2014: a year in sewing (and a bit of knitting)

2014 has been a very productive year for me, I managed to make a grand total of 38 items: 13 dresses, 4 skirts, 3 shirts, 8 tops, 1 jacket, 1 swimsuit, a bag and 7 pairs of knickers (I’m counting the knickers as one!)  I’ve also knitted 4 cardigans, a hat and a pair of arm warmers.

Me made May was a catalyst in being able to see what suits me, what I feel comfortable in and what, in essence, is ‘me’.  You can have a quick look in the mirror before going out the door but there’s nothing like photographic evidence for getting a true picture of how an outfit works (or doesn’t) on you.  There were a few items that went in the Charity shop pile after seeing the pictures but there were also a few pleasant surprises.  My main realisation was that I prefer to wear dresses and this is reflected in the thirteen I’ve made this year.   I think in part this is because they are easy to wear, you can just throw them on without having to figure out what goes with what.  Another reason is that being on the short and curvy side they help to ‘elongated’ me, whereas separates tend to break me up a bit too much.

I know it’s traditional to do a top 5 hits and misses but I struggled to pick these,  so I have decided to do favourites, most worn and things left languishing in the wardrobe.

Favourites

My Swishy Anna Dress

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I really love this dress, it fits perfectly, the fabric is lovely and it’s very ‘me’.

My Flock Simplicity 2444 and the accompanying tartan frankenpattern

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I think the tweaks to this pattern have resulted in not far off the perfect fit.  I also have happy memories linked to them as I wore the grey flocked one for the Sew Brum meet up and the tartan was, of course, my Christmas dress!

My Purple and leafy Chardons

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This has proved to be the perfect flarey skirt pattern for me, I love the inverted pleats, it gives a bit of body without having the bulk around the waistline.

My Bombshell Swimsuit

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I enjoyed making this so much and I’m really glad I went for the bottle green.  I am also rather amazed proud that I not only blogged it but posted photos of me wearing it!

 

Most worn

My Ladyskaters

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These have been like wearing pyjamas, so comfortable yet respectable enough to be seen in public.  I actually prefer the blue one, the purple one is starting to bobble a bit but they are both everyday workhorses.

My Maya dress  

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I’ve worn this loads over a long sleeved tee and leggings, it’s so easy to wear, doesn’t need ironing and it’s got flowers around the bottom!

My Archers

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Perfect for wearing with jeans and have therefore been worn a lot at work.

My Miette Cardigans

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I think the Green Miette is my most worn knitted cardigan, I really love the colour and I’ve managed to combine it with a lot of things in my wardrobe.  Another Miette is on the cards once I’ve finished my owl sweater.

My Trixie Lixie Knickers 

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Without a doubt my most worn by far.  I made seven pairs back in April and have worn them daily since.  They are a really good fit, exceptionally comfortable and they have gingham ruffle elastic!  I really need to make a few more pairs as some are starting to look a little too well worn

Languishing in the wardrobe

My Liberty Cambie

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I’m a little sad that my most expensive dress has ended up being barely worn.  The only reason is the fabric, I really liked the dark green and kinda expected the dress to turn out a darker colour but the reality is a very wishy washy yellow colour.  I still can’t figure out how it happened, it’s like some kind of optical illusion!  It just doesn’t work with my skin tone and it’s probably my biggest disappointment.

My Spotty scout tee

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The one time I didn’t pre-wash the fabric, it shrank, ended up in the bin, lesson learned!

My navy eyelet Laurel

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Great when I’m standing up, rides up far too much when I am sitting down and flashes a bit too much leg for my liking!

My outfit a long outfit

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I do like this but I think I’ve only worn the dress twice.  I was never happy with the fit around the shoulders and it didn’t feel very ‘secure’.  I haven’t really worn the cardigan much either, there’s too much fullness in the sleeves and although the colour is a perfect match for the dress it doesn’t really go with anything else in my wardrobe.  Another disappointment as I had been hanging onto the fabric for a couple of years, I do have another two metres left of it though so not a total loss!

