Friday, 23 February 2018

Forest Green Merino and Lace Sirius Top (and giveaway winner!)

Today I would like to introduce the winner of the award for most impossible top to photograph! Neither the rich forest green colour or beautiful back detail of this sweater was feeling very cooperative when it came to being captured on camera but I persisted and hopefully you will get the gist of how beautiful this garment is! If there is one thing I love making (and in turn wearing) its comfortable everyday clothing with a twist and the Sirius top from I Am Patterns totally nails that for me. I also love challenging myself and trying something new with my sewing and the pleated section in the centre back which runs into a placket at the top was certainly that.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store

I've had my eye on Sirius since it was released a while back and when I met Marie-Emmeline in London in January she'd brought a selection of her patterns with her to very generously give out as gifts so I pounced on that design right away! She was actually sporting one herself that day. There are many things to love about the design including the shallow stand collar and elbow darts but the real draw is the surprise of the pleated section in the back. I love that this feature has movement to it and allows you to play around with combining different textures and colours. When looking at the fabric suggestions for this pleated panel I was really taken with the idea of using lace in combination with a solid. I was just about to place another order with The Fabric Store and remembered that I always ooh and ahhh over their laces but never find a reason to buy them; I finally had an excuse to try one out!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store

I chose this Hunter Green Italian Floral Lace as it looked like it would be a good match with the Forest Green Merino Jersey which I've had my eye on for a while (yes my merino addiction is still going strong! I'm currently trying to resist this incredible floral merino blend!) Obviously colour matching online is nigh on impossible as fabrics are never quite the colour they look on screen but a bit of experience with the accuracy of the way TFS represent their fabrics online gave me some confidence and I was delighted with how well they work together when it arrived. The jersey is their standard weight 195gsm and as you'll see later on is actually probably a little fine for this style which meant I had to make a few changes. Jerseys of the appropriate weight for sweaters are recommended as are woven wools. I think it would be lovely made up in a lightweight boiled wool.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store

I chose the lace as I thought something with quite a dense design would be better to hold the pleats than a more delicate version. This once is soft but with some thickness to it and the flowers are edged with a little ridge in a darker green which makes for a bold look. The ridge gives the look of a corded lace but it is finer than that. The blend of cotton and nylon means it holds a nice crisp pleat but it still has a softness so it moves well. I think it would make an incredible fitted party dress! I've had a piece of really fine cream silk lace in my stash for years which I think would be great combined with a soft grey marl and a wonderful contemporary use for a fabric which despite being stunningly beautiful felt a little too girly to fit with the rest of my wardrobe.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store

Going by the measurement chart I was between the 38 and 40 so cut the larger to be on the safe side. I ended up taking a whopping 1 1/4" on the double out of each side seam and continuing that alteration all the way down the sleeve. I like slim sleeves anyway but the whole thing was a bit of a tent. This merino jersey is quite fine so in something thicker with more structure I think the extra ease would have worked and I can see that my top looks quite different to the sample. If I make it again I'll definitely go down a size as this is still a little wide on the shoulder and then repeat the alteration under the arm and side seam but to a smaller extent. It made a huge difference on this one and I'm really happy with the fit now.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store
Attempting to recreate the side on sample shot showing the swing of the back pleating and failing! 

As my merino was on the lightweight side I added a fine fusible knit interfacing to both the collar and collar lining piece to give it a bit more structure and also added a small piece under the plackets to give the area around the snaps an extra bit of strength. I really like the shallow depth of the collar and the way it sits out from the neck. It definitely would have collapsed in on itself without the interfacing but you wouldn't need it for a more stable or thicker knit like ponte or sweat-shirting. I used my same merino to line the collar but the pattern does recommend using something else if your fabric is thicker so it doesn't become to bulky. I also added twill tape to the shoulder seams to prevent them stretching out over time.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store

The pattern calls for a rolled hem on the pleated centre back piece but I thought this might get a little messy with this fairly open lace so I used a really thin and soft poly binding from my stash to neaten this edge. I did this before pleating the piece and overlocked the other raw edges too as I thought this would be quite fiddly to do afterwards. The pleating actually didn't take too long once I got into the swing of it but I think a little extra guidance in terms of whether to start your pleating right or wrong sides together would have been useful. I got into quite a pickle when inserting this piece into the back and assembling the placket and I feel like it may have been to do with my pleats starting the wrong way. I'm still not sure if I've done it right now but I got it to work and love the effect. After spending some time trying to figure it out I discovered this great photo tutorial for the pattern on the I Am Patterns site. My pleating had definitely not ended up looking like that and I ended up putting in an extra little pleat to get it to sit right! I definitely recommend following the photo tutorial if you make this. The instructions and tutorial make it sound and look quite straightforward so perhaps I made a small error somewhere along the way and when I try it again it would all come together just fine. I chose to change the line of stitching securing the top of the pleated piece at the bottom of the placket to a square so the raw top edge was fully enclosed. I think assembling the placket in woven fabrics might be a lot more straightforward with a woven or less stretchy knit.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store

