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Inspiration

Burda magazine August 2014

25 July 2014, 16:12

Many thanks for your get well soon messages – I think it definitely worked, because no sooner did I post that than I started to feel a little better! I’m still not back to 100% right now, but I felt well enough to try a very easy and short run this morning, so thank you!

To show my thanks, I’m going to share my picks from the latest Burda magazine, which arrived this week. Usually the August issue is the start of the Fall fashions, but this seems more like a transitional issue – lots of summer wear but some great long-sleeved pieces, too.

First up from the “macaron pastels” feature is omg I must make this pieced sheath dress! Burda clearly love it, too, since they made it three times in this issue. My only letdown is that the back is very boring indeed, so if when I make this, I’ll be slicing up the back and adding similar diagonal seams like I did with my swirled sheath dress (still one of my favourites ever, I might add!).

The dress on the left really reminded me of the RTW dress I wore to a wedding recently – though you didn’t see the back, it too had a lower back cutout! I also rather like the pleated teeshirt on the right. It also comes in a solid-sleeve version and the pleating detail reminds me a lot of the pleats on the neckline of my favourite Manequim silk blouse pattern.

Now, I really hated the shiny, glittery, tacky disco fabrics they used in this feature with the “DJane” (a term which I’ve never, ever heard before. Nor had any of my music-industry friends – though urban dictionary has some feelings on it!). But, if you look beyond the gold lamé here this surplice-neck top has a lot of great design lines, and I love the idea of a pleated band, too.

This sheath dress pattern didn’t really grab me right away, but pair it with this amazing digital-print jersey and well, it’s certainly growing on me! On closer inspection, I rather like the square neckline, but I’m not sure how that dropped-waist hem would look on someone with hips. Of course the first thing I did when I saw this dress was to see if Alfatex stocked it, but disappointingly, they list this photo, but have a jersey next to it which looks nothing like the original. They used to stock the exact fabrics used in the magazine, but it appears now they’re just selling their “best match” or something. Boo.

Yay! It’s my favourite diagonally-seamed sheath dress, made even cooler here by some colourblocking. Ooh, a great dress and the opprtunity to use up fabric scraps? Don’t mind if I do! Oh, and I failed to mention earlier, but it’s also got the illustrated instructions for this issue, too…

There wasn’t much in the menswear styled feature to set me alight (though I love my seamed sheath dress made up in suiting fabric, I didn’t think you needed to see it a third time), but I really liked this teeshirt with the asymmetric, pleated shoulder. It looks a lot like StyleArc’s Emily pattern this month, so I’m assuming they’re drawing on the same designer inspiration. This also comes in a long-sleeved version, but bizarrely for jersey patterns, both long and short feature two-part sleeves – a feature normally reserved for jackets and coats.

And finally, I found most of the Plus patterns to be just… odd this month, but I like this asymmetric blouse with its shoulder pleats and cowl neck, and dolman sleeve on one side only. The jersey trousers also look like they’d be a great wardrobe basic made up in ponte knit, especially since they’ve got pockets.

So who else enjoyed this issue? Anyone care to race me to trace out the sheath dress (though modifying the back is likely to slow me down!)?

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Comment [8]

The Spring Race Challenge podium

9 July 2014, 15:32

The Spring Race Challenge officially came to a close this week, but that’s no reason you should stop sewing your own exercise gear, or challenging yourself! But I had to draw a line somewhere so I could stop and draw a winner from the enormous (and sweaty!) pile of entrants, and I don’t think we can carry on calling this “spring” much longer, or the Aussies really will be into spring!

Everyone made such an effort in their sporty makes, and many of you said that you wouldn’t have pushed yourself to either a) sew exercise clothing nor b) sign up to a race if it wasn’t for this challenge, which is such a boost! Because seeing others exercise is such a big motivation, I want to show you all the entrants so you can see how great me-made exercisewear can be. And that it’s not just bonkers-me doing it!

(Though if you would like to know more about lil-ol-bonkers me, Karen from “Did You Make That?” interviewed me for her own Sporty Summer Sewathon and she asked some great questions!!)