Some thoughts for 2015

  • I really need to consider if something will suit my body type before jumping on each new shiny pattern that get’s released!
  • I think I need to slow down a bit and  concentrate on quality rather than quantity.  I’ve made a considerable amount of garments this year but the one’s I’ve most enjoyed the most have been those I’ve taken the time to achieve a good finish.
  • I’m going to try and rid myself of my list making obsession.  Lists and plans have helped me focus but they’ve also taken out the spontaneity and added a bit of pressure.  This year I want to try and go with the flow and just sew whatever I feel like at the time.
  • I really need to get the stash under control.  I’ve got enough fabric to last next year and beyond.  Now I’m not committing  to a total fabric fast, a year without fabric shopping is a far too depressing prospect!  I just need to have a really good sort out of what I’ve got and ‘maybe’ set up some kind of system so I know what I’ve got and how much yardage without having to rummage and measure every time I want to sew something.
  • I am going to commit to a ‘ready to wear’ fast though.  I don’t think this will be difficult as I’ve only bought a handful of rtw garments this year.  I honestly don’t miss going clothes shopping, being liberated from size labels and shop changing rooms is one of the best things about sewing my own.

So that’s another year of sewing.  It has been a brilliant year, I have met some wonderful people through sewing, both online and in real life.  I’ve loved reading comments, blogs and particularly developing my instagram addiction!  Seeing everyone’s creativity has been inspiring and I feel very fortunate to be part of such a fabulous community.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

A tartan Christmas Frankenpattern

I managed to finish my Christmas dress in time for the start of the celebrations. It’s a frankenpattern: the bodice from Simplicity 2444 and the skirt from the Colette Peony. I made a Blackwatch tartan Peony (unclogged) last year but there were multiple issues with the fit of the bodice. I tried my best to tweak it, and it is wearable, but I haven’t made it since as I couldn’t be bothered to try and sort out the fit. I loved the skirt of the Peony though, just a simple A-line. It is supposed to have two sets of gathering at the waistline but I changed these to inverted pleats for a more streamlined look. The fit of my last 2444 was so good that a marriage with the Peony skirt seemed to be a match made in heaven.

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My initial plan was to use purple and grey tartan but when I held up the red it just screamed Christmas. I had a bit of a headache trying to match the checks, I finally gave in and realised I couldn’t match both horizontal and vertical so decided to just concentrate on the horizontals. It’s not too bad, the front is OK, the back went a bit squiffy but I can live with it.

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from the front…..

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….the insides…..

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….and a back view

I used red satin bias tape to finish the neckline instead of using the facings, which worked well and is a method I plan to use again in the future. I also bias bound the hem using the same red satin (really love bound hems!)

 

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I really enjoyed making this dress, I managed to do most of it on my birthday. I also got the best present ever from my other half: A 1959 Singer 221 Featherweight, it has all eight feet, original instruction book and even the original tube of oil! I sewed some of my dress with it and it stitches like a dream, just like the old Singer I got for my fifteenth birthday.

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So that’s the Christmas dress, I really do love it, suitably festive for the time of year. I really think I may have found a winning combination with this pattern mash-up, there are quite a few sleeve and collar options which come with the 2444 which I might have a play around with. I’ve worn it twice so far; to my work Christmas dinner and to a neighbour’s party and will be wearing it on Christmas day.  I’m all done and organised and all that remains is to just enjoy it!

I really hope you all have a fabulous Christmas!

What will you be wearing for Christmas day?

 

Helen x

A leafy green Chardon and battling the winter blues

This Deer and Doe Chardon is the last thing I sewed for myself and that was nearly six weeks ago. Towards the end of October my brain promptly went into hibernation (I think I must have been a bear in a past life) I should be used to it by now as it happens every year. The sensible thing to do would have been to take it easy but I’m not one to take my own advice.   I normally manage running the project days, as it’s a horticultural therapy project it works both ways.  Unfortunately it coincided with the busiest time for paperwork; monitoring, evaluation and annual accounts to do. I tried to bumble through as best I could but with everything taking twice as much time, energy and effort I spent most of the time feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and slightly confused. I was just starting to surface again at the end of November when my Mum was rushed into hospital.  She had suffered a small stroke and is fine now and back at home, but we had two weeks of stress and worry.

