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A charcoal and lime Jasper sweatshirt

17 April 2015, 12:51

For some reason, Paprika Patterns wasn’t entirely on my radar. I remember liking their skirt pattern when it was released, but I was super busy with my own patterns, and somehow I missed the release of their Jasper sweater/dress pattern entirely, until I stumbled upon it on my Twitter timeline, and thought WOW! And then immediately went and bought it.

As luck would have it, shortly after I bought the pattern I was gifted some amaaaaaaazing technical fabric from my friend with activewear industry connections – it’s charcoal jersey on one side, bonded with navy wicking fleece on the reverse. It’s super high quality with nice stretch and a great weight for keeping warm post-workout. I have also seen nothing like it on sale anywhere, sorry!

So I thought it’d be the perfect fabric and pattern combo to be my post-workout cooldown coverup. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve been wearing the same ratty old red jacket after long runs and hard workouts, which I’d bought 10 years ago from a discount chain! Not really a great look when I wear all the crazy, wonderful workout gear underneath, so it was high time I upped my post-workout wardrobe game.

Seen here with my mesh-insertion leggings which I still love, but are too baggy for running in these days. Still great for cycling and casualwear though!

I thought an all-grey sweatshirt would be too boring for me, though, so I added a bunch of accents in lime green wicking jersey – I’d found some deep discounted gym tops in Pennsylvania in January so I bought the biggest I could find to get the most fabric possible, and paid only $5! The hems and bindings were particularly useful for inserting into seams, but for the large colourblocked areas I overlaid the green onto the thicker jersey/fleece first, since the green was considerably thinner.

I made a size 6 (B cup) of the Sweater length and the fit is great – I did narrow the sleeves by about 1.5cm further (and adjusted the cuff to match) but that was the only fit change I made. The length of everything is perfect for me.

The lower back colourblocking wasn’t originally intended – it’s not included in the pattern and only came about because I realised I did “a stupid” and accidentally cut the Back piece along the Lengthen/Shorten Line instead of the Sweater cut line, guh! So instead of cutting a whole new piece, I decided to play with the lower back and make it look intentional instead!

The hood on this pattern has a really cool construction, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before – it’s made up of three pieces, with one wrapping the whole way around the face in an asymmetric way. It really frames the face nicely and is definitely roomy enough to cover your head with a ponytail in place, too.

I covered the middle piece in lime so you can really see the details better, and it’s actually so big it fits over my cycling helmet. Could this pattern be any more Dutch?!

I really like the kangaroo pocket and welt opening on this pattern, too, but I was afraid that some heavier contents might bounce or fall out, so I added a patch pocket inside, with its opening facing upwards, so I can fit my phone into it without worrying about it bouncing around. And instead of the intended cotton jersey lining for one of the pocket pieces, I used the lime wicking jersey on its own, so there’s an extra flash of colour in addition to the lime-covered welts.

I also added a little lime loop to the right side of the the hood attachment seam at the neck to thread my headphones through, so they don’t get lost if I take them out of my ears. Bonus points for already owning lime green headphones that match the sweatshirt, right?? (not to mention my bike helmet!)

Safety note – no, I’m not planning on cycling with my headphones in! I added this feature mostly because I’m planning on wearing it after track workouts this summer, when I’ll need something for cooling down in on the tube ride home.

We went on a bike ride last weekend up to Greenwich and back, where I wore this. It was utterly perfect – it kept me warm in the wind but the sweat just disappeared, plus I had a secure place to stash my phone while I rode. We snapped these photos partway along our route, so you get a nice view of Canary Wharf in the background. James and I are signed up to race our first sportive in May (only three weeks after I run London marathon again!) and I’m not a natural cyclist so we’re getting saddle time in at the weekends where we can squeeze it in!

Apparently Paprika are releasing a pattern update imminently – it’ll address a nesting issue on the pocket piece I alerted them to, but also make the hood a touch smaller, so if you buy it now you’ll get the updated version (or if you bought it already you can apparently download the refreshed version again).

