Simplicity have long been one of the most familiar big names in the home sewing paper patterns market but many of us are now choosing to use PDF patterns instead for a variety of reasons. Simplicity have recently decided to dip a toe into the waters and release a small collection of patterns as PDFs for the first time.
I was first invited to try one of this new range of PDF patterns way back in high summer but for a variety of reasons it’s taken until mid-October to get completed.
Simplicity have released a range of ten basics which are available now from Sew Direct including several tops, a skirt, a dress and a jumpsuit, plus two children’s patterns and a free clutch bag pattern.
I chose the tie-front robe jacket SP110 which appealed to me as a cover-up in place of a cardi or sweatshirt and, because it was July at the time, I picked a pretty, drapey Atelier Brunette viscose crepe in a pale ivory print kindly provided by Minerva. The robe jacket is a very simple silhouette with a wide grown-on 3/4 length sleeve, the neck is finished with a band and the tie waist is elasticated across the back.
For me, it depends how many pages a PDF has whether I print it myself or send it away (my usual cut-off is anything over 30 sheets, more than that and I’m not keen on the printing and assembling) However, we had been experiencing postal strikes here in the UK and I needed to get started so I printed at home this time. I think the paper in my printer was a bit out of alignment because not all the pages were printing as accurately as they should have been but fortunately I could see what had gone adrift as I assembled the pages and was able to rectify it. Make sure you print the test page and check carefully that all borders are present and accurate, don’t simply check the test square measurement and wander off into another room while it’s all printing out… With A0 printing this shouldn’t be an issue.
The pattern includes all sizes from UK6 to UK26 (up to 48” bust) which are broken down into two size bands (there isn’t a layering option to isolate which sizes you choose to print unfortunately) The robe jacket consists of just six simple pattern pieces.
The instructions sheet/booklet design is attractive and uncluttered with clear diagrams and straightforward step by step instructions. For the more novice sewer there is a glossary which includes all the sewing terms that will be used throughout, and a page explaining pattern markings. This being a US-originated pattern, all the seam allowances are only in inches so you may want to write your own metric equivalents on the page somewhere before you start, to avoid confusion.
This is a quick and easy make, not much more than half a day probably, and everything comes together well. I thought the instructions and diagrams were clear, well explained and thorough without being over-complex. Overall a relative beginner should be able to manage this pattern. I like to print my instructions in booklet form but I should have increased the font size a little as I struggled occasionally to see the diagrams. I think the diagrams are actually very good, I simply didn’t print them large enough. If you are reading them from a tablet or lap top then this isn’t so likely to be an issue.
My only ‘problem’ now is that I have a summer garment as we head into autumn/winter. I intended it to be a light cover over summer dresses and tops so I’ve tried to style it for the season as it is now. I made a UK14 but possibly should have gone up a size, I feel self-conscious about how it looks around my midriff. It falls exactly on my natural waistline (I’m 5’5” tall) rather than above it like the models who are probably 5’8”-5’10” minimum. Hey ho, I didn’t get the tall gene but I did get the yoyo weight one instead! Basically, I’m pleased with the garment overall but less pleased with how it looks on me just now. I’m determined to get use out of it though but it will probably not be much before next spring.
I have a small quantity of the fabric left so, if there’s enough, I may consider adding it to the bottom under the waistband. This shouldn’t be too difficult because the waistband is straight and it would then give a little peplum which I might feel more comfortable with. It wouldn’t be too difficult to add a longer skirt to turn it into a coat as an alternative.
Being a PDF means you can buy the pattern to use immediately, and all the others in the Simplicity PDF range from Sew Direct. I was paid a modest fee for my pattern review and generously provided with the fabric to make it from Minerva. All views expressed are of course my own.
This post was originally written in January 2021 as a Minerva post for their recently completely revamped their website. I didn’t publish it here at the time and I’ve now sewn another pair of Nina Lee Portobello trousers so I thought I would share my thoughts. I have a paper copy of the pattern but it’s possible that it is now only available as a PDF, unless you can locate a copy somewhere.
I had chosen this interesting reversible woven jacquard fabric in black/cream because I was attracted to the random wavy stripes. When it arrived I found that they ran across the width of the fabric not down the warp so I had to bear this in mind when I cut them out. Fortunately, at 150cms wide with a nice firm selvedge, I didn’t need to alter my plans because I could cut them across the weft grain instead. I intended to make a pair of Nina Lee Portobello trousers and I thought this fabric would look good in this wide-legged style, they have 3 front pleats, side pockets and a centre back zip. I opted to use the black as the outside but I could have used either side of this fabric, or both sides at once to make a contrast.
I folded the material carefully across the width matching the selvedges to each other so that it wasn’t twisted and then pinned the front and back pattern pieces on, ensuring they were at a right-angle to the selvedge on the weft rather than the usual warp grain line. To mix things up a bit I cut two of the pocket bags on the normal grain so that the stripes ran crosswise, plus the remaining two pocket bags in a scrap of bright pink lining fabric.
The fabric was best suited to garments like trousers, skirts, structured dresses, jackets or formal business-type wear although how much call there is for that just now I’m not sure. It doesn’t have much drape but I decided it was still suitable for the Portobello trousers.
The fabric sewed well although I think because I cut it on the cross-grain, there was quite a lot of fraying so I’d advise overlocking all the edges singly before beginning construction.
The style is close-fitting on your natural waist line so the instructions advise choosing according to your waist measurement and go up a size if you’re in between sizes, it’s almost always simpler to take something in that to let it out. The fit over the hips is very generous but if you have an extreme difference between your waist/hip ration then it’s worth double-checking before cutting out. I fell between a UK 12 and 14 so I went with a 14
I traced off the pattern and it went together well, it’s a very simple pattern with clear diagrams and instructions. I ignored the waistband pattern piece because I chose to use an interfacing product called Fold a Band which is perfect for straight waistbands as it gives exactly the right seam allowances and folds. After checking the fit without a waistband I worked out how long my band needed to be, including an overlap and seam allowances, which I then cut in fabric the same width as the Fold a Band rather than using the pattern piece. Fold a Band comes in black or white, and medium or firm weights, depending on your fabric type, and makes a finished width of 2.5cms once it’s sewn on. This is a fairly narrow finish which personally I think is just right. Once I had ironed the interfacing to the fabric I overlocked one long edge, this would be the one to the inside of the finished garment. Pin and stitch the un-neatened edge right sides together to the waist, you could add a couple of useful hanging tapes to the side seams at this point too. Make the turnings at the ends and then you can turn up the band in the usual way and slip stitch it by hand or sink stitch from the front to secure.