The point of this ramble is that I haven’t sewn any clothes for weeks and I’m missing it badly! I didn’t want to start any major projects as my lack of cohesive thought would very likely lead to me making a mess of it. I have tried to keep myself busy with easy little side projects, I finished knitting my Wiksten Jul hat just in time for winter to take hold in earnest. I’ve also got one and a half matching arm warmers. I’ve got the yarn for my Owl sweater but I want to wait until the holidays before I cast on.

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Spurred on by Marilla Walkers Christmas decoration swap I vowed to be as crafty as possible this year. I made a couple of stuffed Christmas trees with bells on for Caroline my swap partner:

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I’ve also made my own Christmas cards this year, having a very therapeutic evening with buttons, paper punches and a glue gun:

 

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I’ve just finished making a Parliament of Owl heat bags:

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I’ve enjoyed these little crafting projects but haven’t had the same sense of satisfaction from making them (ie I can’t wear them!)

I normally hate cutting out but it seemed to be a task that was quite manageable and so I have a few make-up bags ready to sew. I’ve also cut out an Archer shirt for the little one (who is now nearly as big as me) as he keeps wearing mine. I’ve cut the same size as I figured he would grow into it and when he grows out of it I’ll be able to have it! I had planned to make some knickers for presents but there has been a bit of debate about how appropriate they would be. The little one is adamant that you can’t give someone a pair of knickers for Christmas, I’ve tried arguing that they will be liberty print with gingham ruffle elastic but the Jury is still out on that one.

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Anyway, the skirt. This is my second Deer and Doe Chardon skirt. I used a metre and a half of this 45inch wide William Morris based quilting cotton, which I bought on holiday earlier in the year. It’s medium weight, a little lighter than my previous Chardon. I sewed it up exactly as last time, cutting a size 44.  I used some of the fabric from my previous one for the facing as it was just that little bit stiffer.

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I bound the hem with green satin bias binding (will definitely finish all my hems this way in future) I am even more in love with this pattern now and it is my number one little flarey skirt pattern.

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Even though things have been hectic (and will continue to be as Christmas approaches) I really feel the need to sew a Christmas dress getting back to a bit of selfish therapeutic sewing. I had a look through the stash and have found the perfect fabric; red tartan!  I’m going to use the bodice from Simplicity 2444 with the skirt from the Colette Peony. I may even go all out Christmas present and put a bow on it. As far as time goes it’s my birthday next week (even though I stopped having birthdays a few years ago, I have settled on being eternally thirtysomething!) Everyone is at work and school apart from me.  The other half wanted to take the day off work so we could go out somewhere but I managed to dissuade him. All I want to do is have a day to myself, sewing my Christmas dress. The prospect of no interruptions, a lit fire and possibly a Cary Grant film on Netflix sounds like a perfect day. I have a box of chocolates at the ready and might even have a bottle of fizz (I actually sew better after alcohol!) a whole six hours of uninterrupted me-time will be bliss!

Anyone else sewing a Christmas dress and if so what are you doing?

My latest Deer and Doe – the Bruyere Shirt

Just as I was drawing up my autumn/winter sewing plans Deer and Doe released the Bruyere shirt pattern. I was really taken with the pictures, loved the longer length and fitted waist and so it was added to my already Deer and Doe heavy list. Fabric for the Bruyere was top of my shopping list when I went to the SewBrum meet up (along with the pattern which I managed to get at Gutherie and Ghani) I originally had a Chambray or Swiss Dot in mind but this blue floral cotton poplin was the first thing that jumped out at me at Barry’s fabrics. I bought two and a half metres after a quick google for the fabric requirements, it was only after that I realised I had misread in my excitement and the two and a half was for 60inch wide whereas my fabric was only 45inch (doh), undeterred I figured I could wing it and if it came to it could use a contrasting fabric for the inner workings.