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Ask Melissa - activewear fabric and larger busts

15 April 2015, 12:35

Like anyone who’s had a site for a while (nearly 10 years, in my case!), I get an astounding amount of random email questions sent to me each day. Answering every single one of them takes up a considerable amount of my time, and sadly, I never get to reply to as many as I’d like. And frankly, sometimes I just get sick of telling people over and over that just because I posted about X magazine five years ago doesn’t mean I know where you can buy it! Or telling people that no, I don’t work for Burda/Patrones/Manequim/Lekala/whatever and I really can’t help you with your customer service issue.

For some reason, though, I received an unusually large amount of random questions while I was on holiday in NYC. I was moaning about it on Twitter, and Stacy suggested I compile them into an “Ask Melissa” column, which I thought was an excellent idea. I’ve spared you the truly random, boring ones, or the ones too specific to be applicable to anyone else, and instead just included a few here which others may be interested in.

Activewear Fabric Suppliers

I came across your website today and wanted to find out where you source the fabric for the sports clothes you make. Would you be able to tell me?

I’ve compiled a big ol’ list of suppliers (which I do my best to keep maintained!) over here!

Support for Large Busts

I’ve been admiring your work for several years now, having discovered you through your many rave reviews at patternreview.com. I’m not the best with knits, but I am about to try this summer, starting with your workout wear. I do CrossFit and high intensity classes, and am just giving up on finding clothes that will support my busty bust but fit my small rib cage. I am 32 DDD to G; can you recommend any of your patterns over the others for supporting large breasts? We spend a lot of time bouncing, upside down, etc. and form-fitting and supportive would be dreamy. And I see you even do bras; another reason I admire you!

With girls like that, you’re really going to need a very good sports bra underneath anything you’re wearing. I’ve got a good friend with 32I breasts and ShockAbsorber really seems to be THE brand for the well endowed. Grab a couple of those and wear them underneath your pretty, self-sewn exercise gear to get the best of both worlds, really! My XYT Workout Top has a built-in bra, but it’s really only going to be supportive enough for A-C cups, really, because it’s a compression-style bra, and larger breasts really need encapsulation-style, which is a MILLION times more difficult to sew on your own (and one I’m unlikely to produce a pattern for with all the engineering requirements involved!).

As for what to wear overtop of your supportive sports bra, well, in all of my top patterns I provide FBA instructions so you should choose a pattern size based on your High Bust measurement (while wearing your sports bra!), and then size up just the bust area accordingly. This should give you a much better fit in the body and bust, but of course, try this out in some cheap fabric first!

In terms of which is the easiest to do an FBA on, it’s probably my Surf to Summit Top pattern, as that has princess seams.

Exercise in hot & humid climates

Came across your write-up on Seam Work Mag about Activewear Fabrics. Very
insightful, by the way. I am in the process of starting a sportswear
apparel line in Africa, specifically in Nigeria.

I’m still trying to narrow down what the best fabric or combination of
fabrics would be best in this climate (hot, humid). Apart from the ones you
wrote about, are there any others you would recommend?

First of all, best of luck with your new sportswear line, that’s super exciting! Living in London, I only have the smallest personal experiences with running in hot weather (we might get a handful of days each summer where it’s over 30C/86F!), but from everything I’ve read, the main issue with exercising in hot and humid weather is directing sweat away from the body, and preventing chafing.

The first issue can be addressed through using wicking fabrics, like Supplex and aerated polyesters like DriFit, that move the moisture away from the body to the surface of the fabric where it can evaporate more easily. The chafing issue is mostly addressed through design – moving seamlines away from high-friction areas of the body wherever possible, and making these flatlocked (as flat as possible) when they can’t be moved.

Spoonflower activewear fabrics?

I’ve been a follower for quite some time and am a long time runner. Your story is quite inspirational. I recently purchased several of your patterns and am finally taking the plunge to make active wear. I found your post about where to buy work out fabric very helpful but have a follow up question. I am interested in spoonflower’s performance fabric and see that you enjoyed the pique more than the straight performance knit. My question is this: would you recommend the pique for just the tops for your patterns? And would the straight performance knit work for leggings?

