Sunday, 15 April 2018

My Me-Made-May'18 Pledge: Plus, A Shout Out to Crafty Businesses


Well, the sign-ups for this year's Me-Made-May (#MMMay18 for social media interactions) are coming in thick and fast. It's so fascinating and inspiring seeing how people have decided to challenge themselves for a whole month. I particularly enjoy reading the ones that include a little explanation of why they chose their specific pledge and/or what they are hoping to get out of the challenge.

So, I've been thinking for a couple of weeks about how I might be able to improve my relationship with my own handmade wardrobe, and now I'm ready to make my pledge:

'I, Zoe of 'So, Zo...' blog and @sozoblog on Instagram, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '18. I endeavour to wear only me-made clothing (with the exception of bras, socks, tights and footwear) with no outfit/clothing-combination repeats throughout May 2018'  

I intend to document my challenge photographically, although possibly not daily, as I've found that photos help me judge the success of my outfits. I will post weekly(ish) updates on my blog about how my challenge is going and what I'm learning along the way. I will include occasional updates on my Instagram account.   

I'd say that my current selection of clothing is about 90% to 95% me-made, so wearing me-mades and excluding my RTW won't be a challenge. However, pushing myself to create 31 different combinations within my me-made wardrobe is where things are going to be tricky. Like many (most?) people, I tend to reach for the same garments in the same combinations day after day. But I really want to make myself try out new combos to get the most out of my sewing efforts.

Last year I has a massive clear out and donated a big chunk of my clothing to charity, as both my personal style and my body shape have changed a lot since having children (not to mention what my lifestyle requires from my wardrobe - bye bye cocktail dresses!). I've been populating my wardrobe with great pieces that fit my style, body shape AND lifestyle requirements, but I don't think each piece is being utilised as fully as it could. It's kind of an extension of how I feel about all my belongings in general, I don't want to own anything that doesn't see a decent amount of use/wear, at some point during the year at least. I think this pledge will help me achieve that within my wardrobe.

On to the shout out. I've been having a big ol' think about how to celebrate Me-Made-May this year. During previous years' challenges we've hosted giveaways for participants to win clothes-making related goodies from a variety of wonderful and generous crafty businesses. However, it always seemed to me to be a real shame that only one lucky participant got to benefit from each giveaway.

This year, I thought it would be nice to encourage crafty businesses to generate discount codes or offers for customers that are open to everyone as a more inclusive way to celebrate the challenge. Participants of Me-Made-May frequently find that taking part helps them discover holes in their self-stitched wardrobe. Therefore, we'd like these discounts/offers to run for the final week of May (24th to 31st), or at least part of that week (the weekend of 26th/27th May perhaps), to help this year's participants to buy what they need to fill some of those newly-uncovered holes.

If any owner of a crafty online business would like to support and celebrate the MMMay community this year by generating some kind of offer or discount code, please email me the details (ideally by 14th May) to sozoblog (at) gmail dot com. I will publish a post with full details of any MMMay related discounts or offers during the third week of the challenge. Thanks in advance for your support!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Me-Made-May '18: SIGN UP HERE!!!



Welcome to the sign-up post for Me-Made-May'18! This challenge is in it's ninth year, and it's all about improving your relationship with your handmade wardrobe. By setting your own challenge specifics, you can focus on whatever aspect of your 'me-mades' that you want, but by taking part you'll probably take away some great insights about your personal style, preferences and creativity as well. 


What is Me-Made-May?

Me-Made-May'18 (#MMMay18 for social media interaction) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle garments for themselves to wear and love them more. This challenge works on both a personal and community level. The participants decide the specifics of their own challenge, so that the month is appropriate and challenging for them (more on this below), and aim to fulfil that pledge for the duration of May 2018. Some participants also choose to document their challenge photographically (though this is in no way compulsory for taking part) and share them with other participants.


Taking part in #MMMay18 can help you...
  • to start integrating your self-made items into your regular wardrobe rotation.
  • get out of a wardrobe rut by focusing on your lesser-worn items and creating new outfits that include them.
  • find out what the 'holes' in your wardrobe are so that you are able to use your garment-creating time more usefully in the future.
  • begin wearing the clothes that you really want to be seen in, rather than the same old things you usually reach for most mornings.
  • enjoy the excuse to finish off any lingering UFOs (unfinished objects), or to finally start a project that has been on your mind for ages.
  • discover what the rest of this large community of makers has created and is wearing in their day-to-day lives, and enjoy the support, advice and inspiration that they will provide.

