Opal Pants

When I was looking for a relaxed fit pair of trousers for an upcoming getaway, I had initially dismissed the Opal Pants because I thought the tapered trousers would be a tighter fit and also, I didn’t want to sew something with a paper-bag waistband which is often styled with a shirt tucked in. I wanted something loose with no tucking in required. Basically, I was searching for the ultimate secret pyjamas! 

I started to do some research and was close to getting the Sew House Seven Free-range Slacks, but Megan Nielsen Patterns had a mid-year sale which made me have a closer look at the Opal Pants. I then realised that the paper-bag waistband was interchangeable with a normal elasticised waistband. The other reason I bought the pattern was that I thought I would get more out of the pattern in the future as it has more options than the Free-range Slacks.

My size at the moment is 33 waist and 40 hips. According to the sizing chart, I’m towards the 14 in the waist and size 12 with the hips. I chose to sew the size 14. As mentioned before, I was looking for a relaxed fit. I didn’t toile this make which can be a disaster, but I have sewn a lot of Megan Nielsen Patterns and I know my sizing sits well in the size 12 and size 14. I’ll probably sew this in a size 12 in the future as it’s very roomy especially with the elasticated waistband. Luckily, I had opted to include the belt loops and the belt.

There are different pocket options included which is always good because it’s these little customised details that make it more unique. I chose the in-seam pockets for this make. It would be interesting to have a look at hacking some cargo style pockets and to have back pockets too. I’m just lazy at ironing pockets so I went with the easiest ironing option!

In Seam Pockets

One little customisation that I added, which is not included in the pattern, was the cuffed trouser leg hem. I used the regular inseam measurements but shortened by 2 inches. I then made a pair of cuffs and sewed this on the right side, finishing with my overlocker. I then folded the cuff up and sewed the cuffs permanently in place by blind stitching on the inner and outer seams. I think it adds to that “relaxed” holiday look.

Cuffed Hem

My fabric is a heavyweight textured slub linen which is an oatmeal colour. Oatmeal is such a great neutral. I have a pair of wide leg Pietra Pants that I’ve made with the same colour and it goes with everything. It would also be nice to sew this with Tencel or Lyocell (same but different) or even a cotton. Just making mental notes for a future make. I think if I was making the paper-bag waisted option, I would try a lighter weight fabric.

There are only good things to say about the instructions. As usual, Megan Nielsen Patterns are logical and easy to follow. I also appreciate the extra tutorials which are emailed to you once you purchase the pattern. It’s great to have those sew-alongs with photos and it’s all set out by category which makes it less overwhelming when you’re tackling a new project. I’ll enjoy having this included in my holiday capsule wardrobe! 

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Carrie Skirt

So many good things to say about this pattern! Where to start? The Carrie Skirt is a newly released pattern from Vanessa Hansen Studio. I find Vanessa’s patterns to be very fashion forward which comes from her background in the fashion industry. The Carrie Skirt has a fitted yoke which then flares out to a full gathered skirt. It comes in a high waisted version and a natural waisted version. She also added lacing to the back of the skirt as an option which cinches the waist in but gives the fit some flexibility.

Fitted yoke of the Carrie Skirt

The pattern is made for woven fabrics. Fabrics such as viscose, rayon, Tencel were popular amongst the testing team. I’ve used a very lightweight denim in my version. It really looks best with some drape but using such fabric will need a lot of stabilising for the yoke as the fit is crucial for the look of the skirt. I’m not an expert in fit so found the yoke to be quite challenging but Vanessa acknowledges this in the pattern and provides very detailed notes on fit. I took it slowly, followed the fit notes step by step and checked at each stage that the yoke was fitting.  Once that part is worked out, the rest of the sew was a breeze!

Lightweight Denim

A high point of my Carrie Skirt make was the instalment of the invisible zipper. Casting my mind back to my first invisible zipper, it had just been a relief to be able to get it on, but it was gaping, the sides did not match and it was clearly not invisible. You’ll understand then why I did a happy dance when I installed this zipper without having to refer to instructions. I did an extra happy dance when everything matched up when zipped up and works like an invisible zipper should!

Invisible invisible zipper!

