Sewing By Hand London’s Tamzin

I have now made two different versions of this pattern – one as a top, and the second as a dress and I can confirm that I absolutely *love* it, and will definitely be making many more.

Tamzin is a dress pattern inspired by folklore and cottage-core styles. It has a square neckline with the neck facing topstitched onto the outside of the dress. The sleeves are about three-quarter length, with a loose fit and neat little tucks which also appear on the skirt. There are two options for the belt detail at the waist – either a back tie or a thicker front tie. For both of my garments I chose to use the front tie as I think it creates a nicer, more cinched shape on me personally.

BHL’s most recent patterns come in two size bands – UK 6-24 and 16-34 and are available in both PDF and paper formats across both size bands. I purchased the paper pattern in the 16-34 size range. The bigger size range is drafted to a D cup (note for beginners, this does not necessarily correspond to your bra cup size!) and the smaller is drafted to a B cup. The finished bust measurements in the 16-34 size range span from 44 to 67.5 inches – hooray!

My measurements fit in to the size 22/26 size in the original measurements table, but I sized down after looking at the finished measurements and ended up making the size 20/24. One of the reasons I love this pattern is because the fitting is really easy. There is a lot of give in the bodice, skirt and sleeves, but the belt options create a lovely shape overall. I made a tiny adjustment to the shoulders, bringing them in 1/4 inch on each side. I could have bought them in the same amount again, but the current fit works too. Aside from that I made no adjustments – next time I might shorten the sleeves slightly but it is important to do this at the pattern cutting stage as the tucks make it trickier to adjust the sleeve length when you hem it like I usually would.

I had initially been planning on making the dress as my Sew Yellow for Endo entry, a campaign to raise awareness around endometriosis that runs throughout March. I bought a lovely yellow cotton from Fabrics Galore London (it is no longer in stock, but you can find some nice floral prints here), and had images of myself frolicking through a meadow in my lovely yellow dress. Unfortunately, I was so busy mentally frolicking that I had forgotten to check the fabric width, and once it arrived I realised fairly swiftly that the skirt pieces would not fit on to the fabric, and that I didn’t have enough length to split the pieces in to fragments. This is why I ended up making a top.

In order to do this, I cut two pieces the same width as the skirt piece would have been (I had to place them lengthways instead of widthways) and made the peplum as long as I could make them with the fabric available. I then waited until the rest of the top was sewn before deciding what length I would like the peplum and trimmed and hemmed accordingly.

The lovely Esther, also known as Nine to Stitch is the model for Tamzin and her versions were my main inspiration to begin with. She made a beautiful top with the tucks on the peplum too. I think I saw her say that she had done this using the pattern pieces from the sleeves but I can’t remember where I saw that now. If I make another top version I will definitely add the tucks next time.

Generally I found it a fairly easy sew on both occasions. The instruction booklet is really easy to follow and has clear illustrations to accompany each step. When making the top I had to follow a video to fully understand how the tucks worked, but once the first one is done it is nice and easy. I followed Nine to Stitch’s Sewalong video (which you can find here). I had no problem sewing them the second time. My neckline was also a little messy at first. You need to clip the corners in the seam allowance to allow the corners on the square neckline to be really neat, and also trust that when you top stitch the facing it will look a lot better!

After I finished sewing the top I was keen to have a go at the dress too but ideally wanted to use fabric from my stash. I went for a floral viscose from Rainbow Fabrics, again this is no longer in stock but you can find something similar here. It has a really nice drape to it and a little bit of weight too, meaning it is ideal for a spring dress as it isn’t too flimsy.

I found pressing the tucks in the skirt a little trickier than with the sleeves as the weight of the fabric kept pulling it down in the middle so it wasn’t straight, but when I moved to the dining room table it was a bit easier and they do look nice. I also added this cute little label which was gifted by Little Rosy Cheeks to the back neckline which was the perfect finishing touch.

Overall I am really thrilled with the garments and will definitely come back to this pattern again and again. As I said previously, the fitting is really simple, but the details, from the neckline to the tucks make the dress a little bit special.

There are some lovely versions on IG with embellished or embroidered neck facing which I would love to try at some point for some added glamour or whimsy (depending on what you add!). My fabric stash is all prints, but I would love to make another one in a solid colour to bring out the tuck details a little more.

Also, for the busty ladies out there, this dress/top has an interesting neckline which is nice and open, but also work appropriate – yay! I work in schools sometimes and finding workwear, especially in the summer months can be a nightmare so this dress is a really great option.

What kind of fabric would you use for your Tamzin? Let me know in the comments.

Get your stitch out for the lads: Beginner sewing for Men

When I decided to learn to sew last summer, all I had to do was search the sewing hashtag on IG, and before I knew it I had fallen down the rabbit hole of amazing sewing content available across various forms of social media. Interestingly, as my own sewing-related posts have increased, I have received lots of messages from male friends asking to chat about how to get started on their own crafting journey.

