Pietra Pants

Just for something different, I thought I would write about my sewing process. I first came across the Pietra Pants by Closetcore Patterns last year and hadn’t really tackled sewing any trousers. Sewing pants is intimidating because of some of the fit issues that I’d read about but it was recommended to me because it has a fitted flat front look but fit issues are less of an issue because of the half elasticised waist. This is Version A and is the cropped version.

So, the sew starts with the interesting pocket construction. When I sewed this last year, I felt like it was a bit of a puzzle or origami but seemed straight forward in this sew. This is about the fourth time I’ve made this pattern so I should’ve worked it out by now.

Once the pockets are attached then it’s a simple matter of attaching the two front panels together.

This is then added to the front waistband which is made up of three pieces.

We now then move onto the back panels and sew them together and then attach this to the back waistband. At this stage, I was a bit panicked thinking that I had chosen to sew the wrong size as it looked rather large but just remembered that it is elasticised so most of the volume will disappear!

The next part is to attach the front panels to the back panel. I’ve taken a few more pictures of the waistband here because when I first sewed this, I had to read the instructions about ten times. I’m still not sure I have it exactly correct but it worked out so I’m happy. Also, when you attach the elastic on, just remember that to check that you haven’t accidentally flipped it causing a twist in the elastic.

The elastic is then encased in the waistband with some blind stitching. This used to freak me out because when I first started sewing I had a very basic machine without any speed control. So, I would line up the seam and hang on and pray for a straight line. Now, I’m blessed with a new machine my husband bought me for my birthday (that I dropped about a hundred hints for) which comes with speed control so I just take it very slow here. To help get a neat finish I also hand baste the waistband.

Finally, before hemming the pants, I sew up the elastic as pictured. Definitely not something to skip because it helps to shape the back of the pants. 

So excited to have this in my Spring/Summer wardrobe! I’ve paired it here with my Frankie Tankie. It’s going to be a great staple especially in this neutral colour.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Sandeep Dress

Lately, my sewing has had to take a backseat to other commitments. Sewing has become my go to activity for a bit of “me-time” so in the face of a busy month, I decided to pick a pattern that I could sew a little at a time but also something a bit different and challenging. By Hand London is well known for their beautiful dresses. I recommend it to anyone who needs a special occasion dress! From BHL, the Sandeep Dress,“ has a close fitting bodice with V shaped darts, raglan flutter sleeves and a square faced neckline. Two asymmetric circle skirts are joined to a straight underskirt at the waist and mid thigh …”. For me, this pattern falls into the country chic, prairie chic or cottage core aesthetic. 

Okay, this pattern uses a lot of fabric. I ended up using about 5 meters! So, needless to say, a toile was essential. I decided to toile the bodice. My measurements of 37 Bust, 33 Waist and 38 Hip put me in the Size 14 (UK) range. The bodice fit well but the raglan flutter sleeves needed a slight adjustment. I brought the front sleeve seams in by 1 cm and that made it sit well without the sleeves falling off my shoulders. I love all the tips given in the pattern on adjustment and sizing. The BHL website also has great free resources. Despite these tips, I still managed to make a big rookie mistake which was that I didn’t realise I needed to iron the rayon crepe fabric before sewing! Also, another mistake was that I’d made the toile in a different fabric. I used a cotton for a toile which was stiff so initially I thought my sizing was a UK size 16. This resulted in a bodice that was too big so I had to restart the dress (a couple of weeks lapsed before the restart as I tried to figure out how to fix it and realised that restarting was the only way to move on).

I’m thrilled with the dress! It was worth all the effort and I really enjoyed taking it slow with my sewing and working on all the details. I love styling the dress with these ankle boots. It’s a little bit of a juxtaposition being paired with such a feminine dress. 

Thanks so much for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Ogden Cami

We’ve just seen a close to the end of Ogden Cami Month. It’s been so inspiring to follow along the True Bias blog. This is such a well-loved pattern in the sewing community. There is a plethora of clever hacks for this pattern. From the True Bias website, the Ogden Cami is described as, “The Ogden Cami is a simple blouse that can either be worn on its own or as a layering piece under blazers and cardigans. It has a soft V neck at both center front and center back necklines, and delicate spaghetti straps. The neckline and armholes are finished with a partial lining for a beautiful, high end finish.”

