Thanks everyone who commented on my recent blog post about organic cotton. It was fantastic to read so many thoughts and perspectives on the topic. Now that my little girl isn't so tiny, I'm getting more sleep and feeling generally a bit less brain dead. It feels great to get back to discussing some of the wider subjects around sewing that I feel are so important.
As I mentioned in the Thoughts on Organic Cotton blog post, I have been lucky enough to have received a few different pieces of organic cotton to sew with and review. The first piece I was sent was this maroon jersey from Only Organic Fabric Store, which is based in France and sells only GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified fabric. I chose to make the type of garment that would test it to the max: toddler leggings! Only a crazy toddler could put them through the most rigorous trials of performance and repeated laundering! Luckily I know one such crazy toddler...
Having now made more pairs of Playful Kitty leggings than I care to remember, I was looking for a pattern that would be a bit more interesting to make, but equally practical to wear and match with other garments. Having a nose through my stash of children's wear Ottobre magazines, I found the Green Lines Leggings pattern (pictured below) from Ottobre magazine issue 1/2014.
They have the same general snug silhouette of the Playful Kitty ones, but with some added ruching on both side of the front leg piece. The blurb in the magazine spoke of how this ruching allows for increased movement for the crawling baby/scampering toddler (depending on who you're making them for). I'm not sure if that's really true, but I thought it gave an interesting look to an otherwise pretty plain style of garment.
To accommodate the ruching, the front leg pattern piece is significantly longer than the back (see above). You create the ruching by applying elastic between two points with the seam allowance of both leg seams before you stitch the front and back leg pieces together. I was concerned that this might create uncomfortable leg seams, particularly because I used regular elastic (albeit very thin) rather than the clear elastic that the pattern suggests, but after the elastic gets covered by the overlocking of the leg seams, it felt fine and Dolores has never expressed any annoyance whilst wearing them.
I blended sizes, using the size 74 for width and size 80 (plus 1cm) for the length as Dolores is a bit of a thinifer. This turned out to be the perfect size combo and I'll definitely employ this ratio again, perhaps with the same pattern by tracing the next batch of sizes up.
After confirming that I was interested in reviewing some fabric, Only Organic Fabric Store sent me some swatches of about eight colours of jersey that I could choose from. Apart from the white, most of the shades were quite muted tones, which isn't what I usually go for as I tend to favour bright, clear tones. However, I went for the maroon and they sent me a metre to play with. It was quite thin and soft, but also sturdy and I found it quite easy to cut out and sew with. I was amazed that it is 100% cotton, because it has a good amount of stretch with fantastic recovery. Some of the 100% organic cotton knits that I've previously used have been a bit lacking when it comes to recovery, which of course is not ideal when making leggings!
Having made these leggings a few months ago, they have seen A LOT of wear and A LOT of laundering. Dolores really has given them a beating and they are still going strong. The fabric has held up extremely well, with virtually no fading, no pilling, no thinning on the knees, or any other real visible signs of wear. I didn't have very high hopes of such a fine jersey, but I am genuinely impressed. When Dolores is no longer small enough for me to squeeze a pair of leggings out of second hand T-shirts, I'll be tempted to splash out on some of their grey marl jersey for leggings making purposes.
If you want to learn more about both GOTS certified fabric and the Only Organic Fabric Store, the owner Stephanie discusses both at length in a really interesting interview with Toxic Free Talk Radio here. I couldn't get the audio to work very well on my laptop but you can also read the transcript of their conversation. For me, it shed a lot of light on what goes into identifying a product as 'organic', which in turn explains why truly organic cotton is so much more expensive than regular cotton.
After the success of the maroon pair, and after all the faff that goes with tracing pattern pieces and adding seam allowances, I wanted to make another! I used some navy and white striped jersey that the very awesome Jenna kindly sent me. I hoped that the stripes would give a cool visual effect with the ruching, but I think these stripes are a bit too narrow for that and they kind of hid rather than highlighted the ruched effect. They have been a fabulous and useful garment though which have also seen A LOT of wear. Interestingly, this almost-definately-not-organic-cotton striped pair ended up showing many more signs of wear and laundering than the maroon pair and actually developed a few tiny holes in the bum after a while!
These have been great garments and I'm definitely going to make more in bigger sizes. I have been thoroughly impressed by the organic jersey and am excited to share with you the other garment I made from it in another blog post in the near future. The striped pair (which have now been decommissioned), although not surviving the 'crazy toddler test' quite as well, did themselves proud too. Regarding the results from this unscientific test, it could be argued that the organic cotton, although more expensive on the outset, might not be so expensive after all when you consider that the final garment may well last longer than using a cheaper, non-organic cotton fabric to sew from.