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Black ponte Brooklyn trousers

After the excitement levels of the last few posts, I’ve got a decidedly less exciting make to share with you today. But frankly, our wardrobes need a mix of workhorse items that you can pair with all the showier makes, and mine was in particular need of office-appropriate trousers that weren’t jeans but I could still cycle in easily (unlike, say, my Named Jamie jeans, which are far too tight in the leg and low-rise for cycling, ergh).

So when I got an email that Style Arc had marked a number of their Amazon-stocked patterns on deep discount, I took the bait and bought myself the Brooklyn Pant pattern. I figured a knit trouser would be easily to cycle in, versatile, yet not look too scruffy. And the pockets were a bonus!

A gifted black draped cardigan

Last week I told you about the Lightspeed Leggings I made for our men at Christmas, but we also had a female friend celebrating Christmas Day with us, too, and I couldn’t leave her empty handed! Darci is a very stylish and practical lady, and her own wardrobe consists mainly of black dresses. Apparently it started because she could never find trousers that fit her in shops, so rather than stress about the problem, she just decided to wear dresses instead. And black because it simplifies getting dressed in the mornings!

In case you thought maybe she has some sort of life of leisure of something – Darci cycles everywhere in London. In her dresses! So of course we had the “omg don’t they blow up over your face while you ride??” conversation, to which she firmly recommended a little elastic garter with a clip that goes on the hem of your skirt (or a tutorial for making your own here). She says you only need it on one leg, and it stops all the blowback without any risk of exposure! (And here I thought that booty-length Duathlon Shorts were the skirt-loving cycle commuter’s best friend!!)

In any case, on to her present – what can you sew a lady who pretty much only wears black dresses, when you don’t have her exact measurements? That rules out anything fitted, and at first I thought I’d make her a hat and gloves, but then I had the realisation that pretty much everyone needs layers, and the Elita Designer Top cardigan from StyleArc would be just her style! So a quick trip round Minerva’s website turned up this black sweater knit and I was ready to sew!

A watercolour silk noile dress

At my last shopping trip down to Ditto Fabrics in Brighton last December, I bought a great mix of spring and summer fabrics with a few cold weather ones thrown in for good measure. So far I’ve already sewn up a Fair Isle sweater (which I was too sick to blog about properly), that muted turquoise lace dress, a pair of cycling jeans (with another coming later this week).

But I’d bought a length of silk noile with a watercolour-esque muted floral print that the owner, Gill, was raving over, saying it made the most comfortable summer dress. It’s long sold out now, but Ditto have a few other silk noiles in stock. I knew I wanted to make a dress from it – preferably unlined to take advantage of the silk noile’s comfort and coolness, but I needed an occasion to actually sew it up. Luckily, two friends I’d know for years from Run dem Crew got married this weekend, so I had the perfect excuse!

Navy Steffi jacket for cycling and running

While I was ill, I found myself mostly working on two in-depth projects – both of which were navy blue jackets for some strange reason! You’ve already seen my wool lumberjacket but I also made myself another StyleArc Steffi jacket pattern, too.

Some of you may recall that I made this a pattern few years ago and sewed some twinkling LEDs into the back of it! At the time, there were a bunch of problems in the instructions (as well as an inadequate seam allowance in one spot, too) so I let StyleArc know about them, and they corrected them, and posted me the corrected version along with another pattern of my choice. Which is freaking awesome customer service if you ask me! I’m pleased to report that the corrected version of the pattern is much, much better. There’s still a major step missing (if I recall, it’s one of the vertical body seams), but everything else is better so it wasn’t quite as frustrating to sew this time around.

But this isn’t my best work, not by a long shot – I made this when I was feeling really bad and couldn’t sit up for more than 10min at a time, and felt like a zombie for weeks on end. But it’s nice enough for a functional cycling jacket when the weather is warmer, and possibly for winter running, too, though I’ve missed that almost entirely this year. Boo.

The main fabric here is some off-cut stuff from my Sweaty Betty industry friend – it’s navy lycra on the outside and super soft brushed fleece on this inside. At the time I received it, I’d never seen anything quite like it, but as it’s been maturing in my stash, the FunkiFabrics thermo range has since been released, and I can tell you that it’s really similar. So if you’re after a fabric that’s both stretchy and warm for a jacket like this, I’d definitely recommend the thermo. The pocket linings and zip shield use offcuts of Laurie King X Fehr Trade Spoonflower fabrics from my zigzag XYT Workout Top, and the two neon yellow pocket zips I bought off eBay.

