Just Patterns Linda Wrap Dress (turned jacket)!

I went to the wedding of one of my oldest friends this weekend and naturally, I cut it fine finishing my handmade outfit. With just a week to go, I set my heart on wearing the beautiful Linda Wrap Dress by Just Patterns, which I was testing for their Pattern Development Group. I turned it into one of those 'all or nothing' situations, so when the dress didn't quite turn out as I'd planned, I performed the ultimate sewing salvage and transformed it from wrap dress to dress-coat!
Just Patterns Linda Wrap Dress worn as a jacket
I've had my eye on Just Patterns for a while and the Linda Wrap Dress was the main reason I put myself forward to be in the Pattern Development Group. I particularly loved the angled collar and wrap-style/belt fastening and was really keen to make it. It's worth noting that whilst I was sent a copy for free to test, the feedback I provided and this blog post are both pretty honest about some of the difficulties I had!
Linda Wrap Dress line drawings
I used a mid-weight khaki peachskin-type which was only £4p/m from Lucky Fashions in Dewsbury. It has a really nice drape but is still weighty enough for the quite 'tailored' details of the dress. I cut a size 42 based on my bust and waist measurements in the size chart. The dress is intended to be fairly loose fitting and as it has a wrap fastening, I thought I'd have a bit of flexibility with sizing, but in hindsight, I should've probably worked more from the finished garment measurements.

My Linda Wrap COAT
When it came to making, I was initially intimidated by how minimal the instructions are - there are no illustrations, just an order of construction - but this turned out to be good in a way and really pushed me to think for myself and put my skills into practice. Luckily there's a resource page on the Just Patterns website, which signposts useful tutorials for parts of the construction. I relied heavily on some of these tutorials, particularly for instructions like 'construct the sleeve plackets' (which I would've found absolutely terrifying otherwise)! It was actually a really good way to learn new techniques and discover new blogs and tutorials in the process!

Super proud of these sleeve plackets!
I loved adding the little details to my Linda Dress. There is A LOT of topstitching to do and I used some bright buttons from Textile Garden (the same as the ones on my Ready to Sew Jane) to add a pop of colour and draw the eye to the sleeve detailing too - I'm so unbelievably proud of those sleeve plackets! The overall finish is really professional, particularly if you follow the instructions to French seam pretty much any visible seam - I skipped this as an overlocked edge is fine by me.

A flash of the bias bound inside bodice edge
Attaching the skirt and bodice to the belt requires a little bit of concentration to make sure you match the right notches, but everything else was fairly straight forward. By the time it came to adding the belt fastening I'd tried it on and realised that it wouldn't be wearable as a dress (I had planned to add a D ring fastening). Unfortunately the dress turned out pretty huge all over, but particularly in the bodice and I could pinch a good 4-5" out of the waist. It's worth noting that a few of the testers had problems with sizing and this is something that Just Patterns are addressing.

Worn as a dress...
It's a little hard to tell from pictures alone (sorry for the clutter!) but the shoulders are off and the front gapes with any movement. There's a limit to how far over you can tie the belt because of the gathered detail around the waistband and the pocket on the side, so the fit wasn't as flexible as I had first thought. It was just starting to look like a real shame to waste all the hard work I'd put into the make, when my boyfriend commented that he thought it was meant to be a coat all along.

Ready to Sew Jazz Jumpsuit
When worn open it totally worked in an over-sized, COS-like, over-coat fashion. With 2 more days until the wedding, I didn't have many options other than to run with it anyway! So what to wear it with?! I made this Ready to Sew Jazz Jumpsuit in black crepe straight after making my first version and it has yet to appear on the blog. I have nothing but praise for this pattern and it works so perfectly in a slightly heavier, drapey fabric. I probably wouldn't have worn either garment without the other as they're both quite plain, but paired together I totally felt like it was leaning towards the minimal/cool look. I also wore my go-to snakeskin heels from M&S with a Whistles clutch for a bit of colour.