My measurements fitted between size 12 and size 14 and I made the natural waistline version. I started by printing the pattern with both of those sizes. I really like it when PDF patterns have their sizes in layers, it really makes putting together the pattern easier. In the toile, I decided to cut the size 14 and followed the instructions to pinch and adjust the panels of the yoke. Another feature of the pattern is the option for topstitching. I haven’t included that in mine, but I love how a detail such as topstitching can make such a difference to the look of a garment. I’ll be trying it out in the future especially if I make it in a plain fabric.

This skirt can be styled in so many ways. I love how you can pair it with a t-shirt and a pair of sneakers in summer. Dress it up with a jazzy blouse and heels for a night out or boots and turtleneck for a cosy winter outfit. 

I don’t usually talk too much about personal life but the period during this pattern test was quite topsy turvy! I had a failure of confidence which was brought on by time pressures as I was also preparing to speak at a conference. Then as that weekend approached, covid visited my youngest which added to the stress (thankfully, fully recovered). What I was grateful for was Vanessa’s calming influence and reassurance. In fact, I was so surprised that I managed to finish the Carrie Skirt before the deadline which Vanessa had kindly reassured me that I didn’t need to meet.

I’ve really enjoyed sewing another beautiful pattern from Vanessa Hansen Studio and hope it does well during its launch! I was so happy to be able to complete this pattern even though I was sidelined in the middle of the testing period. Again, Vanessa is always so generous with her time and knowledge during the test and I felt that I learnt so much!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Albion Blouse

The Albion Blouse is a collaboration between Vanessa Hansen Studios and Peppermint Magazine. Peppermint Magazine is not only great for their articles but also for their free sewing patterns. I was thrilled to be part of the tester team and so happy to be able to share it. When I started applying to be a tester for patterns, I didn’t realise there could be a gap between sewing and posting. Sometimes there’s no indication of when a pattern will be released which makes it so exciting when you can finally share! I was born in the Chinese year of the dragon and dragons are usually terrible at keeping secrets so I’m patting myself on the back for not letting anything out of the bag so far.

The Albion Blouse is a wrap top which is fastened by buttons and loops. It is quite fitted in the bodice and stops just below the natural waistline. There were a lot of firsts for me in this pattern. I’ve never had to make loops for fastening and it was also my first time making my own buttons. I consider my skill level sitting more towards the advanced beginner so I was happy to be able to complete this pattern which is made for intermediate sewers.

The size for the Albion Blouse runs between A to P and has cup sizes. I graded between size F and G as my full bust sat in the F range and my waist was in the G. I love the system on sizing and how Vanessa includes detailed fitting notes in her patterns. The wrap top allows for some flexibility too which helped me as I’m still learning in this area.

There are two versions to make in this pattern and my first make was a wearable toile of the short sleeve blouse. My final version was of the long sleeves with cuff which also fastens with buttons and loops. 

This blouse has such classic vintage features, so I chose a beautiful lightweight linen with a modern print to juxtapose this.  I always reach for a linen if I can because it’s a natural fibre and great in hot weather and cooler weather too.

The Albion Blouse is such a generous offering from Vanessa Hansen Studios. Thank you to both Peppermint Magazine and Vanessa for making this pattern free for all of us. 

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Lanti Swing Dress

When Sew to Grow put a call out for testers, I was quick to apply as I’ve been keen to challenge myself to sewing to a time frame and I have found testing to be invaluable experience especially when interacting with other more experienced sewers. Lindsey, the founder of Sew to Grow, is a sewing teacher so I find all her patterns have a quality of thoughtfulness and caters well for all skill levels from beginners or those who are trying to advance their skills in sewing. The Lanti Swing Dress was initially designed for her classes and with a beginner in mind. Now it’s been made available for everyone!

The Lanti Swing Dress is a versatile pattern that comes with three options. Option A is a smock dress, Option B is an A line dress and Option C is a blouse. There are also sleeve options for short sleeves with cuff or three-quarter sleeves with frill.  This dress is also a great wardrobe basic with potential for hacks which is what I did with my second make.