StyleArc Lalitha Leggings

I’ve been on the Aussie pattern company StyleArc‘s mailing list for a while now, and I always like to keep an eye on their new patterns, but their fabric options have never really appealed to me, to be honest (I’ve got to really like a fabric to pay for it to be shipped halfway around the world!).

Until March, that is, when they sent round details of their new range of “cut & sew” leggings, printed directly onto activewear knits:


They’ve since removed these from their site due to demand, so I’m reposting the original ad here so you can see the other colourways.

I’ll be honest – I was as intrigued by the concept as I was the prints, and for $60AU (£30) shipped, plus the freebie March pattern (knit top Melinda), I was sold. Quality leggings in great prints go for the £80-90 range in London, so for me, £30 was worth a gamble in the name of research. StyleArc had teamed up with a company called Fifth Element for these leggings, which you can also buy ready-made for about £45.

I ordered the “Lalitha” colourway the very next day, and then waited over 6 weeks for delivery (maybe they printed on demand?), but the kit finally arrived in mid-April. I was kinda hoping that the fabric would be printed all over, or in zones, like my collaboration with Laurie King, but you really only get the outline of the legging, with the rest in plain white.

Before I get into my complaints, let me just say that the fabric quality is fabulous – it’s soft, and stretchy, with great recovery and super vibrant colours, and from handling enough activewear fabrics in my day, I believe the that this is proper wicking fabric. I pre-washed it before cutting out, and everything remained vibrant, too.

A mustard wool StyleArc Elita wrap top

I don’t often click buy immediately when I see a pattern release, but when StyleArc announced this “Elita designer top” pattern, I had to buy it immediately! Though I’m not entirely sure what makes it designer? I’m especially glad that they released it simultaneously as a printed pattern or a pdf, because I vastly prefer the latter, and it meant I didn’t have to wait for it to ship from Australia before I could get started.

The pattern is essentially a cross-over wrap top, with a shawl collar that extends in front and joins itself to create a really long loop, which the pattern calls a “trunk”. This nomenclature amused me way more than it should! Anyway, you’re supposed to double the loop back over your head to get a sort of double-cowl effect.

I love this design – the first time I wore it I had two friends pleading with me to make versions for themselves! My only gripe on the download is that StyleArc don’t print their symmetrical pieces on the fold, so the entire Back piece had to the pieced together here, when it could’ve saved a significant amount of paper to just have half the piece. It’s also kinda annoying to only have one size per pdf, even though you get three sizes (as separate pdfs) when you order. I’m generally only one size, but this could be a bummer if you usually mix sizes. Their paper patterns are the same, though, so it’s not like the pdfs are any worse.

I had to shorten the “trunk” by 8cm to fit it all into the 2m of mustard yellow wool/viscose jersey I’d bought from Guthrie & Ghani (now sold out in this colourway). Some other reviewers found that the trunk creates a weird, triangular fold at the neck and recomended changing the angle of the trunk piece, but I cut mine as is and I don’t have that fold – perhaps because mine were shortened to begin with? In any case, there’s still plenty of length left to create a nice cowl shape, so I would recommend it if you’re a tad short on fabric, too.

A Coat Muslin Downer & a Pick-me-Upper

Remember a few weeks ago when I took a quick trip down to Brighton and came back with some gorgeous wool coating and vintage Italian silk lining from Ditto? Of course you do!

Well, as shown in the photo above, I bought it intending to make the StyleArc Audrey pattern to be a transitional Fall “car coat” (heavier than a jacket, but not a full-on winter coat). So having arrived home to decidedly Fall weather, I thought I should get a move on with this coat or else it’ll be too cold before I can make it!

So I pulled out my Audrey pattern, cut out all the million pattern pieces (the attention to detail is really terrific – the lining and facing pieces are exquisitely drafted rather than just carbon-copies of the exterior), and made a muslin.