Finally, after one last check of the fit, sew on a fastening or make a buttonhole with matching button. Lastly, try them on and turn up the hem to your chosen length, I overlocked the edge and made a 5cms deep turning which I slip-hemmed in place.
Since making the black and white Portobellos I have recently sewn a new fuchsia pink crepe pair. The very inexpensive fabric was bought from Walthamstow market late in 2019 with the intention of making wide-legged trousers but they didn’t actually get cut and sewn until October 2022.
I urgently needed a project to sew at the Herts Sewcial with about 15 minutes before I had to leave the house. Initially I was flapping around thinking of all the garments I wanted to sew here and now but then I remembered I had suitable fabric along with the good intentions to make another pair of Portobellos. The pattern was already traced and I just had to locate the fabric but I managed to grab everything I needed (an orange zip but no one would see that!) and rushed out of the house!
I was pleased with the finished trousers, I think the unusual vertical stripes are striking and the wide leg is very comfortable to wear. They were a bit baggy over the bum though but I think taking them in significantly would have altered the overall look of the style, I’m not sure. Looking again at the back leg pattern piece I think it could be overly generous compared to the front, the darts might need to be a little longer, so I might make some changes on the next pair (I didn’t, because I forgot that I’d written this comment!)
I’m very happy with the new pink pair, even though they weren’t high on my list for Saturday. The bright colour will bring me a lot of joy when I wear them and I’ve always loved that Katharine Hepburn 1940s or ‘Brideshead Revisited’ insouciant look. I’m not sure I’ve personally achieved that look but hey ho, that’s never stopped me yet.
In the summer of 2021 Simply Sewing magazine invited me to choose an Indie brand pattern to sew and review for them. After some deliberation I settled on the Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather dress which they generously provided me with free of charge. The article was published a year ago now but if you didn’t see it then I’m sharing some of my thoughts about the pattern here.
I like Maker’s Atelier patterns because they are deceptively simple to look at but many of them have stylish details such as notched hems, interesting seam lines, button-up backs or gathered sections which can elevate the garment out of the ordinary. On their website, and also in their newsletter, they always illustrate how much variety you can create from reusing a single pattern simply by sewing it in different fabric-types. I’ve made numerous iterations of their Holiday Shirt and Top using a number of different fabrics and embellishments for example.
If you’ve seen my various makes of Trend Patterns you’ll already know I’m rather fond of an asymmetric style and although the Maker’s Atelier one is a simple cocoon-shaped shift dress the gathered features really lift it out of the ordinary.
Because the front pattern piece is cut as a whole ‘right side up’ by flipping the piece over you can have the gathered neckline to the right or left depending on your preference. I love how the back is given shape and definition by adding the wide elastic at waist level too.
The style works best using a fabric that gathers softly and has some drape which is why the viscose twill kindly given to me by Sew Me Sunshine worked well. I wanted a fabric with a little bit of weight to it so that the elastication looked right, a stiff fabric without any fluidity would not flow nicely over the contours of the body. I really wanted a design that would look interesting whether it was gathered or not. This particular fabric from Mind the Maker contains 100% LENZING™ ECOVERO™ Viscose, which is a sustainably certified viscose fibre by LENZING™ with minimal environmental impact in the production process (compared to production of traditional viscose fibres). Some fibre and fabric production methods can be very damaging to the environment and the work force so this is at least a step in the right direction.
It was very satisfying to see the shape come together once I’d inserted the elastic, I know it probably sounds odd but I do love a bit of understitching on a facing. However I’ve found the back neck facing keeps creeping up though so I need to find a way to fix that.
Viscose often shifts around quite a lot so it’s important to not pull or drag it too much while you’re laying it up so that your pieces aren’t distorted once you’ve cut them out. If you have to cut on a table which isn’t quite big enough make sure the overhanging fabric is at least supported on a chair to prevent it pulling the fabric on the table out of shape. If you can manage to cut on the floor that would probably be preferable. Thankfully there aren’t many pattern pieces though so it isn’t a complex lay-plan.
My measurements at the time fell between a UK 12 and 14 so I measured the front and back pattern pieces to work out what the finished bust and hip sizes would be, from these I opted to sew a UK12. I was happy with the final fit, there’s just enough fullness without becoming too voluminous and baggy. I’m 5’5” tall and a little ‘pear-shaped’ but this style would suit a variety of body shapes because it skims over the waist and thigh area, it isn’t a ‘fitted’ style. The elasticated sections on the hip and back give the slightly-cocoon shape some definition and this could be adjusted to your personal preference. I’ve gained few pounds since I last summer but the dress still looks okay I think.
The one major adjustment I made was to shorten the pattern by 5cms before cutting out. I read a few online reviews before I started which all said they wish they had, or they did, make it shorter. I’m happy with how the finished length looks on me, it would definitely not have looked right if I’d left it as it was. I took the 5cms out horizontally across the front and back just below the hip/knee area, not from the hem. If you shorten it from the hem you will make the shape at the bottom a little wider which might result in it losing a little of its ‘peg’ shaping. The only other thing I did was to slightly raise the position of the elastic channels on the back and hip by approximately 1.5cms so that proportionately they sit a little higher on me, I think it looks better.
An easy hack would be to use a narrower elastic than suggested, or sew two or more rows of narrower elastic into channels, you could even use shirring elastic. Instead of elastication how about slotting ribbon or tape through the channels, sew buttonholes for the tape and leave the ends dangling so that they are decorative and adjustable, perhaps finish the ends with small toggles to make a feature of them? Leave the sleeves off completely maybe or turn them into full-length sleeves with elasticated cuffs, or a cap sleeve. If you’re feeling adventurous you could even elasticate the hem! What about having fun playing with the grain line, especially if you use a check or striped fabric. There aren’t any pockets so you could add at least one in-seam pocket, probably on the non-elasticated side seam.
As well as viscose-types like I’ve used you could also choose fabrics such as handkerchief or washed linens, crepe, softer types of satin, crepe de Chine, challis and wool crepe. Softer cottons like lawn or chambray-types would all work well too. You don’t want anything overly stiff or thick because you wouldn’t get the lovely definition to the elasticated folds, they could become a bit clunky. Ideally avoid fabrics which crease badly if you might be sitting in it for any length of time, creases would spoil the look of the front.
