Sunday, 15 May 2022

Leopard Print Ginger Jeans and a Realisation

It's slowly been dawning on me that I can't really wear the style of jeans that I prefer, and also feel comfortable AND have them stay on my body properly. And honestly, I think this has always been the case. What I mean by this is that, the slim/skinny legged jeans with a low-rise, hipster waistline which I love the look of just don't work for my body. I've always had a bit of a tum, even when I was in my 20s and weighed the least in my adult life. I've always found the waistline of jeans cut in to my tum uncomfortably. I got so used to undoing the top button of my jeans each time I sat down after years of doing so, but I've grown tired of that now. 

Through the power of sewing my own clothes, I tried to solve the issue by grading between two different sizes for the waist and the hips-downwards. This has never worked well because they end up too loose at the waist and often slip down a bit. 

Having gone on a journey which resulted in my workwear denim Lander pants, I came to the realisation that I need extra space around my tum only, not all around the waist. The full-tummy adjustment I did on the Lander pants worked really well, and for the first time ever I have a pair of fly-front jeans that I can sit down in without needing to undo the button of. 

Naturally, I wondered if I could apply the same magic to a slim/skinny legged pattern, seeing as that is the type of jeans I wear most often. And what I then realised it that I don't think I can make that adjustment on a low- or even medium-rise style and expect them to stay up. 

So what I ended up doing for this project was to trace the high-rise version of the Closet Core Ginger jeans pattern (which I have previously made with low- and medium-rises) as my starting point. I already own a medium rise version which are still in action, so I was able to try those on with the button and fly undone which allowed me to assess how much addition width I'd need to properly accommodate my tum, AND where the additional width should land. As I've discovered through watching videos and reading posts about full-tummy adjustments, I knew I'd also need to add some additional height at the front. 

Because the Ginger jeans pattern calls for stretch denim, I decided not to add the entire additional width it would appear I required, because the stretch content might result in them becoming too accommodating and therefore not staying up!

As you can see from the side view (pictured above), the side seam is pretty much in the correct position: perpendicular to the ground. That's one of the main clues that tells me this adjustment worked. The other is that I can sit down without having to undo the button!!! Woo hoo!!!!

The fabric I used was a seconds/remnant from Fabric Godmother. It's a very soft stretch denim with this super-cute leopard print pattern. I like how the jeans look like pretty standard blue jeans from afar, but the little leopard print becomes visible when you look closer. It was a remnant because a fade mark had occurred along the folded edge when the fabric was on the bolt. I was easily able to avoid the fade mark when cutting out these jeans, however. 

Although I still don't love the look or feel of high-rise jeans, I do love generally how comfortable these jeans are. I can wear them all day without wanting to take them off the second I get home. And honestly I never wear my garments tucked into my jeans as I am in the photos: I did that to show the fit of this garment around the tummy. I forgot to take a photo of these jeans shown seated, but I'm wondering if this adjustment might be of particular use to some wheelchair users who would like to wear skinny jeans but find them uncomfortable around the waist. I'm pretty evangelical about this adjustment because I don't think it's one that many sewers know about. 

Now that I have this adjusted pattern, I plan to make a couple more pairs in different colours to flesh out my wardrobe a bit. Currently I own a few tops and blouses that I love and would pair well with skinny jeans, but don't look good with the two blue pairs I know own.  

Friday, 6 May 2022

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Bikini 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 an adult'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. I also firmly believe that pattern designers deserve to be properly paid for their work, so if you enjoy using a pattern and can afford to do so, make sure you support that designer. Some designers' websites offer the option to make a donation, alternatively you can buy one of their paid-for products. If you can't afford to do so, you can support the designer by sharing your project via social media to help draw more attention to their work. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

When I first found this free sewing patterns years ago, I thought "Who would need a pattern for half a bikini?!". Well, it turns out, me! I recently made my daughter a two piece swimming cossie that consists of a top and cycling shorts-style bottoms. Initially the fit of the original cycling shorts bottoms wasn't great and I didn't have a lot of faith in them working out. Plus my daughter has swimming lessons, we live close to the beach AND we have a summer holiday booked with a pool on site, so I felt that expanding the set would be a useful endeavour. And it meant I could use up some of the leftover scraps of this spotty fabric. Lord knows I have enough scraps. 

Big thanks to Treasurie for making this bikini bottoms sewing pattern available for free. To access the sewing pattern, visit the blog post and you should find the download link buried in the text after the first couple of paragraphs. The blog post itself contains quite a lot of information including additional tips on how to use the elastic and sewing with Lycra. However, I really hate blog posts with heaps of pop-ups and imbedded videos, so I'd advise using the instructions in the PDF file once you've downloaded it. 

