My Favourite PDF only patterns

After writing about the reasons I like PDF sewing patterns last week, Melody asked in the comments what my favourite PDF only patterns are. So I put my thinking cap on, had a look at which of the patterns I’ve enjoyed are PDF only and here we are.

Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardigan

Size range: Bust 31″-48″ Waist 24″-40″ Hip 33″-50″
Price: $14 (USD)
No variations: 2

This is one of my most made patterns to date and I still have lots more planned. It’s one of my favourite patterns ever, let alone just PDF ones. I wear my long grey version all the time as it’s just so versatile. It’s the perfect cardigan pattern for me as I always wear my cardies open.

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Sarah | Laquana | Lara | Meg | Judith (Judith has also done a video sewalong)

Helen’s Closet Winslow culottes

Size range: Waist 24″-38″ Hip 34″-48″
Price: $14 (USD)
No variations: 4 different lengths

Another Helen’s Closet pattern because I’m a fangurrl. I love my Winslow culottes/palazzo pants, they’re just the perfect spring trouser. As I was getting the information for this post I saw that Helen is doing a Winslow hack series and the pattern has 15% off until the end of May with the code “hackwinslow”. So far she’s shared a hack for an elastic waist and I’m looking forward to seeing what else she does. I should probably branch out and sew a shorter version at some point but I love me a maxi.

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Shannon | Gillian | Jasika | Michelle | Abigail

True Bias Southport dress

Size range: Bust 32″-44.4″ Waist 26″-38.5″ Hip 34″-46.5″
Price: $12 (USD)
No variations: 2

I’m surprised that Kelli hasn’t released this one in a paper version yet as it’s a great pattern. But then maybe other people aren’t as obsessed with maxi things as I am. There are always some really nice touches in True Bias patterns and they all seem to be really well drafted. There’s a nice bit of construction on the neckline that gives a really clean finish to the bias binding. I love the shape of the neckline and the amount of blousiness in the bodice. I’ve used the Southport dress as a base for loads of hacks and mash-ups. A Scoutport is next on my list, with a Grainline Scout tee as the top half and my more flared, knee length version of the Southport for the skirt.

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Jenny | Erica | Meg | Sonja | Kirsten

Dixie DIY Ballet dress

Size range: Bust 34″-42″ Waist 24″-33″ Hip 36″-44″
Price: $8 (USD)
No variations: 1

While I’m a big fan of the Ballet dress it’s very similar to the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress, which gets a lot more love in the blog world so you may prefer that as it has more variations and fuller instructions. The Ballet dress fits me really well across the shoulders though so I prefer it to the Lady Skater (I’ve tried both). The Ballet dress also runs quite large – I wear the small and I definitely shouldn’t be the small. So if you’re slim it will swamp you. But then I like negative ease in my knits, not everyone likes things to fit the same.

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Amy | Zoe | Val G | Lisa | Katie

Sew Over It Penny dress

Size range: Bust 33″-45″ Waist 26″-38″ Hip 36″-48″ (though the hip is free and the bodice is oversized – the finished bust measurement of the largest size is 49.5″ – so if you’re a little bit outside the size range you may be okay)
Price: £7.50
No variations: 1

The Penny dress is such a nice dress for when you want to look good but also be comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend it for complete beginners as I don’t think the instructions are the best that Sew Over It have to offer. It’s a great pattern if you have a bit of experience though. And I’ve just seen on Sew Over It’s Instagram account that they’re working on a blog post to help clarify the facing/placket bit of the instructions, which is great news. (Edit: It’s here)

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Carmen | Carmen again | Holli | George | Beck

Sew Over It Alex shirt and shirtdress

Size range: Bust 33″-45″ Waist 26″-38″ Hip 36″-48″ (There is a LOT of ease in this pattern though – 8″ at the bust, 7″ at the waist and 10″ at the hip so if you’re outside the size range you’re probably still okay. I sized down 2 sizes for my version)
Price: This only comes as part of an eBook, which is £20 but you do get 4 other patterns so if you work out an average it’s only £4
No variations: 2 for Alex but 9 in total

This pattern is the main reason I bought the Sew Over It City Break eBook. I love all of the samples, it seems to work in any fabric. I’ve only made myself one version so far but I keep meaning to make another as my first one is so versatile. I made my mum one for Christmas too and I want to get some photos and video of her in it for a sort of “one pattern, two body shapes” post or series. We actually have quite similar body shapes but she has bigger boobs and I have slightly more of a waist so I thought people might find it interesting to hear about how different patterns fit each of us.

My version:

Other people’s versions: Jo | Hayley Jane | Heather | Laura | George

Alina Sewing + Design Co Chi-town chinos

Size range: Waist 24″-36.5″ Hip 34″-46.5″
Price: $15
No variations: 2 – shorts and a skirt – but there are expansion packs available with 2 additional versions

I think this is a great pattern to tackle as your first shorts(/trousers if you use the expansion pack) as the instructions are fantastic and the shorts aren’t supposed to be skin tight so the fitting isn’t as hard as with something like jeans. There are just loads of great features to the pattern and getting both a skirt and shorts is great value for money. I have a pair of the trousers cut out that I’m hoping to get made up soon too.

My version:

Other people’s versions: Heidi (shorts) | Cristy (pants) | Abbey (skirt) | Helen (shorts) | Teri (pants)

Megan Nielsen Veronika skirt

Size range: Waist 34″-42″
Price: Free when you subscribe to her newsletter
No variations: 3

There’s nothing particularly fancy to this one, it’s just a circle skirt pattern but I’ve found it way easier to use than a circle skirt calculator. I used it on my Sewaholic Cambie dress and I used it for a tulle skirt for my work Christmas do last year. It comes with two different waistbands, huge patch pockets and you can use it for knits or wovens. Plus it’s free! So if you’re on the fence about PDF patterns this is a nice one to try. When I relax my fabric buying ban I fancy a scuba version.