What isn't Me-Made-May'18?
  • A photo challenge. You might have seen heaps of Me-Made-May related pictures posted on blogs, Instagram etc. during previous challenges showing participants in their awesome handmade creations. Many like to document and share their challenges in this way, which is obviously amazing, but COMPLETING YOUR PLEDGE is the actual challenge; taking and sharing photos of what you wear during it is ENTIRELY OPTIONAL. I cannot emphasise this enough: you do not need to take any photos. At all. But please do if you want to. 
  • A reason to make lots of new clothes (unless you want to). This challenge is about wearing the items that you have already created more often, not about stock-piling more makes. However, if you want to use taking part in the challenge as the kick in the butt you need to finally hem that half-finished skirt, or rework an ill-fitting garment, then great. Remember, this challenge is meant to be fun, and panic-making isn't fun!
  • A competition. It doesn't matter how many self-stitched items you already have or haven't. You can take part even if you just have one solitary self-made item! You just need to set your pledge to make it challenging for YOU, no matter what criteria other participants have set themselves.

How do I sign up?

All you have to do is copy the pledge below and paste it into the comments section of this post, adapted to include your details and the personal specification of your challenge before 1st May:

'I, (insert name here and blog address/instagram handle if you have one), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '18. I endeavour to...........................................................................May 2018'


Ideas for your pledge...

Remember, this is meant to be challenging (i.e. NOT what you usually do), so take some time to think about how to get the most from the challenge before writing your pledge.

Many participants pledge to wear 'one self-stitched garment per day', but don't feel that you have to follow suit, particularly if that would be too tricky or not stretch you enough. Try to think up a pledge that will be difficult (AKA challenging!), but not impossible, and most of all USEFUL to you! There are near-infinite ways to tailor the pledge to your own requirements. Here are some ideas:

  • pledging to wear things you made a year ago or more, to see if you can bring some of them back into regular rotation, or if it's time to let them go.
  • pledging to only wear separates to force yourself to get creative with your mix-and-matching.
  • if you'd like to wear dresses (or whatever) more often than you current do, pledging to wear each of your self-stitched dresses at least once during the month.
  • pledging to wear each of your self-stitched garments only once during the month, perhaps to see what didn't make the cut and to therefore not make any of that type of garment again!
  • pledging to finish all your UFO's by 31st May if the sight of your UFO pile has been weighing you down.

If you have a blog or social media accounts, why not re-post your pledge there so your readers and followers can see what you are up to and be inspired by your endeavour? If possible, please include a link to this post so others can also sign-up if they are interested. If there's one thing I've learnt from these challenges, the more people involved, the better the party!


If you would like to advertise your participation on your blog if you have one, why not treat yourself to the addition of the #MMMay18 widget/gadget/button? The code can be found at the top of the right hand column of this blog. The widget/gadget/button not only looks cute, but it shows other participants/potential-participants at a glance that you are taking part this year. Plus when clicked on, it will ping you to this sign-up post so others can read what this whole damn thing is about without you needing to go into too much of an explanation yourself. If you aren't sure how to apply/insert a widget/gadget/button code, check this post for explanations for Blogspot/Blogger and Wordpress blogs.


I've signed up, what do I do now then?

Nothing in particular until 1st May 2018, except let an underlying sense of excitement brew! You may decide to finish up that UFO, but please people, NO PANIC-SEWING/MAKING NECESSARY OR CONDONED!!

If you are concerned or confused about any aspect of this challenge, please email me at sozoblog (at) g mail (dot) com

Let the signing up commence!!!!!

Saturday, 31 March 2018

'A Beginner's Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics' Blog Tour: The Kinder Cardigan


Pack your bags, grab your passport and ask your neighbour to feed the cat; we're going on a blog tour! Wendy Ward (my IRL boss, FYI), has written another fabulous sewing book, this time all about sewing with knit fabrics. As well as MASSES of information about choosing and working with knit fabrics, this book includes graded sewing patterns to make 6 basic projects with heaps of additional variations. The pattern pieces are printed on the three double-sided pattern sheets at the back of the book.

