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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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A mustard wool StyleArc Elita wrap top

20 March 2015, 12:50

I don’t often click buy immediately when I see a pattern release, but when StyleArc announced this “Elita designer top” pattern, I had to buy it immediately! Though I’m not entirely sure what makes it designer? I’m especially glad that they released it simultaneously as a printed pattern or a pdf, because I vastly prefer the latter, and it meant I didn’t have to wait for it to ship from Australia before I could get started.

The pattern is essentially a cross-over wrap top, with a shawl collar that extends in front and joins itself to create a really long loop, which the pattern calls a “trunk”. This nomenclature amused me way more than it should! Anyway, you’re supposed to double the loop back over your head to get a sort of double-cowl effect.

I love this design – the first time I wore it I had two friends pleading with me to make versions for themselves! My only gripe on the download is that StyleArc don’t print their symmetrical pieces on the fold, so the entire Back piece had to the pieced together here, when it could’ve saved a significant amount of paper to just have half the piece. It’s also kinda annoying to only have one size per pdf, even though you get three sizes (as separate pdfs) when you order. I’m generally only one size, but this could be a bummer if you usually mix sizes. Their paper patterns are the same, though, so it’s not like the pdfs are any worse.

I had to shorten the “trunk” by 8cm to fit it all into the 2m of mustard yellow wool/viscose jersey I’d bought from Guthrie & Ghani (now sold out in this colourway). Some other reviewers found that the trunk creates a weird, triangular fold at the neck and recomended changing the angle of the trunk piece, but I cut mine as is and I don’t have that fold – perhaps because mine were shortened to begin with? In any case, there’s still plenty of length left to create a nice cowl shape, so I would recommend it if you’re a tad short on fabric, too.

The only other change I made was to cut four ties instead of two so I could include an inner closure to the wrap. The tie makes a little bump so I’d recommend actually using a snap here instead, but it really works to keep it from gaping open at the front like I’d seen in other versions.

This pattern calls for a lot of raw edges (with instructions on when to finish them if you’d rather), and I resisted the urge to do the sewist’s thing of finishing off every single edge, and embraced the rawness. I’m glad I did, as I really like the look and it works well with the texture of this knit.

In future, the only thing I’d change is the sleeves – they’re a bit too wide and slightly short for my liking. If they were narrower & longer (more like my Surf to Summit sleeves, actually) then it’d feel a bit more cosy.

It goes without saying, but I’d totally make this again. It feels really stylish on, really brightens up my wardrobe, and is a great layering piece for transitional spring or fall weather.

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Little shoots of Spring

18 March 2015, 14:06

Like little green shoots poking through the earth as the warmth of Spring approaches, I feel like my sewing productivity and creativity is just pushing through from all angles at the moment. I’m so proud that so many of you love my Steeplechase Leggings pattern as much as I do (and I’ve got loads more to share!) but I wanted to share a bunch of smaller things I’ve been getting on with…

Have you ever heard of Sock Stop? It’s a bit like puffy paint we used in the 90s, but it’s intended to paint onto the bottoms of socks and slippers to prevent slips and falls. I bought
some from Guthrie & Ghani recently to see if it helps keep activewear hems in place without requiring silicone elastic (which can be a bit fiddly to sew on). I’ve tried it out on the hems of my Steeplechase capris (which you’ll see soon) and I want to test them out on my next cycle ride…

I can’t believe my birthday’s nearly here again – it seems like I only just made my galaxy-print sheath dress! I celebrated early with my BFF Pip, and she very kindly bought me this Secrets of Sewing Lingerie book and a metre of gorgeous silk chiffon from Dalston Mills! I’m super impressed by the variety and styles of panties, bras, camisoles, garter belts, and accessories in the book, but I want to try out a few patterns before I post a review.

I made another batch of Armbands for Argentina over the weekend (using my free Running Armband Pocket pattern) since I nearly sold out of the first lot (and created a lot of new lycra scraps in the making of all my Steeplechase Leggings samples)! This new batch sold SO well at Run dem Crew last night that I’ve only got 3 or 4 left again!! I’ve just hit the £1,000 milestone on my fundraising page, too! I’ve got a Team GB training day this weekend so I’m hoping I’ll find out when I’ll get my official team kit, which is clearly what I’m most concerned about at this stage, ha.

You may have already seen on their site or newsletter, but my patterns are now available to buy through Pattern Review! So if you review one of my patterns on there, it will link through nicely and show you all the details, on top of being able to buy directly through the site. There’s also a great interview with me up on their blog, which is worth reading, too.

