My first knit: WATG Relax Knit Through it Sweater

When you make your own clothes and people get to know about it, after a while they just shrug off a new item, like 'yeah of course, you made it'. So whilst my new jumper might just be yet another thing I've made, as my very first hand knitted jumper, I think it's a totally monumental make! After learning to knit as a child, it's only taken 20 years (nearly a year of those spent making this jumper!) to finally catch the knitting bug!

It's almost a year to the day since I started making this Wool and the Gang Relax Knit Through It Sweater having bought the kit in the 2017 Christmas sales. I bought the pattern and Feeling Good Yarn alone saving money on the needles as I already had a pair in my stash. Their well-styled but arguably overpriced knit kits always tempt me as the quick fix way to get started on a project, but it takes a bit more willpower to finish them. I've seen a lot of sewists pick up the knitting needles recently - see the amazing bubble sleeve cardigan by @rubymurraysmusings and Emily Self Assembly Required's incredible chunky knit efforts for serious inspiration - which helped in spurring me on to finish this long-time project.

Composition: Baby Alpaca 70% / Merino 7% and Nylon 23%
I chose the beautiful Cinnamon Dust Feeling Good Yarn as I was going through my orange phase at the time (see this skirt and these trousers) and luckily I still love the colour now it's finished. Size 2 requires 6 balls, but I was surprised to find that I only used 5 in the end - though I wouldn't take the risk on ordering less, having heard a friend's knitting horror story of running out of wool with another WATG kit!

The sweater is knitted on 6.5mm needles so it comes together quite quickly when you put the effort in. It's made up of stocking stitch squares without any shaping, so it's easy to the point where it's almost a boring knit (I clearly can't find the balance between interest/speed with my knitting)!

I learnt the long tail cast on which gives a more elastic finish. The written guidance on this isn't the best and I struggled to visualise the technique, so I'd recommend watching the Wool and the Gang YouTube tutorials. Having spent years casting on (mainly hats) using the standard method, I'm a total convert. I used the long tail method for a new hat recently and it gives a much neater edge.

Stocking stitch squares, pre-funnel neck
The most fun and challenging part of the make was picking up stitches around the neckline for the  funnel neck. After sewing up one shoulder seam, you add the neck stitches from the front and back sweater to your needle before knitting another long piece of stocking stitch, This means you have to sew up the other side of the neck, leaving a visible seam on the wrong side when the neck rolls into place. If I was savvier with knitting, I think I'd do this on a circular needle in future to avoid that extra seam.

I finally learnt how to sew up my knitting properly with invisible seams, which is probably one of the most useful skills I gained from this project. Again, the YouTube tutorials were much easier to digest than the written instructions.

Back view

I actually had a bit of a mare with sewing up as the measurements given for attaching the sleeves are really small. I attached both sleeves and sewed a whole side up before realising that it was impossibly small in the armpit and unpicking the whole thing. If you think unpicking sewing is a pain, try undoing your invisible seams in an alpaca/mohair mix wool - definitely tested my patience! If I was to make the jumper again, I'd go up a size for the sleeve to give a bit more room for movement.

Jumper love
I don't think it's the most flattering or beautiful sweater in the world - thanks to my Dad and boyfriend for the comments of 'did you run out of wool?', 'it's a bit short' - but it doesn't matter as I feel SO PROUD knowing I made it. Despite making me a bit sneezy, the wool is so soft and warm. I'm not giving up on sewing by any means, but I am finally ready to embrace the knitting needles!

I do think you're paying mostly for the brand with Wool and the Gang, so moving away from them, I'm currently eyeing up all the amazing chunky knit patterns from Good Night, Day. Next up though is the Fibre Mood Tara, using this super chunky bargain wool in olive from Wool Warehouse - heads up, there are also some amazing sewing patterns in Fibre Mood too! Has anyone else caught the knitting bug this winter?

Stay in touch!

Pretty Mercerie Sayan Blouse

You know those patterns that you see and just have to have? The Pretty Mercerie Sayan Blouse is one of them - maybe the one for me. It didn't matter that the instructions were in French, there was no PDF option available and the postage was close to astronomical: after seeing this version by @lamaisonsixchouettes I was totally sold. And after making it I can confidently say I have no regrets!
Pretty Mercerie Sayan Blouse
My pattern arrived quickly and was beautifully packaged, which softened the blow of international postage. I muddled my way through the instructions with the help of the Google Translate app, which translates the text it identifies in the pictures you take. This was smooth in the majority, particularly considering that 'sewing speak' doesn't always translate so well! The construction is fairly straightforward and the illustrations are a great help, so confident makers could probably just go ahead without the instructions.

Pretty packaging
Inside the pattern envelope
I tend to find that I span a range of sizes with French pattern companies. I also find that the sizing can run quite small. For reference in this case, my measurements are 91-72-93, putting me right across 3 different sizes - a 40 at the bust, between a 38/40 at the waist and a 42 for the hips. I traced a straight size 40 for ease, and because the blouse looked fairly loose fitting. This was definitely the right choice, but as a word of warning, the waist through to hips is a bit more fitted than I anticipated. Though I'll mostly be wearing mine tucked in, it would sit better when untucked if I'd graded it out from the waist - something I'd probably do in future!