With regards to the pleating, it occurred to me while I was sewing that washing this top might be a bit problematic as all the pleats would come out. I couldn't face pressing them back in every time but didn't want to end up with a dry clean only top! As my lace hand some texture and thickness to it already I decided to topstitching very close to the edges of my pleats to both emphasise and in a way set them. I'm really pleased with the effect and have washed the top a couple of times now. The pleats do need a press but the stitching gives you a quick and simple guideline to follow and helps everything fall into place. This obviously wouldn't look great on a finer fabric like a chiffon, georgette or silk lace so you could buy a pre-pleated fabric but then may have to alter the construction slightly to suit the width of your pleats or if you're based in the UK you could try using Ciment Pleating to heat set your pleats. I've used them a lot for work and they do all kinds of styles of pleating and turn things around really quickly. They advise dry-cleaning when natural fibres are pleated but man-mades like polyester can be washed on a low temperature as they take the pleating really well.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store

The pattern is designed for woven as well as knit fabrics and most of the construction techniques seem more relevant to wovens and I think it would perhaps make for a slightly easier sew. For example the hem is turned up twice which I'd do with a woven but usually just once for a knit. The elbow darts are an absolutely gorgeous touch but I think perhaps a little more effective in a woven fabric and I would have thought bust darts would be unnecessary for a knit pattern but they do actually give a nice shape to the way this hangs on the body. If your knit has a good amount of stretch like my merino jersey you could definitely get away without a functioning placket and just sew it closed right up to the top on the collar. I can pull this on and off easily without making use of the snaps. I'd like to try a woven version using perhaps a georgette or something a bit less structure and bulky than this lace in the back section as I think that would make for a totally different effect. What are your thoughts on patterns that are designed to work with both knit and woven fabrics? Do you think it works or a pattern will always be better suited to one or the other?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Forest Green I Am Patterns Sirius Top in Merino Jersey and Lace from The Fabric Store

Despite the slightly rocky construction process I really enjoyed sewing this up and have been getting a lot of wear out of it. This is actually another of the projects on my #2018makenine; I've definitely made better choices for my wardrobe this year! It is also another adventure in my mission to try some different indie designers this year and I'll definitely be returning to I Am. I love their unique yet wearable twists on everyday classic styles. I know the Cassiopée is popular so perhaps that will be next. I'll certainly be making Sirius again as I'd love to see how differently it sews up in a woven and there is a lot of potential for playing around with different fabric combinations to make the most of that unusual back feature. But mainly I want to make it again to see if I can do a better job next time! Ever the perfectionist.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway to win a copy of the Half Moon Atelier Anegada Top and a lovely length of bamboo jersey from Offset Warehouse to make it. You left me some really great stories and tips about ethical sewing and I've been checking out all the fabric suppliers you've recommended. Its great to hear that ethical sewing is at the forefront of so many minds and often one of the main drives behind sewing your own clothes. The giveaway has now closed and selected by random number generator the lucky winner is...Natalie! Congratulations! I hope you enjoy sewing and wearing your own Anegada Top. I'll be in touch shortly via email to arrange delivery of your prize.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Bamboo Jersey Anegada Top and Giveaway!

One of my sewing goals for 2018 is to try out some new independent sewing pattern companies. Its very easy when you find a company you get along with, both in terms of fit and instructions, to stick with them. When you've got limited sewing time you don't want to risk wasting any of it on a project which might not turn out so well. Or have to spend precious hours fiddling with fit and new construction methods when you can fall back on the familiar, and the security of sizing you already have confidence in. But I'm keen to push my skills this year and try some new techniques and styles. The first of these ventures into the unknown is the Boat Neck Anegada Top from Halfmoon Atelier which Meghann very kindly sent me a copy of to review.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Halfmoon Atelier Boat Neck Anegada Top in Bamboo Jersey from Offset Warehouse