Pattern:

It didn't take me long to decide on the Kinder cardigan pattern to try out. The weather can vary a lot during one day in the UK, plus I'm usually feeling cold anyway, therefore I have a deep appreciation for a good cardigan for layering up. The kimono-style Kinder cardigan pattern includes three lengths (short-, mid-length and full-length), two sleeve lengths, optional cuffs for the long sleeve length, AND optional pockets for the mid- and long-length cardigans. Having chosen the design elements you want, you then need to trace the pattern pieces off the pattern sheets. 


Tracing the pattern pieces off was probably the most time consuming part of this project. Because most of the Kinder cardigan pattern pieces are larger than the pattern sheets included in the book, most of them are extended over a couple of sheets. It was a bit annoying that all the cardigan pattern pieces were spread over all six sides of the pattern sheets, rather than all located on one sheet, but I'm sure there was a spacial/financial reason for designing the pattern sheets in this way.

Confession time: I messed up the tracing. I was aiming for the mid-length cardigan, rather than the short length that you see here. I got confused and read the 'hip line' that is marked on the pattern as the hip-length hem line (duh), and didn't realise what I'd done until I started construction so ended up making the short length instead. Entirely my fault. Anyways, after that blip, this cardigan came together in the blink of an eye. It would be an excellent confidence-building pattern for a beginner sewer/sewist, and a satisfyingly quick make for a more experienced one. 


Fabric:

For this review, I was lucky enough to be able to choose what fabric I wanted to make it in from the massive selection on the Minerva Crafts website. Queue: hours upon hours searching through their site. Eventually I requested some Atelier Brunette sweatshirting, annoyingly I can no longer find it on their site so I'm guessing they've sold out, but they do have this slightly different design in alternative colour-ways in the same weight. 

I've seen these Atelier Brunette sweatshirt fabrics used on blogs and Instagram many times before but couldn't really justify shelling out £20+ a metre for sweatshirt fabric myself. But now I have had the opportunity to feel, work with and wear it, I can totally see what all the fuss is about and why it is so special. My goodness it is soft and lovely, and washes really well without the sparkles coming off. 


So after making and loving my first version, I knew I wanted to make another, and fast. I found this lovely quilted/embossed ponte de Roma at Fabric Godmother at their recent open day, and I can't recommend it enough for making a snuggly cardigan like this. Having found the right fabric, I then went back and traced the *ahem* correct length pattern pieces for the mid-length cardigan, and two evening sewing sessions later (one for cutting, one for construction), my new favourite garment was complete. 


Thoughts:

This is exactly the style of cardigan that I feel my wardrobe needs right now. My style has moved away from the retro/rockabilly look that befits little, round-necked, vintage-y type cardis, and my  jeggings-and-tops Mum uniform that I'm permanently found in these days works so much better with this looser, open front cardigan style. I've also found that the sleeves of this pattern are the perfect width: wide enough to be worn with ease over all my long sleeved tops but narrow enough to also fit under my jackets and coats. I've been layering my Kinders over fine knit jumpers during the horrible, chilly weather we've been having recently, and I can't wait to use them as jackets over short sleeved tops and T-shirts once the weather warms up. Oh, and I have at least two more Kinder cardigans planned...



Blog tour and discount code: 

This post is the first stop on the 'A Beginner's Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics' blog tour, and there's some other fabulous sewers lined up along the way. I have been provided with the handy image below (handy for me because it means I don't need to type them all out) to show you when and where else you can see Wendy's new knit patterns in action. If you like what you see and fancy snapping up a copy of this book, then MAKEetc.com are offering a sizeable 25% off the price by typing in the code BLOG25 at the check out until 21st April.


Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Urban Farming (AKA Mila Dunagrees)


Cards on the table: I'm not feeling great about my body at the moment. Winter eating patterns (AKA eating EVERYTHING), having had two babies, as well as entering my late thirties all seem to have taken their toll recently and I'm not feeling at all comfortable. I'm hoping that improved eating habits and adapting my expectations will meet in the middle and I'll feel happier in the near future. But in the meantime, I thought it best to make myself a stretchy, tight fitting garment to wear and get photographed in, then share those pictures on the internet. Behold: my new Urban Farmer look. 