I chose to trace off the pattern, I find I’m doing this more and more often even though I’m not a big fan of doing so. Take your time if you’re tracing the pattern, transfer all the markings accurately. Because the neckline is asymmetric make sure you cut the neck facing to match and double check you have a mirrored any pieces that are a pair before cutting into your fabric. Read through all the making instructions before you start and highlight any areas that you think are, or might be, trickier for you.
The Asymmetric Gather dress isn’t a difficult garment to sew up, I would say anyone from an adventurous beginner upwards would enjoy making it. It certainly took me less than a day to make, especially as there are no openings like zips or buttons to construct.
I’ve found it entertaining to see my changing hairstyle since I first made this! I was paid for the original article last year but all thoughts, advice and opinions are my own.
First a bit of preamble, because the origins of the fabric I used for this top were important. In June 2022 me and Mr Y were finally able to return to mainland Europe again for a four day stay in Florence, one of my favourite cities. We knew it would probably be very busy with visitors during the summer but frankly I didn’t care about this, I was just so happy to be able to see all those magnificent buildings and beautiful art again.
In between looking at the art and strolling the ancient streets I indulged in a little window shopping at the stores where I can afford literally nothing, including Alexander McQueen, Missoni and Gucci.
Amongst all these shops though I *may* have come across a fabric emporium….In truth, there are quite a number of fabric shops in Florence, what with this being Italy and home of fabulous quality textiles.
I had, however, been given the name of another more accessible shop by a kind Instagram follower so we set off to find it with only the vaguest idea where it was. Bacci Tessuti is quite close to the Medici Chapel and San Lorenzo and, with a little help from Google Maps, we found it eventually.
The air-conditioned shop was a very welcome haven from the extreme heat Florence was experiencing during our visit and I was not disappointed by what I found, there is a wonderful selection of lovely cloth to browse.
The choices in a beautiful store like this can be quite overwhelming so I had a sort-of plan to buy something which felt ‘Italian’ to me. I set out looking at their fine linen, personally I would call it handkerchief linen and it’s much lighter and softer than most of the heavier and more durable linens I’ve seen on sale in the UK. I homed in on one with a large design in blue, red and pink flowers (I love a floral fabric but I don’t often wear it) but this one ’spoke’ to me. So that was great but then the helpful shop manager, who spoke excellent English, pointed out the Liberty Tana lawn he had at a very good price! I would have resisted but my husband wanted to buy some for me so who am I to turn him down!
These were going to be my total purchases but when I went over to the counter the manager told me that the linen cloth was by the textile designer for well-known Italian brand, Pucci. At this point he produced from under the counter several short length pieces of some beautiful Italian designer fabrics including Dolce and Gabbana! They were all very lovely (and still expensive) but I wouldn’t have a use for them. The one I did fall for though was a small piece of silk/cotton cloth from Pucci with their trademark psychedelic design in delicate ice cream shades. It still wasn’t cheap but it was just a bit different and there was enough to make a top of some kind. So of course it came home with me…
With my purchases safely stowed away we got on with enjoying the rest of our holiday (although I spent a fair bit of time planning in my head what I was going to make when we got home!)
As I said earlier, I had no more than 1m30 of fabric to play with and I still wanted to do a decent job of matching the print as best I could. The basic pattern fitted on the fabric, it’s only a front, back, sleeves and facings, but I thought it might look a bit meh, and there would still be some wastage. After a bit of a rethink, by shortening the body and making two deep ruffles across the width of the fabric I knew I would get a much more interesting design and have very little wastage in the end.
Basically it was a case of working out how long I could afford to make the top section and still get ruffles that were a balanced length [I had the Merchant and Mills Florence top in my head as inspiration] I took a line horizontally straight across to the centre front/back from the side seam approximately 15cms down from the bottom of the arm scye of both the front and back. What I should have done if I had stopped to think about it was make the centre front longer, I didn’t though and as a result the front hem lifts up because of my bust. The back is fine though.
I was able to cut the front and back pieces side by side on the folded cloth which meant the design ran smoothly around the garment. From the remaining fabric I calculated how deep two full widths of the fabric could be (approximately 28cms each strip) and still have enough to get two sleeves and the neck facings out too.
Once I had all the pieces it was just a case of assembling. First I did my usual scavenge through my button boxes to find enough suitable colours in matching sizes. After joining the shoulder seams and attaching the neck and back facings I sewed all the buttonholes at this stage, by doing this first it meant I wasn’t fighting the bulky seam of the gathered ‘skirt’ later.
As for the other Italian fabrics, I have plans to make a shirt dress with the beautiful linen, I have a design I’ve drafted and sewn a couple of versions of but there’s probably still a few tweaks I want to make to it before making it in the ‘real thing’. The Liberty lawn is waiting for the right project to present itself too, no need to rush these things. I’m all for sewing the good stuff but it’s really upsetting if you sew a dud with it!
Recently on the @SewOver50 account a follower asked if we could help her with any suggestions for trousers/pants that featured a side zip and/or a flat front and, as we’ve come to expect, the hive mind flew into action.
Speaking personally, my primary reason for wanting a flat front is that it falls more smoothly over my not-so-flat tum [Years of fashion magazine input tells me that a flat tum is highly desirable, it’s what every woman of every age should want to achieve and anything less than perfect and a bit wobbly should be kept out of sight…Complete and total nonsense obviously but it’s very hard to undo so many years of conditioning] So, whilst I know it really shouldn’t matter it somehow still does matter to many of us and, because of that, we still continue to search for those perfect and often elusive trousers which give us just the thing we’re after, whatever it is. Sometimes we choose a smooth front because we want the top or blouse that’s worn with it to be the highlight and features like fly openings or pleats can be a bit bulky and change the silhouette we desire, but it isn’t always about hiding ‘figure problems’. One follower pointed out that as a person with physical limitations the trouser choices she made had to be based upon practical reasons which made her life more comfortable and straightforward and could not be influenced by mere vanity, a luxury not everyone have.
Much like the SewOver50 go-to T-shirt list I will simply give you links to the many and various patterns which followers have suggested. I’ll begin with the ones I have sewn myself so they are my personal opinions and then follow with the rest. Most of these patterns either have a side or back zip, a few have an elasticated back, some are pull-on and the majority have a flat or flattish front. Where I’ve mentioned sizing it will be UK sizes unless I state otherwise.