I’ve loved wearing the cami as a layering piece, but I’ve also loved it as a stand-alone piece on those really hot, sticky humid days. I’ve made three of the Ogden Camis with linen which is so breathable and such a great fabric for those days. I’ve also hacked the Ogden into a summer dress using very lightweight rayon for both.

The sizing was spot on for me. There were no adjustments needed which was great! I sewed up the Size 8 and my measurements are B37:W33:H38. When deciding on sizing, I usually look at the sizing chart and in addition to that, the finished garment sizing. It’s also handy to consider the fabric you’re sewing with. I could have possibly sewn up a size if I had chosen a very stable fabric but I found that linen “grows” so you can end up with a slight increase in the “give” of the fabric. On the finished garment chart, the sizing range is from bust size 33 inch to 59.5 inch but be aware the sizing is divided to two ranges.

It’s definitely great core item for your closet and it’s a pattern that keeps on giving! After this Ogden Month, I’m even more inspired for a few more creative hacks for next year.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Hana Dress in Ankara Fabric

Last year, I had been keenly following Ankara Appreciation Week on Instagram which was hosted by Lena King @thatlenaking and Juliet Uzor @julietuzor_  so, when it came around again I was keen to sew something in this beautiful fabric.

Close up of my Ankara Fabric

Briefly, Ankara Fabric is a wax print cotton fabric which is deeply cultural to Africa. It is called by different names depending on where it comes from so Ankara mainly refers to the wax fabric from West Africa. The prints and the patterns themselves can have symbolic meanings. I bought my fabric from Mapalo Store and when I asked to buy some Ankara fabric I discovered a fellow sewing enthusiast! Her family owns the store and she was so kind in telling me about the fabric. We eventually ended up on her Pinterest looking at some ideas on what I could do with the fabric I had chosen. The main point that stuck in my mind was that with Ankara Fabric, it’s the pattern which determines what you sew up. Pattern matching is crucial to making the most of the fabric. Sewing is such a universal language! I was so touched that she took the time to give me some tips on how to sew up the fabric and now that I have a little experience, I’ll definitely be going back for more fabric to sew up.

Keeping those handy tips in mind, I ended up choosing the Hana Tank Dress by Pattern Scout. The Hana Dress has simple lines so I felt it would let the fabric “shine”. It’s also a dress that I loved wearing in summer and was one that I wanted to sew a few more of for the coming summer. I sewed the size 12 and the only modification I made was to lengthen the dress.

The Ankara Fabric I chose had these cascading repeating blue eyelet pattern on a red background. The blue eyelets actually remind me of peacock feathers. Cutting the fabric was a challenge as I initially thought the pattern was mirrored exactly symmetrically but it wasn’t. Once I realised this, I found a central point of the fabric to coincide with the waist and centre front of the dress. I also made sure the length accommodated to the cascading “feathers” to end with a band of red background around the base of the dress.

Choosing the centre point

The Ankara cloth is such a great fabric to sew. It behaves very well so it’s an easy fabric to sew. It is light but still has structure to it. It’s a very bright fabric so it surprised me when I found it hard to tell the right side from wrong side! Have a look at all the great makes on Instagram under the hashtag #sewankarafabric21

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Wooster Jacket

The Wooster Jacket is a timeless addition to any wardrobe. I was lucky enough to be gifted this beautifully designed piece by Sewing and the City. The description of the pattern is, “The Wooster is a loose-fitting unlined jacket with yoke detail, front slit pockets, bracelet length sleeves and a wide neck band.” This is my first time sewing a pattern from Sewing and the City and I daresay it won’t be my last. 

Sewing and the City offers tutorials for those who may be just starting out in their sewing but I found the instructions comprehensive enough for the short time I’ve been sewing. I decided to challenge myself to sew this jacket in a “Sew Everyday” challenge where I sewed for 15 minutes daily. This was such a fun way to sew and it helped me plan and understand the processes of putting this piece together. Here was my sewing process for the jacket:

  1. Complete all stay stitching
  2. Attach pockets to front panels
  3. Join front top and bottom panel
  4. Join yoke to back panel
  5. Sew on sleeves
  6. Sew side seams
  7. Sew hem
  8. Add neckband
  9. Sew sleeve hem

Just a few notes from my version, I sewed the size M which fit exactly as I liked. This pattern has a size range from 42 1/2 inch bust to 55 1/4 inch bust. I used a wool blend fabric to make my Wooster Jacket as it’s an unlined jacket so I chose a fabric that would sit softly against the skin. This fabric has a bit of polyester in the mix which made it hard to press and so when it came to attaching the neckband I stitched-in-the-ditch rather than topstitching it on. Also, there are no indications in pattern of when to overlock / serge the seams so I just noted where to do this when I read through the pattern. Other than that, it turned out exactly as the pattern promised! 

