Hello Bear Hannah

Like many others, I look forward to Fiona (Diary of a Chainstitcher)’s monthly Indie Pattern Update to browse and review what’s new in the sewing pattern world. Having built myself a decent collection of patterns over the last few years, I try to be discerning, resisting the urge to buy unless a pattern truly offers something new in terms of design, technique etc.

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(if you don’t follow Fiona already, you really should)

The Victory Patterns Hannah dress jumped out at me from the April review for all these reasons. I’ve been wanting to try the « arty sack dress » vibe for a while. Being at the curvier end of the pool I usually stick to waisted-only shapes, but frankly life is too short to worry about whether people are assuming you’re preggo or no, especially in a climate that averages mid-30s temperatures every single day. Gimme all the breeziest items possible thanks. Furthermore, Hannah is not just any sack dress, oh no. She has all these beautiful design details too. That curved hem with a nod to men’s shirting and that genius origami back that swoops down into deep pockets. SWOON, done deal, proceed to checkout.

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The foldover back means the pattern is a bit of a fabric gobbler, needing over 3m. Looking at my limited Bangui stash I knew I’d need to make Versiaon 2, which combines fabrics for a contrast block effect. I picked out a gorgeous Art Gallery Fabrics cotton I’d been hoarding, and some leftover grey cotton chambray (previously seen here) for the foldover back/pockets. The main fabric is called “Hello Bear Summit Twilight” and I bought it because it reminded me of Rwanda’s rolling hills, the mille collines I miss so much.

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Based on my measurements (and this handy tip on cup sizes from the Victory Patterns blog) I cut a straight size 8 and didn’t make any sizing alterations. The pattern pieces are preeeeetty funny looking when you lay them out, which is all part of the excitement. You really don’t know how it’s all going to come together until close to the end (or at least I didn’t). All that pattern wizardry does mean a veritable shedtonne of markings to transfer – I counted 29 on piece D alone. Since my chambray was prone to fraying I was reluctant to snip in, and since chalk tends to rub off easily, I decided to use tailors’ tacks. This was laborious but effective, best done in front of TV (I am currently dragging myself through Season 8 of the X Files, having decided to rewatch them all before doing the new season… I had forgotten the irritating tedium that is Doggett but am stubbornly persevering).

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With everything cut and marked up I finally got to the sewing and I have to say I really enjoyed it. It’s complicated and exacting enough to be totally absorbing, but the instructions and drafting are so good that it comes together in a really nice satisfying way, with no dramas or frustrations. The moment I sewed the side seams together to form the crossover back I think I let out an audible “ah-haaaah”. So clever.

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Tip: The pockets need to be reinforced to stop them stretching out and sagging. The pattern calls for twill tape, but if you don’t have any (as I didn’t) try using a strip of selvedge instead.

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I made just one design change, which was to do with the placket. I knew (from previous RTW experience) that a high-neck button up placket wouldn’t suit, comfort or personal style wise, but I didn’t want to majorly change the aesthetic by drafting a different neckline. So I created a tunic-style placket instead, using the original pattern piece to keep the proportions more or less the same. I’d be happy to do a little tutorial if anyone’s interested, just leave a comment 🙂

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So, finished item. There is a lot to love. The details are wonderful. All the things I liked on paper, I like in person too – curved hem (with a sneaky peak of that lovely facing), crossover back etc. It’s also wonderfully breezy and comfy (although I would probably lower/enlarge the armholes by a ½ inch next time). It is a definite departure in personal style and is going to take some getting used to, but I think I like it!! It’s nice as a comfy day dress and i think heels would help balance the relaxed shape for a dressier look… although I didn’t bring any to the field. Something to experiment with back in Europe!

There’s tonnes of room for creativity with this pattern. I’ve already spotted a super classy LBD version over here, and I’m looking forward to seeing others pop up in the coming months.

Siobhan xx

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Chambray A-line Miniskirt

This skirt story actually starts with a blouse.

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A really lovely part of my job is that I get to work with wonderful people from all over the world… And a cool side effect of that is that they occasionally send me beautiful gifts from all over the world! This blouse is one such item, straight from Mexico. It’s feather-light cheesecloth cotton with gorgeous embroidered flowers across the front and back yoke. I received it on a Friday, right in time for a garden party on the Saturday… I just needed a skirt to go with it.