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I never used to wear shirts very often, I think the main problem with ready to wear was the length, particularly the sleeves which were at least four inches too long. Shirts often ended just a few inches above my knees giving the effect of junior school art classes where we brought in our Dad’s old shirts to wear as overalls. The beauty of sewing your own is having sleeves that fit, being able to wear them under a sweater and not having to roll them up all the time.

I knew I would have to shorten the sleeves and also take a fair bit off the ‘skirt’. Somewhere along the way I have got into the (very good) habit of measuring pattern pieces and working out how they compare to my own measurements. I usually have to shorten bodices by at least an inch but after checking the pattern pieces this didn’t seem necessary. I cut a size 42, grading out to a 44 across the bust and then back to a 42 for the waist and hips. I shortened the sleeves by four inches and took four inches off the length of the skirt.

I had to be a little creative with the cutting layout and just managed to fit it all on (part of this was due to me shortening the sleeves and skirt.) I very nearly made a major mistake with the bodice front, as I was cutting it in a single layer and forgot to flip the pattern piece, nearly ending up with two left fronts (I was watching Luther on Netflix at the time, lesson learned!)

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The instructions are very succinct but easy to follow, everything is French Seamed to give a really neat finish. The pattern is classed as advanced but I think it is on a par with the Grainline Archer in terms of difficulty and would class it as an intermediate. Unlike the Archer the Bruyere doesn’t have a collar stand which makes things a little easier.

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I really like the drafting of the Deer and Doe patterns I’ve tried so far; everything fits together perfectly. With a lot of other patterns I find things that don’t quite meet up; an extra few millimetres at the waistband or darts and pleats that don’t quite match and need a bit of tweaking. I had put this down to my sewing but maybe this could partially be due to drafting and grading problems. It was only after I had attached the bodice and skirt to the waistband that I realised I hadn’t checked if everything did line up, I was completely amazed to find that both front and back darts and pleats matched perfectly. The Bruyere went together so neatly and was a real pleasure to sew. The fit is also spot on, there’s just enough ease to be able to move around comfortably (and accommodate a substantial lunch) I found I was right not to shorten the bodice as the waistband falls just on my natural waist, although if you are taller and have a longer torso it might be as well to check the measurements to see if you need to lengthen it a bit. It is also lovely to have sleeves the right length!

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I will definitely be making more Bruyere’s in the future. There is an option for a sleeveless version which would be great for summer. I really want to try lengthening it into a shirtdress though, I think this could work well in a fabric with a bit of drape. As you can probably tell I’m rather smitten with Deer and Doe, I’ve still got the Belladone to sew and have added another four onto my Christmas wishlist. There is the distinct possibility that I may have to add a sub heading to the blog title in which ‘Helen sews Deer and Doe’!

Some finished knitwear – Peggy Sue Cardigan

I have some knitting to post today, the Peggy Sue Cardigan, a free pattern by Linda Wilgus from Woolly Mammoth Knits: ‘The design is vintage flavoured and was inspired by the pin-up sweaters of the 1950’s. As the cardigan is cropped, it’s a fairly quick knit in a DK- weight yarn. The shaping in the waist comes from the cabled ribbing pattern, which is also found on the collar and cuffs.’

To say this was a long time in the making is an understatement, I think it was May when I cast this on and I’ve only just finished it! I used SMC Schachenmayr yarn which I purchased from Laughing Hens, I’ve not knitted with this brand before but decided to give it try as the price was very reasonable. It’s a double knit ‘Extra Soft Merino Alpaca’ (80% Merino 20% Baby Alpaca) the colour is 06002, it’s supposed to be Midnight Blue but I think it’s more of an Airforce Blue (a blue, grey purple!). I used seven 50 gram balls, 930 metres. I knit the large size which is a 42.5 inch bust, the sizing goes from small (34 inch) to 3X (54 inch).

It’s a seamless raglan sleeved cardigan, knitted from the top down on circular needles (I used 4mm). The collar is one set of the four row cable pattern. The upper body is stocking stitch with raglan increases and then the sleeves are put on hold while you knit the rest of the body.

