Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Thelma Boiler Suit

I have mentioned it before, and I'll say it again, it seems that my personal style has headed firmly into the realm of 'Art teacher'. This boiler suit feels like some kind of logical conclusion to this trend! When I went to university (in 1999!) my department was in the same building as most of the other Art & Design courses. A lot of the Fine Art students would hang out at the front of the building having a fag (did I mention this was the 90s?!) and a coffee from the nasty coffee machine whilst wearing paint-splattered coveralls, with the sleeves tied round their waists if it was warm. Coming from my department (Fashion) where everyone was constantly scrutinising what what everyone else was wearing, these baggy-boiler-suit-and-paint-clad Fine Art students seemed so refreshingly unconcerned with their own appearance, and therefore really sexy! I feel I have digressed.... 

Anyway, I probably look like the tutor at an evening class for pottery, and I'm here for it.   


I'd long been drawn to Ready to Sew's Jean-Paul coverall pattern, for living out my coverall/boiler suit fantasies. But then Merchant & Mills released the Thelma boiler suit pattern with all manner of bells and whistles (including concealed front button fastening) in paper form rather than PDF only, and I was fully sold. I bought it but then I got scared and the pattern sat on my shelf for a lonngggg time. Even once I'd bought the fabric for it, I waited months for the right time to start this project. It just seemed like such an undertaking. For one thing, if memory serves, there are about 24 separate pattern pieces! Eek. This was going to be a commitment. 

Cutting out the paper pattern pieces alone took a whole evening, and I poured over the finished garment measurements on the pattern trying to decide which size to cut out. Ultimately, I made the decision to pick one size smaller (10) than the body measurements on their website's sizing chart would have had me make (12). Because it had so many pieces and required a lot of fabric, I knew I wasn't going to make a toile(/muslin) for this project so sizing down on spec felt risky, but with the 1.5 cm seam allowance, I felt confident that I could claw back some width should a mid-way fitting deem it necessary. The annoying thing is that I could easily saved myself the stress because just before I started this project, I was in the M&M store in Rye and I could have just tried on the size 10 Thelma sample that they had in the shop! But I was feeling too cold to get undressed, and a bit tight on time, so I didn't. 

What to say about the making of this pattern? Unsurprisingly, there are A LOT of steps in the construction process, and it very much earns its description as an experienced-level pattern. The different pattern pieces for the left and right fronts resulted in a lot of head scratching, for example. The only things I changed about the pattern or construction, however, were to raise the position of the breast pocket by about 5 cm, and leave off the flaps from the rear pockets. Even if I'd felt the need or desire to to go off-piste with this project (as I so often do), I think I would have felt too far out on a limb to try!

Fabric and buttons:

For the main fabric for this boiler suit, perhaps unimaginatively, I bought the exact fabric from Merchant & Mills that they'd used for one of the pattern samples in their photographs. It's a rich, brick red, sanded twill: thick but soft, with a dense twill weave. I'm such a fan of rusty colours at the moment, plus I wanted to avoid navy or black that I otherwise would probably have gravitated towards, as I feared the result of those would look too much like I was about to fix your car. 

Both my sewing machine and overlocker HATED this fabric. There were many sections, particularly around the side seams at the front hip pockets, and around the concealed fastenings and facings, where you are sewing through many layers of dense, thick fabric plus interfacing, and my machines were not into it one little bit. But we made it through, just about, although I suspect it may have contributed to the recent demise of my elderly overlocker. 

For the back neck facing, I chose a scrap of black and white gingham from my stash. I didn't have enough for the pocket bags as well, so I just used some navy poly/taffeta from my stash for those. And for those to whom such things are important, these pockets are deep. Like, man-pocket-dimensions deep. 

The right buttons for this project alluded me for a long time. The pattern called for 16 of the blighters, and I found a couple of styles in another shop that I liked, but there wasn't enough in stock. In the end I found the perfect buttons for this boiler suit when I wasn't even looking for them. My friend Paula and I were in a lovely yarn shop in Brighton called Yak (we've both recently been dipping our toes into knitting, but that's a whole other blog post) and I found these gorgeous black and speckled-effect ones at the counter. At £1 a pop, it seemed like an extravagance when most of the buttons are concealed anyhow and I'd already spent way more than I usually do on the main fabric, but the speckled effect on these buttons is the exact same shade of rust/brick red and I knew I had to have them. I think they are actually made of clay, because I broke one almost immediately and had to reconfigure the button situation on the cuffs as a result so that I'd still have enough, but after four wears of the boiler suit at time of writing, including multiple trips to the loo, no more have broken at thus far. 


