Coco Banana // Tilly & the Buttons Coco Top Review

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When I was about 8, I had a friend who had a “Copabanana” phase. This means she sang that one line from Barry Manilow’s Copacabana – “At the Copa, Copacabana” over and over again, but as “Copabanana” instead of “Copacabana”. Clearly it was annoying enough to scar me for life, because I still accidentally sing the wrong lyrics today. So when I sewed up a yellow Coco Top last December, the natural choice of name was “Cocobanana”. #sorrynotsorry

I’ve briefly mentioned in an earlier post how fast and easy the Coco pattern is to sew up, but I never in a million years dreamed that I would be able to sew it from cutting to pressing in 4 hours and still find that I had done a decent job on finishing the hems. As some of you would have seen on my instagram, I rushed out this baby in a single afternoon between sitting for an exam paper and hightailing it to the airport to catch a flight to Hong Kong.

 

 

But let’s start from the very beginning shall we? I first saw the Coco when I became interested in sewing early last year and discovered the existence of sewing patterns (you’d be surprised how many people think all homemade garments are drafted by the sewists themselves!). Being very much a pear-shaped lady I didn’t think the A-line shape of the top would work for me as I felt it would accentuate my already ginormous hips, much in the way peplum tops do. Even after sewing it up in my size and trying it on (with the jeggings above), I wasn’t convinced it wasn’t a good match for my body shape. It was only after getting a second (and third!) opinion that I decided to leave it as it was and test it out on my Hong Kong trip.

And how I loved it on that trip. I loved how fitted the top is – the armholes are a good fit and the sleeves are slim and makes my very un-toned arms look thinner than they actually are. Even the bust area needed no SBA! The only thing that I might change is to take a wedge out of the neckline as it tends to gape a bit (would that be a narrow shoulder adjustment? I’m not sure of the terminology).

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In terms of outfit combinations, I knew it was a keeper when I tucked it into a pleated skirt I had and it looked like a great basic fitted/ structured tee that wasn’t too boxy for my liking. While I do still have misgivings about pairing my Cocobanana with jeans, after reviewing the photos above I feel it just about passes the shorts-matching test. I’m pretty sure this pattern is going be one of those that keeps on giving – and I haven’t even made up the dress version yet!

On to construction – like I mentioned above, the top came together in no time at all. The instructions were clear, helped along with Tilly’s sew-along on her blog, and I loved that the sleeves were sewed in flat, it’s SO much easier for beginners. Since the recommended fabrics are low-stretch knit fabrics, like ponte knit, that means it sews up more or less like woven fabric – none of the pesky problems that come with lighter weight jerseys, hurray!

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As for alterations, I sewed a size 2, grading out to size 3 at the waist and hips. It was the first time I tried any sort of alteration on paper before sewing up my muslin and I found this pattern really easy to grade and to blend between sizes. In addition, I referred to Tilly’s tutorial to create this summery short sleeved version of the top.

Like I said before, I would most definitely recommend this pattern to anyone, even a complete beginner! I really don’t think it matters that this pattern is for knit fabrics, the instructions are so clear that it shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Christmas Pyjamas for the Tropics // Margot Pyjamas Pattern Review

Continuing with Merry Making 2014, today’s post is a brief pattern review and hack of Tilly and the Button’s Margot Pyjamas from her book, “Love at First Stitch“.

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If the multitude of blog posts on Christmas pyjamas (or pajamas in this context) that have sprung up over the last few weeks are any indication, it would seem that Christmas pyjamas are a big thing in the States.  Though we don’t have that practice over here, I can totally see the appeal of it – if presentable sleepwear means more time bumming around in my jammies, then I’m down for implementing this new tradition in my household!

With this in mind, I whipped up this pair of Margot pyjama shorts in anticipation of an upcoming family stay-cation at the Hard Rock Hotel in Sentosa, Singapore. … I may or may not also have been motivated by the prospect of getting to photograph my brand new shorts in a luxurious hotel room and bed, as opposed to my orange bedroom walls and comically colourful $10 cartoon sheets. (Also a big thank you to my sister and cousin Joelynn for helping with the photos!)

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My pattern of choice was Tilly’s Margot pyjamas from her book, Love at First Stitch, but in shorts rather than trouser form. If there’s one thing warm humid nights in the tropics don’t need, it’s long pyjama pants! It was a quick and easy make, especially as they weren’t meant to be fitted and I omitted pockets; it must have taken me at most an hour from cutting to hemming.

Margot Pyjamas as pictured in Love at First Stitch

If I could remake this pattern again, I would definitely go with a different fabric – I found that this one creased terribly once it was sat on. I would also shorten the pattern a tad bit more as I found this make a little too long! I ended up cuffing the shorts at the hem, if you can tell from the mismatching vertical stripes (I couldn’t be fussed to match the print properly… it’s meant to be pyjamas after all).

