Merchant & Mills Workbook: The Strides

The Strides trousers The Strides trousers

I’ve often heard about Merchant & Mills patterns and sewing supplies, but have never found the patterns here in Japan. The closest that I can get was several T-shirts by Uniqlo when they collaborated with Merchant & Mills. So I was very happy when they contacted me to review their newest book, Merchant & Mills Workbook.
The Strides trousers

The Strides trousers

The Strides trousers

The book has six paterns for vest, dress, skirt, top, jacket, and trousers. Four of the patterns have style variations so you can get more from this book. Although the patterns are simple, they are aimed to develop new sewing skills. So it is perfect if you are beginner who wants to learn more.

Merchant & Mills also offered to send me some fabric to make something from one of the patterns. I decided to make The Strides pants with Aizu fabric, medium weight Japanese slubby cotton in charcoal. For the pocket lining and fly facing, I used Indonesian batik fabric.

The Strides trousers

The Strides trousers

grading down

Grading down the pattern

The patterns are in sizes 8-18, and unfortunately the smallest size is still too big for me. So I graded down the pattern one size to size 6.

The trousers are full length with style variations for shorts, but I decided to cut the hem about calf length. I also shortened the seat around 1 cm.

Instead of making the trousers the way I used to do, I followed the instructions quite closely. The instructions are quite clear with hand-drawn diagrams. I love the hand-drawn pictures!

Here is a few notes about the pattern:

  • – no grainline mark on the back piece.
  • – no grainline mark on waistband pattern but probably not necessary as it is a straight piece and there is fabric placement diagram.
  • – there is a pocket back piece in the pattern sheet, but it is referred as pocket facing in the instructions.
  • – instead of being mentioned, the seam allowances are marked by notches. I think the reason for this is because it may vary. However, I prefer the seam allowances are mentioned as well in addition of the notches. For these trousers, the seam allowances are 1.5 cm all around.

The Strides trousers The Strides trousers

Other than those things that I mentioned, I’m quite happy witth how the trousers turned out! My favorite part is the fly facing with button inside that is similar to men’s trousers. I’ve never made this kind of fly facing before, so I’m happy that I learned some new things. And of course I should wear the tousers with my Uniqlo Merchant & Mills T-shirt!

Pattern is The Strides – Merchant & Mills Workbook, graded down to size 6.

Review: The Express Corset Making Course

I always love to learn how something works. When I was a child, my favorite book was ‘How Things Work’. In the sewing world itself, there is still so many things that I don’t understand and want to learn. People often says, ‘Isn’t it difficult to make this or that?’ Of course everything is difficult when you don’t understand, but there is a satisfaction when your brain is slowly figuring out how something works.

In pursue of this satisfaction, a couple of years ago I learned to make a corset. It was a very satisfying experience and I really love the result although I rarely wear the corset anymore. At that time, there was not many resources for people who want to learn corset-making. Even now, I think there the resources are still scarce.

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Pattern Compendium

So I was happy when Scarlett from Corset contacted me about her newly launched The Express Corset Making Course. It is a package of downloadable MP4 video course and a couple of PDF books. She sent me a link to download the package and it consisted of:

  • 2 hours of step-by-step corset making video
  • 36 minutes of bonus features on making the back panel and altering the mock-up
  • 51 pages of corset making manual
  • 26 pages of pattern compendium, on drafting several corset patterns

Now 2 hours seem like a long time! But I have watched it all and it is really a step-by-step video of how to construct a corset. If you have all the materials and equipments, you can basically start sewing with the video playing and finish a corset during that time. Of course it is better to read the manual and watch the video first before actually making the corset.

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I wish I found this course when I first made my corset! It has everything basic that you need to know on making corset. The PDF manuals has all the information on making the mock-ups, the types of materials and where to get them, the order of constructions, and how to finish and embellish the corset.

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If you’re interested in this course, you can watch some preview video here:

The course is $49.99 but Scarlett has offered a 30% off if you use the code PURPLE30 when you buy The Express Corset Making Course. The code will be available until the 13th so you have plenty of time to think. She also has 100% money back guarantee if you find out that the course is not for you.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 5.02.51 PMIf you’re looking for something even more simpler, you can download this free corset belt pattern!


I was offered the course for free in exchange for a review. I was not paid for this review but the link is affiliated. However, every opinion is my own.

Craftsy Pant Fitting Techniques by Sandra Betzina

Houndstooth pants - wearable muslin (Vogue 2948)

Vogue 2948

Pants. Why is it so hard to find the perfect fit? I get how to fit a dress, skirt or even bra, but it seems that I just don’t get pants. Luckily for me, recently I was asked to review a Craftsy online class: Pant Fitting Techniques. I love Craftsy’s sewing classes so this is perfect for me!

Vogue 2948

Vogue 2948

The class is about 4 hours, divided into nine chapters, and taught by Power Sewing host Sandra Betzina. It includes Vogue 2948, a pattern for classic trouser with princess seams in sizes A-J, that will be shipped directly by Vogue.

