Thursday, 19 July 2018

Bombshell Swimming Costume

Two things. Firstly, I must explain, I find it difficult and a bit uncomfortable to refer to a swimming costume as a 'swimsuit', even though I'll be the first to admit that the latter is much quicker to type. Secondly, no, neither do I feel entirely comfortable posing in the aforementioned garment and publishing those pictures on my blog. However, in the spirit of body positivity, I've done it anyway. 

I've been sewing for a long time now, but there are still a few types of garments I have yet to try to make for myself. Swimming costumes are one of those garments because I rarely go swimming, and, therefore, the hand-me-down costume my best friend gave me about ten years ago is still fine. However, earlier this year we had a holiday booked to visit a friend who lives in Madrid, along with other old school friends and their families. During that holiday, we planned a trip for all the laydeez to visit these amazing Hamman Arab baths, and I just didn't fancy going to them in my old, rather sporty-looking costume.  


I decided to opt for the Closet Case Pattern Bombshell Swimsuit pattern because, A) I liked the coverage the retro cut gave around the lower part (including the front 'skirt' section), B) I already owned it, and C) with both thorough-looking instructions AND a series of helpful sewalong blogposts, I knew my hand would be sufficiently held throughout the preparation and construction. I already owned this pattern because it came as part of a Perfect Pattern Parcel I was sent to review years ago, and although I didn't choose this particular pattern to make from the parcel at that time, I'd kept it in mind as a potential future project. 

Truth be told, I made this swimming costume many months ago now, so this isn't going to be the most detailed review I've ever written. However, I do recall being surprised in a number of ways; by how much fabric this pattern required, by how many pattern pieces there were, by how many construction steps were involved, and in the end, by how much the finished thing weighed! I really like how this pattern offers different design options. As you can see, I opted for the gathered bust top and decided to include the option of adding foam cups to (hopefully) give a smooth line over the bust. Instead of buying special swimwear compatible cups, I unpicked a bra that I decommissioned around the same time. 

(image source: Closet Case Patterns)

Size-wise, I attempted to blend between the size 8 for the top part, and the size 10 for the waist and hip area. This was a tricky task because of how the sizes were grouped, and sadly wasn't as simple as blending between sizes at the side seams. I also folded out a bit of length from the front and back lining pieces to account for my short-waistedness. I didn't attempt any kind of toile/muslin to determine this, I just went for it and hoped for the best. 

I found the gathering of the side and centre back seams of the front and back pieces my least favourite part of the construction process. Gathering up all that fabric on both sides was tricky, and then I decided to add rows of basting stitches to keep the gather in place. Then I thought that the basting stitches were messing with the measurements and stretchiness of the side seams, so I attempted to remove them. Then I realised that taking them out had stretched the gathered sections so I needed to redo all the freaking gathering again. In the end, the side and back seams are pretty ridged with no stretch, but thankfully it doesn't seem to be an issue or affect the fit. 

I also recall having trouble inserting and working around the foam cups. The top edge is not very neat because of that and my topstitching is pretty shocking. A fact that I mentioned several times to my friends, none of whom gave a shit, and rightly so.  


After seeing the name 'Funki Fabrics' popping up on blogs as a source of swimwear fabric, I lost many happy hours combing their site. I was sorely tempted by this amazing, solid jade green, semi-eco fabric, but in the end, for my first attempt at making swimwear, I decided to find a cheaper alternative (as you can imagine, the ruching on this swimming costume makes it fairly fabric-hungry). Whilst doing more research into my options, Helen from Helen's Closet's stunning solid black version inspired me to opt for something darker, and I ended up finding some inexpensive solid navy swim/dancewear fabric and matching navy net lining on eBay. 


When I first put this swimming costume on, I felt sexy and sophisicated. I LOVE the coverage and how held-in I feel around my lower half. I also love its structure in general that's created from all that ruching (my version is more ruched than most, probably because I shortened the lining pieces but didn't alter the outer pattern pieces, resulting in more gathering of the outer fabric to match up with the lining). However, the top half doesn't feel so secure. The bra cups have been added in (thankfully) roughly the correct position for my boobs, but without the back band that holds a bra in place, the cups are not supportive and the top edge doesn't always remain against my skin when I'm splashing about in the water. I considered removing the cups altogther, but I can't face that faff, nor am I sure my droopy ol' post-breastfeeding bust look very nice without them. 