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I had a clear vision for my skirt – short, simple grey chambray, with a centre-front seam and exposed zip at the back (both design features I loved when I made my denim Brumby). The blouse is billowy so I didn’t want anything voluminous – no pleats or gathers this time. So I drafted a super simple A-line pattern, following these instructions. You basically work from your waist and hip measurements and add a couple of darts for shaping. Then just pinch in the darts and retrace to draft the facings.

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When I came to cut out, I decided to use the fringed chambray selvedge along the hem. This hadn’t been my original plan but upon closer inspection it was just too pretty not to use. I ran a line of zigzag stitching around to stop it unraveling too far. I double topstitched the centre-front seam in white and orange to tie in with the colours in the selvedge and to add a tiny, visible-to-probably-only-me detail (love those). I inserted the exposed zip at the back using the Brumby method.

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And that’s it. It probably goes without saying that this was a super speedy half-morning project. But I do love the result. Especially with my Mexico blouse.

Siobhan xx

Red Chambray Kelly Skirt

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Evening folks! Forgive the slight summer hiatus. It was unplanned. There were multiple (very welcome) guests and an exam to prepare for and a few other real life-y things. Anyhoo, I hope your Julys and Augusts have been superdooper.

This pattern has been in my pile for a looooong time (cough *September 2013* cough) but I finally got round to it last month. It’s Megan Nielsen’s Kelly skirt and it’s a lovely quick make. In the interests of blogger integrity I’ll admit that mine took a couple of weeks, BUT that is only because I was snatching 30 mins here and there. If you were more focused than I, this would be real quick I promise – 1 day max.

I used the red chambray I got with my Fabric Rehab voucher. It’s a deliciously soft cotton and is extremely wide – check out the layout below!! I ordered two meters and there’s plenty left for a t-shirt or something.

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Despite being a really straightforward sew, the Kelly has a couple of fantastic details: striking box pleats front and back, and these realllly pretty pockets. I’ve never put pockets in this way before but they add such a lovely detail. I lined them with scraps of contrast print and topstitched them with a double line of white.

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I was worried at first that the chambray would be a little too soft for the pattern but in the end I think it works pretty well. I did strengthen both sides of the placket (bit where the buttons/buttonholes go) and the waistband with some pretty serious medium-weight interfacing though, which feels nice and strong. The only thing I would say about this fabric is that it’s preeeeetty crease-enthusiastic so by the end of a working day (i.e. lots of sitting) she doesn’t look nearly so crisp and lovely. Clearly she’s meant for long strolls by the lake rather than office time – fair play.

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(mmmm wrinkly!!)

I found some pretty little multi-coloured wooden buttons which go really well with the chambray (M actually spotted them… and as such takes full credit for how well this whole project turned out). I faffed around practicing the buttonholes for a while before committing them to the skirt and decided to go with a thread that matches the fabric, rather than the white I used for the topstitching.

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There are a couple of fit issues I noticed on my first wear, both of which have also been noted by other bloggers. Firstly the waistband is a little gapey. It fit’s along the bottom edge but not along the top, if that makes sense. I think this is because it’s a single straight piece and I’m, well, not. If I make this skirt again I think I will try and shape the waistband to account for this. I think I can live with it on this one. Taking the waistband off would be such a faff!! Secondly, like other bloggers, I get a little bagging going on between the waistband and the first button underneath. I’m hoping this will be much easier to fix, by adding a little popper /snap fastener to keep things straight.

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On the positive side, I’m really happy with the finish I achieved on this one. It’s one of my neatest makes to date, pretty inside and out, which is supercool (in a nerdy seamstress kinda way). And, if I manage to address the two points above, it’s definitely a shape I can see myself wearing a lot. All it needs is a Nettie to play with. She is definitely nearing the top of my to-sew list!

Lastly, check out the mural!! It’s the same wall around the corner from our flat that I’ve used before, but someone has done this amazing paint job on it. However, I thought it would make a supercool background but am now thinking maybe it’s a bit… busy and insane?? What do you think? Love it? Or does it give you a headache? Be truthful now!

Siobhan xx