Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The York Pinafore


I know that it's common to find the statement 'This new thing I made is all I want to wear right now' on sewing blogs and Instagram posts, but I can't help that. This pinafore IS my favourite thing to wear right now. The pattern appeared, as if by magic, in my inbox, sent by its designer Helen from Helen's Closet as a freebie shortly after she released it. I was under no obligation to sew it up, but as soon as I saw a few modelled versions pop up on the interwebs, I knew I had to make it when the right fabric came my way.... 

Pattern:

The York pinafore is a clever little pattern. Despite the number of pinafore and dungaree type patterns out there these days, I think it's unique. Part of its brilliance, IMO, it how simple it is: consisting of just a front and a back piece, and a couple of pockets. The neck and armholes are bound so there's not even facings to deal with. Once you've printed it out and stuck it together, there are three choices you need to make: which neckline (I went with the higher, but I adore the lower option too), pocket style (I love these big, scoopy ones, but there's also a cute hoodie-style, kangaroo version) and hem length (I picked the longer length so it'd be more suitable for chasing and wrestling with small children). 

(image source: Helen's Closet)

Going into this project, I remembered the realisation I came to during my Gemma tank escapades, that simple garments need to fit really well to look fantastic. I made a toile of this pinafore in some stable cotton to try and figure out if some pattern alterations would need to be made. I have to say at this point that the York pinafore pattern instructions may be the best pattern instructions I have ever encountered. This is in part because they include is a sizeable section on what to look for when fitting this garment, which is incredibly useful and makes this a wonderful pattern for helping beginner sewers to level up. I toiled the size M, and although the general size was fine, I found that the hip area sat too low on my body. This was unsurprising because I'm both short-waisted and an inch shorter than the height the pattern was designed for. I pinched out 3cm total (split into two places, as per the lengthen/shorten lines on the pattern) from the bodice are on both the front and back pieces. Plus, although I don't think it applies to me, I really liked how Helen explained an easy method for adjusting the pattern for larger bust sizes.  


The only other modification I made was related to the bias binding. I bought ready made bias (the instructions include how to make your own if you wish), but I picked a narrower width than suggested and applied it using the Grainline Scout tee method because I find it gives a nicer finish  around curved areas. But in short: the whole construction was super simple, and took very little time. 

Fabric:

I knew that I had nothing suitable in my stash for this pattern, so the next time I visited Fabric Godmother, I was in the look out. I didn't have a clear vision of what I was aiming for, other than I wanted a solid. With some guidance, I landed on this linen twill. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this may be the best fabric/pattern match I've EVER made! I've never worked with or worn linen before, let alone a linen with a twill weave, but it feels soooo nice on, kind of slinky but stable, I really love it. I'm struggling with the urge to go back and buy up the rest of the roll like some hoardy fabric-Gollum. 


Top:

With the pinafore complete, I couldn't ignore the desire for a new, super plain top to go with it. I already had this white cotton/spandex jersey in my stash that I'd procured from Girl Charlie UK for a different project that I later changed my mind about. I reached for my well-used copy of TATB's Agnes top pattern, and the perfect plain white knit top was born, that can also be paired with heaps of my other garments. 


Thoughts:

As you can probably tell, I adore this pinafore, and the outfit generally. Style wise, I'm not sure how you'd describe this whole vibe; the linen and the silhouette of the pinafore makes me think of art teachers, which is a direction Mr SoZo would probably argue I've been heading in for a while. I now own TWO floaty scarves which I wear quite a lot, and I've decided to allow my hair to go grey without dyeing it. Anyways, I don't think you could describe this pinafore as sexy, it gives my bum a kind of teletubby look (see below), but thankfully that's not an adjective I often aspire to. I wish I'd had this pinafore in my wardrobe when I was breastfeeding. I think it would give you sufficient boob access without too much outfit rearrangement required. I got so fed up of the limited collection of separates I wore for over a year, and it would have been great to have a dress option in the mix. 


I'm very happy with the tweaks I made to the fit, and the finish I achieved during construction. The only criticism I have for this garment, and it's a very mild one, is that I often find it shifts backwards a little, and I have to rearrange it slightly so the shoulder seams sit back on top of my shoulders where they belong. Anyone have any idea why that might be happening, or what I can do about it? I'd really love to make another of these early next year, probably with the lower scooped neckline and perhaps in a soft denim. I saw a version on Instagram made by @twodogs_and_a_sewingmachine where she had added centre front and back seams and went to town with topstitching, which looked really amazing. Helen has shared some great blog posts with other pattern hack ideas for the York pattern, as well as releasing an expansion pack to turn it into an apron. What fabric would you make this pattern in and what tweaks would you suggest? 

