Pattern review: the Laneway dress by JLH

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Every now and then I work on a sewing project where everything just sings. The pattern assembles smoothly, my fabric choice is perfect, the construction is untroubled, the fit immaculate and then I am ecstatic with the finished product. The Laneway dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade was such a project for me.

Coming off the high of testing her newest pattern last month, when Jennifer put out a call for folks to help her out with pattern reviews I put my hand up like a shot! As someone who nearly always looks for reviews before buying patterns I really appreciated her request. Plus it gave me a little kick up the butt to return to posting here, so that I have a better record of my sewing and crafting projects. The other added bonus was for me to help promote a fellow New Zealander, who is very deserving of wider recognition.

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JLH patterns come as PDFs, with both A4 and A0 printing options available. Wanting to get started straight away, I opted to print the A4 format. I really love how Jennifer provides a guide for exactly the page numbers you need to print for the pattern view you’re making, and also that each pattern piece is its own little unit. This means you don’t have to tape a massive grid of A4 sheets, just little 3×3 or 3×4 grids at the most.

I took inspiration from the fabulous Laneway dress posted recently by Nina Nadel, and chose to modify the pattern a little by leaving off the sleeves. I prefer sleeveless spring/summer dresses because they can be worn more often between washes (I’m so lazy..) and I can layer with a cardigan, or even a long sleeve top underneath if I like. To do this, I lowered the armscye under the arm by 12mm, and moved the shoulder edge 2cm inwards, drawing in a new curve to smooth it all out.

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First I made up a muslin in my usual size, 10D, graded out to size 12 in the waist. The fit was excellent in the shoulders, neckline and back. There was a little more ease than I liked in the bust, so I decided to size down here to the 10C (having since remeasured, I seem to have lost a little width around the bust) …. and that was it! Apart from the modifications mentioned above to allow for removing the sleeve, I didn’t make any adjustments for fit.

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My fabric is a lovely medium weight linen cotton blend from Spotlight, in a whimsical floral print which reminded me of illustrations by the Disney/Golden Book artist Mary Blair. I picked a plain teal quilting cotton for the collar facings so as not to distract from the print. I also underlined the bodice with white cotton batiste as my fashion fabric was just a little transparent. Because I left off the sleeves, I drafted some rough facings by copying the bodice pieces and drawing in a line cutting above the bust/darts. This was a pretty rough job though, and I wish I’d taken the time to make sure they were the same length under the arm haha!

The underlining then allowed me to catch stitch down my facings.. and my seam allowances, so it’s all quite neat inside.

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My choice to omit the sleeves meant that I followed quite a different construction order than the pattern, as I used self-drafted facings to clean finish the armscye. This Threads video covers how I assembled the bodice of my dress pretty well. However, I did have a good read through Jennifer’s bodice instructions and they are very clear and detailed. I sewed the pockets and skirt as directed.

Oh yeah, did I mention this dress has pockets?

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The dress construction went really smoothly, with notches matching correctly and pieces fitting together as they should. The invisible zip instructions are also very good – every single time I have to do a bit of mental rotation to work out if I’ve sewed it in the right orientation, but the instructions here make it less stressful!

It’s really hard not to gush about how much I love this dress. The crisp collar detail, the shallow v-shaped back neck – which adds just enough interest to the back view, the clever bust tucks, the pockets…

But entirely apart from the design, the drafting and fit of this pattern is excellent. The instructions are very well written and accompanied where needed by clear diagrams. There is enough detail to hold the hand of a beginner, but not enough to drive an experienced sewer mad. It was a really very pleasurable sew, I enjoyed every stitch – machined or by hand.

There is very little I would change about this project in hindsight. I think it’s tempting to over-fit this style of bodice – but I chose not to. The pattern is designed with a small amount of wearing ease so that it’s actually just really damn comfortable to wear. I don’t have to worry about popping a seam if I eat that extra muffin at afternoon tea. I have seen a few versions of Laneway with contrast piping to highlight the waist seamline, and I think that would have looked great on this dress too!