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All in all I love this pattern, and will definitely be making it up again soon. I would highly recommend using the Margot pattern if you’re thinking of making matching Christmas PJs for the entire family – imagine how cute that would be!! If you’re leaning towards a full pyjama top and bottom set, I would suggest pairing it with Megan Nielsen’s Eucalypt Tank pattern – I’ve actually got a tank dress made from the same fabric as these Margot pyjama shorts and they look adorable paired together.

Do you have a tradition of getting new pyjamas on Christmas day? If anyone knows the history behind it, do let me know in the comments below!

Merry Making 2014: A Christmas Gift Guide for the Beginner Sewist

It’s just around that time of the year now when people start getting REALLY excited for Christmas, so what better time than to kickstart a Christmas-themed series here on the blog – Merry Making 2014! For the next 12 days (ie. the 12 days before Christmas), I’ll be posting all about Christmas-related projects, ideas for gifts, decorations and recipes and updates on how I’m prepping for Christmas this year. I’m really excited about it and I hope you guys are too (fingers crossed I can keep up with posting everyday!)

To start things off, today’s post is a Christmas gift guide for beginner and “pre-beginner” sewists. A lot of my friends have told me that they would love to learn garment sewing but don’t know where or how to begin – if you know someone like that and would like to encourage them to begin sewing this Christmas, then read on for a list of gifts that might help them get started!

BOOKS

I don’t own a great deal of sewing books, though from what I’ve seen, a large majority of sewing books out there cater to the beginner sewist. I do own the following two books though, which I would recommend to anyone learning sewing for the first time.

Tilly & the Button’s Love at First Stitch

You’ll hear me enthuse a lot about Tilly’s great beginner patterns later, but honestly, Tilly writes great beginner instructions and I’m so glad I had this book when I first started out! This book eases the reader into the scary world of dressmaking, beginning with setting up your sewing machine, shopping for fabric (a personal phobia of mine), and sewing straight stitches, all the way through to installing invisible zippers and sewing buttonholes! It also comes with 5 patterns in 8 sizes, as well as instructions for drafting a skirt – a great deal at only GBP20 if you ask me.

Mend & Make Fabulous by Denise Wild

This book is targeted more at people wanting to get into refashioning and mending clothes rather than dressmaking itself. It includes full illustrations of creative ways to mend things (think: darning, stains and frayed hems) and also ways to freshen up an old garment that needs a new lease of life! Though I haven’t used this book extensively yet, i can see myself referring to it a whole lot when I finally get round to tackling the huge pile of clothes in my closet waiting to be mended!

PATTERNS

When I first took an interest in sewing, I had no idea that sewing patterns existed. To my mind, drafting was the only way to make a garment and the thought of having to learn something that complex before I could make my own outfits was a HUGE mental barrier to learning how to sew! I would have loved to receive an easy beginner-friendly pattern (or even a kit!) as a gift for Christmas, and it probably would have played a big part in encouraging me to tackle my first sewing project.

Here are a couple of great beginner patterns that I would recommend to anyone sewing their first garment:

Tilly & the Button’s Miette Skirt 

Specifically designed as a first dress-making project, this flared wraparound skirt from Tilly is simple to sew and doesn’t have zippers or buttonholes (or anything else that would discourage someone from sewing!) It even comes with pockets, how great is that?!

Sewaholic’s Rae Skirt

If wraparound skirts aren’t your thing, this offering from Tasia of Sewaholic is a great alternative! Also designed as as a very first sewing project (in collaboration with a sewing instructor no less!), this elastic skirt is quick to sew and is a great way to show off printed fabrics. It also looks totally wearable and not at all like a beginner’s first garment (which is more than I can say for some of my first few makes!).

Tilly & the Button’s Coco Dress and Top

The Coco pattern happens to be designed for knit fabric, which many beginners shy away from. In this case, Tilly has produced a great pattern for double knit (a stable knit fabric) that is both suitable for beginners and looks a lot more complicated than it actually is! This was the third garment I ever sewed (and for someone else, no less!) and can vouch for how easy this was to make. As a bonus, Tilly ran a step-by-step sew-along on her blog earlier this year with extra tips on how to sew up the Coco dress as well as ideas on how to customise it, take a look at it here!

Megan Nielsen’s Eucalypt Tank Top and Dress 

This is was actually the first real pattern I attempted solo! Not only was it a breeze to sew up (no darts, zippers or buttonholes!), it fit like a dream and graded easily between sizes. If you’re feeling a little more generous, you could also consider Megan Nielsen’s Beginner Pack, which include 4 patterns targeted at beginners for the price of 3!

Colette Pattern’s Ginger Skirt 

I haven’t sewn up this pattern personally, but I’ve seen many gorgeous versions of it floating around the internet. Plus, with Colette’s reputation for great, easy-to-follow instructions I’m pretty sure a new beginner will be able to tackle this with ease!

SEWING LESSONS 

Of course, one always learns best with one on one coaching. Consider checking out your local sewing shops or sewing schools for any classes they may be running and sponsor a friend to attend a sewing lesson there, or gift him/her a gift card or voucher so that they can sign up for their class of choice!