My version:

Other people’s versions: Annie | Ruth | Katy | Teresa | Lauren

So there you go, those are my favourite PDF only patterns. There are loads more PDF only patterns I like but these are the ones that I’ve used multiple times and I’m glad I have in my collection. To look at the other side, are there only printed only patterns that you think I should check out?

5 reasons I prefer PDF patterns

It seems like you’re either a lover or hater of PDF sewing patterns. Personally, I’m a big fan and here are some of my reasons why.

1. No tracing

This is the biggy for me because I HATE tracing. I dread it and put it off for ages. I’d far rather sit on the living room floor in front of the telly or listening to the radio and trim and stick a PDF pattern together. These days I use a paper cutter (I have this one) to trim the sheets and Pritt stick (generic glue sticks don’t stick at all in my experience) rather than tape to stick them together. I find using a glue stick much quicker and it gives you a bit of repositioning wiggle room that you don’t have when you’re using tape.

I’ve also seen people cut off more of the edges off than they need to. I only cut the left edge off the top row pieces and then the top and left edges off all the subsequent pieces. Depending on how the pattern has been laid out you sometimes don’t even have to cut that many off.

2. Cost

PDF patterns are usually cheaper, though not always by much. And I’m sure once you add in paper and ink they’re not actually cheaper but I enjoy the feeling of false economy.

3. Storage

If I had all of my patterns as physical patterns I have no idea where I’d put the things. Of course the printed out PDF patterns take up space but as I trace my printed patterns they take up double space. I’ve gone through a few different storage methods with my patterns including plastic document wallets, a filling box thingy and poly pockets in ring binders. My current method is C4 envelopes. At the moment I’ve got them in a paper box but I’m going to get some magazine files when I next go to Ikea and divide them up into garment types.

In terms of digital storage I keep all of my patterns in a folder on my Google Drive called Patterns. Each pattern company then has a folder, where each pattern also gets a folder – even if the pattern is only one file.

4. Errata/updates

This is a great aspect of PDF patterns that I wouldn’t have thought of. If there turns out to have been an error in a pattern you are usually given updated versions for free. It happened with the Megan Nielsen Tania culottes, where I gained an extra version. I also had an updated version of the Ginger jeans when Heather Lou added the pocket stay and made some other changes.

5. Thicker paper

Tissue paper freaks me out. I’m always convinced I’m going to rip it. I prefer the printed patterns that use thicker paper too like Tilly and the Buttons and Deer and Doe. I can see why you wouldn’t if you cut your patterns and like to tissue fit though. Because I cut using a rotary cutter and weights I like that the thicker paper keeps me a harder edge to follow.


Of course I’m not immune to pretty packaging. I love the look of Sew Over It patterns in particular and have a a few of them. The dream would be for pattern companies to offer a bundle. So you could choose to buy the printed one but for a little bit more money have a digital version too. Deer and Doe have been doing a cool thing with the patterns they’ve updated to have a PDF version. You can fill in a form to prove that you bought the printed pattern and they’ll send you a link to buy the PDF for €3.

Another benefit of PDF patterns is that they’re cheaper and less risky for pattern designers than printed patterns. That means we get to enjoy more patterns. Some of my favourite patterns have been PDF only and they would have been a huge risk for the designers to release in paper format so they just wouldn’t exist without PDF patterns being possible.

What about you, are you Team PDF or Team Printed?

Quarterly round-up number 1

Hey there peeps. I hope you’re all having a good week and had a nice long weekend, if you were lucky enough to have one. Mine was quite peaceful and chilled out. I had planned to decorate my sewing room but I didn’t get round to it. Tidying and emptying the damn thing took up most of the weekend! It’s completely empty now and I’ve even pulled the carpet up as I’m thinking about sanding and painting the floorboards. Any tips on painting floorboards or paint recommendations are gratefully received.

In other life type news, my nan is still on the mend and walked with a quad-foot walking stick yesterday, which is really good as she hadn’t been doing much walking. Hopefully she should be able to come out of hospital soon.

Anyway, sewing. I follow a few people who do monthly round-up posts about what they’ve sewn, including Masha from The Itinerant Seamstress who has a section at the end tracking her fabric buying, which I think is a great idea. So I thought I’d copy and do little round-up posts. I’m not productive enough to do them monthly though so I’m going for quarterly.

Projects finished

In January I finished off my Jennifer Lauren Handmade Mayberry dress (and actually blogged about it!).

In February I had a little flurry of sewing for a holiday to Egypt with my mum to celebrate her 60th birthday. I made a pair of True Bias Lander shorts, a wrap skirt using the skirt part of the Sew Over It Eve dress and a maxi dress by shirring the top of two big rectangles of viscose.

True Bias Lander shorts and Ogden cami, self drafted maxi dress, SOI Eve wrap skirt

I also finished off a knit dress I made last year. There wasn’t actually any sewing involved though, I just chopped a bit off the hem and decided I liked it unhemmed. It’s hack of my beloved Dixie DIY Ballet dress. I’d already made myself a swingy t-shirt from the pattern by tracing around the shoulder and armhole shape and then swinging the side seams out and lengthening into a tee. I made it into a dress pattern by just extending the side seam down.

Dixie DIY ballet swing dress hack

The pattern needs a few tweaks as the sides were a bit too long and it had a bit of a hanky hem shape, which I had to level. I really love this dress though and definitely plan a few more. There’s a lovely autumnal floral jersey in my stash that I’ve earmarked for a longer sleeved version.

I haven’t finished anything in March but I have made most of a Sew Over It Heather dress. I just have the neckband and the hems to go. This project finally kicked me into action to get my overlocker repaired. It had been broken since the beginning of January and because I hate making phone calls so much I kept putting off phoning the sewing machine repair man. But my sewing machine taking SIX MINUTES to sew one (admittedly, long) seam with a stretch stitch was the push I needed.