The first dress I made for the test was Option A and using the three-quarter sleeve but without the frill. I love making dresses but found that I lacked a neutral basic dress. The Lanti Swing Dress is a great core item dress which is designed to be versatile and a foundation piece for dressmaking. The fabric I used was a beautifully sheer flax coloured cotton which is lightly textured by a weave of beige coloured tread in a stripe pattern running horizontally. This dress can be styled with sandals for summer or layered with a jacket for autumn and spring. It can be left loose for a boho look or cinched at the waist with a belt for a stylish work outfit. 

My test was for the size 12 as my measurements of 37.5-inch bust, 33-inch waist and 38-inch hips fit well into that category. There wasn’t any need for adjustments, but I left out the pockets and the sleeve frill. My fabric was very sheer so instead of a facing, I fully lined the dress with a muslin which also served as the first toile of the pattern. The Lanti Dress is a great dress to practice installing a lining as the closure is a simple button closure at the back so no tricky zippers to line. In order to line the dress, it’s a case of using the bodices and skirt pieces but with your lining fabric which is often a lighter weight fabric. The bodice pieces are sewn up and the same instructions given for attaching the facing were followed. Once the bodice outer shell and lining pieces are attached, it is turned the right way and the skirt shell and lining can be attached separately. I should also mention that I lengthened my outer shell hem by 2 inches.

It was such a pleasure to sew that I made a second dress but this time with a fun hack and I wanted to try making those pretty frill sleeves. Again, the pattern is great to play with for a hack as it is drafted to be versatile. To make this hack, the bodice was shortened by 1 inch. The skirt was left the same width for the upper two-thirds and the bottom one-third was widened by 10 inches. This time the frills were added to the sleeves. The result is a fun party dress which can be dressed up or down.

It was so much fun to test for Lindsey of Sew to Grow and it was a lovely team of testers to join. She made it stress free and was always quick to give feedback when we needed it. It was also nice to have a bit of interaction with the other testers and see their beautiful creations. If you can, you should check them out.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Poppy Blouse

Poppy Blouse is the long anticipated new release from Pattern Scout Studio. It has the most beautiful ruffle collar which is my first. It is in the style of a peasant blouse with raglan sleeves. I was lucky enough to be on the testing team for the Poppy Blouse. This blouse is such a lovely addition to my me-made closet. I do love sewing a dress but for practical reasons, I’ve been looking for more blouse patterns, so I was excited when this opportunity came along.

There are two versions on offer with the pattern. Featured above is Version A which has a ruffle hem. It’s a pretty feature and I find the peplum to be a very flattering feature which draws the silhouette in at the waistline and elongates the legs. I also went on to make a silky version B so the pattern is already proving to be a tried and true pattern! I really love both versions.

My measurements currently are 37.5-inch bust, 34-inch waist and 40-inch hips. My measurements were a surprise when I remeasured myself for the test, but it does remind you in the pattern to always remeasure before starting the sew to avoid disappointment. It’s lucky that there is so much ease in the pattern which is more forgiving when fitting the pattern. Grading is not required, and it’s actually not recommended for this pattern. The sizing is very inclusive, it goes from size 0 to 30 and Pattern Scout Studio is great at offering cup sizes with her patterns.

The next consideration was the fabric. There were some beautiful samples which were shared with the testers. The pattern suits a drapey fabric like chiffon, georgette, crepe the chine but for Version A, I had a thin, lightweight vegetable-dyed cotton that I knew would suit the pattern. It does create a fuller shape, but I love the feel of cotton in summer, and I stress that it is a very lightweight cotton.

Personally, the collar construction was the most satisfying task. I loved bringing it together and it’s a very pretty feature of the blouse. I like it both tied up or left open. It’s very flattering on the neckline. 

Pattern Scout Studio always include great instructions with their patterns. It’s sewn in a logical sequence and has the right amount of detail to help someone who is at the start of their sewing journey. I always highly recommend and have sewn their patterns many times over myself. I’m so happy to be able to have been part of the testing team again!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Marlo Sweater

My daughter and I fell in love with the Marlo Sweater by True Bias at first sight. I always find it amusing that to my daughter’s generation, the 90s are regarded as “retro” which of course it is now but the 90s are still so fresh in my mind and the years of my youth! This pattern paired with the argyle patterned fabric that I found conjures images of the outfits that Cher Horowitz wears in the movie, “Clueless”. I love the bond that my daughter and I have formed over sewing. My daughter’s textile course in her final years of school was the catalyst to my sewing obsession. 