This project was truly major for me. I'd say that it was at least as much work as a coat project: and although I enjoyed the sewing, I frequently wondered if I would ever come to the end and actually get to wear the thing! I also spent most of the project terrified that it wouldn't fit very well. I have a naturally high natural waistline, but I also usually have to scoop out the crotch (!) of my trouser projects, so I wagered that those adjustments would cancel each other out in this garment, and decided to leave the pattern be. I (figuratively) held my breath til the end to see if everything felt and looked ok. 

Aside from time and effort, as I mentioned above, I also invested a lot more financially than I usually do in my sewing projects. It's so rare that I buy a paper sewing pattern as PDFs are cheaper, but there was no way I was taping together so many pages for this project. Also, if I do buy new fabric, I almost always get it from Fabric Godmother where I'm lucky enough to get a staff discount. So buying 3.3m of full-priced fabric from M&M definitely made me feel a little faint and promise to myself that I'd do a good job with it! Oh, and those buttons that cost me more than I usually spend in total on my sewing projects...

So the pressure on the resultant garment was high, but I'm so relieved to announce that I love it and it feels like all the elements of the garment have ended up where they should on my body. Because I so often wear knit tops, the thick twill does feel a bit heavy and inflexible on my upper body, but I expect that I'll get used to it over time, and also that the fabric will soften a bit with wear and laundering. The two other minor issues I have are A), there's some weird excess fabric issue that sometimes appears either side of the concealed fastening/fly front area, you can see it most noticeably in the pic above. I'm not entirely sure what causes it, but I've noticed it in some photos on their website plus other peoples' Thelmas on IG, so it seems an issue with the pattern rather than solely with mine/my body. And B), that I must not wait til I'm desperate to go to the loo!!! I probably made the second issue worse by sizing down, but I'm so glad I did as I think the 12 would have swamped me (or I'd be constantly asked by people if I could unblock their drains). This boiler suit and I are in it for the long haul. I hope it will have a very long life and see a squillion wears. 

But the best thing of all? I get to twin with my little girl!!!!! I snapped up this amazing child's red Dickies boiler suit for £1 (they were asking 50p) at her school's nearly-new clothes sale and it's sooooo good. She is always creating things from cardboard boxes and trying to invent excessively-ambitious contraptions, so this is EXACTLY the garment she should be wearing at all times!

Friday, 6 March 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Walk the Plank PJ Bottoms

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes a women's one. I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those who plan to get their sew on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

Unlike last month's instalment of Free Pattern Friday, I am absolutely sure that this one is actually available! And if you've got any kids in your life that you like to sew for, you are going to need to know about this one. Today I'm talking about the Patterns for Pirates Walk the Plank PJ bottoms pattern. And holy shizzle it's a good 'un. This pattern spans a whopping size range of 3 months to 14 years, at which point you could simply download the equally free adults' version (sizing XS to Plus 3X). So basically, when teamed with a ratty old T-shirt, your entire family is set for pyjamas forever and ever. And because both the adults' and kids' pattern include short shorts, knee length and full length options, you're kind of sorted no matter what climate or season you're sewing for. So first up, let's give Pattern for Pirates an enormous great thank you for their generosity and sharing both these patterns for free (which are easily downloadable from their site through their checkout, no sign ups to anything required). 

(image source: Patterns for Pirates)

Pattern type:

These loose and comfy PJ bottoms are described as a super easy, pull-on style with elasticated waist and no side seams. So this is basically a one-piece pattern! With three length options, they've got all your seasonal needs and style preferences covered.  

Sizing info: 

As I blurted out in my opening paragraph, this pattern is graded between 3 months and 14 years, which is ridiculously generous, IMO. My kids are currently about 6.5 and 3.5 years old, so I made the sizes 7 and 4 for growing room and I fully expect they'll get two years worth of wear from these. 

Fabric info:

I know there's been a real trend in recent years for knit pyjamas with tighter, slim-fit, ankle-cuffed bottoms, but I would argue that there's very much still a place for this looser, woven style. For one, you've got heaps more options in terms of fabric. The Walk the Plank pattern simply specifies woven cotton (quilting or flannel), but I think this pattern could be made in a wider variety than that. I agree that sticking to cotton is arguably your best bet, however you could go with any weight of brushed cotton, plus lawn, poplin (and other shirtings), double gauze, chambray, and even go as light as voile if your climate suites it. 

