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The Nikki Cardigan by AK Patterns (Pattern Review)

dsc04949I’ve followed Athina Kakou for a while now, on both Instagram and You Tube , so when she posted asking for sewists to join her Pattern Review team, I jumped at the chance to apply. Athina has released a number of sewing patterns, first as part of SMYLY patterns and more recently under the name AK Patterns . Her sewing patterns are feminine and flattering, aimed at women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Each pattern is named after a lovely lady in the sewing community, and this cardigan has the wonderful Nikki of The Stitch Sisters as its muse. I loved the look of this pattern as soon as it was released, so I was thrilled to review it for Athina.

The pattern

The Nikki Cardigan  is a wrap-style cardigan aimed at beginner sewers. It comes in twodsc04944 different lengths: a short style, sitting just below the waist, and a longer hip-length style. It has a tie-belt and optional belt loops and can be worn open or closed, depending on your preference. The cardigan has no difficult techniques, no fastenings and little fitting, hence it being perfect for beginners.

It is designed for light-medium weight knit fabrics with four-way stretch, such as a cotton jersey or a ponte di roma.

The pattern, as with all of Athina’s patterns, comes in a fantastic size range of 4 – 28.

It is currently only available as PDF, downloadable from Athina’s website , although there may be the possibility of paper patterns in the future, something which Athina has herself discussed.

In the first few months of my dress making journey, I was a ‘paper patterns only’ girl. I loved the excitement of them arriving through the post and being able to display the beautiful pattern envelopes in my sewing room. But a couple of months ago, I tried my first PDF pattern and it was a revelation! I actually loved the instant gratification of clicking purchase and it arriving in my inbox seconds later. A lot of people dislike the process of assembling a PDF pattern, but I quite enjoy it. My preferred method is to use a glue stick, although the sellotape sometimes gets involved for added stability.

When I first received the email with the links to the PDF Nikki pattern, I had some technical issues. I contacted Athina and she was wonderfully helpful, sending me the patterns via a different method. As it turned out, I just needed to try opening them on a different device! Athina’s speed of communication gave me great confidence that if I were to have any queries throughout the making process, she would be there to help.

So, I downloaded the PDF pattern and instruction booklet, printed them out and got to work assembling and cutting out the pattern.

The fabric

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I chose to use a fabric that I already owned – a leopard print grey jersey from Loubodu Fabrics . I only had 1.5 metres of fabric, yet I wanted to make Version 2 (the longer style) in a size 12, which required 2.5 metres of fabric! I wasn’t put off, however, and I love a challenge. With a bit of creative placement of the pattern pieces, including cutting the hem band in two halves and sewing them together to create the length of piece needed, I succeeded. I wasn’t able to squeeze the tie belt or belt loops out, but this didn’t bother me as I knew I had a belt that would match perfectly well.

The process

The instruction booklet for the Nikki cardigan is beautifully designed: it’s clear, excellently explained and has great diagrams throughout. I especially love the font that is used for the headings – simple things! Although I didn’t need any assistance, I still watched the sewalong video out of interest. This is a fantastic bonus that comes with Athina’s patterns and would be really useful if you got stuck with a particular step or just fancied a helping hand when making your garment.

dsc04965I constructed the entire cardigan on my overlocker, which made it a really quick sew. The fabric was great to work with and I didn’t come across any problems during the making process. Well, that is until the last step! After attaching the neckline binding, Athina recommends topstitching the seam allowance to the cardigan’s bodice to help the neckline binding stay flat, but I didn’t have a suitable colour of thread in my stash. I tried on the cardigan, wondering if I could be lazy and get away with missing this step, but I couldn’t – it would have given it a sloppy finish. So for this reason, my Nikki cardigan lived on my dressmaker’s form as a ‘UFO’ (Unfinished Object) for a number of weeks.