So, back to the Marlo Sweater, I decided to make the cropped version. My daughter was happy with a very oversized sweater, so I made it to my sizing which was the size 8.  My closet is often raided by her so it’s understood between us that my sweater will eventually be worn by her. Hence, why she is modelling it as well.

The instructions for construction were very comprehensive and easy to follow. I’ve sewn True Bias a few times now and the patterns are always well thought out and logical. Everything went smoothly. I started by pattern matching the argyle pattern of the fabric. To match the fabric, I had to cut the pattern piece individually instead of two paired pieces. 

The next step was to cut the ribbing. The width that the black ribbing came in did not allow me to cut the bottom ribbing piece in one length. Instead, I cut one length for the back then two equal pieces for the front. These three pieces were sewn together before attaching to the body of the sweater.

My second-hand overlocker has been the best bargain buy of my sewing journey. It’s been such a worthy investment. It allows me to sew directly onto knit fabric without having to zig-zag sew on a sewing machine. This makes it so fast to put together a knitted outfit.

My real challenge (and the one that stalled this project) was the installation of buttonholes. There is a piece of interfacing that is already attached to the inner side of the front ribbing however, when I attempted to sew a buttonhole on a tester piece, the ribbing kept getting caught in the teeth of the machine. This meant that the fabric could not move forward. It was a test to my patience as well as my sewing skills.

After a couple of days of frustration, it occurred to me that the brain bank on Instagram could help me, and they did come to the rescue! The consensus was to line the back and if needed, the front of the ribbing with tear away interfacing or freezer paper. I promptly tested it and it does work well. However, after consulting my daughter, she said she preferred it without the buttons so after all that, I have left the buttons off.

I’ll definitely be making Version B which is the longer cardigan with patch pockets. My preference will be to put buttons on that!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

The Jarrah Sweater Again

I can’t believe how many times I’ve sewn the Jarrah Sweater from Megan Nielsen Patterns. I first came across this in 2020 when I wanted to try out my new (second-hand) overlocker and I found this. It’s a great beginner pattern especially with my limited experience with knit fabrics and overlocking. The first time I made the pattern, I used a Jacquard Knit Fabric. It was a quick sew and it’s a nice thick sweater, great for really cold days and quite oversized so it slips easily over t-shirts.

Last year, I made another version, but I experimented with a drapier, lighter weight jersey fabric and added a thicker ribbed waistband and a brushed cotton knit version. Both were worn on repeat, but I really loved the lighter weight sweater. It was easy to throw on as a top. Perth is quite Mediterranean in climate which means our winters are cold in the night and mornings but can get quite sunny and warmer in the daytime. It’s great to have a top that is versatile enough to cope.

So, since I got so much wear out of my lovely magpie jarrah sweater, I decided to make another one from this beautiful Vanessa Holliday designed jersey fabric from Spotlight Stores. I was thrilled to also find this thin pink ribbing to match. I really love how soft and luxurious the fabric feels.

View A was used to make my top and this time, I did not widen the waistband. In fact, I didn’t make any alterations. I made the size 12 which was comfortable for my frame of 37-inch bust and 33-inch waist. There have been recommendations to size down if you’re unsure of the fit, but I personally love an oversized sweater. There’s been a real appreciation for loungewear since the pandemic. I think it comes from appreciating home and the comforts it provides us. We now love the time spent together, no longer needing to seek excitement and entertainment at every turn. Time together is enough.

Sewing a pattern multiple times also allows me to reflect on technique and helps my progress in sewing. Sewing isn’t just a hobby about making the same thing over and over. There’s a skill set that must be practised and different techniques to master. I was reminded of this when attaching my collar! In my first attempt, I had not used the marking from the pattern (I was winging it!) and as I was attaching the collar, I could see that I had not stretched the ribbing enough at the beginning and was going to end up with some puckering from over stretching the second half, so I stopped and I unpicked all the overlocked stitching. Yes! It is possible but not something one wishes to do too often.