Friday, 7 September 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Women's Knit Headband



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.

So I've taken a slightly different tack for this month's free pattern project. It's not an entire garment, like usual, but a quicker accessory make that may appeal to A) beginners, B) sewers looking for useful ways to use up some fabric scraps, or C) a time-poor sewer who would like to make something from beginning to end in a very short amount of time. Thanks to Caroline Hulse via Janome for sharing her work on this pattern for free.  


Pattern type:

If truth be told, it probably wouldn't be a complete stretch for most sewers to figure out how to make a halfway decent headband. However, why not let someone else figure out the dimensions and method for us?! In case you were in any doubt, lemme tell you that there are about 300,000 headband tutorials and patterns available on the interwebs that people are generously sharing for free. I picked the Knit Headband pattern by Sew Caroline, which is actually downloadable via the Janome website here. I liked the width of the band, and the knot detail, which I hoped would help attract attention away from my greasy hair on days that I didn't get to wash it!

Sizing info:

This is billed as a 'one-size-fits-most' pattern. I'd say my head is on the large end of medium, and this fits me fine, however I'd be tempted to make it a bit shorter for future versions so that the tie ends don't stick out quite as much. Of course, the final size will also depend on the properties of your chosen fabric. 

(image source: Caroline Hulse)

Fabric info:

The good news is you only need ¼ metre/yard or less of fabric for this project, so if you've been sewing with knits for a while, it's possible that you've already got something suitable in your stash or fabric scraps collection. The bad news is that the only guidance given for what to use is 'knit fabric'. I would very much urge you to pick a jersey knit that isn't too thin, and has a sizeable (at least 5%) elastane/lycra/spandex content with very good recovery. 

For my first attempt at this pattern, I used a leopard print off cut from a refashioned garment, and it was a total flop (literally). The jersey was too thin, and despite a noticeable elastane content, the recovery was weak. Second time round, I used some jersey that was more substantial (this one from Girl Charlee UK) and it's perfect. I think anything you'd be happy to make leggings from would be fine for this project. 

Findings:

The pattern and tutorial take the form of a nicely designed four page PDF doc: two of those pages containing the pattern piece that you stick together. As mentioned, more info should have been given for choosing suitable fabric, particularly for beginners (and me, evidently!). Plus, there are no images or illustrations for the construction steps, which might have been helpful for a sewing novice, and I reckon the additional step of trimming away some of the seam allowance would lead to a slightly more polished headband. 

That said, it really was a fun and super-quick project, and the finished headband turned out much nicer than I thought it would. I'm sure I'll get a lot of use from it, on worse-than-usual hair days, and to keep my hair out of the way whilst I'm washing my face. 



Customisation ideas:

  • You could try adding some contrast top stitching around the edge of the headband with a lightning or zigzag stitch, or a cool decorative stretch stitch, if your machine has any.
  • To copy Caroline's headband (third from the top in her image above), you could try mixing two different fabrics in the same headband. 
  • Monkey around with the dimensions, making the band wider or thinner for different looks.
  • I saw on a different online headband tutorial (sorry can't recall now where), someone added some squiggles of hot glue from a glue gun to the underside towards the back of their headband. Apparently, this makes them much less likely to slip off, which is especially helpful whilst exercising (so I hear).

Would I make it again?

If I came across a scrap of the right type of knit, I would be very tempted to bust out some more of these, for myself or as gifts. If you've got lots of suitable pieces of knit to use up, these could make great stocking fillers for Christmas. Trying this pattern/tutorial has also inspired me to scale down the pattern and make my little girl some headbands too. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Avana Sailor Semi-Success


I first discovered the French children's sewing pattern company Ikatee when they contacted me last year with the offer to try one of their sewing patterns for free. I tested the Corfou dress pattern (which I reviewed here), and have been excited to follow their business developments and new pattern releases ever since. 

Pattern:

When Ikatee released the Avana pattern earlier this year I was, of course, smitten. Dolores completed surprised me by saying she liked it too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is a sign that she's relaxing her desire to wear exclusively the girliest of clothing styles. So I grasped the opportunity and threw the Avana pattern in my virtual cart before she could have a change of heart. 


What really sold this pattern to me was all the style options included. The first choice you need to make is between the 'sailor' or 'urban' looks. From there you can pick between shorts, 3/4, 7/8 or full length legs. Then there's two types of optional braces to consider, and, if you're making the urban look, whether or not you want to include the belt loops and waist tie. Phew. You may need a rest after all that decision making. 

