SCRAPBUSTERS: A trio of Ballerinas and a duo of nameless panties

Here’s a random fact about me: I hate waste. I have a horror of landfill, and although I am nowhere near eco-warrior status, I am all too aware of the dangers of the “disposable” trend that seems to be the norm these days. I think that one of the great things about sewing is that we are more likely to make garments we love and will use, but what about all the leftover bits of fabric that end up languishing in a storage box, or the garments that hang in the wardrobe, unloved and unworn? If you read my post about my sewing resolutions for 2018, you might remember that I said I wanted to make use of things I already have rather than buying more. Well, when I made a recent version of Jenny Hellström’s Ballerina top, I remembered how narrow the pattern pieces are (because it’s such a slim fit top), making it perfect for using up remnants. My love for this pattern knows no bounds, so today I want to show you three scrapbusting modifications I made to it to use up my remnants, including one epic rescue mission.

Three, you say? But what about that “slow sewing” resolution from only a week ago? Fear not, the makes in this post were sewn bit by bit over the last two months, but all blogged together as they’re quite similar!

My standard “no good at building up suspense” opening pic

The first pieces of leftover fabric were this Girl Charlee floral, which I had left over from my GBSB Dune dress. Because the maxi dress pattern pieces are so much wider at the bottom than at the top, there are decent-sized chunks of fabric left over beside the bodice part after cutting out; they’re wide enough to cut sleeves from, and they’re also just big enough to accommodate the bodice pieces of a Ballerina top! I’d already used some of the remnants of this fabric to make a top for my daughter, so I was quite limited in what I had left. I had just enough for a front and back, but then not enough single pieces for the sleeves. So I decided to do a small modification to the pattern, and shorten the sleeves.

Sideways glance. I’d like to say I was contemplating my sleeves, but really I was just hoping to get the photos done before the rain came.

Since the sleeve is so close-fitting, I didn’t need to alter the line at all, just mark where I’d have to cut it off. I had just enough to make elbow-length sleeves: this isn’t a length I used to like, but since we offered it as an option on the Cassandra pattern, I’ve been getting more into it, so I decided to go for that rather than “short short” sleeves.

I usually find that designers choose specific features for a reason, and I think the ¾ length sleeves of the original pattern work best with the cut, but this is definitely a cute and very wearable t-shirt of the kind that will be in heavy rotation!

and now I’m looking downwards. There are only so many ways you can photograph a sleeve…

AND, bonus make: there were just enough scraps of offcuts left to try out the latest draft of the panties pattern we’re working on!

pretty panties!

I’m in love with the combination of this floral fabric and the pale coral lace. Plus from three metres of fabric I got a maxi dress, a peplum top for my daughter, a t-shirt, and a pair of knickers. That’s pretty hard-working fabric!

My next scraps were rescued from an early version of the Cassandra dress. When we were drafting we initially put too much swing in it, and it felt sack-like (we felt we’d crossed the line from “eat, drink, be merry, and your tummy still won’t show” to “is she eating for two?”, so went back to the drafting stage!) I’d made it in one of my favourite fabrics, so was gutted when I realised that we needed to make further adjustments. I put it in my wardrobe and thought I’d get some wear out of it anyway… but it just sat there, ignored and unloved. Time to reach for the scissors…

So much better as a Ballerina top!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I always find it hard to cut pattern pieces out of existing garments, because the ones you’re cutting from are often narrower in the wrong place than you need them to be. So I carefully cut all the seams to maximise fabric usage, and managed to get the bodice front and back from the skirt part of the dress. The sleeves could be cut down for the Ballerina sleeves, as the Cassandra ones are slightly wider, and then there was a bit left at the bodice top that wasn’t going to be big enough to save.

Can you spot the difference in this version? Look at the dress version of the Ballerina top on the pattern packet: it has cuffs. Cuffs that would just squeeze into my last little bit of fabric! So I decided to go for it, and make some cuffs for the top.

Behold! Cuffs on the dress version!

Now I do like a cuff. I won’t lie to you: a big part of this is dispensing with the need to hem sleeves. I don’t know why I dislike hemming sleeves, it’s not that it’s hard or anything, but it’s as if in my head it’s harder than it is in reality. So bring on the cuffs.

Cuff love

It’s a nice new twist on a TNT pattern, especially since the pattern itself doesn’t offer a variety of options. I wonder whether it might have been better in a more casual or even contrast fabric, but I do like how it adds some length to the sleeve. Because the fabric print is quite busy, the photos don’t show it brilliantly, but I promise they’re there!

AND there was just enough fabric left from the scraps of the original dress to make… another pair of our new knickers!

Ta-daaa! Scrapbusting like a boss. Plus more pretty lace.

We’re still undecided about a name for these, hence the “nameless panties” of the title. I have a name that I’m 90% certain about, but watch this space…

Anyway, on to the final make… This was less of a desire to use up scraps and more of a rescue mission. I had this idea in my head that it would be great to hack the Dune maxi into a skirt. But you know how I’ve ignored the voice of reason before? I did it again. I cut it off at the high waist instead of the low waist, but attached a waistband that fit my low waist. So it was either too long if I wore the waistband at the right place, or too baggy if I hoiked it up. Also, you know what I said earlier about designers making choices for a reason? Dune is a great dress, because of its skimming lines. You lose the whole skim factor if you make it into a waistbanded skirt. So yes, when I started out on this one my voice of reason might as well have been screaming at me from another room while I sang my heart out wearing headphones and doing the vacuuming, because I just didn’t hear it…

Sit tight, there’s a story behind this top…

Anyway, I was left with two large pieces of navy fabric in a skirt shape. By a wing and a prayer I managed to squeeze the bodice of the Cassandra top and an elbow-length sleeve out of each piece (I’m talking to within a couple of millimetres). While I was attaching the sleeves, I noticed I was struggling to set the sleeves nicely. I thought it was strange, but I put it down to being tired and a bit fed up of my rescue project.

Well, when I came to try on the top, I could barely squeeze my arms into the sleeves.

No, I hadn’t been eating lots of spinach (OK, if you never saw Popeye, that joke just went down like a lead balloon).

Instead of the Cassandra elbow length sleeves, I’d grabbed the pattern piece for a pattern I’d been making for my 4-year-old daughter.

No, don’t ask how I could be so stupid.

My remaining pieces of fabric were even smaller now. No way even my trusty Ballerina top could fit onto those. BUT… part of it could. From about the armscye down, in fact. And I had some remnants of black cotton jersey of roughly the same weight left over from my Rise turtleneck. I managed to get the upper parts of the bodice front and back, plus a neckband, with a tiny bit left over – just big enough for short sleeves – from the black jersey. So I was going to make this a short-sleeved top, until I realised that in my offcuts from the original navy maxi skirt I had a couple of pieces big enough to make the rest of the sleeve piece. Hurray!

I’m going to pretend that this is what these fabrics were destined for all along.

The only drawback is that it’s a bit, well, Vulcan…

Live long and prosper, friends…

Till next time, have a great week!