And now that my Steeplechase Leggings pattern is finally out, I can actually sew some non-activewear for once in my Fun Sewing queue. I really need a new pair of jeans and have some fantastic denim I’d bought from Ditto Fabrics, so I’ve been working on these in little snippets of time before work and in the evenings – it’ll be a modified version of the last Burda pair I made. I love that I can sew an entire pair of jeans without any instructions (including the fly front zipper) but I always stall at the back pocket design, argh! Anyone have any good sites for back pocket inspiration (that aren’t Pinterest?)?

The funny thing is that when I pulled my vintage hand crank Singer out, I was surprised to find it was threaded in pale blue. I scratched my head for a bit, then remembered the last thing I’d sewn with it was the men’s cargo shorts seen in the Great British Sewing Bee book!

I’m also itching to sew a Paprika Jasper sweatshirt in some fabulous technical jersey-bonded fleece I got gifted, so we’ll see if I can finish both the jeans and it before we leave for New York next week.

And speaking of New York – if anyone fancies joining me on a little Self-Sewn run around the Brooklyn bridge area on Sunday 29 March, please leave a comment so I can keep you in the loop. All abilities welcome – the only requirement is that you wear something you’ve made!

But if you’re closer to London, there’s also still time to learn to sew leggings or Breton tees with me this Sunday, 22 March at the Thriftystitcher studio in Stoke Newington. Or you can sign up to do both in one “Stretchacular” day, too!

Phew! See, I told you I was working on a lot!

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Steeplechase Leggings - citron and sage pairs

16 March 2015, 13:43

Wow, thank you all so much for your orders and comments on my new Steeplechase Leggings pattern! The response has been phenomenal, so thank you!

In case you missed the initial announcement, 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.

During the development process, I made so many samples pairs of these – beyond the initial early ones (not fit to be shown!), I made a whopping SIX pairs for myself, plus two more for my athlete-model niece, too.

Rather than overwhelm you with all the versions at once, I thought I’d start with the two pairs of full-length leggings I made in solid colours, as you can see the seamlines a bit more easily in these.

This first pair may be my favourite pair ever – made up in citron ex-New Balance supplex from FabricMart (now sold out) with a rainbow spaced-dyed supplex yoke. I’ve got enough of the citron left for another garment, but I’ve made so much with the rainbow before that I mostly just fit the yoke out of the scraps.

(it pairs so nicely with my ombre-print Fehrtrade x Laurie King VNA Top, which you can make, too!)

These are just so comfortable, and you know how I love bright colours! I’ve done quite a few test runs in these, and they really help to liven up the cold, dark wintry nights.

I really like having a pocket in my leggings, so I used the optional pocket here, which just sits inside the waistband and doesn’t require any closures (the waistband elastic is enough to keep the contents inside.

You can really see the seamlines best in the back views, but if you look closely at the side views above you can see that these really don’t have any inseam, and they honestly don’t twist at all while you’re moving!

If you’re more of a fan of subdued colours, then this pair, made up in sage and forest green ex-Under Armour Cold Gear fabric (which has been in my stash for years) might be more to your liking. The Cold Gear fabric is brushed inside so it’s super warm, but it’s also a little less stretchy than regular supplex and I wanted to make sure the pattern works in a variety of stretch percentages.

(Seen here with my FehrTrade x Laurie King zigzag-print XYT Workout Top)

You can really see the great back seaming here. That’s the only seaming on the legs, folks!

I wouldn’t normally wear legings with my top tucked in, but I wanted to show you the shape of the yoke, which you can show off with colourblocking, like I have here.

I’ll do a full roundup post when there are a few more online, but if you’d like to see some examples from my testers, check out Winnie’s pair with faux-piping, or Karen’s 5(!!) pairs for herself and her daughters. Or just wait and see my neice wearing hers astride her favourite horse!

And remember you can use SADDLE10 for 10% off all purchases from shop.fehrtrade.com until 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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Steeplechase Leggings - on sale now!

11 March 2015, 21:15

My Steeplechase Leggings pattern is finally available to buy! Yay!

How awesome is the cover illustration I commissioned from Lauren Cox? I wanted to change up the design a bit for 2015, so I got in touch with her and I created a back cover for the first time as well!

The official 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.

I am seriously SO excited to finally release this pattern – I’ve made up so many samples for myself (and my athlete-model niece) and I even ran a half marathon in a pair on Sunday, too! Even if you’ve never had problems with inner-leg chafing, you’ll suddenly wonder how you ever managed without these – they’re just so comfortable to wear!