I think I just got bored while knitting the upper body, there were increasingly long rows of stocking stitch which wasn’t enough to keep me interested. It ended up languishing at the bottom of my knitting bag for quite a while and was destined to be an eternal UFO. I did actually knit my Myrna in the middle and was just about to start something else when the other half nagged me to pick it up again. I reluctantly agreed not to buy any more yarn until it was finished.

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Once I had taken the sleeves off things improved, there was still a lot of stocking stitch but at least the rows weren’t as long. The pattern has three decreases on a row in the middle of the back which I was a bit puzzled by as they are in a very visible position. I decided to move these to the sides so they weren’t noticeable. The cable ribbing is a five stitch four row pattern. I was quite excited to get to the cabling as at least things were getting interesting. The pattern repeat was simple to remember and although the cable row was a bit fiddly it was easy enough to do. I think I got about halfway through before my initial excitement seriously started to wane, at that point I just wanted to get it finished. My sense of achievement when I finally finished the body was coupled with an overwhelming feeling of relief!

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The pattern has short sleeves but as it was getting into Autumn I decided to lengthen them as much as I could. Once I finished the body I had nearly two full 50 gram balls left so planned to just keep knitting until I was nearly out of yarn. Once the sleeve measured 4 inch from the armpit I started decreasing 2 stitches every 4 rows. The pattern only has one repeat of the cabling for the cuffs but as I was doing longer sleeves I wanted a bit more depth so ended up doing three repeats. The button band is done in moss stitch. It suggests 8 buttons but I increased it to 10.

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Although it did take me ages to knit I’m glad I finally finished it. My mother in law was getting quite frustrated with me, frequently offering to do it for me but I’m not one to admit defeat. Once she starts knitting she doesn’t stop until she’s finished and can easily whip up a jumper or cardigan in a week. I go at a far more leisurely pace and, as with sewing, have to avoid doing things when I’m tired as my concentration wanes and I’m prone to making mistakes! I do really like the finished cardigan, the length is perfect and the cabling gives it a nice fitted shape. The colour is good and will be a useful neutral in my wardrobe. I do recommend this pattern, it’s a lovely little cardigan to knit. I think if I knit it again I will possibly go a size down as it might benefit from a bit more negative ease. I don’t know when I’ll knit it again but I will. I think it’s a bit like childbirth in that you forget all the pain after a while, I’m sure I’ll get to the point when I have worn it so much I’ll want another one in my wardrobe!

 

A tale of two Lady Skaters

I’ve had the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress on my list since it came out last year. I even got as far as printing the pattern and buying some purple Ponte from Minerva crafts but for one reason or another I never got around to it. Part of my Autumn sewing plan was to tackle those things that had been repeatedly bumped down the sewing list and the lady skater was a prime candidate. As well as the aforementioned Ponte I have recently bought five metres of this very stable, fairly heavy denim blue knit. (I knew it was ideal for a lady skater but it was the perfect blue and I’m sure it will come in handy for other stuff)

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I have a policy with knits and knickers in that I sew multiples in a production line fashion, so I cut out both dresses at the same time, I managed to squeeze each dress out of 2 metres of 54 inch wide fabric. The sizing goes on your high bust measurement, I was between a five and six so decided to go up one to be on the safe side. All the Lady Skaters I’ve seen seem to have quite a low waistline, I knew I would have to shorten the bodice by an inch, which is a standard alteration for me, but really wanted it to sit on my natural waistline so I decided to shorten it by a total of 2 inches. I also shortened the sleeves by 3 inches (also a standard adjustment for me) so from shoulder to wrist was about 19 inches. I’d not decided whether I wanted full or three quarter length sleeves at that point so kept to that measurement figuring I could decide once they were finished.

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The sewing was straightforward, I sewed most of them up on my overlocker (too lazy to change the thread for matching colours so went with the general assumption that ‘grey goes with everything’!) It’s a while since I’ve sewn any knits and I had forgotten how quick and how much fun they are. I actually used my twin needle for the first time, topstitching around the neckband and sewing the hem. I’ve never done this before as I never usually have two spools of the same colour thread, I also thought there would be a lot of faffing about trying to set the machine up and getting the tension right but it worked perfectly first time without any adjustment (yay, the sewing elves must be looking favourably on me!).