Thanks so much to Jennifer for selecting me to review this dress. While I received the pattern gratis in exchange for this review, all opinions shared here are my own.

I can’t wait to see what Jennifer Lauren serves up next!

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Prime year

 

Can't beat Wellington on a good day!

Hard days at the day job... spending summer days under the kiwifruit vines

Petone sunshine

Summer paddling pool fun with the niblings

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The beautiful Manawatu!

Handmade gifts for a special new baby

The spectacular Castle point

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Home grown tomatoes!

Little jaunt to visit friends in Sydney

The day job

Nights spent sewing :)

2017 is a prime number! 4 is not a prime number.. but it’s roughly the length of time I neglected to post here. Lots has happened.. in 2013 I quit my PhD (womp womp.. long story), got married 💕💕  to my long time sweetie and moved to Arizona in the USA! I got an amazing job, loved working and meeting cool people and doing a little travelling around that great country for three years. Cue 2016, we were tiring of the desert and its 110+ Fahrenheit (>43C!) scorching summer days, and really missing family back home. The husband got a new job back home in NZ so we made the move in September 2016. Now I’m living in Palmerston North, within a couple of hours drive of family (yay!). I was fortunate to fall into a job pretty quickly, and we settled into life in provincial New Zealand.

The house we’re renting has enough room to allow for a dedicated sewing room, complete with a proper ironing board – the first time in my adult life that I’ve owned a FULL SIZE proper, off the floor/table ironing board! It’s such a pleasure to iron without accidentally burning myself or it taking ages because the board is so tiny. I’m back to my good old mechanical Janome sewing machine, after selling a whizz-bang electronic Brother machine I used in the USA.

Over the next wee while I’d really like to do some documenting of things I’ve made and not posted over the last few years, including some old knitting projects which I have never photographed or shared on Ravelry. Coming up soon though I’ll be covering some test/review projects for a very talented local patternmaker, which I’ve been so excited about! Watch this space…

Snuggle sacks

She’s growing up so fast!

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Too fast for my liking! She changes so much between my visits, it makes me a little sad to think about the things that I’m missing. But it can’t be helped! The picture above is of my dear wee niece, taken back in May when she was just shy of seven months, but already grown out of the merino sleep gown I made before she was born.

I was back in Wellington in late July, so I whipped up a couple of new sleeping gowns to take up with me. I used the same pattern again but with a couple of modifications. I bought 80cm lengths of merino from the Fabric Store, together with other leftover merino instead of refashioning tshirts as described in the tutorial.

Using measurements from my sister, I roughly graded the pattern a little bigger, adding about 4″ width total around the chest measurement. I did this by folding each  pattern piece in half and adding an inch in width at the centre fold of the front and back pieces. I adjusted the sleeves by simply adding several inches in length (but not changing the width or sleeve cap/armscye).

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I used fold over elastic to finish the neck edges – I find this so much easier than sewing down a 1/4 inch hem. It’s still pretty tricky though, even using a walking foot. I made them as long as possible this time, by extending the side seams as long as the pieces of fabric I had bought, so they’re roughly 80cm long.

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Instead of constructing the fold-over mitten ends on the sleeves (which is a little bit fiddly) I finished the sleeves with simple cuffs using the same fabric as the body. Zoe isn’t swaddled any more and likes to hold her taggy toy when she sleeps so I thought it would be better to leave her hands free.

Some thoughts: I tried to pick gender neutral merino fabrics since I hope these sleep sacks can be reused for a sibling later on. I really struggled with choosing, because it seems like any colours that aren’t feminine seem to be kind of boy-colours. I did see a very cute maroon and pale pink striped merino but decided against it, since it seems to be ‘okay’ for girls to wear what we call ‘boy’ colours but it’s not so okay for boys to wear pink. But it might just be me thinking too much about it.