Good question! The Spoonflower performance fabrics are fairly similar, but the Performance Knit has a smoother hand, and slightly less stretch, whereas the Performance Pique is more matte with a very subtle texture (far, far less than most piques!), and a bit more stretch, though in both, you get a bit of white show-through if it’s stretched nearly to the limit so you’ll want to try and avoid that.

The super, super important thing to remember, though is that BOTH Spoonflower performance fabrics only stretch in one direction – not two! Nearly all activewear patterns are drafted for two-way stretch fabrics (that is, fabrics that stretch both horizontally and vertically, not just horizontally). So if you make up my patterns straight off the pattern in a one-way stretch fabric, you’ll find that they feel a bit too short!

So you’ll need to add a little vertical length into my patterns, like I showed on my purple zigzag XYT Top.

In nearly all of my pattern instructions, I include adding length as one of the Common Fit Alterations, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to do, but I’d advise you make up the pattern in two-way stretch fabric a few times first to perfect the fit and get the hang of it before you graduate to using one-way stretch.

In terms of whether the Spoonflower fabrics will work for leggings, yes, with the caveats above! Myself and others have made shorts and leggings from them, and they’re a nice weight for tops or bottoms, in my opinion.

(And remember you can buy specially designed Spoonflower-printed fabrics for some of my patterns, too!)

So that’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed these answers, and, umm, please don’t send me any additional random email questions for the next column. Because seriously, I get enough already!!

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Steeplechase Shorts for an active tween

13 April 2015, 13:37

On Friday I showed you the full-length version of the Steeplechase Leggings pattern I made for my niece, Megan, but as soon as I finished making those, I decided to throw in a shorts version, too, so she can wear them in the warmer Virginia summers.

I’d measured her in person when I had to return to the States briefly in January, and I made and posted them over in time for the pattern launch. Since I’d already cut out her size (XS) for the longer leggings, the only difference I had to make for these was just to cut along the Biker Shorts hem line instead!

All together now, the pattern description is:
These leggings have no inseams! Instead, a curved, outer seam runs from the back of the ankle up to the centre front, where it joins a separate yoke piece. There’s an optional, hidden back pocket, elasticated waistband, and your choice of three lengths: biker short, capri, or full length leggings.

These were a little bonus gift, but I still wanted to make them stylish for her so she could wear them for play, sports, or school if she wanted, so the main fabric is the very last of my adored Eclipse “Hint of Mint” supplex (which you may remember from my Mint X Back Workout Top or my Multi-Print VNA Top), but I made the yoke from offcuts from my Animal Magic Steeplechase Leggings, which I was cutting out for myself at the same time. Like the afore-mentioned VNA Top, I really like the mix of the prints here even though they weren’t designed to go together.

I love how well these shorts stand up to all the movements a 12 year old can throw at them – running, jumping, diving at the football (soccer ball) – they aren’t shifting for anything!

Megan has outdone herself styling these, too – check out the colour matching with her shirt and hair flower! If her career in the sciences doesn’t work out, she’s clearly got a talent for styling and modelling, too…

Like with her full length leggings, she’s wearing a teeshirt here so you can really only see the Animal Magic yoke when she’s moving or bending over at the back. Thankfully my Dad (aka my American Photographer!) captured a few moments when you can see the yoke!

Megan is wearing size XS here, and even though the pattern is designed for adult women, these fit her really well. There may not be many patterns on the market specifically for “tweens”, but it goes to show that the smaller sizes in a pattern range can often fit perfectly anyway!


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Steeplechase Leggings - in the saddle!

10 April 2015, 15:33

I hope you’re not sick of seeing all my versions of my latest Steeplechase Leggings pattern yet, because these are the pair I’ve been most itching to show you!

Ever since I started designing something special for equestrians, I knew I wanted my niece, Megan, to be my athlete-model. I’ve sewn for her on and off as she’s grown up, but living so far away, it’s difficult to get accurate measurements before she goes and grows again! But my impromptu trip to the States in January meant I could measure her in person, and post them over in time for the pattern launch.