Projects in waiting

I’ve had a wee cutting spree and I’ve got 4 new projects cut out.

  • A True Bias Ogden cami I’d hoped to finish for my holiday but ran out of time
  • A self-drafted knit pencil skirt
  • A Tilly and the Buttons Bibi pencil skirt
  • A Grainline Archer shirt

Stashbusting stats

Fabric in: 11m
Fabric out: 13.5m

I’ve actually stashbusted! Only 2.5 metres but I’ll take it. I did get it down by 4.75m but then I bought 2 bits of fabric and some ribbing. Ironically it’s all intended to be used to stashbust some of my smaller pieces of stash fabric. I bought some white jersey to use for the body of a raglan t-shirt with the leftovers of the ballet swing dress above as the sleeves. And some lightweight black sweatshirt fabric to be the sleeves and yoke of a jumper with some sloth print sweatshirting I bought a 0.5m remnant of.

Pattern buying

While I’ve been better for not buying fabric willy nilly, patterns are a different story. So I thought it might be nice to track that here too. I’ve bought:

  • Chalk and Notch Fringe dress and top
  • True Bias Lander Pants
  • Helen’s Closet Avery leggings
  • Nina Lee London Kew dress
  • Hey June Handmade Union St Tee
  • Megan Nielsen Flint shorts and pants
  • Sew Over It Ultimate culottes
  • The latest Sew Over It PDF club pattern (as I was writing this, which is what made me add this section)
  • Oh and Tilly and the Buttons’ new book, Stretch, which contains 6 patterns

So that’s quite a lot… I’ll try and curb it a bit over the next few months.

I’m sure I thought of another section to add but it has completely flown out of my mind. If there’s anything else you’d like to see included here then please let me know in the comments. I’ll try and work on a better name for these posts too.

#2018MakeNine

Happy Monday peeps. I hope you all had a nice weekend. Mine hasn’t been the best. On Thursday night I had a phone call from my mum because my nan had fallen over while they were walking the dogs and she needed me to go and get them so she could go in the ambulance with my nan. I got there before the first responder, let alone an ambulance and when Mum called back to check how long they’d be they couldn’t give any indication so in the end we took her to A&E ourselves. It turned out she’d broken her wrist and then the next day we found out she’d fractured her hip too and on Saturday she had to have a partial hip replacement.

It all went well and she seems to be back to her old self already bar the pain and lack of mobility but it’s been a very worrying few days. We don’t always realise just how lucky we are that my nan is so independent and capable. She’s 90 years old and only gave up her job as a cleaner a couple of months ago. She was complaining about being on a ward with old people and we had to reassure her that she’s on the orthopaedic ward, not the geriatric ward and she tells every doctor or nurse who comments on her age that her mum got her date of birth wrong. So back to her normal self.

But anyway, I realised that I never blogged about my Make Nine plans for this year and I’ve been wanting to blog about something as it’s been ages so I figure it’s better late than never.

I was in two minds about whether to choose any Make Nine plans at all this year as I found last year that I did a lot of over-planning and put a lot of pressure on myself. When I mentioned that on Instagram loads of people told me that they hadn’t made all of their 2017 Make Nine selection and they were still making 2018 plans because they enjoy the planning so I did pick some after all and I’ll try not to beat myself up if I don’t make any of them.

1. Alina sewing + design co chi town chinos

I’ve already got these cut out that I planned to make last year but didn’t get round to. I wore my shorts version on my recent holiday and I really like them so I’m keen to get cracking with these as I think they’ll be a great trouser for spring. If it ever gets warm enough to stop wearing boots that is.

I’m making them out of a beige gaberchino for my first version and if I like them I want a navy pair too as I love the navy sample.

2. A knit pencil skirt

This is sort of carried forward from last year but I’d picked McCalls 7331 last year. The plan has always been to use a black and white striped ponte from my stash, which I realised won’t really work with McCalls 7331 as it has a curved yoke. So I’ve “drafted” my own from my hip and waist measurements and cut it out last week. I’m planning to copy the construction of my favourite knit pencil skirt and overlock some elastic to the top edge, turn it to the inside and stitch in the ditch at the side seams to keep the elastic turned under.

I’ve also got a Bibi skirt from Tilly and the Button’s new book Stretch cut out, which I could probably count too as I haven’t specified a pattern. I’ve pretty much copied one of the samples from the book and used some teal ponte scraps I had left over from the Manfriend’s first Paxson and some of the black and white striped ponte.

3. Jennifer Lauren Handmade Gable top

I suspect I may actually find the high neck on this a bit irritating but I love the way this top looks on other people and I think Jen’s block is a good match for me so I want to try it. I’ve also fallen for her latest pattern, the Ostara top and will be buying that at some point.

4. Sew Over It Eve dress

I’ve wanted to make the Eve dress since last year but I kept putting off tracing it. I’ve done that part now and I’m hoping it’ll make the perfect wedding guest dress for a wedding I’m going to in the Summer.

5. Gown

This year I’d quite like to have a go at making a big nonsense gown just for the pure hell of it. I haven’t really got a clue what sort of style I want, let alone chosen a pattern. I think I want godets, it’ll probably be off the shoulder and I’m leaning towards green or red.

6. Grainline Archer shirt

I have a few oversized checked shirts from H&M that I really like so I wanted to have a go at making my own. I’ve cut out a wearable toile version using some checked flannel and I did not enjoy it at all. Some people thrive on that sort of perfectionist cutting, I do not. It just filled me with rage.

It’s done now though and ready to be sewn up when I get a chance. I’ve got some buffalo plaid to make my “proper” version out of.