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I ended up with slightly longer than three quarter length sleeves, I actually shortened them by another two inches but this was added back on with the cuffs. I think they are around bracelet length now which is ok for keeping my forearms warm. I did find however I was automatically pulling them up to three quarter length so this was probably a good compromise. There are a few pull lines on the waistband of the blue dress, not sure what’s going on there but I had been wearing it all day.

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I have lived in these dresses since I made them, they are so warm and comfortable, like wearing respectable pyjamas’. This is the first time I’ve used Ponte and I can’t get over how cosy it is, I was straight on the internet looking for more after I made these but had to be strict as my fabric budget is empty (and my stash is overflowing, I’ve run out of places to hide fabric!) so I have added some bottle green and grey floral Ponte to my Christmas list so I can make some more!

So that’s four items now from my Autumn sewing list, I’m quite amazed at how focused I’ve been and it’s definitely helped to have a plan. There have been a couple of distractions which have been added to the list but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to finish them all before Christmas, then I can start a new plan for the New Year!

How do you choose your next sewing project? Do you have a plan or just dive in to whatever takes your fancy?

A Purple Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt

My Autumn and Winter sewing plans include a bit of a Deer and Doe binge, I’ve got the Belladone dress, Bruyere shirt and more Plantain tee’s in the queue but thought I’d start with the Chardon skirt. I wanted to check the fit of their patterns and for me the waist measurement is key. The patterns are drafted for hourglass figures and a C-cup, I’ve found with most patterns that if the waist sews up as true from the given measurement, then the bust and hip usually follow. I’ve sewn a couple of plantain’s before and even though they are knits the fit is spot on around the bust and shoulders.

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This purple cotton was originally intended to be another Megan Nielsen Kelly skirt (another thing I never got around to!) however the weight makes it ideal for the structured pleats of the Chardon. I also had half a metre of this perfectly co-ordinating cream cotton with little purple flowers left over from another project which was perfect for the pockets and facing.

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I must say that the packaging is very pretty and the pattern is printed on thick paper so designed to last. I cut a size 44, which was enough to give me a bit of room to breathe! The instructions are brief but it is a straightforward sew. There are nine inverted box pleats, five at the front and four at the back. I made sure that I back stitched the end of the pleats well as they are in a very high stress area (I actually bust the pleats on my Colette Zinnia after one too many Danish Pastries!) The pleats are also topstitched down for added security. I understitched the facing to help it lie flat and prevent it creeping out. The pattern suggests a lapped zipper but I only had an invisible one in my stash so I went with that. I’ve finally realised where I’ve been going wrong with my zips recently, I’ve had a new iron which runs a fair bit hotter than my last and I think it’s been slightly melting the teeth of the zips which would account for them sticking (doh!)

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I opted to add the belt loops, it’s quite a high waisted skirt and I figured a belt would define where my actual waist was (rather than giving me that stumpy torso look) I followed the placement for the loops on the pattern, I thought it was a bit strange as there are two on the front and four across the back but after thinking about it they are perfectly placed as belts do tend to ride up the back once you are sitting.

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The pattern recommends using bias binding to finish the hem, as I had used the contrasting fabric for the pockets and facing using bought binding would have just looked wrong so I decided to invest the time and make my own. I’m really glad I did, the bound hem looks lovely, I’m quite tempted to finish all my skirts like this in future. I think the contrasting fabric really elevates this skirt and I am unashamedly proud of it! I really enjoyed sewing it, the pattern is really well drafted, everything comes together easily and most importantly it is true in size.

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As you have probably gathered this is my new favourite skirt and will get loads of wear throughout the winter. I’m curious to see how this pattern will work with a lighter fabric with more drape so I have another in the queue. I have high hopes that this will become my number one TNT skirt pattern and I’m really looking forward to sewing more Deer and Doe.

Do you have a favourite pattern company?