If we're nit-picking here, I may as well also highlight the side seam's weird wibble. I've figured out that that's been created by the tension of the leg hole elastic where it joins the side seams. I've noticed this wibble on some other people's bombshells, and general I'm able to overlook it on my own. 

Even though my feelings about this particular swimming costume are mixed, it was a fun and engaging (read: lengthy) process and a great introduction to making swimwear: to the needles, fabric and elastic that's involved. Eventually, I'd love to have another whirl at making a swimming costume, although most likely one that's a far simpler style and corresponding construction, and with a bust area that definitely won't flap about!

What about you? Have you made swimwear? What do you like about it? Or what has put you off from trying?

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Retro Cardigans Revisted

When I'm reading blogs or catching up on my Instagram feed, I'm fascinated to see which patterns sewers return to and make multiple times. Some people may feel reluctant to post projects made with TNT patterns, instead of some completely fresh new pattern/project perhaps, maybe thinking that their readers don't want to see a repeat, or not knowing what fresh thing to say about it. As a reader/follower/viewer though, I feel the opposite; I really want to see which garments clearly got so much use IRL that more versions were called for, and therefore which patterns other sewers have found to be excellent value for money.


Having recently posted (again!) about the Made by Rae Geranium dress pattern, today I'm going to share another kids' pattern that I've posted about previously that had another outing on to my sewing table. So, tell me, who doesn't love a cardigan?! They're a useful layer all year round; they give extra warmth when it's cold and are a jacket substitute in the summer. The Retro cardigan pattern by Brindille & Twig is such an easy project and can be made in a variety of fabrics. I went on this particular cardigan making binge in the spring to hoover up some fabric scraps that were floating around in my stash, and turned them into useful garments for both Frankie and Dolores.

As I've mentioned before, I've found that B&T patterns come up large if you use the age to pick a size. If you use their height guidelines instead, or just pick a size/age smaller, I personally find you get a more successful fit (e.g. in the picture at the top of the post Frankie is 18 months old but wearing the size 12-18 months).

As for alterations to the pattern, after the first four I made (the three from the previous post and Dolores's anchor cardigan in this post), I decided to make the cuffs and waistband deeper. Whilst making the last of this batch of four (Frankie's anchor cardigan pictured above), I decided to make the curve of the front piece where it joins the neckband less exaggerated, and the result is a neckband that sits much flatter than the others (check out Dolores's anchor cardigan above that one for a comparison). I'll definitely make this small alteration a permanent one going forwards.


As I say, these cardigans can be made in a variety of knits to create garments with different degrees of warmth. The fleece backed sweatshirt fabric version I previously made Frankie was great for winter, and the lighter interlock (like a thick jersey) provided a great layer for milder weather. Ponte de Roma hits the spot in between. When I 'accidentally' ended up with both the navy and white colour ways of the anchor ponte that I used to make this Cabernet cardigan, these joggers and this Freya top, the leftovers were screaming out to be combined into one garment. I pieced together Dolores's cardigan (the version with the white sleeves) and used some gold buttons from my stash. Shortly after, I realised I could squeeze another Frankie-sized one out of the remains-of-the-remains if I used some solid navy ponte (also from my scraps tub) for the sleeves and back piece. I love that these two garments are similar but not exactly the same. Much like the kids themselves!

I made the black version pictured above (apols for the blurry image) using the size 5-6 (proving my point about this pattern's age-based sizing coming up large!) for Dolores to wear in a year or two's time. It's made from the leftovers of my quilted/embossed ponte Kinder cardigan, which I've found to be very snuggly and soft. I hate buying buttons for projects when I have such a large button stash already. I picked out this set of red fabric-covered buttons, but I may change them in the future if something better shows up.  