Also, I wish that the Fabric Store (formerly Global Fabrics) was able to label whether their merino knits are machine washable or not. Most merino knits are.. but some aren’t. The purple knit I used on the original sleep sack above clearly wasn’t, and the sleeves shrunk quite a bit even in cold machine washes. The dark grey I used for the body was fine in the washing machine, however. It’s not something I can pick up in the one wash that I give the fabric before I sew up things.

Anyway, overall I’m really happy with how these have turned out. It seems like they’re a pretty useful garment to have, and they’re really expensive in the shops! It wasn’t even too difficult to grade up in size.

Here she is wearing one of the finished product. I think she likes it (though she doesn’t like tummy time!), what do you think?

:o) Ana

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Cake fail/cake win!

I baked David a cake for his birthday. I demanded that he narrow down the cake options to at least a genre of cakes (i.e layered, chocolate, cheesecake, etc) and he said he would like either a orange poppyseed or lemon sour cream cake. Well that was a lot easier than what I had planned!

I decided on a lemon sour cream cake, and used this recipe from Epicurious since it had such good review. Oh I don’t know what went wrong. I bought a new pan from Total Food Equipment – this Anolon pan, and the cake looked so pretty. But when we cut into it, the cake was almost rubbery in texture!! I’ve never had such a bad cake fail. Of course David didn’t complain, but I couldn’t get over how disappointed I was in his birthday cake.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I had also acquired this cake pan from Trade Me. I found it in my search for a bundt pan (but bought the first one since I couldn’t wait for this one to be posted), and put in the minimum bid for $10 and I won! I picked a Smitten Kitchen recipe this time (she’s yet to fail me..) the Gramercy Tavern gingerbread. It came out perfectly…

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This cake was so good. I used an Emerson’s dark wheat beer (Dunkel) in place of the stout called for, but that was the only change to the recipe. The crust is ever so slightly chewy, and the interior moist and tender. Yum, I might just have another slice..

A present for my dearest

Wow, how is it that an entire month has passed since I last posted! I’ve been doing a lot of sewing, but I had barely any time to talk about it here. First up is a very special project, a shirt for my sweetie..

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Doesn’t he look swell?!

Every year I struggle to find a birthday gift for David that isn’t just another book for his collection. I wanted to make him something special, but knits take a long time and I only had a few weeks. Plus I didn’t want to risk the dreaded boyfriend-sweater curse now did I?

So I decided to sew him a shirt. I had a look around the interwebs and picked out the Colette Patterns Negroni mens shirt pattern. Negroni is a really nice staple pattern – the kind you can use over and over and add your own details to. It’s based on a ‘camp’ shirt style- this must be some kind of American phenomenon? The wikipedia page indicates this style normally has a one-piece collar and button-loop closure at the base of the neck.

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There were a few blog posts that I found really helpful with putting this together. Firstly, the blog Male Pattern Boldness had a mens shirt sewalong several years ago which had some great tips and visual guides to sewing the Negroni shirt. I found the series of posts on how to draft a two piece collar and stand indispensible – they start here. I used a Little Brother/Barkers shirt of David’s to draft the collar from, and it was exactly the right length to fit the Negroni pattern which was a great bonus!

Bending Pins post about the odd construction of the Negroni yoke alerted me to an easier way of assembling the yokes and fronts neatly, and I used the posts on Male Pattern Boldness again as a visual aid. I cut the back yoke on the bias to add a bit of interest.

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The cuff plackets came together really nicely, and give the shirt such a professional finish. This is one part where the Colette pattern really excels in both design and instruction. I was very worried about the flat fell seam finish on the sleeves. I had severe doubts that I would be able to finish the seam right to the cuff edge (since you need to scrunch up the sleeve to allow topstitching all the way to the end. But I put all my trust in Sarai Mitnick and her team at Colette, and it came together just fine! I worked very slowly down the sleeve seam, only sewing a couple of inches at a time before putting down the needle and readjusting the ‘nest’ of fabric which grew around the needle bed.