Jazz Jumpsuit
I didn't have to make any changes to the dress-turned-jacket other than omitting the fastening. I kept the belt tie, though I'm wondering whether I should cut it off and stitch the edge up so it's level or add another sort of fastening. I'm still undecided so suggestions are very much welcome!

Back view
Behind the scenes assistance from my friend Alex!
So all in all everything turned out great! And the whole thing (jacket and jumpsuit) cost no more than £25. I have to say that I'm soooo so pleased with the Linda Wrap Dress (jacket), even if my testing did go slightly off piste. I'll absolutely be making up another version in the future, but will be sure to double check the finished garment measurements and down size first. If you're feeling like a fun challenge and maybe learning some new techniques along the way then I'd definitely recommend giving it a go! You can get a copy of the pattern here.

Thank you Chris for taking pictures xx
A lot of the testers made some perfect Linda Wrap Dresses (that they actually wore as dresses) so be sure to check out #lindawrapdress for the real deal!

Wedding gang!
I still can't quite believe I pulled it off (well I think I just about did...). It really does feel like the ultimate sewing save. Has anyone else got a great sewing salvage story?

Stay in touch!

Afternoon Fern Shorts

Have you come across Afternoon yet? They're an indie pattern label based in Cape Town, offering patterns in both PDF and printed formats. I had the lovely task of testing their latest release, the Fern Shorts, and I'm pretty pleased with the finished garment:

My Afternoon Fern Shorts
The PDF version of the pattern is only 18 pages long when printing in A4, so there's really not much cutting and sticking to do - though if PDFs really aren't your bag, you can order a printed version. The instruction booklet is beautifully designed which is great if, like me, you're the sort of person who likes to display your favourite printed patterns! The fab level of design extends beyond the cover too - the instructions are well laid out and the illustrations are some of the clearest I've seen.

Afternoon Fern Shorts
I cut a size D from the A-F size chart (UK 6 - 16/US 2 - 12 equivilent) which was an exact match for my waist measurement. I could have sized down by 2 sizes on the hips, but chose not to as I wanted them to be loose and retain a bit of volume in the legs to balance out from my waist measurement. I used a mid-weight cotton - the closest thing I can liken it to is a sort of brushed cotton - as I had plenty left over from making these B6178 culottes. The culottes would probably work better in something lighter with more movement, but it holds the shape of the Fern Shorts really well.

Directing take a picture from 'here to here', not doing a 'taa-daah'
It was a really straightforward sew that would suit anyone from an advanced/adventurous beginner to someone who has been sewing for years. I personally found the pockets the hardest to set in, but this might just be because it was my first sew for a month and I was feeling a little rusty. It would have been nice to have a few more pattern markings to help with this step and this is something that I fed back (*note: as a tester, the pattern I worked from wasn't the final version, so it will be the new and improved version that's released for sale). I topstitched my pocket opening for a neater finish - a bit like the pocket openings on the Joanne Culottes - just because I really love topstitching.

Pocket and side zip details
The shorts fasten with a concealed zip at the right side. I'm the sort of person who would usually avoid garments with a side zip for fear of it being more difficult, when the method is actually exactly the same as normal - does anyone else make up unnecessary sewing fears? It makes for a much neater finish to have the zip tucked away and concealed by a side seam and it was actually really easy to do!


As a note, I needed to use a loop turner for the belt loops and the tie. The tie is really long and I'm not sure I would've had the patience for the safety pin method. It's actually a bit skinnier than I thought it would be, so in future, I'll probably take a smaller seam allowance to make it a bit wider.

Back view
One big thing I learnt from making the Fern Shorts is how to do proper turn ups - finally! I can't tell you how long I laboured away on unsuccessful turn ups for these vintage pattern trousers before giving up. The only thing I need to do with my Fern turn ups is to pop a couple of stitches in the centre back to hold them in place, as you might be able to see from the back image.

Finished Ferns!
I'm not a usual shorts wearer an I haven't worn them since my 'vintage kilo sale' phase at uni - ill fitting cut-off Wranglers and tights anyone? - but the style of the Fern Shorts has totally changed my mind. There's something about the wide legs and turn ups that make them seem cooler and a bit more 'grown up'. I love Fern's shaping, particularly around the waistband through to the pockets, and I'll definitely be using them as the base for a culotte/wide leg trouser hack in the near future. 