And the final version I have to share with you started life as this mint green, faux-wrap, loop-back French terry top I bought in a charity shop for 50p (pictured above). The colour IRL looks in between the above pic and the finished cardigan pictured below. I bought this top because the fabric felt incredibly soft, and had excellent stretch and recovery. I wished I'd smoothed off the curve of the front piece (as described above) on this version, because, as you can see, the neckband doesn't sit very flat when it's buttoned up. I had to cut-n-shut the sleeves together because of the restricted fabric I could harvest from the original garment. However, I like the additional seams on the sleeves. I think it gives the garment a sportier vibe, although I never would have thought to add the extra seams unless I was creating a colour blocking effect. It may not surprise you to learn that Dolores helped pick out the buttons and the unicorn patch from my stash. 


These projects have made me so happy because A) they were almost free in terms of financial cost, B) they used up some leftover fabric that I might have otherwise have chucked in the textile recycling bin (better to reuse than recycle), and C) they have already seen a lot of wear, keeping my babies warm without restricting their movement at all. 

What are your favourite patterns for kids that you have made multiple times? Have you discovered any that are also useful scrap busters, either woven or knits? Spill the beans...

Friday, 6 July 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Women's Boxy Top

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 of you 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.

I'm not sure what's up with the weirdly orange tone of these photos, hopefully it doesn't distract too much from what's going on with the top. The Peppermint magazine website is small treasure trove for those seeking free garment sewing patterns. The magazine teams up with pattern designers to release a pattern alongside each magazine issue. I'm sure I'll return to their selection for future editions of my 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, but today I'm checking out the Boxy Top (AKA Harvest top) pattern designed by Pattern Runway. Thanks to both Pattern Runway and Peppermint magazine for offering this pattern up for free. 

(image source: Peppermint magazine)

Pattern type:

This top (called the 'Boxy top' on the website, but the 'Harvest top' on the actual pattern pieces and instructions documents) has a square silhouette formed of three panels and a bias-cut sleeve band detail. It buttons up the back, but is loose enough to take on and off without unbuttoning (I stitched the buttons through both layers after reading this review of the same pattern). 

Sizing info:

The pattern has been graded to span five sizes: 36 to 44 (bust sizes 33" to 39.5"). Based on my measurements, I picked the size 38 for the bust and shoulder area, grading out to the 40 for the waist and hips. I also folded out 2cm from the centre panels to account for my short-waistedness. 

Fabric info:

The fabric suggestions for this pattern are 'lightweight to medium weight fabrics with a soft drape; cottons, cotton blend, shirtings, light weight linen'. I think this pattern could potentially also handle  rayon, silk or double gauze. I decided to bust out a lovely piece of light-weight, 4oz, washed denim from Fabric Godmother. I bloody love this stuff, it's what I used to make my beloved denim Tova top that I wore almost constantly for years. The softness and slight drape worked well for this pattern. 


Downloading this pattern and the instructions was very easy, with no subscribing to newsletters or signing in to a website required. Pattern Runway patterns are printed on top of an inch grid, which makes some pattern alterations you might need to do (like my short-waisted adjustment) nice and easy. The instructions were easy to follow with very clear illustrations for each construction step. I found the construction of this top was really enjoyable. In part that was thanks to the lovely, clear instructions, and also because the construction method itself is both simple enough for a beginner to try, but not so simple that a more experienced sewer would switch on to auto-pilot. 

As for the garment itself, there were a couple of points that made me like the finished top rather than love it. I'm not mad keen on the sleeve bands/cuffs. I think they stick out in a slightly odd way and I'm not sure what value there is to cutting them on the bias. This next point is super pernickrty but I'll add it in here anyway; seeing as the top can easily be taken on and off without undoing the buttons, it would have been nice if the instructions mentioned this to give the option of avoiding making the button holes. Personally, I felt the suggested five buttons looked a bit sparse, and opted for six instead. 

And then there's the shape. I knew the fit of this pattern was going to test the limits of my boxy-silhouette comfort zone, but I found that the fit is more boxy and loose than both the modelled version and the spec (line) drawings led me to expect. 