Pattern:

Like many I don't doubt, I was instantly drawn to the Mila dungarees pattern. I love wearing jeggings (despite all the hassle they've given me) and I hoped these would be a fun and interesting alternative. Tilly was kind enough to send me a copy of the pattern, so I made a special pilgrimage to Fabric Godmother (more on the fabric in a bit) and set to work. 

I cut the TATB-size 4, and made a couple of small changes. Firstly, I re-drafted the curved edge of the bib piece so that it finished a bit closer to the side seam. And secondly, I spent quite a bit of time making tiny tweaks to the fit of the legs to get them looking balanced all the way down. I could easily have lopped off a few centimetres from the leg length, but I've made too many pairs of jeans and trousers that have ended up annoyingly short after a few washes, so I'm keeping these a bit long as I expect they may do the same. 

The fit-tweaking aside, I found the process of making these sooooo much fun. Working with a well behaved denim and doing all that tidy topstitching was heaven. If I were to make them again, I might even add some extra topstitching to the waistbands or crotch seam, as the topstitching is currently largely concentrated on the bib area. 


Fabric:

Despite some stunning patterned versions popping up on IG, I knew I needed to keep my pair solid. And it had to be denim if they were to become the alternative jeans/jeggings that I hoped they would. I can't find this denim on the Fabric Godmother website right now, so you'll have to go with my title: fabulous-quality mid-blue stretch denim. I always associate this colour denim with the 1970's, and I adore how it looks contrasted with orangey-gold topstitching thread. I must admit, there is a part of me that is regretting not making these dungarees in black. But having made my Cleo pinafore in black, I felt my wardrobe would welcome a little variety. 

Let's talk hard wear. I was sent the buckle set that Tilly stocks with the pattern, and I ended up using the clips combined with these antique copper jeans buttons. Fabric Godmother also stocks the smaller 14mm antique copper jeans buttons, which I got for the side fastenings. I think these buttons suit the denim's colour and vintage-y vibe, whereas I feel it would be silver all the way if I made a black pair. 


Thoughts:

As I'm sure you can tell, I haven't landed on a final opinion on these yet. Perhaps I should have made them in black and saved this vintage-y denim for some epic Lander pants? It is, of course, impossible to say. 

This post is feeling a bit confessional somehow, but I must also admit that the fit around the bum area is not great. I did get Pat to take a pic, but I really didn't feel like sharing that one today. However, I may share that pic with the tutor of The Perfect Jeans craftsy class and get her opinion on what could be improved (as I wrote about in this post). It may be that a bit of scooping could get them looking and fitting better, but I'm not ready to jump down that rabbit hole right now.  

What I do know, is that these feel fairly comfortable. More comfortable than I was expecting them to feel, if truth be told. Stating the obvious, they are currently a bit too tight around my middle. But me  laying off the bread and choc a bit, and putting them through a few more wears and washes, and they should be sufficiently loosened up. Plus, if I can't get them looking better (either through sorting myself out a bit or working on the fit some more), I could always relegate them to use on my future allotment...


Thursday, 15 March 2018

Busting My Stash. No, Really. I Mean it This Time.

(image source: Time To Sew)

In my recent post about the unsustainability of sewing, I made the argument that it would be difficult to describe sewing as a sustainable activity, and certainly not the most sustainable way to dress ourselves. However, I did go on to list a number of ways in which us sewers/sewists could make sewing more sustainable. Essentially, all of the ideas I came up with lead towards the goal of making clothes that should last you for years because, A) they fit you perfectly and, B) are styles you love to wear that fit with your lifestyle.

But in writing that post, I forgot to discuss something else that thankfully the ever-awesome Sarah from Fabric Tragic brought up in the comments: the over consumption and hoarding of fabric. I'm pretty embarrassed to have forgotten to include that topic in my post as it's something I think about A LOT. Like, A LOT.