Pin these ideas:

Sewing resolutions (or: why I will not be wearing crushed velvet in 2018)

Hello and happy new year! I hope that everyone reading this has had a wonderful and joyful Christmas and festive season. We had two weeks off – and offline – and it was such a tonic. I have enjoyed going back to the immediacy of living in the moment I’m in, and two weeks without using my phone has totally smoothed out the frown lines I acquired lately – seriously, I feel like I’ve had non-surgical Botox! With this in mind, I have resolved to spend less time on Instagram in 2018 (along with reading more and going to bed earlier). How do you feel about new year’s resolutions? I always make them, ranging from small, achievable changes like making sure I drink 2 litres of water a day (that was my resolution for 1998 and it’s still going strong!) to bigger things that are renewed every year like being more patient. I accept that by the end of the year some resolutions will have become embedded and others will still be works in progress (I think I’ll be making the patient one every year forever…) This year I made 5 sewing resolutions, and you can place your bets now on which I’ll have stuck to by the end of the year…

1. Only sew things I will wear

This one really hit me with my final make of 2017, the velvet dress I made for the Little Red Dress Project. Despite not having worn velvet since I was a teenager, with velvet popping up just about everywhere last season I couldn’t shake the idea of a red velvet dress. We were working on the Cassandra pattern at the time, so I had a vision of a swingy red velvet Cassandra to wear over the holidays. I modified the pattern to make it a v neck, and (foolishly, as it turns out) turned the fitted sleeves into bell sleeves using this method, and finished them with a rolled hem.

It just all felt a little too Kate Bush…

But oh dear… the combination of crushed velvet and the flared sleeve just made me feel like it was 1992 again and I should have dyed my hair mahogany and donned my carefully pre-scuffed Doc Martens (yep, along with Rimmel Black Cherries lipstick and the Levellers’ Levelling the land album, those things pretty much sum up 1992 for me). So this resolution is about making clothes that reflect me, and not letting over-excited creativity lead me someplace where I don’t recognise myself.

2. Slow sewing (reboot)

This was one of my resolutions for 2017, and it has been a bit hit and miss so I’m renewing my resolve for 2018! I first discovered the “slow food” movement in 2011, when we were planning a holiday through France. I had never heard of the slow movement before, and it appealed to me on a very deep level. Life feels so hectic a lot of the time, and taking time to appreciate the moment, filter out all the noise and stress, enjoy small things and really see what’s around me is… well, kind of like my Holy Grail.

Slow holiday 2011. This is one of my favourite places on earth.

For me, “slow sewing” doesn’t necessarily mean complex projects, or making a simple one last longer than it has to, but rather taking time over every detail of every project and enjoying the process as well as the end result. So, not like my red velvet dress. One of the rules of the Little Red Dress project is that there should be no reveal until the week before Christmas. I imagined that I would be ready and waiting with my dress and my photos, serenely welcoming the week when I could show it to you.

Hahahahahahaha. Know thyself! I started it at the beginning of reveal week.

I could have just abandoned the idea, but then what was I going to do with 2 metres of red velvet? So I whipped it up in about an hour. But speed sewing or sewing to a tight deadline takes away what I really love about sewing – how it rests my mind, gives me time and space to create,  and means that while I’m doing it I can’t get sidetracked  by anything else on my ever-expanding “to do list”. So I’m on the slow wagon this year, hoping not to fall off too many times!

3. Mindful designing

This is connected to “slow sewing”, and isn’t so much about changing how we do things, but about having a design ethos. We have far more ideas than time, and I want to learn how to feel ok with just focussing on a few. We released 8 patterns in 2017, because as a brand new company it seemed right to build a catalogue. Our goal for 2018 is to release 4 patterns, and we’re starting the year with a research and design phase to develop them and see where the process takes us. And all of my makes will be sporting one of these gorgeous V&S labels that Rich made me for Christmas!

He also got me tickets to see A-ha. It’s hard to say which I love the most.

4. Making use of what I already have

This is not only about using fabric from my stash, but also seeing how garments I no longer wear can be given a new lease of life. I made a start on this last year with my silk skirt refashion, and I have this idea in my head to use all our old jeans and scraps of denim to make myself a denim jacket – let’s just see if that one ever comes to pass, or whether it’s back on the list for 2019!

It’s going to be a jeans patchwork…

I generally find it quite hard to squeeze one garment out of another (it’s always narrower in one part than I need it to be!) so I may have to think about combining this goal with my final resolution:

5. Sewing more for my children

My daughter always has lots of handmade clothes, my son only a few things. But I just love sewing for him as well, and he loves it too. Just before Christmas I made them these penguin sweatshirts, using the Everyday sweatshirt pattern.

Who doesn’t love penguins?!

The moment I showed them their finished sweatshirts they were yanking off their clothes so they could put these on – cue my heart bursting out of my body! And my daughter wore this dress on Christmas Day, from a pattern which will be our first release of 2018 and has a special place in my heart!

If there’s one thing I love more than a beautiful dress, it’s my beautiful girl wearing it!

And finally, while I was writing this post, Sarah Liz published a new take on the MAGAM sewalong for 2018, asking participants to set out their sewing plans for the year. This sits well with my theme of resolutions, and I find this challenge to be one that really channels my creativity well, so I’m signing up for the whole year! MAGAM is about “selfish sewing”, so my 12 plans are all for me and I’m including 3 things I want to design, 3 fabrics I want to use up, 4 specific garments for my handmade wardrobe and 2 “wildcards”. So here they are, in no particular order:

Design
1. A fitted sweater for cool weather
2. Knickers
3. Sleeveless summer swing dress

Fabrics

4. A faux leather jersey that’s too thin for the jacket I originally had in mind
5. A beautiful jacquard I got for Christmas
6. A woven fabric from the days before my monogamous relationship with knits (top contenders are a floral lawn and a lattice eyelet).

Specific garments
7. Leggings
8. A tunic-length top
9. A summer cover-up
10. A Christmas dress I will actually wear (ok ok you get the picture: no more crushed velvet)

Wildcards
11. THAT recycled denim jacket
12. Try a new-to-me pattern company

So there we are, my goals for 2018. They sound quite ambitious but actually I think they’re pretty connected, and just manifestations of a desire to slow down, enjoy things, and make wearable, durable garments. Do any of my resolutions resonate with you? Do you make resolutions in the new year? And do you have any sewing resolutions or goals for 2018?

When Zadig met Apollon: Designin’ December and the MAGAM sewalong

When Sarah Liz announced that the theme for December’s MAGAM (Make a Garment a Month) sewalong was going to be a joint challenge with Linda’s Designin’ December, I felt torn. I really wanted to take part for so many reasons: the idea is fantastic, both hosts are lovely, and I love how these challenges push me to think creatively about gaps in my wardrobe, BUT… it’s December. You know, the month I spend running around in manner of over-achieving headless chicken, baking, buying gifts, writing cards, sewing nativity costumes, wrapping gifts… not to mention preparing for my son’s birthday, which is 2 days before Christmas and always needs extra thought to make sure his celebration isn’t eclipsed by Christmas. Not much time for selfish sewing.

