Friday, 24 March 2017

Refashion Friday: Quintet of Quick'uns

My theory is this: sometimes you sew something predominantly because you've had a great idea for a project, and other times you sew something predominantly because you actually really need the item. Like, you need it now. And the need for a specific item always seems to come when you're short on time, doesn't it? I usually find that refashioning and remaking existing garments is a good way to get what you need quicker than starting with a piece of pure, unadulterated fabric. I also get a massive buzz from creating something that will see heaps of wear from a garment that already had a previous life. Here are five things I've made over the last few months that begun life as a different garment. 

The photo at the top of this post is proof that the jumper remake pictured above has gone into immediate wardrobe rotation. At the start of each winter I am swiftly reminded that, for someone who lives in the UK, I really should own more warm tops. I am committed to and passionate about making as many of my own clothes as possible, but I'm not a knitter so it can be hard to fill this particular gap. So when I saw this rather shapeless leopard print Topshop jumper in a charity shop, I thought BINGO! Using a self-drafted sweatshirt pattern as a starting point, I recut and reconstructed this jumper using my overlocker into something much closer to the fit that I prefer. As the knit is looser than sweatshirt fabric, I ended up 'carving away' at the side and sleeve seams until I got the fit I was looking for. Obviously, drafting the sweatshirt pattern took me some time a few years ago (thanks past-Zoe), but aside from that, this project took about an hour.

It's hard to tell in the above photo but this fine knit navy and white polka dot jumper was a maternity item. I didn't get to wear it in my last pregnancy because it was summer when I was at my largest. Like the leopard jumper, I was able to retain the original neckline. However, unlike the leopard jumper, the shoulders and sleeves of this one already fit me well. Therefore it was a quicker remake, taking perhaps 20mins in total to get the length and shape I was after. 

I made this Peter Pan batwing top during my first pregnancy and wore it heaps during both. I could have nipped it in at the side seams for post-pregnancy use, but that statement oversized collar isn't really my bag any more. Plus, I was getting pretty desperate for some vests to keep my belly covered when I yank up my tops to breastfeed, so I decided to rework the batwing top using my free vest pattern instead. Reusing a well-worn top for an under vest had the added benefit that the fabric is already really soft from lots of wear and laundering. I added a twist to the basic vest pattern by pinching and then stitching over a section at the centre. It's created a pleasing sweetheart neckline and a cool graphic effect thanks to the bold stripes. 

Dolores has outgrown the smaller and less stretchy of the clutch of vests I made for her this time last year. What is up with that?! You think you've nailed your kid's particular lack of clothing or shoes crisis and then they go and get bigger all over again! Well I found this horrendously Barbie-pink T-shirt in my stash of refashionable garments, with absolutely no idea where I came from, and I knew it would be just the shade to appeal to my little girl. When recutting I had to choose to include the existing hem or the button detail. I went with the latter but didn't do it very effectively, so sadly only one of the original buttons got saved. The turquoise FOE and iron-on diamante heart kind of steal your attention away anyway. 

Since deciding that the only skirts I'm interested in wearing are a basic knit pencil style, I made a black and white striped onea solid navy one, a faux denim one, a solid black one and a spotty one. The only thing missing, as far as I could tell, would be a leopard print one (I'm pretty convinced that leopard print can be classed as a neutral!). After making all these knit skirts, I've tweaked the pattern so that I'm really happy with the fit, so I've been scouring the charity shops for a leopard print skirt or dress suitable to make it in. On a recent trip back to Hastings I finally scored this dress in the Oxfam shop for £3.50. It's a light-weight jersey, so this skirt will be more for summer use. As suggested in Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, where the basis for this pattern from, I tacked the skirt together first to check the fit before I stitched the side seams, which is something I almost never do. It's amazing how different knits can produce such different fits, and this light jersey needed to be taken in a lot to achieve a fit similar to that of my ponte de roma versions. 

What about you? Have you done any refashioning or remaking recently? What do you like and dislike about it, as opposed to starting a project with a piece of fabric?

Friday, 17 March 2017

Singin' in the Rain Hat

Well no one could accuse me of not trying to get my money's worth from the free Oliver + S children's bucket hat pattern! Rather than simply keeping the sun off, I figured it could also be used to keep the rain (or shower water!) off too. 


I used the size medium (approx. age 3-5) and made no alterations to the pattern. You can read more of my experience of and thoughts on this pattern here when I made using cotton, and also over here where I used it to refashion some unwanted jeans. I fully intend to use this pattern many more times; not only is it a satisfyingly quick make and a great scrap buster, it also produces a genuinely useful item. I can vouch for that, Dolores used her denim one almost every day for several months last summer.   


