Chat Chocolat's new 'Solid as a Rock' collection

My recent projects have all been the kind that have had to be kept under wraps, so I'm pleased to now be able to congratulate Chat Chocolat on the release of their latest fabric collection, 'Solid as a Rock', and show you my makes as a part of the launch! I'm a fairly regular pattern tester, but I've never had the opportunity to specifically test fabric before - it was a real luxury to be given the freedom to decide what to make with such lovely fabrics by designer Véronique!
My cosy Chat Chocolat makes
The collection is made up of a series of jersey and soft sweater knits in these amazing prints. I'm normally more of a block colour maker myself, but it's rare to come across such cool graphic prints - I couldn't resist trying them. If solid colour is more your bag, each print has a solid colour counterpart and matching ribbing - a nice touch! I already have a lot of 'wine' coloured clothes and accessories - this Ready to Sew Juliette faux leather skirt being just one of them - so the wine/pink/green colour palette was a natural fit for my wardrobe. (There's also a vivid blue/brown/orange colourway too).

Sample of the wine/green/pink colour palette
Despite Autumn/Winter being my favourite time of the year, I'm not a huge maker of jersey and sweater knit garments - I was even asked to test for the previous collection and didn't know what to make! It took the cusp of the changing season to help me see that I already had the perfect patterns in my stash: the Ready to Sew Jamie Cardigan and the Secondo Piano Basic InstincT t-shirt.

Fleecy underside of the sweater fabric
Good quality sweater fabric can be quite hard to come by, but the quality was obvious as I unpacked it. The sweater knit is thick and luxuriously soft, particularly the underside which has a fleecy feel to it. There's not a great deal of stretch to the fabric, making it really stable, and easy to both cut and sew with.
Ready to Sew Jamie
When I made my fabric selections, Véronique told me that they'd used the Jamie for some of their sample garments, so I knew it would make a good pairing with the fabric. I cut the longer version (View 1) to make full use of the cosy fabric and I opted for the size 38.

Back view
As with the other Ready to Sew patterns I've tried, I found the Jamie to be a smooth make with clear instructions. I was kindly provided with some of the matching plain sweater knit fabric for all of my hem bands and cuffs, which makes for quite a smart finish. The fabric was just right for the project, but I did find attaching the hem bands to be quite difficult due to the low amount of stretch. It's totally doable, but I'd probably gather all my edges in next time. I skipped the buttons as I'm quite happy with the finish as it is and can't see me wanting to fasten it.

The cuffs were particularly tricky as they're so narrow - regardless of the fabric stretch, there's no way I could have stretched them around the free arm of my machine - so I'd probably approach the construction in a different way next time. Perhaps joining them to the sleeve while flat, sewing the cuff/sleeve seam and then hand stitching the underside of the cuff in place would be an alternative.
Cuff close up!
I really like the finished garment, but would probably scale up the sizing in future to give it a more 'oversized' look. I'm definitely tempted by the cropped version too - this might actually go better with my current wardrobe as I wear a lot of high waisted bottoms - but this version definitely has the cosy-factor.
Basic InstincT t-shirt in Chat Chocolat jersey
Next up to test was the jersey fabric - also lovely to work with. I thought I couldn't sing the praises of the Basic Instinct Tee any more than I already have done here (and it's a free pattern!) but it's come out looking even more polished than I expected. The power of quality fabric! The green in the print also pops a lot more than I thought I would ever be comfortable with, but I really like it. 

(T)winning in Chat Chocolat
Wearing the two together is a fun, bold look, whilst still being pretty casual, but I also really like both as standalone garments too! The benefit of having a wardrobe made up of majority plain garments means that the odd bold patterned piece works with nearly everything, so I'm looking forward to getting both into rotation. I can see definitely see the Jamie becoming a warm staple for my cold workplace.

Thanks Véronique for inviting me to try such lovely fabrics. The 'Solid as a Rock' collection is released on 13th November. Chat Chocolat is based in Antwerp, but you can visit the website to find a stockist near you!

