tent!

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I also shortened the dropped back hem to the same slightly dipped hem as the front.  I didn’t think that it draped well enough to make the exaggerated dropped hem feature work.

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It is better, but I think there are a few more changes to make,  It still feels a little like a nightie or a uniform!  I think to improve it, I will take some fisheye darts out of the back to help remove some of the volume.  I think I might also shorten the dress 10cm too to make it a little more youthful.

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This dress was always intended to be a wearable toile.  I haven’t really worn shirtdresses before and I wasn’t sure it was a style that I was going to be comfortable with.  I think in it’s original guise, it wasn’t really me, but with a belt and once the back is a little more fitted, I think It will be a great summer staple.

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.

 

Features:

Hem:

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.

Neckline:

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.

Sleeves:

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

 

 

Lane Raglan

Coming into spring, I am definitely feeling the need for candy colours and for some more t-shirts.  I am experimenting with a lot of new patterns at the moment. This one, the Lane Raglan by Hey June was popping up all over the place and it looked so pretty that I couldn’t resist!  I already have a couple of t-shirt patterns (see my Tilly and the Buttons Agnes here and Sew Over It Molly Top here) but I don’t want to be wearing the same one all the time, and while I can make some changes to these patterns, the Lane Raglan is different enough that I wanted to give it a try.

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The three patterns listed above all have different ways of dealing with the sleeve.  In the Agnes Top, there is a set in sleeve which I have found fits me particularly well.  The Molly Top has a cut on Kimono style sleeve, but I haven’t had much luck with the longer sleeved version. Lane is a raglan sleeve and this simple shape makes it perfect for colour blocking.  It also means that the body and sleeves are perfect for smaller fabric remnants.

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Having made quite a few t-shirts now, I didn’t really have any trouble with cutting or sewing this up.  I was a little surprised though that there were no notches in the pattern at all to help get everything lined up.  It didn’t cause me any issues, but might be worth bearing in mind if this is the first time you have made something like this.

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Hey June patterns are pretty cool because they have different pieces included with a full bust adjustment (FBA). My measurements put me slightly above the size XS (with the FBA) but the advice in the pattern is to size down if you are between sizes.  It has turned out fairly roomy and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to size up. I’m not totally sure about the fit around the arm, but I’m not sure if that is just how the raglan sleeve fits or if there is something I can do to improve it.

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I made this top with fabrics from Girl Charlee and they are just perfect t-shirt weight.  Both are cotton spandex blends so they should have good recovery and are a plain coral and a beautiful floral for contrast.  Both fabrics have sewn up well, but I have noticed that the white backing does sometimes show through the print on the floral if it gets stretched sewing.  This top does not have the neatest insides because for some reason my overlocker did not seem to like the plain coral fabric! It kept ending up with little ripples and tucks, thought they aren’t really visible on the outside.

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I’m pretty happy with how this has turned out and it is a nice change from my other t-shirt patterns.  There are several variations in this pattern including a hem band and a hood to make it into a sweater/hoodie and I’m keen to give that a try at some point.  I have a selection of other Girl Charlee prints waiting to become t-shirts so I think there will be a few more raglans in my wardrobe soon!

 

Carrie Trousers

IMG_1246Despite comments and mockery from my co-workers last summer about these Carrie Trousers from Sew Over It, they are indeed trousers and not pajamas!  This pattern was released by Sew Over It as part of their ‘Ultimate Guide to sewing and fitting trousers’ online course.

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As mentioned above, these were made at the end of last summer and they are just so comfy.  I wasn’t sure that it was a style that I would wear, but I wanted to make them to practice some trouser skills before embarking on something more complicated. It also gave me the opportunity to have a first attempt at sewing drapey rayon.  Sadly, I cant remember where I bought this from, but I feel like I have seen this fabric all over the internet!

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The fabric behaved itself very well and the online course from Sew Over It is excellent.  For some reason, making trousers does seem much trickier than a skirt or dress, but the videos and guides did remove the mystery and fear surrounding this project!  The course does also include the Ultimate Trouser pattern, and help in getting these more complex and fitted trousers to work for you.