Currently on Instagram there's a hashtag/call to arms doing the rounds called #makeyourstash. It was started by @timetosew and @pilar_bear to encourage sewers to use a piece of fabric that has been in their stash for 6 months or more. They are publishing some accompanying blog posts and initiating stash-related discussions on IG, including recently asking 'what's your ideal stash?'. I think it is a fantastic and worthwhile idea, and by the looks of things, they have already encouraged a lot of people to make stuff from what they already own. Trying to encourage other members of the sewing community to use their fabric stash is not a new idea of course (and I'm not suggesting that the creators of this one think that it is); there's been a whole host of stash busting initiatives within the sewing community over the years. I even made my own silly little logo a squillion years ago in an attempt to encourage people to bust their stash. But I'm grateful to Kate and Pilar for taking up this mantle again, and doing so with a fresh and accessible approach. I think these are important things to think about and discuss.

So what's so bad about having a large fabric stash? Personally, I feel the over consumption of fabric is as damaging as the over consumption of any other manufactured thing. The environment is being irreversibly screwed over, in part because those of us in developed countries can't seem to quench our thirst for new stuff. We've got to slow down in all areas of our consumption, including the fabric us sewers/sewists are secretly, or not so secretly, hoarding.

Me? I've got a sizeable stash just like almost everyone else in the sewing community and to me it feels like an uncomfortable amount to own. I'm definitely not sitting here having figured it all out, but I am finally starting to take some steps towards getting my fabric stash under control, and therefore more representative of how I am trying to consume stuff in other areas of my life. So, what am I doing about it?

  • First up, I'm being honest. Towards the end of last year I pulled all my fabric out (again), refolded it (again), and counted what's there. At that time I had about 80 pieces of fabric and about 20-30 refashionable secondhand garments, plus I've already purged my stash of anything I don't like or can't see myself using. Gulp. 
  • I've arranged my stash so that it's easily accessible and (mostly) all in one place. Shortly after we moved into this flat about 18 months ago, I got a handyman to come round and build me an extra shelf in our airing cupboard for it to live on. I sorted everything into three sections: wovens, knits and refashionable garments (plus a carrier bag full of lining fabrics and pieces destined for toiling). Now everything is more or less eye level and I can see what's in there with ease. I can remember what I already have more easily because I've seen most of it recently. I must admit that my scraps-and-small-pieces tubs are currently in another room, but once my main stash gets whittled down a bit, I want to put those tubs on that shelf too. 
  • I'm only buying/acquiring fabric if I am sure what type of garment (and very often which  precise sewing pattern) I want to make with it. A stash busting purist would probably put themselves on a total No New Fabric ban, but I know that that approach would leave me feeling frustrated and uninspired, which is the opposite of how sewing is meant to feel and would negate sewing's benefits to mental health. I did a bit of a personal style-180 a couple of years ago, and without making any additions to my stash, I wouldn't have been able to re-stock my wardrobe with clothes that represent who I am nowadays. 
  • Noting down the potential fabric/pattern pairings I've come up with has been essential for getting those garments out of my brain and into reality. Some people use apps like Cora and Evernote or even spreadsheet files to keep track of their stashes. Personally, I have a simple list on my phone which I look at, add to and edit pretty regularly. With a pool of potential projects lined up, it's fun to take a peek and decide which I'm most excited to tackle next, or which garment I'd like to have available to wear the soonest. 
  • I like a challenge to give me some momentum, and whilst I DO NOT condone rush sewing or sewing just to use up stash, I have been committed to using up one piece of fabric per week for about 20 weeks now. This idea might horrify some sewers, but I promise that I'm only making things that I really want to wear (or want my children to have) and I'm not skipping on careful project planning and the other steps that will up my chances at creating a successful and long-living garment. 

I'm confident that, even if my current well of sewing time dries up a bit, I'm on track to get my stash to a size and state that I'm much happier with within a year or so. What about you? Are you happy with your stash as it is? Have you tried, or are you currently trying, to implement ways to reduce it? Or does that sound absurd or counter-productive to you? I'd love to hear your fabric stash-related thoughts.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

My Ivy (Karen) Pinafore


Today I've got another 'look what I made!' blog post for you because I have been sewing A LOT recently. The weather has been horrendous for what feels like months, and my response has been to really hunker down and get my sew-on. I've also made a commitment to myself to steadily turn the contents of my fabric stash into fabulous, wearable garments, but I'll blog more about that soon. In the meantime, look what I made!