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Milan AV-JC zero waste Karma Trench

I can sense a definite shift in tone in the sewing world: growing awareness of sustainability and sustainable initiatives, and with that, a heightened consideration of sustainable means and methods of creating. I started #sewingleftovers with the idea of transforming potential sewing waste into something wearable, but what if there wasn't actually any waste in the first place? The future of zero waste patterns is looking very bright - and I'd argue insanely fashionable - if Milan AV-JC are anything to go by. I had the pleasure of taking my first venture into the world of zero waste patterns with their Karma Trench. The following review is pretty epic, but in short, wow. Just WOW.

Milan AV-JC zero waste Karma Trench
I was recently contacted by Mylène L'Orguilloux, the French designer and pattern maker behind Milan AV-JC, who is on a mission to raise awareness of the topic of textile waste. Having previously worked in the fashion industry, Mylène has now turned her attentions to developing zero waste patterns and promoting the advantages of #ZeroWasteDesign to both the fashion industry and us home sewists. Her journey, realisations and eventual rebellion against industry standard practice is a fascinating read, this perhaps being my favourite take away:

'Being able to see the "zero waste" constraint as a source of creativity is ... a sustainable and innovative answer to the environmental disaster caused by the ... the fashion industry.'

I jumped at the chance to test Mylene's zero waste design philosophy in the form of her latest pattern, the Karma Trench. Whilst I pride myself on being able to see beyond the cover of a Big 4 envelope, I'm still a total sucker for great styling and fabric choices, so if you're not sold on the concept alone, let the beautiful Milan AV-JC sample garments and photography reel you in. There are currently 4 PDFs to choose from, available in both French and English.

Innovative ways of using every last scrap of fabric
I opted to print the A4 PDF, though the pattern comes with an A0 file if you'd rather get it copy-printed. The tiled pages essentially form a jigsaw of all the pattern pieces you need to make the trench and cover the width of the fabric, with just a little to spare down the side. Fears of blunting my fabric scissors from cutting through the paper quickly subsided, as the process was so fast! I was impressed with the creative use of every last bit of fabric within the pattern, from belt loops nestled into the armholes, to the little detail of a label holder buried in the back neckline.

The pattern has been developed with suede/faux suede in mind, specifically the variety that does not fray. I love the fabric used in the sample garments, which is linked in the fabric requirements, but I couldn't find a UK supplier of this or something similar. I settled on the 225g faux suede in 'terracotta' from Fabric Online. It's a seriously good imitation of the real thing and only £6.95p/m - there are loads of colours to choose from and I'd definitely buy it again - but it frayed a lot more than I'd hoped, which wasn't ideal, and led me to doing some tweaks that I'll talk about later.

Showing off the epic sleeve proportions
The skill level for making the trench is listed as 'easy' and it really is. The instructions are all contained within a high quality 15 and a half minute YouTube tutorial, which you can watch before buying the pattern if you want to assess the skills involved. I've never worked solely from a video tutorial before but I really enjoyed the experience of actually seeing how elements of the pattern come together before doing it myself.

The most unusual patch pockets

The pockets are made up of 4 rectangles of fabric and the tutorial encourages creativity in how you fold them to create the final design. I couldn't help but feel that mine were a little clunky when I made them, but they started to look better on the whole once the garment came together. I also thought they sat a bit low initially, but when the trench is belted up, they're just right.

The rest of the garment comes together very quickly, particularly as there are no seams or edges to finish. I came to realise that my fabric was going to fray way more than practical or 'trendy' and I wasn't so keen on the wrong side, which was exposed by the large lapels (the fabric used in the sample garments seems to be double-sided). Ironically, I actually had a good amount of leftover fabric as I had to purchase it in full metre units, rather than being able to buy the specified minimum length of 204cm required for the size 38.