I know muslins can be super useful, especially for fit problems, but there’s something about them that makes me lose all enthusiasm for a pattern once I see it made in beige, crumbled fabric held together with pins and covered in Sharpie marks. I think I’ve probably dumped more coat patterns at the muslin stage than any other garment (let’s all try to erase the Armani coat muslin horror from our minds… oops)! I put this one on, looked in the mirror and thought…. meh.

So I recruited James and a friend for second opinions. They both gave it the thumbs down, then started going through the list of things that could be done to improve it, lengthen here, take out fullness here, etc etc. Err, no – for something that’s supposed to be “fun sewing” I’d rather just dump this and use another pattern I haven’t yet lost all enthusiasm for!

StyleArc Pamela – the perfect summer dress?

I must be the only sewist on earth without enough casual dresses, but alas, the weather has turned very hot and summery and I’ve taken to just wearing the same jeanskirt and pair of 17 year old shorts (no, really) around the boat while I work from home. I realised I could just make any number of knit dresses, but that’s too easy, and besides, my knit stash is a little low and my woven stash is spilling over.

So I decided to pull out the StyleArc Pamela dress pattern I originally planned to make for my Mexico travel wardrobe last year, and pair it with the same blue linen (blend?) that was gifted to me by Veronica back in 2012.

It’s been ages since I sewed a woven for myself, so of course I forgot that they require pressing, which means heat and steam standing by the iron, ugh! But let me tell you, it was all worth it in the end because I totally love this dress. I think it might be the perfect summer dress, as it’s both casual and a little different, and you can change the look just by tying it either in front, or in the back.


(Yes, I had been wearing the dress all day before these photos – including two lots of treadmill running to whilst shopping for new racing flats!)

I bought the pattern when I was a StyleArc size 14 (I’m closer to a 12 now), so the dress is a little bigger than usual on me, but this works for summer because you can get a looser fit by tying the integrated ties in a bow under the bust. Or, if you want, you can also cinch in the waist by wrapping the ties around to tie it in the back. I’ve been wearing it about 50/50 according to my whims.

There are a lot of great little details in this pattern – the shawl collar extends to the centre back neck, falling nicely into an inverted pleat at the inset corner.

Sick Day Delays

I was hoping to have been able to show you photos of my latest Donna Karan denim-look leggings, as well as what the Aztec-print sports bra looks like on a real person, but alas, I have succumbed to The Cold that all of London has already had over the past month and that I naively thought I’d evaded. Boo.

So because I’ve been laid low under a mountain of tissues and Netflix, I’ve not been able to do much of anything besides the few client projects which had to be done, and we’ll have to catch up on photoshoots, the road-testing of my next pattern, and the August BurdaStyle magazine when I’m feeling more energetic.

I did, however, managed to cut out and sew most of the StyleArc Pamela dress in fits and bursts between lying down.

My light-up, twinkling running jacket – the sewing bit!

You heard all about the electronic components earlier this week, but the sewing of the jacket itself was in no straightforward, either! If you missed the video of the LEDs in action, have another look:

You might think, that, as a pattern designer for exercise wear, I might view other exercise patterns as competition. On the contrary – when I first saw the StyleArc Steffi jacket, my first thought was “Brilliant! Now I don’t have to draft it myself!”. I’ve got enough ideas in my head for patterns already, so I’d rather refer folks to other good patterns if I can rather than constantly reinvent the wheel.

This pattern was a birthday gift from my inlaws, and I was initially concerned because they’d bought me a size 10 instead of the 12 I’d asked for, but as it turned out this fits me really well anyway. It’s a smidge too tight in the chest for me to run in (my trainer has me focus on pulling my shoulder blades back to open up my chest for better breathing), but is utterly perfect as a warm-up, cool-down jacket, so hurrah for happy accidents!

I chose to do my colourblocking like it’s shown in the technical drawing – I used a grey/black sportshell as the main body, then I used the black reverse of this black/grey “budget” sportshell as the contrast panels. The main sportshell is really nice – a soft, technical jersey with a thin layer of fleece bonded to the inside – it feels really RTW and high quality. The budget one, well, lived up to its name. The grey side looks a bit naff, there’s no fleece, and the black side is just smooth like the other fabric’s grey exterior. So it was fine for my purposes here, but I wouldn’t recommend skimping if you want a similar jacket – go for the more expensive option and you won’t regret it.