Thanks Jen for letting me test the Fern Shorts. I can definitely recommend the pattern and I wore mine all bank holiday weekend as we actually got some sun! I'd love to say that I'll be making many more pairs straight away, but unfortunately the UK weather probably won't be up to it - next summer though! 

One of the outtakes - thanks Chris for taking pictures and making me laugh
The Fern Shorts are available to buy now here. Also keep your eye on the Afternoon blog for the Fern sew-along - previous sew-alongs have been super thorough, so it's definitely something to look out for if you need a bit of help along the way or are learning new sewing skills!

Now what fabric should I choose for my Fern-culotte hack?

Stay in touch!


Tokyo's Textile Highlights!

Hi all! I had an amazing afternoon of fabric shopping in Tokyo on our recent trip to Japan. To round off a series of posts about handmade in Japan, I thought that my fellow dressmakers might like to see a couple of my Tokyo textile highlights, including my modest but much loved fabric haul from fabric super store Tomato!

In textile town!
Where?

Tomato can be found in Nippori, which is also known as Textile Town (my kind of place)! I'd done a bit of research prior to travelling out there as I didn't want to bore my fellow non-fabric-loving travellers with hours of trawling, and I'd heard Tomato was 'THE ONE'. Well there are actually 3 Tomato stores (as well as many other fabric shops) on the same road. One seemed to specialise in curtain/upholstery fabric, one looked like the 'bargain' shop, but the best of them all had (I think) 6 floors of AMAZING choice and that's where my haul came from.

Tomato haul!

What to buy?

It was so hard to pick the right balance of fabrics that are both unusual or hard to find in the UK, but would still make into wearable garments for the climate back at home. I went with some loose projects in mind, but that all went out of the window when I saw how much there was to choose from.

Browsing the Nani Iro
I'm sure many of you would have loved the fabulous selection of Nani Iro fabrics that you can see me browsing here. And I'm sure many of you will think I'm absolutely crazy for bypassing the lot! It was hard to not be inspired by the soft and breathable cottons used for many of the chicest Japanese summer garments. In fact, I loved making this Ralph Pink Sahara Shirt in Atelier Brunette double gauze just before going on holiday, but we don't get much 30 degree+ heat at home, which for me, is what it seems most suited to.

Browsing but not buying!
The jersey floor had the widest colour selection I've ever seen. I always find that good quality jersey in the best colours is quite hard to come by at home, but I would've been there all day trying to pick, so I gave it a miss, more for the sake of my wonderfully patient boyfriend who was waiting for me outside.  

Cost

It's probably worth noting that none of the fabric on offer was particularly cheap. Each of the fabrics I bought cost on average around 1,500 Yen p/m which worked out at about £10 p/m with the exchange rate at the time I was there. On the plus side, the choice and quality well exceeded anything I've ever seen at home, plus I'd budgeted a huge chunk of holiday money for fabric, so I'd say it was entirely worth it! It's also worth noting that the Nani Iro did work out much cheaper to buy in Japan than it would at home!

What did I buy?

My selection!
With no real projects in mind at the time of buying these four fabrics, I went for a stab in the dark 2 metres of each (which I'm sure I'll live to regret when I find the perfect pattern requires 2.5m...). Here's a closer look:



This textured crepe is one of the most vibrant mustards I've ever seen, and I love mustard. It's a mid weight and is destined for a Ready to Sew Jane Shirt with Jazz Jumpsuit sleeves (see the Ready to Sew blog for pattern updates that make the mash up possible)!


I have absolutely no idea what to make with this swirly print poly. I'd expected to see more geometric-style prints, but this one was shelved with the more traditional oriental prints and seemed to bridge a bit of a gap between the two for me. It's mid weight with an amazing drape - suggestions welcome!