The pink pair Dolores is wearing in these pics were actually made from a very old pair of brushed cotton PJs that used to be mine. I'd bought them from *cough* Primark about 15 years ago and worn them frequently since then, until the fabric got so thread bare in places that a rip appeared in the bum cheek area. I still wear the matching PJ top, FYI. I was able to incorporate the original hem and piping around the ankle, which is not a feature included in the pattern but could easily be added.

The shorter stars pairs started life as another Primark garment, in fact. My charity-shop-aholic friend Ilana, picked up this 50s style, light-weight, cotton sundress for me, but it isn't really my style these days. I unpicked the skirt and used as much of it as I could, making both pairs as long as the fabric allowed with their respective sizes. When Dolores grows out of hers I'll keep them for Frankie for when he's bigger. 


This is a simple sewing pattern that would be suitable for beginners, or a pleasingly quick and useful make for more experienced sewers. The instructions are clear with photos for each step. The only parts of this pattern that I would change are based mainly on personal preference rather than any faults or flaws. For example, in the instructions for this pattern the waist elastic is attached by zigzagging or overlocking it to the raw edge around the waist, then turning the elastic under and zig-zag stitching through all the layers to secure it in position. 

My preference is to create a channel to feed the elastic through, with the elastic overlapped at the ends, which is what I did instead. I like to do this for a number of reasons, but mainly because I can let the elastic out a bit at a later date when my kids' waist measurements increase. Oh, and there isn't a layer function on the PDF, so you have to print out all the sizes rather than selecting a single one. But that really is a tiny nit pick. 

The finished jammies are awesome! It's been too chilly for the kids to wear the star ones yet, but my daughter loves the pink ones and has worn them heaps. I was a little worried about the volume of fabric causing her to trip up as she rushes about, but I can report no accidents as of yet!

Customisation ideas:
  • As I did with the stars pairs, disregard the specified length of short-shorts, knee or full lengths, and try board-shorts or capri lengths too (or just make them as long as your fabric will allow!). 
  • Applique contrast knee patches.
  • Use jersey fabric instead of woven to push the comfy factor off the chart!
  • Spilt the pattern piece to include a side seam and add in-seam pockets, or to fit the pattern pieces on an awkward shaped piece of fabric. 
  • Add patch pockets to the front and/or back. 
  • I'm sure you don't need me to suggest this, but download the adults' pattern too and make matching PJs for everyone in your family. 

Would I make this again?

Absolutely. I'm sure I'll reach for this pattern many times in the future, and paired with the free Ester & Ester knit top pattern, you've got a great sleep set in the making. 

Friday, 21 February 2020

Patchwork Scrap-buster Scout Tee

Right, I hope you're sitting comfortably because I've got a lot to say about this project. First up, I feel I need to get this out of the way: I'm not sure that I like this top, or if I'll get much wear from it. But, that atypically doesn't bother me about this project. I'm trying to be as sustainable in my sewing as possible, so usually making a well-made, well-fitting garment that will have a long life and sees lots of use is the ultimate goal. However, this top is the product of two different trains of thought, and going on those little 'journeys' were more important and useful to me than if I'll wear this particular garment very much. 

On to these two trains of thought. The first one was to scratch an itch that I've had to try piecing together scraps and leftovers of fabric and use them to make a wearable garment, without (fingers crossed) it looking like a quilt. I've been collecting inspiration on this Pinterest board, and paying particular attention to Lauren from Elbe Textile's amazing pieced-together creations on her IG account (@elbe_textiles). When I found that Lauren had written an excellent blog post about how she approaches patchwork clothing projects, I got the push I needed to finally give it a go. 

I feel really strongly that everyone who is lucky enough to be living comfortably in a developed nation should try to reduce the amount of textile waste we are each responsible for. And that includes us sewers/sewists who make some, or all, of our own clothes. According to Patrick Grant on the GBSB, up to a third of the fabric we buy for each sewing project gets wasted. This is, of course, a higher percentage per garment than a mass produced item, which, in terms of textile waste, kind of takes the sheen off my smugness about shunning fast fashion! Like a lot of sewers who are interested in slow-sewing, my goal is to buy fewer pieces of fabric, but of a higher quality. And finding ways to utilise more than two-thirds of those lengths of fabric is of growing importance. 