Customisation ideas:

With those panels, you've got heaps of options for making your own unique version. You could:
  • Make a feature of the topstitching along the panel lines. I've emphasised the denim fabric here by using jeans-style thick topstitching thread. You could add an additional row of topstitching for a faux twin needle effect, or use a decorative stitch if your sewing machine has any in a contrasting colour
  • Take inspiration from the brown and white striped version and monkey around with grain lines on directional print fabrics
  • Use entirely different fabrics for each of the panels to create a scrap-busting, quirky patchwork or classy tonal look. 
  • Topstitch the edge of the facings so their shape is visible through the outside of the top. I think that can be a really nice detail on fairly plain, simple garments like this
  • Use contrast fabric for the facings, perhaps a print if your outer fabric is a solid. That always looks cool and fancy, even if it's only you that sees it when you're getting dressed!
  • Use self-covered buttons up the back
  • Add a patch breast pocket, or even a subtle and clever inseam pocket set into the seam between two of the panels
  • Leave off the sleeve bands and finish with bias tape turned under to the wrong side instead

Would I make it again?

I would definitely make another Pattern Runway pattern again if one caught my eye, but although I thoroughly enjoyed making this top, I won't be making this particular pattern again. I decided it really was too shapeless and boxy for me personally (the Grainline Scout tee pattern is the outer limit of woven boxiness for me!), and gave it to my awesome friend Sophie instead. She is one of my favourite people in the world, and passing something on to her that I made myself has probably given me more pleasure than stuffing my adequately filled wardrobe with another garment, so it's all good. 

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Return of the Geranium Dress

Back in the winter, I decided to bust some of my fabric stash to make a couple of summer dresses for Dolores. It was fun to dream of warmer weather during chilly greyness, and because this is a TNT pattern and I felt confident in the sizing, I knew that I was making garments that would get lots of wear when it eventually got warm enough. 


Both this white dress, and the orange African wax fabric version pictured at the bottom of the post, have been made using the Geranium dress pattern by Made by Rae. If you have a child in your life who likes to wear dresses, I kind of feel that you owe it to yourself to get this pattern. It has a number of neckline, armhole, skirt style, skirt length and pocket variations included which can help you create a multitude of different looking garments and gets you your money's worth. And Rae's released an expansion pack that gives you even more design options, totalling an insane number of mix and match options. 

These dresses represent at least the 8th and 9th times I've sewn this pattern. I've previously made four for Dolores (thisthisthis and this), as well as at least two for window displays at the Village Haberdashery, and one as a birthday present for Dolores's friend, Naomi. Plus I've taught a couple of Geranium dress classes at VH in the past, so I feel I know this pattern pretty well now!

Dolores is now 4.5 years old, so I made the size 5 (the biggest size in the smaller pattern size range), hypothesising that they'd see two summer's worth of use. For the white dress, I used the sleeveless armhole option with notched neckline and gathered skirt. For the orange one, I chose the faux cap sleeve option with simple scoop neckline and, again, the gathered skirt. I like the pleated skirt option too, however the gathered skirt option has the perfect amount of fullness, IMO. Enough to satisfy a child with 'girly' clothing preferences, but not so much as to make it unsuitable for everyday wear. 

After cutting out the white version, I realised that I had enough fabric left over for a matching bucket hat. So out came my fave: the Oliver + S free bucket hat pattern. The hat is looking a little battered in these pictures because it's already seen MASSES of wear this year, by both Dolores and Frankie. 


Part of the popularity of the Geranium pattern is down to the fact that it works well in quilting cotton, and fabrics with that type of weight and handle. In fact, when I tried making this pattern in a drapier fabric (by accident), it definitely didn't hold its shape as well and looked tatty after fewer wears than the stiffer stuff. Quilting cotton can come in such amazing, beautiful and fun prints, and it's so often crying out to be made into children's wear.

The white-background fabric above has a beautiful circus acrobats print in lovely subtle colours that I found in the spring of 2017 at the Ditto fabrics closing-down-their-warehouse-space sale. Initially, I felt the dress looked a bit plain, and I planned to add some pompom trim or something to it somehow. However, I struggled to find anything in a suitable scale and it started to get worn, so it's remained plain. It's a firm favourite with Dolores, and even though these photos were only taken a couple of weeks ago, it's now sadly (but inevitably) stained with pasta sauce and lord knows what else.