There aren’t too many options in sunny Singapore, but for those of you who live locally, try checking out this list of places offering sewing classes.

TOOLS & NOTIONS

Another gift option would be to assemble a kit of tools that a beginner sewist might need. If so, the following are some great gifts that would supplement any standard sewing kit:

Clover Chaco Pen 

Chalk in a pen form! Great for marking fabric and brushes away easily.

Air Erasable or Water Erasable Pens 

Pinking Shears and Embroidery Scissors 

Tracing Wheel and Tracing Paper 

    

Seam Gauge

For those of us who have already dived headfirst into the wonderful world of sewing, I’ve seen some Christmas gift guides out there with some really great ideas. I want pretty much all the books in Heather’s sewing book gift guide and am loving the “How Much Fabric?” Reference Cards suggested by Dixie, they’re so useful!

What’s on your wish list this Christmas? I know I would love me some Spotlight gift vouchers or if anyone out there is feeling really generous, maybe a new overlocker… *hint hint*

Sew Many Sales, Sew Little Time // Black Friday Pattern Sales 2014

This being my first Black Friday after picking up sewing (and generally being clueless about Thanksgiving sales given that I live on the other side of the planet), I was overjoyed by the sudden wave of sales being announced by a whole bunch of indie pattern designers. 20% off storewide here, 50% off paper patterns there – I felt like a crazed shopaholic in a luxury outlet shopping mall with Burberry trenches and Prada Saffianos circling my head.

In a (futile) attempt to rein in my wild spendthrift tendencies, I made a list of sales currently being offered and the patterns I’m eyeing at the moment:

Tilly & the Buttons

15% off all patterns and workshops at Tilly Towers (you lucky lucky buggers living in London!)

Hurry though as this sale ends today (Tuesday 25 November 2014)!

This would be a great time to snap up the new Francoise 60s shift dress pattern or an autographed version of Tilly’s book – Love at First Stitch. I’ve already got her book as well as the Coco and Mathilde patterns (and may or may not have just ordered the Francoise… whoops!), and I highly recommend them all, especially for beginners.

 

Sewaholic Patterns 

20% off your order, ending Sunday 30 November 2014!

As a pear-shaped lady I’ve always taken a special interest in Tasia’s patterns, especially since they’re all so beautifully designed. I’m ashamed to admit though that I’ve only ever bought one of her patterns, the Hollyburn skirt, and have yet to sew it up… Never fear, this situation will soon be a thing of the past as I am even now loading the Renfrew top and Gabriola skirt patterns into my shopping cart!

I’m dying to get the Thurlow trousers pattern though Tasia has not yet made that into a pdf pattern. (I mean if there’s a pattern made for pear-shaped women that we ladies ought to buy it’s a pants pattern amirite?) The only thing stopping me is that shipping costs are a real pain when you live on the opposite side of the globe. Still, with 20% off it may be worth considering hmm…

 

Grainline Studios

20% off all patterns from 29 December 2014 to 1 December 2014!

It wasn’t until a month or two ago that I started following Grainline Studios, but I have seen their now iconic Archer Shirt and Alder Shirtdress popping up all over the sew-cial media (see what I did there?) since earlier this year. I’ve also read some rave reviews about their latest offering, the Linden sweatshirt, and it seems even the ladies over at the ever amusing GOMI thread have given Jen’s drafting skills their stamp of approval, so I’m guessing the patterns are pretty legit.

I’m not a big fan of the Alder shirtdress as I prefer less flare in such a blouse-y garment (also, it looks a tiny bit like maternity wear, don’t you think? No? Just me? Ok) but I have been eyeing their Maritime shorts, Scout Tee and Archer shirt so I may pick one (or all) of those up later this week.

 

Oliver + S Patterns

50% off paper patterns until 29 November 2014!

This one is for all your mummies out there! Unfortunately the discount only applies to Oliver + S and Straight Stitch Society patterns, really disappointing given that I was eyeing the Girl Friday Culottes from Liesl + Co, but great news for you ladies who actually have kids to sew for! (The only relations I have below the age of 20 are 2 days and 2 months old respectively, bummer)

 

Butterick 

Not an indie pattern company, but still a sale nonetheless, all Butterick Patterns are going for $3.99 on the McCall’s website till tonight, 25 November 2014!

I decided to pass on this one (what great self-restraint I have), mostly because the shipping would have cost more than the combined price of both the patterns I wanted. If you live in a more geographically favourable location than me, then this sale is well worth checking out! For the record, the patterns I was considering were: B6129, an off-shoulder dress with a yoke variation and B6090, a shirt dress.

Not forgetting of course, the Marianne Dress 15% launch discount and Caroline’s Blackbird Fabrics 20% discount both of which ended yesterday.

Well, that’s all I have for now! (I have a problem don’t I? I know, I know, I’m getting financial counselling from my boyfriend.)

Have you guys picked up anything from the sales yet? And if I’ve missed out any sales, please do let me know below! This is one shopaholic who likes (read: NEEDS) to keep tabs on simply everything!