Flashing my facings
The label holder taking pride of place on my added facing
I used this spare fabric to draft a simple facing for the back neckline and front opening of the trench, with quite a generous allowance for the lapels. I also created facings for the sleeves as I couldn't risk spoiling the amazing shape of them with a dodgy hem - they extend to the seam mid-way up the sleeve, where they're tacked in place. The curved hem probably suffered the most in my experiments in using non-suitable fabric. I overlocked it and turned it up to a narrow hem, which has left it looking a little flute-y, but I'd say that the overall damage-control has been a pretty good save.

Back view
Whilst it might defeat the point of a zero waste pattern to buy extra fabric, if you can't find a non-fraying fabric then making these adjustments would definitely be an option - it's improved the overall finish of my Karma Trench no end. In other fabric options, I'd be interested to see how this works in a medium weight boiled wool, similar to the Maker's Atelier Raw-edged Coat.

If you can't already tell from the sheer volume of pictures in this review, I absolutely love the finished thing. The sleeves are way more voluminous than I expected, but with the triangular point on the bottom, they just sort of work! I feel bold and fashion forward in my Karma Trench, and even better knowing that some of it's coolest and most unusual design features - the sleeves, the pockets - were formed as a direct result of working with all of the fabric. I'd definitely recommend the pattern to anyone looking to try something a bit different, in terms of both method and design!

Zero waste win!
Thank you Mylène for letting me try this pattern and totally new kind of making experience. Is zero waste pattern design the future? I'm not sure, but I'm definitely open to trying more patterns like this, and I do hope that pattern companies will at least begin to adopt a 'reduced waste' focus, providing more creative lay plans and more precise fabric requirements.

These projects being zero waste are to some extent dependent on being able to buy fabric in very specific lengths, as I found with my Trench. The only online fabric shop I'm currently aware of that lets you do this is Stoff & Stil, but if you have any other recommendations for my future zero waste adventures, please leave them in the comments below!

You can read more about the Milan AV-JC project here

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Stoff & Stil Leopard Print Wrap Skirt

In quick succession to the last, here's another flounce-y midi skirt, but this one's arguably (just a bit) more dramatic. Whilst I spoke about sewing the trends on Stitchers Brew, actually seeking out the trends isn't something I often consciously do, but this one was hard to get away from. Leopard print has infiltrated my Instagram feed, my mailing lists and my day to day. I've noticed a lot of fashion bloggers parading (probably expensive) leopard print skirts, not too dissimilar to this Whistles one for £99. I'm left feeling quite smug that I've been able to recreate the look for less than £25!

Stoff & Stil Leopard Print Wrap Skirt
The Whistles version!

Both the pattern and fabric are from Stoff & Stil. Handily, they can be bought together as a 'kit', containing all materials needed to make the skirt, even better though, you can pick and choose which bits of the kit you need - I already had the thread, buttons and interfacing, so removed these from the basket. What I like about Stoff & Stil is that you can buy very specific lengths of fabric, and choosing my pattern size auto calculated the amount of fabric I required (size 10 = 2.15m), so there was also minimal fabric waste or leftovers.

Stoff & Stil kit
Close up of the unusual pattern pieces!
The pattern is only available individually sized, which I know isn't good for everyone, but the HUGE bonus in this case is that the pattern pieces came pre-cut! The pieces are made out of a material that is closer to a non-fusible interfacing than tissue or paper, meaning they're really quite durable and easier to work with. There are no markings on the actual pieces - the notches are marked with triangular cut-outs and little circular holes punched for the dart tip - so you do have to carefully consult the pattern lay plan to work out which one's which.

The instructions are basic but functional, and apart from cutting it the wrong way round (so my skirt wraps the opposite way to what's intended) it was a really straightforward make. The steps don't really expand upon on ways to carry out a task, i.e. the best way to hem, but I think this gives the maker more opportunity to think about and apply their own preferred methods. It's worth pointing out that the instructions are provided in multiple languages too.

I love a good crepe and this one feels particularly luxurious in it's drape and movement - particularly when walking at pace! I'd definitely recommend this or at least a similar fabric, as it pressed and held it's shape well during the masses of hemming for those circular flounce pieces.