Let us begin…
Eve trousers by Merchant and Mills are as basic and classic a shape as it’s possible to have. They have a side zip and darts front and back with a fixed waistband. They have a tapered, slightly cropped leg shape without being close-fitting and a turn-up hem option. I’ve made 3 pairs (so far) in very different fabrics and they fill a gap I had in my wardrobe for just such a garment. There are two patch pockets on the back but I think this understated style lends itself to many hacking opportunities. Sizes available are UK 6-18 or 20-28 paper and PDF
Sidewinder Pants by The Sewing Revival The USP of these flat front and elasticated back trousers is the unusual side seam which winds from the waist starting slightly in front of the hip bone, down the side of the leg and finishing behind your ankle bone. There are pockets set into the seam and the Sidewinders can be hemmed with or without a turn-up or with a deep elasticated cuff. I found them very straightforward to sew-I’ve made 3 pairs of these too in a variety of fabrics including one pair in a really nice heavy jersey with the elasticated cuff. I wrote a review of them a while ago which you can read here. It’s a PDF only and sizes available fall into 4 brackets UK 6-12 10-16 14-20 and 18-24
Palazzo Pants by Simple Sew This style has darts front and back with a fixed waistband and a back invisible zipper which runs up into the waistband. It gives a smooth close fit around the body which then widens out to very voluminous legs. There are pockets in the side seams if you want them but could easily be left out. I think they are a lovely shape, and I reviewed them here when I was a Simple Sew blogger, but if I made them again I would sew a regular overlapping waistband which closed with a button and buttonhole or a hook and bar because they are a bit tricky to do up. UK sizes 8-20 paper and PDF
Portobello trousers by Nina Lee These trousers have a lovely Katharine Hepburn vibe, they aren’t technically flat-fronted because they have deep pleats but they zip up at the back, which has darts, so there’s no extra bulk in the front as a result. They sit on the natural waist with a fixed waistband, have wide straight legs and there are pockets in the side seams. I made a pair in a slightly-too-springy fabric but they look OK and are very comfortable. I reviewed them on the Minerva website, a better fabric choice would have been something like a nice heavy crepe or twill, anything with a bit of drape would look great. I believe Nina Lee patterns are only available as PDFs now, sizes are in two brackets UK6-20 and 16-28
6351 by New Look This is a pattern for separates and I’ve used the trousers a few times now. They have a drawstring (and elasticated) waistband, side seam pockets and the legs fall wide and straight. If these fit well on the hips then there isn’t too much bulk from the gathers at the waist-I’ve made them in linen and they are gorgeous in warm weather. I shortened another pair I’d made but didn’t wear so much and they have had so much more use as mid-calf cropped pants. Paper pattern only UK 10-22 (I think)
That’s all the patterns I’ve sewn myself so now it’s over to you, in no particular order…
Ultimate trousers by Sew Over It these slim-fitting trousers have a side zip and a facing rather than a waistband. They have been around since the very earliest days of Sew Over It and I’ve heard reviews which swing wildly in either direction. Some people swear by them and others say they can’t get a satisfactory fit. My advice would be to read a few reviews before making your decision. They only seem to be available as a PDF now UK sizes 6-20
Pietra pants by Closet Core these are a more recent release from Closet Core as part of their ‘Rome’ collection and they already have a legion of fans. There’s no zip, the back is gently elasticated with wide elastic, the front is smooth because of a grown-on slightly-raised waistband, there are quarter seams down the front with pockets plus there are three leg shape options-tapered, wide leg and shorts. That number of variations alone must make them excellent value for money! On top of that they come as a paper pattern US size 0-20 only and PDF in sizes US 0-20 or 14-32
Jenny overalls and trousers by Closet Core these are a wide-legged dungaree pattern with a number of options including trousers. They have a fitted waistband and darts for a close fit. Available as both paper and PDF in US 0-20 only. Closet Core have a reputation for comprehensive tutorials on their website so take a look if you need any help.
Chiara trousers by Tessuti these are a wide-leg slightly cropped length trouser with darts for a close fit around the hips and waist and a side zip. The waist is finished with a stitched-down facing. Available as a PDF sizes AUS 6-16 only.
Crew trouser by Chalk and Notch These trousers/shorts do have a side zip although they aren’t flat fronted, they are high-waisted with pleats and a tie feature. PDF only sizes US 0-30
Mountain View pull-on pants by Itch to Stitch Initially I thought these didn’t fit the brief because they appear to have a front zip but it’s a faux one so we’ll let them past. A jeans-style legging made in fabrics with stretch this is a PDF only pattern in two size brackets (you get both with purchase) US 0-20 and 22-40
Eureka pants by Fit For Art Patterns I wasn’t familiar with this brand but these trousers for woven fabrics have multiple options for the waistband and leg shape which should help you to achieve an excellent fit. Paper or PDF sizes XXS-3XL (whatever that means)
Calder Pants by Cashmerette are another good option. Wide legged in three lengths including shorts, smooth front and elasticated back to ensure an excellent fit. It comes in paper or PDF formats, sizes US 12-32 Cashmerette are renowned for their comprehensive fitting instructions which could be very useful.
Willow Trousers by Style Arc classic slim pants similar to Eve mentioned at the top. The Willow have a split hem detail and side zip. Paper patterns or PDF are both available in single sizes AUS 4-30 or multiple AUS 4-16 18-30
Bob pants by Style Arc a tapered, ‘balloon’ shaped leg with an elasticated waistband and side seam pockets, these trousers have become a stylish choice teamed with loose shirts and casual tops for a modern look. Sizing as with the Willow above. If you like these you might also like the Ethel pants by Style Arc.
