A week in New York City

James and I have been talking about returning to New York City at some point for a while now. We last visited on our honeymoon back in 2010 and had a fantastic time. We’ve also since acquired a rather expensive immersive theatre habit and really wanted to see Sleep No More before it closes (I’m guessing later this year). We’d seen Punchdrunk’s London show, The Drowned Man 4 and 5 times over the course of a year, and knew that a similar show, based on Macbeth, would be well worth the trip. So James booked the flights for my birthday and tickets to see it twice in that week.

And then we heard about the immersive show Then She Fell (set in a disused hospital in Brooklyn, based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and limited to 15 audience members per showing), so booked that, too. And then ended up seeing Sleep No More for a third time directly after the second showing. Because it’s that good. Frankly, it’s two weeks later and I’m still kinda living in a dream world in the fictional McKittrick Hotel. Snippets of songs get stuck in my head, people say things that trigger a memory from the show, I look down and see a drip of fake blood on my shoe from one of the scenes… that sort of thing. I honestly cannot recommend either show enough. So, so worth the money.

But this isn’t a site about immersive theatre, nor is it about the excessive amount of cocktails and brunch we consumed, nor the sleep we didn’t get, or the great quality time we got to spend with my cousin in Brooklyn or the many friends who’d moved back there. So I’ll stick to the sewing-related highlights or we’ll be here all day!

Of course I couldn’t go to New York and not visit the Garment District, but my fabric stash is looking pretty healthy these days and I didn’t really have an entire day to kill wandering around. So I enlisted the help of some professionals! Oona and Ginger were my fantastic tour guides through Mood, Spandex House, and the myriad little haberdashery shops in the Garment District, but also in choosing a man creche (err, bar) with great cocktails!


Here we are each holding up our most obnoxious Spandex House purchases. Yes, mine has bacon all over it.

Fabric Shopping in Dublin and Battersea

As I mentioned earlier this week, we visited Dublin on a flying visit last week as James was speaking at a conference, and I decided to tag along to visit some of his family over there. I first visited Dublin back in 2000 when I was a student and did the very American thing of visiting for St Patrick’s Day (hint: it’s absolutely rammed with Americans and Aussies!). We went back again in 2008 to see some family and also buy an engagement ring, and then I had to fly over a bunch for work around 2011-2013 but those trips were mostly in-and-out on the same day, dealing with a difficult client. But it’s been long enough now that I’m mostly over the pain of those awful work trips, and since I had a spare day to wander around the city centre, I thought I’d revisit a few of the fabric shops I reviewed back in 2008.

While I’ve got mixed feelings that the Woolen Mills is no longer a source for haberdashery (mixed because I’m sad it’s closed down, but happy because it’s now a sister restaurant to our favourite restaurant in Dublin, The Winding Stair), I’m pleased to report that Hickeys on Henry Street is still going strong!

Lots of little happenings

I’ve got a bunch of things happening all at once (on top of crazy good opportunities coming out of my ears that I can’t talk about yet!) that weren’t quite big enough for a full post on their own so I thought I’d round them all up into a fun bit of Friday inspiration for you all! I’ve also got, ohhh, four finished garments to properly photoshoot so hopefully next week you’ll get to see more of those, too.

A bacon splint cover

This may be the strangest thing I’ve ever sewn but a colleague was in a hit & run which broke her wrist, requiring metal plates and several surgeries. She’s doing much better now but hates the depressing beige brace she has to wear, so I offered to sew her a fun cover for it.

Cycling 120 miles with bacon and ikat

The Dunwich Dynamo isn’t a race – it’s not even an organised event. It’s much more a rite-of passage – an annual 120 mile bike ride from London Fields in east London to Dunwich, on the Suffolk coast. It’s been going for over 20 years and the route is just “known”, and the date is the Saturday closest to the full moon in July. Riders set off sometime between 7 and 9pm, and generally don’t make it to the beach at Dunwich until sunrise, or some hours thereafter.

I’ve written a full report on my ride over at my RiverRunner site if you’d like to hear more about what it’s like to cycle for 9.5 hours on a heavy mountain bike having previously only ridden 30 miles. It was tough, and some parts were more enjoyable than others!

This post is more about what I sewed in the leadup to the race, both for James and myself. My copy of the latest Sewing Bee book arrived two weeks ago, and I knew I wanted to sew up the men’s cycling jersey, just to see how it compares to my Surf to Summit men’s top, if nothing else! I did a bit of work behind the scenes on the show and book this year, and I helped out a bit with the instructions for this one but never had the pattern to sew it up myself until my finished book arrived.