But I don't want to be wasting my sewing time, or those pieces of leftover fabric, making random accessories or homeware items: sewing for the sake of it just to feel that I used up as much of my fabric as I could. My main passion is garment sewing, and I've used scraps and leftovers a lot for making kids' clothes previously. However, not all my scraps lend themselves to children's wear, nor do my kids need lots of scrap-busting new clothes all the time. So the time has come for me to explore combining scraps and leftovers within adult garment projects. 

The second train of thought that this project helped me work through, was a sense of low-level frustration caused by the feeling that that my sewing is not actually very creative. Most of my sewing projects follow this formula: match a piece of fabric with a sewing pattern that someone else has designed, then make a couple of tweaks to improve the fit, and rely on the instructions, plus my sewing-muscle memory, to achieve a nice finish. Then I parade the finished garment about IRL, and share it on my blog and Instagram feed, and usually enjoy receiving a few nice comments about it (because, like most people, I'm an approval junky). Yet I've been feeling that my involvement in the success of the garment is somewhat limited, and seeing as sewing is my main form of expression, that's pretty depressing. So this project was also about being more deeply involved in the look of my finished garment; by semi-creating the fabric that I cut the pattern pieces from, I was ensuring that I got a garment that was entirely unique.  

So for those who may be interested, here's how I approached this project on a practical level. First, I took out all my scraps and leftovers, and put them in groups according to fabric type. The result of that produced two decent piles: one of leftover viscose fabrics, and another of cotton lawn type leftovers. I was more keen to use the viscose pieces, as generally they are less useful for pocket bags, facings, hankies and such. I found that four  of the pieces combined made a nice teal/rust, shades-of-autumn-y colour story. Next, I took Lauren's advise and cut them into random squares and rectangles using a set square and rotary cutter, being as mindful as possible of the grainlines. 

I picked the Scout tee pattern by Grainline Studio to use because, having made several before, I know that the fit is lovely and pairs well with other pieces in my wardrobe (I wear this one all the time in the summer). Plus, it'd provide a good, plain canvas for some (potentially-bonkers) patchwork fabric. I played around with positioning the rectangles together to make a big enough shapes to fit the front and back pattern pieces on. It look a long time, mainly because I was working with a very limited amount of fabric, and it involved quite a bit of recutting and rejigging. I stitched the shapes together using a 1cm seam allowance. but decided to use my pinking sheers rather than overlocker to finish the raw edges to A) save time, and B) reduce the bulk created by the seams. Squeezing the sleeve shapes out of the last of the fabric scraps was a real challenge. 

I wish I'd taken a photograph, but at the end of this project, I was virtually left with dust! That was intensely pleasing, seeing as one of the motivators for this project was to use up dormant, seemingly-unusable pieces of fabric. In the same vein, I kind of view this garment as a 'free project', because I associate the cost of these fabrics with the original garment projects. In a sense, I've created value from a pile of weird-shaped scraps that otherwise no longer held value. This project was also the epitome of slow-sewing, because a 'regular' Scout tee project from virgin fabric would usually take me an evening to make, whereas this took the best part of a week's worth of pockets of sewing time. 

As I say, I don't know if I'll wear this top very much, although I definitely plan to give a good run when the weather warms up in the hope that I fall in love with it. One of the reasons that I do want to wear it a lot, is that I hope it sparks thoughts, and even conversations, about waste and repurposing within sewing, and perhaps more broadly. I want it, in some small way, to contribute to a sea-change in how we view and behave towards the materials we consume. At the very least, I hope that a few of the people who come to my sewing classes, and anyone else who sews and happens to see me IRL, get inspired to hold on to their leftovers (if they have the space), and get creative with how they use them in the future. 

Have you tried to make patchwork clothing? Have you seen anyone IRL or on the internet who has done so particularly successfully, in your opinion? Please tell all! 

Friday, 14 February 2020

Leopard Print Cardi: So Very Neutral

Here is the result of a recent experiment. I've been testing the limits of the popular theory that leopard print in a neutral. What could blend in to a wardrobe more easily than a simple, leopard print cardigan? See? I bet you hardly even noticed it in these photos!


