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!

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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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