The Sweaty Sewists (in order of submission)


  1. Eva’s Ottobre tee & tights

  2. Kathy’s XYT Workout top & Duathlon capris

  3. Jenny’s Anna & Elsa from Frozen running costumes

  4. Rebecca’s Espresso capris

  5. Geo’s XYT Workout top & Jalie sports skirt

  6. Mary’s muddy jungle skirts & headbands

  7. Amy’s rainbow leopard leggings

  8. Nancy’s XYT running bra & skirt

  9. Markita’s Jalie running skirt & self drafted top

  10. Kelli’s “Girl on Fire” themed skirt, shorts, and top

  11. Merche’s Burda running shorts

  12. Aveli’s self-drafted tops & Burda shorts

  13. Kim’s XYT Workout top

  14. Katrina’s straight & swung tap-dancing leggings

  15. Louise’s Duathlon booty shorts

  16. Nicole’s double races: her Duathlon capris and matching Sewaholic top

Now if you recall from the prize announcement, one lucky winner will receive a bundle of fabric, power mesh, and elastic compliments of Sewing Chest (enough to make at least 2 garments, 3 if you’re frugal!), plus a prize pack of all four of my digital sewing patterns! Unfortunately only one of you can win, but I’m pleased to report that the Sewing Chest kits are now up for sale, so if you’re not a winner you can still take the hassle out of sourcing the right fabrics.


And the winner is… Geo!
Congratulations! I’ll be in touch regarding posting your prizes.

Thank you all so much for taking part, for pushing yourselves to sew outside your comfort zone, and the confidence to wear your own me-made-sportswear in competition. I hope that you’ve found the same joy that I do when I sweat in something I’ve sewn!

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Comment [8]

Burda magazine July 2014

27 June 2014, 13:25

Burda’s recent winning streak was bound to stop sometime, and this issue landed with a giant THUD as far as I’m concerned! This is the usual summer issue, light on substance and big on frills, peasant styles (so 90s I’m going to go gag myself with a spoon), and the return of the clichéd safari style feature.

But there were a few garments worth discussing, so let’s take a look inside before retiring it to the shelf and drooling over June’s issue again instead…

Unfortunately we start with one of the ugliest garments I’ve seen in a long time (and I’d just flipped past an awful, off-the-shoulder peasant maxi dress, too). Who possibly thought that this satin bomber on the left was a good look?! I’m not even sure where to start – the unfortunate pocket flap placement right over the boobs, the wide elastic waistband making the model look super short-waisted, the petroleum shine of those cheap satins, or that horrible white pilgrim’s collar? BURN IT!

(The lace dress on the right I’m ambivalent about, but you’ll see it in worse fabrics in a minute)

This is a lovely gown, even if it is too big for the model and doesn’t really go with the rest of the collection (further confirming my theory that July is just the dumping ground for all the bin-ends of summer patterns before August’s first Fall fashion issue). I like the asymmetry and this could be a really lovely dress, either in the long length or the shorter version.

Let’s ignore the fact that this is sewn in “imitation snakeskin leather” for a second, and that it’s something that an Aerosmith backup singer might wear onstage – at least that ruffled overlayer won’t fly open in the wind, right?

Ahh, the sporty styles feature – I thought this would be my saviour of this issue but in reality there’s only one pattern I really like, and it’s this V neck, raglan sleeved knit top. I love the colourblocking, the deep banded V-neck, and the casual style. Definitely my Most Likely To Make in this entire issue, no contest. I’m still undecided on the satin trousers, but they seem to work in this context so I’ll let them slide…

I really like the concept of this pieced jersey dress (though I reckon this must be a leftover from the Japanese design feature last month?), but man does it look like it’d be fiddly to wear with the various overlay pieces and that centre front zip!

And finally, here’s the same pattern as the lace dress in the first photo, but made up in truly unfortunate fabric choices, like some horrible mashup between your apron and your potholder. That quilted fabric, those enormous patch pockets – all she needs is a wooden spoon! Ugh!

What did everyone else think of this issue – am I being unfair? Or did you think it stunk, too?

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Comment [14]

The Spring Race Challenge - prizes!

24 June 2014, 12:53

Hands up if you’ve been motivated by the Spring Race Challenge to sew up some lycra and go out and be active… ooh yes, that’s rather a lot of you!

Well, I’m pleased to report that there’s now another reason to be motivated to enter before 7 July, and that’s because I can finally announce the prizes, which will go to one lucky entrant, chosen by random draw.

Sewing Chest has very kindly supplied a special activewear kit full of goodies to sew at least one workout garment (and likely two, if you’re clever with your cutting)! It contains:

It should be enough for you to sew, say, a pair of PB Jam leggings in black with red contrasts, plus a black XYT Workout Top with a red upper back and FOE edges… or a pair of black Duathlon Shorts with red sides and a black VNA Top with red lower front and bindings… Or any other combo you choose, really!

These activewear kits will soon be available to buy from Sewing Chest, too, which should make it super easy to buy all the bits for coordinating sportswear in one go!