Back view
In terms of fit, the skirt turned out very true to size, but as the wrap is quite generous, there is a bit of wiggle room dependent on how tightly it's fastened (I'm also going to add an extra button on the inside of mine for 'post-meal' comfort haha). In the past, I've worn wrap skirts that are totally inappropriate for any kind of weather or walking, but taking these pictures definitely put it to the test - the coverage is great! And I guess it's ended up a lot longer than I thought it would be - I'm a pretty average 5ft 6" - but I'm really into the bold look!

Gale force winds = added glamour in this case!
Overall it makes for a really polished statement skirt, at least in this fabric anyway! I'm encouraged by my first experience with a Stoff & Stil pattern and I'd definitely make it again, maybe in a slightly toned down black crepe for more everyday wear.Whether leopard print stays on trend or not, I can see me wearing this for many years to come!

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DP Studio Le 411 Skirt

When you say DP Studio, 'easy to make' isn't a phrase that usually comes to mind. But after spending more time than necessary building myself up to making the Le411, I was pleasantly surprised at how straightforward it was to sew in comparison to my last DP make (this coat) - and no mean feat considering I relied on Google to translate the instructions from French! Whilst some of their patterns are almost too fashion forward, this is one garment that totally hits the mark in terms of cool yet completely wearable.

DP Studio Le411 
The pattern sits alongside a collection by DP Studio in a special 'couture' edition of French magazine Modes et Travaux. From what I can understand, they seem to be working with different French pattern companies to release special issues, each with a collection of patterns from that designer (French speakers correct me if I'm wrong)! I was pretty thrilled to be sent my copy as a prize from DP Studio. I'm not sure if it's still available anywhere, but at the point of writing, you can still buy the I AM PATTERNS and Wear Lemonade editions online. There are some amazing designs in the DP issue (see below) so I'd definitely recommend it if you can find a copy!

Le411 Skirt pattern

Though some of the patterns look quite complex, overall the written instructions seem more thorough than what is usual for DP. As a fairly simple design, I found the illustrations alone explained most of what I needed to know for this skirt.

I cut a size 40 which was spot on for my measurements, though it's worth noting that this particular pattern had a very small seam allowance - just 0.7cm - so no wiggle room whatsoever with sizing. Some of the other patterns in the magazine had larger seam allowances, which is quite confusing, but  each is stated clearly, and well, at least they're included!

Back view
I visited the Manchester Abakhan armed with a list of specific fabric requirements and this project was on it. The skirt only requires 1.55m so it was easy to find a large enough crepe/viscose in the remnant bin - this one has a very subtle stripe and texture to it which I quite like. Inspired by the magazine sample garment, I bought enough of the black sheer sparkly fabric to double layer with the crepe, but chickened out - partly because I'm not too confident at working with sheer fabric and partly because I thought it would take it way past the point of everyday wearable.

That flounce!

I settled on layering the sheer fabric over the crepe for the ruffle alone. I haven't done much circle-based construction in my sewing before, but it was interesting to see the almost full circle ruffle come to fit with the curved edge of the main skirt - the volume is amazing. I would have quite liked to finish both layers of fabric separately for more movement, but I wasn't sure of the best approach for hemming the sheer fabric - how would you everyone else do this? - so I treated them as one. I overlocked the bottom edges together, and painstakingly hand sewed the whole hem for the neatest finish - it took hours but was quite a satisfying job in all.

I immediately loved this skirt from first try on, and I know it's going to be the perfect wear-all-winter garment. I'll definitely make the Le411 again at some point, and I have some lilac viscose/crepe that would be perfect for a second, I'd just need to figure out how to line it too. I'm encouraged to try more projects from the magazine  - there's an amazing ruffled turtleneck - and would consider buying the others editions too as they're definitely great value for money!