To refresh your memory, here’s the description:
These leggings have no inseams! Instead, a curved, outer seam runs from the back of the ankle up to the centre front, where it joins a separate yoke piece. There’s an optional, hidden back pocket, elasticated waistband, and your choice of three lengths: biker short, capri, or full length leggings.

Once I was back in London, I sent her the Funkifabrics url, let her pick whatever she wanted, and she chose the black and white Solar System print, which I think is a pretty mature choice for a tween!

I made her the full length leggings, and used the same fabric for the yoke and the body, though you can only barely see the yoke in these photos as she’s wearing a teeshirt over top. I thought that we’d be able to arrange photos much earlier so I could show you how these work in the saddle before the pattern release, but alas, there was another death in the family and the horrible East Coast weather also severely disrupted her Saddle Time.

But the upside is that you get to see photos of Megan riding her horse at the local stables in gorgeous sunshine, and in only a teeshirt on top, too! Since I made and posted these before I had any feedback from my pattern testers, though, you can see that the knees are a little baggy on her – this was a common issue with my testers and was adjusted for the final release version.

One of my pattern testers, Kelli, is a keen rider and gave me so much amazing feedback on the 5 (? or was it 6?) pairs she made during the 2 week testing period, that I really wish I could’ve applied those lessons to Megan’s pair, which was made before I knew!

But for other riders, Kelli’s top tips are to choose less-slippery fabrics for these leggings (so go for “cotton-feel” rather than “smooth & shiny”) to have a bit less sliding around in the saddle, and also, optionally add some grippy paint to the inner knee area (which is marked on the pattern pieces) so you can more easily grip when in the standing position. I’ve used Sock Stop successfully for cycling shorts hems, but it doesn’t seem to be easy to by in the US. Kelli recommends just using regular ol’ household silicone sealant, applied through stencils so you can get a nice repeating pattern of dots (or hearts, or stars…) instead of one big lump of silicone which doesn’t stretch nicely. I’ve seen her samples, and they look great, as well as getting thumbs up all around from her three test riders!

I have to really thank my Dad here as well as Megan – he took all of these photos (including the ones for the biker short variety, which you’ll see next week) and stood out in the pasture for hours while Megan was riding. It’s not easy coordinating custom clothing across continents, and arranging photoshoots isn’t any better! So big, big thanks for my Athlete Model, but also to my Official American Photographer.

You don’t have to be an equestrian to make your own pair of Steeplechase Leggings, though – I’m making an additional pair for myself this weekend to possibly wear to run London marathon in a few weeks, and they’re great for CrossFit or yoga, too!


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Burda magazine April 2015

9 April 2015, 12:45

Apologies for the delay in reviewing this issue! I know a fair few of you use my reviews to decide whether or not to buy them. My subscription copy arrived before we left for NYC, but I was too pressed for time in finishing my jeans and getting the other posts scheduled that I didn’t have time to scan this until after we returned home.

But there should still be time to order this should you like any styles more than I do!

“Hi, I’m too thin. Can you show me a dress that will instantly add 50 pounds to my bust, waist, and hips, rendering me something akin to the Michelin Man caught in a ruffle explosion? You can? Great!

This is probably my favourite from the issue, as I always enjoy a good 3D construction – in this boxy top, the back wraps over the shoulder to form the sleeve. The square neckline is also a good look, but I’m unsure about the overall silhouette. Perhaps it could be improved by a fabric with a softer hand?

This drop-waisted dress is definitely channelling the 1920s, though the kangaroo pocket modernises it a bit. There’s also top version version of this pattern that could really work if you’ve only got a metre of fabric to play with but, beware that super LOW neckline!

Here are two striped dresses – the one on the left seems to be made in way too stiff a fabric for the style (see the orange and beige version further down), but the concept seems sound. The one shown on the right has a clever wrap style that would work for a lot of body types, and also has the advantage of illustrated instructions, too.

