This season I have taken a new approach to planning my makes.
I always struggle to put together a cohesive spring/summer wardrobe and just buy the first pretty prints I see! So this year I focused on making collections picking out key colours and styles and building around that. The first collection or colour palette I wanted to focus on was the muted pinks and greens. These colours were based around my recently finished Kalle shirt in Lady McElroy ‘Hawaiian Palms’ linen viscose. I have always had a soft spot for greens of all shades, and I have wanted to try and introduce more pinks into my wardrobe too.
The first item I wanted to tackle on my list was the ‘Summer suit’. If you have followed me for a while you will know that I love suits and their versatility. The perfect blazer pattern came along at just the right time, the Homer and Howells Blair blazer. This is a double breasted, loose fit blazer with 2 lengths- long and cropped. I decided to go for the longer length to get the relaxed look I was after.
Choosing a shorts pattern was proving a little more tricky. I was stuck between a slim tailored fit or something a little looser. The main contenders were the Trend Patterns Utility Trousers shortened or the Closet Case Patterns Pietra shorts (but a little longer!). I settled on a slimmer, more tailored style to balance out the oversized blazer, so I made the Trend Patterns Utility trousers without the flap feature on the leg and shortened to just above the knee.
I have used both patterns before and can't rate them enough. The Utility trousers are the first trouser pattern that I haven’t had to adjust the rise on (I usually have to add to the rise of trousers). And the Blair blazer is very well drafted and the instructions are so clear. If you haven’t sewn a blazer before I would recommend starting here.
The perfect fabric was a little easier to find. The ‘Old Rose Stretch Linen Viscose’ is the perfect shade of pink for me and works really well with a lot of the other fabrics and colours I was choosing. The earthy brown tones work really well with my skin tone too. The fact that the fabric has a little stretch in it was an added bonus (anyone else feeling those extra lockdown pounds?!).
When the fabric arrived I have to admit, I did a happy dance! The colour was so perfect and the weight was just right for a summer suit. I am honestly considering more to make trousers or a boiler suit… in all the colours!
When sewing with this fabric, although it has Elastane in it, you do not need to treat it as you would a knitted or jersey fabric. However there are still some issues you will need to take into consideration.
- Pre-wash on a cool cycle to avoid any damage from the heat,
- Always cut a stretch woven fabric with the stretch going horizontal around your body instead of stretch running down the way to make the most of the added comfort,
- Don’t pick a pattern for knitted fabrics, choose something for woven fabrics, ideally a fitted pattern to make the most of the added stretch,
- Size down if the garment has a lot of ease, if you are making a fitted garment you should be okay. Basting your garment together first to check the fit can help,
- A walking foot will help avoid the fabric from stretching as you are sewing and take your time,
- Use a stretch needle to avoid snagging the fabric. For this project I have used size 90,
- Don’t hang any pieces up or on a mannequin before sewing them together as this will cause them to stretch,
- Use a press cloth,
- Be gentle with it :) The more you handle it the more chance it will stretch out of shape.
Cutting it out
When planning 2 items from the one fabric I always cut both out at the same time. This way you can really utilise the fabric you have so you can get as much as possible from it. I prepared all my paper pattern pieces and laid the fabric out on the biggest space I could find- the kitchen floor! I had 3.5 meters of fabric which was 130 cm wide. I ended up taking 2 inches from the length of the blazer to make sure I got everything squeezed in and I used every inch of the fabric (I don’t even have enough for a scrunchie!). I focused on getting all the main pieces laid out, and anything I could cut in a contrast fabric I kept to the side, although I ended up getting everything cut from the main fabric in the end.
I knew this suit was going to be special and something I will wear for years to come so I decided to take extra care when constructing it. The Blair blazer is unlined, and I had a fat quarter in my stash that was the perfect shade of pinks to use as a contrast binding for the seams and for the inner yoke of the blazer, and added some to the Utility shorts as well. Doing a Hong Kong seam finish on the blazer posed a few problems but after some careful thought I came up with a way around them.
First off, anywhere I was finishing the edge in this style I had to stay stitch first to avoid any stretching as I would be sewing along the stitch line several times and I didn’t want the seams to stretch out with the extra handling. The pattern has a 1cm seam allowance so I had to make sure my binding wouldn’t add too much bulk to the seams. I used 25mm binding and it worked well. I didn’t press my binding into quarters as I knew it would work better folded into thirds.
If you haven’t used this finish before, the first step is to sew the binding to the edge of the fabric, right sides together, in my case using a 7mm seam allowance. I then pressed this away from the fabric first, and then pressed it to the back of the fabric so the wrong side of the binding was wrapping around the seam and there is approximately 1cm of binding at the back (hopefully the pictures below help visualise this). I then ‘stitched in the ditch’ along the right side of the binding which was (mostly) invisible and trimmed away any excess fabric from the back. This takes a lot of practise to get right but by the end I was getting really accurate results and enjoying the process so much.
For the inseam pockets I had to take a few days to think of a way around this. I used a method for inserting a pocket that I picked up from another Trend Patterns pattern, the Bias T-Shirt dress. This method attaches the pocket to the front piece only, allowing me to use french seams for the pocket and then bind the seam after. It was a little tricky but has given the inside of the blazer a lovely clean finish. Another method I would recommend is grading the side seams after inserting the pocket as the Blair pattern suggests and finishing it all together with binding.
My final tip- I would recommend buying an extra spool or 2 of thread if you want to finish a garment in this style, as you are sewing the length of each seam up to 5 times you will go through a lot of thread!
The final finishing touch was to hand sew all my hems. I love this finish and it’s a chance to slow down right at the end and appreciate all the hard work that went into creating your garment. I used beeswax for the first time on my thread and it makes a massive difference to the process. I’m kicking myself for not using it before!
I am so happy with how these garments look on both the inside and outside. This is something I will wear for years and I will wear it with pride. I love the added pop of contrast from the inside back yoke too, a feature I really wanted to include.
I know most of my excitement for this project was down to the endless styling possibilities. I have so many plans for different ways to wear these 2 pieces. I have put together a styling video talking through some of my outfits, so keep an eye out for this over on Instagram.
This suit looks great with a lot of different tops, from t-shirts to shirts. My favourites were the Friday Patter Company Square Neck top and Kalle shirt.
The shorts look great on their own with most tops too. I love the casual look of the Classic Striped Mandy Boat.
One of my favourite outfits is a blazer, tee and jeans, I have so many inspiration pictures on my Pinterest. This blazer works perfectly with my new summer jeans, and I can’t wait to try it with black skinny’s.
The big appeal of the Blair blazer was the option to wear it as a dress! I love this look for a night out, it is so easy to dress up with simple heels and some jewellery.
A look I wasn’t expecting to love was the blazer combined with my Coco Wawa Plum dress. I wouldn’t usually go for 2 pieces together that are so loose fitting but I love this outfit with my go to black biker boots.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog. I could put together so many more styling options for this but had to try and restrain myself! This suit has gone right up into my top 5 favourite makes!