Pattern: 

I've had my eye on Jennifer Lauren's Ivy pinafore dress pattern since she released it about 18 months ago, but I held off from buying it immediately because of the need for breast-feeding related access. I eventually I bought it at the end of last year, and shortly afterwards I realised that I already had the perfect fabric sitting right there in my stash!



Pattern: 

I've had my eye on Jennifer Lauren's Ivy pinafore dress pattern pretty much since she released it about 18 months ago but I held off from buying it immediately due to breast-feeding restrictions. I eventually I bought it at the end of last year and a couple of months later I realised that I already had the perfect fabric sitting in my stash!

I LOVE the utilitarian vibe of a denim pinafore type garment, and Jennifer's denim version looks pure perfection to me. There's a lovely lady called Karen who takes her grandson to the Story time group at our local library that we go to every Monday, and she often wears an olive coloured pinafore that is really similar to this. As I've got to know her, aside from having fabulous style, I've discovered that Karen is awesome in many ways and I basically want to be her when I grow up. 

(image source: Jennifer Lauren Handmade)

But back to the pattern. The pattern view I prefer is a deceptively simple looking shift dress with bust darts, slight waist shaping at the CB, and a fabulous curved yoke. It's lined so it won't stick to your tights when you walk, plus the pattern also includes in-seam pockets, which I omitted in the event that I'd need to monkey around with the fit. 

First up, let me say that this that this project was really fun to make. I find the process and effect of contrast topstitching to be so satisfying. That said, it's now confession time: I didn't make a toile, which is naughty! I felt that a simple pattern such as this would be fairly simple to tweak midway through the construction if need be. According to the measurements, I fell between the size 10 and 12. I erred on the side of caution and went for the larger, however it ended up way too big. I took in the side seams by about one size, but looking at these photos I think it still looks a little on the large side. I plan to remove and reattach the buttons so the straps overlap a little more. That should raise the dress a bit and hopefully get the bust darts to sit more where they belong. Of course, that would all have been avoided if I'd just made the freaking toile that I knew I should have. 


Fabric:

I 'rescued' this length of vintage denim from a retro/vintage furniture and homeware shop near my then-home in Hove. Whilst I loved this fabric immediately, the inbetween-y too-thin-for-trousers-too-thick-for-a-top-or-dress weight confused me so it has remained in my stash for about 5 years until I figure this shift pinafore was its destiny. There was about 3m of it, but it was really narrow so I more or less used it up with this project. The fabric had a pleasing white selvedge which I managed it incorporate along the CF, but because this dress is fully lined, the selvedge is sadly hidden apart from at the very bottom by the hem. I found the buttons, which I believe are also vintage, in my stash and I have absolutely no idea where they came from or how they found their way in there. 


Thoughts:

I'm really conflicted about this project. I certainly have a lot of love for this dress; I wore it three days in a row after I finished it. If I'm honest, I don't usually enjoy wearing dresses very much, but this is sooo comfy that it could definitely be classed as covert pyjamas. But when I see these pictures, I'm questioning how well it fits and how flattering it is. I really should have read the instructions through before starting this project because I would have discovered that this has been drafted for a C-cup, which it turns out is possibly a bit full for me post-babies, and I could have done something about it on the pattern before cutting into my fabric. Now I'm looking at these pictures some more, perhaps shortening it might make it look a bit less like I borrowed it from my (imaginary)big sister. I welcome your thoughts...



But it doesn't even matter what I think about this dress because when I wore it to Story time, Karen loved it. So much so, she enquired how much such a garment would cost. Dammit! I hate having to avade a commission. But what a compliment: my muse likes it so much she'd like one for herself! Anyways, where ever I eventually fall down on this particular garment, I definitely see myself using this pattern again. Perhaps in a burgundy needle cord, but starting with the size 10. Lessons learnt.  

Cost:

Pattern: $9.09/approx. £6.50. I bought it at a Black Friday discount, normally it's $12.99/£9.30 available here. 
Fabric: £10 
Lining: £8 from C&H
Buttons: £0 (from stash)
Total: £27.30

Friday, 2 March 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Flora Capri Leggings


This is my monthly 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 your 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.