Thanks so much for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Meridan Knit Dress

Sew To Grow is an Australian based pattern maker. I came across her designs with her famous Bondi Dress and Sydni Dress on Instagram. However, I really wanted to continue to explore sewing with knit fabrics. I had been hoping to find a dress that wasn’t a wrap dress or a T-Shirt dress which seems to be the most popular beginner pattern for knit. This is why I was so excited when I came across the Meridan Knit Dress. On the website, it’s described as a knit dress, “with the beginner in mind.” The design is quite classic with a fitted bodice attached to a straight skirt. It has variations with sleeve length, rounded or squared hemline and vee-neck or rounded neckline. It’s so great when you have so many variations in one pattern.

The pattern has very clear instructions to start with a toile so I decided to make a wearable toile. I’m glad for this advice because I think the type of knit fabric chosen could significantly impact the sizing. I was told early on in my sewing journey that the pattern is only a template and fitting the pattern is the skill that makes the outfit.

You can see in my toile that I chose to sew the size M as my measurements (B:37 W:33 H:38) were in the range but it was too big and I had to bring in my seams from 3/8 inch to 5/8 inch. I did not sew down a size because I felt that the fit around my neckline and bustline were comfortable and I didn’t want that tight feeling under the arm which can happen when you size down. Perhaps, if I had chosen a more stable knit fabric, there would be no need to change the seam size. A little customisation was made by shortening the elastic and only attaching the elastic to the back of the dress leaving the front flatter but gathered between the pockets.

The fabrics that I chose to sew the Meridan Knit dress were both Rayon Spandex. This fabric has great drape and is so lightweight and comfortable to wear. It’s also wrinkle free and won’t need ironing. I could not resist this beautiful Jocelyn Proust Design with beautiful honeyeater birds. Honeyeaters are frequent visitors in my garden and provide so much entertainment with their energetic flittering from branch to branch and lively chatter.

The instructions were very clear and concise in this pattern. There was some slight confusion on the order of the instructions like hemming the sleeves and skirt before attaching to the bodice. I realised later that this would have given a neater finish if I had done it this way. For efficiency, because I had to change to a twin needle for the hemming, I had left the hemming of sleeve and skirt to the end which worked out fine as well. The bias binding for the neckline stumped me a little but that’s down to my learning style as I’m a visual learner so I decided to sew a band method to finish the neckline which I was already familiar with and liked the look of. Luckily, if you need to, there are sew-along tutorials you can access if you subscribe as a Sew To Grow Club member (monthly fee applies for subscription) and there are a lot of free tutorials loaded onto the Sew To Grow site.

The Meridan Knit Dress was an enjoyable sew and knit fabric is a breeze to work with once you’ve got the hang of it. In fact, it seemed to take less and less time with my toile taking me a couple of days to complete and my last dress only taking me half a day to whip up!

I’ve been wearing them on repeat and have had so many people ask me where I bought my dress. It’s been so rewarding to be able to sew myself something as lovely as this dress and by the way, it has pockets!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Comfi Lounge Set

This make was inspired purely by my much anticipated annual leave. I know that the lounge set trend came about because of people working from home but being a healthcare worker rules that out for me. So, all I’ve thought about was a couple of weeks of sitting home lounging, eating, napping, reading and lots of sewing. The weather has also helped as temperatures have dropped and rains have settled in. 

I chose to sew the Comfi Lounge Set as it’s a Pattern Scout Pattern and from past experience, all her patterns have been pure joy to sew. I do love a challenge when I sew, like doing a good puzzle, but in this case, I just wanted a relaxing, uncomplicated sew. It definitely turned out to be exactly that! A very easy, relaxing sew and it does exactly what it says on the tin. The guesswork for sizing and the choice of fabric is all taken care of. 