I have actually tried out a Halfmoon pattern previously (the Ballet Top Delpy) but I made a terrible fabric choice and never shared it. I sewed it up when I was really stressed and overwhelmed by work last year and decided squeezing in a sewing project would make me feel better. Of course trying to tackle a new pattern, in limited time and with a fabric that frayed horrendously pretty much as soon as you looked at it didn't turn out so well. Now I'm in a much better headspace and have some more leisurely sewing time on my hands it was time to try another Halfmoon Atelier pattern and I'm happy to report a much more enjoyable sewing experience and a successful outcome. Perhaps it is time to give Delpy another go!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Halfmoon Atelier Boat Neck Anegada Top in Bamboo Jersey from Offset Warehouse

I think this design would work in a wide variety of knit fabrics and each would give you quite a different outcome. My top is made up in this beautiful bamboo jersey from which is also available in two further colour-ways. Offset Warehouse are a social business that stock eco fabrics and haberdashery. They focus on fairly sourcing products from all over the globe that benefit the planet and the people who make and handle them. I've been aware of Offset for a little while now but this is actually the first time I have sewn with any of their fabrics. For some reason I had presumed that as sourcing ethically produced fabrics must be really tricky their handpicked range would be quite limited but after checking out the website I'm kind of blown away by the variety. In particular the stretch and sportswear sections as I've always found it difficult to hunt down good quality knits in wearable contemporary prints. I'm absolutely delighted to discover this new treasure trove and had a really hard time whittling down a choice. I'm very taken with their organic cotton jersey stripes in particular.

Halfmoon Atelier and Offset Warehouse are a perfect pairing with their focus on sustainable fashion. Meghann's ethos is to live, design and sew simply, creating well made wardrobes of foundation pieces to help us in that. I've been seeing a lot on social media lately about our community culling their wardrobes and trying to make more careful choices in their sewing so I'm sure this will resonate with a lot of you! If sustainable sewing and working with fair trade fabrics is of interest to you Meghann has a great list of ethical fabric suppliers on her site. She's really opened my eyes to how achievable making your wardrobe and sewing more ethically friendly can be.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Halfmoon Atelier Boat Neck Anegada Top in Bamboo Jersey from Offset Warehouse

I chose to make view A of the pattern with the cowl neck and cuff & hem bands as I thought the cowl would best suit the drape of my jersey. Bamboo is quite a slinky, slippery knit with a bit of weight to it so won't work for a style which needs structure or volume; it will just collapse in on itself. I think the best way to describe it is moving like water! I have generally found bamboo jersey to be better suited to a slouchy style like this than a close fitting top as it can be quite clingy. I used it to make an Agnes Top a couple of years back and felt quite self conscious in that because it pings back on itself so tightly. That sounds kind of negative but actually that shows the excellent recovery it has! It is silky smooth to the touch and the natural fibres make it breathable so is just lovely to wear. I'm hoping to use my leftovers for the exterior layer of a second Pneuma Tank as I think the weight and drape is perfect for that.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Halfmoon Atelier Boat Neck Anegada Top in Bamboo Jersey from Offset Warehouse

I cut a size 4 which was pretty much spot on my measurements although I was concerned about there being what seemed like a huge amount of ease around the waist. I didn't want to feel like I had too much fabric around my middle or to look too boxy. In actual fact its the ideal width in this area. I could probably do with a fraction more room around the bust (my clingy fabric choice probably isn't helping here) but it is just the right amount of snug around the hip. If you're not cutting your bands on the bias and are making one of the smaller sizes you could definitely get this out of one metre of 150cm wide fabric. If cutting on the bias I'd recommend giving yourself 1.25m as that waistband pattern piece is quite large. View B you could get out of 1m no matter what you decide to do with the neckband.

Talking about cutting bands on the bias in a jersey might be confusing you there and I must admit I was a little confused when I first spotted that on the pattern pieces. But it means that you can get away with using something like a sweat-shirting which doesn't have as much stretch as you might need around the hip. The pattern suggests cutting your neck, hem and cuff bands across the grain if your fabric has more than 50% stretch and on the bias if less than. I love this attention to detail and proof that real thought has gone into the pattern. The bamboo jersey is incredibly stretchy but I opted to cut my pieces on the bias anyway as I liked the idea of the dash design being on the cross in these areas to contrast with the main body. Kind of like Meghann has in her striped samples.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Halfmoon Atelier Boat Neck Anegada Top in Bamboo Jersey from Offset Warehouse

