Ready to Sew Juliette Skirt

Hello all! I'm excited to show and tell you about the fab experience I had sewing up the new Juliette Skirt ahead of it's launch as a part of Ready to Sew's latest collection of patterns! I've pattern-tested for RaphaĆ«lle on a number of occasions and her patterns never disappoint. It's up against some stiff competition, but I think that Juliette, a high waisted, A-line mini skirt, perfectly suited to leather or faux leather/suede, might just be my favourite Ready to Sew make yet!
My finished Ready to Sew Juliette!
As with the previous Ready to Sew patterns I've made, the PDF pattern is layered, so you can select only your size or sizes before printing, and the instructions offer a playlist and click through tutorials to provide extra help for some of the trickier techniques. This pattern is marked as intermediate level, but if you're confident enough to try out a fair bit of topstitching then I'm sure it would be really manageable for an advanced beginner, particularly in a 'friendlier' fabric such as denim or cotton drill. 

Juliette line drawings
Snow/sew day-ing
A new and exciting option for Juliette is that the pattern offers half sizes! The half sizes go up in 2cm increments, making it so much easier to get the right fit. My waist measurement perfectly matched the size 39 (ordinarily I would've just sized up rather than have the confidence to make alterations) so I went with this.

Side shot
Check that pleather/boot match!
The pattern offers two suggested lay plans - one using only one fabric, and the other for a colour blocked version. I found this amazing deep red faux leather (that couldn't be a better match for my new ankle boots) in Samuel Taylors in Leeds. It's medium-heavy weight and has a really interesting texture and mottled finish that's quite hard to capture in anything but the close up photos. Best of all, the plain version of the skirt uses only 1 metre of fabric, making mine a total bargain (this was £9.50 p/m).
Close up of the pocket and topstitched detailing
I chose, and often choose faux leather or suede rather than the real deal for a few reasons:
  • Cost and ease: It's a lot cheaper than buying the perfect piece of leather for your project, and often easier to source.
  • Limiting consumption: Whilst I'm not veggie/vegan, I do err on the side of caution with when it comes to using real leather. I would feel much guiltier about a sewing fail or unworn garment if it was made using animal products.  
  • Best for the tests: Pleather is perfect for giving a pattern a first go to check that you're happy with the fit and style and confident in the pattern if you're up for progressing to the real deal.

Pleather hacks - sellotape seams!
I'm really pleased to report that the Juliette Skirt was a breeze to put together, despite a few difficulties with stubborn, bulky pleather. I used a walking foot and increased my stitch length as recommended for the topstitching. The crossing intersections of the skirt were a the hardest bits to stitch over, so I stuck a bit of tape over the seam allowances, which helped to reduce sticking. The topstitching is great for creating really crisp seams as pleather is so hard to press. I hand stitched the inside of my waistband as the bulk was too much for my machine - I really wanted to topstitch this seam too but unfortunately had to skip it. Overall though, I'm so pleased with the level of detail in the finish.

Back view
More back detail from an earlier snow storm-blighted picture taking attempt
I particularly like how the back has turned out. I'd never inserted a zip using this method before - grateful for the click-through tutorial in the pattern! - so it was cool to learn a new technique. It worked particularly well for creating a neat finish with a tricky fabric. I finished the top of my waistband with a Prym anorak fastening, rather than the recommended button and buttonhole - no way would that buttonhole/bulk be compatible with my machine! Also on the finish: the pattern is fully lined so no risk of sweaty pleather thighs (erghh) - I used a nice quality black crepe from my stash.

Thanks to my boyfriend for his patience in the 3 attempts it took to get these pictures!
The finished fit of the garment is perfect, especially the waistband thanks to those half sizes! I found that the pockets gaped when I tried it on before joining the waistband (I have a narrow waist and quite curvy hips which probably explains this) but they were really easy to adjust and baste back in place. This is something that I fed back to RaphaĆ«lle who has included a point in the instructions to check that the pockets lay flat at this point. Raph has also gone above and beyond to offer an extra option of the Juliette Skirt without pockets too - helpful if you know they might be tricky to fit for you!