7. Grainline Cascade coat

I’ve realised that I only really wear my coats that have hoods so I’ve dumped my long planned Deer and Doe Pavot for a Grainline Cascade. I’m going to use the same royal blue gabardine that I was going to use for the Pavot but I might have to shorten the cascade slightly to get the coat out of my 2.5 metres of fabric.

I don’t really like patch pockets so I don’t know what I want to do about the pockets. I sort of want welt pockets but I don’t have a pattern that has welt pockets to steal the pieces. Maybe I could add a horizontal in-seam pocket to the seam at the hip on the longer version but I don’t know if that would be right either. I like pockets for hands so I sort of feel like they should be at an angle. I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it.

Normally, I quite like assembling PDF patterns but I couldn’t face the million pages Cascade would be so I got the A0 files printed with Netprinter. I’m sooo not tracing either, I can’t think of anything worse than having to trace all those pieces.

8. Deer and Doe Melilot shirt

This is another one carried forward  from last year. I still want my white crepe Melilot. I cut out what I’d hoped would be a wearable toile using the pattern pieces I’d traced yonks ago. Then realised that I’ve gained weight since then and the size I traced – helpfully, not written on the traced pattern pieces – will not fit these days.

9. Jeans

Urgh, jeans sewing. Why is fitting trousers so hard? Other people seem to do it fine. Am I just being ridiculous and picky? I really don’t think I’m being too picky because I’m not obsessing over a couple of crotch wrinkles. It’s bizarre weirdness that I have never had in RTW trousers. I can go into a clothes shop and try on a pair of jeans and the crotch will just fit. Other areas might not fit how I want them but I’ve certainly never had the weird-ass poofiness and lines from my crotch to my thigh. This post about crotch curves from Cindy at Cation Designs was really interesting and makes sense as the Lander short have the straightest front crotch curve of any short/trouser pattern I’ve sewn and my crotch area is definitely the least weird in them. (This one is also really good.)

So those are this years Make Nine plans. A bunch of them are already underway and as soon as my overlocker comes back from sewing machine hospital (or I buy a new one if it’s kaput) I’m going to get on with them. I’ve got too many things started and half made, I need to finish a few.

Are you a one at a time maker? Or do you have a few projects on the go at once like me? Have you made Make Nine plans this year? Crumbs, some of you may have finished already!

A slightly belated 2017 review

I’ve mentioned a few times before that I’m a massive spreadsheet nerd. Well for the past couple of years I’ve maintained a sewing stats spreadsheet where I record my makes and various things about them. Like what sort of fabric I use, whether they’re printed or PDF patterns and I’ve just added a column for whether it’s a new to me pattern or one I’ve made before.

I also have a sheet for my “stash maths” where I record the fabric I buy and the fabric I use each year to see how much I reduce or increase my stash. Spoiler: it’s always increase.

Anyway, I love reading that sort of stuff on other people’s blogs so I thought I would share a nerdy, graph heavy post on last year’s sewing for anyone who is interested – and for myself obviously.

What I made

I made 34 things last year. 33 were sewn and 1 was knitted – though I also part knitted 2 other things that still need finishing. The jumper I did finish knitting could also do with me undoing the sleeve cast off and adding about another 3 inches to each of them but I can’t face it yet.

Now let’s hit the graphs. This first one is to show what garment types I made.

Tops and dresses being the most common is fairly consistent with previous years but the surge in cardigans is all thanks to the Blackwood cardigan pattern. I made 5 different versions making it my most made pattern so far. The love affair is certainly not over yet either.

Knit v Woven

It’s been a fairly even split down the middle this year. Knits were given a boost by my Blackwood cardigan obsession. I might have a little play with my spreadsheet to try to get it to show me the proportion of knit and woven for each garment type.

Printed v PDF

This is definitely the year that I realised I’m very much a PDF girl. I’m such a bodyweight yoyo that I can’t not trace patterns if I ever want to use them again in the future and I HATE tracing. I’d far rather sit on my living room floor in front of the telly or listening to the radio with my paper cutter, a Pritt stick (never generic glue sticks) and a cuppa. I can assemble patterns quite quickly now and I find it sort of soothing. I’d far rather reprint and reassemble than retrace. I’ve even almost bought a couple of patterns I already have printed versions of in PDF format just to avoid tracing them but so far I’ve resisted.

Indie v Big 4

I’ve made hardly any Big 4 patterns this year. Only two and of those two only one was even for me. It wasn’t a deliberate choice as I would like to try a few more Big 4 patterns. I think it’s a combination of exposure to more Indie patterns via Instagram and blogs and preferring PDF patterns. I bought quite a few New Look (6212, 6414 and 6507) and McCall’s (7387, 7534 and 7537) patterns when they were on sale and I hope to use some of them this year. Perhaps I should set myself a week where I trace at least one pattern every day as there’s loads of paper patterns I want to make but keep putting off.

Pattern companies

a graph showing

This one is a bit cramped sorry and some of the company names got chopped. You can clearly see which companies I’m a fan girl of though. For Helen’s Closet it was the five Blackwood cardigans and a Suki Kimono that I made my Nan for Christmas. The Sew Over It patterns were a bit more varied but there were two Penny dresses and two Alex dresses, the other two were a Nancy dress and an Ultimate shift dress.

Fabric choices

It’s no surprise to me that more than half of the things I made contained viscose in the fabric. It’s my favourite fabric to wear. I was surprised that I had used so much polyester but it was things like sweater knit, ponte and crepe so it shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. The wool was yarn not fabric, I still haven’t sewn anything with wool.

Stashbusting

This is only my second year of tracking the stash so I don’t know for certain but I suspect it’s probably my worst so far for overbuying fabric.

I bought 56 pieces of fabric totalling 107.4 metres.

And I used/cut* 48 pieces of fabric totalling 68.95 metres.

*Not all of my cut out garments have been made yet.

So the stash increased by 38.45 metres.