So I've been regularly working part-time at Fabric Godmother for about a year and a half now (before that I would occasionally help out at their open days, plus I taught some classes there when they were running those). During the first year of the regular gig, being in close proximity to all the lovely fabric (plus access to a generous staff discount) meant that I bought more pieces of fabric that I'm entirely comfortable admitting to. Not a wild amount, but neither did I wait until I used each piece before I bought another. But then I got ahold of myself and put the breaks on. At the end of that first year, I vowed only to buy something if it is truly special, and when this leopard print ponte di Roma came along, I knew at a glance that it definitely fell into that category. 

This fabric is produced by German fabric company Albstoffe, who have a GOTS certification, meaning that their cotton fibres are grown organically and the fabric production passes a series of sustainable, ethical and fair trade requirements. It is also A-MAZING quality and (for some, including me) eye-wateringly expensive without the aforementioned staff discount.

So having bagged myself 1.5m of this special fabric, I really wanted to do it justice. How to turn it into a garment that would show off its attributes well, and also see a lot of use? One part of me envisioned some sort of awesome sweatshirt style top, with or without a ruffle thrown in to the plans. But ultimately, knowing how I like to dress, I decided a cardigan would get way more use. 


So having landed on a cardigan as my chosen garment style, I mulled over the question of what attributes the cardigan should have. I wanted something fairly loose that would fit over a variety of blouses, tops and dresses. There's a lot I love about Wendy Ward's Kinder cardigan pattern, likewise with the Ready to Sew Jamie cardigan pattern. But there are also a couple of things that I don't love about both. So I set about drafting my own cardigan pattern, that took inspiration from both, but ultimately had its own proportions and volume. Kind of like the Kinder and Jamie had a baby, if you will. 

Having finished the drafting process, I made a (hopefully) wearable toile in some ponte from my stash, so I could test out my design before cutting into the precious. I was so happy with the outcome that I decided zero tweaks to the pattern needed to be made. I'm going to send the wearable toile to a friend who loves a good cardi almost as much as I do!


I'm soooo glad that I took the time to allow plans for this fabric to fully formulate. I love the final shape and style of this cardigan; it's exactly the type of garment I want to wear right now. I think it shows the crazy leopard print design off well; I deliberately chose to avoid patch pockets so as not to disrupt it too much. And the fabric feels sooooo nice to wear. My only hurdle now is to work out how to incorporate it into some outfits that don't always involve pairing it with a black top....

Friday, 7 February 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Women's Carine Tee

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes a women's one. I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those who plan to get their sew on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

Right, at the top of this post I should say that I've sort of messed it up this month. When I was deciding which pattern to write about, I figured it was high time I shared an adult's garment, as I suspect they are the ones that more of my readers are interested in. So I planned to review a free pattern that I used last year to make to my lovely friend Harriet a garment. Because she lives in Spain and I'm not sure of her current measurements, I tried the Carine tee pattern by Elbe Textiles, my thinking being that the loose-ish style made from knit fabric was likely to create a garment with fewer potential fit issues.

EXCEPT, now that I'm trying to write about this pattern, I discover that it is no longer available (*face palm!*). I messaged the designer to check that this was the case, and she confirmed that yes it was no longer downloadable as that pattern didn't reflect the unisex/menswear style she wanted to take her brand in. Fair enough. I discovered all this very recently, so didn't have time to make and photograph a different free pattern for this month. So I'm going to share pics of it anyway, but not go into all the usual details I put into a review. Therefore, I'm sorry if you like this T-shirt but didn't download the pattern when it was available! However, you could get a similar look by taking a basic T-shirt pattern with close fitting shoulders and sleeves then straightening and slightly flaring the side seams, and then drawing in a curved hem (the below flatlay pic gives you a clearer idea of the pattern's attributes). 

I was given this fun zigzag print jersey from my lovely friend Claire (@clairesews) a year or two ago. I'm assuming it is 100% cotton, and has reasonable stretch and recovery, but not enough for a more fitted garment style, so I thought it would work well for a garment such as this that it quite a boxy shape. I had enough leftover to squeeze out a pair of sleep shorts for Dolores (see below), which have been worn a lot. 

See you next month for another free pattern review that actually is available, and hopefully before then with more tales of my sewing shenanigans. 

Monday, 3 February 2020

Buffalo Check Coat: The Last Coat I'll Ever Make?