My husband is an avid supporter of my sewing hobby. He often comes along fabric shopping with me and was the one that spotted this pineapple print cotton jersey fabric.

Who can resist pineapple print?

I cut out and brought along the stretch ruler that Pattern Scout provided in the pattern instructions which made it so easy to pick the fabric especially if you’re new to knit fabrics as I am. I used this medium weight knit for the Comfi Lounge Pants and as a surprise for my husband, I also sewed up the pineapple print jersey as a sleep shirt for him (this is not included in the pattern, his shirt was self-drafted). For the Comfi Lounge Tee, I’ve sewn up the basic short sleeved tee version and I’ve used a lightweight stretchy white cotton spandex fabric. 

Instructions were great as usual and the size 12 was a perfect fit for my measurements. All seams were sewn up on my overlocker and the hems and sleeves were finished with twin needles. I’ve seen some beautiful versions of this pattern on Instagram and it’s definitely one that I’ll revisit. The next time I sew this, I’d love to play around with fabric choice.

On a side note, sewing this has been such a joy and in general, sewing is such a joyful pastime for me. It has also been fun (and funny) to document these makes along the way. I hope joy and creativity is something that everyone can make time for in their lives. Sewing and having a hobby is something that really contributes to my wellbeing. Hopefully, whatever you’re facing or doing, I hope you’re able to find some joy in it.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

The Jarrah Sweater

The Jarrah is a pattern by a beloved local Perth Designer Megan Nielsen and comes with so many options due to the fact that it’s a modular pattern. This allows you to mix and match the different bodice options with different neck band and sleeve options. This is such a feature with Megan Nielsen’s patterns as she offers many variations making her patterns such good value. I’ve now sewn the Jarrah pattern a few times producing a different look each time. The Jarrah is such a comfortable loose-fitting sweater. I also love how the look of the Jarrah changes depending on the fabric choice so I decided to explore this by making two versions. In the first version, using a fleece lined knit and a rayon spandex with the second. 

Both were sewn up in the Size 12 without any adjustments as these were the closest to my measurements. There is a lot of ease in the pattern so you could look at the finished measurements and size down for a narrower fit but I personally liked the generous give in the fit as it feels so comfortable and great for lounging in. For both versions, I had 1.5 meters of fabric which turned out very well. I did try to see if I could use less but had to take into account the direction of the stretch in the first version and the pattern placement in the second version. With the second version, I also needed some black ribbing. You don’t need much, about half a meter should be plenty.

The choice of the fleece lined knit was just right for a sweatshirt style sweater. The fleece I chose is smooth on the outer side and has a loose nap on the underside which is just so soft and plush. It will be so warm and soft to wear against the skin. The peach is a delicious pop of colour that I just couldn’t resist! Testing the stretch of the fleece, it has a tight stretch one way and is quite a stable knit. I made View B with the high-low hemline. It has an interesting curve along the hemline and is the longest option so very good to style with jeans or even activewear. 

The peach is a beautiful colour but it was difficult to find any ribbing to go with the colour so I had to make my own neckband. I did this by cutting a longer than needed strip of the same fabric along the stretch of the fabric. You could also cut along the bias to make it stretchier, however, I felt that it had enough stretch without doing that. I then measured the band against the neckline and subtracted about 20% in the neckband so it could give some tension to the neckline and sit flush when worn. 

To finish the cuffs and hem, I used a twin needle. The cuffs were easy to sew up but it was a bit trickier with the curved hemline. I found it hard to pin the thick fabric especially going around curves so I used some quilter’s tape. Also, a word of warning when you first start sewing with twin needles, go slowly! I was chugging along full speed and didn’t notice the thread getting tangled and broke the needle. Luckily the sharp part was still attached to the thread. It really made me consider getting some safety goggles for my sewing.

The second sweater I made was with the Jocelyn Proust Magpie Printed Rayon Spandex Fabric. This is currently exclusive to Spotlight Stores. Jocelyn Proust designs are so recognizable for the Australiana flora and fauna featured in her designs. I love the unique call of the Magpie bird so I fell in love with this design straight away. 