(image source: Ikatee patterns)

So Dolores and I agreed on making the sailor option with the corresponding 'H' shaped braces. I was making this at the tail end of summer, so we went for the 3/4 length. She's about to turn five, so I cut the 5 years size, but chose the 6 years length because she seems to be taller than a lot of kids of the same age, plus I was hoping these would last a full calendar year. 

Another option included in the instructions is the choice between regular elastic or adjustable 'button hole' elastic. I went for the regular elastic option as that's what I had in my stash. The instructions themselves are very thorough, with digitised illustrations for each construction step. Generally, I found following along no problem, however I did develop two tiny gripes: the first is that, through including the steps for constructing all those different options, it lead to a bit of confusion when trying to work out which bits applied to you and which you could skip over. Secondly, the translation into English was a bit clunky at points, and the instructions could have benefitted from being run past a native English speaker before they were published. 


Fabric and buttons:

Like so much of my fabric stash, I have no clue where this 1.5 metre length of aqua poly/cotton twill came from. I've had it in my stash for so long that I remember having it on my fabric shelf when I lived in Barcelona circa 2009, although I know I had it when I lived in the UK prior to that. I've always loved the colour of this fabric, but could never figure out what it should become. Mainly I was confused by its weight: a bit too hefty for a blouse or top, but a bit too lightweight for making a skirt or shorts that I'd feel comfortable wearing. However, for kidswear, the weight seems to be just right. 


I don't know if it's still the case, but for a while, about five years ago, it seemed to be really easy to buy sets of vintage/retro buttons on cards like these. I found them on a number of market stalls and in haberdashery shops in a number of towns, as well as in Snoopers Paradise in Brighton, which is where these probably came from. I'm not sure if they are legit French vintage dead-stock, or just a cute repro. Either way, these lovely buttons have been in my stash for at least five years, and FINALLY found their purpose by matching this fabric almost exactly. 


Thoughts:

The first point I need to make is that I'm AMAZED Dolores has agreed to wear these aside from for the indoor photos. I genuinely thought that I was making these exclusively for my own joy of making them. However, so far she's worn them twice, both times with this awesome striped M&S t-shirt that I picked up brand-new from a charity shop. 


Generally, I'm a big fan of this pattern. All the style options, plus a wide size range (from 3 to 12 years), make this pattern excellent value for money. There are plenty of thoughtful details, like including two options for top stitching around the front buttons on the sailor version. Plus, I really like how the braces are detachable, and the instructions require you to make two sets of button holes so that they're adjustable.


What isn't so great is that they have come up quite small. And even on the longest setting, the braces are a bit short, and they don't sit very nicely at the back (see above). The second time she wore them out of the house, we agreed to leave the braces off, so I think that is how they are going to be worn from now on. I was hoping they'll still be of use for spring/summer 2019, but I predict that I'm going to have to pass these on to a smaller child and make Dolores the next size up.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Kinders Keep Coming


At the start of 2018, I already had a solid selection of handmade cardigans, all made using either the Jenna and Cabernet cardigan patterns. However, over the last couple of years, I've been experimenting with looser style tops that have different amounts of volume than my previous rockabilly-casual style tended to have. I've often found it a struggle to fit those Jennas and Cabernets over the top of a lot of the tops and dresses I usually wear these days. Therefore, it made sense to include a slouchy, 'boy-friend'-esque cardigan in my then-forthcoming #2018makenine project plans. 

The FAIL:

After some poking about, I discovered that I already owned one that I thought might fit the bill. An old copy of Burdastyle magazine that was nestling on my shelves contained a slouchy looking cardigan pattern, it's this one that can also be bought via the Burdastyle website (spoiler alert: I wouldn't bother). I traced out the pieces and combined the lower sleeve piece with that weird extra band that formed the top part of the sleeve to make it into one pattern piece. I requested and was kindly granted a sample length of this fabulous mustard french terry from Girl Charlee UK, and got to work. (Ironic) Ta da!


So hideous. I want to blame the way the cardigan is obscured in the shot on the Burdastyle model, but equally I could blame my own eyes for not seeing that this cardigan pattern is pretty horrid (IMO), and has also been made up in a much sturdier knit than what I had tried it in. Either way: FAIL. The project got thrown into the corner of my sewing area, promising to return to salvage the fabric when I felt less rubbish about the whole debacle.

The mustard success:

Whilst the fail-cardigan resided in the corner of shame, I was asked to take part in the blog tour for Wendy Ward's 'A Beginner's Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics'. As part of that, I made her Kinder cardigan pattern, and liked the result so much I went on to make another. Having worn the living shizzle out of both AND knowing that they were able to worn over looser tops, it didn't take me long to work out what to do with the mustard french terry, once I'd salvaged what I could of it. 


