Manhattan in Denim – Capital Chic Patterns

BOOM. New skirt. It’s the Manhattan by Capital Chic Patterns.

Manhattan - side feature panel

ah yes… I was ridiculously proud of the top-stitched panel, you may have seen it pop up on instagram. Note the odd top accessory: I wanted to tie my singlet in a knot but it wasn’t quite long enough – so I jammed a dress ring onto it. Worked a treat.

I know pattern testing process is an issue with many so first up… yes, it’s a new pattern and I received the pattern as part of the pattern testing process (hard to test without one). All opinions here are always entirely my own.

I didn’t blog it right away when the range came out as life was hectic. I blog my makes when I’m ready. Sometimes I’m absolutely busting for something to be released because I’m stupidly excited about it and I’ve been sitting on it for weeks (hello the upcoming By Hand London Holly pattern – I’ve made one and I’m going to make another – perhaps two more because they are ‘sitting in my head’ and need to be created). I do put a lot of (obsessive) thought into my makes. It involves lots of fabric patting, draping, pattern comparisons, photos of options and endless thinking. Today I was having coffee with my lovely sewing friend Pam and we were throwing around options for an upcoming make. I think you might be surprised by my creative process to get from concept to end result! I often drive myself nuts – but it’s my ‘mental yoga’ – and always I’m happier with the end result.

I’ve ‘virtually’ hung out with Sally of the amazing Charity Shop Chic blog long before she kicked off her pattern line – we have a mutual love of single malt whisky and have an obsession for charity shops (we have exchanged charity shop packages – I’ve just got to make up mine!). So when she asked me to check out her new pattern line as she thought it would be my style, I said yes.

This is the Manhattan Skirt from Capital Chic… it’s got two variations. One with this uneven & high-low hem – ie this one. The other more ‘boardroom’ look, longer with a straight hem.

It’s taken me ages to blog as my first version was a complete experiment in dodgy stash fabric – primarily just for pattern testing purposes (do the notches match, what’s the fit like, do the instructions work). Capital Chic Patterns testing popped up during the month of May which was a log jam of work, family and community stuff. Then of course I had an idea for my ‘proper’ Version 2… and there was such a big bang in the blogsphere with her new range I figured the world could wait for mine.

Now let’s talk about Capital Chic Patterns

Manhattan Skirt by Capital Chic Patterns

I’m quite sure the men fishing on the wharf had a laugh as we photographed three outfits… there was a lot of wardrobe, accessories and shoe changing going on in my nearby car!


I like the pattern, I was immediately drawn to it. I think it’s got loads of potential. It’s visually interesting (both versions, the side panel whether straight or jagged is a nice touch), completely lined – and easy to make up. You could use the same or contrast fabric for the side panel… or embellish a fabric, set a pattern on point, use a different textured fabric – or use the same textured fabric but set at an angle so the light hits it at a different angle which can be a subtle but interesting design feature. Ahhhhh, so many ideas!

For this version of the skirt I opted to use a chalk pencil and ruler to draw a grid onto the fabric. I top stitched the panel and then sewed it into the skirt.

The skirt has no darts…. no darts at all. It sits on your natural waist and has no waistband. It appeals to me as it is different to other skirt pattern options on the market. I made a size 12.

Capital Chic is much more ‘high street’ – which does appeal to me – as I’m not really a retro chick… I don’t have the build, hair or vibe to carry it off. Probably explains why By Hand London patterns appeal to me as well. The patterns are also generally aimed at intermediate and advanced sewing market.

The skirt is completely lined (I know – pretty flash for a denim skirt – although would make it very wearable with leggings in winter). I think I over-compensated for the ‘turn of fabric’ and this created a tension on the lower hem point – making the panel want to curl under when I wore it – SewIdiotLizzy. I has a bout of SewSwearyLizzyitis, calmed down and thought hard about it. The solution was to sew down the feature panel seams (through both the shell and lining, in the seam itself), thus anchoring the lining and shell together – killing the tension between the waistline and hemline. If you find this happens – this fix worked for me.