The insane eyeball print African wax fabric found its way into my stash via a fabric swap I hosted in Brighton a trillion years ago. She's modelling it here, appropriately, in the African section of the anthropology museum in Madrid when we visited in April. It's the same fabric I used to make her this Geranium dress three years ago. I loved her wearing the initial version, and it's made me really happy to see her wearing this reboot!


This pattern has been the very definition of a TNT pattern for me. I've relied upon it to make fantastic, well fitting and perfectly proportioned dresses in the type of fabric (quilting cotton and similar) that often doesn't lend itself well to garment sewing. Now that Dolores is at the top of range of sizes of the pattern I own, I have to debate whether or not to buy the size 6-12 range pattern. Perhaps it's time to hang up my Geranium making hat and venture into the unknown with some of the other amazing kids patterns that are out there.  

Monday, 25 June 2018

Bibi Pinafore Business

Like so many other sewers, it would seem (I just wrote 'seam' there at first!), I fell hard for the pinafore variation of the Bibi skirt pattern from Tilly's Stretch book. However, it wasn't on my 'sewing project priority' list until, A) MMMay made me face the fact that my previous denim-look stretch skirt had to go and, B) I was looking for a way to repurpose the fabric I salvaged from a recent failed project. A plan was born...


You may have noticed by now that the majority of the new fabric that comes into my life these days comes from Fabric Godmother. This is because I work for them from time to time, so have the opportunity to get up close and personal with their inventory, which is invariably both gorgeous excellent quality. After helping out at one of their recent open days, some of this denim jersey (pictured below) came home with me. Personally, I'm not sure if it makes more sense to call it a denim-look knit, or a stretch denim. It looks like a woven denim, but has the four-way stretch properties of some kind of knit fabric. Either way, it looks amazing and is clearly going to be really comfortable to wear. 

(Image source: Fabric Godmother)

A couple of months ago I made the (in hindsight foolish) decision to have another whirl at the True Bias Hudson pants pattern. I had a previous failed attempt at that pattern four years ago, which, I surmised, was a FAIL because I used a 2-way rather than 4-way stretch fabric. This denim-knit-whatever-you'd-call-it definitely fit the four-way stretch bill, and I had dreams of creating a cool and clever jogging/jeans hybrid that I'd never want to take off. Except that didn't happen and the whole thing became a massive FAIL. Possibly due to the thickness of this fabric and/or choosing the wrong size on the pattern, or whatevs. Now I've been burnt twice, I'm going to leave the Hudson pants pattern well alone going forwards, and stick to jeggings styles for my super comfy bottoms unless persuaded otherwise. Anyways once I realised the Hudsons were going to be a FAIL, I cut them up to reclaim the fabric from the front and back legs and the waistband piece. I then made the most of the MMMay celebration discount codes and bought an additional metre of this fabric so that I'd have enough for the Bibi pinafore project.


The Bibi skirt is really cleverly drafted, consisting of one main skirt panel piece that you cut out four of. Once stitched together, the skirt is worn on the body so there are no side seams at all. You also need two waistband pieces that are faced (plus two bibs and two straps if you plan to make the pinafore version). The reason I had to get rid of my stretch denim skirt during MMMay was because my waist measurement has grown a bit. Therefore, for the Bibi, I started out by tracing the size 5 at the waist grading down to the size 4 for the hips, and held off cutting out the waistband pieces until I could check the fit. I basted the skirt panels together (two of which I squeezed out of the back leg pieces of the failed Hudson pants) and a quick fitting showed that I could proceed with no further alterations needed. Because the denim knit is quite thick, I used some plain black cotton-lycra knit I'd recently bought from Girl Charlee to cut the waistband facings and the reverse of the bib section. 

