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Holly Jumpsuit Sewalong #1: Gathering your fabrics & potential pattern hacks

And so we meet again, Sewalongers! It's been a while since our last one, the Flora Sewalong, so you can bet that we're ready and raring to go - armed with even more everything this time and hoping to make this sewalong our best yet! A healthy dose of competition with your own self is a good thing, riiiight??

To make the Holly Jumpsuit, you will need the following basics:

  • The Holly Jumpsuit pattern
  • Up to 3 metres of your main fabric, although this may vary if you choose to mix and match the bodice and trousers. Please check the back of the Holly Jumpsuit folder, or her product page for more details. 
  • A invisible zipper - again, the length you'll need will depend on the variation you choose to make. 
  • Other various dressmaking supplies - pins, tape measure, tailor's chalk, fabric scissors, matching thread, an invisible zipper foot, a regular zipper foot, tracing paper, hand sewing needle, hook & eye etc.

What we're making

Variation 1 - Button-down playsuit with shorts - I mean, we just couldn't walk out of the fabric shop without some decent metreage of this tropical leaf-print cotton, which has a wonderfully soft, almost waffled, texture to boot. Add to that a splash of coral quilting cotton to make contrasting sleeve cuffs and little coral buttons, and you've got a playsuit that saw Holly herself right through festival season.

Variation 2 - Cowl neck jumpsuit with full length wide-legged trousers - For this baby we originally made Holly's official photoshoot sample from the most exquisite cornflower blue sandwashed silk, but unfortunately the colour and sheen showed up really badly in the step-by-step pics we took for this here sewalong. Soooo, instead we've found a perfectly drapey black viscose with a whimsical flamingo print. Oh well, I guess that means one of us will get to keep it #occupationalhazards.

Variation 3 - High waisted, wide-legged trousers - Opting for a smarter, best-dressed-at-the-board-meeting look for the high waisted trousers variation, we found this deliciously soft and cosy orange tweedy wool at none other than our Goldhawk Road go-to, Classic Textiles.

Let's talk about... Fabric

There are but sooooo many options when it comes to Holly. We have two very different bodice variations here, which call for very different fabric choices.

The button-down bodice of Variation 1 is very flexible. She'll work great with most wovens - especially things like quilting cotton and lawn, chambray, denim, poplin, linen and silk crêpe. Holly Variation 1 is perfect for a confident beginner's first foray into the world of sewing trousers, and opting for a nice, stable woven fabric will make the journey that much smoother.

The cowl neck bodice of Variation 2, on the other hand, is screaming out for some drape! Go for slinky wovens such as viscose rayon and a wide variety of silks. It goes without saying that slippery, drapey fabrics are much harder to work with, not to mention that the bodice front is cut on the bias, so Holly Variation 2 should provide the more intermediate sewist with a meatier challenge.

Let's talk about... Notions

As well as all the usual tools and supplies, you'll be needing an invisible zipper, the length of which will depend on the variation you're making - Variation 1 (or anything involving the button-down bodice) calls for a 16" zipper; Variation 2 (or anything involving the cowl bodice) calls for an 18" zipper; Variation 3 calls for an 8" zipper. Make sure your zipper matches your chosen fabric as closely as possible!

You'll also be needing an invisible zipper foot (below) and a regular zipper foot (below invisible zipper) for your sewing machine. If you don't already have one, an invisible zipper foot is just about the best investment and makes inserting those pesky (but glorious) invisible zips an absolute doddle. Honestly, you'll wonder how you ever managed without one! The regular zipper foot, as well as being used to sew regular zippers (funny, that!), is also indispensable when it comes to closing the open side seam after the invisible zipper insertion, as well as making and applying piping, rouleau straps, basically a ton of nerdy sewing stuff - so if you don't have one, get one! Sewing machine feet are such fun.

Matching thread. Sounds like an obvious thing to mention, but trust me, very often it's the most obvious things that get forgotten. When buying thread, bring a swatch of your fabric in order to get the best colour match (or clash!), and get more than you think you need. I always buy two big spools when out shopping for a new project - that way I know I won't be running out mid-make, and more often than not I'll have plenty leftover to add to my growing rainbow of thread! 

Another obvious thing to mention is needles for your sewing machine. To get the most out of your machine, you need to be using the right size needle for the type of fabric you're working with. Fine needles used on heavy fabrics will break very quickly, while sturdier needles will snag delicate silks as you sew. 