This is something I really want to work on this year. I think I’m going to go for a one in, two out policy. Though I’m already losing on that as I’ve bought two bits of fabric already – some beautiful Cotton + Steel rayon for a Chalk and Notch Fringe top/dress and some flannel for a wearable toile of the Grainline Archer. I remain positive though. I’ll settle for breaking even.

So that was my year in graphs and numbers. It’ll be interesting to start doing this every year and see how things change if at all. I suspect that the main change will be fancier graphs. Does anyone else track their makes or am I just a daft nerd?

Jennifer Lauren Handmade Mayberry Dress

My first finished make of 2018! And I’m being a good blogger, as per my goal and went out and took photos straight away. Then took more in the spare room because it was so windy outside that all my photos were rubbish. I wasn’t wasting the make-up!

This is the Mayberry dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade (previously Jennifer Lauren Vintage), which I was lucky enough to get for free in exchange for an honest review – keep an eye on Jennifer’s blog for her reviewer round-up to see lots of other versions. This is my second of her patterns and you’ll definitely be seeing a few more of them – I have four now. They’re always really different to anything else out there she puts some really interesting details in them. Like this asymmetric button band in the Mayberry dress.

I made the long sleeved version of the dress (in navy to basically rip off the long sleeved sample because it’s gorgeous) but with a slight tweak – the long and 3/4 sleeve versions have a little cuff that you gather the sleeve into. I decided to turn the sleeve hem up instead and make a little elastic channel so I can push my sleeves up. It worked out quite well but I took too much length off the sleeve so they’re shorter than I’d like.

Here’s what they look like pushed up

I used a viscose twill fabric and it feels lovely, it’s so soft and drapey but it was a nightmare to work with. It frayed like mad so my notches kept disappearing and I had to go get the pattern pieces a couple of times to re-do them. It also marks and goes shiny where you press over things like the facings, darts and seam allowances. Ooh speaking of facings, I gave Katie’s non-flipping facing tutorial a go on this and I’m very impressed. I generally hate facings but these stay put nicely because they’re anchored in the sleeve seam.

My overlocker broke while I was sewing this too so I had to change to French seams part way through. I’m actually quite glad I did as it makes the insides look lovely and tidy. Apart from the skirt, which is part badly overlocked, part pinked.

The pattern comes with different cup sizes, A-D, which always confuses me slightly as I’m small of boob but big of rib but there’s a section in the instructions to help you choose what size to make. I made a B and I was so impressed with the fit that I immediately bought the Laneway dress and wittered on to the Manfriend about Jennifer’s block. The dart is in the right place! The dart is never in the right place on me!

Even the shoulders fit well. If I’m being picky I may narrow them a tiny amount before my next version but it’s perfectly wearable with them where they are.

I wore the dress to work today and got loads of compliments, which is always nice. It’s a great work dress because it feels smart but is really comfortable. I just love the off centre buttons and the way the neckline curves, it’s just so pretty.

In terms of construction everything went together smoothly. The sleeves inserted like a dream. They are the best sleeves I’ve ever sewn. I sewed the pockets even though I’m not the biggest fan of side seam pockets – these are actually the first ones I’ve ever sewn. I like that they’re set back into the seam so they don’t flip out but I probably won’t bother with pockets next time. They’re not worth the faff for me as I don’t use them for anything other than my hands.

The instructions are really thorough and I liked that there were little tips spread throughout them. The little note on the facing pattern pieces to tell you to cut out the interfacing with the glue side up was especially handy because I didn’t look at the instruction booklet when cutting.

The details

Pattern: Jennifer Lauren Handmade Mayberry dress

PDF or Printed: PDF

How many pages: 100 but you don’t need to print all 100. It’s just that many because of the cup sizes. There’s a handy sheet telling you which pages to print for what cup size and what sleeve length. I had to print 40 pages. But if I want to sew a different sleeve length in future I’d have to print out some more.

Easy to assemble? Everything went together fine but the pattern doesn’t have the triangle things on the edges so you need to make sure you have the front page with you when you assemble it so you know what page joins up with what.

A0 file included? Yes, 6 pages but each cup size is a different page so you wouldn’t have to print them all.

Measurements: I haven’t checked them in quite a while and I know they will be bigger now but last known numbers were: Bust 38.5″ Waist 31.5″ Hips 41″ (I’ll update this post when I’ve been brave enough to take them I checked them. They’re now: Bust 40″ Waist 33″ Hips 43″ so this is a sized down version)

Size made: 14B

Alterations: 

  • Changed the shape of the facings to include the shoulder.
  • Shortened the sleeves by 2″ and turned up 1/2″ then 1/2″ again for an elasticated channel at the wrist instead of the cuff.
  • I put a bit of elastic in the middle of my drawstring so I can tie it tight but it’s still comfortable and I don’t have to adjust the tie when I sit down.
  • Sewed a 1.5″ inch hem instead of 1″.

Fabric used: Viscose twill from Oh Sew Crafty (I’m not sure how much sorry because I had lots of odd shaped pieces left over from cutting out another project)

Another version?

Yes definitely. I’m really happy with the fit across my shoulders and the armhole/sleeve. I can see me using the pattern pieces to see what changes I need to make to other patterns. I fancy making a Mayberry top too – I did try to make one as a wearable toile but I didn’t have as much fabric as I thought I did. It was just going to be the bodice with a gathered ruffle on the bottom.

Any changes next time?

I won’t shorten the sleeve if I do an elasticated cuff again and I won’t do snaps again. My floor was littered with dead snaps after I finished installing them and one has come loose already. Not a fan.

I may narrow the shoulder slightly, maybe 3/8″.

The verdict

Despite my snap hell and my self shredding fabric trying to ruin the experience I really like this dress. I love the fit and I’m all about the zipless dress so I’ll definitely make more. This may be the beginning of a pattern love affair.

