We really enjoy pattern testing, can you tell? It is exciting to see what pattern companies are exploring in their processes. We think it is a great way to sew a range of different designs and support small businesses. We are part of the a few groups on Facebook where there are call outs for pattern testers. These are usually from smaller start up companies but is a great way to see what is being developed.
A few weeks ago, in the Sewing Pattern Testing Group, we saw a post from Danielle Tchao asking for interest for Testers for a new pattern company she was with co-founder Vicky Quan called SOLA Patterns. The trade drawings of their designs looked really good, which is something we look for. We feel it means the designer has a good technical understanding and that will be reflected in their pattern drafting and design.
SOLA Patterns was launching a few different designs but we put our hand up to test two of their dress patterns. The first was the Magnolia Dress and the Laurel Dress which we will share shortly.
Magnolia Dress Details
The Magnolia design is a shift style dress with two striking sleeve options. There is the voluminous upper sleeve that tapers to highlight a narrow forearm or a pleated petal sleeve. The bodice has a front bust and diamond dart and it is finished at the back with a center back zipper.
This pattern is designed for woven fabrics with a consideration of how you would like your sleeve to sit. Using thicker fabric for the full length sleeves will create quite a lot of volume which could be a fun effect.
We made both versions to explore the pattern style. This is our petal sleeve version in a mid weight woven cotton.
Liberty Orchard Garden Pheasant Forest from Fabric Hoarders
For this project we teamed up with Fabric Hoarders who supplied us with a delightful Cotton Liberty Print. Fabric Hoarders stock a wide variety of the iconic Liberty Fabrics on their website, check out their range here. Liberty Fabric is such a distinctive style and it was great to get to work with such a beautiful fabric.
This is the Orchard Garden Pheasant Forest in the blue colourway. It is 112cm wide and 100% cotton.
We fully lined the dress with a white lining fabric. As the petal sleeves is shaped we finished the raw edge off using a bias tape on the side of the hem.
The fabric we made the Bergonia Dress was also from Fabric Hoarders, you can see our post about that here.
Constructing the Magnolia Dress
Our preference is to have a more fitted style bodice so we would recommend checking out the ease allowed for in this pattern. SOLA Patterns list this on their website so check your measurements again the amount of ease and how fitted you would like the finished dress to be.
We like to line all of our dresses. It helps the outer fabric to sit smoothly and allows for ease of movement so it can slip across the body. The pattern uses and neck facing, it is still an important pattern piece as it means that a little bit of the outer fabric can be used along the neck edge. This is important because event if under stitched it helps to make sure the lining doesn’t show through to the outside.
Finished Magnolia Dress
The Magnolia dress is a great style, we loved the sleeve options so much that we made both. It sits so well in the cotton fabrics and it could also be made in other wovens.
Spring is on the horizon for us, the sun is offering a hopeful relief from the chill in the air. What does this mean for our sewing? Dresses, dresses, dresses! We just want to sew dresses. We were invited to be involved in the pattern testing team for By Hand London’s latest release the Tamzin Dress which we couldn’t say no to. It is a folky style dress that we made in a light robia voile fabric, perfect for a Spring day.
Tamzin Dress Details
By Hand London describes the Tamzin as a quintessential folk dress. It has a square neckline that is finished with an external facing which gives the opportunity for lots of different finishes and embellishments. It has princess seams in the bodice with two different waist tie options. The 3/4 length sleeves and gathered skirt both have a stitched tuck detail.
The pattern comes in two cup sizes and in print at home or copy shop format pages.
Tamzin will work beautifully in a multitude of light to medium weight woven fabrics. This could be a linen, viscose rayon / tencel, soft or floaty cottons, double gauze and drapey silks.
We made the version that has the ties from the princess line, instead of the side seam. We used a ribbon for the ties as were were limited by how much of this fabric we had. We got it as a cut piece from the Salvo Store in Wangaratta so the amount was set for us.
Sourcing Fabric from Op Shops
What to look for when finding fabric in op shops? Check for any marks or damages such as pulls or tears it the fabric. If you aren’t in the practice of prewashing your fabric this is a good reminder. It removes any musky smells or light marks and prevents any heart break of your garment shrinking after its made.
Exploring your local Op Shop is a great way to find different fabrics to what might be in a more traditional fabric store. It can also be a way to pick up a bargain. In contrast it can be limiting because the pieces are already cut and there isn’t always something to pick up. It is worth checking in every so often to see what is available, you never know what treasures you might find!