Interview with Kelli from True Bias

I first heard about True Bias patterns when Kelli released her first pattern last year – the Hudson Pant were an indie sewing phenomenon, and it seemed I was about the only woman who hasn’t sewn a pair yet (and believe me, they’re still on my To Sew List for someday!). I’ve had the privilege of talking to Kelli to find out more about her sewing, aesthetics, and what’s up next, so read on to find out more about the lady behind the label… – melissa


Kelli in her Hudson Pant pattern

You kept a sewing blog for quite a few years before starting True Bias – what was the impetus for starting a pattern company?

Yes, I started my blog about 3 1/2 years ago. When I started it, I always knew that it would somehow turn into a business for me, I just wasn’t sure in what way. I was new to motherhood, having an identity crisis, and needed something to work towards. I was passionate about sewing and the community, so it made sense to focus my efforts there. I entertained the idea of a fabric store for awhile but it didn’t stick. I knew of a few independant pattern companies at the time and loved what they were doing. I had taken a couple of patternmaking and draping classes in college, but I knew that I didn’t have the skills yet to start a company. It wasn’t until after moving to NYC and starting classes at FIT that my confidence and abilities grew. My first pattern, the Hudson pant, was a huge leap of faith for me. And it was super slow at the beginning and scary. I wasn’t sure that this was all going to work, but it did and I am so glad.

What’s the single biggest lesson you learned so far?

Don’t worry about what other people are doing, just be true to yourself. This is SO hard though. The indie pattern market has become very saturated and we are all influenced by the same trends to one extent or another. This means there is going to be some overlap. There have been multiple times when I have seen a sneak peek on instagram of another designer’s pattern and I have had a total freakout because it looks similar to something I have been working on for months. It’s scary because you don’t want it to appear that you are copying, but in the end you have to be true to yourself and your own ideas. Like I said, it’s really hard though.

Fabric Shops and Sewing Magazines in Buenos Aires

We’ve been back from our Argentina trip for a while now, and now that the “holy crap I’m a world champion and world record holder!” glow has subsided a bit and I’ve had time to unpack all my goodies, I wanted to share with you the sewing-related finds from our time in Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata, and Iguazu Falls (all three of which I heartily recommend visiting – even if you don’t like tango! I really don’t care about tango, but the food and cocktails in Buenos Aires were out of this world!).

Fabric Shops in Buenos Aires

Handily, the fabric shops in Buenos Aires were concentrated in one small area near the centre, so it was really easy to just pop over and buy some fabric souvenirs, even if you just have an hour or two spare in your schedule (as often happens if you’re in a city for work or on a guided tour).

The shops were much smaller than those in NYC or Goldhawk Road, but they contained a surprisingly wide variety of fabrics, and prices were cheap (but not ridiculously so). It was a pretty laid back atmosphere – no pressure to buy, but employees were around if you wanted something cut.

I paid $260 pesos (about $25US or £18) total for the 3.5 metres of fabric I bought. Prices weren’t marked on any bolts that I saw, so I have no idea of the individual prices of my fabrics, and the fibres were only loosely labelled in sections – “algodón” (cotton), “seda” (silk), etc, so you’ve got to be good at identifying fabrics by feel!


My purchases – 1m each of the printed and grey lightweight jerseys for me, and 1.5m of the coral sweatshirting to sew a Kimono Sweat for my mom

Lengths are in metric measurements (“meters” or “medio”, for half), so just know your lower Spanish numbers or hold up fingers, and most shops have calculators at the tills to just show you the price in pesos if you’re not great with your higher numbers in Spanish. Like pretty much everywhere in Argentina, the fabric shops are cash only – it’s really rare to find anywhere that takes payment by card, though cash machines are fairly easy to find in major cities.

Pleated denim leggings

The three words in the title may not seem like they naturally go together, but it’s all made possible by the super stretchy denim I bought from Mood when we were in NYC for my birthday in March. The weave definitely looks more like a denim/twill than a knit, but strangely, there’s more lengthwise stretch than widthwise (about 50-60% compared to only about 20%). There’s still plenty of stretch there for them to just pull on with an elastic waistband, and the fit is definitely more “leggings” than “jeans”, despite the denim.

I made these well over a month ago, and I’ve been wearing them pretty much twice weekly since then – they’re unbelievably versatile and so much more interesting than just a basic stretch denim legging (or, ugh, “jegging”). They were one of the last items to be made in my old sewing room, and I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken so long to photograph these, because I really do like them!

There’s no pattern to talk about here, I’m afraid – I just opened my basic leggings sloper in Illustrator and made some modifications to fit what was in my head.

In short, I drew some design lines on the Front where I wanted the pleated panel to be, sliced that off as its own piece, then digitally spread it apart again to have twelve 1cm pleats with 2cm in between. (You can do this really quickly by overlaying a grid onto the pattern piece, splitting it apart, then moving the top (or bottom) piece by the amount you want the total spread to be (in my case, moving it 12 × 2cm=24cm). Then just set those pleat pieces to distribute vertically!) IMHO, this is so much easier then getting out scissors and tape and a ruler and trying to draw out all the pleats myself. I truly am a digital native when it comes to pattern drafting now, I swear!


