I ended up making both of the June patterns from Seamwork back at the beginning of May, because they seemed like a good pairing and I had the idea to go crazy and try block printing the fabric to make some sort of loosely matching outfit. And… it was fun! I did it in a very basic manner, which I’ll briefly outline below, but I’m really happy with the results. I think the shorts came out better than the top, personally, but both are not far off what I was aiming for.
Note: I’m a member of the Seamwork ambassador team, which gives me a chance to have some input into the behind-the-scenes workings over at Seamwork HQ, giving feedback on patterns, magazine articles, etc. In return I am subscribed to the service for free for a year. Nevertheless, I’m not under any obligation to write subjective reviews of Seamwork patterns and all opinions remain my own.
The Dorian Shorts
First, the patterns. I was initially attracted to the Dorian shorts and quite excited, too. I thought the design looked promising, with a clever mixture of flat waistband and elasticated waistband panels to give comfort, but still a retention of slender style lines. Many of the trousers or skirts I’ve made with a flat/elasticated mixture have a flat front and then elastic waistband, but sometimes that can add to the butt or (in my case) hips in a way I’m not going for.
They’re made up of several panels and have a zipper fly and buttoned waistband, which elevates them above a basic elasticated short. As per all Seamwork patterns, they run in two sizing ranges. I made the straight size 16 misses and it actually was… a straight 16. I couldn’t quite believe it. I was fully expecting to need to make numerous standard changes for my body shape: usually adjustments to both the crotch curve and rise, but when I compared an adjusted pattern piece to one I knew fit me well, it was almost an exact match! I was slightly dubious nevertheless, but went ahead and have to say they fit me very, very well.
I would very slightly adjust the back curve next time for my low, flat bum, but really, wow. What I would say is that for many people, the crotch might be a little low because of that. I am definitely not complaining, but you might want to check it against something else you’ve made. I guess I also realised that I’ve mostly made Seamwork dresses and tops and not so many pants/shorts, but I can tell you I’m going to be looking at the patterns with a fresh eye now! 😀
The main thing to say about these shorts is that they are really, really, reallyyy comfortable, while managing to look quite structured. I’ve had a pair of Closet Case Patterns Pietra shorts cut out forever and will be sewing those up shortly, and am interested to compare, because I genuinely think these ones are going to be hard to beat. Also, please ignore that loose thread up there. It’s gone now.
A few construction notes I made:
- Make sure to be very accurate with the cutting for the waistband. All seam allowances related to the waistband are 3/8″ rather than the 5/8″ for the rest of the shorts, so be careful here too. There are so many pieces that a few little inaccuracies could add up to a difference in sizing.
- The fly construction method was definitely different than most I’ve tried. I wasn’t entirely convinced by it when you were asked to topstitch the zip down 1/16″ away from the zipper at one point, but it was actually easier than it sounded. And you know what? It worked really well. I actually didn’t get any little lumps and bumps at the bottom of the fly like I do with most methods.
- It’s very nice how you get the trickier bits out of the way first in the construction order. I always appreciate that.
The Willis Shirt
The Willis top, meanwhile, is a sleeveless button-up with a collar and placket. I’m not sure I would have necessarily made it as a standalone piece, as it’s quite boxy and I haven’t had a ton of luck with Seamwork sleeveless tops since they changed their block. Unlike, well, most of the of sewing world it seems, my body shape fits the “old” block better as I have shallower (?) armholes in relation to the rest of me. What I mean is that with the new block the armholes have been reallllyyy wide and long on me (see my Gretta top for an example). But I was willing to try again! There is a lot of ease in this top, so I decided to actually start off with a 12 at the shoulders with a 1″ FBA, grading out to a 16 through the waist and hips, rather than my standard 14 grading to 16.
And sod’s law: this proved to be just a touch too narrow on the shoulders, so I do think the 14 is better from that point of view. The back is also slightly strained. However the armhole is much better than normal. So I think next time I would use the 14 with a 12 armhole shaping. You live and learn!
As Seamwork says: “The Willis top has a relaxed fit and features a stand collar, front button placket, bias finish at the armholes, and a patch pocket with a button closure. You can pick your own hemline and choose between a straight hem or a curved hem.” I will freely admit that I completely cocked up the cutting of this shirt somehow and ended up fudging my own hemline, which, as someone kindly pointed out, totally matches my triangle motif. Totally intentional! Ahem.
The construction is straightforward – I did add a second pocket for symmetry and also used snaps in a more unusual 1-2-1 format for some visual interest. My notes here were mostly about checking the bust dart. It feels like it may be drafted a little low, but since I normally have the opposite issue, that’s fine with me! I should probably also mention that I made the Willis in a white double gauze – very cool for summer – and the Dorians in a sage linen I got free from a fellow sewist. Boost!
So – to the block printing. Before I ever sewed, I was into painting and papercrafts and dabbled a bit here and there, but my only experience of block printing with fabric was my VERY FIRST garment I ever made. It truly didn’t occur to me until after I finished up, but that garment was the Seamwork Akita top (more Seamwork) and I printed… you guessed it: triangles! Lol. I don’t know why I’m drawn to the little three-sided wonders, but at least I’m consistent, if somewhat predictable.
Of course, I mostly picked them because they are a simple geometric shape, requiring no particular skill, and are fast and easy to prepare. It so happens I do have a proper Speedball block printing kit in my crafting collection and I had intended carving out something fancier, but in the end decided that a matching pair would be served best by a simple geometric design.
Since it was a simple shape, I decided to forego the carving block and instead used an old gym foam mat for my stamp. You know the type – they often get used for kids playrooms too, albeit in brighter colours. I cut out several triangles just by eye and then glued to a larger rectangle of foam. I definitely wanted a slightly off, rustic look, rather than perfect triangles.
After they dried, I mixed some paint and tested the stamp out on some scrap fabric. The paint I used was Martha Stewart’s Multi-Surface Satin Craft Paint. I love this paint for all sorts of things and although it’s not dedicated fabric paint, you can use it for fabric as long as you heat treat it with an iron when it’s dry. I’ve washed the shorts once and it wasn’t disastrous, but I dare say the paint won’t last as long as some might.
Then it was just a case of choosing where to stamp. I had considered stamping the fabric first, but I was a little tight on yardage, so I wouldn’t have gotten the pattern out in a directional way. However, I also didn’t want to stamp after the garments were constructed. As well as being a little fiddly, I thought it might look a bit contrived. I wanted it to look like I stamped the fabric first. So I decided to stamp after the pieces were cut out, but before construction began. I do wish I’d started with the back first and then the front, as the back came out better, but I enjoyed the process of figuring out where I wanted to stamp. The paint needs 24hrs to dry, so I laid the pieces out on the floor before heat-treating them with an iron.
For the Willis shirt, I had initially planned to stamp smaller triangles in the same shade of mint as the shorts, but realised it would be too light to show up well on the white double gauze. So I decided to try and mix a colour more similar to the main colour of the Dorians – somewhere between khaki and olive, and used it sparingly on the collar and pockets with smaller, more even triangles.
I like it fine, but overall, I prefer the effect on the shorts, which I think looks more natural. Overall, I had a lot of fun doing it and will definitely try again – maybe with something a little more illustrative on a dress or something? Or some homeware might be fun. Let’s see!
I enjoyed experimenting a little with these patterns and I feel like I’ve definitely found a winner with the Dorian shorts. The June magazine has a pants/trousers version of these and I have already cut out a pair! I’m not sure the Willis is for me, but I would suggest checking out some of the other versions from Seamwork ambassadors and makers – there are some great versions, including one I love that’s been lengthened into a dress.