I’ll also be throwing in a bumper prize pack of all four of my sewing patterns (if you haven’t got them already!) to the lucky winner so she can have some new patterns to go with the new fabric, too.

Who’s in the running already? So far we’ve got entries from:

  1. Eva

  2. Kathy

  3. Jenny

  4. Rebecca

  5. Geo

  6. Mary

  7. Amy

  8. Nancy D

  9. Markita

  10. Kelli

  11. Merche

  12. Aveli

If you’ve made something but aren’t listed above, then you’re not entered for the draw! (I know there are at least a few of you out there!!) Please remember to link to your entry in the comments of the Spring Race Challenge post before 7 July.

PS: The cleverest amongst you will go and enter Karen’s Sporty Summer Sewathon, too and double your chances of winning!

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Comment [2]

Manequim magazine May 2014

30 May 2014, 12:55

It is an excellent time to be a pattern magazine subscriber, and I think this week’s posts on the June Burda, April Manequim, and now this May issue are a great illustration on the variety and fashion forward elements that just aren’t being seen in the Big Four right now.

The other two issues this week have been fantastic, but this May issue may just top them all… I don’t think I’ve ever scanned so many pages from one magazine before!

First up are the Plus offerings for this issue – three different dresses all with illusion-type colourblocking made popular by Stella McCartney recently.

As you may have guessed from the cover, there are maternity patterns included this month for the first time that I’ve ever seen! The cover blouse is the nicest IMHO, but there’s also patterns for a skirt, trousers, and a caftan-like dress, too.

The designer style patterns this month use Jason Wu as their inspiration and we get a really intricate jacket with wide lapels but loads of the sleeve details are just swallowed by the floral print. There’s also a cutaway shoulder blouse with a wide hem in multiple sizes, and also a dress with some stunning lace appliques. It might be difficult to source a similar lace, but the dress pattern is offered in a whopping 6 sizes, so it’s a great pattern to have as a jersey base for comparing against & modifying to become other styles not in your size.

I stopped buying Patrones magazine a while back as I only ever really liked the winter issues anyway, and I was getting a bit bored of their styles. But to me, Patrones really made the best coat patterns ever. Let me tell you, this coat feature here is enough to make me burn all my back issues of Patrones and sew all of these instead.

Take this pink coat for starters – immaculate clean lines – the princess seam goes straight into that angle to form the pocket. The raglan seams draw the eye to the face, and there’s no collar in the way to distract from the simplicity. YES.

This pattern appears to have everything I’d ever want from a motorcycle jacket, and sewn in coating rather than leather. Again, the attention to detail here is great – I only wish I could see more clearly what’s going on with that right side (as worn) pocket…

Again with the crazy amount of details and fabric mixing – is it a trench coat? Is it a biker jacket? It’s apparently made with faux leather, coating, and a polyester (presumably the fabric with the holes) and you know how much I love to mix different textures in the same colour!

And lastly in the coat feature, I adore this colourblock coat with the stripe running through just above the waist. Very striking but very classic at the same time.

Now some of my long-time readers may recall that in the very first issue of Manequim I ever had there was a feature on chic uses for sweatshirt and I squealed with delight. OMG IT’S ANOTHER CHIC SWEATSHIRTING FEATURE. And this time it’s even better. I had to restrain myself to even leave one pattern out of my picks.

This dress! You could totally leave the lower sleeves off and it’d work well with cap sleeves, too!

This one has similar seaming by the shoulders but they’ve used leather and cutout fabrics to make it even more interesting (if not warm!).

I didn’t think it was actually possible, but these sweatpants actually look nice. Not only would I make these, I’d be caught dead in them, too!

This dress, for me, is the pinnacle of this feature and entire issue. The seaming, the colourblocking, the crazy hem, I adore this entire package! I would get down on one knee to this dress. You will be mine.

And last but not least in the sweatshirting feature is this basic tee, offered again in a whopping six sizes. James actually has a shirt almost exactly like this that he wears all the time – a boxy tee made from alternating sides of grey marl sweatshirts, left to curl at the edges. I could make this and we’d match! ha!

I nearly needed a cool drink and a lie down after that feature, but then I turned the page and saw this mini dress made from map fabric, which reminded me of the map skirt Sinbad & Sailor made!

And in case you were disappointed the paneled dresses at the beginning were all for Plus sizes, Manequim went and threw in an illusion knit dress just for you (or, err, me) in size 44!

So, was I right, or was I right – is this issue not amazing?!