Anyone who has searched sewing hashtags on IG will recognise very quickly that the online sewing community is a female-dominated space, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that any men looking to learn how to sew may find it more difficult to find the resources they need to get started. So, if you are a man who would like to learn how to sew, or anyone who would like to sew ‘menswear’, these are some resources that I have picked up over the past few weeks which will hopefully guide you in the right direction (and then the algorithm can do the rest!). Many of the beginner tips are genderless as you probably won’t be going to wearable garments straight away and I wanted to contain all of the basic tips you may need to take those first steps on the way to finding your own sewing rhythm. Let’s get started.

  • Getting a sewing machine. Your basic kit will be more or less the same whoever you are. Obviously the first thing you will need is a sewing machine. When I was looking for a machine, I asked a couple of sewing friends what they recommended and for the most part they said ‘don’t spend too much’. Really when you get going you only need a straight stitch and a zigzag or two. Button hole settings are also a plus! I was planning on getting a John Lewis brand model as they are reasonably priced and simple to use, but due to the whole world seemingly picking up sewing at the same time, there were none in stock. I ended up with a Singer Tradition which I really like. There are lots of Youtube videos available for troubleshooting and other tips, and also extra parts are widely available. You can look at some different models available at John Lewis here. You can also get perfectly good sewing machines second hand, just make sure you have checked out the model and made sure that it works! You can always upgrade your machine if you really get the bug and need more cool little gadgets. Once you have a machine the first step is learning how to thread it. There are Youtube videos for different models – you can find the one for my machine here. After that, grab a scrap of fabric – woven is best, think cotton, linen or chambray, and play around with sewing a few lines.
  • Getting the rest of your kit together. The beginner kit I started with was as follows: Dressmaking shears, thread snippers, pins, tailors chalk/washable pen, tape measure, bobbins, threads, spare machine needles, needles for hand sewing. I have added all sorts to the collection since then, but this is a good place to start!
  • First projects. The best beginner projects are fairly unisex. I learned using the Sew Over It Stitch School Introduction to Sewing Course, and the first two projects were cushion covers and a zip up toiletry bag. The third project on that course is pyjama trousers, although the pattern for this is to fit a female body, so I would recommend forgoing the course and finding some separate resources online to begin with. Cushion covers are the best way to start as they require no tricky fastenings and you only have to sew in a straight line. You can find the Sew Over It cushion cover sewalong here. There are loads of amazing Indie sewing pattern companies out there, but the bigger indie companies do tend to have the best online resources for absolute beginners I have found. Once you have filled your house with lovely cushions, have a go at at tote bag. There are loads of tutorials available, but this one is aimed at beginner sewists, Make sure that you start off with stable fabrics. I went a bit off piste at the start and it was a mess – stick to the fabrics mentioned above, or similar, until your most basic sewing is in check.
  • Moving on to Garment-making. Time to make some wearable items! You may need some help with reading a sewing pattern before you do this. The best place to start is with picking your size. Patterns will have a chart for body measurements and one for finished garment measurements. You want to measure yourself (a tutorial for that can be found here) and find which size best fits you from the body measurements chart. The finished garment measurement chart will tell you what the measurements will be on the actual garment. Depending on the intended cut and fit of the garment, this might be quite different from your own measurements – i.e. if it is a loose fitting item, the finished garment measurements will come up as bigger than your own. You can grade between sizes (meaning you use one size for a certain part of your body, and a different size for another), but you will want to avoid this to begin with. You will then want to cut out the corresponding line on your pattern. Other key markings you may come across are notches, either drawn as a tiny line coming in from where you are cutting, or sometimes a triangle. You will make tiny little snips in to the fabric at these points and they will eventually help you to line up your fabric pieces when you are pinning them together. Also there will always be a line marked ‘grainline’ which you need to make sure is parallel to the selvedge (i.e. the non-raw edge of the fabric) when you are cutting out your pattern pieces. The best first wearable garment for any sewist (in my opinion) is pyjama trousers or shorts. No tricky fitting or fixtures and they work beautifully in a nice, stable cotton. Tilly and the Buttons are one of the best beginner sewing companies around – they have user friendly patterns and loads of excellent online resources, and they released their first menswear pattern, the Joe pyjama bottoms last year. You can purchase the pattern here and also access their blog post with links to lots of tips and tricks for making and fitting the garment, as well as a free sewalong video.
Tilly and the Buttons ‘Joe’ Pyjama Bottoms
  • Exploring stretch fabric. Some people hate sewing with stretch fabric, but it makes fitting much easier, and with the right tools is not too bad. I recommend buying ballpoint needles (which cause less damage to knit fabrics) and a walking presser foot (this stops the fabric from stretching out as it goes through the machine). The Crafty Gentleman is a really great resource, and their guide to sewing a t shirt for beginners is particularly good, and includes lots of tips along the way.
The Crafty Gentleman T shirt
  • My biggest motivation to learn how to sew came from the amazing garments I was seeing across various accounts on IG. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some sewists who I have come across in the past few months who you might like to follow for inspiration.

@juliancreates

@thecraftygentleman

@norrisdantaford

@ciscosews

@robskiart

@sinsofmany

@mansewing

@obsesssew

Now, enjoy the journey! Hopefully these resources will set you off in the right direction, and you can find your own fun projects along the way. Happy sewing!