When I eventually remembered to purchase some complimentary coloured thread, I was then able to finish it off by topstitching with an even zig-zag stitch. I tried to do this starting from one end and going all the way round to the other end, but my machine did not like that and was getting tangled at the beginning. So I solved the problem by starting at the centre back of the neckline binding and top stitching down one side before repeating this on the other side. I tried it on and was delighted – such a simple step had given such a neat, professional finish to the garment.dsc04939

For the photos (Which were taken by my husband, Sam, on Newcastle Quayside) I have layered the cardigan over a simple black silhouette of opaque tights, a long sleeved top and a short, stretch skirt. I added a skinny black belt around the middle, in some photos having wrapped the front bodice pieces of the cardigan over each other and in others, leaving it open. I hope this shows you the versatility of the garment and the different looks you can achieve. You could, of course, leave the belt off altogether, but it was the 3rd of January in Newcastle, so I needed all the warmth I could get!

To conclude…

I am really happy with my Nikki cardigan and see me getting a lot of wear out of it. It is perfect for layering and could be dressed up or down. It is comfortable enough to wear for work, but also stylish enough to wear for many social occasions. I will definitely be making another version, perhaps in a lighter weight knit fabric in time for the warmer weather (well, as warm as it gets in the North East of England!)

Athina’s instructions really are excellent, so I would recommend her patterns to sewists of any level. As mentioned earlier, the sewalong videos are a fantastic resource that come with the patterns too, as well as Athina’s willingness to give advice and support when needed.

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If you don’t already follow Athina on Instagram and You Tube, I would highly recommend it. She posts regular videos, such as fabric hauls and ‘makes’ videos. She is also the Queen of hacks, offering many suggestions on how to create multiple different versions from the same basic pattern (Watch this video for an amazing 15 hacks of her Sheona pattern ).

Thanks for reading this review. I’d love to hear if you have made the Nikki cardigan already, or if this blog post has convinced you to give it a go!

Happy sewing and happy new year,

Tamlyn xx

 

 

 

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Pinafore Party

So last week, I asked on my Instagram for suggestions for my second blog post. @taylorsews suggested I talk about my first make, which sparked a little idea. Now, a little disclaimer, my very VERY first make was a questionable purple satin dress with one diamante shoulder strap for my GCSE Textiles project (17 years ago!) It was a very ambitious project, given that it had boning in the bodice and was made from a very slippery material. But actually, other than the hem, it turned out pretty well, and I was only 1 mark off an A* grade so it must have been pretty decent! However, this make is not what I’m going to talk about in detail here. I’m going to talk about the make that kickstarted my dressmaking journey earlier this year and my love for the pinafore style dress.

Now I’ve been a fan of pinafore/dungaree dresses for a good while now. I’m not sure exactly what it is that I love about them, but I definitely enjoy a relaxed style of dress that I can pair with my favourite shoes (trainers or flat boots). I also love layering pieces and pinafore dresses are perfect for this. For this reason, they can work in any season – layered over a t-shirt with bare legs in the warmer months or with tights and a polo neck/knitted jumper in the colder months. Perfect!

So I already owned three ready to wear pinafore dresses, two of which were very cheap dungaree style and the other is an absolutely beautiful Laura Ashley pinafore that my mum bought me for Christmas. This is a special dress that I will always treasure, but the dungaree dresses didn’t fit particularly well and  when I saw online that Tilly and the Buttons had released a dungaree dress pattern, it was the inspiration I needed to begin my dressmaking journey.

My first Cleo

Cleo-collage-1The Cleo is a gorgeous dress pattern that enables you to mix and match between a variety of options (dungaree buckles or button fastenings, mini or knee length, different pockets etc). I opted for the mini length dungaree style and off I went to the haberdashery section at Boyes to find some suitable material (This was before I discovered the wonderful world of online fabric shopping!) I went for a simple black corduroy. I thought this was a good choice as a) it would be very forgiving if I made mistakes, given that it was my first foray in to dressmaking since my GCSEs, and b) Black goes with everything, so perfect for layering over any number of tops. I ordered the pattern and dungaree clips directly from Tilly’s website and I was good to go! Now, admittedly, it did take another few months to pluck up the courage to get started, but I needn’t have worried. The pattern was an absolute breeze and as I’m sure you all know, Tilly’s instruction booklets are INCREDIBLE. The step by step, clear instructions along with detailed colour photographs are perfect for beginners. I made one slight error in the making process (I’ve now come to accept that a make isn’t a make if you don’t make one mistake along the way) which was that I accidentally top stitched down the centre front in navy thread instead of black (The lighting in my sewing room isn’t great!) However, this really isn’t noticeable so I’m ok with it. Once I’d completed my dress, I was absolutely delighted. My first make and a very successful one at that, but I couldn’t help thinking I wanted to personalise it in some way – make it more ‘me’. So I had a look in my stash and found some gorgeous little heart buttons, which I proceeded to sew on to the front bib pocket and the back pockets. I love this detail and always receive compliments on it!