We were looking in the local Salvos Store in Wangaratta for treasures and we came across this green and white checked robia voile fabric.
Normally robia voile is a cotton fabric that is recognisable by the dots but it also had a great dark green check through it. We didn’t have a particular plan for the fabric when we purchased it but knew it was a special piece. And then the Tamzin dress came along and it was the perfect pairing.
Constructing the Tamzin Dress
The stitched tucks are really easy to sew, just press a fold and measure for your stitch line. It is super effect and could be used on any rectangle shape. This feature is on the sleeve and the skirt, it is our favourite part about this pattern as it sat really well in our fabric.
Finishing the facing to the outside of the dress and top stitching, instead of folding it inside is a fun technique. The instruction from By Hand London explain it really well. Our fabric was already busy enough but some other makers have embroidered theirs or you could add a trim along the seam line. There are so many possibilities!
Finished Tamzin Dress
The Tamzin is a lovely style, the higher waist line that is pulled in by the ties creates a casual feeling and is perfect for a warmer day. Because of the folky style fit there is little to worry about exact measurements and is an easy sew. There are no zipper or buttons and it slips over the head. Speaking of slips! Because of how sheer our fabric was we did make a plain white dress to go underneath. If you had a heavier weight or less transparent fabric you wouldn’t need to do this.
We have tested a few different styles for By Hand London and really enjoy their patterns. They have a mix of floating styles to fitted more formal dress like the Jenna Dress, stylish pants in the Jackie and coats including the Juliet.
We were really excited when we finished our Minna dress for Schultz Apparel that is had such a great sleeve, and then we saw the Begonia! Another great sleeve again! Thank you for Schultz Apparel for including us in the testing team for this new style.
Begonia Dress Details
The Begonia style has a top and dress option. They are a loose fit, with a V-neck at the front and a deep V-neck with gathering at the back. The optional belt pulls the waist create the fitted silhouette and highlights the two tiered ruffled skirt. The silhouette is balanced with a short puffy sleeve.
This pattern is suited for light to middleweight woven fabric such as a cotton, linen, viscose, tencel or polyester.
We made the dress version with the v neck back from the top style as we wanted a easy to wear style and not worry about bra lines being seen.
Micro Dots in Burgundy from Fabric Hoarders
Fabric Hoarders is a small independent fabrics stores based in Echuca which is a small town on the Murray River in North Victoria. They have a wonderful range of cotton and liberty fabrics in their online store. We have partnered with Fabric Hoarders and its business owner Leanne to share with you their great selection of fabric.
For the Begonia dress we chose to use a burgundy and white cotton from the Micro Dots range. It is a sweet print with a repetition of the small white dot.
The fabric print is available in a rainbow of colours on the Fabric Hoarders website and is purchased in 25cm increments.
Check out the cutting video to see how great is to snip and tear this cotton woven fabric.
Constructing the Begonia Dress
The instructions are easy to follow to construct this folky style dress. The tiered skirt is constructed by joining together gathered rectangles. Instead of needing to print pieces for the rectangular pieces, Schultz Apparel gives the measurements for the rectangles. saving on printing and cutting time (not to mention the environment through the saved pieces of paper!).
The sleeve is finished with a double roll hem and the casing for the elastic is made from a bias binding. We folded the ends under and butted them up against each other lining this up with the under arm seam and threaded an elastic through to pull it in around the upper arm.
Finished Begonia Dress
The Begonia dress easily slips over the head and is drawn in at the waist with the tie. It could be worn either way depending on your own style. The weight of the dotted cotton sits well and holds its shape in the gathered sleeve.
Constructing this dress was quite easy as it does not have any difficult fastenings such as a button or zipper. This means it would be great for a beginner sewer.
Schultz Apparel has released a stunning new pattern called the Minna Dress. Their style is strong and feminine designs with features including large sleeves and fitted bodices inspired by vintage designs. Minna is no exception and she is devine! We really enjoyed being part of the pattern testing team for this style.
Minna Dress Details
The Minna Dress has a fitted bodice, statement sleeves that gather into a cuff, and a full skirt. This pattern includes three bodice options, three sleeve options, and three skirt options. The designs can be mixed and matched depending on your style. The design is not lined but uses a facing to finish the neck edge.