Having stalked the #bibipinafore hashtag on Instagram, I'd seen than some people's versions gaped a little at the top edge of the bib. It seemed that most of those women were perhaps fuller busted and although I wasn't sure where I stand on that particular spectrum, just in case I decided to make the width of the top of my bib section slighter narrower (1cm each side) in an attempt to avoid any gaping. I also positioned my straps (which I've made about 1cm wider than the instructions in the book suggest, FYI) so that they joined the top of the bib at an angle rather than coming straight up so hopefully that would help too.   


I'm very pleased with this pinafore! When wearing it (as I am now), I feel more put-together and more stylish than I usually do. It seems to hug my shape nicely, but the thickness of the fabric skims over much of the lumps and bumps. And the best of all? It's crazy comfy. If I had to pick metaphorical holes though, I'd flag up that the skirt seams show the white lycra content of the fabric more than I'd prefer, and the bib gapes a bit at the sides (but not at the top!). 

I love wearing it with my hands print Freya top, as I am in these pics, but I've decided I prefer it with trainers more than with these shoes for a more casual vibe. I'm looking forward to working out some outfits to wear it in cooler weather, and I can definitely see myself making the skirt pattern, if not the full on pinafore version, again in the future when the right fabric comes my way. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Koi Shirts X 2

I have a hefty backlog of sewing projects going back months that I want to share with you, but these two recent makes are jumping the queue today because they are making me so happy! So, a little background....

I don’t mind doing a bit of selfless sewing when the mood strikes me. However, I don't throw my sewing skills around willy nilly. If I’ve made you a garment, or mended/altered anything for you, even if you paid me in food for something, then it means that you are VERY special to me. The first garment I made for Pat (Mr SoZo) was a western style shirt, created not long after we moved in together. After that, I vowed to make him one garment per year that we were together. However, the last garment I made for him (another crazy western shirt) was FIVE years ago, whilst I was pregnant with our daughter, and I must admit that I hadn’t made him a garment since. There just seemed so much sewing for this new small person (later, people), and for my new body and lifestyle, to do. Plus, I generally made him shirts that he’d wear to go out in the evening. And the new small people has meant that there's been very little going out in the evening in the last 4.5 years, so new shirts seemed a bit pointless. I felt a bit guilty about this complete transference of my creative energies away from him, but I assuaged that guilt by reminding myself that instead of some annual new shirts, I’d just made him some ACTUAL CHILDREN.


Then, this fabric came into my life, thanks to the generosity of Josie from Fabric Godmother. She very kindly gave me this fabric when I was struggling to justify buying all the pieces I wanted during one of their open days last year. Originally, I intended for it to become a jumpsuit to wear to my sister-in-law’s wedding last summer. But a toile of the proposed jumpsuit pattern taught me two important things: A), the pattern was going to require some major tweaking if it were to look flattering and provide sufficient coverage to hide my ugly old nursing bra, which I just didn’t have time for, and B), the fabric probably wouldn’t have worked very well for the style of pattern.

This koi print cotton poplin (also available with ivory, blue or jade backgrounds) has a similar weight and handle to a medium-weight quilting cotton. I rarely wear prints myself, but I know a good one when I see one. The print design is really detailed and has been created using some metallic inks so that parts of it have a subtle iridescence (no, I didn't spell that correctly first time). Because the original jumpsuit pattern was full length, I came away with 3m, which is nearly double the amount of fabric that I usually acquire when buying fabric (I usually make separates). Having that sizeable quantity of stunning, free fabric just sitting there dormant on my fabric shelf weighed heavily on me. I must have been refolding my fabrics (which I do with embarrassingly regularity) and Pat mentioned that it was cool. Before I even thought about what I was saying, I offered to make him a shirt out of it. The offer was met with a favourable (but probably skeptical!) response, and a plan was born. And thanks to the abundance of fabric, I was able to squeeze a mini version out of what was left over from Pat's!


Probably the most successful, and certainly the most used, of the garments I’ve made Pat is this check, short-sleeved shirt, a tweaked version of Burdastyle's Jakob pattern. I used the exact same pattern pieces for this koi version, but turned the sleeve cuffs under instead of outward, and omitted the breast pockets because it looked like it would disrupt the print unnecessarily. Thankfully he seems to have changed size or shape very little in the last eight years, because the fit seems to me to be fine. Looking at these pictures, however, I'm wondering if the sleeves, in this slightly stiffer fabric at least, are a little full. I've got another shirt planned for him now, and I may make an adjustment to narrow them slightly, which should also have the beneficial effect of raising the height of the sleeve head.