If you're making the button-down bodice variation, you'll probs be needing some buttons! We recommend using 8-10 little buttons, about 10-15mm in diameter. And to make the stitching of the old buttonholes less of a pain than it already is, you'll need a seam ripper and a buttonhole foot for your machine. See - told you sewing machine feet are the best!

And lastly, for the cowl bodice full length jumpsuit variation, we'll be including a waistline stay, for which we'll be needing about a metre of grosgrain or petersham ribbon (1/2"-1" wide). A waistline stay is simply a length of ribbon hand sewn into the waistline of a dress, or jumpsuit in this case, fastened at the side seam (or wherever the garment's opening is) with poppers/snaps. This takes any pressure off the zipper, and also helps to hold up the trousers, or a heavy skirt, preventing the bodice from being pulled down or the waistline being distorted by the extra weight.

Let's talk about... Pattern hacking potential!

As with all our patterns, we like to get nice and ahead of ourselves and start thinking about a design's hacking potential right away! With the Holly jumpsuit offering two entirely different bodice variations, as well as a multitude of possible trouser lengths as your starting point, the possibilities are truly endless. 

Holly dresses

Have you seen Sew Busy Lizzy's slinky Holly dress?? If jumpsuits aren't your thang then just think of all the skirts you could stick on either of the Holly bodices...

BHL Lovechildren

As our library of patterns grows, so do the mix & match possibilities! Most of our dress patterns have waistline seam, including the Holly Jumpsuit pattern, making it easy as pie to team the bodice of one pattern to the skirt/trousers of another. Top on our list of BHL lovechildren to conceive with Holly are the Flora tank bodice and the Anna bodice.

Styling the trousers

Guys, believe me when I say that the Holly trousers are just about the easiest thing to make on Earth. Even quicker and easier than any dress I've made (except for maybe a sack dress of course!) - if you've ever shied away from sewing trousers, let Holly be your revelation. I've already made a bunch - from boardroom-worthy tweeds to pompom-trimmed booty shorts, but what about the rest of the outfit??

Left to right:

  • When it comes to short shorts, I like to keep things loose and drapey on top. We love Tessuti's Camilla camisole or our very own Polly Top (free to download here!).
  • For a super sleek look, balance out the volume of Holly's wide legs with Heather-Lou's perfectly figure hugging Nettie bodysuit.
  • Maybe a little 1970s über-glam newsreader vibe, but I'm dying to make me a silk crêpe Archer shirt to wear tucked into a killer pair of floor-sweeping wool Holly trousers. Bordeaux suede platforms and Farah Fawcett blow-dry at the ready!

 Alrighty! I think that's most of the initial prep covered, we'll be back on Friday armed with tape measures and tracing paper so we can really get a shimmy on!

Comments on this post (5)

  • Sep 24, 2014

    Hi Lisa, not to worry! Next week will be FULL of pattern alteration tutorials!! Sounds to me like you’ll be needing to try out a Small Bust Adjustment, Flat Butt Adjustment and possibly even a Full Tummy Alteration. Or, if all of that sounds like too much of a headache, maybe try combining one of the Holly bodices with a full skirt (like a circle, gathered or pleated skirt) – and that way you’d probably only need to do T=the Small Bust Adjustment to the bodice!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Sep 24, 2014

    Hi Charlene, I’m not entirely sure which image/lovechild you mean… Are you on our Pattern Hacks page? Or our Pinterest Lovechildren board? If you could shoot me an email with the link to the post, I’d be happy to tell you exactly which patterns were used and how! I’m on elisalex(at)byhandlondon(dot)com. Thanks!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Sep 24, 2014

    Hi, excited about the sewalong. Under the heading BHL Love children heading, can you tell me which pattern was used for the bodice of the second picture. I clicked on the link for both the Flora and Anna and did not see that bodice. Just want to know which patterns to purchase. Thanks

    — charlene

  • Sep 24, 2014

    I died after seeing this post, then woke up and bought the holly jumpsuit and the charlotte skirt patterns. I am starting work next week and I need a couple of pencil skirts and tweed trousers, and you just sold me those two patterns with this post. The possibilities…..oh my gawd…..

    — Dibs

  • Sep 24, 2014

    I love all of the hacks etc. My question is this… how might I adapt the pattern to my apple shape. I have itty bitty breasts, no bum, but my problem is that the waist is in my stomach region. Thanks

    — lisa

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