Well, let's be honest, it's probably not the last coat I will ever make, but right now that's how I feel. As I was starting this project, Pat (Mr SoZo) questioned, 'Didn't you say you were never going to make another coat again?', and he was right because I said exactly that during the construction of each of the five-ish fully lined coats and jackets I'd made before this one. Dreaming and planning them is fun, but I find the actually making process such a slog. However, I am relieved to be able to say that I LOVE this finished garment! Let me tell you about this coat and shower your screen with many photos of it....


This project was one of my #makenine2019 sewing plans, having had this lovely, soft, buffalo check coat fabric hanging out in my stash for far too long. I started this coat project towards the end of last year, but I knew it was going to be a beast of a project, so I allowed myself to take my time. It probably took close to six weeks in total. 

The fabric was originally from Fabric Godmother, bought about three years ago. It's long since out of stock, so I can't check, but I'm pretty sure it's polyester or some such synthetic fibre. I try to avoid synthetic fibres where possible these days, but because I already had it, plus a coat is less likely to get washed and therefore less likely to release micro plastics into the water system, I went ahead. This fabric is super soft, slightly fuzzy, and the perfect, bold, buffalo check. 

As you can imagine, cutting out the pieces for this project took an age. Not least because I only had about 2m of it, originally intending it for a jacket. But I was determined to make something that covered my bum because I just want to feel warm at this point. I googled 'Buffalo check coat' for advise on check placement, and found the awesome Comme des Garcons coat that is pictured below. Pattern matching at the side seams and top seams on the sleeves was pretty tricky because the fabric's fuzziness made the edges of the checks unclear, however I think the final look is pretty much spot on. I managed to get the hem and sleeve hems to finish on a check too. Oh, and there was one really hairy moment when I realised that I was missing one of my back sleeve pieces! I still don't know if I lost it, or failed to cut it out in the first place (I was cutting this out on the flat, not the fold because of the check and tight lay plan), but I managed to *just* squeeze another from the remainder of my fabric. Phew!

(image source: Comme des Garcons)

My intention for this coat was to make it warm enough to withstand the worst an English winter can throw at you at best, and warmer than my grey cocoon coat at the least. My first step to achieving this was to get the same fusible coat interfacing from the English Couture Company that I used for the cocoon coat. I've been so impressed by this stuff: the extra thickness and smoothness that it gives a coat fabric, and I recommend it to all my sewing students who are thinking of working on a coat project. I feel I should definitely mention that fusing this interfacing to this particular coat fabric did make my pieces shrink a bit. It didn't cause me any problems because the pattern was a little large for me anyway, but to avoid the risk of that happening, I'd advise block fusing the interfacing on BEFORE you cut your coat pieces out if you choose to use this stuff yourself. 

Having started construction, I swiftly found that this fabric didn't press very well. So I ended up slip-stitching every damn seam allowance down inside so that all my seams would lie nice and flat. Having used the fusible interfacing really helped with this, because I was able to slip stitch the seam allowances to the fusing rather than to the outer fabric so I didn't disturb the smoothness of the fabric from the right side. 

My second step on the path to snuggliness was to quilt the lining. I considered buying pre-quilted fabric to line it, but I already had this gorgeous, deep rust, viscose twill lining in my stash (also from Fabric Godmother, also out of stock, soz) so I decided to have a go at quilting it myself. I bought some fairly lightweight cotton batting from Little Miss Sew N Sew in Eastbourne, borrowed some spray adhesive stuff that quilters apparently use, and drew on some diagonal lines the width of a metre ruler. I was only quilting two layers, the lining and the batting, so I used a walking foot in my machine, with the batting side up. I quilted the full 1.5m before cutting out my pieces this time, and quilting that big section took what felt like most of my life. Also, note to self: do NOT use a sharpie pen to draw lines on fabric, because it's liable to bleed and will not wash off. Glad I learned that lesson on the lining! 


This amazing vintage pattern has been in my stash for at least seven years (most likely from eBay) and it was published in 1959! It was for a 37" bust, although I never know if vintage dress patterns refer to your full or high bust. Either way, 37" is a bit bigger than I am, but I thought I could bring it in at the side seams if necessary. As I mentioned above, the fusing shrunk the pieces slightly and the result was just the kind of fit I would look for in a coat of this type. 

As with many mid-century sewing patterns, this assumed a greater base level of sewing knowledge than patterns created today tend to. Which seems so unfair considering this was published way before YouTube. I don't know if it was me, the scant instructions or the combination of bulky outer fabric with lightweight pocket linings, but the welt pockets construction in particular was a real headache. It annoys me that there are some raw edges inside at the bottom of the welt, but from the outside they look fine. 