And if you’re an equestrian, then you’re in luck, because these are great for riding, especially if you add a little bit of silicone grip to the inner knees – which I’ve marked on the pattern for you, because these pieces look weird! Seriously, get your “WTF face” ready when you look at these pattern pieces, because I guarantee they’re unlike anything you’ve seen before! But they’re still super quick to sew up – most of my pattern testers said they only took 2-3hrs to make, including piecing the pattern together!

But don’t take my word for it, I pulled out some great quotes from my pattern testers (who will seriously hold me to account if anything’s not right, which is why I love them so much!):

Annnnnnd, by way of a launch celebration, I’ve got a coupon code for you all! Use SADDLE10 for 10% off all purchases from shop.fehrtrade.com until 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!)

And of course, keep your eyes peeled here over the next few weeks while I show off some of the samples I’ve had to keep quiet for so long!


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Coming soon: the Steeplechase Leggings!

5 March 2015, 12:58

Let me just start by saying how excited I am about this design. As I hinted about months ago, it’s a concept that I’ve never seen done before, either in a sewing pattern nor in RTW – leggings with no inseam!

The idea was planted into my head by an equestrian student at one of my leggings classes, and it brewed in my head for a few months before I was ready to start developing it. First I started by just shifting the seam to the outside leg, at which point I could’ve just inserted a panel like I did with my Duathlon Shorts pattern. But since I’d already done that before, why not do something different and shift the seam to the back of the leg and add in some curves and a yoke panel, too??

Why not, indeed!

My official blurb 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.

It’s particularly exciting for me because these bring a whole new sport into my pattern stable (ahem) – horseback riding! But they work equally well for running, cycling, and yoga, too, whether you’ve had problems with inner-leg chafing in the past or not. Despite the crazy concept and WTF pattern shapes, these are also deceptively easy to sew up, too – most of my testers made these in a single evening, from cutting to wearing!

These are available in my usual size range, and also come with the usual, fully illustrated instructions complete with Common Fit Alterations section, and Print at Copy Shop version included as standard.

I’ve sewn up SO many samples for myself over the past few weeks, and I’ve been testing them out on my river runs, and also on Tuesdays at Run dem Crew. Because it’s still quite chilly here in London, I’ve been mostly sewing the full-length leggings, but I’ve got (more sedate!) capri and biker short length versions ready to photoshoot this weekend, too.

I’ve still got lots to do before the release sometime next week, though – like going through all the feedback from my incredible band of pattern testers, creating the To Do list of tweaks and suggestions, coordinating the photoshoots of all my samples, plus some of my niece wearing her samples in the saddle (yay!), and finishing up the pattern covers, which I decided to change up a bit for 2015.

I’m still working on this, but you can see a peek of the fantastic illustrations I commissioned from Lauren Cox! There’s just something cathartic about colouring in, even if it’s in Photoshop instead of crayons…

As I mentioned, I’m not sure of the specific day next week that these will be released, as it depends on a few outside factors. If you’d like to know as soon as these are available to buy, PLUS an exclusive discount code, sign up to my patterns newsletter below!

This is the same form that’s on the bottom of my Shop page – if you received last week’s teaser email about this pattern, then you’re good to go. I only occasionally send emails, and usually that’s when I’ve got an announcement or discount code, so it really is worth signing up!

Oh, and did I mention I’m running a half marathon on Sunday? And in a pair of these leggings? Wait til you see this particular pair!!

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Comment [16]

Book review: The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric

26 February 2015, 14:01

This is not an unbiased review – if you recall, I worked behind the scenes on the production of the third series of The Great British Sewing Bee tv show, then again on the Children in Need specials (which were actually recorded after the main series, despite airing first), and right after that was done, I started work on the book which accompanies the series, The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric, under the amazing, dedicated, and super talented Claire-Louise Hardie (aka “the thriftystitcher”).

But even though I spent several months as part of the sewing team who developed, adapted, sewed, illustrated, and assisted with the patterns in this book, I have zero financial stake in the sales of this book – I’ve already been paid for my work, regardless if there are zero sales or several million. So this review is unbiased in that regard anyway.

But really, I mostly want to show you all what’s in this book, because a) myself and the team worked really freaking hard to deliver a book chock full of quality patterns, and b) because it really is the perfect book that intermediate/advanced sewists have been craving for a long, long, time. Don’t get me wrong – there are some easy, beginner styles in here, too, but there are loads of projects that are more advanced and have really interesting shapes and design lines.