Another part of the instructions which baffled me at first was the finishing of the cowl neck. You turn the raw edge over twice towards the right side of the fabric and only secure it in place at the ends where it runs into the armhole. The instructions say that the fabric will naturally roll over. I'm sure in some fabrics this would happen, particularly something a little softer like a cotton jersey or terry but my bamboo did not naturally want to behave. That great recovery and 'ping back' was not working in my favour! It also probably didn't help that I finished the raw edge on the overlocker as suggested in the instructions as this can sometimes prevent edges from curling; usually a good thing! I wasn't keen on my overlocking showing which it was as the jersey didn't want to roll right over so ended up topstitching the edge down. It looks like a binding now and I made a bit of a feature out of it by using a pink thread that matches the dashes in the fabric. If making this view I would recommend giving some thought to what the reverse of your fabric looks like as it will show and also don't cut the centre back neckline notch as that is only required for view B and might be visible in the cowl version.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Halfmoon Atelier Boat Neck Anegada Top in Bamboo Jersey from Offset Warehouse

There was a lot I liked about the instructions for this pattern. The clear layout makes it really easy to follow and they are packed with tips and detailed construction information. A beginner could quite confidently tackle this pattern I would imagine as there is plenty of advice for working with knit fabrics. What I really liked was the brief summary instructions at the back of the booklet which break the construction down in quick bullet points so if you're a more experienced sewer or it is your second time making the pattern you can just refer to that. The fact that indie sewing pattern instructions tend to include such a wealth of information now is fantastic as they are so accessible for all skill levels. But the length of the instructions can be a little overwhelming and unnecessary if you know your way around a knit top so I love having the key points laid out on one page to keep you on track and steer you through the more unusual aspects.

I tend to sew with PDFs more often than not these days, partly because some of the patterns I want to make (like this one!) are only available in that format. After assembling my fair share of pattern downloads I can safely say that Meghann has got it spot on with making that part as straight forward as possible without too much wastage. It was easy to distinguish your size from the rest as the lines are printed in different colours. But if you prefer to print black and white (colour printing can be so costly!) the lines are still different variations of dashes in the usual manner.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Halfmoon Atelier Boat Neck Anegada Top in Bamboo Jersey from Offset Warehouse

I'll be honest and say that when I first checked out the pattern I wasn't sure how well it fitted with my everyday style and what else was in my wardrobe so I made my fabric choice thinking that it would actually be great for yoga. But now I've tried it I quite like the shape and am really considering making a couple more in soft, matte cottons for day to day. I think it looks great with slim jeans but could also be lovely tucked into one of my high waisted floaty viscose skirts in the summer. A french terry with a Breton stripe would be delicious and seeing the texture on the reverse of the fabric roll to the outside around the neckline would be a lovely detail. I also think going up a size or even two and using a snuggly sweat-shirting would be a great look. The versatility of this style has taken me by surprise and I'm really glad I stepped out of my style comfort zone! As for this version I've been wearing it a lot for yoga as intended and it is great for that kind of exercise. I don't like to wear anything too tight fitting on my top half for yoga and the amount of ease in the body is spot on. The wide waistband is just tight enough around the hips that it sits in place no matter what shape I twist myself into and the slimmer fit of the sleeves also feels nice and secure.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Halfmoon Atelier Boat Neck Anegada Top in Bamboo Jersey from Offset Warehouse

If you fancy making one of these tops yourself I've got good news as Halfmoon Atelier and Offset Warehouse have teamed up to offer you whopper of a giveaway! You can make my exact same top as the winner of the giveaway will receive a copy of the PDF pattern and also 1.5m of the same bamboo jersey as I have used. To enter all you need to do is leave a comment on this post by midnight GMT on Thursday 22nd February and if you like tell me about your experiences with ethical sewing. I'd love to discover some more suppliers and pattern companies with this mindset. The giveaway is open to UK entries only and as always please make sure to leave your email address in the comment if it is not easily accessible through your profile so I can contact the winner and arrange delivery of your sewing goodies! Big thanks to both Halfmoon Atelier and Offset Warehouse for so generously offering up this giveaway and giving me the opportunity to try out something new. Good luck!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Fabric Shopping in Paris (and giveaway winner!)

I've recently returned from a short break in Paris during which I mentioned on Instagram that I had spent some time exploring fabric and sewing shops around the city. This prompted quite a few questions so I thought I'd do a little round up here on the blog for anyone who is planning a visit in the near future to refer back to. Paris is a great place for fabric shopping and has a wide variety of fabrics and price points. I did two little spouts of shopping; a morning in the Marais/Bastille part of town and a few hours up in Montmartre. Both were very different experiences and offered up a different kind of treat.