(And yes, I see there’s some up on eBay right now…)

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Comment [5]

Manequim magazine April 2014

29 May 2014, 12:21

I hadn’t realised that this issue arrived so late until May came nearly a week after it, but it means I’ve got two issues to show you in rapid succession. It’s always about this time of year that Manequim do their famous “Oscar dress special”, too, and squeeeeeee! this is it!

See? Brazilians do wear sweaters in winter! pfff. But seriously, despite it’s cropped proportions, it’s got some nice colourblocking, and the skirt lines are great, too.

Bomber jackets are huge this year, but I do believe this is the first sequined one I’ve seen – and here I thought I’d seen every variation possible in my pattern magazines so far! The skirt is also interesting, though I don’t think I’d be confident enough to put all my trust into a zipper like that…

Normally I’d be awfully excited to have a bodysuit pattern in my size, but frankly, it’s nowhere near as exciting as Closet Case Files’ Nettie pattern, which is already in my sewing queue. The trousers look like good basics, though, and they’re offered in a few sizes, too.

I must’ve flipped past this at least three times before I noticed that this boring shirt has actually got an asymmetric twist – the collar is rotated and the opening shifted off-centre. So what was boring is now highly interesting!

End up with an extra leather skin and don’t need another handbag? Manequim have a solution – make a biker jacket with just leather on the sleeves! I don’t know that I fancy the “lumberjacket” look (especially not with those trousers!), so I’d go for a grey wool coating for the body instead, but I like the concept. Certainly makes sewing the pockets, topstitching, and zippers easier if it’s not in leather!

This is a really useful pattern – a raglan-seamed sweatshirt with a central panel for showcasing a fancy fabric (like a certain piece of leftover galaxy print ponte, maybe? At first I thought those seams wrapped round from the back like my StyleArc Ivy tee, but no, there are little triangular panels and side seams. Missed a treat there, guys!

Just… NO.

These ladder shorts are certainly interesting, so they get points for creativity, but I don’t think I’m particularly keen to wear them. The jacket drawing looks nice, though, but I wish they hadn’t tucked it in to show off the shorts.

And now, the Oscar dress special, which for this year includes a mix of Oscars and Golden Globes dresses, includes gowns worn by Naomi Watts (Tom Ford, Golden Globes), Charlize Theron (Dior, Oscars), Julia Roberts (Givenchy, Oscars), Hayden Panettiere (Tom Ford, Golden Globes), and my two favourites:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a stretch, halter Narciso Rodriguez gown at the Golden Globes…

…and Amy Adams wearing a stunning Gucci gown at the Oscars. I love everything about this gown – the midnight blue colour, the train, and especially the architectural quality of the folded pieces at the bust and hips.

Now, imagine my surprise when the May issue arrived so quickly and it was even better than this one! Fortunately for you, you only have to wait til tomorrow to see my picks, but the smart ones will be heading to eBay right now to grab it. Trust me!

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Burda magazine June 2014

28 May 2014, 12:34

I don’t know what’s in the water over at Burda HQ, but they are seriously on a roll right now – it’s been an amazing few months of consistently great issues, but seriously, this issue takes the cake! I’m usually not a fan of the summer issues, but there are just so many fantastic designs I want to make in this one that I found myself scanning nearly every page!

So settle on in, this is a long’un…

A few years ago I would’ve been all “oh, a feature on shorts? Yawn, flip through…” but upping my running game (plus having an actually hot summer last year) has made me appreciate shorts a lot more! Burda gets several brownie points for this pair because a) they’re sporty, b) they’re a great length, c) pockets! and d) they used a non-white model. Big applause all around.

Now, this is the exact same pair of shorts as above, but with curved seams for colourblocking. If it were me, I’d have put the dark portion at the crotch rather than the reverse, as this is a good trick I learned from a cyclist for disguising saddle sweat marks, but it also goes to show that you can just draw lines like these on any shorts pattern and get the same effect.

YES. I may have already traced out this classic racerback vest (tank) in order to use up a few 1 meter pieces of awkward, “not really what I was expecting when I ordered but still nice” jerseys…

And let’s talk about these shorts with the angled overlays – these must be a knockoff of a designer garment because this is now the third time I’ve seen patterns for them – first in the January Manequim magazine, and then again when Simplicity released 1370, which has a view for this, too! (Actually, I’d love to do a comparison post on these three if someone could send me a scan of the Simplicity pattern piece layout, please? They’re stupid expensive here.)

On to the next feature, which is entirely based on Japanese-inspired cutting techniques. oh my god are you kidding me?! An entire feature based on unusual cuts, seamlines, drapes, and nary a cheap “Asian brocade” or kimono in sight – think Pattern Magic or Drape Drape. YES.