I made Frankie's shirt using Burda 9851 (which seems to be purchasable on eBay), the same pattern I used to make this comic book print version, made whilst he was still in utero. Thanks again to Catherine from Clothes and Sewing for giving me the pattern when her youngest son grew out of the size range. To make that comic book print one, I used the size 9 months pieces, however, currently at 20 months, he's only just starting to grow out of that one. For this koi print shirt, I went with the size 18 months pieces, and I think he should get at least a year's worth of wear from it.


I made these shirts along side each other so that I would need to do less switching between the regular sewing machine and my overlocker. It was fun to see them progress at roughly the same rate, although the construction methods were somewhat different. And there's nothing like making two at a time to remind you just how much work making a button up shirt actually is! 

It's probably no surprise when I say that I love these shirts. I really benefitted from having a couple of successful TNT sewing patterns ready to reach for, so using this amazing fabric wasn't much of a gamble. It's been such a joy to make them for my boys, and hopefully they'll both get lots of wear from them, although perhaps not always at the same time!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

My Me-Made-May'18: Lessons Learnt

(my favourite looks worn during MMMay'18)

It's surprising to me that, having taken part in nine Me-Made-Mays now, I can come away each year with a whole lot of new knowledge and feelings towards my handmade wardrobe. In my last post I wrote about my feelings towards last month's challenge. Today I want to talk about the specific lessons I learnt about my wardrobe from taking part, and what I've done (or plan to do) about them.

Some things don't fit so well...

My body has definitely changed since I made a lot of my clothing. Growing and breastfeeding two babies, as well as entering my late 30s, means that my silhouette and measurements have changed in a way that cutting back on the magnums for a while probably won't reverse. There's nothing I can do about it, and last month's challenge forced me to notice that some items really weren't working anymore.

(image source: Tilly and the Buttons)

Both my plain black and stretch denim knit skirts were made when my waist was smaller and therefore the curve between my waist and hips was more, umm, curved. I tried altering both by lowering the waistlines, but it only really worked on the black one. The denim one has now gone to my mum to see if she can make use from it, and I've set to work making an updated alternative using Tilly's Bibi skirt pattern (pinafore version!) in this denim knit (pictured below) from Fabric Godmother.

(image source: Fabric Godmother)

Last month's challenge also made me admit that I had stopped feeling great in my 1960's Breton top (pictured below).  I still adore the style of this garment and consider it the best garment I've ever made, but it was starting to look a little snug around the waist in a way that did suit the boxy style. I held my breath as I took my seam ripper to it, and successfully managed to claw back some width from the side seam allowance. Phew! It now looks a lot better and I feel good in it again.

Some garments should no longer be seen in public...

I've had to say goodbye to my grey Tova tunic, and my denim Tova top (pictured below) has set aside for allotment wear when I finally get one. My amazing anchor Luna pants are developing holes on the knees and bum (I think the little anchor have been created using some kind bleach-like colour removal technique rather than by printing, making the anchor shapes thinner and more susceptible to wear) and have been relegated to 'lounging around the flat' wear.

I have loved wearing...

My Ivy pinafore and Mila dungarees. I love the look of them and the extra stomach coverage, AND the garment layering is both stylish and warm on chillier days. My Cleo pinafore only got worn once during May because a) it's a bit tight at the moment (I should have made it in a denim with elastane), and b) it's a bit short for day-to-day small child wrangling (I should have made the longer version). I've been loving these styles of much in fact that I am planning to make the TATB Bibi pinafore (see above), Sew House 7 Burnside bibs AND Helen's Closet York pinafore. That's a lot of sewing...

Close-fitting knit tops. I had started to veer away from my closer fitting jersey tops (like my Bronte tops and Agnes tops) because I've been feeling more self-conscious about my waist (and the previously mentioned lack of non-jeggings trouser styles), but they've been given a new role for layering under the aforementioned pinafore and dunagrees.