Le Marais & Bastille

On the Friday morning I hit the streets of Paris with a map in hand on which I had plotted a number of independent sewing shops. I'd collated this information by combing through whatever blog posts I could find about fabric shopping in the French capital. I found these posts from Katie, Tilly and Christine for Seamwork Magazine particularly useful. The shops are fairly spread out but walking between each one down the higgledy piggledy backstreets was such a lovely way to see and explore a different side to Paris. I found many other shops and eateries along the way to pop in to as well as just soaking up the beautiful architecture. The shops themselves make for such a pleasant shopping experience; well laid out and organised and with helpful staff who all spoke reasonably good English.  Almost every shop sold all kinds of crafting equipment and supplies and many stocked a healthy selection of yarn and knitting paraphernalia as well as fabric, trims, notions and patterns. One of the things I was really struck by was how many of these stores had a wide range of indie patterns and not just the French companies. These shops reminded me of places like Sew Over It, Ray Stitch and the Village Haberdashery in London.

Maison Cousu - 25 Boulevard Voltaire 75011

First stop of the day was the beautiful Maison Cousu. This spacious shop stocked a nicely curated selection of crafting supplies including some kits. The left hand side of the shop focused on knitting whilst the right housed a good amount of top quality fabrics including cottons, knits, home furnishing and some more unusual bolts. As well as the fabric they had a great choice of buttons and other notions. Everything you need to get started with a project. In the image above you can see their selection of indie patterns, all from French companies and including some children's designs. Downstairs is their Atelier Couture where they run regular sewing classes.

Entrée en Fournisseurs - 8 Rue des Francs Bourgeois 75003

Next I wandered down to Entrée en Fournissuers which I had a little trouble finding as it is tucked away in a gorgeous courtyard off of Rue de Francs Bourgeois. This is a real gem of a shop kitted out with old fashioned haberdashery cabinets and racks. The majority of the shop is filled with trimmings and buttons (and what a stunning selection of them!) but there is a small selection of fabrics at the back (mainly Liberty print cottons) and a countertop of indie sewing patterns. While you're nearby make sure to take a wander through the Place de Voges, Paris' oldest square.

Anna Ka Bazaar - 16 Rue Keller 75011

You may well have heard of the third stop on the list from other sewists visiting Paris. Anna Ka Bazaar is the most well known stockist of the popular Atelier Brunette fabric line and whilst I saw a few bolts in most of the other shops this day there was definitely the widest choice here. This was a lovely little space with a surprisingly large selection of fabrics and there was a sale on which I somehow managed to resist! I was particularly taken with the wool coatings. Along one wall was a large unit housing sewing notions and an impressive selection of french indie patterns including a couple of companies new to me. There were also a number of crafty supplies, books and kits on the left as you came in the door.

Mercerie de Charonne - 69 Rue de Charonne 75011

I hadn't put Mercerie de Charonne on my list of places to get to as I wasn't particularly looking for haberdashery and from previous reports it sounded quite small. I came across it quite by accident on the way to the next stop though and am really pleased I stopped by as it is one of those real treasure troves of a trimmings shop; packed to the rafters with everything you might need. There was also a wide ranging collection of sewing and craft books towards the back of this dinky little space.

Brin de Cousette - 2 Rue Richard Lenoir 75011

Continuing along Rue de Charonne you'll soon come across Brin de Cousette which is a lovely welcoming space with a carefully curated selection of fabrics, yarn and patterns. In fact out of all the places I visited this was the best stockist of patterns; stocking designs from the majority of the french companies and many international brands like Sewaholic, Papercut, Colette, Named and more. Around half the shop is a teaching space and there was a knitting class going on during my visit.

Malhia Kent - 19 Avenue Daumesnil 75012

After a quick bite to eat near Bastille I headed along Avenue Daumesnil, otherwise known as the Viaduc des Arts. The viaduct running along the length of this road used to carry a railway in the 19th century and now is home to the Promendade Plantée; an elevated park which is well worth a wander if you have the time. The arches of the viaduct are now home to many craft shops and workshops including Malhia Kent which is entirely unlike any of the other fabric shops I visited on my trip. They are weavers of high end fabrics for RTW, couture and furnishing and in this store sell off the roll at €30/m or coupons of varying lengths at €10/m. The weaving is incredibly creative and colourful. Fabrics to really treasure. The sizeable scraps in baskets by the counter are sold off at €1 a piece.

La Droguerie - 9-11 Rue du Jour 75001

From here I spent a bit of time wandering around the Jardin des Plantes before heading back up towards the Pompidou where I was staying. Before calling it a day I wanted to check out two more places. First up, tucked away behind Église Saint Eustache is La Droguerie. I was blown away by how beautiful this shop was with all its old fashioned wooden fittings and notions and beads lined up in jars. It is surprisingly large and mainly stocked with top quality yarn, beads and buttons but there was a nice selection of natural fibres fabrics at the back of the store.