After slicing up the failed Burdastyle cardigan, I realised I wouldn't have quite enough fabric, so I begged Girl Charlee for an additional metre, which they were swift to supply me with, the legends.  However, even with the extra fabric, I didn't have quite enough to make the mid-length option (as per my black ponte version). So my new mustard version ended up precisely half-way between the short and mid length pattern options. I even remembered to alter the neckband pieces as well! 


Let's talk more about this fabric. In short: it is AMAZING. It's soooo soft and has an amazing drape, perfect for a flow-y cardigan plus I bet it would work fabulously for a knit skater-style dress, if those are your bag. Because of its softness, I decided to opt for the cuff-less sleeve option of the pattern, and the whole this has worked perfectly. I LOVE wearing this cardigan so much. I knew that a mustard coloured cardigan would work well with the rest of my clothing selection because of how much I have worn my mustard Cabernet cardigan (and the mustard hand-me-down RTW cardigan I made the Cabernet to replace). However, I must admit that I have barely worn my mustard Cabernet now that I have this Kinder one. It fits over all my tops and dresses much more easily and feels so lovely to wear that I can't resist reaching for it first.


I've learnt the hard way to always reinforce the shoulder seams of knit tops. For this project, I added an extra cute little detail by overlocking some narrow rainbow grosgrain ribbon into the shoulder seams of. It makes me very happy when I see the rainbows as I'm popping it on. With the remains of both the original fail-digan and the extra metre that I was sent, I was able to squeeze out a pair of joggers and a T-shirt for Frankie. The joggers are currently covered in yogurt so I couldn't get a photo, but I used the same Ottobre magazine 'straight stripes' joggers pattern that I used for these pairs because they were such a success. For the T-shirt, I used the free Ringer tee pattern by Brindille & Twig, that I previously wrote about here. This time, I omitted the bottom band and added a little woven ribbon detail, in part to help distinguish the front easily when getting the squirmy little guy dressed. 


The navy version:

After creating such a successful cardigan, I had an eye out for other fabric that the Kinder pattern could work its magic on. I ended up with an end of roll length of this interesting navy and white knit (sadly no longer in stock) from Fabric Godmother whilst working at one of their open days earlier this year. I really loved it, and it certainly fit within my usual colour palette, however, with less than a metre of it, I just wasn't sure what to do with it. Then I remembered this image (see below) from my Pinterest boards of a cardigan/jacket-hybrid that I believe came from Anthropologie that used a fabric with a similar look. I didn't think a cardigan like this would use much fabric, so with the Kinder pattern in hand, I attempted a vague recreation of the Anthropologie garment. 


I opted for making my version 5cm longer than the short-length option on the pattern. The sleeves ended up a bit shorter than the 3/4 length I was aiming for because I was was working with very limited fabric. However, I think overall the proportions work ok, and there's definitely a passing resemblance!


I didn't use anything cute to reinforcement the shoulders in this version, but I did add a little nautical back neck hanging loop. It's something that I wished I had included in my mustard version to keep it from slipping off the hanger.


Despite being completely my colours and style, I decided to make this version for my amazing and inspiring friend Harriet, who lives in Barcelona. In our correspondence, I had offered to make her a garment as she reads my blog from time to time and is always very complimentary about my creations. She had mentioned that she liked my cardigan/jacket creations, and although I think she might have been referring to my La Trop Facile jacket, the Kinder has a similar kimono-y, fastening-free look so I hoped that she would appreciate this project. She's received it and says that she loves it, and it truly gives me more happiness to know that she wears it than it would if it lived in my wardrobe, particularly because I already have three Kinders and three navy cardigans already in there.


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

My Gemma Tank Journey


It's difficult to explain exactly why these two basic little tops took up as much time and brain space as they did, but I'll try. It's definitely not a fault with the drafting of this pattern, however I have a theory that it's actually the simplest garments that are the hardest to fit, because when there are no frills, flounces, gathers or any other busyness, there's nowhere to hide any wonkiness! 

Pattern:

Towards the end of last summer, I was feeling a desire for some woven tank tops. My anchor La Brune top had convinced me that the world wouldn't come to a stand still if I exposed my upper arms, and actually it feels really nice to wear a sleeveless garment in hot weather (who knew?!). I spent ages going back and forth between Made by Rae's Gemma tank patternWiksten's tank pattern and the no-longer-available Tiny pocket tank pattern by Grainline Studio. By the time I selected my #2018makenine plans, I had finally fallen down on the side of the Gemma tank because I felt the bust darts are a nice addition for preventing this type of garment from looking too shapeless. 