It should really say something that I spent months of my life sewing up these patterns (both the ones you see as samples in the book, but many, many test versions you don’t see) and I still want to make a ton more. Seriously.

But let’s start with the patterns, shall we?

It’s a great sign that the pattern sheet stack is nearly as thick as the book itself, and each sheet is labelled on the upper right corner so you can see which patterns are printed on that sheet as you flip through the stack. The patterns need to be traced (here’s how I trace a pattern, btw), but they’re colour coded and really nicely spaced out – waaaaaay easier on the eyes than Burda’s pattern sheets, for example, and the sheets themselves are printed on hefty paper, a bit like the old KwikSew patterns. And the sheets aren’t freaking enormous like Vogue’s ones that cover my entire lounge!

Here’s the size chart, which ranges from size 8 (B32.5/W25.5/H36in) to 20 (B45.5/W38.5/H49.5in). Since there are also kids and mens patterns, too, there are (obviously!) different size charts for them. But there are also a few garments in the book which you draft from your own measurements, so if you’re outside the size range you can still make a few things (like Lorna’s curtain skirt from episode three!).

There’s the obligitary section at the start of any sewing book explaining about the supplies you need, how to trace a pattern, sew hand stitches, etc. To be honest, I always just skip past these since I know what I’m doing. But there’s also a section on common fit alterations like an FBA or trouser fitting alterations, too.

But onto the patterns themselves! I haven’t highlighted every single one, but rather pulled out my favourites (or ones where I’ve sewn the sample you see in the book!). For each pattern, you also get a “hack” variation which re-uses the same basic pattern pieces but in a new way to get a totally different look. IMHO, Claire-Louise did a great job in putting new twists on these patterns and showing how you can really make them your own.

In the Cottons section, you get a pattern for capri trousers, which you may recognise from the first episode!

Now, I’ve never been particularly on Team Jumpsuit, but I really like this jumpsuit pattern, and it totally grew on me throughout the book development progress – so much so that I’m planning on making this myself! If you’re not on Team Jumpsuit yet either, then you may be interested in the “hacks” for this pattern, which allow you to make a frilled camisole top or casual trousers instead.

Here you can see the adorable girls board shorts (which I made!), which combine jersey and quilting cottons in a really nice and easy-to-wear way. There are also patterns included for the longer, boy’s boxer-style shorts and the elephant ballerina costume, both of which featured in episode two.

And for the men in your life, you get patterns for a classic men’s teeshirt and cargo shorts, in addition to drafting instructions for a kilt, too. I’m proud to say that I sewed the samples for the teeshirt and the cargo shorts sewn in the book, and they’re both really modern styled – exactly the sort of fit your man would expect.

The Leather jacket is probably the most advanced pattern in the book, but my god is it ever lovely! There are full instructions for working with leather, sewing that zippered, welt pocket, and the pattern includes separately-drafted pieces for the facing and lining, too. The “hack” for this is a tweed and faux-leather version that is really very stylish, too.

In fact, having recently tried on my muslin for the Burda Jan 15 jacket yet again and found it’s still not fitting right in the shoulders, my next move is going to be to frankenpattern the Burda style lines onto this leather jacket pattern, as I know this fits me well from trying on the early samples!

And now we come to my absolute favourite pattern in this book, possibly favourite from the entire last year – the Drapey Dress. In my opinion, this pattern alone is worth the purchase price of the book. When we were developing this pattern, each and every one of us on the sewing team tried it on, and everyone looked great in it – seriously!

It’s an avant-garde shape, with a wide fit through the bust and shoulders, narrowing to a slimmer fit through the hips, but the length and diagonal lines make it really slimming indeed, and the side profile is really minimal, too. It also has pockets! Pockets! You can make it with long or short sleeves, so it works for most seasons, and it slips over the head, so there’s no fastenings to sew, either. It’s also easy to sew on a regular sewing machine (no overlocker needed!), and when I’ve sewn these, I’ve constructed the entire front on my sewing machine even though I own an overlocker. Best of all is how I feel when I wear it – super chic!

If you’re still skeptical and wondering how it looks on a non-model, well, here I am wearing the first ever drapey dress sample, early in the pattern development procress in a hotel room in Bolton last summer…

I’ve sewn 6(?) of these already and I still want to sew another for myself! That’s how great this dress is.