Flint trousers by Megan Nielsen a wide leg pant or shorts without a zip at all, instead they have a crossover closure at the side which is incorporated into the pocket. Printed comes in AUS sizes 0-20 or PDF 0-20 or 14-30
Marilyn Jeans by Charm patterns These are a Fifties-inspired close-fitting jeans pattern but with a side zip, think Capri pants. PDF only at present but available in two size brackets US2-20 or 18-34
Clover pants by Seamwork another pair of slim-fitting pants designed for wovens with stretch. Side zip and ankle or mid-calf length, they can also have small inseam pockets at the waistband PDF only US 0-18
Duet trousers by Love Notions these trousers have an invisible side zip, two front hip pockets, back darts and two leg shapes-straight or tapered. They are suitable for both wovens and stretch fabrics. PDF only in sizes US 2-26
Miller trousers by Paper Theory These don’t have a zip, instead they have an elasticated waist with a tie option. There are pleats in the front, deep side pockets and long darts in the back to improve the fit in this area. Paper pattern or PDF UK 6-28
Free Range slacks by Sew House Seven These are another pair of slightly gathered elasticated trousers but the side seams on these have been divided and shifted to form a panel at the sides instead. They come with a tapered or wide leg option and look great in linen or similar fabric types. It’s a PDF pattern with two size brackets included AUS 00-20 and 18-34
So there we are, this isn’t in any way an exhaustive list of course, you may think there are glaring omissions, and the emphasis is strongly on Indie patterns rather than the mainstream pattern companies. These are the patterns which were suggested by the followers of Sew Over 50 so if you have your own favourites then feel free to let me know in the comments, a few of the patterns suggested were out of print so I haven’t mentioned them here. Don’t forget to tag #SewOver50 and #So50Trousers when you post on Instagram either, it’s such an amazing source of inspiration and ideas for others.
As one of the new team of Backstitch Ambassadors I relished the chance to go along to the gorgeous shop at Burwash Manor to browse their fabrics and patterns. It’s about 40 minutes from where I live and I love to go there whenever I get an opportunity, I’ve previously included it in this round-up of Hertfordshire based fabric shops. To be completely honest, I already had an idea that I would like to make the newish Merchant and Mills Ellsworth shirt but I had an open mind about fabric choice. In my head I was looking for a lightweight linen-type but as soon as my eyes alighted on the checked double gauze I was all in for that! It was folded on the bolt with the large check visible on the outside but when I discovered the reverse was small checks my mind was blown and I knew I could mix the two sides to create a unique garment. There are currently 4 colours available but I settled on the pretty shell pink variation. I took 2 metres as per the pattern instructions but after cutting it out (and as I’ve found before with M&M patterns) I had almost 50cms left over, even allowing for pattern matching. It’s very annoying when this happens and I’ve made a note for next time. I cut a straight UK 12 with no mods.
The Ellsworth is quite typical of M&M’s aesthetic, it is a very wide and loose fit shirt with a stepped hem, a collar and button placket and cropped, cuffed sleeves. It will lend itself towards fabrics which have an element of fluidity and drape such as soft linen or cotton-types, light woollens, crepe, chambray or babycord. Some light- or medium-weight jerseys would probably be okay but I wouldn’t recommend ones with a lot of stretch.
Another reason for choosing this shirt (apart from the fact I liked it anyway) is because I had seen a few makers on Instagram were having trouble interpreting the instructions for the placket. I hope what follows will give you a bit more information and guidance.
Away we go…
Definitely give your fabric a wash first, its light loose weave will shrink a little (it will be very crinkly when it comes out of the machine but don’t panic, it will press flat again. You may ultimately prefer the crinkles but they will be hard to work with during the making process so press as you go for now)
If you are a person with no patience when it comes to laying up your fabric, or time is tight, then this may not be the fabric choice for you because it does need some careful laying up and folding to get the checks straight and matching [or you could cut every piece on the flat to save on the head scratching] There were a couple of places where, in spite of my best efforts I was bit off but I won’t tell you where they were and you might not notice anyway! It does have the advantage of the large check being 3cms square and the reverse is 1cm squares so a 1cm or 1.5cm seam allowance shouldn’t be a problem to follow.
The problematic placket is made first so here’s my interpretation of the instructions for you. Begin by interfacing all pieces as instructed (although I interfaced the whole placket rather than half as the fabric is quite fine and a bit unstable)
Next I moved on to the sleeve opening which is neatened with a very narrow bias strip.
The hem facings are sewn on next, then join the shoulders using French seams. This is a useful technique if your fabric is very fine, sheer, or frays badly, or if you don’t own an overlocker. Obviously you can sew a flat seam and overlock/zigzag if you prefer. You could also topstitch these seams if you want a bit of interest on them. My personal preference is to press shoulder seams to the front, this is so that the seam is slightly less visible when looking at it.
I found the collar instructions straightforward so I won’t go into them as well, I opted to catch the lower edge down by hand so that I had control over it and a really neat finish. I also added a label from Little Rosy Cheeks.
The sides are then French seamed, be careful with the step at the lower edge and make sure you don’t take too much seam allowance on the seams because this could throw out the overlap at the top of the opening. I used the bartack stitch on my Pfaff to secure it as this could be a point of weakness further down the line.
I cut a straight UK 12 with no modifications and I’m 5’5” tall but if you’re taller you might want to lengthen the shirt as it’s quite cropped at the front.
I’m very pleased with how the Ellsworth has come out, I’ve worn it with flat-front Eve trousers but it will look good with a skirt or even a dress under it for layering. I’m going to have a look through the stash to see what other fabrics I can make it in now!
I’m delighted to have the opportunity to write for Backstitch because it’s a lovely little shop which I’ve been visiting for a few years now. It’s in a beautiful rural location and sells a really nice, well-considered range of quality fabrics and indie patterns and sewing books. As Ambassadors we are provided with gift vouchers to shop in the store, it’s entirely up to us what we make and how much of those vouchers we spend, the balance can be kept to spend on another occasion if we choose to. If you don’t live anywhere near enough to pay a visit yourself then Backstitch has a recently revamped website to shop through too, their range of yarn, knitting and crochet patterns are all on there too.
I hope you have found my review useful, that’s always my intention, do write in the comments if there’s something which still isn’t clear and I’ll try to help.
Well that was another weird year wasn’t it!? I’m not gonna lie but I’ll be glad to see the back of 2021. For every good event there seemed to be two or three stinkers which I found made it really hard to see positives anywhere. I know that there were some good things though and I’m incredibly grateful to have the life that I do so I don’t want to dwell on the downside, let’s move into 2022 with an air of cautious optimism!
I entitled my round up for 2020 as ‘sewing in a time of pandemic’ and I’m so glad I didn’t know then that 2021 was going to be ‘part two!’ Anyway, I’ve collected a few photos to round up my sewing and other events I was able to get up to during 2021 although I’m not sure if they are particularly chronological…the length and colour of my hair at any given time will give you a bit of a clue!