A quick note about the bindings. One of the things that make this a speedy, simple pattern to make is that the neck and armholes are bound with bias binding rather than being finished with facings. Rae has helpfully detailed three methods for using bias binding on her blog. What she calls the 'French method' is by far my favourite, and is what I have used on both my versions that you see in this post. However, because this method flips the binding to the inside of the garment, rather than encasing the raw edge with no folding, as the other two methods do, the neck and armholes become wider, and the shoulder strap gets narrower. To combat this, I've added a little to my neck and armholes. However, my bra straps do peek out a tiny bit from time to time, so I may increase my addition to the armhole around my shoulder for future versions. 

This pattern helpfully comes with two different front pieces for different cup sizes: A/B and C/D. Although you'd never guess from looking at me with clothes on, I actually wear a D-cup bra. However, pregnancies and breast feeding have, umm, 'redistributed' my fullness and I chose to go with the front piece designed for the A/B cups. I also graded between the Small around the bust, out to the Medium for the waist and hips, which is my usual adjustment. I toiled this up in some thin cotton and the result was ok, but there was far too much fabric around the lower back area. I realised that I'd forgotten to pinch out some of the length to account for my short waisted-ness, so I did that and made another version in gingham left over from this Tova dress. I was hoping that it'd end up wearable, if not perfect, but I should have dug deep and found the patience to make a second toile in not-so-great fabric first because the gingham version did NOT end up wearable. There was still a whole load of fabric bunched up at the lower back that the short waist adjustment didn't solve. 

(image source: Made by Rae)

It was time to accept something that I'd been avoiding admitting for a while: I have a sway back issue going on. I spent a bunch of time researching sway back adjustments, and eventually came across this excellent Youtube video by Alexandra Morgan which shows three methods clearly and thoroughly. I went with the method that requires you to make a centre back seam rather than cutting out the back piece on the fold. I did this for two reasons; firstly, it made more sense to me to have a CB seam for achieving an adjustment that thoroughly deals with the sway back problem, and secondly, the next piece of fabric in my stash that I had my eye on for a Gemma tank was quite small, so I thought that cutting the back of the garment in two pieces rather than on the fold was going to be necessary anyhow. 

This time, I did managed to summon up the patience to make a toile before ruining another piece of nice fabric. I could see that the sway back adjustment had definitely improved things, but it was far from perfect. Because I didn't have anyone around to help with the tricky business of fixing a fit issue around the back, I'd had to guess the position and amount of the adjustment I was making. After that toile, I went back to the pattern and pinched a tiny bit more out of the sway back adjustment then got out the chicken fabric. 


The chicken print version:

This fabric is another of those pieces that seemed to have magically appeared in my stash, as I have no memory of how or when it got in there. Weirdly enough, I had another, larger, piece of African wax fabric with this chicken print before that I made into a dress for my best friend almost a decade ago! The previous piece was some kind of synthetic or synthetic blend (which contributed to it's demise when it met with a hot iron), but this smaller, orangey-er piece is definitely 100% cotton. 


I struggled to make the most of the print placement because of the amount I had to work with, and I promise you the back print placement looked better when it was the full length version of this garment. Anyways, seeing as I didn't take photos of any of these steps you'll have to believe me that this chicken version was definitely an improvement, fit-wise, on the previous sway-back adjusted toile. I knew that this fairly crisp fabric was stretching the limits of the suitability of cotton for this pattern, and although I seemed to finally be rid of much of the excess fabric around my lower back, every time I bent down or forward, or lifted my arms, the lower back section kept kind of 'sitting' on my upper bum and I'd have to yank it back down again. This quickly became tiresome, and I decided that the only way to salvage this chicken version as something I would actually want to wear was to hack the bottom off and make it a boxy crop top. I tell you now that I am NOT a crop top kind of woman. However, the denim sweet shorts that I've wearing a lot this summer are pretty high waisted, so I felt confident that a cropped Gemma tank would have a mate to form an outfit with. 


The feather print version:

Before I hacked the bottom off the chicken version, my mum came to visit and I got her to have a look at it on me and get her assistance. Together, we were able to take any residual lessons from it that could be gleaned before I went at it with the scissors. She got busy with the pins and worked out that just a tiny bit more was needed to be taken out in the sway back adjustment, and worked out the precise position for where it should come out. We also figured out together that my sway back adjustment was swinging the side seam backwards, and by slicing through the seam and allowing it to open up, we worked out that 1cm needed to be added to the side seam of the back piece from the hem up to nothing around the upper hip area. 