I soooo can't wait to make another Juliette Skirt and can fast see it becoming a wardrobe staple (overtaking the much loved New Look 6418). In fact, I love my finished Juliette so much that I'm actually considering committing to a real leather or suede version, probably from any scraps that I can source. A totally patchwork version could look really great, don't you think? I would definitely recommend the pattern, and if you need any more convincing, just check out some of the other fab tester versions at #juliettereadytosew

The new Ready to Sew Collection: Jeanne, Jim, Jamie & Juliette
Thanks again to Ready to Sew for allowing me to test it!
Juliette is available now alongside the new Jeanne T-Shirt, Jamie Cardigan and Jim Dungarees.
See here to pick up a copy!

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New outfit ft. Nikko

I'm feeling bombarded with articles, books and methods on how to achieve the capsule wardrobe holy-grail. There's Colette's Wardrobe Architect and the Design Your Wardrobe series for Seamwork subscribers, the 10x10 Challenge and I'm currently reading The Curated Closet, which I must say, as enjoyable a read as it is, I'm finding totally overwhelming to actually put into practice (I only got as far as making the Pinterest board). Whilst these methods or elements of them might work for some of us, deep down, I think we can only work out our own way to achieve a 'dream wardrobe' (if it even exists!) - Katie did a great post on her personal approach recently which is worth checking out!

Nikko Top, New Look 6418 and Retro Rucksack
I guess partly in response to this, my recent sewing has been focused around creating new basics with a considered colour palette in mind. In making proper use of leftovers and excessive fabric lengths to do so, I've found that I'm actually starting to build a small but cohesive, more coordinated wardrobe. So here is a new outfit - accessories included - in matchy fabrics and simple silhouettes, made up of the New Look 6418 Skirt, a Radiant Home Studio Retro Rucksack and the new True Bias Nikko Top!

New coordinated outfit!
I've made both the New Look 6418 Skirt and Retro Rucksack before (blog posts here and here), so lets talk Nikko first of all. True Bias are making huge waves in sewing world with their latest releases (I'm still working on that Lander fit but it's getting there!) and Nikko is no exception to this. Perhaps one of the draws of the Nikko are the options to make it as a either a top or dress/sleeveless or with long sleeves.

There are a lot of turtleneck patterns out there, the Papercut Patterns Rise/Fall Turtleneck being the dominant one in my pattern collection and home sewn wardrobe, so I wasn't really sold by the Nikko top alone. I fell for the styling and dress version completely, but must admit, a part of me was thinking, 'could I hack that'? I decided to buy it so I could properly see how the patterns compared and I thought some of you might be interested in seeing this too!

I cut the size 6 Nikko Top, grading to a 4 at the waist and hips. The pictures below show the front and back pattern pieces laid on top of the Rise Turtleneck pattern cut at a Medium.

Rise Turtleneck/Nikko front comparison
Rise Turtleneck/Nikko back comparison
This isn't intended to discredit either pattern, but show that they really do differ in their drafting - I was quite surprised at how different they actually are! It's definite proof to never judge or compare patterns on first look, even if they appear quite similar in style. Nikko is drafted with negative ease and is noticeably longer in the body and sleeves. Also, interestingly, the neckband of the Nikko (not pictured) is drafted with a slight curve, meaning it sits closer to the neck than the Rise Turtleneck.

Oops, that wasn't the best zip colour choice...
Nikko is drafted for a C cup - arguably quite generous as far as sewing patterns go - and I'm a not so modest FF-G cup... So when it turned out way too big, even on the bust, I knew that it was a case of too-stretchy-fabric strikes again. I'd squeezed it out of the leftovers from my Nettie Dress - ribbed jersey from Stoff & Stil - which had to be taken in a fair amount, so maybe I should've known better. The Nikko pattern however, specifically lists ribbed jersey in it's recommended fabrics, but I still had to take it in from mid-arm and all the way down the side seams. Is it just me who can't seem to get the fabric stretch thing quite right?!