Off the back of this, there was a bit of a discussion on Instagram about the often limited size range of French pattern companies. Pretty Mercerie chipped in offering apologies for their currently limited 34 - 46 size range. This pattern is a part of their first pattern collection and they indicated that they were testing the waters a bit, but said that they're trying their best to offer a more inclusive size range, English instructions and a PDF version ASAP, which is promising.

Worn with my Ready to Sew Juliette

This deep bottle green, fluid viscose has been in my stash for ages. In fact, it was originally allocated to making the DP Studio Le 915 as a part of my 2018 make nine, which hasn't yet materialised, so at least it's being put to use! The fabric is quite light, so well suited for some of the more delicate design features of the Sayan. I'm not sure if it's the language barrier, but I couldn't see any suggestion of using interfacing in the pattern instructions. I'd class this as an essential for a crisp, professional finish, so cut pieces for the front facing, one of the collar pieces, and a pair for the cuffs.

Cuff detailing!
I rarely sew shirts as I worry I don't have the precision to pull off the finer details such as cuffs and plackets, but my need to make the Sayan outweighed my regular avoidance tactics. The only bit that confused me was understanding the Google translation for making the sleeve plackets. I half followed the instructions and half made them from memory - though I'm sure there are plenty of YouTube tutorials out there to help - and the results are good enough for me!

Cuffs and button holes

When I commit to things I'd usually avoid, I don't do them by halfs, so I made 8 matching self cover buttons. Pressing them closed hurt my hands/fingers so much that I had to do them in two sittings, but they do make for a real professional finish. Does anyone have the magic trick for non-painful button covering? I took real time with my buttonholes; practicing, measuring and marking them out and using loads of fray check. I probably didn't breath for the whole length of time I was cutting them open either, but phew, I'd go as far as saying I think they're the buttonholes of my life.

I noticed a couple of missing notches for the tie belts, but the positioning is easy to work out. Other than that, the make was a breeze and it's filled me with confidence in my abilities to approach other makes that I'd ordinarily avoid. Despite the small hurdles - mainly me not understanding French - I would 100% recommend the pattern and would definitely be up for trying more Pretty Mercerie patterns in future. It looks like they've actually just released 4 new patterns and I'm very tempted by the Yokohama Coat.

Anthropologie inspo
I LOVE my finished Sayan Blouse and can see myself wearing it again and again, whether I'm trying to look smart for work, or dressed down with it layered over a turtleneck. I saw these two blouses in Anthropologie and they've definitely got future-Sayan written all over them, particularly the one with D-rings at the tie! Question is, what colour shall I choose for the next?

Stay in touch!

Sewing Leftovers: Baby Shower Gifts

Here's something a little different that I could've never seen myself sewing: baby clothes. My friend is having a baby shower and I wanted to make a gift for the baby with a personal touch - a perfect chance to sew some leftovers. Outside of the very blue or very pink 'gendered' clothes, the shops seem to have a limited offer of mostly boring white baby grows - my friend has chosen to keep the gender of the baby a surprise. This leftover Chat Chocolat organic cotton jersey in wine, green and pink seemed perfect for some fairly gender neutral but pretty cool baby sewing.

Sewing Leftovers baby clothes!

Original garment made: This Secondo Piano Basic InstincT t-shirt in Chat Chocolat organic jersey from the Solid as a Rock collection.

Leftover fabric amount:  The scrappiest of scraps - a pretty unmeasurable remainder of the metre I had for the t-shirt

Sewing Leftovers make: Baby shower gifts for a friend - a pair of baby leggings and reversible baby hat!

Leftovers-wise what did I learn?: This may sound obvious to a lot of people, but wow, baby clothes are small and require the tiniest amounts of fabric! These two pieces were the quickest and simplest makes. A great way to stop these lovely scraps going to waste by turning them into sweet gifts! 

About the make:
I found both of these patterns by just searching 'free baby sewing patterns' on Pinterest. The hat is a slightly adapted version of one from this trio of baby hats tutorial by Zaaberry Handmade. The pattern is for 0-3months and includes a tie knot version and a version with little bear ears.

Reversible baby hat
I made my version reversible by cutting an extra set of the main hat pieces and flipping them to use the wrong side - a solid wine colour. I thought this added a bit of interest, and neatened up the finish of the hat, which will hopefully make it more comfortable for baby to wear. I used a zig zag stitch to topstitch the bottom band in place, sandwiching the main hat between it. 

Other side!
The baby leggings were meant to be the main piece, but I actually think the hat turned out cuter! They are a little bit bigger, which might explain it - the sizing didn't start at newborn. I used the Baby Go To Leggings pattern by Andrea's Notebook - another freebie - which has 3 sizing options: 3-6 months, 6-9 months or 9-12 months. 