With these alterations made but my stash depleted of suitable fabric, I lay in wait for another viable piece of fabric to come my way before I could test this (hopefully final) set of changes. Those who follow me on Instagram (@sozoblog) may have seen in my feed a couple of weeks ago my beautiful little haul of fabric and notions that came home with me from a recent trip to Rouen, France. In one shop called Fabric et Moi (a blog name if ever I heard one, surely?!) I found this beautiful feature print cotton poplin (I'm guessing it's poplin) and snapped up a metre with this pattern in mind. (In the same shop I bought a small length of a similar fabric, pale pink background with a subtle gold feather print design for my daughter, convinced that she would crap herself over it. When she saw them, she preferred mine *eyes roll skyward*.) 


I managed to complete this Gemma just in time for the weather to turn and for no-sleeves to stop being an option, so I haven't had a chance to give it a proper test run. From these photos it looks like even more could be pinched out of the sway back and/or I could give myself a bit more at the side seams over the hips. However, IMO it doesn't look bad, especially from the front, and in a softer, drapier fabric like the kind used in the Made by Rae image towards the top of this post, you might not even see a need for further adjustment. Either way, I'm done with tweaking, or even thinking about, this pattern for at least six months. 


What did please me very much though, is that not only did I squeeze this top out of 1 metre of fabric along with self-made bias, but I also was able to make a pair of shorts for Frankie with the remains. I find few things more satisfying. In case you're wondering, I used the Made Everyday with Dana Kid shorts pattern, size 3 (Frankie will be 2 years old next summer, however, I find this pattern runs a bit small). I also added labels to both the tank and shorts using some cute woven ribbon with birds that was the perfect theme and colours for my fabric. I was kindly given a length of this and some other ribbons by Textile Garden a number of years ago. If you're in the market for some sweet woven ribbon, then you should head over there as they have a great selection


Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Landers Have Landed


Most of the time, I like to blog about a sewing project soon after completion, whilst the experience of making it is still fresh in my mind. These Lander shorts, however, were tricky to get round to photographing because I've been wearing them so much, they always seem to be in the wash. I eventually got these pics taken a couple of days ago, and if you were wondering what Lander shorts look like when they've been worn almost constantly for two months, then I have your answer right here. 



Pattern:

It's not often that I fall in love with a sewing pattern the very first instant that I become aware of it. Usually, it takes seeing a number of versions pop up via blogs and Instagram before a pattern can fully win me over. However, this one I knew straight away that I had to have it. I included it in my #2018makenine plans at the very beginning of the year, but I didn't pull the trigger and buy it until May, when I was able to take advantage of the #MMMay18 celebration discount codes (I also bought the zipper expansion pack, FYI).

(image source: True Bias)

I'm deeply obsessed with the full length (view C, pictured above) version of this pattern. But with summer then just round the corner, like many other sewers, I decided to make a hopefully-wearable toile of the shorts version as my entry point.

I'd read good things about how this pattern has been drafted, and that many had found that minimal fitting was required. In general, I completely agree, however I did take things slowly and made a number of alterations that I'll share with you now, if you're interested. 



First up, I started by blending between the sizes for my waist and hips, as I so often do. I chose the size 8 for the hips, blending out to a size 10 at the waist. The pattern gives you a sizeable 1" seam allowance on the side seams so you can make any tweaks that you find necessary. At the point of fitting the side seams, the pattern instructions do say that you can't alter the waist measurement during your tweaking, because your waistband will no longer fit if you do. I didn't even look at the waistband pattern piece, much less cut it out, until I had the shorts almost completed with the side seams basted, partly because I wanted the option to alter the side seams at the waist if I needed to. 
I ended up letting my side seams out a straight 1/2" all the way down (effectively giving me an extra 2" all the way around my bootay). I then pinched out about 2cm total per dart at the back to get the waistline to lie nicely against my body (I'm beginning to suspect I have a sway back situation going on). I restitched my darts so that they were curved rather than straight and made this alteration on my pattern pieces for next time. 


The other reason why I didn't cut out my waistband out until I absolutely needed to, was because I had read that a number of people had drafted curved waistbands rather then use the straight waistband included in the pattern. I wasn't sure if that need would apply to me, but after the dart pinching, I was convinced I would also have to redraft the waistband to include a curve if I didn't want it to sit up weirdly at the back. I then hit a bit of a stumbling block; I wasn't sure exactly how much to curve it or on at what point of the waistband to do so. By chance, I saw on Instagram that Josie of Fabric Godmother was tackling the Lander pants pattern at the same time as me. We entered into a discussion and she said that she planned to add the curve just at the back, between one side seam and the other. This made total sense to me; I don't go 'in' around the belly area, so curving the waistband at the front didn't feel necessary. 