I bought 2m of the khaki faux suede to make another Retro Rucksack, inspired by the more minimal Whistles suede backpack below that was well out of my price range. I should have stabilised the body of the bag more as the fabric is a bit too flimsy and lacks in structure where the bag folds and clips shut. I added a couple of magnetic press stud fastenings inside the bag and under the flap, which helps, but doesn't entirely solve the problem. Still, I think it's quite cute, particularly when worn with the skirt to match, and it has the handy option of being worn as both a shoulder bag and backpack.

Whistles Verity Suede Backpack (£279)

And continuing on the theme of using leftovers, the skirt was squeezed out of the excess from the bag. It's another quick win New Look 6418 in view D. This is the fourth time I've made this pattern, with 2 other faux suede ones and a snakeskin pleather version already in my wardrobe. It's a good one for playing around with different fabrics and textures, fitting into the basics category whilst not looking too plain or boring. I downsized to a 12 for this one as my previous versions have had to be taken in, and the fit is perfect - I know I'll make more!

Thank you Chris going out in the cold with me to get these pictures
I'm really pleased with how well all of these pieces work together and will hopefully slot in with my other handmades! This was also a great trial run of the Nikko Top and I'm looking forward to trying both the top and dress in a fabric with hopefully more suitable stretch soon. (Another benefit of using leftovers is getting a garment made from lovely fabric that you don't feel quite as precious over)!

More scrap busting plans coming up - the New Look 6459
Continuing down the colour-coordinated, scrap-busting track, I'm going to give the New Look 6459 trousers a try in the remaining corduroy I have from making the Simplicity 8459 buckle skirt. I've seen some amazing versions of this pattern - check Sophie's (@adapragg), Kylie's (@kylieandthemachine) and Michelle's (@michelleofatime) for major inspiration - so I can't wait to try it!

Now to go back inside and warm up!
I'm interested to hear about other people's personal approaches to wardrobe planning. Do you have a method or are you more of an 'anything goes' kind of sewer?

Stay in touch!

Closet Case Patterns Nettie Dress

This might be considered a crime to dressmaking, but I had completely overlooked the Closet Case Patterns Nettie Dress & Bodysuit until very recently. To be honest, I don't really see the need for crotch poppers in my life (or gusset) and as I'm not a huge fan of the scoop neck/back, I'd let it pass me by, only realising that combining the high neck and high back was actually one of the pattern's options after seeing Helen's fab version! I'm four makes into my #2018makenine already, so naturally when temptation presented itself in the perfect pairing of pattern and fabric, it felt about time to venture off plan...

My first (and definitely not last) Nettie Dress!
I don't often sew with knits, but I was keen to invest some time in learning to work with them better, and create some tighter fitting clothes. I've seen this seventies-vibe rib knit from Stof & Stil pop up on Instagram a few times and knew it would make the exact Nettie I needed in my life! I greedily and excitedly bought both colourways - heads up, the other is still on sale, plus see Rosie's amazing turtleneck made in it here. It was the first time I'd ordered from Stoff & Stil and I was really impressed - quick delivery, and they sticker up each fabric with a care label and fibre break down. This one is a combo of polyester, viscose and elastane and is labelled as having a shrinkage wash of 3% (I didn't pre wash as I'm a risk-taking maker, but it's washed just fine post-sew).

Extreme stripe matching!
The fabric is really stretchy and has a great recovery, plus it's thick enough to cover lumps, bumps and knicker lines. I spent loads of time lining the stripes up before cutting and found that it was a surprisingly stable fabric to lay out, cut and work with (having used some really dodgy knits in the past)!