Top 5 of 2017: Goals

Happy new year folks!

via GIPHY

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful festive season. I’ve had a lovely Christmas and Betwixtmas. It was mine and the manfriend’s 5th Christmas together and we’re finding our stride and traditions. Christmas Eve now features watching Arthur Christmas – I cry every time – and some veg prep. Christmas day my mum, nan, their dogs and sometimes my uncle come to us. There’s presents, booze, food, silly games and joy. Then on Boxing Day we go to the Manfriend’s parents’ house for more of the same with his giant family – he’s the youngest of five so if everyone is there I think there’s about 20 people.

Betwistmas is then spent hardly getting dressed, snaffling crisps, nuts and chocolate and watching TV, reading or pootling about. It’s wonderful. I’ve had a cold and a chesty cough so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed just being able to laze around and recuperate. We watched series 2 of Ultimate Beastmaster on Netflix this year and that was a fun addition to Christmas. I got the same sort of joy from watching that as I do from watching World’s Strongest Man – there’s just something I like about watching athletic feats whilst I’m stuffing crap food into my face and barely moving from the sofa.

I also got a pretty fantastic new sewing machine for Christmas. It’s a Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0 was a Black Friday bargain (nearly half price!) that I bought myself and then Aled and my mum gave me some money towards it so it got wrapped up for Christmas.

Anyway, goals. Let’s start by looking at how I did with last year’s goals. 

2017 Goals

  1. Stashbust! – Big old fail. The stash grew again. Sigh.
  2. Make a shirt – I made two Sew Over It Alex shirt dresses (one for me and one as a Christmas present for my mum) so I suppose that counts but it’s not what I intended when I set the goal. I intended a collar stand and sleeve placket. So this is a half success.
  3. Become a wrinkle whisperer –  Nope.
  4. Jeans! – I tried.
  5. Sew something with silk – Nope.

2018 Goals

1. Make things that bring me joy

The most important goal I think. I want to make more things that make me grin every time I put them on. It might be because I love the fabric, because I got a good fit or because I enjoyed the making. It doesn’t matter as long as wearing it makes me happy. (I made a festive sloth t-shirt on boxing day that definitely fulfils this brief.)

2. Put less pressure on myself

I didn’t have a great year with my mental health in 2017 and putting a load of pressure on myself with my sewing (touched on in my Reflections post) probably didn’t exactly help. So this year I’m going to make far more realistic plans and be kinder to myself about meeting them. No more lists of 28 things I want to make in three months.

Ooh, less “all or nothing” YouTubing too. It’s better to do one video every couple of weeks than get hung up on getting a video up every week and then falling off the face off the world for months when I burn out.

3. Try out a few new techniques

Maybe I’ll make a list like Fiona from Diary of a Chainstitcher of techniques I’d like to try so I can check them off as I go. I definitely still want to have a go at a shirt with sleeve plackets and a stand collar. I want to sew something with godets too and maybe I’ll brave a welt pocket this year.

4. Stashbust

I can’t not put this one on the list even though I’ve never managed it. I have started to be a lot more conscious with my fabric choices and I’m trying harder to only buy fabric when I have immediate plans to sew it.

5. Be a better blogger

Be a better photographer might be a more apt goal here as I’m fine with the writing bits, it’s the making myself presentable and taking photos of my makes that I’ve struggled with. I have so many unblogged makes now. I’d like to stay on top of that a bit better this year. I should probably start by taking photos of my top 5 hits and misses like I threatened to in my Reflections post…

So those are my goals. They’re a bit less SMART and a bit more fluffy this year but I’m cool with that as I generally seem to fail the SMART ones. Have you made goals this year? Have you gone SMART or more general like me this year?

Top 5 of 2017: Reflections

It’s top 5 time! Woooo! I love lists so I always enjoy writing these posts and reading other people’s top 5 and round-up posts. I’m doing things slightly differently this year and starting with reflections because I’ve been such a terrible blogger this year I don’t have photos of my hits or misses. They’ll have to follow once I’ve taken some photos. I’ve taken a bit of pre-Christmas leave so I’m already off work (whoop!) and I’m planning to have a bumper photoshoot at some point. Though I have been struck down by the lurgy so who knows if I’ll actually make good on that particular plan.

Anyway, my reflections:

1. I’ve gotten good at pattern tetris

This hasn’t really helped my stashbusting as I can usually get patterns out of much less fabric and I always end up with left over fabric – sometimes usable and sometimes in the annoying middle ground of being too big to get rid of but too small to actually be useful. I enjoy the sport of trying to use as little fabric as possible though. Some layplans can be so wasteful and I really appreciate it when a designer has put a fabric saving layout. Kitschy Coo’s Lady Skater dress is a good one for that. I also find it really baffling when the fabric requirements say that you’ll need more fabric if your print is directional and then the layplan has all the pattern pieces facing the same way. But I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent there. Single layer cutting and pattern puzzles are my jam.

2. I still don’t know how to fit properly

I tried to make a fitted dress for Halloween and the whole fitting process just went so badly I abandoned the plan. I’ve definitely learned things about my preferred fit and some of my body’s quirks but I still feel really clueless about how to fit. It was one of my goals this year to become a wrinkle whisperer and I don’t think I’ve made any progress with that one. This is the aspect of sewing that makes me wish I had a sewing relative who could take me under their wing.

3. I over plan

I always have really long lists of things I want to make. Far more than I ever actually make and then I end up putting loads of pressure on myself to make all the things and feel disappointed in myself, or worse, guilty, when I don’t make them. Which is stupid because this is my hobby. I am under no obligation to make anything at all.

I just did a quick count and my summer sewing wishlist had 28 things on it. Autumn had 24. To put that into a little bit of perspective: I made 26 things in the whole of last year and the most items I’ve ever made in one month is 7. So the most garments I could make in a season is 21. And that would only be if I was neglecting everything else in my life or if they were all simple things, which a lot of items on those lists were not. So that’s something to work on next year.