Go To Baby Leggings!
As a warning, the written instructions in step one wrongly tell you to sew the fronts together along the outer edge, and then repeat with the backs. This step should be 'sew one front leg to the corresponding back leg along the outer edge'. Unfortunately I followed it blindly and ended up unpicking my overlocking - the worst of the worst sewing tasks.

Once I'd gotten over this, sewing them was a breeze. I already had a scrap of elastic in my stash for the waistband too, so it was an all round leftovers project. Using the overlocker for both projects made them seriously fast little sews - a sort of warm up to my main sewing of the day, which is coincidentally also with leftovers, this time from this project

Gift ready!
I'm really pleased that I was able to make such unique gifts from my leftovers - hopefully they'll make baby stand out from the crowd when he or she arrives! Making these two pieces has definitely made me consider saving the smaller amounts of jersey that I'd normally throw away. I wonder if the hats would also be welcomed by local charities and hospital wards - one to look into...

I'm sure there're many other scrap-busting baby patterns out there too - if you have any favourites, please suggest them in the comments so we can grow a little resource of possible patten picks. 

In other #sewingleftovers news: 
Did you see that November was Sustainability theme month over at The Sewcialists? 
I had the opportunity to talk about the positive impact that practicing sewing leftovers has had on my own sewing habits. Read my piece here and get inspired by some of the other things sustainable sewers are doing to tackle waste and sew more mindfully here.

Stay in touch!

The Good Grab Bin Buying Guide ft. the True Bias Nikko

Can you make a bad fabric good? When I'm not sewing leftovers, I'm a keen rescuer of the questionable fabrics that I'm sometimes drawn to - mainly the grab bin variety. This textured black velour is a prime example of one of those weird need to haves. It's sort of ugly and full of imperfections, but something about it just begged to be liberated from the bottom of the pile in Manchester Abakhan. A luxe True Bias Nikko Dress sprung to mind, working with the vertical stripe texture of the velour.

Luxe True Bias Nikko Dress in bargain garb bin velour
When I pulled the length of fabric from the grab bin, I realised that the stripe (and with it, the main stretch) ran horizontally rather than vertically as I'd hoped. It had a few faults too, where the texture looked squashed out of shape. Whilst I'm not one to promote over buying, in some cases it's good to have spare fabric, particularly if you're buying 'seconds' or worried about quality. In this case, I took home just over 3m for £8 - enough to 'work around' the dodgy bits and to try something else if my plans for a vertical stripe Nikko were scuppered by the stretch. 

I used the fabric stretch guide on the Nikko, and although it didn't quite reach the recommended 75% (it was probably closer to 50%), I thought it was worth the risk of cutting on the cross grain. As with my previous Nikko, I cut a size 6, grading to a 2 at the waist and out to a 4 again at the hips. Knowing there would be tears if I couldn't fit it over my head (this has definitely happened before with some of my Nikko Tops made from stretchier fabric!) I cut the neckband on the less-risky straight grain, meaning the stripes run horizontally. 

Side shot
Back view
In the end, I found that the fabric had enough stretch to fit (I was a bit worried it would turn out tiny!). It was actually the lack of bounce back/recovery that presented more of an issue in getting the right fit. I had to take the dress in a couple of times to get the perfect comfortable-yet-close fit around the waist and hips. 

This is a pattern is so made for tall makers - something I already knew about from last time. The weight of the velour seemed to make this version look even longer. I took 3" from the length and took the side split up by 3" too, though I'd be tempted to take the split up a little further next time.

Spot the fabric faults!
In all I'm really pleased with how this Nikko turned out - definitely my best version yet! I didn't totally manage to miss the imperfections of the fabric - something the eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted - but I think this sort of adds to the charm of it. It fits well, it's made to a higher standard than most high street garments, so who cares if there are a few dodgy creases here and there? After making it, I realised that Anthropologie are stocking loads of RTW clothes in similar fabrics at the minute - 'on trend' at a cost of about a twentieth of the price of the average Anthro dress can only be a winner.

I've always been quite restrained in my fabric buying, but even more so recently. Despite the low price of this length of fabric, I asked myself a lot of questions before committing to buying it. Here's a little guide for good grab bin buying for anyone else who feels like they need to check themselves before sticking the bargains in their basket:

I'm really interested to hear people's thoughts on this. Do you find it easy to be restrained when bargains present themselves, or are you the first to put them in your basket?

Feeling luxe and fancy in my <£5 dress
I always knew I would have some leftovers, but cutting this project on the cross grain meant that I used much less fabric than anticipated. It gives quite a basic dress a real luxurious feel to it - I even wore this dress to my friend's wedding last week! Party season is almost upon us, so this is definitely something I'm hoping to replicate with the leftovers, in either a pair of wide leg trousers or even a jumpsuit at a push! Bring on the #sewingleftovers!

Stay in touch!

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!

Stay in touch!

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

Stay in touch!

Thanks for visiting!

Thanks for visiting!