Oh but come on!!! Designin’ December?! You know where this is going, don’t you? I made something. A great thing. This thing:

So, the idea of Designin’ December is that you find a look from the catwalks and recreate it. If there’s one thing I learnt from my Sewing the Scene coat (apart from the importance of not losing pattern pieces at a rate of knots) it was that I need the make to be something I’ll actually wear (I STILL haven’t worn my Deneuve coat, despite the weather being perfect for it!) so I wasn’t sure I would find something. For a brief moment I flirted with the idea of combining this challenge with my red velvet dress for the Little Red Dress Project, since velvet has been big this season and I was sure to find something on the catwalks that I’d like, but it kind of felt like a cop out to basically lump three challenges together (whether or not I finish my red dress in time for the pre-Christmas reveal is anyone’s guess, by the way). So I looked at too many images of the Autumn/Winter collections, and got no real ideas. Focus, Helen. What do you like to wear?

I went back to the winter collection of one of my favourite fashion houses, Zadig & Voltaire, and noticed they released a lot of sweater dresses this year. I was particularly drawn to the shape of this one:

Photo credit: www.vogue.com

And when I realised it looked very much like the dress version of my trusty Apollon sweatshirt… well that was that.

Yellow isn’t my thing, nor are geometric lines, and nor is ostentatious wearing of a brand name (though I did wonder what would happen if I followed Zadig & Voltaire’s lead and emblazoned the first word of our logo across the front – can you imagine the awkward situations if I’d strutted around with “VALENTINE” written across my chest?!), but the whole point of this challenge is that you adapt it to suit your style. And when I found this glorious grey marl sweater knit on the Califabrics website, practically begging me to be made into a sweater dress, I decided to just go for it.

Let me take a moment to wax lyrical about this fabric. It’s cotton, which is a BIG WIN in my book – I hate synthetic fabrics, I just end up sweating and feeling unpleasant (plus I found out recently that polyester contributes to the pollution in our oceans, as the fibres can get down drains and into the open waters! Eek!) and when it arrived I actually did a little “yippee” noise! It’s so soft and snuggly, and I confess to having instantly gone back on their website to order it in the other colourway

The construction held no surprises. It’s the first time I’ve made Apollon in anything other than sweatshirt fabric, but it came together really well. At first I thought I might widen the neckline a little to be more like the Zadig & Voltaire one, but I love the neckline as it is and so I reined myself in. Again, learn from the Deneuve coat! I also debated about sizing up, to get the “oversized” look of the Z&V version, so I tried on one of my older Apollon sweatshirt dresses and actually it’s pretty oversized already. Add that to the fact that the sweater knit is less chunky than sweatshirting, and the oversizing pretty much did itself. So, note to self: if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. I also decided against lengthening the arms à la Zadig & Voltaire, as I’d have gone crazy pushing those sleeves up every time I wanted to wash my hands or pick something up or just, you know, do anything. So basically, all this to say I sewed up my Apollon without any modifications, and as a result…

Even bare legs in winter can’t stop me smiling at this one

I have a garment I will WEAR TO DEATH.

Seriously, I love it.

The only thing I would normally do but didn’t is to topstitch down the seam allowances on the neckband, cuffs and waistband. I mentioned here that I like to do this so that they don’t ping back up after washing, but with the delicate sweater knit I thought it would be a shame to add in any visible stitching (since all the raw edges are finished with a band, there is otherwise no stitching visible on the right side of the garment).

You can see that the inside seam isn’t stitched down, but it looks so pretty from the outside!

If I have to press my seam allowances after washing, it will be worth it (I’m not sure if it’s clear how significant a statement that is; I rarely press clothes apart from while I’m making them!!)

One thing I didn’t mention in my last post about Apollon is that the waistband is one long piece with a centre back seam, rather than two pieces joined together at the sides.

Thumbs up for the waistband

I quite like this as a construction method: no effort needed to match up the side seams! Though speaking of matching up the side seams, can we just take a moment to admire the cuffs?!

Pause for cuff love

I’ve styled the dress with chunky boots here to emulate as far as possible the styling of the Z&V image, but this is waaay too short for me to wear with bare legs! Not to mention how cold I’d get. But just for fun, I did a tiny homage and put on a beanie hat like the catwalk pics anyway. I even did a little “catwalk strut”, but clearly I need to work on my “effortlessly cool” face.

Yep, if I have to wear a hat, it’s going to be pink!

It’s safe to say I felt a little daft wearing a hat and boots and bare legs outdoors in December, but in real life I’m going to be wearing this with leggings, as styled here:

I absolutely LOVE this sweater dress. It may not be the most haute couture garment from the catwalks this season, but it’s one that suits my style, my wardrobe, and my life. Plus I’d never really thought of sewing a sweatshirt patterns with a sweater knit fabric, so once again the MAGAM sewalong has made me think outside my usual box.

Thanks to both Sarah Liz and Linda for this fun challenge! It was worth getting cold legs for 😉

Pin this look:

New pattern: Cassandra, a dress for all occasions AND Cassandra extension pack!

Break out the champagne, our newest pattern is here just in time for Christmas!

Cassandra is a dress that will take you anywhere, with two neckline options, two hemline options and two sleeve lengths. Depending on your fabric choices, you can make Cassandra a casual dress, a work wardrobe staple, or a stunning party dress. AND we’re also releasing an extension pack that gives you the additional pattern pieces to turn it into a top or a cardigan! I’m going to talk you through all the options here, and then give you our launch week discount code! Shall we start with the party dress?

Bring on the cocktails!

Cassandra has an elegant and easy-to-wear shape that lets your fabric do the talking. It’s fitted through the bust, and then flares gently at the waist and hips before swirling out into a swing skirt. You can choose between a fashionable high-low hem (shown in the picture on the left) or a classic just-above-the-knee normal hem (shown in the picture on the right). There are two neckline options: a round neck or a dramatic plunge neck, and two sleeve lengths (long or elbow length). As you can see in these photos, if you make Cassandra in occasionwear fabric, she’s the perfect little party dress: the fabric on the left is a deep navy metallic jersey with lurex (so it’s sparkly in real life, though the sparkles don’t show up well on the photo!) and on the right is a silver pleated velvet jersey.

But Cassandra can take you anywhere. Look at these “day dress” versions (yeah I know, I’ve still got my “party” hair in the photos. Should’ve combed it out for the “daytime” look, but I don’t get to have bouncy curls very often so I was milking them!):

The dress on the left combines the plunge neck, long sleeves and high-low hem, and is made in a viscose slub jersey. It looks good with heels, flats or boots for cool season style. The dress on the right is the round neck, short sleeves, normal hem combination and is perfect for workwear or for layering with a cardigan.

Did somebody say cardigan?