(image source: Treasurie)

Pattern type:

This pattern is for simple, basic bikini style bottoms. No bells. No whistles. The options include unlined, half lined (with lining at the front) or fully lined, depending on the thickness/opaqueness of your fabric and personal preferences. The pattern pieces could also be used at the basis for making undies. 

Sizing info:

The pattern is generously graded from two years to fourteen years. A body measurements chart is included to make sure you're selecting the right size for the child in question. 

Fabric info:

Lycra or spandex with at least 75% stretch is recommended for this project. It takes very little, so could be a great way to use up scraps from adult swimwear projects. I used some scraps of fabric probably originally intended for dance wear, and mesh swimwear lining. Swimwear elastic is also required. I used rubber elastic which I feel is less bulky than other types. 

Findings:

Once I'd navigated the annoying pop-ups and downloaded the pattern, it was very plain sailing. The PDF file, which contains both instructions and pattern pieces, is well designed and easy to use. It doesn't include the layers function, however the pattern pages are grouped into two size brackets so you're not wasting too much ink on unnecessary sizes. 

I appreciated the additional tips on handling this tricky fabric, which many sewers might not have worked with before. However, I do think I came up with a better and tidier (albeit more complicated and less beginner-friendly) construction method. I used a kind of burrito method for both the crotch seam (above) AND the side seams (below), which meant the insides were super neat with reduced bulk (*brushes her shoulders off*). 

The elastic I had to hand was narrower (6mm) than the pattern calls for (10mm), so I trimmed away the edge of the leg holes so that the crotch wouldn't end up too wide. After the faff of making the two piece bikini for my daughter, and then a bikini for myself, this project felt like an absolute breeze. The fit is excellent. 

Would I make this again?

Absolutely! Although my daughter prefers the look of the cycling shorts part of this three-piece set, I can definitely see myself reaching for this pattern again to bulk out her swimwear selection in the future. 

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Me-Made-May '22!

 

It's time for me to launch the Me-Made-May 2022 challenge! These challenges are now in their 13th year. Can you believe we've reached the teenage years?! To celebrate this milestone, this year I'm giving it a relaunch of sorts. I've clarified what the challenge is all about: what it is, what it isn't, who it's for and how to take part. Plus the logo has had a beautiful makeover. And because I have a podcast these days, I've created an explanatory episode for those wishing to hear more, delve deeper to get the most out of their challenge.  

I'm the first to admit that, because participants set the specifics of their own challenge rather than everyone following along with one single set of 'rules', MMM does not have a snappy, elevator-pitch style explanation. Plus, now that a lot of sewing community activity happens over on Instagram, the visual nature of that platform means that what it's actually about gets a bit lost. I honestly believe (in fact I KNOW because of all the messages and emails I've received over the years) that this challenge can have amazing, eye-opening effects for participants that can change the way you dress and make going forwards. 

So let's break it down.....


What is Me-Made-May?

MMM is a wardrobe challenge that helps you improve your relationship with your handmade items. It can also teach you what to make (and not make) in the future! To participate you need to wear your handmade items more often or in some way differently to how you usually get dressed. This is an individual challenge so you will decide on the specifics for yourself. The point of doing this is to give yourself the opportunity to learn some useful lessons and/or alter how you feel about those items. There is no set, single pledge because everyone is different, with different lives and different goals, so participants set the specifics of their own pledge so that it'll be challenging and useful for them. The challenge happens by setting specifics for yourself that will be a bit difficult, but do-able.

You can’t really predict what you’ll learn, but by giving yourself a month to focus more on what you’re wearing, you’re opening yourself to gathering heaps of knowledge that you can take forward. That knowledge will help you make better choices for future projects. By applying the lessons, you’ll be upping your chances of your future handmade items making you feel fantastic and having long, useful lives.


What isn't Me-Made-May?

Over the years, I’ve noticed four common misconceptions about the challenge, so let’s address them now:

MMM is not a making challenge. The challenge is about wearing your existing handmade items. It’s not about accruing more things. Giving yourself a month to focus on what you’ve got will help you appreciate what you have, perhaps fall back in love with some items, and subsequently get more from the time, energy, money and resources that you’ve already put into your craft and your clothes.

MMM is not a photo challenge. All the photos of people in their handmade outfits that appear on social media during May can definitely make it seem that MMM is all about donning a cute handmade outfit and taking and sharing pictures. However, and I cannot stress this enough, those photos are documentation of the challenge, NOT the challenge itself, and photos are ENTIRELY optional!!!!!!

MMM is not a competition. 


MMM is a personal challenge, you’re not competing with anyone. You’ll have made yourself a pledge to focus on throughout the month, and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, or wearing. If you go on social media where other participants are sharing photos, it’s an opportunity to cheer each other on, and perhaps garner some style inspiration. The enemy of joy is comparison. Remember to stay focused on your own challenge and what you’re trying to achieve.