My second Cleo

After successfully completing my first Cleo, I just had to make another. I went to my amazing local fabric shop,  1st for Fabrics and chose some beautiful mustard denim along with another set of dungaree clips. I love the colour mustard and it has been ‘on trend’ for quite a while now. I went for a sewing day with my lovely friend Maria and helped her make her very first Cleo (in a gorgeous baby blue cord, again from 1st for Fabrics) while I made my mustard denim version. IMG_6903

I had the confidence to personalise this dress too, by facing it in a beautiful floral cotton from Sew me Sunshine . Unfortunately I ran out of thread before I had a chance to hem it and it stayed this way for a few months. Well I finally finished it off earlier this week and now I’m annoyed that I’ve missed out on wearing it all this time! I’m really pleased with the result. The fabric was a dream to work with. I used a denim needle and my sewing machine coped with it wonderfully. I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of this in Autumn, layered over black long sleeved tops and with thick, black tights.

I know some people struggle with the shape/sizing of the Cleo, but it works really well for me. I made a straight size 4 with no alterations and have found it to be a great fit. If you haven’t made one already, I’d highly recommend it. I’ve got two, but I’m definitely going to be adding to my collection.

The Bibi pinafore

I had some lovely jersey in my stash that I thought would make the perfect Bibi (from the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch book.) After finally plucking up the courage to tackle sewing with stretch fabrics, I whipped this up in less than two hours using a combination of the zig zag stitch on my Brother Innovis F420 and my overlocker (Brother Lock 3034DWT). I made a size 5 and the only adaptation I made was to add a couple of buttons on the front bib for extra detail. I love the result, it’s super comfortable and perfect for work. I’ll definitely be making another, but next time I’ll reduce the width of the bib slightly.

So there you have it, my collection of me made pinafores which all happen to be patterns by the very amazing Tilly and the Buttons. I’ll leave you with some inspiration I have for further pinafore makes that I’m sure will be on my sewing machine very soon.

Pippi pinafore by Jennifer Lauren Handmade

I fell in love with the Jennifer Lauren Handmade Pippi after seeing The Stitch Sisters’ versions in their you tube video review and also Amanda from I Sew A Lot. They’re all gorgeous but I especially love Rachel’s pink version.

Ivy pinafore by Jennifer Lauren Handmade

Another by the wonderful Jennifer Lauren Handmade which I was immediately drawn to when I saw this version by @roisinmuldoon and is definitely on my ‘to make’ list. I love it layered over those bright stripy tops, just gorgeous!

And finally, the York pinafore by Helen’s Closet

I was unsure when I first saw the York pinafore by Helen’s Closet and wasn’t sure if it would be for me, but then I kept seeing the gorgeous Mel of Handmade by Ditsy Tulip’s versions and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I now LOVE this pattern and will be making my first version very soon. It’s so versatile, has AMAZING pockets, is great for layering and it also now comes with an apron expansion pack, which is very cute! Mel has recently made a you tube video showing her four different versions of this dress, all of which are gorgeous!

 

Thanks for reading, have a lovely weekend and happy sewing.

Tamlyn x

 

 

favourites

My Summer Sewing Favourites

Hi everyone and welcome to my first blog post. To start things off, I thought I’d give a run down of some of my favourite sewing-related things of the summer (and when I say summer, I mean the summer school holidays – being a teacher, I do enjoy those 6 weeks of freedom every year). I hope you enjoy this little round up of what I’ve been loving recently.

