Friday, 3 April 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Women's Peplum 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 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 may be wrong, but I think a near-global lockdown with many people staying in their homes for weeks (months?) on end is exactly the right time for some free sewing pattern inspiration. It's possible that you, like me, have had your income effected by the corona virus, so in these financially uncertain times you may be looking for some free resources to keep you sewing. You are probably already well aware of the amazing array of free sewing patterns available for download on the Peppermint magazine website. But what are the patterns actually like to use? Previously I reviewed their Boxy top pattern, and now I've come back for more and have tried out their popular Peplum top pattern, created by In The Folds designer, Emily. Massive thanks to Peppermint magazine and the designers who collaborate with them to make so many wonderful free patterns available to the sewing community. Oh, and to help them stay afloat during this international crisis, they have added a little donate link on their pattern page so you can flow them a couple of quid. I did and I suggest you do too if you can. 

(image source: Peppermint mag)

Pattern type:

This is a simple little summer top with gathered peplum, rounded neckline that goes into a V shape at the back. The shoulders are formed from separate panels. Please note: I altered the pattern by lengthening both the bodice and peplum (each by 2cm), so my version is not exactly true to the original pattern. 

Sizing info:

The pattern has been sized from A-K, which translates to bust measurements 30" to 51½". I often fall between sizes so I opted for the smaller based on the finished garment measurements, and I'm happy with the fit as I didn't want to be swimming in it. 

Fabric info:

It is suggested that you use lightweight woven fabrics for this pattern, and I'd really advise against anything too stiff or with too much body. Although the sample on the website has been made in linen, I'd be careful to avoid anything that made the peplum stick out too much. For my version, I harvested the fabric from a vintage viscose dress (see above) that's been in my stash for at least seven years. I'm guessing by the small shoulder pads that it was made in the 1990s, and I've always loved the 1940's-esque print. 

It's amazing how much fabric even a small top project will need, and I had to disregard a number of existing seam lines when cutting out the peplum pieces. Thankfully the busy print and gathering hides them well. I'm really happy with how the viscose works with this style. It's not too slippery so it wasn't a total headache to sew, but the slinkiness feels nice to wear and doesn't allow the peplum to poof out too much.  


This pattern was a real pleasure with work with. Both the pattern itself and instructions were clear and user friendly. As for the finished garment, well I'm not entirely sold on it for myself. If I had to describe this garment in one word, I'd say it's 'flirty', however my daughter announced it looked like a little girl's dress (!), and I can kind of see what she means.

The main front and back pieces are really quite A-line,
 so the lower edge of the top section is pretty wide even before the peplum is attached. When I added the additional 2cm to the top section, I made sure to slash and insert 2cm across the width of the pattern pieces about half way down, not just to add the 2cm at the hem because I didn't want to make the lower edge even wider. But generally, I'm not sure the extra fullness around my waist is doing me many favours. 

Plus I am not a fan of the separate shoulder sections, I can't figure out what the point of them is, it kind of feels like design for design's sack. I do, however, love love love the neckline. The scoop at the front and V at the back are perfectly proportioned, IMO. Overall, it does feel really fun and swishy to wear, so I'll give it a couple of wears during actual summer, and who knows, I may fully fall in love with it.

Customisation ideas:

To be honest, I've not got much for you with this one. 
  • Alter the pattern pieces to eliminate the separate shoulder pieces, making a regular shoulder seam instead.
  • Extend the peplum pieces to make this into a dress.
  • Extend the peplum pieces AND add an additional tear for a different dress style. 
  • Add a small ruffle/frill into the arm hole over the shoulders. 

Would I make it again?:

Hmm. I probably wouldn't make this pattern again exactly as it is, I'm just not sure how many of this style of top my wardrobe really needs. I am tempted to incorporate this neckline into other garment projects though. 

Monday, 30 March 2020

Peggy: Pattern Testing Under Pressure!

When I signed up to test the Sewpony Peggy pattern, little did I know that I'd be completing it in lockdown during a global pandemic! Really, you couldn't write it, could you?! Well, I knew that a global pandemic was taking place of course, but the UK was still 'open for business' at the time, and the phrase 'lockdown' was not yet being bandied about, let alone enforced. For the testing of this pattern, Suz from Sewpony set up a closed Facebook group so we could leave comments, ask questions and share photos. As the two weeks progressed, more and more of the international tester group found themselves working from home, suddenly homeschooling our children, and having to use the fabric and buttons in our stash as we could no longer simply pop to the shops. 