I'm a big fan of Rae Hoekstra of Made by Rae and all her designing output. Her fabric print designs for Cloud9 fabrics are amazing, especially for kid's wear IMO. I was lucky enough to be given a piece of needle cord from her Small World Cloud9 range which I used to make Dolores this dress. about 18 months ago. It remains one of my very favourite makes and never fails to elicit some compliments when she wears it. But as you may know by now, I try to use my stashed fabric and secondhand textiles in most of my sewing projects, however I love that all Cloud9 fabrics certified organic, and ensure ethical and ecological practices have been reached at every step of the fabric production, not just during the growth of the cotton plant, so didn't feel particularly guilty for buying this piece of Cloud9 laminate called 'Signin' in the Rain'. 

Although this fabric is laminated, it doesn't feel any thicker than a heavier-weight quilting cotton. Whilst using it I didn't treat it particularly differently than regular cotton, except for making sure all pins went through the seam allowance to avoid any pin pricks in the finished item, and using a pressing cloths and wool heat setting when pressing the seams. I didn't even bother getting out the walking foot for my sewing machine, but I did lower the foot pressure to help it go through evenly. 


Such a fun project, both to make and to see in action as a finished item. My only gripe is that I didn't take a very holistic approach in regards to what bits of the print I used for what pattern pieces when I was cutting it out. Therefore the same bits of print are repeated a bit too closely than I would have preferred, but that's something to learn from for future projects I guess. It's great to have on hand, as I often find that the hoods on children's coats are designed more for appearance than practicality, and tend to blow off her head in any kind of wind. 


Pattern: £0
Outer fabric: £5.50 for 0.25m from the Brighton Sewing Centre, enough for two hats
Lining: £0 a gift from a friend's de-stash
Total: £5.50, which will be halved when I use the rest to make Frankie one in a smaller size the autumn 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Safety Pin Scout Tee

Finally!!!! I got to make a garment for myself that isn't directly linked to being pregnant or breastfeeding. It feels like it's been a long time coming and I'm super excited.


You couldn't accuse me of being an early adopter when it comes to trying out new sewing patterns! This is the Scout tee pattern by Grainline Studio, and it took seeing a lot of other versions (as well as teaching a sewing class with this pattern twice at Fabric Godmother!) to decide that it might be for me. 

It's a relatively quick project, which suits the fact that my opportunities to sew are currently greatly limited. Even though it's a quick project, I wanted to make sure that my sewing time wouldn't be wasted so I made a toile (muslin) first to check I would be happy with the fit. I'd heard that this pattern comes up a bit big so I picked a whole size down (size 6) than my measurements would have indicated I make, and the sizing ended up spot on.   


This is quite a boxy style, so I wanted to use a lightweight fabric so that the result wouldn't end up looking too stiff and weird. This African wax fabric is very fine with a loose weave, and was a gift from a friend of mine around the time I had my daughter. My mate was intending to make something for me from it, but her project didn't work out so she just gave me the fabric instead! 

Because the fabric is so fine, and because it feels pretty fancy, I used French seams for the shoulder and side seams. After a few wears the fabric is being pulled apart a bit at the side seams, probably because I yank it up fairly regularly for 'access' to feed my son, so I don't think this top'll last forever. 


If I were being picky, I'd say that the sleeve heads sit slightly too far off my shoulders. But my concern is that if I were adjust that in this or future versions, I would struggle to get this top on and off as it doesn't have any fastenings. Aside from that, I think the fit is great and it marks a step towards some new style influences that have been occupying my brain (and Pinterest boards!) recently. I think the fabric and pattern pairing is a good one, as it feels so light and breezy on. I wish I'd had some of these when I lived in Spain, but then my preferred silhouette was more fitted back then. 


Pattern: $12 in PDF form (approx. £9.86)
Fabric: free
Total: £9.86, but I already have another cut out so that'll make this project cheaper once I've used the pattern again

Thursday, 16 February 2017

My Favourite Free Children's Sewing Patterns

If you're reading this then I'm going to assume that you're into sewing. And therefore you'll already be acutely aware that, these days, sewing clothes is almost always more expensive than buying them from a shop. However, there are a number of ways that us sewers/sewists can keep the costs down (I've written about this here and here), and today I want to focus more on saving money on sewing patterns, specifically for children. Thanks to the generosity of many sewing pattern designers, it is entirely possible to create most of a fantastic child's wardrobe (or simply some lovely additions), just using free patterns.