If you read my post about the MAGAM sewalong “original October” theme, you’ll already know the origin story of our first extension pack! Enter Cassandra as a top or a cardigan:

The Cassandra extension pack allows you to use the Cassandra dress pattern to build a wardrobe of wearable garments. It gives you the additional pieces you need to make both a top and a cardigan with two neckline options, two hemline options and two sleeve lengths for each. The top and cardigan are fitted at the bust and then gently flared to skim over the tummy and hit at the mid-hip for the high-low hem (the picture on the left) and low hip for the normal hem (the picture on the right). You can make it as a t-shirt, a lightweight sweater, or a cardigan. As with the dress, you can mix and match your pattern pieces to create a different Cassandra each time – in fact with the dress and extension pack together, there are 24 possible variations! Both of these samples are made in cotton jacquard, and they make lovely lightweight layering pieces. Because we’re entering a cooler season here, I’ve made both of these in warm fabric with long sleeves and round necks, but here are a few more styling possibilities:

I’ve made it as (left to right) a long-sleeved t-shirt in cotton jersey, a high-low hem cardigan in cotton jacquard, and a short-sleeved plunge-neck top in sweater knit (that’s the only one of my Cassandras I don’t like! The fabric is quite scratchy, so I’ll be re-making this style in a better fabric – in fact I’ve already cut it out of this flamingo cotton jersey, so you can expect to see that soon!) Both of the cardigans photographed here are made with the round neck as it suits my personal taste better, but you can see how it looks with the plunge neckline as shown in this post. I think with the plunge neckline it would look really cute over a button-down shirt.

And the final bit of exciting news is that we’ve added a new size to our range: Cassandra is available in sizes XXS-XXL (see our updated sizing chart for further information).

Did I say that was the final exciting thing? Where’s my head?! Here’s the discount code!

Cassandra is part of our normal pattern range, and is £6 full price. The extension pack is £4 as a separate purchase if you decide to just buy the dress but come back for the extension pack at a later date, OR you can buy both in a bundle at a reduced price of £9. And for this first launch week, we are offering 20% off ANY Cassandra purchase! Use the code CASSANDRA20 this week for 20% off at checkout.

We hope you’ll love Cassandra and make her over and over again. For now I’ll leave you with some different angle shots so that you can get a sense of the side, back, and swing of the different variations. Happy sewing!

 

The Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström (aka my favourite t-shirt)

I’m just going to come right out and say it: this pattern is pretty close to t-shirt perfection. With practically every t-shirt pattern I’ve tried before, there’s always been something that I end up wanting to alter. The perfect t-shirt is something of a holy grail, and since I like different kinds of t-shirts for different outfits and occasions, I need more than one perfect pattern. Today I want to talk about the close-fitting kind with negative ease. You may recall that I’m not entirely comfortable with close-fitting clothes – I talked about it with my Simplicity summer challenge make and in my post on “The Power of Sewing” – so to feel good, really REALLY good, in a close-fitting top is no mean feat.

Enter the Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström. If you don’t already know of this Swedish designer, I highly recommend you visit her site: I love her designs, and although they are on the pricey side, they are a thing of beauty and also make perfect gifts (I was gifted this pattern and the Doctor’s Orders cardigan last Christmas). I love the cardigan too and perhaps I’ll get to talk about that another day, but today I want to focus on this top.

Photo from http://www.jennyhellstrom.se/

If you like multiple options in your patterns, then perhaps this isn’t the one for you – there is one design for the top, though there is a bodycon dress option too (I did try a toile of that but I refer you to my earlier statement about not feeling comfortable in very form-fitting clothes!) However, if you are a confident sewist, you could easily use this as a basis to alter sleeve length, neckline etc (though I think that neckline is pretty perfect as it is!)

I mean… let’s face it, the chances of me ever feeling like a ballerina are fairly slim. But this neckline is about as close as I get.

Neckline perfection

The construction of the top is exactly as you would expect: sew the shoulder seams, sew the neckband, attach the neckband, sew the sleeves, sew the side seams, hem. The instructions are written only, no illustrations, so absolute beginners may be put off but if you’ve ever made a t-shirt then you wouldn’t really need illustrations as there are no surprises. The only thing I added was to topstitch the neckband in place with my coverstitch machine, so that the seam didn’t flip upwards after washing.

As you might expect since I design patterns myself, I have a critical eye when it comes to the drafting of others. I prefer not to say when I find something to be badly drafted, but I will shout it from the rooftops if something is beautifully drafted. Get me a ladder and a megaphone, because THIS IS. I know how hard it is to get a simple design exactly right, and it irritates me when simple isn’t done well. You can’t say that of Jenny Hellström – this pattern is perfect. It clings without ruching up anywhere, the neckline is sublime, and the contours and shaping are spot-on. Plus the hem has a gentle curve – am I alone in disliking a straight line for a hem? – so the shaping is very flattering.

OK OK, it ruches up a tiny bit if you do twisty poses.

I love this top with jeans (in all these photos I’m wearing my denim jersey Eleonore jeans); I think it would also look lovely with a navy skirt or even a grey one, and am thinking of making a navy ponte Margarita to dress it up a little.

The only thing that might put you off Jenny’s patterns is the Burda magazine-style pattern sheet. Pattern pieces overlap and so you have to be careful when tracing, and seam allowances aren’t included so you have to add those. I won’t pretend that either of these things are desirable activities for me, but this top is SO worth it.

Running out of ways to photograph this. So let’s find a different spot to stand in while attempting to look natural.

Shall we talk about the fabric? This is one of the “Club Knits” from Utah-based retailer Raspberry Creek Fabrics, and is 95% cotton and 5% spandex. It’s from a collection they released a year ago so they don’t have this design any more, but it seems to be kind of a signature style of the company so there are variations on it still available. I haven’t been able to purchase frequently from this store as it’s in the US and so I can only order small amounts because of customs and taxes, but I’ve been really happy with the ones I have received. The jersey is lovely and stable – it may not have the buttery softness of, say, the Art Gallery Fabrics cotton jersey, but it has a weightier feel to it and it is a dream to sew as its slightly heavier composition means that it doesn’t curl at all at the edges. It’s a perfect fabric to use if you’re new to knits, or if you need to cleanse your palate after working with tricky fabrics for a few projects! There is a French terry option too, and I have also used that, but I prefer the cotton jersey (this is just personal taste).