If you're in the market for a stash-busting kids' sewing pattern that is embarrassingly quick to make and will get worn satisfyingly often, then I've got the goods (well, a link) for you right here. I'm genuinely excited to have discovered petitboo's Flora capri leggings pattern, and I'm equally excited to tell you about it today.


Pattern type:

As the title would suggest, this is a pattern to make simple, capri-length leggings with an elasticated waist. It consists of just one, well-drafted pattern piece. The downloadable PDF includes both the pattern piece and the construction instructions, which has illustrations to help with each step. 

Sizing info:

Rather fabulously, this pattern has been graded to span approx. age 2 - 10 (lots of free kids' patterns seem to stop around age 6). One thing I really like about this pattern, is that they have thoughtfully included an alternative back rise shape for the size 2, which goes higher if your little one is still in nappies. 


Fabric info:

The pattern recommends that you use 'stretchy knits with at least 30% stretch and GOOD RECOVERY (cotton or rayon blends with Spandex /Lycra /elastane)', and I really can't think of any thing else to add to that. Because there's just one pattern piece, I've found this pattern to be a great way to use up too-small-for-most-adult-garments pieces of fabric. You may remember the cheetah fabric from this project and the black/gold from here

You could also use this pattern to remake unwanted adult leggings into kid's ones. As you can see below, I made Dolores some red leggings out of my old maternity leggings by cutting up the inside leg seam and laying them flat. This way, you can also incorporate the original hem to make this an even faster garment project.  


Findings:

As most people with kids usually have limited time to spend sewing, it's great to find a pattern that is so quick and easy to make. After cutting out, a fairly experienced sewer/sewist could probably bust a pair of these out in half an hour to forty five minutes with a sleep-deprived brain. But the instructions are sufficiently detailed and supportive for this to be a great project for someone new to working with knits, or fairly new to sewing altogether. My only micro-niggle with the pattern is that the seam allowance is 1/2". When I traced off the size I currently need, I reduced the seam allowance to 8mm which is my personal preference for kids' knit projects these days. 

As for the actual garments, I used the age 4 for Dolores (who is about four and a half) and I've found the fit to be excellent. The fit is just as good as the shop-bought leggings she's been given, and a better fit than other leggings sewing patterns I've tried.

Customisation ideas:
  • By taking the child's waist to ankle measurement or using a RTW pair as a guide, this pattern can easily be extended into a full length one. As you can see in the image above, I drew the extra length directly onto the fabric, but I'll probably make a separate full-length version pattern piece at some point so I can make long ones more rapidly. 
  • You could make them extra jazzy by cutting each leg from a different fabric, perhaps two different floral prints or differing widths of stripe. Just make sure both the fabrics have a very similar weight and stretchiness. 
  • You could try colour blocking the pattern like this.  
  • Or if you have more free time than you know what to do with, you could add rows of stretch lace like this
  • Reinforcing the knees with patches will definitely lengthen the leggings' lifespan. And as I have been finding out recently, applying knee patches is MUCH easier if done before the leg seams are sewn up, than afterwards when the hole appears through wear. Go crazy and make a special feature from them like this, or keep it simple with oval, cloud or heart shaped patches. 


Would I make them again?

'Making this leggings pattern' has now overtaken 'making myself some new undies' on my 'Favourite things to do with knit scraps' list (don't tell me you don't have one of those lists too). The red ones have been worn heaps since their creation, and I have to keep telling Dolores that she can't wear the other two pairs yet because it's still currently winter here. 

I love clothing for kids that allows them to play and move around freely, plus leggings worn underneath dresses make the latter far more playground-and-soft-play-friendly, IMO. I've also found that adding leggings under a dress lengthens the lifespan of said dress when it starts getting unsuitably short after a growth spurt. Thanks a bunch petitboo!!!!!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Two Dolores Batwings and #2018makenine


I'm proud to say that I've made some fantastic new additions to my wardrobe over the last few months. However, I was beginning to detect that some of them were at risk of being classified orphans, or near-orphans, (i.e., they went with little else in my current clothing selection). So I turned to my own trusty Dolores batwing pattern to whip up a couple of tops to fill the gaps. 