The pattern is designed to be made in a woven fabric including cotton, linen and wool.
We made Design A which has a boat neck, buttons at center front, long sleeves and flip cuffs. It has a slightly gathered circle skirt.
The fabric we used was a block wax cotton that Lauren purchased when visiting London. It was from African Queen Fabrics located in the Brixton Markets. You purchase fabric by the piece that comes 120cm wide by 5.5 meters in length. This was the perfect amount for us because of the way we needed to use the pattern placement to make sure the key parts of the printed landed correctly on the pattern pieces. Schultz Apparel do not suggest that you need this much fabric, it is best to check the instructions for their recommendation about the style you make.
Constructing the Minna Dress
The pattern suggests user an under arm invisible zipper. This is difficult to get in and out of for a garment that has sleeves. The style does not have any detail or collar in the back that would be interrupted by a center back zipper so we opted to do this instead. We hope it will provide a little bit more longevity to the make instead of straining the underarm seams trying to get in and out of an underarm zipper.
This design is not lined and uses a neck facing to finish around the neck and button area. It is a neat finish however we are also working on a version with the flat front which we chose to line the bodice of as the fabric was not as stable. We did this by cutting the same bodice piece in a lining fabric and omitting the facing pieces.
Keep and eye on your seam allowance – it is 2cm for the pattern. If you are use to sewing with other patterns your default might be 1.5cm so make sure to check the instructions in case it varies.
Finished Minna Dress
The Minna dress is such a sweet style. We really liked the fit of the bodice. It is easy to wear as even though it has a wider more open neckline there is no need to wear a strapless bra with it as the neckline is really well placed. The instructions are quite good, keep an eye on how to finish the cuff for option A, it is a little difficult to finish the curved split cuff. The shape of the sleeves is fantastic and provides a strong statement.
Stay and Stitch have been making some changes to their business and also the layout of their patterns. As part of this Terri the owner and pattern designer chose to update an existing pattern which was known as Legends releasing Legends 2.0. With the relaunched she reached out to her testing community to trial the changes which we were excited to be a part of.
Legends 2.0 Details
The Legends pattern has a few variations between bodice shape, length and sleeve options. Each option has the grown on shaped neck feature.
The pattern is made in a knit fabric with the suggested fabrics being; jersey knit, bamboo jersey, cotton/lycra, cotton/spandex, stretch polyesters, stretch rayons and moda.
Stay and Stitch have done some really lovely neck detail features between Legends and the Solace Top. The instructions for Legends marked the stitch line for the neck with a tracing wheel and tracing paper. Instead of this method we cut out the middle piece of the facing and used a tailors chalk rolling pencil to mark the stitch line. This creates the same effect and doesn’t rely on safely storing the transfer paper (messy!). Transfer paper has chalk on one side and when run over with the tracing wheel leaves the chalk mark.
For the skirt section we opted for the long length dress hem with the split in the side.
Constructing Legends 2.0
As this is a knit garment it can mostly be constructed on overlocker. We did this on our 4 thread Juki machine and finished the hem using a stretch stitch on a domestic machine.
The neck finishing is very clever around the back and easy to finish. Stitch across each shoulder and then the extension of the front is joined at the center back and stitched across the back.
The instructions suggested to close up the side seam and then put in the sleeve. There is another method where you stitch the shoulder seams, insert the sleeve head and then down the side seam. Both have the same result but the second is easier to manage easing in the sleeve head and you don’t have to worry about getting caught up when stitching in a circle around the armhole.
The Legends was an easy pattern to stitch up, the instructions were very good in outlining the process. It is a great pattern for any level of sewer as the instructions would support a beginner or be a quick guide for an advanced seamstress.
As we are working on building up our work wardrobes we chose to make the dress is a thicker patterned knit that can be worn with tights and high heels for a winter look. The pattern has versatile style options and could be made to suit many occasions.
Welcome to our top making phase! We are great dress lovers but have been trying to fill some gaps in our wardrobe recently. After creating quite a few Summer tops (in the middle of winter) we began to explore what options are available for some comfy winter styles.
We are not big sewers of knits but when Stay and Stitch did a call out for pattern testers for their new design we were excited to give it a go and loved it.
Solace Top Details
The Solace Top has a funnel neck with an option to cut out the back piece on the fold or place a center back seam in it. This cutting option allows for more flexability if limited by fabric layout.