To conclude: well, when you’ve exhausted words, say it in Emoji. This garment is 100% “heart eyes heart eyes love hearts smiley face” 😉

Pin this look:

Winter wardrobe staples: Papercut Patterns Rise turtleneck and Jalie Patterns Eléonore jeggings

I love sewing pretty things, show-stopping things, “wow” things… but I hardly ever wear them. I’ll let you into a secret… I still haven’t worn my Deneuve coat. It might be beautiful, but it’s not my style, and this was an expensive and labour-intensive realisation. Most days I wear a t-shirt and jeans: they’re the things I reach for and wear to tatters, so they’re the things I need to spend time on. These thoughts were prompted by the theme for the November MAGAM (Make a Garment a Month), sewalong, which was “November Needs”: look in your closet and see what you need, then pledge to make it. I don’t know how Sarah Liz thinks of these brilliant themes each month, but I’m so glad she does, because I took a long hard look at my clothes and it was pretty obvious what my wardrobe is missing… SOLIDS. So here’s the outfit I made, and the story behind it:

I feel I have a split personality with clothes: the few RTW things I still have left over from the days before I was on a mission to have a 100% handmade wardrobe are pretty much all solids, whereas the fabrics I choose to sew with are predominantly patterns. And not mix’n’match patterns, not stripes or polka dots or geometrics… no… flowers. Colours. The deepest expression of some wild and free side of myself I must have been repressing in my RTW years. I don’t know why it is that I’m always drawn to fabric that’s the opposite of what I’d buy as a garment, but there we are. Let’s not start analysing it, or I’ll never get to tell you about these two makes…

Of all the handmade things in my winter wardrobe, the only things in solid colours were my Edie cardigans, my jeans, two dresses and two barely-worn pencil skirts. So I wanted to make a top and a bottom that could be mixed and matched with lots of different things.

For the top, I chose a pattern I know and love: the Papercut Patterns Rise turtleneck. I’ve made this a couple of times and I really like it. It’s a closely fitted top or sweater (there is also an option called Fall in the same pattern, which is a more relaxed fit with dropped shoulders; I haven’t tried that one yet).

For the bottom, I took a gamble. I had made the Jalie Patterns Eléonore jeans back in the summer. They call for woven stretch denim, but the denim has to have at least 20% stretch (i.e. more than most woven denims available to me actually have). Back when I blogged about that pair, Sue commented that she had never thought to make them in a woven, and had always used ponte for her versions. I thought this sounded like a super plan, as I found them to be more jegging-y than jeans-y, and I liked the idea of a ponte-esque jegging, but wanted something with natural fibres. So I ordered this denim-look heavyweight cotton blend jersey from Lillestoff, and set to work.

The top went together really easily: I did my standard grading of an XS at the bust to a S at the waist, and it’s a lovely fit. I chose a plain black cotton jersey from Girl Charlee for this, it’s 95% cotton and 5% spandex, and I love sewing with it. The whole top went together really easily (one of those where you don’t really have to look at the instructions: shoulders, neck, sleeves, sides, hem). I really like it in plain black, it feels timeless and elegant.

Hard to go wrong with a black turtleneck!

But it wasn’t much of a risk, was it? TNT pattern in a solid colour, and a fabric I’ve already used in several colourways. So let’s talk about the jeans…

I cut out the same size I had used in the woven stretch denim: size R. I didn’t want to try sizing down to compensate for using a knit fabric as I’d found the woven ones a bit too skintight and so I liked the idea of these having a bit more give in them. I did consider omitting the more “jeans-like” details such as the pockets and the faux fly front, but I’m an “in for a penny, in for a pound” kind of girl and I thought why not go the whole hog, then if I don’t like them I won’t torment myself wondering if the pockets would have made all the difference! So I followed the instructions to the letter, including the topstitching. I did my topstitching in standard navy thread though, as I wasn’t convinced that a contrast topstitching thread would work on the jersey.

The jeggings came together much faster than I anticipated – I can’t decide whether this is because of using a knit fabric, or because I’d already sewn the pattern once before. Let’s call it a happy combination of the two! But did it work?

Oh yes. Oh yes. OH YES!!!!!! I *LOVE* this pattern made up in a jersey fabric. So comfortable, but still stylish. And because of the denim-look jersey, they look like jeans but took a fraction of the time to make and have a stretchy waistband! I seriously cannot wait to make a few more of these.

There were no problems with either of these makes, and I’d highly recommend both. As for what they have brought to my wardrobe, well firstly I love how they look together. But they also both go with loads of other handmade garments, so my choices are multiple! The turtleneck looks great paired with my floral Margarita skirt and my ponte skater dress:

And the jeggings go with EVERYTHING! Seriously, everything (though I’ll spare you photos of me parading my entire wardrobe to prove the point)! Plus the whole look can be made more wintry with boots and a maxi cardigan:

So this month’s MAGAM theme was a massive success for me. I’m not stopping there: I have a few more solid fabrics now, and plans for them all! Watch this space…

Me “watching this space” 😉

Pin this look:

All sweatshirts are not created equal: I AM Apollon by I AM Patterns

Firstly, thank you so much for your touching reactions to my last blog post, both here and over on Instagram. I have felt overwhelmed (in a good way!) by every message.

I’m back today with a very different kind of post: I’m here to sing the praises of the humble sweatshirt! A wardrobe staple, and I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect pattern. The favourite of those I’ve tried so far is the Apollon from I AM Patterns (yes I know, my skills at building suspense are not getting any better!)

Apollon in all its glory (though please ignore the less than glorious creases from having been stuffed in a drawer since last winter).

But this is a tale of a quest, so back to the beginning we go…

At first glance, sweatshirts seem pretty simple: front, back, sleeves, cuffs, a neck band and a hem band. How do you go wrong? Well, pretty easily, as it turns out. Don’t we all have our own idea of what makes a perfect sweatshirt? For me it is: neckline reasonably high, but not too high. Probably crew neck. Length hitting at low hip so it doesn’t expose my tummy when I stretch or move. Slouchy fit but not shapeless. Definitely not too tight, especially on the sleeves and under the arms.

Quite a tall order, I know.

But I AM Patterns did it.

I almost didn’t buy this pattern, as I already had several sweatshirt patterns. But I wasn’t entirely blown away by any of them, and so I thought it was worth investing in another!

So why do I like it so much? Well, maybe I should start by telling you a bit about the ones I liked less. First up, and I know this will be controversial because it seems to be the undisputed favourite of the sewing community: the Linden by Grainline Studio. I did hesitate for the longest time over whether to buy this, and I must have talked about it so much that in the end Rich bought it for me a couple of years ago, along with the Scout tee pattern! The Linden is certainly a great pattern and well designed, but the reason for my tergiversating (I think I just won blog bingo FOREVER with that word) was the reason I was underwhelmed: the boxy style that Grainline is known for just doesn’t suit me. Aesthetically, I love it. But I don’t feel it does anything for me:

Linden sweatshirt… I wish I loved it more

I just look kind of shapeless underneath it! In fact the Scout tee I got at the same time is the ONLY pattern I have never even bothered finishing – it looked so awful on me that I never hemmed it, just recycled the fabric. It’s such a shame as I love the look of Grainline patterns, especially the Driftless cardigan and the Morris blazer, but my body shape is just all wrong for them. The one way I do think the Linden has worked better for me is to combine the long cuffed sleeves with the shorter bodice: the length and the very subtle high-low hem is more flattering to my body shape, so I can make it out of regular jersey, like this lovely lilac floral, as a twist on a raglan t-shirt:

Feeling the Linden love more styled this way!