On first glance I love this designer Cacharel dress with its boat neck and lattice back, but IMHO the recent La Maison Victor version is far more wearable and bra-friendly. I bought a dress with a very similar silhouette (nearly identical to the Maison Victor one, in fact) last summer in France, and it’s a style I’ve seen all over in NYC and London. If you still don’t trust me that this shape dress with back interest is a serious trend, then look no further than the latest Vogue designer patterns

Behold, a skirt with a built in crotch arrow! With bonus crotch ruffle, in case the eye wasn’t drawn to your nether regions enough already…

These high waisted trousers are the vintage reprint pattern for this issue (though it was easy to overlook as there wasn’t an original sketch included) and they come paired with a boxy top to match. To be honest, I’m unsure about this look – mostly unsure whether I dislike the patterns, or just the gross shiny fabric they made them in.

I don’t normally like many jackets, but this oversized blazer looks very modern and easy to wear, especially made up in a calming neutral. The dress on the right is the same pattern as one of the stripey ones above, but sewn in a more appropriate fabric, so the back flows rather than sticks out like a tail.

The Plus section is unfortunately mostly horrific caftans, but this sheath dress looks wonderful – classy and easy to fit, with room for customization and a nice split skirt detail.

If you’ve got this issue, what did I miss? Were there any that you loved that I loathed?

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A week in New York City

7 April 2015, 15:03

James and I have been talking about returning to New York City at some point for a while now. We last visited on our honeymoon back in 2010 and had a fantastic time. We’ve also since acquired a rather expensive immersive theatre habit and really wanted to see Sleep No More before it closes (I’m guessing later this year). We’d seen Punchdrunk’s London show, The Drowned Man 4 and 5 times over the course of a year, and knew that a similar show, based on Macbeth, would be well worth the trip. So James booked the flights for my birthday and tickets to see it twice in that week.

And then we heard about the immersive show Then She Fell (set in a disused hospital in Brooklyn, based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and limited to 15 audience members per showing), so booked that, too. And then ended up seeing Sleep No More for a third time directly after the second showing. Because it’s that good. Frankly, it’s two weeks later and I’m still kinda living in a dream world in the fictional McKittrick Hotel. Snippets of songs get stuck in my head, people say things that trigger a memory from the show, I look down and see a drip of fake blood on my shoe from one of the scenes… that sort of thing. I honestly cannot recommend either show enough. So, so worth the money.

But this isn’t a site about immersive theatre, nor is it about the excessive amount of cocktails and brunch we consumed, nor the sleep we didn’t get, or the great quality time we got to spend with my cousin in Brooklyn or the many friends who’d moved back there. So I’ll stick to the sewing-related highlights or we’ll be here all day!

Of course I couldn’t go to New York and not visit the Garment District, but my fabric stash is looking pretty healthy these days and I didn’t really have an entire day to kill wandering around. So I enlisted the help of some professionals! Oona and Ginger were my fantastic tour guides through Mood, Spandex House, and the myriad little haberdashery shops in the Garment District, but also in choosing a man creche (err, bar) with great cocktails!

Here we are each holding up our most obnoxious Spandex House purchases. Yes, mine has bacon all over it.

We made a tactical assault through Mood, mostly hitting up the wool jerseys to get some luuuuuuuuscious merinos, but also because I wanted some super stretchy denim to make more leggings. Then they introduced me to Spandex House, which, on top of having literally anything you could image printed onto lycra, also have a sizeable stash of wicking supplexes in great colours upstairs for $12/yd.

My purchases!

I also had a shopping list of various threads and zippers (zippers are so freaking cheap in America it makes me cry!!), and then I also picked up a magnetic pin catcher since it was half the UK price, and a light bulb for my US-import sewing machine. Which ended up being the wrong type. Sad face.

It was so, so nice to finally meet up with Oona and Ginger, and I love that just sharing a common hobby means we can instantly connect without any kind of initial akwardness, and the same was true when I met up with Carrie for a Sunday run through Brooklyn!

We started in Chinatown, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn, where she led me along the waterfront to some amazing views!

It was pretty crazy windy and cold along the water, but totally worth it, as she was an expert tour guide in amoungst all our general chatting. We carried on up through Brooklyn, across the bridge into Queens, and then we parted for a final selfie before I carried on over the Queensboro Bridge and then back down 1st Avenue (past the United Nations building!) to my brunch date in the Lower East Side.