The better way to attach the collar is to mark the centre front, centre back, right shoulder and left shoulder in quarters once you have the short ends joined. It will then be easy to match this to the body of the garment. Also, I find it better to have my ribbing under the jersey fabric to make sure that I only stretch the ribbing and not the jersey fabric. 

Now that I’ve had my “warm-up” knitted fabric sewing, I’m keen to tackle a few patterns that have been on the back burner. I’ve been meaning to sew up the Pattern Scout Cozi Jacket and True Bias Marlo Sweater. Just need to track down the right fabric!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Hannah Dress

Wrap dresses are the hardest working items in my closet. They’re great for a smart casual outfit or a night out to dinner. Wrap dresses are also a bit more flexible in the fit. I find the Hannah Dress from By Hand London is so flattering on any figure. It was a dream to sew this beautiful pattern.

I chose to sew the Size 10/14 for my measurements of 37-inch bust, 33-inch waist and 38-inch hips. As mentioned, the sizing in a wrap dress is great because there’s some flexibility with the ties. I was very happy with the sizing.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering if there was any gaping of the neckline. This is a common problem with some wrap tops or dresses but I’m happy to report that there hasn’t been any gaping. I think this is because the neckline of the bodice is finished with bias binding which places tension along the biased edge of the neckline therefore holding the edge neatly. I’m fascinated by the engineering that goes into a making a garment!

The other feature which makes the bodice fit so well is the “rouleaus”. Expanding my vocabulary! Googled it and it means a coil of ribbon, knitted wool or other material. I’ll just call them ties. So, the ties are not threaded through the dress. Instead, there is a pair of internal ties and a pair of external ties. It’s such a neat way of fastening without the need for a hole to pass the tie through.

There are three options of sleeves with this dress. The first is a simple short sleeve which is what I chose to make this time. The second is a tulip sleeve and the third is a bishop sleeve. I usually must make a full biceps adjustment, but I found these sleeves fitted well without adjustments.

The final step of construction was to attach a gathered skirt. This is my favourite feature of the dress. It’s nice to have the volume of the skirt as it accentuates the waist and creates a lovely hourglass silhouette. 

The instructions are overall very beginner friendly. The only instructions that could have been a bit clearer was attaching the bias tape to the neckline. When I tried to use the link given for the tutorial, it kept coming up with the error message. I also tried on the By Hand London website and this was also not working. If you get stuck at this step, I found googling, “Attaching double fold bias tape” to be a handy search phrase. I’ll aim to document this when I remake this pattern.

This dress has already had a few outings and will be worn on repeat! I’ve really enjoyed making the Hannah Dress and now want to make all the versions of this beautiful dress.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

x Em

Testing the Holmen Top & Dress

When I looked up “Holmen”, images of a water-bound neighbourhood in Copenhagen popped up. The Holmen Top and Dress is a new release pattern from The Uncut Project. Anna and Isabel are the super talented duo behind this pattern company. They are from Copenhagen and their patterns reflect a cool Scandinavian vibe. 

I feel so lucky to be included in the testing team for the Holmen Top and Dress. The top and dress were made to have a good degree of movement and it can be worn for casual outings or out for a night. It transitions so well from day to night. Definitely a good one to pack for future holidays!

Being a self-taught sew-ist, I was mindful of my limitations, but this pattern is made for an advanced beginner which I felt, was an accurate designation. The bodice of the Holmen Top and Dress are made in a yoke style. It has a fitted yoke which a gathered tier is attached. The first tier for the dress is shorter and then fitted to another full gathered skirt tier. My favourite feature is the back of the Holmen Top and Dress. There is a low scoop which skims the curve of the spine, and the back panel is attached by a thin set of ties.

My test was for Size L. I felt the sizing was quite accurate. I did have to check with them for the back of the dress as this is such an original design. My measurements are 37-inch Bust, 33-inch Waist and 38 -inch Hips. So, my measurements fall between Size L and Size XL. I went with the Size L because the finished garment measurements were quite generous, and the fitting of the bust area was adjustable due to the straps. 