I was looking for new sewing challenges early in the year during the next long lockdown and Mr Y was the lucky recipient of a few items including this Carmanah sweatshirt by Thread Theory. The fabric was kindly provided for me as I’m part of the Lamazi blogger team.
I was selected to contribute some articles offering sewing tips and advice for an online sewing project in the early spring but after just two such items they just stopped contacting with me or replying to my emails. Bit rude I’d say, I’ve no idea what was wrong because they never had the courtesy to tell me, and I’ve no intention of wasting more time on them frankly.
As you know if you read my posts I like to reuse patterns if they have lots of options so I’ve sewn several variations of a number of Sewing Revival patterns during the year, including the Fantail top below which I made in an ancient remnant in my stash which I believe somebody once paid 90p for!
I wrote just three specific Sew Over 50 blog posts in 2021, the first was a summing up of lots of ideas and inspiration for how to sew more sustainably which the followers of the Sew Over 50 account contributed. There was a lot of it and it definitely worth a read.
I was a guest editor on the Sew Over 50 account in the autumn when we chatted about mannequins in our sewing practice. Many of you contributed some brilliant and insightful comments, I wonder how many people have gone on to buy a dress form, or use the one they have differently, or more often, as a result?
Sew Over 50 stalwart Tina generously shared with us the many resources she has gathered together over the last couple of years for sewing and adapting patterns and clothing after a breast cancer diagnosis. It has been one of my most read articles on the blog since it was published in the autumn and I know Tina is happy for followers to contact her via Instagram for any advice or support she can offer them. For me, she very much represents the positive aspects of being a part of this worldwide community.
One of my favourite ‘in person’ events in the sewing calendar, Sew Brum, quietly took place in the autumn and my lovely mate Elizabeth kindly put me up overnight and we had some quality shopping and sewing time together. Our friend Melissa even joined us for a couple of hours for a Zoom sew! Plus I ran in my first (and so far, only) Park Run too! phew, it was a busy and almost-normal 48 hours.
I finally made a jumpsuit (or two) at the end of the year, it’s the Cressida by Sew Me Something Patterns.
For quite a while I had wanted to organise an informal sewing event and they were finally able to happen in October and November with #HertsSewcial It was such a joy to be reunited with my Sew Over 50 stalwart friends Ruth and Kate, along with meeting several other online friends like Bev and Elke in real life for the first time. We had so much fun sewing and chatting together, the time flew past far too quickly and I very much hope I can organise some more in the New Year, current situations permitting.
And my final sewing treat of the year was being able to meet up with Judith Staley in her hometown of Edinburgh!! It was much too brief but absolutely better than nothing, we had so much we could have talked about but that will have to wait until our oft-rescheduled and much looked forward to sewing get together next spring…fingers tightly crossed!
My final personal make of the year was another Maven Somerset top in this celestial jersey I bought at the Lamazi open day. It’s festive without screaming CHRISTMAS!
And so ends another year of sewing and other stuff, as well as the new garments I’ve sewn for myself there were many other occasions when I wore, and re-wore, favourites which didn’t need to be photographed! I fervently hope 2022 brings better times for everyone and that we can adapt to our new or changed ways of living. Sewing will continue be a big part of my life and I hope there will be some new and exciting projects and opportunities during the year. There are so many wonderful people in this community and the support and encouragement that swirls around has been so important during another trying year-I hope I will get a chance to meet up with more of you in person during the next twelve months.
Until then, thank you for reading my wafflings, happy sewing and a very happy New Year,
I’ve been dithering for aaages about sewing myself a jumpsuit for various reasons. The main one is because I’m haunted by the memory of an ill-advised white cotton get-up purchased one lunchtime from Leather Lane market in about 1986….ah the folly of youth. Of course I was channelling Pepsi and Shirlie and thought I looked the bees knees but I’m just grateful there’s no photographic evidence to prove very much the opposite was true!
I digress. My other reasons are simple enough; what about when I need the loo? (which is often) and, will my bum look big in it? [Of course the size of my bum should never be up for discussion but decades of reading articles in magazines telling a woman what she can wear because of her age/ weight/ height etc etc can’t be unlearnt overnight]
I know there are some cracking patterns for jumpsuits (and I cannot bring myself to call it a boiler suit because that just makes me think I should be in the inspection pit under a Class A4 Pacific locomotive with a monkey wrench in my hand) and I’ve even got as far as buying and printing the uber-popular Paper Theory Zadie but that’s where it ended.
Anyhoo, I went to the recent Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally and while I was at the Sew Me Something stand I signed up to receive their newsletter. The upshot was my name was randomly chosen and I won a pattern of my choice from their selection. [You might know that one of my favourite tops is their Imogen blouse which I’ve reviewed here in the past] This time I decided to go mad and choose their Cressida jumpsuit. It is a simple shape with short grown-on sleeves, a collar and rever, bust darts, a waist seam, hip pockets, slightly cropped length and an optional belt. I received mine as a paper pattern but it is also available as a PDF, plus PDF with a printing service too if required.
Because this was a completely new type of garment for me I decided to make a toile version first so I used some medium weight denim I bought in Hitchin market. I made the slightly rash decision not to pre-wash it because I was in a hurry to get started so I gave it a really good steam press instead. With hindsight this probably wasn’t entirely wise because the colour came off on my hands terribly and there was some shrinkage when I eventually washed it, although fortunately not enough to make it unwearable.
Based on my body measurements and the finished garment measurements I opted to make a UK size 12. Aside from my own foolishness with the fabric shrinkage I’ve found the 12 to be a good fit. The body length was just right which means I can sit or move comfortably in it, the only change I made was to the second version which I made using some beautiful Cousette viscose twill provided for me by Lamazi Fabrics to wear at their very first open day in mid-November. I decided to add 1.5cms to the bodice using the lengthen/shorten lines marked on the pattern. However, I probably didn’t need to have done so because I was making that decision based on the slight shrinkage of the denim! Not to worry, it means that getting in and out of the jumpsuit is a bit easier because of the extra wiggle room.