Also more new shoes, because you can never have enough...?
My only problem with the fabric, and quite a big one, is that the ribbing makes it deceivingly stretchy. I was excited to find that Nettie is drafted with 'negative ease' something I've not particularly noticed with knits I've sewn up before - finally a knit that turns out close fitting! - but the amount of ease still hinges on the stretch in your choice of fabric. I added 8.5" to the length; cutting a size 10 and grading to an 8 for the waist and hips, but ended up with an insane amount of excess in the finished garment, which I think can mostly be put down to the fabric.

Stripe match still fairly strong post-taking in
Nearly matched stripes...
The curve of the hip into the thigh was way too severe for my twiggy thighs, so I took a good 4" around the hips and about 2" at the waist, grading into the bust. The result is a much better fit, but there's a bit too much width across the upper back. Otherwise, the fit on the neckline and shoulders is ok! I've since double checked my measurements and found I could downsize to an 8, grading to a 6 at the hips, but I'll probably redraw the curve of the thigh to suit my body shape better too (and of course, better consider the stretch of the fabric I'm using).

Back view, with a bit of excess on the upper back
I really played with my machine and overlocker settings; adjusting the presser foot pressure and using a walking foot to try and get things right with this particular knit, and apart from my slightly wobbly hems, it worked out well! I also can't believe I'm saying this, but I braved using a twin needle for THE VERY FIRST TIME to finish the Nettie's neckband and hems. It was so easy to thread up and use that I don't even know how I got the idea that it might ever be difficult! No looking back for future knits!

Twin needle finished neckband!
Thank you Chris for the ever-patient photography
Despite a couple of hiccups, I'm really pleased with the finished dress and will be making it again as soon as I track down the perfect fabric (similar to my mad Lander Pant fit-quest, I feel on a mission to get the fit nailed). The bold stripes make such a simple garment look like so much more than 'just a basic' and I know it will get a lot of wear.

Big smiles for Nettie!
As a bonus, I feel much more confident in approaching knits from investing that bit of extra time in making this dress. I'm even feeling brave enough to go straight into sewing up the other colourway of this fabric... question is, should I use it for another size-tweaked Nettie, or the new Nikko Dress by True Bias (which actually recommends rib knits)! What would you do?

Stay in touch!

3 imperfect Landers, but what have I learnt?

I'm obsessed with the True Bias Lander Pants, partly because I love the silhouette and partly through sheer determination to nail the fit. I've made them 3 times now, with sizing tweaks each time: pair 1 in khaki cotton drill (blogged here), the second in black denim, and the latest in blue denim, but have I actually made them work? I think I'm starting to understand that size isn't everything *ahem* when it comes to trouser fitting...

Lander Pants pair 3!
I've downsized each time when making the Landers. By no means were my first two pairs unwearable, but the fit is looser than I would like around the waist and hips. The differences between the sizing brackets are pretty subtle and having a 1" side seam allowance to play around with gave me a little more confidence to downsize again, this time cutting a 4.

From top: Size 8, Size 6 and Size 4
With this pair, I've finally achieved the snug hip/waist fit I was going for, but what I wasn't fully prepared for was the knock on affect that this would have on the fit in other areas. It turns out that when wearing them, they aren't particularly comfortable in the crotch area - like sitting down in them all day at work is just not fun. Thinking about yourself as having a 'long crotch' is quite weird isn't it? So thanks go to the Closet Case Patterns pants fitting adjustments guide which made me feel a bit more confident in diagnosing and accepting this area of mis-fit.

Pictures by my friend Alex

I wish I'd found this trouser fitting bible sooner in my naive quest for proper-fitting Landers. Here are the things from it that I'll be addressing in Lander Pants pair four (and I'm determined they'll be my perfect pair):

1) A low seat adjustment for my flat bum (yes I noticed this with previous pairs, but one thing at a time).
2) Lengthening the crotch!
3) Using a curved waistband to avoid the slight gaping at the back.
4) And... using the pocket piece/positioning of the smaller sizes as I think they look just too big on the bum of the size 4.