The hem has two options a curved or straight finished, both which have a side split detail.
We really loved the neck shape of this style, Stay and Stitch described it as a mock turtle or funnel neck. To help showcase this feature we chose to construct the top in a jade double knit fabric from our stash.
The pattern was easy to cut out with only three pieces; front, back and sleeve.
We opted for the curved hem to provide a nice line if the top if worn out over a pair of pants.
Constructing the Solace Top
This was an easy pattern to stitch up, the instructions were very good in outlining the process. It is a great pattern for any level of sewer as the instructions would support a beginner or be a quick guide for an advanced seamstress.
We are looking forward to making a few more versions of this top and in particular would love to make it in a textured knit. We styled it here with jeans and a head wrap but would look great tucked into a pair of high waisted pants for a more corporate style.
The Juliet Coat is the latest release from By Hand London. We enjoyed been part of the testing team for this project and partnered with Drapers Fabrics who supplied us with a beautiful wool coating for the project. The Juliet coat is fully lined and features two-piece raglan sleeves, in-seam pockets, a roomy swing shape and the option of a classic notch collar or a softer shawl collar.
Channel your inner Mrs Maisel with this perfectly retro swing coat!
By Hand London
Thank you to Draper Fabrics for partnering with us for this project. They supplied us with the lovely wool and lining for the testing of this pattern. We had a look at their online store which ships from New Zealand to get an idea of they might have available. before we headed into the Fitzroy Store.
We selected a checked blue, grey and cream wool for the outer fabric and a silk twill for the lining
Finished Juliet Coat
This is a PDF pattern which means that you download a PDF file and then need to print it out. Words from the wise – copy shop. Visit your local print shop.
We did the testing for this in the first stages of lockdown of COVID19 so we didn’t feel we should leave the house but if we were to print this lovely coat again it would save so much time to get it printed on A0.
Instead Erin spent a long afternoon with tape and scissors. The other disadvantage of printing at home is that the edge of the pattern pieces fall on tape lines of the A4 pages.
We are big fans of under stitching, big fans! It stops seams from rolling and the underside showing where it shouldn’t. This wasn’t listed in great detail in the instructions. We should suggest under stitching the underside of the collar piece, on the facing from the hem up to the button
If you are nervous about make a coat – don’t be for this one. There are no shoulder pads or complex pocket details to worry about. Essentially make the outer shell, make the lining and stitch the together around the openings (okay there is a little more to it but that is an overview)
Juliet Coat Details
We have been excited to make an Anna Dress since we saw Stitches and Sutures wearing it and it has come one of her favourites. This seemed like a great chance to give it a go. We wanted the coat to have the iconic fitted dress and oversized coat styling. The colours within the coat where specific tones and we found a piece of light wool suiting in our stash to that blended perfectly and did not distract from the stunning coat fabric.
We used the higher neck bodice style of the pattern and as we only had a small amount of fabric replaced the paneled skirt with a straight skirt and back split.
We fully lined the dress in a polyester lining to allow for ease of movement in such a fitted style
We were invited to be part of the pattern testing group for Itch to Stitch‘s new pattern release the Gobi Culottes.
Itch to Stitch describes the styles “The Culottes are unique and a lovely addition to your wardrobe. Made to look like a skirt, but with the convenience of pants, the Gobi has a contour waistband that sits high at your natural waist. The buttoned fly front adds interest, and you can also lengthen the legs to create a longer pair for the fall! The Gobi will surely set you apart from run-of-the-mill styles!”
Gobi Culottes by Two Sewing Sisters
For the testing of the Gobi Culottes we used a patterned polished cotton to create a structured short. We finished the hem of the style 10cm shorter than the original design to create more a Summer look as Melbourne’s temperature is finally creeping up.
The pockets are a placed at a good angle and the tucks lining up with the panels in the waistband is a lovely detail. This style uses a fully buttoned fly which we used black shank buttons for.
Pants can contain a lot of pieces and it can be difficult to imagine how the pieces, particularly relating to the fly and pocket come together. For the Gobi Pants there are many pieces to the waist band that line up with the darts in the legs.
Our suggestion with this pattern and most patterns is until you are familar with how the pieces come together is to lay the pieces out on the ground in the same formation as you expect the to come together. This gives you a chance to identify which notches line up and that you will be joining the correct seams together the first time.