I very rarely wear white, and this might seem a really boring purchase to some, but I promise this mid/heavy weight cotton has the most amazing texture! On the day I bought this, I saw a Japanese woman wearing the perfect oversized white shirt, open and layered like a jacket, and it was made from something similar. I'm desperate to make my own version and on the look out of an oversized shirt pattern - I'm thinking something like the Simplicity 8340, but again, any recommendations are welcome!



And finally, this beautifully vibrant oriental-print poly, which I love deeply, but it was always destined to be a gift for my mum who has just started sewing (hi mum)! I think it would make a great True Bias Sutton Blouse, but the choice is all hers :)

And in other textile highlights...

As I've mentioned a couple of times, the fashions over in Japan were so inspiring. Nearly everyone is impeccably dressed and looks chic at all times, in all weathers. I caught a few candid snaps in the Instagram post below, but the level of style really has to be seen to be believed.

A post shared by Shauni S (@shaunimagnifique) on

Finally, I absolutely loved that the (GIANT) Muji in Shibuya had an in-house 'customize studio' where you can personalise the things you buy with embroidery, printing or engraving. I was desperate to try it for the novelty, so I got my name and a lucky cat embroidered on a mini tote and I'm pretty thrilled with it! If only we had one of these at home. (Errr maybe I should be looking at upgrading my machine big time for embroidery purposes...)


I'm sure my textile experiences in Tokyo are only just touching the very surface, but I wanted to show you what I got up to! I'm sure we'll be returning to Tokyo at some point so if you have your own highlights then I'd love to hear them!

Stay in touch!

Atelier Brunette Ralph Pink Sahara Shirt

Hi all! Here's the second in a series of posts about my handmade holiday wardrobe and fabric finds in Tokyo. My first Ralph Pink Sahara Shirt is one of the best and most professional looking garments I've ever sewn up and it still gets nice comments from people when I wear it - how did it take me this long to make another? This second version is definitely more geared towards summer, and made up in a soft double gauze, it feels particularly luxe.

Ralph Pink Sahara Shirt in Kamakura, Japan. Shoes: Kin by John Lewis; Hat: H&M
Like my ruffle hem Nita Wrap Skirt, this one was another last minute warm-weather-friendly make that I only finished the day before we headed off to Japan. The inspiration came from the Kin by John Lewis range. I'm rarely tempted by shop bought clothes anymore, but I find myself drawn the the brand every time I pass it on the way up to the haberdashery section in the Leeds store (I couldn't help myself with the silver Kin sandals). It took me a surprisingly long time to realise that the styles I liked the best were pretty much the same silhouette as the Sahara Shirt.

Kin by John Lewis shirts - particularly love the Laura Slater print one on the left!
My fabric choice was a beautiful Atelier Brunette double gauze from Cotton Reel Studio - purchased with a voucher I won on the Sew Up North raffle. The sewing community's love for Atelier Brunette is evident by just scrolling Instagram. I'm not usually one to jump on the designer fabric bandwagon, but I just couldn't resist this abstract brush stroke print - very Kin, no? I wish it were easier to find abstract prints like this - tips most welcome!

My finished Sahara Shirt, in Atelier Brunette
I've never sewn in double gauze before. In fact I usually avoid cottons altogether, so it just shows how much I loved the print. I'd originally hoped to make another Jazz Jumpsuit using it, but when the fabric arrived I realised it was a little too lightweight and see-through for that.

On the beach in Kamakura
After rethinking things, the Sahara Shirt seemed like a natural pattern to choose for such a special fabric. It's a pattern I'm familiar with and I've been missing wearing my first version as it's a bit too heavy for summer. The double gauze really did feel as luxurious as it's designer price tag suggested it might - so soft, it's lovely to both wear and work with.

Details in Atelier Brunette Graphic Blue Fabric
The only thing that differed in my construction of this version was including the collar (last time's was collarless). It felt necessary in this fabric and I also wanted the option to wear it open as a kimono-like cover up.

Collar and placket details

With just a day to go before my holiday, I managed to find the perfect buttons - I couldn't believe my luck! Textile Garden my usual go-to place for buttons, but with such limited time, I had to do a bit of a dash round town. I picked up these little matching blue ones from the bargain box at John Lewis - just 60p for a card of 5 and exactly the right colour.