And speaking of raglan t-shirts, next up is the Lane raglan by Hey June Handmade. This is advertised as a t-shirt, but the designer suggests that if you size up it can be made as a sweatshirt. As a t-shirt it wasn’t quite the shape I was looking for, though it looked better when I removed 2 inches from the bodice (my standard adjustment is to remove 5/8”). So I sized up for the sweatshirt version, took out my 2 inches, and it was all pretty straightforward.

Lane raglan made as a sweatshirt

I LOVE the neckline of this top and find it very flattering, but it doesn’t work quite as well on a sweatshirt because it’s lower than I would like and so leaves me a little chilly on a cold day. I do wear this top a lot though, and I think that the addition of the sweatshirt hem creates a lovely shape.

But back to the Apollon, because in addition to the standard sweatshirt length shown at the top of this post, you can also make it as a dress! Well, they call it a dress, I am obviously either taller than the women they design for or way more prudish, because I’d call it a tunic. Though when I was 20 I’d have called it practically knee-length, so I am prepared to accept that I’m the one with the issue, not the pattern nomenclature! (Look at that, I got “tergiversate” and “nomenclature” in the same blog post. I am on a ROLL).

Dress? Tunic? Either way, I love it! (Excuse the year-old creases again!!)

Anyway, I do love the Apollon at this length, it’s perfect to wear with leggings (though in my pics I’m wearing it with skinny jeans, as I took all these photos on the same day and it was enough to run indoors and change my sweatshirt five times without adding leggings into the mix too!!) I also used the same blue sweatshirting I’d used for the shorter length, as I bought loads of it. But at least it’s plain and easy to wear, don’t even ask me how much of the purple roses fabric I have left even after making countless garments in it…

With both lengths of Apollon I graded between size 36 at the bust and 38 at the waist. The sizing is European, so I chose based on the table of measurements. The sizing was generous, but generous is good in a sweatshirt, I’d say. The grading also gave it a bit of shaping so it wasn’t straight up and straight down, and I like the result.

I also think the neckline is perfect – not too high, not too low, but just right, and the hem band is just the right proportion too so that it’s not cinching in too much and pulling in the bodice but it’s not hanging loosely either. Not too loose, not too tight. Just right. Let’s just call this my “Goldilocks” sweatshirt! I AM Patterns describe it as a “feminine version of the classic sweatshirt”, and it’s as good as it sounds.

I’m going to leave you with a montage so you can see all four together and judge for yourself whether or not you agree with me about the one that suits me best! I’ve tried to do the same pose for all four shots so that you can get an accurate comparison. And also because that is basically my “camera pose”.

Which is best? Are you with me on Apollon, or do you see something I don’t with the others?

Tell me what you think! Have you tried Apollon? Do you have particular requirements in a sweatshirt too?

The Power of Sewing: On my favourite pattern, body confidence, and design philosophy

I think we’re probably all agreed that sewing is more than just a hobby; it’s a way to express ourselves, to empower ourselves, and to take care of ourselves. There are plenty of hashtags floating around that tell us so: #sewingismysuperpower, #sewingkeepsmesane, #sewingismytherapy and so on, and the sentiment I truly love is in Sarah’s strapline for her blog, that sewing soothes the soul. Ever since Rich and I set up Valentine & Stitch these sentiments have become even more relevant to me, as we embark on a journey that not only soothes my soul, but allows us to connect with many other people on a journey of their own.

If I had to pick one pattern we’ve designed that most reflects both me as a person and the company we’re building, I wouldn’t hesitate: it’s Dune. What started out as an idea for a simple sleeveless summer top just grew (literally) into a dress that makes me feel like a bombshell every time I wear one. What’s that got to do with body confidence and design philosophy more generally, I hear you cry? EVERYTHING. Because despite regularly being told by acquaintances that it’s “alright for me” because I’m slim (don’t even get me started on this…), I have a difficult relationship with my body and sewing is one of the ways in which I give myself confidence. Can you feel a backstory coming on?!

Any excuse to trot this photo out. I still can’t quite believe that’s me!

Let me start with the opening lines of a poem I have long loved: “The Ideal” by James Fenton.

This is where I came from.

I passed this way.

This should not be shameful

Or hard to say.

When I was 12, something pretty awful happened in my life. Despite the beautiful sentiment in Fenton’s poem, I do find it hard to say, so we’ll leave the details out of it, but I dealt with it by “secret eating”. Within a year I had gone from wearing children’s clothes to wearing a women’s size 16. I spent my teenage years feeling alienated in my own body. And that’s not to say that being heavier or curvier is somehow fundamentally less “right”, not at all, it’s just not my natural body shape and on me it was an outward sign of things not being right inside. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I started to take back control of my body – that’s 18 years of feeling like a stranger to myself. Inside me there is still a girl who looks in the mirror and can’t truly see herself.  I dress for that girl, as she was then, young and lonely and insecure, as well as for me, as I am now, age 40 and happy and confident. My clothes need to flatter my figure, show off my good points, and help me forget – or not care? – about the less good points. I found that I was routinely making an array of alterations to even seemingly simple patterns to feel good in them, and so a plan began to form to design my own patterns: simple, thoughtful designs that would be easy to sew and easy to wear. So with a lot of determination, unwavering support from Rich, old-fashioned hard graft from both of us, and more than a few melodramatic declarations that we are Just. Giving. Up. Right. Now. Really (from Rich. OK, OK, from me)… Valentine & Stitch was born…

If in doubt, stick your leg to one side and drop your hip.

That girl I just told you about always dreamed of wearing swishy dresses. But they would just hang off her hips and make her look as wide as her hips all the way to the floor. So when we were designing Dune, and the original plan was to make a knee-length version, on a whim I said to Rich “let’s try it as a maxi dress instead!” The directive (am I the only one who hears that word and thinks of WALL-E?!): keep the design philosophy of the Dune top (fitted at the bust, skimming over the tummy, kicking out at the hem) to create a dress that skims gently over all the areas I (and many women) feel self-conscious about, and then swooshes and swirls around at the ankles. For the first time in my life, I am wearing maxi dresses, and it makes me feel like I’m walking on air.

Swish! Swoosh!

Every time I wear a Dune dress, I feel amazing. If you follow me on Instagram you may remember I had a bit of a saga planning my outfit for the GBSB live event (in a nutshell: made a dress a week in advance. Felt serene and mildly smug. Tried dress on again three days beforehand. Realised dress looked sack-like. Panicked. Needed seasonally-appropriate feel-good dress. Made new Dune at the eleventh hour). By the skin of my teeth I was ready to go, and from the moment I met Sarah on the train until the moment I said a reluctant goodbye, I felt fabulous. The power of a TNT pattern, right?

Having fun at the GBSB live.

What a great day that was… you can’t see much of my dress in the end as I was wearing my blue maxi Edie over it in all the pics, but the highlight wasn’t the dress, it was meeting all these lovely ladies in real life. You might recognise some familiar faces! But I’m including the next photo to show you a glimpse of my younger self. Mark from Girl Charlee took this photo for his Instagram stories as my dress is made from Girl Charlee fabric: look how much less comfortable I am when I don’t know where to put my arms or how to tilt my head…

Unfamiliar camera pointing at me! No-one telling me where to put my hands or where to look! PANIC STATIONS!!