Have I missed any of your favourite sewists or patterns for men? Let me know in the comments.

Sewing my Birthday Heather Blazer

It’s my first blog post – and what better way to get going than with a review of my experience making my birthday blazer – the Friday Pattern Company Heather. I had been eyeing up this pattern for a while , and had seen so many beautiful Heathers on IG, but took a little while to actually get started as I couldn’t decide which direction to go in. I previously made a lined cape as one of my early projects, but it was far too advanced, and when it came to attaching the lining I really just bodged it together. I have definitely improved since then, so was hopeful that this time I would be more successful.

My badly-finished cape. What it lacked in finesse, I made up for with enthusiastic posing.

There are so many great things about this pattern. It has a really cool oversized silhouette, and is offered in an inclusive size range, from XS (32″/24″/34″) up to 7X (60″/53″/63″) and the finished garment sizes come up quite large, so the pattern could definitely work for someone several inches over that top range. My measurements fitted in to the 3X size bracket, but after checking the finished measurements and reading a few other posts about Heather, I decided to size down and make the 2X. I think most people would benefit from sizing down, unless perhaps you are blessed in the height department. You can buy the PDF pattern here and the printed pattern either from the same site if you are in the US, or here if you are UK-based.

Once I had purchased the pattern, I had to start thinking about what fabric I might like to work with. Some of the best examples I have seen were with gingham or other check fabrics, but I decided I didn’t want to deal with pattern matching (which I know technically you should do with most prints, but some are less forgiving than others!) so I held off until I found something I really loved. I came across this amazing pink and red slub canvas on Hey Sew Sister and knew that this was the print for me – I just love pink and red together!

This canvas is not currently available, but if you like this vibe, pigeon wishes has some great fabrics in this colourway – I like this one particularly. It wouldn’t be suited to a blazer, but would make a great dress of blouse.

I initially ordered some pink satin fabric for the lining of the blazer. It was actually cancelled by the company before dispatch which I am now so glad for as by that point I had a different vision in my mind. I ordered this Lady McElroy cotton lawn from Minerva and it turned out to be the perfect choice! It is covered in all of these cool face doodles in different colours. Getting the right lining fabric is really important in this pattern, as you can roll up the sleeves for a nice relaxed look. This lining gave my blazer a really great 80s/Miami Vice vibe, which I kind of love!

You also need to use both woven and knit interfacing. I had never used the latter before. The woven interfacing is used in the front pieces, at the top of the back piece and in the collar. The knit facing is used on one side of the collar (I don’t really understand why you would have both stretch and non-stretch interfacing in the same collar, but it looks and feels fine) and in the facing down the inside front of the jacket.

The finishing touch for me was a gorgeous label from Little Rosy Cheeks. I really love the selection of labels that they supply – all with lots of empowering and feel good messages. You can purchase the ‘Love Yourself Revolution’ labels here, but have a look at the others too as I now have a whole selection and they are one of my favourite finishing touches to add!

The pattern itself was really easy to follow and the instructions are clear. Both fabrics cut really nicely and were stable to sew with. I switched my needle to a bigger size to help my machine deal with the thickness of the canvas fabric. I went for 100/16 and this worked really well – I kept the same needle for the whole project. I could have switched to a regular needle for the lining, but the thicker needle was fine. There were a couple of points where I struggled to get the needle really close to a particularly thick corner seam. In these cases I would hand sew, but it really was just a couple of stitches in one or two places around the collar area.

Mostly the directions were pretty straight forward. The only two moments where I became a bit muddled were when it came to attaching the collar, and also assembling the corners at the bottom of the jacket which set you up for completing the rest of the hem. Fortunately, Friday Pattern Co have a really brilliant YouTube channel, and a sew along for the Heather blazer which you can find here! This answered any questions I had. The corners and hem look really neat, but I did end up with some bunching in the lining and I still don’t really know how. It was a more complex step then you would usually have with a straight forward hem.

I was a bit concerned as it was coming together that it would still be huge despite sizing down, however I did end up being happy with it. I would definitely recommend sizing down at least one size though – some people go down two, but it depends what fit you are after. When I make another one in the future, I will probably shorten it a little. There are really clear shorten and lengthen lines on the pattern so I don’t think it will be too complicated to do. I am only 5’4″ and the pattern is drafted to 5’6″ so I reckon taking 2 inches off will be a good place to start. I had initially thought that I might be able to take the hem up when I reached the hemming stage, but it turned out to be a bit more complicated to do that as a result of the method used and also due to the pocket placement, so I recommend making any length adjustments at the fabric-cutting stage.

Overall, I love my new blazer and I’m so pleased with the creative decisions I made along the way. I would say that the pattern is a good level for a confident beginner, and is a great way to get in to making outerwear without having to worry too much about complicated fittings, but still learning some new techniques and skills along the way. I think I will make my next Heather out of a lighter fabric for summer evenings!

Let me know your Heather plans in the comments!