This is not intended as an exhaustive list of free patterns, mind. These are patterns that appeal to me: that I've already tried or intend to try. Plus, I'll freely admit that I'm writing this post as a resource for myself as much as for anyone else! If there are any other free babies' or children's sewing patterns that you like, please do mention them in the comments section of this post.


sizes 0 months - 6 years

I really enjoyed making the hoodie pictured above, and seeing my then-much-smaller little girl wearing it. I used some lovely, soft interlock which worked a treat. I'm already planning one for Frankie for when he gets a bit bigger. I'm not sure a hoodie is suitable for a baby who has yet to grow much of a neck! 

(image source: Shwin and Shwin)

sizes 1 - 5 years

This cute jacket/cardigan pattern is made from ponte de roma knit, and you could go to town with the embellishment or leave it plain. I think the biggest challenge would be finding an open ended zip that short! 

(image source: Brindille & Twig)

sizes 0 months - 6 years

This would be a great pattern for reusing old adult T-shirts, plus you could easily lengthen the sleeve piece to make a long-sleeved version for cooler weather. I've just downloaded this to make as sleepwear. 

(image source: Petitboo)

sizes 2 - 10 years

There are some super cute versions of this top pattern out there on the interwebs. I love the curved hem and folded sleeve details, and it could be lengthed into a dress pattern. 

(image source: Ikatee patterns)

sizes 3 - 8 years (also Copenhagen blouse sizes 6 - 24 months) 

This beautiful summer blouse pattern is one of the five free patterns on offer from the gorgeous French sewing pattern company, Ikatee, when you sign up to their mailing list. 


(image source: Elegance and Elephants)

sizes 12 months - 9 years

These look so comfy!

(image source: Ikatee patterns)

sizes 3 - 8 years (also Barcelona jogpants sizes 6 - 24 months) 

Another of the five free patterns on offer from Ikatee when you sign up to their mailing list. I'm seriously struggling to decide which to pick!

(image source: Sprouting Jube Jube)

sizes 2 - 10 years

I'm excited to give this one a whirl as my previous toddler/kids leggings attempts didn't fit well. This could also be lengthened to make a full length version.

(image source: Made by Rae)

sizes 3 - 6 months with instructions to modify pattern for larger sizes

I think that Rae is such an excellent designer, and being able to sample her work for free is a real treat. It can be hard to find fun baby tights, and even harder to find any that you might want to put a boy in (the benefit being that they feet stay covered, unlike with socks which so often come off). I reckon this could be a super useful pattern which could easily be made from the leftovers from other projects or from unwanted adult garments. 

(image source: @botterman_empire on Instagram)

sizes 2 - 11 years (plus adult women's sizes)

I had forgotten all about this pattern until my amazingly talented friend Emily made the utterly perfect pair pictured above. I'll have to wait until Dolores is out of her phase of exclusively wearing dresses, then I will make a million pairs!

(image source: @horsesloveapples on Instagram)

sizes 6 months - 12 years

Check out this incredible festive pair pictured above! It immediately makes you start to think about what small pieces of awesome fabric you own to make into these shorts, doesn't it?! I think this is a wonderful basic shorts pattern, however I know I'm not alone in finding that it comes up a bit small, so you might want to opt for a size larger than you'd usually pick. These also could be lengthened to make trousers or pyjama bottoms. Fun patch pockets on the front or the bum would make great additions too.  

(image source: lilypadmontana)

tutorial for full width of fabric, adjust elastic to fit wearer

There are probably about 20,000 basic gathered skirt tutorials out there, but Oliver + S instructions are always excellent so I'd be inclined to try this one. I like the little addition of the ribbon around the hem. This would be a great project to give as a gift; no non-sewer would realise how quick and simple it was to make!


(image source: Elegance and Elephants)

sizes 12 months - 9 years

It'd make sense holding off making this until the child you are making it for can tell you that they need to wee more than four seconds before it starts to happen.

(image source: Made By Oranges)

Scarlet dress by Made by Oranges
sizes EU 74 - 164 (approx. height in cms)

The 'Made by Oranges' design team are the people behind My Image, B*Inspired and B-Trendy pattern magazines, and they've made a number of their patterns available in PDF form also. This spec drawing may not look super inspiring, but the modelled images that you can see here look really sweet. Plus a dress pattern with long sleeves can be a rare and valuable thing, depending on the climate where you live of course.