I don’t think we ever really shed our past selves, and maybe that’s a good thing. My younger self reminds me every day how lucky I am to have the life I have now.

And because you can never have too many “instant boost” dresses, I made a second autumnal Dune from a plain navy fabric… with both of these two I extended the hem length to the next size up, so that they can be worn with a small heel if I want to. And here are both of my new Dune dresses, with me safely back in my “hand on hip” comfort zone in my favourite corner of our garden:

I thought the navy one would look quite casual as it’s a plain cotton jersey (also from Girl Charlee), but actually with a pair of pumps (as opposed to the barefoot prancing around for the photos of the floral version!) it looks smart enough to wear to a more formal occasion! And with flat sandals next summer it’ll be great for everyday wear too. And did I mention I feel amazing in it?!

So that’s the story of my love affair with Dune, the importance of sewing in my positive self image, the awkward girl I still carry around inside me, and our priorities when we design our patterns. I have long felt that teaching me to sew was one of the greatest gifts my mum gave me, as in doing so she gave me the ability to empower myself, to make my own rules about what to wear, and to feel fabulous.

The final stanza of Fenton’s poem opens with this line: “This is my past, which I shall not discard”. We are all made up of our past as well as our present selves, and every day that I achieve a positive self image I feel I am not only making the best of who I am but also honouring who I have been.

What about you, what does sewing bring to your life? Do you have a pattern that makes you feel like a superstar every time you wear it?

The pattern that kept on morphing and other stories: Make A Garment A Month (MAGAM) sewalong

This is the story of a dress that became a bolero that became a sweater that became a cardigan. I’m no good at building suspense, so I’m going to jump right in with the finished result, and then give you its “origin story”!!

I don’t know which I love more: the cardigan, or the autumn colours in the garden!

Not long after I opened my Instagram account back in the Springtime, I noticed a challenge called MAGAM (Make A Garment A Month), hosted by Sarah Liz. The idea behind MAGAM is to provide a monthly theme that participants take as inspiration: it seemed a lovely supportive way to foster slow sewing by focusing on one garment every month, so I finally took the plunge and joined in for September.

Happily for me, the September theme was Shirty Skirty” (make a shirt or a skirt). This is non-UK use of “shirt”, i.e. any kind of top (I don’t often wear what I would call a shirt, which elsewhere would be called a button-down, so the language slippage suited me well). So I eased myself into MAGAM with the McCalls M7542 pattern from Sew Now magazine, using a rayon jersey and following my own tutorial for adapting it to a knit fabric. Well, I say “following my own tutorial”, but I didn’t really – I thought I could remember it so I went ahead and kept only the original instructions in front of me, which meant I attached the sleeves as if it were a woven! A bout of unpicking later, I returned to my tutorial with my head hanging in shame, and the rest went swimmingly.

My first MAGAM entry

The theme for October was more challenging: “Original October”. I mulled this one over for a good while. It did coincide with the development of our next pattern, which is obviously an original design, but it seemed too simple just to say “well I’ll make up one of our new dresses”.

First sneak peek of the forthcoming dress pattern!

However, the #cosycardichallenge was in full swing and for a while now I’ve wanted a lightweight fitted cardigan to wear over sleeveless dresses and extend their wearable life into autumn, and so I decided to adapt the dress pattern to become a cropped/ bolero cardigan. I did this without too much difficulty, just cutting off the pattern pieces of the scoop-neck version under the bust and drawing in a curve, but when I came to try it on I realised it would only really go with empire line dresses (it’s pictured here with my refashioned silk skirt) – with anything else it just sort of looked like I’d run out of fabric.

One of only two dresses I can wear this with!

Back to the drafting software (with my trusty sidekick aka technical department aka Rich beside me) and we went for a hip-length slightly flared look, with a high-low hem and a higher neckline. I started off by trying out the design as a sweater to test the shape before drafting the front placket, and I loved it (fully aided by the fact that I sewed it up in the softest jacquard ever, given to me as a birthday gift).

That’s more like it!

So I was ready to try it out as a cardigan, but not *quite* ready to cut into the beautiful jacquard from Lillestoff that I had earmarked for the project. My interim make was from a lovely floral French terry from Raspberry Creek Fabrics that I’ve been hoarding for a year now, and I liked the shape of the result BUT… ugh, well, it was just the wrong combination of fabric and style. I went for a scoop neck and standard hem, and the finished result reminds me of a housecoat or something.

You’ve got to love taking photos on a windy day!

I love the fabric, but this wasn’t the right project for it. I’ll see if I wear it, and if not I’ll scale it down into something for my daughter. And another reason to be glad I made this first version before cutting into my jacquard: I had ordered some interfacing online and the quality was just terrible. It didn’t move with the fabric at all, and if you look closely it has caused a couple of ripples in the front placket. Not the end of the world, but I would have been sad if that had been my precious jacquard.

So for the final version I decided to combine the higher neckline and the high-low hem, bought some more interfacing (never again will I stray from the goodness that is Vilene) and off I went…

The finished cardigan, origin story complete

I love this cardigan so much. Re-drafting was a good idea, as instead of just “chopping off” the dress pattern, we created an new line for this length, and it works much better. In particular, I really enjoyed thinking about the construction process, and how to make all the finishings look professional. I do love a garment that looks as pretty on the inside as it does on the outside!

Close-ups of the details: front placket, high-low hem, hem meeting facing, and inside the placket.

I used KAM snaps for the closures – I had always previously used the kind of snaps that you have to hammer on, but I was convinced by Sarah’s evangelising about the joy of attaching snaps with pliers and now I want to put KAM snaps on EVERYTHING!!!

In the end I think this particular version works better with jeans as the small pattern on the fabric means it doesn’t really go with a lot of my patterned dresses. But that could just be me falling back into my comfort zone, as jeans are basically my uniform! But it still goes well with these two sleeveless dresses:

Action shots (by which I mean “walking slowly towards the camera”). I like to photograph the movement of a garment so I can see how it looks when I’m not just standing facing a mirror!

The left one is a Deer and Doe sleeveless aubépine, and the right one is a maxi Dune from our own collection. The cardigan definitely helps both of these summer dresses transition into autumn. So either I need more solid dresses, or I need to make more cardigans in solid colours. Or both!!! And you know me by now, I don’t need much of an excuse to make a new garment…

So I’m really happy to be part of MAGAM, and I’m looking forward to the November challenge. As long as it’s not “sew a coat inspired by a classic French film”, because, you know, why do that to myself twice in one year?!!

In other news, encouraged by my lovely friend Diane, I’m trying to get my head round Pinterest at the moment, though it hasn’t synced to our site yet and I have yet to create any boards beyond this one image! But here is (I think?!) a link to my Pinterest page, which hopefully I shall work on soon! So if you have a Pinterest account do come and befriend me as I am LOST over there!