First up – this dress with an overlay which sweeps over the shoulder and around to the back. I could see this being an amazing formal gown, even though Burda have made it in a fairly casual fabric here.

Ok this next dress concept really is straight out of Pattern Magic (“Stretch Fabrics” book, design “Stopper”) – twist the sides of the pattern pieces but then straighten it when worn so you get a twist through the midsection. Very understated, chic, and extremely wearable. Burda have also added twists to the sleeves here, which is a nice touch.

It usually annoys me when Burda say in the instructions to just take your fabric to “your local professional pleater” (as if), but frankly, you could leave off the pleated godet in this dress and it’d still be a killer design! (In fact, I like it better without) That bodice, those shoulder-peeping sleeves, that pencil skirt… gorgeous.

This boxy jacket is such an unusual design that I just had to include it – not only does it have a partial front which extends over the centre front closure, but there’s a similar partial back overlay, too. It’s hard to see in the photo, but midway down the arms are leather inserts which are actually pencil pleated (using pleating tape rather than a professional service) for extra effect.

We’re out of the Japanese feature now but still the unusual designs keep on coming! I’m bored to tears by most shirtdress patterns, but this one… YES. I’ll even forgive the “mullet” hem. So modern, so chic, so stylish.

I’m not so keen on the crepe “sweatpants”, but the blouse is right up my street! It’s deceptively simple to sew, too – just one piece front and back, finish the edges with bias binding, then sew the pleats in place. It’d be a great beginner silk project, in fact, as there’s not too many seams to sew.

The Plus section was a bit ho hum this month (or maybe that was just in comparison to the stellar rest of the mag?), but I liked the seaming on this sheath dress…

And finally, the kids section is supposedly for beachwear, but I know some great basics when I see them – that romper is really just a hoodie waiting to happen, and that raglan tee would make the perfect gift for a little boy or girl at short notice!

So, was I right, or was I right? This is one of the best Burda issues I’ve ever seen! And I have a secret – the May Manequim may be even better… I know, right! But first I have their April Oscar dress special to show you!

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Sewing Indie Month: My Buff tutorial and interview

27 May 2014, 12:14

How’s everyone enjoying Sewing Indie Month so far? Has anyone entered the contests yet? There’s still a bit of time left if you haven’t got everything together yet…

Sew a Buff

Last week I wrote a really simple but useful tutorial which appeared on the Seamster Patterns blog – How to sew your own Buff. If you’re not familiar with a Buff, it’s a simple tube of stretchy fabric that can be worn a million different ways…

They’re really popular with a wide variety of active people for both winter and summer wear and literally could not be easier to sew, so head over to the Seamster Patterns site to read how to make your own!

My interview with Yuki


I personally think the best part of Sewing Indie Month has been connecting with other indie designers, and I was tickled to find out I was paired with Yuki from Waffle Patterns, because I’d been admiring her designs on Etsy for ages!

She interviewed me over email recently, and you can read my interview here, which went live yesterday.

Classes and my next pattern


I’ve got quite a few more stretch fabric classes coming up in the next few weeks at the Thrifty Stitcher studio, including a full “Stretchtacular!” day on Sunday 29 June, where you learn to sew leggings in the morning and a Breton tee in the afternoon! If you live outside London this means you only have to travel once to get both classes… Or I’ve also still got some space in this Thursday’s leggings class if you’re more local. These are all suited to beginners who have basic knowledge of a sewing machine, but haven’t necessarily worked with stretch fabrics or overlockers before. You’ll get to take your garment and pattern home with you, and I’ve had many students not only wear theirs home, but turn around and sew more that same week!

The stretch class listings are here.

I’m also pleased to report that my next pattern is off with my amazing pattern testing crew right now, so I should be ready to release it in a few weeks! I always hate a tease, but I hate seeing full details and then not being able to immediately buy even worse, so all I’ll say for now is that it’s a) a top pattern and b) it works for workouts and casualwear! I’ll post more details when I’m about a week away from release…

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Sewing Indie Month: An interview with Hannah from Sinbad & Sailor

21 May 2014, 12:53

As part of the wonderful Sewing Indie Month celebrations, each of us are collaborating and getting to know each other throughout the month of May. In the planning stages, I’d asked to partner with Sinbad & Sailor for a whole bunch of reasons – I’d been following her on Twitter for ages, I love the timelessness of her designs, and she also lives in London, yet somehow we’ve never managed to meet up!

Of course our first thought was to meet up in a pub somewhere and do the interview in person, but then we realised it’d probably be a lot more coherent if I interviewed her over email and celebrated with a drink later instead! So go grab a drink of your choice and come get to know Hannah!