There’s also a stripey “hack” of this (which I also sewed), which adds on longer sleeves, changes the orientation of the stripes, and shortens the hem…

One of the more straightforward patterns is the lined, Lace pencil skirt, which can also be “hacked” to be a short, A-line tweed skirt. When I say straightforward, I mean in terms of design – lace requires careful planning and cutting, but there’s a really versatile pattern hiding in there, too.

It’s a really great, basic skirt that has NO darts in the front, two darts in back, an invisible zip in the CB, and nice shaping. And you’ve actually already seen me wearing it, when I made it to match my green jacket but couldn’t tell you where it was from!!

And finally, there’s a chiffon pussybow blouse pattern, but I actually like its sleeveless, collared, “hack” version even better.

If you pick this up in a book store you’d see a lot of patterns shown on on the back cover, but this isn’t even all of them!

My only slight disappointment with this entire book is that there aren’t any technical drawings of the designs, just photos. I think as a sewist, tech drawings are something I really like to have, and I’m honestly not sure why they weren’t included. It takes a little bit of extra time to look at the model photos, pattern piece fabric layouts, and kind of draw a picture in your mind, but I find it easier to remember a style’s details in drawing form.

But really, that’s my only disappointment – not even a complaint, really. The patterns are varied, fashionable, and well drafted. The photography is fun, clear, approachable, and fashionable without obscuring the design details. The instructions are really well illustrated – I didn’t do the illustrations but I did a lot of technical illustrations to assist the actual illustrators and I’m well chuffed with the final results! And I think the projects are both engaging for intermediate and advanced sewists, and aspirational for beginners, too.

Honestly, this is the best sewing book I’ve seen in a long long time, and one I’d buy even if it wasn’t affiliated with a tv show I love.

…or that my name is listed in at the back!

This is a book I’m really, really proud to have been a part of.

If you haven’t already clicked through to buy this yet, you really should do so now, and show publishers that there is a demand out there for well-produced sewing books that aren’t just for beginners! Buy on Amazon (UK)!


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Manequim magazine January 2015

25 February 2015, 13:27

Well, it wasn’t just me, then – loads of you also thought the March Burda was a total stinker! Well, here to mop up your tears with an injection of Brazilian sunshine is the January edition of Manequim magazine (the issues take a little while to make their way across the world to my postbox…).

First up is a pattern from the “soap style” section, a rather nice little top with a collar, gathered back yoke, and long front zipper. Also of note is that this style is available in the full size range for regular Manequim patterns, 38-48, meaning pretty much anyone could make this or use this as a basis for sizing up other shirt patterns which aren’t in your size…

From the cover, I rather liked the design of this flirty, fun little summer dress, and even moreso when I saw it’s made in neoprene (which I assume is actually scuba). The asymmetric hem with the pleated layer is a great little detail.

There’s no designer-style section this month, instead they’ve disappointingly used the 1970s as the design inspiration instead. IMHO, the 70s are the worst decade for fashion so I was surprised I liked even a single pattern from it! But this little camisole stood out, not just for its frill and open back, but also because it uses less than a meter of fabric and is offered in multiple sizes.

I don’t know where you would find a zipper long enough to stretch the whole way down the back of this dress (or you could just make do with a shorter, invisible zip I suppose!), but the real feature here is in the front, anyway! Brazilians love to show a little bit of skin, and the cutaway abdomen in an otherwise demure gown is a really interesting design detail.

I’m usually prepared to be disappointed by any magazine feature that tries to do “sports luxe” since I invariably laugh at the impracticality of actually exercising in such clothes. But I attempted to just look at the clothes for their own sake, and I liked the piped seaming on this short, flippy skirt.

Likewise for these shorts and parka – not great for actually working out (if you wanted running shorts, you’d be much better served by my Threshold Shorts pattern!), but as summer casualwear, they’re cute enough.

Most issues, Manequim just publish three Plus-sized patterns, but twice a year they do a full feature full of Plus designs, and this summer it’s all about beach wear! The collection starts off with two swimsuits – a bikini and one piece that look great for supporting larger busts and/or adding foam cups, too.

I’m a total sucker for a good skort pattern, and this one reminds me that I really must make one this summer! (If we have a summer – never a thing to be taken for granted in England!)

And finally, again in the Plus beachwear spread, a casual jumpsuit and what looks to be a nice enough shirt (though Manequim label it a “parka”). IMHO Manequim are much, much more in tune with what works for Plus bodies than a lot of the pattern companies out there, and the whole spread looks very wearable indeed.

Coming up next: an insider’s review of the third Great British Sewing Bee book, Fashion with Fabric!

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