If you live outside US like me, the pattern might need sometime to reach you. I got my pattern about three weeks after I signed up. In the mean time, I spent my time watching all the videos and took notes. No time should be wasted!

Sandra Betzina is a good teacher with wonderful, quirky personality. I would absolutely love to attend her class in person and learn so much from her. She seems to be so full of knowledge that she is eager to share. However I feel that this class is not edited or reviewed really well. Sandra often doesn’t finish her sentences and got distracted by other things that she wants to share rightaway.

She also makes all the fitting adjustments on the same pattern, and as the lesson progresses the pattern is full of lines in different colors that get rather confusing. I also wished that there would be more samples of figure problems, for instance how a swayback looks like in a person, or some before-after samples. I don’t think that the problems lie on Sandra though because all that she’s sharing are valuable knowledge, it’s just that they are not properly delivered. Well, I can just make video notes all over then!

When the pattern arrived, I immediately got to work. I cut my pants in the smallest size, size A. The waist seems to fit me fine, but there were lots of folds and lines below that needed fitting adjustment. Unfortunately I made the mistake of choosing the wrong fabric for my muslin. The fabric is actually really nice, but it ravels quite easily and the tiny houndstooth pattern made it hard to see all the marks that I’ve made on them. Lesson learned!

Here is my pants after the adjustments. I have shortened the length, made swayback adjustment and other fitting adjustments. The princess lines are great! They made it pretty easy to make fitting adjustments and also to understand the adjustments better. I think I might have overfitted them around the hip area because there are some horizontal lines on the front. But overall it is much better than before. This is my wearable muslin though, so I didn’t make the pockets. I still need to adjust the pants to make them fit properly and comfortable before I have the real thing, but I’m so glad to have joined the class. I finally feel that I understand pant fitting better now!

Houndstooth pants - wearable muslin (Vogue 2948) Houndstooth pants - wearable muslin (Vogue 2948)

Pant Fitting Techniques

Pant Fitting Techniques

If you are interested in joining the class, Craftsy is offering a 40% off discount for you. You can get the class for USD 29.99 instead of the original price USD 49.99! Just click this link to get your discount: Pant Fitting Techniques with Sandra Betzina.

Green Pastille dress (The Colette Sewing Handbook)

Green Pastille dress
Green Pastille dressA pretty dress was hanging on the wall of my clean room, as if it was magically appeared out of thin air. There were no traces at all that not a few hours before, the dress was a nightmare and the room was a complete mess. Surely I have to thank the magical power of a vacuum cleaner.

The pattern is Pastille dress from The Colette Sewing Handbook, the one on the cover. I’ve loved the pattern since the first time I saw it, but kept postponing to make it because apparently I’m too small for Colette patterns. Doing a small bust adjustment like what I did for my Taffy top wouldn’t be sufficient for a sheath dress like this. A few days ago, I finally found enough bravery to grade the pattern down.

Grading down Pastille dress pattern

Grading down Pastille dress pattern

I started with grading size 0 one size down. Does that mean it is now size -2? Anyway the grading process went smoothly, despite needing some time and patience to do it. Then I did my usual adjustment, shortening the bodice by 2.5 cm and a slight swayback adjustment on bodice back and skirt back.

The fabric is this wonderful cotton/linen mix with slight wavy rows of white circles pattern, I got it from Okadaya, a fabric store in Shinjuku. It is very easy to cut and sew and also comfortable to wear.

The instructions in the book suggested finishing the upper bodice before attaching the skirt. I preferred to attach the skirt before the side seams, in case I might need to adjust it later.

I put on this dress for the first fitting and looked into the mirror. The waist sat too low despite the short bodice adjustment that I’d made. The waistline also curved downward on the sides. And what was that on my back? It looked like I had a hunchback from the puffed up fabric there. The shoulders sat strangely and almost all the darts had extra volumes on the tips. Usually with Butterick or Vogue patterns, I didn’t need more adjustments other than what I have mentioned above so I was quite disheartened by the sight.

Uh, maybe that’s why people are making muslin first before going for the real thing?? But my problem with muslin is that I always feel guilty looking at those unused and rejected fabrics. They looked so sad crumpled in the corner of scraps bin.

However, I refused to be defeated by this dress! Besides, the fabric is too pretty to have its destiny doomed to the black hole aka the unfinished projects box. I pinned all the problems until my body was surrounded by tiny needles and taking off the dress had to be done very sloooowly. Then I went to sleep filled with nightmares of fitting alterations.

Green Pastille dress Green Pastille dress
The next day I woke up fresh and began to work on the problems. In case you’re interested, here’s the list of all the alterations that I made after the fitting:

  • bodice front: shortened 1 cm on center front, tapered to 3 cm on both sides. Front darts lengthened 2.5 cm.
  • bodice back : shortened 3 cm. Back darts lengthened 6 cm. The initial back length was way too long for my body and I noticed that some people also have problems with the bodice back of this dress.
  • skirt back: darts lengthened 3 cm
  • shoulders: lowered 1 cm from hemline tapered to nothing on neckline
  • slimmed down sides 0.5 cm from armhole to hip

Luckily the fabric is strong enough to handle all those ripping and re-stitching! After all these efforts, the dress was finally looked decent enough on my body. From then on, I applied all the alterations to the lining and continued finishing the dress. All these alterations made me think that maybe I should have graded down 2 sizes. I would try it on my next Colette dress.