Mokuba - 18 Rue Montmartre 75001

I accidentally stumbled across Mokuba on the way to my final stop of the day. Mokuba are manufacturers of ribbon who I have used frequently for work so I was delighted to happen upon their real life shop. The kind of ribbon they make gives a whole new meaning to the word ribbon which pleated, embroidered, braided and lace designs in all the colours of the rainbow. Through the back of the shop there was another small shop across the courtyard stocking more ribbon and other decorative bits and pieces like beads.

Lil Weasel - 1-4 Passage du Grand Cerf 75002

Lastly I just about made it in time to Lil Weasel who have a gorgeous location in one of Paris' many covered arcades. They have two shops across from one another; the smaller of the two stocking yarn and knitting patterns and the larger focusing on sewing and fabric. There was a much wider variety of fabric here than I expected and I had a hard time walking away from a mustard brocade, a beautifully soft denim and a quilted sweat-shirting. They had a large range of Liberty prints and the second biggest selection of Atelier Brunette I saw.


This area is more purely fabric based although there are a couple of lovely haberdasheries in amongst the fabric shops. The majority of the shops are along the Rue D'Orsel, Rue Livingstone and around the corner as it turns into Place Saint-Pierre at the base of the Sacré-Coeur. It felt like the Goldhawk Road of Paris to me but with some much bigger shops! They were much more chaotic than the shops I'd been in the previous day and often packed with rolls of fabric and coupons. Many of the shops in this area sell fabric in coupons which are 3 metre lengths at often discounted prices. This can make fabric shopping in another language a little easier as they are often labelled up and ready to buy so you don't have to ask for a specific quantity to be cut.

Marche Saint-Pierre (Dreyfuss) - 2 Rue Charles Nodier 75018

My first stop was of course the famous Marche Saint Pierre which is basically a department store of fabric. Spread across five huge floors they stock practically every fabric type known to man! From what I'd heard I was expecting to be loaded with delights when I left but didn't actually find anything I couldn't resist. Perhaps I was a little overwhlemed! I was surprised by the amount of furnishing fabrics and found the 2nd floor the best for dressmaking. The first floor had some bargains but a lot of it seemed quite low in quality with a lot of polyester. I felt similarly about the small coupon branch directly across the street; there were bargains to be had but I struggled to find anything I wanted. I did like how the tables were labelled clearly with the price and fabric content.

Tissus Reine - 3-5 Place Saint Pierre 75018

Next door is the similarly sized Tissus Reine. I much preferred this store as it felt a little more spacious and welcoming organised and the fabric seemed of better quality. I found some lovely viscose and jersey prints in particular. This was also the only place in Paris that I came across to buy big four patterns from their pattern department upstairs!

Sacrés Coupons - 3 Rue Pierre Ricard 75018

My favourite shop in this district was a tip off from Marie-Emmeline at I Am Patterns (who I am still so disappointed that I didn't get to meet up with after a technology mix up!). Sacrés Coupons is a little further down the road and has two stores next to each other; the first and smaller shop has leather and knit fabrics and the second everything else! The fabrics in here are all end of roll and you can score some designer gems! Almost everything is sold in a coupon of around three metres with the exception of some rolls at the back of the store. I really liked that each coupon was clearly labelled with length, width, price and fabric content. Some also have an additional sale label! There were some truly beautiful silks, wools and laces.

There are many, many other smaller stores along this street and a couple of the adjoining ones and I by no means ventured in to them all but here's a quick run down of those I did pop my head into. I found Frou Frou (pictured above) to be better for quilting, stocking its own range of fat quarters and sewing notions and laid out more like the independent shops from further into the centre of the city. Moline had a nice selection of fabrics mainly on the roll but a large percentage of the shop was devoted to furnishing fabric. If you're after African Wax Prints I've heard very good things about Toto, although I didn't pay a visit myself. To buy haberdashery in the area the Mercerie Saint Pierre (beind the Marche) looked good. A shop selling mainly coupons that I particularly enjoyed is one of the first you encounter on the way from the metro; Paris Tissus. Although slightly chaotic feeling the stock is well organised and labelled and there was a good variety of garment appropriate fabric.

As the shops are so busy in this area (I was there on a Saturday afternoon so probably saw it at its busiest) the staff are less available to assist than in the smaller shops elsewhere in the city. Most shops I ventured into had fabric clearly labelled with price as well as fabric content but it may help you to know some fabric names in French! Here's a brief run down of some of the most common terms:

fabric - tissu
mercerie - haberdashery
cotton - coton
wool - laine
silk - soie
polyester - polyester
viscose - viscose
linen - lin
denim - denim/jean
leather - cuir
suede - daim
acrylic - acrylique
sale - soldes (very important!)