My slightly baggy pair two worn for a weekend in London
In good news, I've found that a heavier denim works really well for jean Landers and I'd definitely use it again in future. I know I need to add a good few inches to the cropped view to make them that perfect 'Insta-fashionista' ankle boot-skimming length - though I'm tempted to just go full length next time - and I've got better at inserting the jean buttons each time. Interfacing the right hand fly piece helped (the pattern doesn't specifically instruct to do this) and using proper quality Prym buttons with Prym pliers made the task much easier.

Buttons on pair 2
One thing I still don't get is how do people do neat button holes for jeans? I used the automatic buttonhole function on my machine which was fine, but once opened, they seem to just look messy and frayed. I ended up going over the machine stitching by hand just to make sure it was secured in place. If anyone has any tips or could point me in the right direction that would be fab!

So I'm clearly not done with this pattern just yet. And I hate to admit it, but I definitely should've done a muslin at the start. I'm convinced by looking at the Instagram hashtag that the Landers suit/look cool on just about anyone, I just need to finish finding that balance between fit and comfort with mine, but I think I'm getting there... 

Stay in touch!

DP Studio Le 809 Coat

The latest DP Studio collection has filled me with inspiration and a determination to make. I'm hugely proud of making my clothes by hand, but I don't want them to be immediately identifiable as handmade (I'm sure a lot of fellow sewists feel the same)! I think it's the extra design details - like the hardware in my last project - that really help to retain that air of 'handmade or high end?' mystery, and DP patterns have their pick of design features. Out of the two patterns that I ordered, I got straight to work on the most seasonally appropriate: the Le 809 Coat.

Finished Le 809
The Le 809 is an oversized, partially lined coat, with two length options (both are pretty long), welt pockets and, the selling point for me, the option of having an 'incorporated gilet' with View A. It helped that I already had the perfect fabric in my stash - a soft, grey leopard print wool (mix I think?) bought at the Harrogate Knit and Stitch Show in 2016. I had been considering using it for the Orgageuse Riga Coat but I knew that the DP Studio Coat would work perfectly with the print as soon as I saw it. The fabric requirements for the Le 809 were confusingly listed as 3.15m on the cover and 3.25m in the instructions, but either way, I managed to squeeze it out of the 3m of fabric I had.

Supplies for the Le 809 (with button options)!
I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this project, but I must admit, I did have a few frustrations with the instructions, the first being the poor listing of required notions. The zip length isn't specified so I had to measure the pattern pieces to work it out - I made the size 42 and found a 40cm zip to be just right. I also used nearly 5m of fusible bias tape - not mentioned until the instruction to apply it - and I was most shocked of all that the requirement for nearly 10m(!!) of bias binding was nowhere to be seen. I've never done so many trips back and forth to town for one project. I think I rinsed the haberdasheries of Leeds of all their black and grey bias binding, so FYI, buy in bulk!

Worn open with a zipped gilet

A note on the instructions... If you've used a DP Studio pattern before, you'll know that they favour large and quite simple illustrations, usually with fairly short descriptions of how to complete each step. I got on with this format really well for their Knit Asymmetric Dress which is quite an easy make, but I was surprised to find that more detail wasn't included in the instructions for a project as complex as a coat. Perhaps some of the struggle came from trying to understand the translated instructions which don't always read too clearly, but I also found myself having to do a lot of thinking beyond the pattern.

Camouflage welts!
The welt pockets are the first things to sew and to be honest, the instructions were baffling. The pattern doesn't indicate where the cutline for the pocket should be, so I attached my welt/facing pieces to the wrong side of the rectangular marking, meaning my pockets sit higher and closer to the side seams than intended. They look fine from the outside so it's no big deal, but the inside is a bit of a mess, which is a shame as the coat isn't fully lined, so they're exposed.

Apart from the more time consuming elements like the pockets, the coat came together really quickly. Nearly all of the seams are finished with bias binding (hence the huge amount required) which looks pretty neat, though I would recommend getting a couple of different widths to accommodate the bulkier seams/edges. The collar and facings were all pretty straightforward to attach, but I did stumble with finishing the vent and hem.