Unique Back Details

The process of testing is always interesting. I started by sewing a toile for the Holmen Top using some scraps of fabric from leftover projects and this allowed me to adjust shoulder strap length. It also allowed me time to follow the construction process and make notes where I felt instructions needed clarification. There really wasn’t any, only one small detail about which notch to sew to in the back tier, but all the instructions were clear, easy to follow and followed a logical sequence.

Once the toile was completed, I went ahead and sewed the Holmen Top. It’s a very satisfying sew. I used a thin blue cotton and lined it with white muslin. It was a challenge sewing the thin straps with my lightweight cotton as it kept shredding when I tried to turn the straps the right way around. In the end I used my own method to achieve the look. I love the look of the thin straps and I think it’s worth the effort. There is a lot of gathering especially around the curve of the back and it was a bit hard doing that amount of gathering but it was better the second time around when I sewed the Holmen Dress. Practise makes progress!

For the dress, I found a beautiful honey hued yellow textured cotton. Still lightweight but not as sheer as my blue top. I also lined the dress but only halfway with the white muslin. It’s a bit more economical doing your lining this way. I’m in love with the silhouette of the dress. It seems reminiscent of the nineteen twenties. 

Doing this pattern test has been enjoyable especially with Anna and Isabel, from The Uncut Project. It’s also so fulfilling at the creative level. It really makes me want to do more in the future. I always hesitate to apply when I see the call for testers but I’m so glad that I was offered to join the testing team otherwise I might have not been confident enough to join in!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Celestia Dress

The Celestia Dress is a new release from Papercut Patterns, and I think it’s appropriately named! It’s heavenly to wear in this scorching summer heat. The Celestia Dress has a three-tier skirt which fans out from the under bust of the bodice. A bit of a twist from an empire cut dress. There are two options with a square neckline option and a bandeau style bodice which is adjustable with drawstrings. I was immediately drawn to the interesting bandeau style bodice with drawstrings. I’m documenting here my process (and mistakes made) of the bodice.

Initially this was going to be sewn as a top so that I could toile the Celestia for some incoming fabric.

However, I just couldn’t resist making the whole dress after finishing the top half. I was using some leftover linen and lyocell blend from another project. It’s in this beautiful red brick colour.

So, we start the sew by making these drawstrings. This was a great eye-opening process as I didn’t have to struggle with any loop turners or safety pins. It’s all done with cord. It’s then a simple process of attaching the drawstrings to the bodice which is wedged between the shell and a facing. 

Attached drawstrings to bodice

Papercut Patterns always have beautifully detailed instructions which is how a novice like me can sew from a wonderful pattern like this. However, I made a small mistake in Step 9 where we’re making the slit opening for the drawstring. We’re told to only snip the outer layer but unfortunately, I enthusiastically snipped through both layers. But fear not, I repaired this with some fusing. It has worked well, and disaster was averted. Phew! 

As I said, it was just me reading too fast and skimming rather than stopping to check each detail before doing. I have found that as my experience grows with sewing, I sometimes skim instructions and sew in a way that is familiar to me. However, I’m trying not to assume that the technique I’m using is the right way. I’ve found that different designers can have a different technique which is more effective or look better, so I always want to try follow instructions exactly as written in case it could further my learning. I’m also grateful for help from other seamstresses who share their knowledge and techniques.

Well, the rest of the sew was thankfully uneventful. To finish the bodice, there is a cord that runs between and then encased. You then pull a little out at each slit making a loop on each side.

You then finish by attaching the skirt to the bodice. I left the pockets out as I don’t always find them useful, and it can be annoying to iron around them. 

I made the size 4 but I think you’ll find the fitting very easy on this. The drawstrings can be adjusted for a broader or narrower back. It’s quite ingenious engineering. There were no modifications made. After many wears, the hemline may have dropped in the back of my dress. I was impatient to finish and wear the dress and so I’ll have to trim and resew the dropped hemline.

This was worn out and about in Fremantle which is a beautifully historic port city in Perth. It’s full of Victorian Era architecture and has a certain vibe. It was the first city we lived in when we arrived in Western Australia and I have fond memories of the buzz on weekends where it felt like the whole of Perth had descended on Fremantle. 

Exploring Fremantle

Thank you for reading and happy sewing!

X Em