In total, I ran for about 2hr15min and through three boroughs and across three (very steep!) bridges, too. So not too shabby considering I’m running London marathon in a few weeks.

I also just managed to squeeze in a visit with Nora from Kollabora just before we left, too, which is always a pleasure. I’ve known Nora back from her days before the US BurdaStyle site was starting up, and whenever we’re together it always feels like no time has passed at all.

And, as a parting glimpse, here’s some final shots of me on the High Line with my newest birthday jeans and my Patrones winter coat, made in 2011 and still going strong!

It was so cold and wintry the whole time we were there that both saw very active duty. But I’m not sad at all that we returned to Springtime in London, as I’m more than ready to sew and wear some lighter-weight styles!

But yes. Go see Sleep No More. At least twice.

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Steeplechase Leggings - crazy printed pairs!

30 March 2015, 13:36

Thank you all so much for all your compliments, orders, and finished photos of your Steeplechase Leggings! I knew I was onto a good idea when I dreamt these up a few months ago, but I had no idea they’d be quite this popular! So thank you!

I’ve shown you quite a few of my sample pairs already, but these are the last you’ll see me modelling for a bit, and they happen to be my wildest yet!

To refresh your memory, here’s the description:
These leggings have no inseams! Instead, a curved, outer seam runs from the back of the ankle up to the centre front, where it joins a separate yoke piece. There’s an optional, hidden back pocket, elasticated waistband, and your choice of three lengths: biker short, capri, or full length leggings.

This first pair are one of my absolute favourites! Not many women would choose to highlight their hips with neon green, but I think it’s fair to say by this point that I am most certainly Not Most Women, ha!

The main fabric is FunkiFabrics “Animal Magic” flexcite (it also comes in a red/orange colourway), paired with their fluorescent green matte lycra. If you want solid colours from Funki, I strongly recommend going for the matte varieties, because the non-matte ones are, well, Jane Fonda jazzercise levels of shiny! But the fabric is the same smooth, high quality stuff that the digital prints come on, and I’ve always been very pleased with how it stands up to repeated washings and mud fests – no fading or piling whatsoever.

For the hidden, inner pocket this time, I used a slightly stretched piece of lime zebra print FOE instead of just folding the hem over. I talk about this as a possible Variation in the pattern instructions, but be sure and remember to trim the hem allowance off if you go this route!

The only problem with having a busy print is that it’s harder to see those curving seams, but you can just about make them out around the side…

(Seen here with my teal merino Surf to Summit Top)

The second pair I’d like to show you today are a special pair I’d made specifically to run the Cambridge Half marathon a few weeks ago, and I thought I’d try and appeal directly to the boffins of Cambridge for extra cheers!

Here I used FunkiFabrics “Short Circuit” lycra in the green colourway (this also comes in pink or red versions). I have literally had this design on my Wish List for over 2 years now and I’m so glad I finally just went and bought it, because the not-so-hidden geek in me loves running in this! And for once I used the same fabric for the body and the yoke (and the inner pocket, too!), which means you can’t see the seam lines as well but you still get the same great fit.

Here I am pushing through the extremely long (1km+!) finishing chute!

But I must say, my ploy worked – I got so many shouts of “nice leggings!” the whole way round, both from spectators and other runners, which was nice. You can read my Cambridge Half marathon race report over on my running site if you’re interested in that side of things!

There was even free (alcohol-free) beer at the end, just like Berlin marathon!

If you fancy making up your own leggings for your next race (or just next weekend!), buy my pattern now!


I’m currently on a much-needed holiday – please keep in mind that, while I will be reading comments as they come in, I may not be able to respond until I am back home.

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Manequim magazine - February 2015

27 March 2015, 13:29

When this latest issue of Manequim magazine landed in my post box, I had to stifle a laugh and a double-take that I hadn’t accidentally received a copy of Seventeen magazine from my childhood. Could they have possibly chosen a more 1990s, off-putting cover image?? Like, totally!

Here are the Plus patterns this month: a tunic, simple cowl dres (similar to that Vogue Donna Karan one everyone in the blogosphere sewed up!), and a parka jacket.