If you're looking to buy a lot of fabric and are on the hunt for bargains I would hit the streets up by the Sacré-Coeur. If you're after a more peaceful experience and are happy to browse and perhaps treat yourself to a couple of irresistible items I would highly recommend taking your time to explore the smaller shops in other areas in the city. Either way there's no chance you'll be leaving empty handed!

So what DID I leave with you may ask...well I was fairly restrained as I wasn't in need of much and don't like to have a large stash of fabric waiting to be used. I bought a DP Studio pattern from Maison Cousu that I was excited to find in person in paper format. I treated myself to a length of gorgeous lace trim from Entrée des Fournisseurs which I am hoping to use on the cuffs and hem of a simple black top. Up in Montmartre I found just the fabric I was looking for to make a Berlin Skirt in Sacre Coupons. It is a lovely crisp cotton in Khaki green with a soft almost brushed finish on the right side. And my final purchase on the way back to the metro was a beautiful coupon of chambray in Paris Tissus. I'm not sure if it is viscose or tencel but it has the most beautiful drape and three metres is be plenty for a summer dress or jumpsuit.

Whenever I may return to Paris I'll certainly be making a second visit to most of these stores and will come prepared with a shopping list and some money saved up so I can really make the most of it next time. Do any of you have any other Parisian favourites that I missed? I'd love to discover some more next time!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for tickets to the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show. I enjoyed reading about what you were looking forward to and there were some great comments; I particularly loved that some of you liked seeing so many people in one place wearing handmade outfits! The competition closed last night and I selected the 5 winners by random number generator this morning...congratulations Rachel, Kate, Meagan, Julia and Lisa. I'll be sending you an email today to get your details for the tickets. Don't forget if you weren't successful this time you can get your tickets for £11.50 using the code DIARY18 at the checkout!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Berry Merino Kielo Wrap Dress

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

This is another project that has shot straight to the front of my blogging queue ahead of the intended schedule because I'm so happy with it! So happy in fact I wore it to two parties on the trot last weekend. You can't beat an interesting dress in one of your favourite colours, which you feel great in and also feels as comfortable as your pyjamas because its just knit fabric wrapped around your body. Also this has the added bonus of being toasty warm while you wait for the train there as its made in merino!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

I first made the Kielo Wrap Dress from Named a couple of years back and whilst I loved it the fabric didn't hold up so well and it didn't get a whole lot of wear. Every time I see one someone else has made in my feed or on Instagram though it makes another little leap up my sewing queue and I've fully intended on making a couple of other iterations since I finished the first. Named released a sleeve expansion pack for the dress around the same time which sold me on whether the design could work for winter too. Rumana has made some amazing sleeved versions of this pattern. It is a really great design, simple yet clever and unique, which Named seem to do best. It is fun and straightforward to assemble with only pattern pieces for the front and back and the ties to contend with plus sleeves and binding if you opt for that. The dress can wrap at the front or back which gives two quite distinctively different shapes and looks; I love that if you're feeling self conscious about your tummy you can conceal it with a front tie, or if on another day you're not loving your butt you can tie it at the back for a bit of extra coverage! Or if you're feeling particularly wild you can go full on flying squirrel...

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

I knew I wanted a length of merino in a knock out colour to be part of the last order of my run of few months as a brand ambassador for The Fabric Store and originally opted for a Prussian Blue which I was gutted to discover they didn't have enough stock of. But it must have been meant to be as I am delighted with what I ended up choosing instead which is this Fucshia in their standard weight single jersey. Despite the name this isn't actually too hot of a pink which I was relieved about! It has a gorgeous rich and warm tone which has a real vibrancy to it without being shocking. You definitely can't beat natural fibres like wool and silk for taking a real bold colour of dye.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

I thought the fabric would either make a great winter wrap dress or an amazing dramatic long cardigan for spring and presumed the obvious choice would come to me when the fabric arrived. But I loved it so much I wanted both and had to resort to an Instagram poll to help me! It was a close run contest but wrap dress won with 55% of the vote and I had an excuse to tick another project off my #2018makenine challenge grid. The dress was absolutely the right choice as I think the jersey would have been a bit flimsy for the kind of cardigan I was after but is a perfect match for the Kielo. Its light enough not to make the wrap too bulky (there are quite a lot of layers going on once you get tied up) but has enough body and weight to hold a nice shape in the folds and drape of the skirt. I'm now looking for something a bit more weighty but in an equally bold and vibrant colour to make my dream maxi cardigan. I'm thinking maybe one of these lovely lightweight boiled wools from Dragonfly Fabrics. I've seen some samples of them and they have a lovely soft drape and more movement than a standard boiled wool.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