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Going back to the Carrie trousers, these were very simple to fit because of the loose flowing style and an elasticated back waistband.  The front panel of the waistband is left flat for a more flattering fit.  The only problems that I have had with them is that, 1. my elastic keeps trying to twist within the waistband and 2. the front section of waistband is not quite firm enough to hold its shape.

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I think that the first problem might be solved by stitching through the elastic and waistband in a few places to keep it in place.  Problem two- perhaps I needed some stiffer interfacing to help it hold its shape.

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Because these are loose fitting, they are perfect for summer.  They keep you cool when it is warm, but because they are full length you don’t get cold legs if the weather turns windy.  I personally love them for travelling in- it is a bit like wearing your pjs (just don’t tell the guys at work)!

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Making basics with the Molly Top

In the last year I have been working hard to make the things I wear every day, and that means basics.  perhaps not the most exciting sewing, but these Sew Over It Molly Tops  from the My Capsule Wardrobe E-book get so much wear.

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This magenta and grey is my first attempt and it did go together very smoothly.  I decided to use the neckband on the cross-grain, but this was a mistake because there wasn’t enough stretch in that direction.  It ended up hanging away from the body quite a bit at the neckline so I have fudged a fix by turning the neckband down again and stitching it in place.

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This pattern is one of 5 PDF patterns in the e-book. It is a loose-fitting, kimono sleeved top with a dipped hem. The sizing is spot on. It is loose and flowing without ending up oversized.

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I now have two short-sleeved versions, and a long-sleeved top (all striped which did create some extra work matching).  It does help that you don’t need to stripe match at the sleeve seam, because the stripe direction changes.

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All three of my tops are made with jersey from Girl Charlee who really should be your go-to place for jersey.  These are all quite lightweight, so don’t have loads of stretch and do need to be handled a little carefully to stop them from stretching out.  The two short-sleeved tops are 1/2 inch stripe, cotton jersey blends available here in teal and magenta.  There are lots of other colour options too.  The long-sleeve is similar, but unfortunately now out of stock.

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On my long-sleeved version I have found the sleeves a little short and they got stretched out hemming so I have since added a cuff.  Not really sure that it helped, so I may remove the sleeves and keep it as another short-sleeved version.

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I would definitely make more of these.  If you didn’t have stripe matching to deal with they would be such a fast make. The short-sleeved version only has 3 pieces- front, back and neckband.  Not so sure about the sleeved version, perhaps I should try again in a more stable jersey, but at the moment I think I prefer the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top which I will be reviewing here shortly!

Ultimate Wrap Dress

I have two ultimate wrap dresses to share today.  I was given this pattern for my birthday in September by my lovely sister-in-law.  I had to make it up right away!

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My first version was made with a lovely purple double knit from my stash.  It came from Calico Laine– one of the most friendly and helpful stores I have used.  It has a nice weight and drape and is just perfect for this type of project.

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The pattern is described as an advanced beginner pattern, and if you have ever sewn with a knit fabric before you should have no problems.  The construction is really simple and well explained.  The whole dress came together very quickly.  The only tricky parts are turning the ties and top stitching the very long hem/facing!  The ties are very long, perhaps because they are the same length whichever size you make and I made a size 8.  If you were a bit bigger, the extra length might be needed.

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Having had success with the first attempt, I decided to make another in a more special fabric.  This dress is made from a stretch cotton bought at the Exeter Sewing Machine Company.  I couldn’t find it on their website, but in store they have a fantastic basement of fabric- a sewists treasure trove!

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Because this version is a woven, rather than a knit, I did need to finish all the seams to stop them unravelling.  Enter the new birthday overlocker!  I was too scared to just overlock the seams, and some of them needed pressing open anyway to allow for the ties, so I just overlocked the seam allowance instead after sewing on my machine.

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I also decided to square off the corners on the bottom of the wrap sections.  I just thought it might be simpler to keep all my seams neat that way.

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Having found the ties too long previously I guessed a little at what would be a better length this time.  They are a tiny bit short to tie on the side, but tie at the back just fine.  The little bit of stretch in this cotton still helps it to conform to the body and is pretty comfortable.  I usually wear a cami underneath because the cross-over neckline is a little bit low without.

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Both of these dresses are lovely with tights and a cardigan.  I might have to think about making a lighter, short sleeved one for the spring and summer.