The rayon spandex knit is a very soft drapey fabric and has amazing stretch recovery. It has quite a luxurious feel and although I’m making it for my winter wardrobe, I think this fabric is also quite good for summer. The look I wanted was a long-sleeved cropped blouse sweater so I used View A. Cropped sweaters were all the rage in the 80s so I thought it would be fun to recreate that look. I used black ribbing for the neckline and cuffs and to recreate the cropped look without exposing my belly button. I doubled the height of the hem cuff and shortened the width so it would cinch in the fabric at the waist. 

This time, everything was sewn up using only the overlocker. It was incredibly fast doing it this way. I worried about the strength of the seams but after testing a bit of off-cut fabric I felt that the stitches held very well. However, I’m very inexperienced with knit fabric so please don’t take my word for it. Personally, I felt that for the speed and convenience, I was happy to take the risk of sewing up with the overlocker.

The Jarrah is such a versatile pattern and it was fun playing around with all the options. I made my first Jarrah a year ago and I know it will be one of my “tried and true” patterns. It has also been an interesting exercise coming back to a pattern that I made at the start of my sewing journey. I feel that I’ve made huge progress and the finishes, although not perfect, are getting so much better.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em 

My First Pattern Test: The Ava Dress

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll probably notice that I’ve sewn up quite a few Pattern Scout patterns. That’s why when there was a call for pattern testers for the Ava Dress on the Pattern Scout Newsletter (always sign up for the newsletter because this is where all the good stuff is!) I signed up to do the testing immediately. I suffered a bit of self-doubt for a moment. I mean, who starts a new hobby as complex as sewing then signs up to be a pattern tester as a beginner? But I guess Pattern Makers would need testers from a wide range of skill levels and I was lucky enough to get in!

So, what is the Ava Dress? From Pattern Scout, “The Ava Dress is a sleeveless, popover dress with a faux wrap bodice and elasticated waist designed for woven fabrics”. In my own words, I would describe it as a wrap dress with a more minimalist aesthetic. It has a very neat silhouette which can be worn for work or play. It comes in two lengths which also increases the versatility of the dress and the sleeves are designed to just peep over the edge of your shoulders which is very flattering and very chic.

The testing turnaround was a week. I have no idea if this is the normal time given for pattern testing but I suppose if you’re about to put a pattern out, you need your testers to be giving you their feedback in that short amount of time to finalise your adjustments for the pattern. It might also prevent details of the pattern leaking out before launching. It was exciting to imagine that I was part of a secret mission and team that were tasked to secretly make this fabulous pattern and then wait for the release to be able to finally let our friends and family know that we contributed (in some small way) to helping the birth of a beautiful new garment. 

But let’s be clear that the design is completely the work of the Designer, in this case the very talented Casey Sibley of Pattern Scout. Pattern Testers are asked not to “hack” the pattern during the testing. We sew up the pattern and simply give feedback on the instructions, garment fitting, pattern pieces and the feel of wearing the garment. There was also an inspiration board on what fabrics other Testers were sewing with. I chose a cotton linen to sew up the shorter version of the Ava Dress. According to my measurements of High Bust of 36 inches, Bust of 37 inches, Waist of 33 inches and Hips of 38 inches, I fitted best into the Size 12 B. Like with most new patterns, I made a toile of the dress to check the fit and it seemed that I didn’t need to make any adjustments. When I made the final piece, I just added an inch to the elastic for the waist and also left the hem a bit longer by folding over by 1cm twice rather than folding over by 1cm then by 1 inch. These are just personal preferences and not really to do with designer’s fit of the garment.

As a beginner sewing enthusiast, I tend to look for extra skill sets I can learn from a pattern. I look at purchasing patterns not just as items I’d like to wear but for the skill set that I can gain from sewing those patterns. In the Ava Dress Pattern, I love that Casey gives such clear instructions on how to french seam the garment, how to interface the facings in a neat way and the flat felled seam was also a first for me. 

Would I do pattern testing again? Yes! Without hesitation if I’m lucky enough to be selected. But I would have to feel comfortable and I would have to love the design, as I do here. It does come with a little bit of pressure due to the time frame so it’s important not to let the designer down by not completing the mission (should you wish to accept). Other than that, the other sewists were so knowledgeable with their fitting expertise. It was inspiring to be in the same space (albeit, a virtual space). I felt so supported and included all the way in this community of sewing experts.

To have a look at the Ava Dress for yourself and to see what the other Pattern Testers made just go to https://patternscoutstudio.com/products/ava-dress-pdf-sewing-pattern