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I finished it all off with a little embroidered tag on the inside yoke, an idea I basically stole from the wonderful Alicia Paulson (I am in love with her blog. Seriously. I want her exact house and garden, and everything in it. I’m obsessed – in a totally non-creepy way).

Overall, I’m extremely happy with the end result. I think the method of attaching the yoke from the Kwiksew pattern is much easier and makes more sense than the method in the Negroni directions. I prefer the two piece collar to the single collar as well. The fit is perfect though – I sneakily measured a few of his shirts and figured out the medium size would be the best fit, and it was. And best of all? He loves it. Good thing too, because I love him. xoxo

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Elementary, my dear Watson

… the most often misquoted line of Sherlock Holmes, I learned today*. Here is my take on the Watson jacket from Papercut Patterns, somewhat retrospectively, as I actually finished this coat a year ago.

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While not quite elementary, this pattern from Papercut patterns is not as difficult as it looks! This was my first pattern from Papercut, and I do love their designs. I picked a really nice 100% wool in pale grey from The Fabric Store (formerly known as Global Fabrics). Though not labelled as such, I’m fairly sure this fabric was a kind of boiled wool – in that it was semi-felted after being woven, giving it a very dense structure and resistance to pilling. There’s nothing I hate more than a pilling wool coat.

Deciding to be a bit daring, I picked out an amazing silk plaid for the lining in shades of red, purple and yellow with a black and white border edging. I think I was rather clever with my cutting of the lining pieces, if I do say so myself.

The Watson coat is a really great design. I especially like the curved front edges and the slightly dipped back hem, which nicely covers your lower back and creates a flattering silhouette.It’s a while since I sewed this so I don’t have pictures of the making process, unfortunately. I made a toile in light cotton calico in the size S, just sewing up the main jacket body and leaving out the cape. It fit really well, and the only adjustment I made was to take an inch out of the upper back as my shoulders are slightly narrow.

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I didn’t do any special tailoring or interfacing, which I was perhaps able to get away with since the wool fabric I used had a reasonable amount of body. I added in-seam pockets (because one must always have pocketses!) to add to the functionality. One special detail I did add was to hand stitch the buttonholes.. I can’t remember why I decided this would be a great idea, but I did, and I think it adds quite a nice detail along with the lining-covered fabric buttons I made to match. I’ll write another post at some point  about handsewing the buttonholes.

The only thing I would change about this is the length of the sleeve linings – I think the pattern cuts them a little too short. I have long-ish arms and I didn’t adjust the pattern for the sleeves. I hemmed them a little shorter than the pattern calls for, but I didn’t make sufficient allowance for this in the lining (which should have positive lengthwise ease in it, so that it ‘bags’ a little at the bottom of the sleeve) and so it pulls the sleeve up a little from the inside. Which makes it look rumpled/creased from the outside.. if you know what I mean. But it’s only a small issue really. I quite often turn back the cuffs when I wear it to show off the lining, then the sleeves sit at a bracelet length.

All in all I’m really happy with how this turned out and I wear it quite a lot during the Winter months.

*Apparently the correct quote is “Excellent! I cried. “Elementary,” said he.

Terrarium time!

This month I had some fun making a few gifts for friends in the form of little terrariums! I’ve seen a lot of pins on Pinterest for terrariums and was inspired to try and make some of my own. I found great glass rose bowl vases at Arthur Barnett (our local ‘high end’ department store) by Maxwell and Williams for half price, which work perfectly. The white pebbles I picked up at Nicholls Garden Centre (which I have enough of to build many hundreds of terrariums), and I got the wee tiny pot plants and potting mix at Mitre 10 Mega. A quick trip around my sorry excuse for a garden was sufficient to gather a small collection of mosses and liverworts from the many, many damp and shady areas around the house.

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Put them all together and voila! Insta-terrariums!

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My terrarium recipients report that they haven’t died (yet!) so hopefully they will survive for a wee while. I need to get some more glass vases to make myself one though – I kind of like the idea of keeping one like a pet.. sort of like a pet rock.. except, more animated?