Worn here with my mustard Drape Drape top – still a favourite 2.5 years later!

A green merino Astoria sweater

I’ve been a subscriber of Seamwork magazine since issue one back in December, and can I just say that they are killing it with the digital format, pattern bundling, and freemium vs add-on price point? Seriously, this is the future of not just sewing magazines, but magazines. I’m proud to be both a subscriber and a contributor (look out for more of my writing in the June issue!), to be honest! When I saw the cropped “Astoria” sweater in the April 2015 issue, I just knew I was going to sew it! The nice thing about Seamwork (which is made by the Colette Patterns team) is that subscribers get both patterns on the 1st of the month, but if you’re dawdling and don’t notice a great pattern until someone like me sews it up a month or two later, you can still go back and buy the pdf pattern on its own (and they include Copy Shop versions, too).

All the Seamwork patterns are designed to be sewn in an hour, and, just like the Oslo cardigan I made back in January, this one came together in a single evening. Also, I appear to only make Seamwork patterns in wool jerseys, ha!

I couldn’t believe my luck when this pattern appeared, as I’d just bought some gorgeously soft green merino wool jersey at Mood in NYC mere days before! I’d only bought 2 yards (which I’d regretted once I got home!) for $18/yd, but happily there was enough there to cut the long-sleeved version of this plus still have enough leftover for a winter running buff.

I made size Large since my waist and hips corresponded best to that size, though my bust is a Medium on their chart. At first I made size Large with no alterations, but I wasn’t 100% sold on the fit. It took a whole day of me wearing it to decide that it’d be better with the sides taken in by 2cm (an inch) on each side. In hindsight, I could’ve gone with the Medium, I think.

So I cut off the hem band, took in the sides from the armpits down (taking off the same 2cm from each of the hem band seams, too!), and overlocked the hem band back on, this time with only the minimum seam allowance to avoid shortening the hem any more than necessary. And the fit is waaaaaaaay more to my liking now!

Ask Melissa – activewear fabric and larger busts

Like anyone who’s had a site for a while (nearly 10 years, in my case!), I get an astounding amount of random email questions sent to me each day. Answering every single one of them takes up a considerable amount of my time, and sadly, I never get to reply to as many as I’d like. And frankly, sometimes I just get sick of telling people over and over that just because I posted about X magazine five years ago doesn’t mean I know where you can buy it! Or telling people that no, I don’t work for Burda/Patrones/Manequim/Lekala/whatever and I really can’t help you with your customer service issue.

For some reason, though, I received an unusually large amount of random questions while I was on holiday in NYC. I was moaning about it on Twitter, and Stacy suggested I compile them into an “Ask Melissa” column, which I thought was an excellent idea. I’ve spared you the truly random, boring ones, or the ones too specific to be applicable to anyone else, and instead just included a few here which others may be interested in.

Activewear Fabric Suppliers

I came across your website today and wanted to find out where you source the fabric for the sports clothes you make. Would you be able to tell me?

I’ve compiled a big ol’ list of suppliers (which I do my best to keep maintained!) over here!

Support for Large Busts

I’ve been admiring your work for several years now, having discovered you through your many rave reviews at patternreview.com. I’m not the best with knits, but I am about to try this summer, starting with your workout wear. I do CrossFit and high intensity classes, and am just giving up on finding clothes that will support my busty bust but fit my small rib cage. I am 32 DDD to G; can you recommend any of your patterns over the others for supporting large breasts? We spend a lot of time bouncing, upside down, etc. and form-fitting and supportive would be dreamy. And I see you even do bras; another reason I admire you!

Burda magazine April 2015

Apologies for the delay in reviewing this issue! I know a fair few of you use my reviews to decide whether or not to buy them. My subscription copy arrived before we left for NYC, but I was too pressed for time in finishing my jeans and getting the other posts scheduled that I didn’t have time to scan this until after we returned home.

But there should still be time to order this should you like any styles more than I do!

“Hi, I’m too thin. Can you show me a dress that will instantly add 50 pounds to my bust, waist, and hips, rendering me something akin to the Michelin Man caught in a ruffle explosion? You can? Great!

This is probably my favourite from the issue, as I always enjoy a good 3D construction – in this boxy top, the back wraps over the shoulder to form the sleeve. The square neckline is also a good look, but I’m unsure about the overall silhouette. Perhaps it could be improved by a fabric with a softer hand?

This drop-waisted dress is definitely channelling the 1920s, though the kangaroo pocket modernises it a bit. There’s also top version version of this pattern that could really work if you’ve only got a metre of fabric to play with but, beware that super LOW neckline!