A couple of details I tried out on the denim jumpsuit were to use a variegated sewing thread for the decorative top stitching and buttonholes which I bought from William Gee. I also added belt loops which aren’t included as part of the pattern but I wanted these so that the belt sat in roughly the right place and covered the seam. By the way, I felt the included belt pattern piece was very long so I shortened it quite considerably, by at least 50cms. I had recently bought some gorgeous buttons from Pigeonwishes, also at the K&S Show and these were exactly the right colour, size and quantity I needed-perfect!
Overall I was very pleased with my denim Cressida so I was happy to go ahead with the viscose twill version. As I said earlier I added a little bit of length but possibly didn’t need to, being a button front opening does mean that I’ve given myself just a little bit more space to get the sleeves up and down from my shoulders. Because we’re heading into winter in the UK now I have opted to wear a long-sleeved T-shirt underneath at present (both ancient RTW ones) Although I made the fabric belts for both I can put a leather one through the loops instead and it looks good.
I have found the instructions for Sew Me Something patterns to be very thorough and clear and the Cressida is no different, the pattern goes together very well. Jules uses a slightly different method for sewing the collar together which I haven’t used before but it gives a very nice end result. I would rate this pattern as a moderate level of difficulty because of the buttonstand at the front but otherwise there’s nothing here to scare the horses particularly.
When I made the second Cressida in the viscose twill I didn’t make the same mistake twice and pre-washed the fabric first! The viscose has a beautiful weight and drape to it and I love the autumnal colours. It has a lovely soft handle too, you just need to be as careful as possible when sewing it together because viscose twill does have a reputation for snagging which can result in slight ‘catches’ or runs in the print which is irritating and disappointing. My advice would be to make sure you use a new fine needle, possibly a Microtex, and certainly no larger than 70/75 size to try and minimise any risk. Also, viscose is often known for creasing a lot but I didn’t find this twill to be too bad-damning with faint praise possibly but I’ve come across far worse.
As I mentioned earlier, I made the Cousette viscose jumpsuit to wear at the recent Lamazi open day, I’ve been one of their blogger team for some time now so it was lovely to have the chance to visit their new premises (they aren’t a retail shop but check here for their visiting arrangements) fellow blogger Sharlene Oldroydwas also there having travelled especially from Northern Ireland so it a real treat to finally meet her in real life.
So there we are, a lucky win from Sew Me Something and a generous gift of fabric from Lamazi means that I’ve broken my long-held suspicion of jumpsuits. Both have been worn a few times already and, because of the short sleeves, they will get worn in the summer months too. Taking into account my worries of getting in and out of the jumpsuit, it hasn’t been too much of an issue. The denim one is a little more tricky to get over my shoulders because the overall length is slightly less but I haven’t had a problem with the viscose edition.
The Cressida would also look lovely made up in a variety of fabrics including linen or crepe, or even a luxurious silk-type perhaps?
Essentially it’s a raglan cropped-sleeve sweatshirt or dress with ribbing cuffs, hem and neckline. The sleeves have darts at the shoulder to give them some shaping and the neckline is quite scooped out. Most of the sweatshirts I’ve made in recent years have been quite baggy and over-sized so I thought I would try the closer fit of the Fielder for a change. Based on my own body measurements and the finished measurements given on the packet I opted for a UK size 12, and I lengthened the sleeve to be wrist length.
I bought the unusual ‘quilted’ fabric from the M&M stand at the recently-revived Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London. It was so good to be able to browse a whole selection of stands once again, it had been over 18 months since any of us were last able to do that. The colour reminds me of old-fashioned sticking plasters, the triple-layer fabric is a clever weave but the loose threads through the middle layer do come adrift quite easily. Because of this I overlocked every piece around its edges to prevent further disintegration. I also stay-stitched the neck edge before it had a chance to stretch.
I haven’t mentioned the rest of the garment construction because it’s a very straightforward sew, I just made it a bit harder for myself…but in a good way.
Anyhoo, that’s one way to elevate a plain top into a slightly more interesting one (IMO!)
I’ve been an absolute fraud when it’s come to writing any Sew Over 50 blogs for ages and ages which I feel very guilty about. I’ll hold my hands up and say that the community has been an absolute lifeline during the last awful 18 months that we’ve all been going through-the support, friendship, inspiration, encouragement and camaraderie that I’ve found through the account has been personally so important but my writing and blogging has really tailed off along with my mood in general. Judith and Sandy do an absolutely awe-inspiring job of running the account for us, along with fantastic guest editors to keep us all coming back time after time-thank you thank you THANK YOU!!! The sheer variety of topics covered has been incredible but I thought I’d dip my toe back into the @SewOver50 blogging waters by writing a round-up of the August 2021 challenge #So50SustainableSewing
If you follow Judith’s personal account @judithrosalind you’ll already know she has been increasingly sewing in a more mindful and sustainable way for some time now and has wanted to launch a challenge on the account so that we can all join in with this in some way.
We all know that ’the most sustainable garment is the one already in our wardrobe’ and that is true but it doesn’t allow for the important creative outlets that our sewing and garment making gives us. So, if we are to continue sewing for ourselves or others, how can we approach it?
Judith’s idea for the challenge is a simple one-we use only fabric which is already ‘in the system’, especially if it’s already sitting on our shelves. In other words, we source it in a variety of inventive ways and these fabrics could include…
remnants or scraps
charity or thrift shop finds-fabrics or garments
textile manufacturing waste
fabric swaps in person or online
discarded garments, table cloths, bed linen, curtains etc
This isn’t a definitive list of course and over the whole month of August several guest editors shared their brilliant insights to inspire us.
The month kicked off with Judith making a guest appearance on the Sew Organised Style podcast chatting with Maria Theoharous about her idea and lots of ways for us to get involved. Maria always has Sew Over 50 Thursdays too which feature guests from our community who share their sewing stories, techniques and inspiration so it is definitely worth having a listen while you’re sewing, or walking the dog!.
Throughout August there was a great line-up of guest editors including Jen Hogg @jenerates who is so overflowing with ideas that she had 4 separate posts! Her first post encouraged us to ‘shop our stash’ if you have one…I know I do! Like her, some of my fabrics are relatively recent purchases, occasionally on impulse although not always by any means, whilst others are fabrics I’ve acquired over a long period of time and from various different sources. Jen sees it as part of her creative process, to have the choice amongst her stash, to inspire her ideas for making. Jen is a multi-talented woman who not only sews but knits, embroiders, makes jewellery, works leather….in the UK you are probably familiar with her from being a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee, plus you can also listen to her chatting on Sew Organised Style too!