The pattern is intended for fabrics with some element of stretch in them but as numerous people have I made up my first version in a woven which totally works. However, making it in a knit means it sits slightly better on the body and stays there as you move around. I'm definitely much happier with this than my woven version. I'd also be concerned about how well the sleeve expansion in particular would work in a woven, I imagine you might have some trouble setting in a smooth sleeve that fits neatly. Interestingly, considering its designs for knits a lot of the construction elements I would associate more with working with a woven fabric such as the bust darts.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

I have seen the instructions for Named patterns get mixed reviews but I generally find their more recent collections to be excellent; thorough and easy to follow. This particular dress though I have a very old copy of so the instructions are fairly brief and I had the layered and split pattern pieces to deal with. Man are all those criss crossing lines where the pattern pieces overlap confusing! Named have updated this pattern since I first bought it and their pattern pieces nowadays are much easier to handle so you don't have to trace after assembling the PDF. Looking at blog posts from sewists who have made this dress recently it seems the instructions now include a lot more information such as the recommendation to interface your ties and the suggestion of using bias binding to finish your neckline instead of just turning in and stitching as my copy says. I interfaced my ties anyway as a little bit of knit sewing experience made me think that the ties could probably do with a bit of extra support to prevent them stretching out with extended use. It also means they keep a nice flat rectangular shape along the length of the tie rather than collapsing in on itself. I didn't want limp looking stringy ties! I used a very lightweight fusible interfacing along the entire length and width so there is a double layer of it in the assembled tie.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

As for finishing the neckline I deliberated over this for a while. I felt like just turning it under and hemming wasn't really what I wanted and felt like it might need something more robust going on. The bias finish seemed more appropriate for a woven fabric and I wasn't keen on using a band as I didn't think it would suit the style or want to add any height to the neckline. In the end I attached a doubled strip in the same way you would a band but then turned it to the inside and stitched down like a bias facing for a clean finish. I used a twin needle to match the way I had finished the cuffs. I was worried about the neckline stretching out of shape so was really careful with how I handled it and it actually sits nice and flat against the body. I like the width and height of it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

I cut the size 38 as I always do with Named patterns and got away with using just 1.75m of jersey as the fact that I wasn't using a print meant I could top and tail my pieces. The dress is obviously pretty easy to fit in the most part as you just wrap it around your body as tight as is comfortable! You do however want those bust darts to sit in the right place and the most trouble you'll probably have is with the armhole. A few people have mentioned that they find the armhole quite low on the sleeveless version and I think it is a fraction low on this too. The new armhole pattern pieces that come with the sleeve expansion pack extend the shoulder seam along to the armhole and change the shape of the armsyce ever so slightly but don't really do anything about the height of the armhole. I did however find working out the position of the new armholes on the original pieces a little confusing so perhaps I didn't get them quite in the right place! I used 1" for the hem of the sleeve and didn't remove any length but did slim them down by 1/2" on the double from the cuff up to nothing at 11" up the sleeve. I have tiny little wrists and like my sleeves skinny!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

The first time I made this pattern I cut it to hit just above the knee but then ended up shortening it to more of a mini length as that seemed to work better on me proportionally. I expected to end up doing similar on this one, especially to balance out the extra coverage of the long sleeves but ended up loving the midi length! I'm really pleased I cut it long so I could play around with the length rather than going straight for short. There's something that feels effortlessly sophisticated about the wrap style with a sleeve combined with the midi length. If you're planning on making this and would like a reference point length-wise I'm about 5ft3" and I initially took 30cm off the original maxi length of the pattern. After trying it on I removed a further 16cm and used 2.5cm for the hem to get it to hit that sweet spot just below the knee which is most flattering on the leg.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store

I was really concerned when I cut into the merino that this wouldn't turn out as well as the image in my head and I'd feel like I wasted the fabric when it would have made a beautiful cardigan but I love it soooo much more than I thought I might! I'm definitely going to be making a sleeveless maxi version of this in jersey in the summer to replace my favourite French Connection maxi which has seen me through at least 5 or 6 warm seasons before I finally had to admit I could repair it no longer last year. I will have my eyes peeled for the perfect drapey jersey with a small rich print. I adore this solid black bamboo jersey version by Erica and think bamboo might be the ideal slinky and breathable choice so will check out what Offset Warehouse have in. Jasika's maxi version is a complete knockout too. Its going to be a hard choice to make...almost as hard as deciding on my favourite way to wear this one!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Fuchsia Merino Jersey from The Fabric Store