Are twist dresses done yet? This one feels really similar to a Pattern Magic design, albeit with a novel back.

From the designer (whom I’ve never heard of & didn’t note down) style section this month, a cute little skort with a panelled front.

I absolutely adore all parts of this image – the styling of the photo, the fabrics the garments were made from, and the patterns themselves! The pussybow blouse and trousers aren’t particularly special, but that pleated waistcoat – wow! I’d personally add some sleeves to make it a more wearable jacket, but isn’t the front shape lovely?

This asymmetric, side-tie dress might be my favourite from this issue, but it’s really hard to see the details in this particular photo. It was featured later on in the segment where they mix and match the different garments laid flat, and you can see the details much better there.

There’s a special feature on skirts this month, with a lot of wearable designs. This first, wrap skirt isn’t offered in my size, but the design lines mean you can take prettty much any skirt that fits you and draw on the new seamlines to recreate the look yourself (and before I get asked for the 456876546th time, this is what I generally do if a pattern isn’t offered in my size or one size up or down).

And finally, from the same feature, I really liked the seamlines and subtle colourblocking on this pencil skirt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hem detail quite like this before!

I’m currently on a much-needed holiday – please keep in mind that, while I will be reading comments as they come in, I will not be able to respond until I am back home.

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My birthday jeans

25 March 2015, 12:35

It’s my birthday today! And I’m in New York City!!

We usually take a Spring holiday, but not til later in April or May, however this year James suggested we go away to New York over my birthday, since we haven’t been for four years and there were some shows we really wanted to see (we’ve developed an expensive immersive theater habit!). I’ve been needing a new pair of jeans for a while now, so I promised myself that I’d sew some up once the Steeplechase Leggings pattern was released and I’d have a little bit of a breather. And here they are, coinciding nicely as my birthday make this year!

This denim was bought from Ditto Fabrics, labelled as an Italian denim with very slight stretch, so I treated these as a non-stretch denim. It’s super high quality and I love the colour and wash, though like most denims, it’s still bleeding a bit of colour after two prewashes, so I’ll wash it separately for a while before sitting on any white couches.

(Apologies for the iPhone timer photos taken before I left, but I wanted to ensure I had covered the bases and it’s hard to upload images on the road without a laptop!)

I used the same base pattern as my classic pair of jeans made in 2013 (which is #120 from the April 2010 issue of Burda magazine), but my older pair is a bit too big, and also very straight in the leg and I wanted something more fitted and with a slimmer leg this time around.

I essentially made the same pattern (plus the same wedge cut out of the CB as before), but then basted the inseam and side seams to check the fit. I then decided I wanted to take out a cm at the hips and thighs to make the fit closer to “just washed jeans” to allow for some relaxing, then took out a cm from each of the side seams and inseam through the legs for a more skinny-jean silhouette.

As per usual, I made the waistband facings, pocket lining, and fly underlap from some quilting cotton from my stash – this time two different black and white polka dot fabrics. It makes for a nicer feel when wearing to have less bulk in those areas than if you’d used denim. Plus, it makes me smile when I go to the loo and see the fun print!

Back pocket designs always totally stump me – I can sew an entire pair of jeans, including the fly front zipper without looking at any instructions, but I get to the back pocket design and I’m left floundering! Thank you to everyone who suggested links with pocket ideas – I had a browse around and then decided ultimately on this simple, somewhat modern design.

The topstitching (and buttonhole) were done on my vintage hand crank Singer, because it does the best topstitching ever. I use Gutermann upholstery thread (not “topstitching” thread!!) in the needle, and the same colour Sew All weight thread in the bobbin. I learned this years ago on my first pair of jeans after having thread snarls all over the place, and I’ve been doing it this way ever since.

As per usual, the button and all the rivets are from Junior (though he has now, very sadly passed away, and his daughter has taken over the business in his memory), and I use the same technique I outlined here to shorten the rivet posts before assembly. I cannot stress how much higher quality these rivets are than the crappy ones you buy in sewing shops!

I always try to show my age in these birthday photos, but I’ve run out of fingers, so you get a pictoral 6 instead!