There are some holes in my wardrobe...
  • A lined jacket. There's a bit of gap between my wool cocoon coat and my unlined La Trop Facile jacket where I wish some kind of lined jacket lived. On those inbetweeny days, I find myself wearing a weird selection of layered items that neither looks good, nor feels very comfortable. I do have my lined Woodland stroll cape, but I find that its colours limit the outfits that it works with, plus it looks a bit wintery for spring/summer wear. I've yet to find the right jacket pattern, but I have 2m of gorgeous off-white/navy striped double knit in my stash that might work for a casual jacket. My eyes are peeled for a pattern to fall in love with. 
  • Trousers that aren't jeggings. All my trousers, aside from my one functioning pair of Luna pants, which are really only for very warm weather, are a tight jeggings style. I LOVE my three pairs of jeggings, but I don't like them with my tighter or shorter tops. So I made the most of the Me-Made-May celebratory discount codes and treated myself to the True Bias Lander pants pattern plus fly front extension pack. That pattern has been on my #2018makenine list for months anyway, and last month showed me how useful they will hopefully be. 
  • A dress or playsuit. Generally speaking, day-to-day, I prefer wearing separates. But I'm feeling the draw of a nice dress or playsuit for occasions when I want to feel more put together. Aside from my casual pinafores, I only really have my Staple dress, which I don't think suits my style anymore and is probably destined for the charity shop. I have two beautiful lengths of fabric in my stash, one crazy-long length of quilting cotton-weight African wax fabric, and some gorgeous cotton lawn that I chose whilst testing out the Cotton Bee fabric printing service. I'm looking for a dress pattern/s that is cute, but not too short for toddler wrangling, that vaguely shows the shape of my body, but  isn't a fitted bodice-and-full skirt style (those makes me feel like I'm wearing a little girl's party dress). I'm interested in the Chalk and Notch Fringe dress and Republique du Chiffon's Yvonne playsuit, but suggestions of others would be very welcome...
  • Sleeveless tops. After an exhaustive online comparison of the Grainline patterns Willow tankWiksten tank and Made by Rae's Gemma tank, I bought the Gemma pattern and have begun the surprisingly long journey towards getting a fantastic fit. So far I'm four toiles in and there's still further alterations to be made. It's going to be worth it though, to have near-perfect woven tank pattern to reach for.  
  • Shorts. At the end of last summer, I returned to Pattern Runway's Sweet shorts pattern and made a lovely navy pair, having made a denim pair previously that ended up being way too big. Annoyingly, that navy pair DO NOT fit me now, but fortunately (?) the denim ones now do! But I don't think one pair of shorts is enough as it can get pretty warm during the summer in the South of England. I've made an initial (two sizes too big!) toile of the Deer and Doe Chataigne shorts pattern, which I've had in my stash for a number of years. I'm also thinking about making a pair of Lander shorts as a way to test the fit of that pattern before I embark on a full length version. 
  • Warm tops. My lack of warm tops wasn't really highlighted during May, but it's a perpetual issue in my wardrobe that I thought I'd chuck on to the list here. After the success of my lovely anchor ponte Freya top, I'd like to make another in black ponte and I'll keep my eye out for other suitable sweater knits. It's a great item for layering with vests underneath and cardigans on top. I've also got plans to draft a great sweatshirt patterns, and I might even try out the Sew House 7 toaster sweater pattern than appears so much on the interwebs. 
  • Exercise wear. Recently, I made a commitment to myself to exercise more by going jogging and maybe yoga. I've been out jogging a couple of times of late, but my exercise wear is embarrassingly early 2000's RTW, and it does little for my motivation to get changed into it and get out there and run. I bought some plain black cotton/spandex jersey from Girl Charlee using the recent discount code (which I've used previously and loved the quality) with vague plans to make some leggings. I know that a couple of great-looking books in sewing active wear have recently been published, but I'm not at that level yet!

Phew! Now that I look back at this post, that looks like a lot of lessons I got to take on board! If you took part, what type of garments or specific patterns are now on your to-make list?
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