Green Pastille dress Green Pastille dress Green Pastille dress
The dress in the book doesn’t have lining but I added one as I love wearing dress with lining. It makes putting on the dress much easier, preventing unsightly bumps, and also protecting the fabric itself. Basically I cut the lining from the same pattern pieces as the outer fabric, and baste them together around the neckline and armholes. The facings were then sewed as usual to this unit. That way I can catch-stitch the facing edges to the lining only. The hem was finished with white seam bindings and catch-stitched.

Not the most perfect dress but I finally love it!

Green Pastille dress Green Pastille dress
Pattern is Pastille dress from Colette Sewing Handbook, graded down from size 0 and altered to fit.

In another news, I got a new glasses courtesy of Firmoo. They contacted me sometime ago to do a review of their service. The ordering process is quite simple, choose the style (I chose this one) and enter the prescription, you can also select various lenses with additional fee. It was my first time getting glasses from an online shop, so initially I was a bit wary.

The shipping was reasonably fast, I received the glasses in less than 2 weeks. They came with case and pouch, lens cloth, screwdriver and extra screws. The quality is surprisingly good despite the prices. I have been wearing them for a week now and there have been no problem with the prescription (PD:64, right eye: -2.25/-0.5 cyl, left eye: -2.5).

If you also want to try out, they have a program offering free eyewear for first-time buyers, you just pay for the shipping fee. It’s definitely a good alternative to expand your glasses collection within reasonable budget!
Green Pastille dress Firmoo glasses

Pink Pendrell and Zebra print Kasia

Pink Pendrell and Zebra print Kasia Pink Pendrell and Zebra print Kasia

The sun is shining today so I can take some pictures of my recent sewing. Here’s another combo of  Kasia and Pendrell that I finished a couple of days ago. When I made this Kasia skirt for me, I wasn’t quite sure if I would be wearing it often. Turned out that the skirt has become one of my wardrobe staples that I reached often. I decided that it  is time for another Kasia!

As before, I printed the pattern at 92% and used size 38. I love this method -instead of merely shortening the hem- because it makes the shape and details of the skirt more proportional to my petite body. And with this particular pattern, no fitting alteration is needed for my body!

Pendrell + Kasia

I did make several design alterations though:

  • Omitted the flap and pockets and kept the gathered side yoke for decorational purpose only.
  • Changed the slits to back vent, using this helpful tutorial at A Fashionable Stitch. I really recommend this alteration as it makes the skirt looks better in my opinion.
  • Shortened the hem to above my knee.
  • Narrowed the hem by 2 cm on either side.
  • Used invisible zipper on center back.Zebra print Kasia
  • Added Rigilene boning to the waistband facing. I didn’t use any interfacing because the fabric is stiff enough.

Zebra print Kasia

Hot pink Pendrell Blouse Zebra print Kasia

For the fabric, I was offered by Lisa from OnlineFabricStore to try out their animal print microsuede fabric. I got a $30 gift certificate for shopping and ended up choosing the microsuede in zebra pattern. The caption says ‘White Giraffe Microsuede’, although I’m quite sure that this is a zebra pattern.

Hot pink Pendrell Blouse

Pendrell blouse

The microsuede is actually home decor weight. As suggested in the fabric description, I pre-washed it in cold water and it indeed became suppler. I didn’t encounter any particular difficulties sewing the fabric using needle #14, the one I usually use for sewing bags or other thicker fabrics. No topstitching though because I didn’t like the way it ‘cut’ into the soft surface of the fabric.

The skirt definitely need lining because the wrong side of the microsuede is not as soft as the right side, I used blue rayon lining from my stash. The waistband facing and hem are finished with light blue seam binding. I love how the inside of the skirt is so bright and colorful!

The Pendrell Blouse is made with hot pink stretch charmeuse from the same store. I just love this pattern and it is so perfect paired with pencil skirt! The fabric has a bit of stretch in it so it is easier to put on and off. I used the matte side on the outside, which makes the shiny side against my body and it feels so comfortable.

Yesterday’s snow was exciting but I’m now really craving for Spring to come!

Zebra print Kasia Zebra print Kasia

Pink Pendrell and Zebra print Kasia Pink Pendrell and Zebra print Kasia

PS: Sidra has got a cold today so he stayed at home and ‘helped’ me with the photos.

P1250324 P1250320

Skirt pattern is Kasia, free PDF pattern by Burdastyle, size 38 shrunk by 92%. Fabric is microsuede in zebra pattern (100% polyester).
Blouses pattern is Pendrell Blouse by Sewaholic, size 2. 
Fabric is hot pink stretch charmeuse (97% Polyester, 3% Spandex).

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