4. I suck the fun out of challenges

This one is very much linked to the over planning one. I want to take part in all the challenges and I constantly add more and more things I want to make to my list and then it all becomes something I have to do instead of something I want to do. Which goes completely against what the organisers are intending and what the hobby is supposed to be about. I still want to take part in challenges but I need to try to be a bit more laid back about them and not heap unnecessary pressure on myself. I’m already working on this one and it’s why I’m not doing the Little Red Dress Project this year even though I would have liked to.

5. It’s okay to buy clothes

I bought two pairs of jeans this year and that’s fine. I would still like to make jeans but trying to fit and sew jeans as quickly as possible because you’ve torn your only pair that fit isn’t a great plan. So I bought two pairs. I don’t particularly like the fit on either of them though. Jeanuary anyone?

There we go, that’s some of the things I’ve learned about me and myself and my sewing this year. I’ve been giving a bit of thought to next year’s goals already and I’ll probably write that post next. I’m doing this all backwards! Hope you’re all well and I’ll be back soon.

Celebrating TnT patterns

This month is very much a month for celebrating our TnT patterns – that’s Tried ‘n’ True, if you’ve never heard it before. It’s the Sewcialist theme this month but the end of the month (25th November – 1st December) is also One Week, One Pattern – or OWOP if you will – hosted by the lovely Sheona from Sewisfaction. And as I don’t have any finished items to share due to lack of oomph to get photos I thought I’d break my blogging silence with a little post about my TnT patterns and plans.

My TnT Patterns

Dixie DIY Ballet dress

This is one of my favourite patterns and I’m a bit surprised that I’ve only made 3 dresses from it. I’ve also hacked a t-shirt from it and used bits of it a few different hacks – with more planned (and talked about later on in this post).

Ballet dress // One with a more flared skirt // One with a gathered skirt

 

Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardigan


This is my most made pattern and it only came out this year! I’ve made 5 of them – one long, two hip length and two cropped ones. I need to have a bumper photoshoot and actually write a post about them! It’s my ideal cardigan and I want one in every colour.

True Bias Southport dress

Southport // Southport-ish // Another Southport ish

I’ve used the Southport dress loads. I’ve only made the dress as is once, but I’ve also made two simplified versions, a tank top and used the skirt with other tops to make pattern lovechildren.

Southport tank // Newport dress // Simple Sew Lottie/Southport dress lovechild

Grainline Scout tee

Original Scout  // Latest Scout // Middle Scout // Scout hack

I wouldn’t say that I’ve got the fit down on the Scout yet but it’s one of my most made patterns so I thought it deserved a mention. I’ve made three standard versions and two hacked off-the-shoulder versions (only one of which I have a photo of). A Scoutport mashup with the Southport dress is probably on the cards at some point too. If only because I like the name.

New Look 6217


I love my New Look 6217s but I don’t think I’ve got the fit right yet. They’ve all seen better days so it’ll soon be time to revisit the pattern.

 

One Week One Pattern

I actually recently made a video sort of related to TnT patterns. When the Love to Sew podcast ladies asked for questions for their Q&A episode @shar_bozz asked them if they could only make three patterns for a year what would they choose and how would they change them to make them unique, seasonal, etc. I thought it was a really interesting question and I put my thinking cap on to choose three patterns.

So when I saw that OWOP was going to happen again this year I thought that I should probably put my money where my mouth, use one of the patterns I chose and do some of the hacks I talked about in my video. The patterns I chose were:

Dixie DIY Ballet dress

This was the most obvious choice for me. I just really like the way it fits me across the shoulders, which is no mean feat as that’s my tricky spot.

It’s such a simple dress it has the power to look entirely different with just a few tweaks. It’s basically a knit block/sloper. You can change the neckline, add a different skirt and even just changing the fabric will make it look different. A scuba will give you a totally different dress to a drapey viscose jersey.

The t-shirt I’ve made from it is one of the first things I reach for from the clean washing. and I’ve started work on some more garments using it. I’ve cut out a sort of swing dress and I’m hoping to make two of them if possible. I want to make a long sleeved t-shirt and a boat necked dress with a pleated skirt. Overambitious aims as always. I fancy trying to make a cardigan from it at some point too. And it was on my Make Nine plans to make the Seamwork Neenah dress as a top but I’ve been thinking that I might just pinch the collar piece and neckline shape and hack the ballet dress instead as I know I like how it fits.

Sew Over It Ultimate Shift dress

I hadn’t actually made this one when I picked it, I just chose it based on its versatility and hackability. I have made one now – out of flame print quilting cotton. There’s some fitting work to do before it becomes a TnT pattern for me but I’m fairly pleased with it. I had to add a dart from the armhole to the bust after it was sewn up but it’s quite well hidden in the busy print.

Even without any hacking you can make lots of different variations. I made a sleeveless dress but want to make some sleeved tops. I quite like the idea of adding some shirring to the waist of a viscose version too. Lisa Comfort’s pregnancy hack where she added a seam, pleat and tie is lovely too. I’ve thought about giving that a go myself, even though I’m not pregnant. You get the tutorial of how to make it included with the pattern now and I think that you can email them to ask for it if you already have the pattern.

I want to make a slightly more flared version, a bit like the Grainline Farrow dress, and I have thought about copying the pockets from the Farrow dress too. I did think that you could add a seam at the waist for an elastic channel and then slash and spread just the skirt part too. If you’re a flounce fan it’s a great pattern to jazz up with a flounce or a frill.

One of my friends has a really nice collarless coat that I think would be totally copiable using the shift dress as a base. It would just need to be sized up, seam allowance (the inspiration coat has an exposed zip) or overlap (for buttons) added to the centre front. The back also has a pleat that’s sewn down for a few inches so I’d cut it on the fold with a couple of inches added to the centre back. You could also use it to make a 60s style coat if you did buttons, added a peter pan collar and made it a bit more swingy – by rotating the dart out maybe.