(image source: Elegance and Elephants)

sizes 6 months - 9 years

Knit dresses don't need ironing. Fact.

Underwear and accessories:

(image source: Shwin and Shwin)

size approx. 5/6 years

Sadly this is not a multi-sized pattern, but if your lad is about this age I reckon it would be fun to try. It might also work as swimwear pattern by using the version without the fly.  

Sizes approx. 6 months - 8 years

This version was my first whirl at this pattern, but I've made five in total so far and have no intention of stopping any time soon! It's such a fun and satisfying make, and my daughter completely lived in hers last summer. 

(image source: swoodsonsays)

This useful blog post reviews four free beanie hat patterns. I like the look of the grey and black striped one and the blue one, both of which I'm hoping can be made from scraps or old garments. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Your Dolores Batwings

It's been yonks since I shared some of the wonderful Dolores batwing pattern creations out there, so if you'll indulge me, let's have a wee update.

(image source: Gabby Young/@gabberdashery on Instagram)

Fantastic sewing blogger/vlogger Gabby (AKA Gabberdashery) showed us this 70's style poppy print short-sleeved Dolores batwing dress on one of her excellent vlogs, and in turn caused quite a number of her viewers to buy the pattern for themselves. Enormo-thanks to Gabby for spreading her influence in my direction!

(image source: @felicityfrance on Instagram)

Oh my goodness! Such a stunning, vibrant long-sleeved Dolores batwing top. How pretty does it look with that little silver necklace?! Damn those effortlessly stylish French women!

(image source: Tina Harvey/@tinabella83 on Instagram)

Having said that, the polar opposite (a hella jazzy print) works awesomely with this pattern too! This fabric makes getting caught out in a storm look really appealing and magical, doesn't it?

(image source: Tina Harvey/@tinabella83 on Instagram)

Umm, there Tina goes again choosing epic fabric to make Dolores batwings from. This one features origami dinosaurs with lightning bolts. I hope you were sitting down when you read that last sentence.

(image source: Thea's adventures in Sewingland

Thea's flawlessly sleek dress reminds me how solid black can really make the style of a garment sing. I, personally, have a solid black long-sleeved top version, a solid black long-sleeved tunic version AND a solid black short-sleeved dress version. But having seen this I'm feeling that a gap has just opened up in my wardrobe for a solid black long-sleeved dress version too...

(image source: Alison Turner/@alicatturner on Instagram)

Alison chose the perfect bathroom-selfie background to pick out the turquoise in her vibrant floral print Dolores dress! I don't know if she adjusted the fit at all, but this dress looks amazing on her, doesn't it?

(image source: Clare Williams/@eclare71 on Instagram)

Clare made herself and her beautiful little girl fabulous matching sparkly garments for a special night out, and they could not look any cuter together! Judging by her Instagram feed, it appears Clare is rivalling Tina Harvey (above), Alexa/Almost a Hippy (below) and myself for most prolific Dolores batwing maker.  

(image source: kalimak/@swarmofchickadees on Instagram)

Now these are some pyjamas I certainly wouldn't be embarrassed to answer the door in! I love the slouchy oversized Dolores top as part of this cosy ensemble.

(image source: Alexa/@almostahippy on Instagram)

Last September Alexa took part in the OWOP (one week, one pattern) challenge, with the Dolores batwing as her chosen sewing pattern. This peacock-esque printed version is my personal favourite. 

Thanks to all these lovely ladies pictured above for sharing their Dolores creations. If you have a version of the pattern you'd like to show off, I'd LOVE to see it! Please email me at sozoblog (@) gmail dot com, or via Instagram using the hashtag #doloresbatwing. If you wish to see more amazing versions, check out how the Dolores batwing pattern looks in solids, prints and stripes.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Elemeno Pocket Joggers - My New Favourite Kid's Pattern

Last year (sounds like ages ago doesn't it?!) I was contacted by the designer of Elemeno patterns, a small-but-growing children's sewing pattern range, to see if I'd like to try out and review one of their styles. Dolores has grown out of their size range (2T-3T is the largest size), and knowing that I was due to have a little boy, I asked to try out the Pocket Joggers pattern as I thought I'd find it the most useful.


The Pocket Joggers are very similar to my former favourite kids pattern: some dropped crotch joggers from Ottobre Design, except these have pockets and a separate waistband piece (rather than an elasticated waist). I like that the pocket mouths, waistband and cuffs offer lots of options for contrast fabrics.