So these are truly crazy times, and it feels kind of surreal to be talking about a new sewing pattern right now. However that's what I'm going to do, because there's only so many times I can write 'this is all so weird' before no doubt you'll head off elsewhere on the hunt for sewing inspiration. 

(image source: Sewpony)


Please note: the outfit that I have made here used the tester version of the pattern, and while it's undoubtedly very similar to the version now on sale, there are likely to be some very minor differences. The Peggy pattern spans sizes 12 months to 12 years. The top part is a simple, fastening-free top that can be made in both knit and woven fabrics (knit only for the smaller sizes) with optional 3/4 sleeve length (for knits only) and bow details. Elastic can also be inserted into the for a different look. The lower half is a gathered skirt with curved waistband, gathered pockets with flaps, button tab details and fastened by a concealed centre back zip. 

For my testing, I started with the skirt as that was clearly going to require the most time. I was pretty overwhelmed last Tuesday evening (the day after the lockdown was announced), and fluffed up the pockets a little; the pocket flaps are not meant to be trapped into the side seams. Overall, the skirt is quite an involved project, and I must admit it took considerably more time and effort than I usually spend on a skirt for my daughter. The result, however is lovely. The full pockets are my favourite feature and I love that the pattern encourages the use of contrast topstitching, as I think this really makes all those details (read: hardwork) pop and stand out.

The top was cobbled together during the course of the afternoon of the deadline. I lengthened the pattern about 1.5cm at the hem, and would do so a bit more for future versions because Dolores seems to have a fairly long torso. I've wanted a simple kids' top pattern that is suitable for woven fabrics for yonks. It's going to be so useful for hoovering up all those small pieces of woven leftovers from other projects. I'll make a version with the bow at some point because she loved that detail when I showed her the pattern, although I'm a little concerned about how screwed up it'll look having been through the wash. I'll let you know....


When you are testing a new, unreleased sewing pattern, you are, by definition, likely to encounter flaws and you can't bank on the finished item being wearable. That fact, combined with my sustained efforts to slowly work through my sizeable fabric stash (oh, and because I was on lockdown), meant that I was limited to the fabric options that I already owned. 

I gave Dolores a choice of fabric for the skirt. I had this piece of emerald cotton/stretch sateen, and some lavender cotton/linen; I was very surprised when we asked for this one. The stretch content wasn't too much of an issue, particularly because one half of the waistband is fused with interfacing. And the thicker weight holds the fullness created by the gathers well. If I'd had the right ones in my stash, I probably would have chosen plain white sew-through buttons for the tab detail. However, these gold ones look good with the emerald green, and Dolores is associating the whole thing with regal princesses (!).   

For the top, I used some cute printed quilting cotton which I have had in my scraps bin for years. Truth be told, it is probably at the stiffer end of the fabric-suitability spectrum, but seems to have worked alright. She wore this top two days in a row, so I'm guessing that my concerns surrounding its stiffness and subsequent comfort were unfounded. 


I'm very happy that I got to be part of the lovely community of testers for this pattern. It was so fun to see other peoples' versions popping up from all around the world. And it was during a time that I really needed an extra dose of community. 

As for the outfit, I think it's really lovely, and the separate pieces look great with other garments as well. My daughter's waist measurement seems to fluctuate quite a bit throughout the day (like, ahem, her mum's) and the skirt is currently a bit on the loose side, particularly in the mornings. That's one of the reasons that I prefer elasticated waist for kids' skirts, and because they seem to have a longer lifespan, partcularly if the elastic can also be let out a bit. So, I'm not sure I'd make the skirt again in a hurry, but I'm almost positive that I'll turn to the little top pattern many times in the future. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Thelma Boiler Suit

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

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


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

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

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

Fabric and buttons:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Friday, 6 March 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Walk the Plank PJ Bottoms

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

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

(image source: Patterns for Pirates)

Pattern type:

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

Sizing info: 

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

Fabric info:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Would I make this again?

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

Friday, 21 February 2020

Patchwork Scrap-buster Scout Tee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 14 February 2020

Leopard Print Cardi: So Very Neutral

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

Friday, 7 February 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Women's Carine Tee

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

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

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

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

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

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