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Sewing Leftovers: Basic Instinct T- Shirt and update

I never thought I could have so much to say about a t-shirt pattern. In fact, I never thought I'd be here writing about making a t-shirt, because I've never had a great deal of room for basics in my sewing or my wardrobe. The Secondo Piano Basic InstincT t-shirt might just be the perfect basic that everyone should have in their life, and considering the pattern is both FREE and a total Sewing Leftovers win, there's little reason not to! Proof that leftovers don't always have to be patch-worked or mindbending-ly jigsawed together to make something new. The simplest makes can be a great way to showcase (and practice) your skills, as I've found with my Basic Instinct Tee.

Basic InstincT in leftovers!
Worn with Lander Pants and favourite accessories
Fabric: Cotton-viscose mix jersey from the B&M Fabrics shop on the side of Leeds Kirkgate Market

Original garment made: Simplicity 8609 crop top (view B)

Leftover fabric amount: 1m. I had originally bought a larger amount of the fabric and it was earmarked for a turtleneck, but chose to make the crop top instead.

Sewing Leftovers make: Sasha of Secondo Piano's Basic InstincT T-Shirt (a free pattern in exchange for signing up to Sasha's blog)

Leftovers-wise what did I learn?: Sometimes you create your own leftovers, as I did in this case by changing my mind with the original make. I made the crop top without really giving the leftovers much thought at the time and while I'm glad I managed to squeeze a Basic Instinct Tee out of them, it could have been pretty wasteful if I couldn't. It has made me think a bit more about effective use, planning and reallocation of fabric.

About the make:

For those of you who prefer your tops untucked, it's a great length!
This is a seriously good pattern. It offers plenty of advice and guidance for anyone who isn't so confident with knits, whilst giving the option to step it up, with instructions on how to make adjustments to achieve the perfect stripe match. The stripe-match hack is something I've never seen before with other patterns and I'm really curious to give it a go - will report back!

The pattern requirements state that you need 1.1 - 1.3m of 150cm wide fabric, but I definitely squeezed mine out of much less. I've since made a second version using 1m of newly purchased fabric, which was just fine! I made a medium and like the relaxed but not oversized fit - the shoulder width is ideal - but if you wanted a more snug fit I'd recommend downsizing. 

Neckline detail
With t-shirts I've made in the past (the main culprit being the Kyoto Tee) I've found a lot of necklines sit too wide, or that neckbands can stick up. The neckline of the Basic Instinct is perfect in fit and depth. The accompanying illustrations show the twin needle topstitching running either side of the seam where the neckband meets the t-shirt. It might just be me, but I always thought both lines of topstitching were meant to run below the seam. I'm so glad my eyes have been opened to this much better/more professional way to finish a neckband!

As well as being good for leftovers, I can see it as the perfect quick-to-make basic that will give other handmade pieces a bit of a lift. I'm planning another few in a range of colours (pale pink, black, brown or rust) to throw into circulation - a rust one would definitely encourage me to wear these orange cords more often! It's rare to find such good jersey, so I went back to B&M and already bought a metre each of pale pink and black - they had loads of good colours in at £8p/m, so those of you coming to Sew Up North, get ready!

And a little #sewingleftovers update...

I've been quite quiet on the Sewing Leftovers front myself, but only because I've been adopting more of the 'make your stash' approach, as encouraged by Pilar and Kate. I think both challenges/initiatives sit so well together in working towards more thoughtful sewing/purchases. Out of my more recent makes, the Honeycomb Dress, vintage pattern lilac trousers and M7661 culottes were all made using fabric that I'd been storing for some time. I've reduced my stash, made some garments I really love and as a bonus, I've saved money too!

Not far from 1000 tags! :)
We're not far off reaching 1000 posts shared using #sewingleftovers now, which is just phenomenal. There's everything from patchwork and pocket linings, to full on garments, fashion forward accessories and even fashion for cats(!!) on there! Thank you everyone for joining in - I hope other makers are noticing the similar positive impact it can have on their sewing, shopping and wardrobe cohesion! 

I'll do another round up soon, but in the meantime, you can see the last one here and browse the hashtag for inspiration!

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