Manhatten 8

I did find the inner ‘corner/point’ where the two jagged panels meet, really fiddly to get neat, I’ve found that with all points in all types of sewing I’ve done – the fabric choice didn’t help either. Let’s just say my iron got a workout and all’s well that ends well.

I used an invisible zip instead of the exposed zipper which is suggested for this skirt version. I did take a wedge out of the centre back, which is a common adjustment for me, as well as a slightly wider seam allowance down the centre back seam.

I’d like to try this in a different fabric… because I’m just curious about the pattern and how else I could play with it. This version uses between 70cm or 1m of fabric (depending on fabric width) and the other version uses between 70cm or 1.4m – this is a great stash buster or for those fabulous pieces you find in high-end fabric store remanent bins.


I don’t know what I was thinking giving this fabric a second chance… I’m often guilty of that with people. I complained about it with the Jamie Jeans – but I still opted to use the final piece to make up this skirt… mainly because inspiration hit, I had the topstitching thread so away I went.

Inspiration can be beguiling and terrible mistress. Too often I let her lead me into all sorts of wicked but very interesting places!

This fabric simply doesn’t soften with washing. Maybe I should let the dog sleep on it for a month or so (I’m joking). Personally I would not use this denim as a garment fabric again. I simply don’t like how it moves with the body – or rather it doesn’t. I dislike how the light hits it as it creases.

see - this skirt fits really well but the stupid fabric just does horrid stuff when you move. It's not 'very agreeable' regardless of how cool it looks.

see – this skirt fits really well but the stupid fabric just does horrid stuff when you move and how it sits over my ‘junk trunk’ and hips. The fabric is not ‘very agreeable’ regardless of how cool it looks.

You live and learn – sometimes you hit the sweet spot and that when the magic happens.


The gorgeous Sally from Capital Chic Patterns!

The gorgeous Sally from Capital Chic Patterns!

I’ve always been fascinated by Sally’s blog Charity Shop Chic. She manages to transform the most hideous charity shop finds into gorgeous and wearable clothing.  She re-engineers and re-imagines clothes. I love that talent. It’s quite compelling.

Now she’s got her very own pattern line… so who is Sally?

Who taught you to sew and how old were you?
My mum taught me how to use a sewing machine as a little girl, but it wasn’t until I went to university and wanted to make my own dresses (that were long enough for my rather tall frame) that I really took it up again as a serious hobby. After university I sewed on-and-off, but became increasingly interested in fashion and building my own unique wardrobe. That’s when I hit upon the idea of combining my love of unusual fabrics, charity shopping and sewing in the form of a blog.

Many people learn to sew, for a few of us it becomes far more than a life skill, it becomes an obsession – what got you hooked?
I have to say it was when I started the blog that I really became obsessed. The online sewing and refashioning communities are so supportive and once you start to get a following, it’s really addictive to keep making new things to show off!

How often do you sew?
As often as I can! It can be as much as three evenings a week and at weekends too. I also reserve a lot of time for charity shopping, of course! Moving forward, I’m anticipating having to spend a lot more time on drafting and product testing for the new business, but am hoping to set aside time for plenty of refashioning fun too.

Given your fame as a charity shop chick, I’ve always wondered what sort of sewing machine do you use?
I have one of the cheapest machines Argos sells – Brother XL-2620. It’s just a cheap plastic machine but I am very attached to it, it’s been an absolute workhorse over the years. I also have a Brother 3034D overlocker which I am very pleased with.