Perfect match buttons!
The only problem I had was trying to make the very top button hole on the collar. My machine just couldn't manage it because of the bulk so I skipped it rather than risking spoiling a lovely finished garment. Has anyone got any tips for top button struggles?

The classic 'look how big it is' pose
I love my summer Sahara and it made for great holiday wear in Japan. I saw a lot of locals wearing double gauze and over sized shirts in the humid weather and I left inspired to make more! I picked up an amazing heavy textured white cotton while there and the plan is to make it up as an oversized long sleeved shirt that's a bit more climate-appropriate for home. The challenge with this Sahara Shirt is getting wear out of it now I'm back in the UK. Let's see if I can transition it into my Autumn/Winter wardrobe...

Stay in touch!

Nita Wrap Skirt hack

Hi all! If you follow me on Instagram, you're probably already aware of the reason for my recent radio silence over here. I've just got back from my travels to Japan, where I had the most amazing time and managed to make it to Tokyo's infamous Nippori 'Textile Town' district for the most overwhelming fabric shop of all time (more on that soon). In a pre-trip panic over (extremely) warm-weather-appropriate clothes, I managed to stitch up a few new garments that I'll be sharing over the next couple of posts. First up, here's a Sew DIY Nita Wrap Skirt hack.
Nita in Nara
I've made the Nita Wrap Skirt a number of times (first up as a pattern tester) and I've always found it an easy pattern to get a bit experimental with - see previous attempts in denim and pleather. The inspiration for this gingham ruffle hack came from a couple of fab skirts by Jess and Daisy, as well as a strong and continuing high street trend for gingham garments.
Inspiration from DIY Daisy (L) and Jess Sews Clothes (R)
It's not often that I sew with straight cotton as a serious fan of the drape, but I thought this light-ish weight gingham would work for both the skirt and the high temperatures in Japan, plus it was a bargain at just £2.99 p/m from Samuel Taylors in Leeds. The fabric holds the gathered ruffle perfectly, so I'd be tempted to do a repeat of the hack in a similar fabric.
Aptly worn with a Kyoto Tee, in Kyoto
Ruffle hem close up
I made view B, shaking up the order of construction a little to make room for the addition of the ruffle hem. This meant sewing the darts and side seams of the skirt up first, but joining the ruffle before finishing the front edges. The ruffle was cut at 20cm deep, and each piece (2 for the left/right front skirt and 1 for the back) measured 1.5x longer than the skirt piece it was being gathered in to. I stitched the pieces together and hemmed the bottom and sides before gathering the raw edge in to fit the skirt, matching at the side seams and the notch where the front pieces are folded in to finish the wrap edges. Hope that all made sense, but of course, do let me know in the comments if I can make it clearer!
In Nara in the rain
How much leg is too much..?
I love that the depth of the ruffle makes the skirt midi-length. I hadn't originally intended for it to be this long, but I feel like it offers that extra bit of modesty to make up for the inevitable amount of leg flashing you get when sitting down in a wrap skirt (I'm sure you guys know what I mean)!

Looking a little tentative here...
I used the tie fastening option rather than D-rings, so not to weigh the fabric down. I found that this worked really well, though when we visited Nara whilst in Japan, the savvy deer worked out the fastening (or unfastening) of the skirt quicker than I could unwrap the crackers that we'd bought for them. Thank god I bothered to add the inside snap fastening to this Nita! (See candid deer feeding shots below for more skirt, but really just for more LOLs).

'Give me those crackers or the skirt gets it'!
Thanks Chris for capturing some of my finer moments in Nara.
The deer might not like it, but I love this version of the Nita Skirt. I'm hoping to be able to transition it through to autumn/general British weather with tights and a Papercut Patterns Fall Turtleneck! I'd love to try a slightly asymmetric hem like Daisy's above, or maybe a ruffle along the front diagonal edge - maybe another one of these is on the cards!

Stay in touch!

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