So when I finally did draft my waistband, I started by tracing off the original size 10 waistband, minus the seam allowance. Then added the extra at the side seams that I had needed, then I removed the measurement that I had had to pinch out of the back darts, and THEN I added a curve to the back area (between the side seams). I created the curve by slashing down through the waistband and overlapping the slashes at regular intervals, eyeballing the curve that I was forming. I then added the seam allowance to all the edges. It may be worth mentioning that a curved waistband has to be cut in two mirror-image pieces (a waistband and a waistband facing, if you like), rather than in one piece like the original waistband pattern piece.

The other, more minor changes I made to the pattern were: 1) to shorten the length of the hem a little, 2) make the curved topstitching at the fly at little farther out to accommodate my buttonholes (my buttons are slightly larger than the pattern recommends, and 3) to leave off the belt loops as I know I'll never wear these with a belt.


Fabric:

I'm guessing this fabric is a cotton or poly/cotton twill, and its origin and how it got into to my stash are even more of a mystery. What I do know is that this fabric was in two pieces, and has lived in my stash for at least five years. Recently, I had made some vague plans to use it to make some trousers for Frankie, possibly involving some red piping. However, I wasn't sold on that plan as I'm not a fan of kids wearing trousers from fabric that have no stretch to it, so it wasn't much of a struggle to bury that idea and use it for these shorts instead. There was just enough for these shorts if I cut the waistband facing from something else, so in the end I felt that this twill was destined to become these shorts!


I'm a fan of a contrast waistband, so I used a scrap of the koi print cotton left over from the matching shirts I recently made. I used a scrap of black and white gingham to line the pockets, and despite deploying the techniques in the instructions to cut back the pocket lining pieces to avoid them being visible, you can still see peeks of it from the outside around the edges of the pocket if you look closely enough. Next time I'll try to select a pocket lining very similar to my outer fabric.

I chose these metal buttons from my stash because, A) they were in my stash and therefore effectively free, and B), because I thought that, when combined with this khaki twill, it gave a cute nod to a  uniform-y vibe, like the original boy scout shorts that I heard in a podcast inspired Kelli from True Bias to design this pattern in the first place.


Thoughts:

I'm so glad that I took the time to complete all those tweaks and changes carefully, because I think the fit is pretty spot on. They are really comfortable to wear, despite being made from a non-stretch woven fabric, although I might take a tiny scoop out of the front crotch curve on my next pair. Although the waistband curve was eyeballed, I'm very happy with how it fits snuggly around my lower back, and unless a different fabric type or weight loss/gain force me to take the side seams in or out, I'll use the same waistband piece going forwards.  

Although I'm now itching to make a squillion pairs of the full-length Lander pants, I can definitely see another pair or two of Lander shorts getting made for next summer. I've got my eye on a couple of pieces of fabric already in my stash for them, and I'll probably change the fit of the leg slightly to make them closer fitting, hopefully more akin to the image of the Lander shorts on the True Bias website. 


These shorts have also made me entirely reconsider my stance on khaki. I would NEVER have picked this fabric out if I were shopping in a fabric shop, however I have been really surprised by how much of my existing wardrobe this colour goes with. On the back of this discovery, I even got some khaki linen/cotton from the most recent Fabric Godmother open day for another project I've got lined up for the near future. 

Not only am I excited to make the full length Landers next, but I'm also chomping at the bit to try drafting different pocket shapes and styles, have a go at the zip fly, and maybe to play with constrasting topstitching threads. Expect to see more Landers round here before the year is out. 

Friday, 3 August 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Bummies


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.

Dolores has been the main beneficiary of my selfless sewing lately, especially for these 'Free Pattern Friday' makes, so when Brindille & Twig recently released their new free Bummies pattern, I knew I could finally redress the balance a bit in Frankie's favour. This pattern release coincided, fortuitously, with a heatwave here in the UK that lasted for a couple of months, and is probably now set to return for a while after two days of (very welcome) rain. Frankie does NOT appear to enjoy heat. Yet, when he's too hot and we take his clothes off, he also thinks his nappy needs to come off too. These bummies so far, somehow, have managed to fool him into not taking his nappy off whilst he's otherwise nudey. Thanks heaps to Brindille & Twig for sharing their hard work for free, AND for aiding us in this useful deception. 