Most people have a favourite type of garment that they find irresistible to sew, whether it’s dresses, blouses, pants, skirts, jackets – what’s your sewing weakness?
Like most people, I think it’s dresses. I love to look put-together and a good dress is the basis for a whole outfit – no wondering about matching separates. My wardrobe contains a lot of RTW jackets and some trousers I have worn to death too, but I haven’t as much enthusiasm for taking on this type of sewing project, for some reason…

Your blog has always fascinated me – your ability to turn shocking charity shop garments into masterpieces is really second to none – what drives this passion? Is it the sheer challenge, life experiences, economics, ethics?
You might be surprised to learn that it’s mostly for fun! Just something I love doing, for the pleasure of being creative. There’s an aspect of “just for the sheer challenge of it”, as well… I love to challenge myself and improve my sewing and drafting in the process. Things like recycling, being thrifty and supporting charities also matter to me, but these factors are a little more in the background. My primary motive is to make great-fitting, interesting clothes that no-one else has, so I can feel great and have fun wearing them.

Pattern drafting makes my brain ache, I’ve always got a billion ideas buzzing about in my head and I’m been rather too terrified to teach myself and make them a reality. I can’t even imagine drafting multiple sizes LOL. Have you been formally trained in pattern drafting and design?
I’ve taught myself how to draft and grade and spent a lot of time practicing over the last few years. Let’s just say I have a LOT of books on the subject! My background is actually engineering, so the maths side of pattern making really appealed to me and I have loved learning all about it. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in sewing to study pattern design – once you understand the basics, it opens up so many possibilities…

With so many bloggers out there releasing patterns, how do you see Capital Chic Patterns fitting into the marketplace – what’s your point of difference?
Well, it seems at the moment like there are a lot more indie pattern companies making vintage style and vintage-inspired patterns than those designing contemporary looks that play to today’s fashion trends. I’m aiming to balance that out a little. My style is also on the ‘smart’ side, which is a little unusual – the patterns are intended for office and cocktail wear, but the collection is versatile enough to take you from a coffee date to a summer wedding or the office Christmas party. Also, the patterns are aimed at intermediate to advanced sewers, contrasting with the large variety of beginner-friendly patterns out there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that there is a lot of choice out there for beginners. But what happens when you want to progress and start working on your skills as a sewist? If you continue making beginner-rated patterns, you’ll never improve. Personally I always aspire to sew better and take on more and more challenging projects, and I hope others feel the same way I do!


Yes it’s SewBusy Giveaway Central at the moment…

Pop over to the Capital Chic website, check out the new pattern range… and when you decide what you like best… come back here… fill in this online form (Sorry entries have now closed)… I’ve decided to let you nominate your favourites and if you win… you can decide which one you would like to win… that always takes me AGES! So you have a grace period 🙂

Giveaway closes on Friday 15 August 2014 and winner will be chosen by random number generator and notified via email.

Not sewing but…. BOOTS…

I have a massive weakness for boots. I just love, love, love them. It’s one of the best things about winter (and the awesome winter coats, scarves and other fun accessories). 

Duo Avani Boots

Duo Avani Boots – this is love… snug fit, stacked block heels, soft leather… it’s ridiculous how much I like these.

… I’m just showing off my new boots… my perfect, perfect boots… shipped from Duo in the UK, made in Portugal, these exquisite creatures (called Avani) come not just in shoe size but calf width too. Worth every penny, shipping is free to Australia… and if you are a non-VAT country it also comes off during the check-out process.

Yes, a complete indulgence (hey my oven died and for some reason the best cure I could think of was these boots – note: the oven is still broken). They are a perfect fit and we all know how impossible it can be to get long boots to fit our various shaped pins. These are my answer (and yes I paid for these – I’m just sharing because I love them).

Pattern: Manhattan Skirt, Capital Chic Patterns
Fabric: Sparkly denim from Spotlight (yukko)
Boots: Avani, Duo Boots
Top & accessories: courtesy of the Sew Busy Lizzy wardrobe department.

Don’t forget the giveaway!

Also see: Sew Amy Sew – she’s made this skirt and the White Russian top. She’s also hosting a Repurpose, Reuse, Refashion challenge this month.


32 thoughts on “Manhattan in Denim – Capital Chic Patterns

  1. This skirt is fabulous!! I absolutely love what you did with the side panel – I actually thought it was a completely different fabric at first! I’d been eyeing this skirt pattern since Sally’s new line came out, and your skirt has made me want this pattern even more. 🙂 I just entered the giveaway – fingers crossed!