Total confusion over the length/hemming
The hem lines were really confusing, so it might be that I did something wrong at the cutting stage, but the pattern seems to direct you to cut out a square at the bottom of the centre front. It quickly became clear that the rest of the front was much longer than the front facing and back pieces when they were all joined together (see picture above). Even more bizarrely, when I compared pattern pieces with fellow maker Jess, hers seemed to have different cut/hem lines!

Back view and wind-blown vent
The slit facing for the vent was also too long, so I cut off the excess on that and the lower front, before winging the rest. I attached the hem to the front facing loosely based on how I remembered doing it on previous jackets (I shortened the front facing by a couple of inches and sewed it to the right side of the bottom front, so that some of the front flips to the underside with the facing) and stitched the rest of the hem by hand.

Pre-gilet insertion
Thankfully the gilet was really fun to construct and quite easy to attach to the rest of the coat. It's essentially a backless zip-turtleneck, made up of 2 layers of the outer fabric (one of them is interfaced) so it's really warm to wear. The collar is a little restrictive when fully zipped up - especially with a wardrobe-staple roll neck underneath - so I would probably shave 1cm off the depth if I made it again.

Strangely, the coat is only half lined - a design choice I guess, but after all of the effort with binding the edges (as neat as they look) it may as well be fully lined, and I wish it had been an option. If I made the coat again, I'd consider extending my lining pieces, as my intention was to fully make a statement with my contrast lining (not just a half of one)!

Half lining and insides
After all of the work that went into the coat, I couldn't spoil it with normal buttonholes, so I made my first ever bound buttonholes following a tutorial from Colette. I had to finish them by hand due to the bulk and weight of the coat, but I''m really pleased with them. I wish I'd budged each one up by an inch - you know once you notice something is a bit off and can't stop thinking about it?! - but I can live with them as they are! I bought 3 different sets of buttons to pick from, and eventually went with these cool silver mirrored ones from Duttons for Buttons.

Buttons from Duttons for Buttons
I finished up the coat with a lot of hand stitching to secure the different layers of facing/collar/outer together. I'm not sure if this is standard practice for more experienced coat sewists, but the coat does look better to wear for it and is easier to put on without loads of straightening and adjusting. It still sits a little off sometimes (you can probably notice the gilet is a bit bunched up in some pics) but I did the very best I could with it.

Layers of collar and gilet
I feel like I've complained about the pattern quite a bit in this post, but I have to stress that I'm absolutely thrilled with my finished coat! DP Studio is in a league of its own in terms of offering such impressive, fashion-forward designs, and although the instructions were a bit sparse in parts, they encouraged me to slow down and flex the skills I already have. Focusing on the step in hand rather than the end goal really did make the process of sewing the coat much more enjoyable. I surprised myself with what I was able to work out and whilst I might not have followed each step exactly as intended, the end result looks exactly as it's meant to, which is pretty satisfying.

Check the oversized style
It's definitely a statement coat, both in silhouette and print, and I'm really happy about it - it feels unusual and very 'cool' to wear! I think I benefitted from having made a few bits of outerwear in the past and would've probably been in tears if not, so I wouldn't recommend the Le 809 for a first attempt at coat making. It is a great make though, and a good challenge if you're willing to put a bit of thought into the construction. I'm sure there are also plenty of sewing tutorials out there to help with some of the trickier bits - the welt pockets, finishing the vent and the front facing/hem.

Thanks Erin for taking super profesh pics :)
As someone who always had expensive taste in RTW coats, it's such a pleasure to be able to make my own. I loosely costed this make up and the materials came in at around £60. I couldn't imagine finding a coat with such an interesting and unusual design for anywhere near that price on the high street. Successes like this only serve to remind me why I sew rather than shop!

I'd be interested to hear about other people's experiences with DP Studio patterns. Their Le 915 shirt dress is next on my list - lets hope the instructions are easy to decipher!

Stay in touch!

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