 

MMM is not about having heaps of handmade clothes


I honestly can’t stress this enough: you can participate in MMM even if you have just one handmade item. You just have to set a suitable pledge that allows you to wear that item more often or in different ways. However many handmade items you have, your pledge needs to be challenging but do-able.



So who is Me-Made-May for? 


I’ve lost count of the amount of posts I’ve read over the years saying ‘I don’t think I have enough me-mades to take part in MMM’. You can participate if you have just one single self-made item, or if you wear head-to-toe me-mades everyday already. It’s about working with what you’ve got, setting a suitable pledge, learning useful lessons and having fun.





How do I take part?


You will need to intentionally wear your handmade items more and/or in different ways throughout May 2022. Have a think about the handmade items you own, how often you already wear them, and perhaps if there are any areas of your relationship with your wardrobe that know could use some improvement. Then set your own pledge outlining the specifics of your challenge before 1st May. 


“I (insert name or username) pledge to wear (insert specifics of your pledge) for throughout May 2022”


You can keep this entirely to yourself, tell friends and family, or share this on social media, whatever you wish.





If you'd like to hear me break all this down some more, check out Episode 36 of my podcast, Check Your Thread. If you're struggling to figure out your pledge, there will be two episodes coming up with more ideas, plus we'll hear from some previous participants. In the meantime, if you have any questions about MMM, please get in touch via email at sozoblog AT g mail dot com, or via IG @checkyourthread or @sozoblog.

I wish you a wonderful, insightful and FUN Me-Made-May!

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Cinnamon Brera Cardigan



Ta da!!! May I proudly present to you my first successful self-knitted garment! Every winter I bemoan my lack of chilly weather clothes. As a maker, I can't really bring myself to go shopping, and I'm not a massive fan of shopping for second hand clothes for myself either. Stepping up my knitting skills felt like the right option. 

I can't remember how I first heard about them, but I started following We Are Knitters (AKA WAK) and signed up to their newsletter. Eventually I bought a few of their chunky, super simple knitting patterns when they became available for individual purchase. They regularly have discounts and special offers, and at some point later last year I treated myself to the yarn to make the Brera cardigan. I think the yarn cost me about £80 with the discount. It felt like a lot in one hit, but I saw it as an investment. 


The colour is called cinnamon (which doesn't seem to be available at the moment), and it's incredibly soft. As you can probably tell, it is a super simple pattern. It literally consists of five rectangles of garter stitch, so if you can knit a scarf, you can knit this cardigan. My mum advised me to use the thumb method for casting on, and I watched the same Youtube video at the beginning of every rectangle because for some reason it won't stick in my brain. 


I really enjoyed working on this during the autumn and winter. It's nice to have something to do on the sofa when you don't feel like sitting at the sewing machine. But once I had the rectangles finished, I wasn't sure how to proceed so the project stalled for a couple of months. I wasn't sure if I needed to block them, but after requesting some advice via Instagram, I fell down on no, blocking wasn't necessary for a chunky knit like this. Eventually, I got my friend Julia, legendary sewing and pattern cutting teacher, who is also a knitting expert, to whip me into shape and show me how to stitch them together. 


Thankfully, after the investment of money and time, I am really pleased with the result. I love the chunky look, the colour, the feel, the coziness. It does tend to leave auburn-coloured fluff about the place, and the front edge has started to (inevitably) stretch out a bit. But I've worn it heaps, and will continue to do so for years to come I hope!

Friday, 11 March 2022

Denim Patchwork Dungarees


This project, as you can imagine, was not a speedy one. I've been obsessed with the idea of combining fabric scraps to make more 'fabric' for garment sewing projects for a while now. Previously, I've done this with viscose, cotton lawns and jersey fabrics. And having been left with some scraps from my son's reclaimed denim dungarees (see below), I decided to combine those with the rest of my other non-stretch denim scraps to see what could be made from them. 
 

Inspiration came from a number of conversations I'd had for my podcast Check Your Thread, and fortified by an online workshop on abstract piecing hosted by quilting legend Sherri Lynn Wood. I love how I can remember where almost every one of these pieces of denim came from. It's also allowed me to use the very last scraps of some of my absolute favourite fabrics. 


There are sections where you can see the darker denim exposed by removing pockets (#pocketshadow!). And there are fade lines that have been exploded by unpicking and letting down the hems. The dungaree straps and chest pocket were reclaimed from my Cleo pinafore, and the front and back pockets from my Lander pants, all of which were harvested when I 'decommissioned' those garments in preparation of making my son's dungarees.  