    Glad to hear your busy life seems to be calming down a bit. Hang in there. 🙂

  2. Love it! I am pretty excited about this new pattern line, retro doesn’t really work on me either. With my smallish stature and undying love for florals that look feels way too precious! I love your skirt, and your boots – you look like you can go conquer anything!

  3. I love it! I am a high street style girl as well. A shift is about as retro as I can fit into my personal style. I really like the interesting hem and contrasting panels on your skirt but being curvy, the lack of darts would be a problem for me. I am drawn to the Martini dress.

  4. Skirt! Boots! I love both (although I understand that weird fabric doing weird things thing). I love the top stitched panel, it really highlights that asymetric hem. I’ve always had a retro appreciation but I can only incorporate elements (not brave enough, and time is also an issue!). However, high end fashion with an edge inspired I can appreciate and it’s a style you embody to me! This skirt is a gorgeous example.
    And I love the boots, they’re perfection.

  5. Love the shape of this skirt Lizzie. Looks terrific on you, as well. Yes, I see what you mean about the fabric not ‘falling’. I wonder if it’s because it is too stiff? Maybe if you steamed and washed and dryer dried it, the fabric would soften and drape around your ‘parts’ better?

  6. That skirt is killer on you – such a shame you don’t like the fabric! Damn you, bad fabric. The boots are gorgeous – you are right they can be such a hard thing to fit! I have short legs (like you!) but also calved proportionate to my body, and because I’m short that round part sits down too low for most boots! Elastic gussets are my friend, let me tell you! 😉

  7. Love the skirt, very stylish and the boots. The fabric looks fine but I hear you, once you’ve used the good stuff its all you want to use in precious sewing time.

  8. Duo are just the best thing out there…transformed my life, transformed my clothing as I could finally wear shortish skirts in the winter (short for me is anything knee length and above !)

  9. This skirt definitely has great lines. When I first saw it I thought you had used men’s suit fabric!! Which could possibly work with this skirt… Anyway, love it… another great make. And those are FAB boots!

  10. This skirt is so you! It’s really, really cool on you! You can leave me out of the giveaway- I’m drowning in patterns- but I just wanted to say how much I like this on you!

  11. You have made this skirt look super trendy (in a good way) I love it, especially the quilting you have done. These patterns are great and really fill a niche in the market that was lacking, I am looking forward to seeing what else Sally comes up with, she is super talented.
    Duo boots are the best aren’t they? I love mine, had them two years and they are still comfortable and have loads more wear in them. I have the opposite problem to you, I have skater’s calves 🙂

  12. Beautiful make and beautiful boots!!! I really do love that fabric, it is really cool and I can understand how you would want to use it again, too bad it doesn’t soften up – I got a denim there too for my jeans and they’re still stiff as a BOARD! Love the top stitching too – uber creativeness 🙂

  13. I know you once said that you were a recovering quilter, but I think you’ve lapsed. And marvellously! That is truly a creation. It’s not my style at all but that doesn’t mean I can’t admire it on someone who wears it as well as you do. Fantastic. And the boots? Mm, gorgeous, but you’ll regret those heels in years to come! 😉

  14. Love the skirt, and the boots are divine. I do love a good pair of black knee high boots….
    Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only person who obsesses about my makes – I think I drive my sister a bit nuts sometimes!

  15. I love your skirt, and am sorry that the fabric isn’t quite right, because it looks fabulous. When I first looked at the photos, I thought it was made of wool, probably because of the speckles. I supposed that you had found two companion pieces of wool, one with the grid and one without. I was delighted when you said you drew and topstitched a grid on one sectioin, because that means I can make some companion fabric for myself. It is an idea so simple, that I wonder why no one has thought of it before; and so clever that I intend to try it out as soon as possible. I love your skirt, and hope you can enjoy wearing it, even with the lack of give to the fabric, because it looks great on you.

  16. Pingback: Belated Capital Chic Patterns Winner & blogging over the pond… | Sew Busy Lizzy

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