Jeans

I don’t actually have a jeans TnT pattern yet so I cheated with this one and didn’t specify what pattern. I really want to work on finding a TnT jeans pattern though. If I didn’t have lots of other things to get done this month I should work my way through the six jeans patterns I now own. I have:

The Simplicity ones are probably the most promising because they have different pieces for different body types but I keep putting off tracing the pattern as I hate doing it so much. I would far rather tape a PDF sewing pattern together so I might go for one of the other patterns first.

There’s not much pattern hackery that I could think of for skinny jeans but jeans are something I’d struggle to live without. And they can look completely different in different fabrics. I did think that you could alter the pockets and give them more of a chino styling in a stretch twill. Once you’ve got the fit right in the hip/bum area I’m sure you could fiddle with the leg shape too for different looks. Turning them into flares by slashing and spreading the pattern at the knee is a nice easy one.

So there you have it. Those are my TnT patterns and patterns that I’d like to become TnT patterns. I’ll be back later on in the month to show you my Blackwood cardi collection after I’ve taken photos and I’ll report back on how OWOP goes. You can follow along on Instagram too.

Are you planning to join in with #sewcialiststnt or #OWOP? Are you a TnT pattern kinda person or more of a pattern butterfly?

Sew Over It Penny dress

sew over it penny dress

It was love at first sight when I first glimpsed the Sew Over It Penny dress in my inbox. She was the PDF club pattern in June and I snapped her up straight away. I even printed and assembled the pattern the very same day, which is not like me at all. Progress stalled while I waited for fabric to arrive and then I decided to use completely different fabric anyway. This fabric is quite different to what I normally go for but I really like it.

I got the manfriend to take these photos for me in the park behind the Town Hall 5 minutes from our house and I’m really pleased with them. I also tried to get some little videos to use on my YouTube channel and then some people walked past with their dog and I felt like a right dick. How fashion bloggers and YouTubers do it I don’t know.

Anyway, the dress! I’m a bit in love with it. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times I’m on a zip embargo so I’ve been trying to hunt down pretty and comfy zipless dresses, the Penny dress definitely sits nicely in that gap. I got lots of compliments when I wore it to work and I got to, “thanks, I made it!” to someone who didn’t know I sew, which is always fun.

penny dress

My version is accidentally a bit skimpy so don’t rush in and add length. It’s a midi skirt as drafted, which I don’t like on me. I just feel a bit swamped in fabric as I’m only 5’2″ so I shortened it before cutting it out. I was originally going to cut the length of the size 8 but then I measured it and thought that would still be a bit long so I took 2″ off. Then I tried it on once I’d made it and thought it was still slightly too long so I took about 2-3″ off when I levelled the hem and then regretted it. It’s hardly indecent but I think I’d like an extra inch or so.

I managed to get it out of much less fabric than the fabric requirements say (3.2m for my size) by ignoring the layplan and putting the pattern pieces around the skirt and cutting some pieces on a single layer. I got everything except the back bodice out of the same section of fabric as the skirt.

sew over it penny dress

The details

Pattern: Sew Over It Penny dress

PDF or Printed: PDF

How many pages: 40

A0 file included? Yes, 2 pages

Measurements: Bust: 39″ – Waist: 32″ – Hips: 41.5″

Size made: I chose to make a 12 – even though my measurements put me as a 14 – based on the finished measurements. The bust is the only important one in this dress and the 12 has the finished measurement of 41.5″ giving me 2.5″ of ease, which is plenty for my preferred fit.

Alterations: 

I shortened the skirt a lot, probably about 6″ in the end, which was a bit too much.

Fabric used: About 2.25m of 140cm wide viscose from Oh Sew Crafty

soi penny dress

Another version?

Yes definitely, I’ve already cut it out and started sewing it.

Any changes next time?

I’ve cut it the same length but I won’t shorten it as much, if at all, when I level the hem. I lengthened the centre front a little bit (3/4″), tapering to nothing at the side seams. The bodice waist seam is completely straight and I find that shaped ones work better on me.

Any tips or advice

Whenever I sew a collar I always trim the undercollar down a smidge (1/8″ at most) as it helps the seam roll to the underside of the collar.

There is an error on the skirt pattern piece, it tells you to cut out two on the fold, when you on only need to cut out one. This has been corrected.

There was a notch missing when I sewed Penny so I found point 12 in the instructions a tad confusing but the notch has been added now. To be honest though, I think the instructions could be a bit confusing even with the notch because they don’t make it that clear that the facing is also the button placket. You’re told to “Very neatly, understitch the facing to the seam allowance, 2-3mm away from the seam. Then, to create the button placket, fold the facing to the inside of the bodice at the centre front notch. Press in place.”  I wouldn’t call it understitching when it is going to show on the outside and I think a fold line on the pattern piece would be really helpful. I haven’t re-downloaded the pattern yet though so I don’t know if they’ve added a line or just a notch. (Edit: SOI have now written a blog post to clarify this step, it’s here. They still call it understitching though and I would definitely call it topstitching but I’m knitpicking.)

I also found it helpful to change the order of the steps. The instructions have you sew the bodice side seams quite early on and you stitch the back facing down as one of the last steps. I did all of the collar steps, then stitched the back facing down, then sewed the side seams last before moving onto the skirt. I have seen someone on Instagram suggest doing the buttonholes before putting the skirt on too. But I didn’t bother with buttonholes and just sewed the placket shut.

sew over it london penny dress

Non-clueless versions:

I haven’t seen a version I don’t like though, check out the Instagram hashtag #soipennydress for loads more beauties.

Final Thoughts

I’m really pleased with my Penny dress and I think it’s a lovely pattern but I think you’d want to have a couple of projects under your belt before tackling it.