1. How did you come up with the name Sinbad and Sailor? Do I sense a maritime connection at all?
No maritime connection in the S&S story it’s all land-based I’m afraid… When I was starting out it took me a long time to find the perfect name as I wanted something which reflected East London, where I’m based, living just one road away from where my Granddad grew up and also sewing (of course!). One friend suggested I look at Cockney Rhyming Slang (which is a fairly modern slang where phrases are derived from taking an expression which rhymes with a word and then using that expression instead of the word – ie. apples and pears = stairs) and see if anything had the right ring to it. I discovered that ‘Sinbad and sailor’ is cockney rhyming slang for tailor and I knew straight away that was perfect.

2. What gave you the push to start your own pattern company? Did you train in fashion, or did you segue from another career?
I have been sewing since school and studied fine art sculpture at UAL after which I went back to sewing in earnest. I’m a recipe following kinda gal and was always using patterns but found that the offerings felt very dated, hardly reflecting any current trends or styles which combined with their confusing instructions format created a frustrating sewing experience. Walking to work one day it struck me that if I was getting frustrated by the current shortfalls in sewing patterns perhaps other people were too. Rather than waiting and hoping that someone else would create these patterns I decided to be proactive and start making them myself.

3. In your mind, who is the quintessential S&S customer? What is her style?
The quintessential S&S customer is a woman who values her independence and likes to express herself through the way she dresses. Her style would be her interpretation of current trends and she’d be bold in her use of colour and prints when sewing (after all how are you going to rake in compliments with a plain back top?!)

4. When you’re developing your patterns, do you work solely in digital, or do you prefer to draft by hand and then digitise later?
Our patterns are all created the old school way – hand drafted by a professional pattern cutter whom I work with from the initial sketches through to multiple fit sessions. Once we are happy with the patterns fit this single size paper pattern is sent away to be digitized and graded (in laymans terms this is when one size is turned into different sizes) to our specifications.

5. Your patterns are all available as pdfs to print at home – what do you see as the advantages of this over traditionally printed “envelope”-style patterns?
Downloadable patterns have the speed which printed patterns can’t offer – once you purchase a pattern it can be downloaded straight away and you could be cutting out your garment in less than an hour. Another time saving benefit of digital patterns are that you can cut out your size rather than tracing the pattern off because if you aren’t happy with that size you can just re-print the pattern and start from the beginning, with a printed pattern you just don’t have this flexibility. Although I don’t see traditional printed patterns becoming near obsolete in the same way that say vinyl has become, I think that a growing number of people are discovering the benefit of digital patterns for time saving, flexibility and lowering their own environmental footprint. Combined with a growing choice of downloadable patterns I think it will be an important part of dressmaking in the future.

6. You refer to your patterns as “Catwalk inspired” – who are some of your favourite designers?
Personally with my sculptural background I’ve always been drawn to Hussein Chalayan and the conceptual work of Viktor and Rolf but these rarely influence the S&S designs as they are so wild and complex! The more grounded and wearable designers such Jil Sander, Chloe, Balenciaga, Anne Valerie Hash and Richard Nicoll would be more in line with my personal style and that of the S&S aesthetic but it’s great to see more extreme collections filter down to influence the highstreet. As a lover of print and pattern I should probably mention Mary Katrantzou and Antoni & Alison who are always firm favourites in this field, continually making me wonder why I don’t go one step further with my unique making ideas and design prints especially for printing and sewing up with.

7. If money and time were no object, what would your ultimate dream sewing project be?
I have always been drawn to couture and the laborious sewing techniques which form these pieces; at the Valentino, Master of Couture exhibition last year they had videos which demonstrated their unique sewing techniques by the atelier seamstresses and one which I was really drawn to was the ‘Pagine’ technique. This is created using many silk organza circles lain onto of one another then sewn at their centre, straight down onto the garment so each half of the circles moves freely. When worn the circles flap and wave which I think looks so beautiful so I’d love to make a simple dress and then spend the time applying the pagine technique to it.