The denim pieces are combined with a 1cm seam allowance, which I then overlocked together, pressed to one side and top-stitched down. I wanted to give the denim 'fabric' as much strength as possible, but I didn't have the energy to make flat felled seams at all the joins. I also thought that flat felled seams might create too much bulk in some areas and make the eventual garment construction a bit tricky. I wanted to create sections where the pieces were quite small, and others that included larger panels for variety. 


Pattern:

Having combined the pieces into four large panels, I cut the pattern pieces from them and constructed the actual garment. I used my TNT Heyday Dungarees pattern (pattern by Waves and Wild) as the basis. This version obviously took way longer to create than my first and second version. However, reusing and applying existing pockets is soooo much easier and speedier than making new ones!


Thoughts:

How 90's do these look?! I didn't expect them to look quite so retro, but I'm ok with it! I had a lot of fun making these, and it scratched a creative itch that making something from a flat piece of virgin fabric can't always reach. 

I've worn these a lot and they've received a surprising amount of love. My friend Eve even said she wanted to lick them! I'm very excited to see how they change over time with wear and washing. I'm hoping that the seams joining the pieces will start to get some interesting fading, and that the pockets will start to blend in more. 

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Ukraine Fundraiser - Fabric and Pattern Swap - Hove 13th March

 


I know I'm not alone in finding it incredibly hard to watch the events unfold in Ukraine at the moment. The most recent figures suggest that more than 1 million people have been forced to leave their homes because it too unsafe for them to stay. That's a million lives in turmoil and a million people fearing for their future. For lack of knowing what else to do, I'm organising a fundraiser to donate money to the Choose Love charity for their Ukraine Crisis Fundraiser


To raise funds, I'm hosting a fabric and pattern swap on Sunday 13th March, 2pm-4pm. Fabric Godmother have kindly offered up their studio in Hove, Sussex (close to Portslade station) for it to take place. 100% of the donated funds collected via eventbrite will go to Choose Love. Plus it's going to be a fun way to offload some of your unwanted sewing supplies and exchange them for some 'new' stuff that you are excited about. 


For more info and to reserve your spot, head over here. I hope to see you there!

Friday, 4 March 2022

Free Pattern Friday: Men's Movie Night Pajamas


Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes an adult'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. I also firmly believe that pattern designers deserve to be properly paid for their work, so if you enjoy using a pattern and can afford to do so, make sure you support that designer. Some designers' websites offer the option to make a donation, alternatively you can buy one of their paid-for products. If you can't afford to do so, you can support the designer by sharing your project via social media to help draw more attention to their work. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

Oh have I got a good free pattern to tell you about today?! (Hint: yes.) Sew A Little Seam are a company that produce patterns for everyone, and have made this specific design for kids, women AND men. All three versions are available for free by joining their Facebook group. That will give you access to a code that you can use at the checkout on their site. The men's version in particular is a real find, because free patterns for men are thin on the ground (which reflects the comparative amount of regular men's patterns, of course). If you don't have a Facebook account, or wish to support Sew A Little Seam with a purchase, this pattern is only $5. Thanks so much to them for making their work available for free. Having used this one, I'll definitely be having a nose around on their site with an eye to buying any that catch my interest. 


(image source: Sew A  Little Seam)

Pattern type:

The Movie Night Panamas are a semi-fitted style designed for knit fabrics. The top pattern includes a number of style options: short or long sleeves (hemmed or cuffed) and with or without placket. The bottoms can be made with cuffs or simply hemmed.

Sizing info: 

This pattern is sized from XXS to 5X which translates to 32" to 50" chest. For Mr SoZo, I made the XS for the top and S for the bottoms, adding a little length to the sleeves and legs, and the fit is spot on in the fabric I used. 


Fabric info:

The pattern recommends cotton spandex, rib knits, thermals and French Terry, specifying that fabrics must have at least 50% horizontal stretch and 25% vertical stretch. I used a cotton/Lycra jersey bought from Fabric Godmother. I can't find it on their site now so I'm guessing they might have sold out. I love how the print is fun but the colours are pretty sophisticated! The camera hasn't quite caught how lovely the base teal colour is. 

Findings:

This is a really well produced pattern, IMO. I love that it includes both A4 and A0 files. I used the latter and got mine printed out to save sticking together endless pages myself. I'll be honest with you, I've made many patterns similar to this before, so I didn't really follow the instructions, but it came together flawlessly. 

The only alteration I made was the deepen the neckband a bit. In the modelled photos on the website it looked a little narrow to me. 

I actually made a pair of pyjamas for Mr SoZo about a year ago from a very similar pattern that I bought for a lot more than this would have been, and I greatly prefer this one. Mr SoZo also noted that the pattern for the bottoms could form the basis if you wanted to make joggers, and in the same vein the top pattern could be used as a basic T-shirt.  


Would I make it again?

Absolutely! This pattern is spot on for fit, and I'm very interested in seeing what 'outside' garments could be developed from the pattern also.  
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