But the best things of all? It is possible to make these entirely with an overlocker/serger! I didn't get my regular sewing machine out once, which was great because I made these whilst I was heavily pregnant and wanted to keep lifting machinery to a minimum. There is the option to topstitch the pocket bags to the front trouser pieces to keep them in place which would require a regular sewing machine, but I didn't do that on these.

I made a variety of sizes: the white anchor ones are 0-3 months, the blue arrow fabrics ones are 3-6 months and 6-12 months, and the floral print are 2T-3T. The pattern seemed well drafted and the construction was quick and simple.


Knit fabric is required for this pattern, however it is important to choose a knit with an elastane/lycra/spandex content. I found this 100% cotton rib anchor print T-shirt in a charity shop for £3.50. I was so into using it for this project but found that the waistband stretched out after a couple of wears. I dealt with it by unpicking a little bit and inserting some elastic, but hopefully the other pairs won't require that. My prediction is that a fabric waistband may not hold up quite as well as an elastic one, but will probably be more comfortable to wear, making these potentially fantastic pyjama bottoms too.

The blue arrow and floral print (now out of stock) fabric are from knit-specialists Girl Charlee, both of which I had left over from making Cordelia maternity camisoles. The larger of the blue arrow trousers and the floral ones were made as gifts, although sadly the little boy's legs were too chubby for the arrow ones so they've been re-gifted back to Frankie! 


Looking at these pictures I'm reminded of how hot and uncomfortable I was in my last few weeks of pregnancy when I made these. Thankfully, this pattern is such a quick and easy make that I was able to be pretty productive despite my disposition! It's a great scraps-and-small-pieces buster too. I'd like to try making them in a crazy mash up of different prints. Also, I feel strongly that kids should be comfortable and unrestricted by their clothing. So for all these reasons, I imagine I'll be returning to this pattern often. What's your favourite kid's sewing pattern?

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Breastfeeding Agnes Tops

A few years ago I wrote this tutorial/pattern hack for making a breastfeeding/nursing-friendly knit top. I based that tutorial on the Tilly and the Buttons Coco pattern, but in hindsight what the tutorial was really waiting for was Tilly's Agnes jersey top pattern, which was released after I wrote it. The closeness of the fit of the Agnes is much better suited for the type of 'access' the tutorial creates, and shortly after the birth of my second child in October 2016, I set about to prove it. 

I prepared my Agnes top pattern pieces as per the tutorial: making two front pieces instead of one with an overlap. This time I had to make the overlapped section lower than my breastfeeding Coco top, because the effects of breastfeeding and three more years of gravity sadly made it necessary! 

For my first version I used some of this cheetah print jersey, which was kindly sent to me by Girl Charlee. I love the neon green in it, which has pushed me slightly out of my stylistic comfort zone. The fabric itself is the perfect weight for an Agnes: fairly light-weight with excellent stretch and recovery. I also love that the print is performing a cheetah skin's original task of camouflaging, and you can barely see the edge of the overlap at all. 

I've been wearing the cheetah print top almost constantly from the day it left the sewing machine, so another version was clearly on the cards. Not wanting to splash out on fabric for a top that I'll probably only wear for a year or so, I hunted through my stash for a suitably sized piece of knit. This super soft striped interlock is lovely to touch and feels great to wear, but not as ideal as the cheetah print in other ways. 

Firstly, the overlap on the front is much more obvious, which might make it look a little weird to some, especially those who haven't figure out that it's there for boob-access. Secondly, I should have made the neckband shorter than the pattern piece because it doesn't lie flat. There's no elastane/lycra/spandex content to this interlock to help it spring into shape. It doesn't help that I tend to shove my hand down the neckline of these tops to unclip my nursing bra (TMI? Don't care).  


Although both these tops have been worn way more regularly than any of my other tops over the last few months, it's probably no surprise that the cheetah print one sees much more action. Not only does the superior stretch and recovery work better for this adapted Agnes, but the print is more fun to look at. I was considering making more of these with the shorter sleeve options for when warmer weather blesses us, but by then the longevity of my need for breastfeeding/nursing tops will be even further reduced. I'm also sorely tempted to make a breastfeeding Bronte top, but having already made a squillion Bronte's, I think I'd rather try some new-to-me patterns like Jennifer Lauren's Gable knit top pattern. With so little sewing time currently at my disposal, I'd rather spend it making myself garments that will potentially have years of use in them. Ya dig?
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