(image source: Brindille & Twig)

Pattern type:

I would describe this pattern as an updated, modernised version of a traditional nappy/diaper cover, designed for knit fabrics. The waist is elasticated with an optional drawstring, and the pattern includes two variations for finishing the leg holes: elasticated or banded.

Sizing info:

This pattern has been graded between preemie and 2-3T (heights 44cm to 96cm). However, I'd really recommend choosing your size, for this and all B&T patterns, based on the child's height rather the age (or I just tend to pick a size down from their actual age) if you want the garment to be worn straight away. For example, although Frankie is a substantial 22 month-old, I picked the 12-18 month (84cm) pieces and the fit is perfect.  


Fabric info:

The fabric suggestion states 'knit fabric - most types will work'. For both my versions, I used a single jersey of cotton with elastane/lycra/spandex, which seems to have worked well as they are a suitably light weight for the hot weather, but also great for moving about. Although I don't think the stretchy content is absolutely necessary for the main part of these garments, I do think it'd be the better choice for the leg hole bands if you're making that version. Thin loop-back French terry and interlock would probably also be great options for the main parts/elasticated leg hole version, but you'd want to avoid anything thicker (like a ponte perhaps) that would be too bulky for the waistband.

Plus, one of the best bit about making this pattern is that you can bust the hell out of your scraps bin! The 'monsters and snacks' fabric version came from the improbably small leftovers from this project, and the blue and white striped fabric was harvested from this top that had got too worn and ratty in its former incarnation. I'd love to see some made from refashioned/upcycled old logo T-shirts as well. 


Findings:

I'd say that this pattern is very typical of the six or so other B&T patterns I've now tried. The PDF pattern and instructions are bright, very clear and user friendly. I'd say this pattern would hold no significant issues for a beginner sewer (or beginner to knit-sewing), just be aware that the seam allowance is a scant 6mm. However, you could add a bit to all the edges and make the seam allowance larger before cutting out your pattern pieces, if you so wished.

When making the bummies, I had a concern that the measurements included for the length of the waist and leg hole elastic might be too tight for my marginal-chubster (I'm not sure that term is very PC, now I've written it...). So I added an extra 2cm to the waist elastic, but ended up removing it again. I'd been basing my assumptions on the measurement of elastic I usually cut when making him trousers and shorts, but I'd not figured out that these bummies need to fit more snuggly for them to perform their nappy-enclosing duties.

I did find that the length suggested for the optional waist tie/drawstring was a bit short. Also, I didn't like how the instructions recommend to just snip holes into the knit to thread them through rather than making button holes or adding eyelets, or even just adding a little square of interfacing to the back of that area. I know that button holes and eyelets would make this a less speedy and beginner friendly make, and that usually knit fabric doesn't fray, but on my version the holes started to look a bit tatty and stretched out pretty quickly. In the end, Frankie couldn't deal with having a drawstring anyhow and seeing as it was clearly annoying him, I removed it. 

The fit of these bummies is really cute. They are kind of a bit pouchy, and I wasn't sure Frankie would deal with the volume (he's quite opinionated about his clothes for someone who can't really speak yet), but he's been fine in these. I do think that the leg hole elastic could do with being slighter looser for his thighs. Obviously all kids are different shapes and sizes, but I'd recommend you keep an eye out for that if you make the elasticated leg hole version.


Customisation ideas:

I'm not feeling very creative right now, so all I can suggest is playing around with your fabric scraps and old/unwanted knit garment, perhaps using different fabric for the front and back pieces, as well as for the leg hole bands if you choose that version. And of course adding appliques, patches, motifs etc. etc. I'd love to hear any more suggestions... Oh, and I'd DEFINITELY recommend adding a ribbon loop or label of some kind to the back, as at a glance, is can be difficult to distinguish which is the front and back if you haven't included the drawstring.


Would I make it again?

Because of the slight trickiness of getting the leg hole elastic the correct length (or my laziness in re-doing it if it's not right), I'd say that the banded version is my preferred one, and I definitely plan to make Frankie a small stack of banded bummies for next summer. He *may* be potty training next summer, and I was thinking that these *might* make a good garment to help with that process, as a kind of bridge between big-boy underwear and acceptable-as-outdoor-wear shorts, so that there's only one layer to yank down when heading to the loo. Those who have experience in potty training boys might be able to advise me if I'm on to something here or not...

I warn you: making these could be addictive! Two or three pairs of these bummies would make a fun and impressive, but really pretty simple, gift for a baby or toddler. And it could be a useful pattern to have on hand for surprise-hot-weather or last-minute-pre-holiday sewing if additions to a child's wardrobe is required!
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