What about you? Have you joined MAGAM or the cosy cardi challenge? Any favourite makes/ stories to share? What about Pinterest? How do you use it efficiently and am I truly the last to join the party?!

A4 tiled or A0 copyshop? Working with PDF patterns, and a review of Netprinter

OK, first of all, in manner of a modern-day Miss Marple I have solved the mystery of the missing upper collar piece from my Deneuve coat. This weekend I discovered it nestling between two books on a sewing room shelf lower down than where I keep my in-progress makes. And when I say “lower down”, that is a super-sleuth knowing euphemism for “toddler height”…

The mystery of the lost collar piece is solved. And gives me an excuse to show you one last photo of THAT COAT (and my flower umbrella, which henceforth I want on all my photoshoots).

Right, onto the order of the day: PDF patterns! As many of you will know, we create our patterns in two formats: the A4 tiled format that you assemble yourself, and single-page files (typically A0) that can be printed in large format at a copy shop. So today I’m going to talk about the benefits of each, and about my experience of ordering A0 printouts from Netprinter, a printing company based in Plymouth, UK.

When we started up as a PDF pattern company, there were a few “must-haves” that I discussed with Rich. Firstly, as little paper wastage as possible. Secondly, a user-friendly design. Thirdly, the option of A0/ copyshop format, for those customers who might prefer traditional “paper” patterns. Rich exceeded what I had asked for: he puts his long-abandoned Tetris skills to good use playing around with the pattern pieces to make sure they fit together as neatly as possible on the page, and uses a distinct colour and outline for each size. Then he adds in the little triangles on each inner edge to help line up the pattern pages, and puts a pale grey number in the centre of each sheet. A sample sticking layout looks like this:

Dune tank top tiled PDF layout

And here are my top recommendations for sticking together A4 tiled PDFs:

  1. Stick your pattern pages together on a table, so that you’re not crouching over on the floor.
  2. Use a guillotine/ paper cutter to trim edges. You can purchase them from most office supplies or stationery stores, and they are way quicker than scissors. I use a small one from good old WHSmith, and I typically cut 4 pages at a time.
  3. Cut only 2 edges of each piece. I always cut the right hand long side and the bottom short side. This makes the pages all the same size, and easy to line up.
  4. Use a tape dispenser! You wouldn’t believe how long I used to spend cutting small pieces of tape with my special tape scissors (not that the scissors themselves are anything special, I just mean they were blunted from cutting tape so they became designated tape scissors!) My tape dispenser has revolutionised my PDF-sticking. I know some people use glue sticks: I’ve never tried this (I can’t help but think of all the craftwork my daughter brings home from school and how the glued-on bits invariably come unstuck!), but feel free to argue the case in the comments below!!

But what about the people who don’t like sticking together a tiled PDF? Well, this is where the online copyshops come in! My impression from some Instagram comments is that in other countries there are more bricks-and-mortar copyshops than we are used to here in the UK – my sole local copyshop charges something exorbitant for an A0 sheet.  Enter Netprinter, who are becoming more and more known in the sewing community. Before recommending them I wanted to try out their service, and the things I was particularly interested in were the following:

  1. Cost per A0 sheet
  2. Cost of P&P
  3. Whether files larger than A0 could be printed (since we have 2 maxi length patterns whose pattern pieces are larger than a standard A0 sheet)
  4. Quality of service.

I had a chat with the manager, Simon, over on Instagram, and he gave me an email address to write and discuss my order (the email contact details are also available on their website). I sent over all the details: most of our files are standard A0, though the Dune maxi dress is A0 portrait width but longer, and the Edie cardigan is A0 landscape but longer. I’ll come back to these two in a moment.

Simple upload page to place your order

I was offered a choice of standard 80gsm paper at 75p per A0 sheet, or the 60gsm weight that Netprinter have sourced especially for the sewing community, at £1.50 per sheet. I thought it would be good to have a comparison, so I ordered each file in both weights of paper.

The 60gsm paper is the one automatically offered under the new “Sewing pattern printing” section of the website; the 80gsm paper is available via the “Plan printing” section. I can see why the 60gsm paper has been sourced for sewists, as it is more lightweight and so it is easier to pin to fabric if you’re cutting straight into your pattern sheet rather than tracing off your size. However, my personal preference was for the 80gsm paper, as I like to have the full sheet to keep intact, and I find the standard letter paper weight to be more durable in this respect. But  I think it’s great to have the option, so big thumbs up there.

I didn’t try the colour printing service as I’m happy with black and white. However, you can have your A0 file printed in colour on 60gsm weight paper for £4 per sheet. The quality of the black and white printing was great (don’t be fooled by my pics – the lines don’t show up very well in all of them, but that was down to the lighting and taking photos of large sheets of paper from afar!), and I was really impressed by how accurately and meticulously all my printouts had been folded – they will be simple to store, and to re-fold after use.

My completed order, neatly folded and packed in an A4-sized box#

My order was dealt with on the day I placed it (even though I placed the order in the afternoon) and I received it the following day via DPD (signed-for delivery with a one-hour timeslot). Netprinter’s delivery charges are £3.00 for up to 14 patterns (if you want guaranteed next day delivery there is a higher charge of £8.50 for up to 15 patterns, and the charges for shipping to Europe are set at £15, though this is for up to 100 patterns so if you had a mega order or were putting in an order with a group of sewing friends, it would work out very reasonably).

If you are having files larger than A0 printed, be sure to check that they are A0 PORTRAIT width, whatever the length. This is the case for the Dune maxi file, and it means it can just be printed on a longer roll of paper. I was charged £2.50 on 60gsm paper and £1.60 on 80gsm paper for these printouts. For Edie, the single file is A0 landscape, which is not a size of printout that’s offered by Netprinter, so we used our alternative Edie copy shop files (where the pattern is split into two A0 sheets). This was very simple and just means that you stick two A0 sheets together to create your master sheet.

I may not have gone for colour printing, but I compensate with explosions of colour on the finished garment!

So would I recommend Netprinter? Yes, definitely. They offer a professional service, and they clearly work hard to ensure that they deal with orders quickly. In particular, if you are just dealing with standard sized files that you can upload to the system, it’s about as speedy as you can get. And so in this age of instant gratification, Netprinter makes a valuable contribution to the sewing community by delivering printouts of PDF patterns to your door the very next day – possibly before you’d have had time to cut and stick together your A4 tiled PDF. Given the flat-rate postage fee, though, it’s worth waiting until you have several patterns to print off in one go – that would certainly be how to make the most of your order. I highly recommend Netprinter to all our A0-loving customers and sewing friends in the UK, and recommend that those further afield seek out a similar service, as if you want one single large pattern sheet then the A0 option is definitely worth considering!

What about you, sewing friends? Any thoughts on PDF vs paper patterns, or on A4 tiled vs A0 pattern sheets? Or perhaps you have sticking tips for A4 tiled patterns that you’d like to share?

Till next time, happy sewing/ sticking/ cutting!