Next was Sue Stoney @suestoney in Australia who shared her love of collecting all sorts of vintage items for later use including beautiful table linen and haberdashery. Many of us probably have buttons, zips, hooks and eyes, threads, elastic (doesn’t last indefinitely though so check it hasn’t perished before you sew it into something you don’t want to fall down around your ankles!) which came to us via our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbours etc etc. I know I love to rummage amongst the hundreds of buttons I have to something special and individual, and I can’t recall the last time I actually bought hooks and eyes or press studs!
Whilst the challenge is intended to encourage us to get creative and inventive for the pleasure of it alone there were also prizes to be awarded so the post on August 8th shared the generous sponsors for these. They included @criswoodsews whose zero-waste Parasol dress pattern has proved extremely popular especially during this challenge. @lizhaywood3754 is also an advocate for zero-waste sewing and has published two books on the topic. @thatwendyward has a recently published book on sewing more sustainably (she chats with Maria about it on the podcast too!) Wendy has long been mindful on the topic after years of working in the RTW industry, as well as producing her own patterns, teaching and writing several other sewing books all of which feature older models! There were also prizes from small businesses @greyfriarsandgrace who create paper patterns which guide the user to sew clothes using recycled textiles, and @craftandthrift who sell thrifted fabrics and kits.
Jen returned with her second post sharing her use of ‘found’ fabrics, including a beautiful blouse made from a sheer vintage embroidered table cloth. Found fabrics can make you a lot more creative because you feel less constrained by what to make with them, do you find the cost of brand new fabric can stifle your creative instincts because of the fear of making costly errors?
One garment that offered massive chances to use up multiple fabrics was the ubiquitous tiered and ruffled dress-a buffet dress in current parlance! Followers have certainly embraced this style and the account shared just a small selection of them on August 11th.
Next up was Marcia @MarciaLoisRiddington who adores #GrannyChic and is a wonderful exponent of using vintage fabrics to great advantage and her combinations of colours and patterns is absolutely masterful (mistressful?)
Then @irenelundell from Sweden urged us to think about ‘circular’ sewing, buy from charity or thrift shops when you see it because not only does it support a good cause but it gives the textile or garment the chance of a new or extended life.
Tricia @morrissews who followed is a fine exponent of refashion, remake, remodel, recycle and repair…and try as much as possible to not replace. She shared her @Elbe_textiles (another prize sponsor) Sorrento bucket hat which couldn’t be more suitable for using up lots of small fabric scraps to make something really useful and wearable.
Jen’s third post demonstrated the times she’s used multiple garments to make a single new one, such as the three shirt shirt! Casual jackets which are made up of small pattern pieces are also ideal for a patchwork approach, there are even small businesses now making these commercially and every garment is different, some even manage to use 100% recycled components.
She talks too about the 90 minute transformation challenge on GBSB was actually a very liberating experience because there was no time to be overly precious with what they were given to use, it forced her to think outside the box very quickly and not have time for self-doubt.
There was another Jen up next, @jenlegg_teescreatives who told us how she has used textiles belonging to dear and much-missed friend and how, when she wears the jacket she’s sewn, it feels like a hug from her friend Emma. There are many other ways you can honour or remember a friend or loved one in this way too by sewing articles like soft toys, cushions, patchwork quilts or rugs for example using garments that once belonged to them.
Jen Hogg made her final return to tell us about using factory surplus in her making. She’s fortunate to live near a number of textile mills in Scotland and has been working closely with them to find inventive ways of using their ‘waste’ products. By using cashmere off-cuts, including something called ‘slitter’ which is a by-product of making cashmere scarves, so far Jen has knitted or crocheted rugs and blankets, and woven and stitched the strips together to make whole pieces of textile big enough to make into jackets, dresses or coats. Are there any textiles manufacturers or processors near you? Do they sell off any of their excess or by-products? It might be worth investigating. Another way of using up scraps which has been around for many many years is rag rugging (also known as proggy rugging) and @raggedlife has loads of ideas for this technique.
As the month was drawing to a close Raquel in Taipei @raquel_sewing_knitting_in_asia (who is an absolute Queen of refashioning!) showed us how she takes inspiration from high-end fashion and clothing all around her but then recreated the looks using multiple end-of-line garments and thrifted clothes. Not only that, she would wear them a few times but if they aren’t quite right she isn’t afraid to take them apart again and reconfigure them into a new garment more to her liking! Sometimes more than once! I’m always too precious with things I’ve made to do that even if I don’t much like the end result, instead they tend to sit on the naughty step while I sulk about what went wrong with them, I should just tackle it head on and take up that unpicker!
The final guest editor for the sewing sustainably month was Judy @judywillimentross whose speciality is refashioning mens suits into another wearable garment. She buys them in charity shops but one of her own rules is not a purchase a suit which might still be of use to someone less fortunate and not in a position to buy new. [This could also be something to be mindful of when purchasing any very inexpensive garment, should we consider whether it would be of use to another person as it is before we buy it to cut up. Or do we take the view that the money we pay for it is a donation to a charity in need of the cash, especially if it’s going to end up in landfill otherwise?] Judy carefully uses ever-smaller fabric scraps to piece together into patchwork.
So there you have it, loads of creativity to inspire us with our sewing projects in the future. By the time you read this the randomly-chosen winners of prizes will have been announced but the hashtag #so50SustainableSewing will continue to be used so the ideas bank will be constantly refreshed.
I’ve added links throughout so you should be able to see and read for yourselves what the guest editors had to say.
Judith and Sandy constantly add to the saved Highlights on the account too, particularly any one of the many worldwide challenges you might like to participate in, plus using some the dozens of hashtags unique to us will give you unlimited ideas for your own future projects.
For this post I’ve concentrated entirely on the sustainable sewing challenge and so I’ve not added many thoughts of my own. In truth, I wasn’t in the headspace to participate while it was going on but it did cause me to think about some of the projects I’ve completed in recent years which went some way to being ‘sustainable’.There are so many ways we can all do a little, or a lot, to contribute to reducing the problem of waste and over-consumption. We should be mindful that whatever is right and possible for one person though is not necessarily going to be achievable for another. For example, many of us can practice visible mending because we like that it gives longevity to a garment and can look attractive, but others will see it as a reminder of hard times or embarrassment. Our community is nothing if not supportive so we need to be mindful of others at times.