(Photo credit: Dressful)

8. Describe the process of developing a S&S pattern, from initial idea through to its release – what’s the timescale? What’s the testing like?
Creating a pattern is not a fast process by any means! I have to fit S&S around part time jobs and so the process takes approximately 6 months. The first few months will be focused on working with the pattern cutter to get the best fit from the pattern which will include multiple fittings our on fit model (someone who’s considered an average size and is comfortable having pins nearly stuck in her!). Once we’re happy with the patterns fit it is sent away to be professionally graded and on it’s return it’s time for me to put my nose to the grindstone! For the next stage I’ll be creating the instructions which I find the easiest to do if I am also making the garment so I’ll be moving between my notebook, sewing machine and computer frequently to ensure I don’t miss anything out. Instruction writing can take another few months as I’ll also be working on other aspects of the pattern which you regularly take for granted when sewing – layplans, size guides, fabric requirements and annotations on the patterns, creating A0 and A4 pattern versions.. they all need to be done with care and attention to ensure the information is accurate. It’s at the end of this stage that I need a fresh set of eyes and sewing machines to go over everything I’ve created so far.

This is where the testers come in, they play a vital role in the patterns development for which I am very grateful as they are volunteering their time to ensure the patterns are up to scratch. Each tester is sent the full pattern and instructions, though the information is all covered they are a little bare boned at the moment with the designing of the layout being left till last. Testing can take a month or so as people are fitting this in around their already busy lives so in the meantime I will probably be sewing myself one of the designs up in some nice fabric to get some real wear out of it and also work on the design of the pattern package. Once I can collate all the feedback I meticulously go through it to ensure each one is properly assessed and changes applied where necessary.

After the testers feedback has been actioned I then tidy up any final design elements in the pattern package, create a product description and upload the pattern on to the site! (this is the part where I pour myself a large glass of wine to celebrate!)

Creating sewing patterns is a process which demands accuracy and concentration at all times and it can be such a strain to fit it in around the rest of my life but somehow that melts away when you see another design or style that gets me thinking “I wish there was a pattern for that…”

9. What’s up next for S&S?
We’ve released our latest pattern the Hepworth Dress and I’m just enjoying this moment of finally sharing it with the world, it’s a long process and I feel sometimes you’re always pressured to think about the next step with a small business but this time I’m taking it easy. I’m keen to do a sew-along this summer which is unchartered waters for me but I think the Hepworth has some more complex aspects of construction than the previous S&S patterns and I’d like to inspire more people to stretch themselves by offering the guiding hand of a sew-along.

Thanks, Hannah! I’ve got your O’Keefe Skirt coming up shortly in my sewing queue, but would it be too fangirl to wear it to meet you??

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Sewing Indie Month: An XYT maxi dress tutorial from Closet Case Files

13 May 2014, 12:32

As part of the wonderful Sewing Indie Month celebrations, each of us are collaborating and sharing tutorials throughout the month of May. During the planning phase of the month, I requested to partner with Heather from Closet Case Files as she’s also a fellow stretch fabrics fanatic plus I loved her Bombshell Swimsuit pattern (if only English summers ever got warm enough to swim, eh?).

Well, she’s since gone and released Nettie, a fantastic bodysuit and bodycon dress pattern, and it’s already on my To-Sew list for later this summer. I can never wear RTW ones as my torso is too long, so I’m excited to finally wear some! (That, and her dress looks SO much like Wolford’s £300+ dresses!)

As we were discussing which tutorials to do, Heather was really up for hacking my XYT Workout Top pattern and making it not only something suitable for casualwear, but also a dress! She’s gone and done it, so if you’d like to make your own, read on…

The tutorial

Hello everyone! Heather here from Closet Case Files. I’m on Fehr Trade today to share a tutorial for Sewing Indie Month.

One of the things I love most about the independent pattern community is the way that the unique taste and point of view of each designer shines through in their work. I was really excited to be paired with Melissa for Sewing Indie Month; I have tremendous respect for her skills and knowledge, and love her cool and modern take on active wear. It was a good pairing, since we both love designing for stretch fabrics. For my Fehr Trade tutorial, I thought it would be fun to put a Closet Case spin on the XYT Workout Top.

Since I’m not the jogging type of girl (more of a leisurely bike riding lass), I thought it would be fun to take the great design lines of the XYT and make a summer maxi dress. I loved the racerback option, and thought it could look sexy and sporty in a mix of lycra and powermesh.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-12

This pattern is brilliant! It’s been a while since I’ve broken a workout sweat but having a few of these in my wardrobe would certainly give me some incentive. It’s beautifully drafted and the unique built-in bra gives amazing support. My favourite element is definitely all the options for the back straps – I love patterns that give you the ability to personalize them and make them your own.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-16

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-14

Before I get into specifics, I’ll explain the basic modifications I made to the pattern. I graded from a small to a large at the waist, and extended a flared skirt down from the hip line. I ended up having to make it a little straighter due to fabric limitations, but I think this would look lovely with a fuller skirt as well! I had an old maxi dress I used to get the overall length, but you could also just measure your body from shoulder to ankle to get the length that’s right for you. I also took the scoop neck down about an inch and a half since I wanted a smidge more cleavage (in hindsight I got a smidge more than I wanted but the boyfriend wasn’t complaining).