Favourite make

This is an easy decision – it has to be my Tilly & the Buttons Marigold jumpsuit. I decided to make this pattern after seeing the very lovely Harriet from The Little Dressmaker talk about it often on her You Tube channel (Go and check it out if you haven’t already The Little Dressmaker ) The idea of making my first pair of trousers but not really haven’t to do much fitting was VERY appealing! I bought the fabric (a lovely floral Rayon Challis) from my local, and very amazing, fabric shop – 1st for Fabrics. I started making the jumpsuit at a 3-day sewing retreat at Guthrie & Ghani , receiving some very useful advice from Lauren & Layla to help me on my way. IMG_5864The only change I made to the pattern was to grade from a size 4 on the bodice and waist to a size 5 on the hips. It was such a straight forward make and it is unbelievably comfortable (Definite secret pyjamas!) I’ve worn it so often now, receiving compliments every time, and I have the fabric ready to make a second one. The only thing I’d do differently next time is omit the invisible side zip. I don’t use it as I can pull the jumpsuit on and off without it, so it would save me time and effort to just miss this step out. If you haven’t tried the Marigold yet, I’d highly recommend it!

Favourite fabric store

As much as I love fabric shopping online and the excitement of receiving parcels of beautifully wrapped fabric in the post, there’s so much joy to be had in visiting a shop filled with fabrics to gaze at and stroke. I was lucky enough to visit two incredible fabric shops over the summer, so I’m going to have to mention them both.

Firstly, Guthrie & Ghani in Mosely, Birmingham. I have followed Lauren (who is super lovely!) since watching her on The Great British Sewing Bee a few years ago and she owns the most gorgeous shop and studio. IMG_4868I’ve admired it online in photos and videos for so long but FINALLY got to experience the real thing a couple of months ago. There is not only a beautiful range of fabrics but also an incredible selection of indie patterns and haberdashery items. Lauren and her staff were all so lovely and helpful. The only difficulty I had was trying to rein myself in! I did treat myself to a few pieces though, it would have been a shame not to.

 

Secondly, celebrating our 1st wedding anniversary in Amsterdam meant that I had the chance to visit the incredible A. Boeken fabric store & haberdashery. In fact, I shopped there not once, not twice, but THREE times over the course of a weekend! They literally have floor to ceiling shelves of every fabric you could imagine, so again it would have been a shame not to treat myself to a few bits…

Favourite ‘Happy Post’

I don’t know about you, but I love receiving things through the post. Well, not all things – I’m not so keen on bills. But lovely letters, postcards and parcels just make mIMG_6513y day! I’ve admired the gorgeous products from Joy (Pink Coat Club) for a while and decided it was finally time to treat myself to some lovely things. Everything was so beautifully packaged and high-quality. The ‘it has pockets’ pin has been particularly well received and I wear it on my Marigold jumpsuit with pride. I also have my eye on a couple of other things (a ‘Me Made’ necklace and a ‘Sewing Wife’ pin – hint hint). Head to Joy’s Etsy store to treat yourself (or someone else) to something gorgeous.

Favourite sewing tool

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Less a tool, more of a machine, but after using the Brother Innovis F420 at the Guthrie & Ghani sewing retreat and falling in love with it, I just HAD to treat myself to it. It was just an absolute pleasure to use. So smooth, so straight-forward, and with a vast range of features that my standard machine couldn’t offer (My favourite being the self-threading needle!) Don’t get me wrong, it served me very well for a few years, but it was definitely time for an upgrade and I am so happy with this purchase. You can see that Ziggy is pretty approving of it too!

And a few other favourites…

Vlog

Rachel & Nikki from The Stitch Sisters. I love watching these ladies and spent the summer going back and watching pretty much all of the videos on their channel. I love their video ideas, especially their recent ‘Battle of the Culottes’ series. I want a Stitch Sister!

Instagram

The lovely Jay from The Camden Stitch. Not only does she have awesome style and a gorgeous cat (Betsey), but she’s the person I’ve had the most chats with in the sewing community and she’s just lovely. Go check her out on Instagramyou tube and her blog if you haven’t already.

Podcast

Stitcher’s Brew with Gabby & Megan. I love listening to these girls and the wonderful, inspiring guests they have on. I look forward to Friday every week when their new episode is released.

Sewing refreshment & snack

Definitely a Camden Hells lager and dark chocolate covered pretzels. Yum yum!

 

And on that note, I think I’ll leave it there. Thank you for taking the time to read my first post. I’d love to hear from you about your recent sewing favourites. Also, head over to my Instagram for a little giveaway linked to this post.

Happy sewing, Tamlyn x