If you recall, I always make myself something nice and special for my birthday each year…

Past Birthdays

35th – A galaxy-print sheath dress, using a Manequim pattern and a purple exposed zipper.

34th – A satin Matthew Williamson designer dress, made with his pattern from BurdaStyle magazine and a rich, plum duchesse satin.

33rd – A leather iPad case, protecting a new gift against the rigours of a transatlantic work trip the following day.

32nd – Manequim silk blouse:

31st – LMB draped birthday dress in teal silk jersey:

30th – Green silk birthday dress using a Burda magazine pattern a emerald green silk satin:

29th – A bolero and jeans, on which I put the outline of the Thames on the back pockets, and lined the bolero with some vintage apron fabric from my Granny:

28th – I was homeless and living out of a suitcase in my boyfriend’s parents’ house, watching the Shipping Forecast every single day, hoping for good weather to sail our boat across the North Sea. My sewing machine was in storage, so I couldn’t make a new outfit, and frankly, ALL I wanted was for our boat to arrive. And it did, on the evening of my birthday.

27th – New Look 6429 in a fun sparkly knit from Walthamstow Market (and then about three days later decided to lose all that excess weight for good!).

26th – (probably the first year I was really into sewing) my favourite vest pattern with a red vinyl square neckband:

Does anyone else share the same birthday sewing tradition?

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Steeplechase Leggings - purple capris and shorts

23 March 2015, 14:11

So far I’ve shown you my two solid-coloured full length pairs of my latest Steeplechase Leggings pattern, but this pattern also comes in capri length or biker-short length options, too! So you can really wear these all year long, and the construction is exactly the same no matter what length you choose, which makes the instructions even more straight forward.

In case you missed the initial announcement, here’s the pattern description:
These leggings have no inseams! Instead, a curved, outer seam runs from the back of the ankle up to the centre front, where it joins a separate yoke piece. There’s an optional, hidden back pocket, elasticated waistband, and your choice of three lengths: biker short, capri, or full length leggings.

Here are the capri and shorts length versions I sewed up as samples. I tried to make these in more sedate colourways than my normal crazy prints! (Yes, only I would call bright purple “sedate”!)

I’m not usually a fan of capris, but I know so many people who love them that I always try to offer the length if at all possible. They can be a great transitional length when it’s too warm to wear full length leggings, but not quite warm enough for shorts.

(Seen here with my mustard merino wool Surf to Summit Top)

The fuchsia fabric used here is a super soft, comfortable wicking jersey with a brushed, navy back, which was gifted to me by a friend with industry connections (sorry!). I also got a biege colourway at the same time, and I’m looking forward to mixing it and the scraps leftover from this. The yoke is just a plain black supplex leftover in my stash.

The solid colours here mean you can really see the seaming, but if you wanted to make them stand out even more, you could use stretch piping (with or without elastic cord), or just sew these with contrast-threaded overlocker seaming on the outside instead.

This next pair shows the biker short length, which is meant to hit just below the quads where the leg naturally goes in. You may choose to add some grippy elastic (or grippy paint) to the hems, or you may find that they stay in place fine on their own, based on your activity!

The purple fabric here is another wicking lycra gifted by the same friend – it’s of a similar weight and smooth feel to the FunkiFabrics solar system lycra I used for the yoke. You’ll see a lot more of this printed lycra in another sample, as it’s the one my niece chose for her leggings!

Again, you can see how the seam curves from the back up and around to join the yoke piece at the front. It means you look good from all sides, not just from the front or back…

(Seen here with my mint X-back XYT Workout Top)

If you’re looking for further inspiration, check out Kathy’s three pairs of these leggings plus a great visual on how to alter the crotch curve a little differently than I explain in the pattern itself.

Or Maria’s three pairs of capris! Or Karen’s seven pairs for herself and her daughters. Man, maybe I should’ve included a warning label that these leggings are addictive…

And remember you can use SADDLE10 for 10% off all purchases from shop.fehrtrade.com until this Wednesday, 25 March (my birthday!). (Paypal users take note that you’ll go quite far through the checkout process before the discount box appears, but it will!)


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