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What You’ll Need

I cut the racerback pattern piece out of some powermesh from my stash, and the rest from some black cotton lycra. I basted it together to test the fit, and ended up taking in another inch and a half at the bust seam. Once you’re happy with the fit, serge your side and shoulder seams, but leave the bottom of the racerback free for now.

The built-in bra of the XYT top is terrific for working out as it compresses your breasts to prevent bouncing; however it may be too restrictive for a garment you’ll be wearing all day. I used the Fehr Trade lining pieces as a guide to cut out the powermesh bra, but made it the same width as the dress itself. Once you’ve cut out your bra, serge your side seams and try it on.

Looking in a mirror, insert the foam cups and play around until you locate the best spot for them. Pin them to the wrong side of the powermesh and carefully take it off (mind the pins!)

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files22

You can now sew your cups down. This can be a little fiddly – I find it helps to flatten the cups down while you stretch the powermesh around the cup, sewing a medium zigzag stitch close to the edge. You’ll need to stretch the fabric as you go to prevent any ripples in the fabric. When you’re done, there should be slight indents in the powermesh where your breasts will go. Adding cups is optional, but gives a little shaping and will shield you on cold days!

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files
The cups pinned to the powermesh bra prior to being sewn down.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-2
The cups after being zigzagged to the powermesh. Please ignore deodorant dust.

With your bra assembled, baste it to your dress at the back, neck and armholes. I found that because the lycra I was using had quite a lot more stretch than the powermesh, I had to trim off a little lycra around the arm openings to prevent wrinkles from excess fabric. You’ll see when you’ve basted it whether or not you need to do the same.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-3
You see how the fabric is a little full around the shoulder straps after basting? I had to trim that excess off for a nice smooth finish.

Melissa provides instructions for finishing your arm and neck edges with elastic, but I’m going to explain how to use fabric binding. It’s my preferred finish for my Nettie pattern; super fun in a contrasting colour!

Cut two strips (1 1/2” or 4cm wide) along the cross grain of your stretch fabric. You want the most stretch to run along the length. For the outside of the racerback and the arm openings, I cut one strip roughly the length of that continuous line. It’s handy to cut these strips using a quilting ruler and a rotary cutter. Fold your strip in half and gently press.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-4

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-5

There are two ways to sew stretch binding to openings and I’m going to explain both. Because the racerback hasn’t been sewn to the back of the dress yet, it’s easy to insert binding by feel. At the serger, align the raw edges of the binding and fabric, with the right side of the fabric facing up. Sew a few stitches. Once the binding is secured, gently stretch you binding as you sew. This is an intuitive process – stretch too tight and you’ll get ripples at the seam. Not enough and it won’t lay flat when you’re wearing it. You may want to test on a scrap of fabric to get the tension right. You can sew this whole seam in one continuous line.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-6

The second way to insert binding is a little more precise; I recommend it when you have a closed opening like your neckline. Measure the neck opening and multiply that number by 85% (through trial and error I have found this ratio gives a good tension but you may need to go tighter or looser depending on your fabric). Cut a binding strip that length, sew the short ends together to form a circle, and fold and iron it. Now divide this circle binding into 4 equal quarters. Do the same for your neckline opening. Pin your binding to your neckline, matching the notches.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-9

Serge the binding to the neckline, gently stretching the binding as you sew.

Now that you have your binding attached, it’s time to finish your seams! This is where a double needle comes in handy. Gently press all of your serged binding seams flat so that they lie against the fabric, not the binding. We are going to secure that seam by doublestitching it and securing it to the fabric on the outside of the binding.

Pin the racer back under the back pattern piece, and sew a row of stitches all around the back and arm holes. Do the same for the neckline.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-7XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-8

To prevent your back binding from folding over, tack it down to the racerback, following the line of double stitching.

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-11

Now all you have to do is hem your dress! I chose a simple 3/4” folded hem with a double needle finish. Annnnndddd… THAT’S IT! A sexy summer dress from a workout top – the beauty of pattern hacking at its finest! Thank you Melissa for designing such a lovely pattern. I love my XYT maxi and have been wearing it for 2 days straight. I may even sleep in it!

XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-17 XYT Workout top by Closet Case Files-18

Thanks, Heather! I love it! And if need more inspiration for an XYT dress, Kathy made one of her own recently, too! Remember you can enter your versions into the Sewing Indie Sew Along contests to win some massive prize packs…

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