With a flash of maverick flair, I ended up ignoring the instructions on how to insert the lining. The pattern had you basically finish the whole outer coat (buttons, button holes, hemming and all) and then attach the lining. This seemed pretty bonkers to me, so I used the same method as my cocoon coat and the finish looks fine. 

I ummed and ahhed about using this project as an opportunity to finally get to grips with bound buttonholes. But ultimately, I felt that, with the pattern matching considerations and my bulky, fused outer fabric, I'd wimp out about go for the chunky press-stud option instead. The chunky press studs have worked so well with my cocoon coat. They make the coat so easy to put on and take off, plus after a year of heavy use, I have yet to have to restitch them (unlike the buttons of every other coat or jacket I've made), so I went on eBay and found the exact same type that I used before. 


I really do love this coat. I think the fabric makes such a fantastic impact. The colours mean it goes with everything I'm likely to wear it with, however it's a bit more lively and fun than a solid black, white or grey coat would be IMO. I'm also really happy with how the buffalo check and the giant press studs give the vintage pattern a modern twist, so that it doesn't really look like a vintage garment at all. The interfacing and quilted lining have done the trick, and it is definitely warmer than my cocoon coat. I have clear 'winter' and 'spring/autumn' options now, which I'm grateful for. 

What I don't like, is that the under collar peeks out a bit, especially at the back. Oh, and that raw edge inside the pocket, but I'm trying to redefine those in my mind as the 'quirks' of a handmade garment over something made in a factory. So, on balance, I am thrilled with this garment, not least because it's finished!  

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Alex Jogger Pants

Yep. More rust coloured clothing. Although I've rebranded these as 'orange' because, as Frankie reminds me daily, orange is one of his two favourite colours. The other is red, FYI. Anyways, although the colour of this new creation may not surprise you, what may come as a shock is that I shelled out actual money for a kid's sewing pattern!


It goes to show that offering up sewing patterns for free really is a good way to get potential customers to appreciate your products, and eventually part with money for something. Misusu Patterns have a generous array of free downloadable sewing patterns. You can read my reviews of the Rowan tee pattern here and Olli shorts/pants pattern here

I'd liked the look of the Alex jogger pants pattern for a while, and when the pattern recently got an update and re-release (plus a discounted early bird price), I bought it. I'm a fan of the unique design of the kangaroo pockets (there are two versions of the kangaroo pocket plus a more regular hip pockets style), and the gusset to provide ease of movement. 

(image source: Misusu Patterns)

For this, my first go with this pattern, I made the version with the kangaroo pocket that extends up into the waistband, and omitted the optional waist tie to make them quicker to get on and off. If memory serves, I made the size 98 which is a bit bigger than he currently wears to give them a long lifespan, which is why they are gathering around his ankles a bit. 

I've made many a pair of leggings and joggers in my six years of parenthood so far, and I think this is the first pair I've made with a gusset. I stuck closely to the instructions and used my regular machine to insert it accurately as the instructions had you do it. Next time, however, I think I'll fudge it a little and insert it with my overlocker so there's less switching back and forth between machines, although this strategy may be a little less accurate.  

The instructions for this pattern are fantastic. The step-by-step diagrams are incredibly clear and easy to follow. Plus there's all manner of additional info on blending sizes, sewing with knits and such. 


I've got a sizeable stack of knit fabric leftover from previous projects that I've earmarked for the kids when they could do with something new. This speckle sweatshirt fabric in rust was originally from Fabric Godmother (they still it have it in other colourways) and was leftover from Pat's much-used Apollon sweatshirt. The contrasting forest green pieces were cut from more leftovers, this time some Ponte Roma given to me by my lovely colleague Linda. The combo came from playing about with my stash, it's not a colour combo I would have come up with in my head, but I'm very much enjoying it.


I'm very pleased to have this pattern in my arsenal, not least because it goes up to approx. age 14. It's ripe for all manner of scrap busting and colour blocking, and I'm excited to play around with further possibilities in the future. However, it is a bit more complicated, and therefore time consuming, than the jogger patterns I usually use. So truth be told, I'll probably use the Alex pattern for my kids only and turn to more simple styles when making gifts. I'm already hatching plans for Frankie's next version...

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