The stripy version (pictured above, paired my with my Cleo pinafore) was made using some lovely merlot and white striped jersey that was kindly sent to me to review by Girl Charlee. I wasn't sure what the properties of this fabric would be until I received it, and when I did I knew instantly that it would be perfect for the Dolores batwing pattern. I'd describe it as light-to-medium weight, buttery soft with an amazing drape. I love that the pairing of this fabric and the long-sleeved version of this pattern create an interesting alternative to the standard Breton top.  


Second-up is a Dolores batwing top fearturing the short-sleeved option. Because my upper arms are proportionally slightly chunkier compared to the rest of me, I cut the size 14 sleeve bands and the size 12 for the rest of it. Although with my current slightly fuller-than-normal belly (NOT pregnant, before you ask), I possibly could have done with grading out to the size 14 at the waist as well!

The fabric is some equally lovely drape-y pinstriped jersey from Fabric Godmother, this time paid for with my own money at one of their open days. It's a viscose mixed with lurex and it feels slinky and divine. The piece I bought was an end of roll, but lucky you because they have since been able to restock.


I used the leftovers to make some capri-length leggings (pattern review coming soon) and a pair of pants for Dolores-the-child-not-the-pattern. However, she has informed me that the pants don't stay up very well, in hindsight I can see that this jersey has some mechanical stretch but not fibre stretch, so these pants live in her nursery bag in case of accidents.

Which leads me on to something else... I forgot to share with you my #2018makenine selection. It's a pretty even split on Instagram between which is the 'correct' hashtag: #2018makenine or #makenine2018. Either way, it's a chance for makers to lay out and share some of their sewing/knitting/etc. plans for the year ahead. No one is going to be held to these (I already had a rethink of the first selection I posted!), and obviously it doesn't have to be the only things you make all year. It's kind of inevitable that other plans are going to muscle their way in before you (I) complete the nine, like when a new sewing gets released (e.g. Mila) or you discover a gorgeous piece of fabric that isn't suitable for your selected patterns, or you forget that you need a new swimming costume...

Anyways, despite the looseness, I think the #2018makenine compilation is a fun and worthwhile thing to make. It encourages sewers map out some well-considered projects which will hopefully therefore lead to successful and often-worn wardrobe additions.


From left to right from the top:
1) Cocoon coat, pattern by Burdastyle (completed and blogged)
2) Lander pants, pattern by True Bias (waiting until I get my belly back under control)
3) Oversized cardigan, pattern by Burdastyle (currently half cut out)
4) Ivy pinafore, pattern by Jennifer Lauren Handmade (completed, to be blogged about)
5) Dolores batwing tops, pattern by me (completed, see above!)
6) Suzon blouse, pattern by Republique Du Chiffon
7) Chataigne shorts, pattern by Deer and Doe
8) Matcha top, pattern by Sew Liberated
9) Gemma tank, pattern by Made by Rae

When it's all typed out like that it seems like a lot of sewing, doesn't it? However, as I write this, I have already completed three and a half of these projects, so I know that I haven't bitten off more than I can chew or heaped some weird and unnecessary pressure on to myself! Plus, the majority of these projects have been something I've wanted to undertake for a year or more, so I'm sure that each of these (if they fit me well), will eventually become wardrobe workhorses.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Cocoon Coat


I made a coat.*mic drop*. (*Picks mic back up to continue talking about this project*).


So far this winter, like last winter, I've been making do with a 70's retro, fluffy faux-fur jacket that I bought over a decade ago. It keeps my torso toasty, but my bum and thighs bear the brunt of the cold. And seeing as I'm managing to carve out quite a bit of sewing time for myself these days, I thought that now would be a good opportunity to take on a major sewing project. Enter: the coat. 

(image source: Burdastyle)

Pattern:

I spent some time sniffing around on Pinterest for coat inspiration. I realised pretty quickly that what I was interested in was something 1960's-ish in style, with a clean, crisp shape that I would hopefully get several years of wear from, with the all-important bum and thigh coverage. At some point, through a combo of Pinterest and Google, I found a Danish (I think) blogger who had made an amazing lime green/citrus yellow coat that annoyingly I can't seem to find now (I'm sorry, amazing Danish sewing blogger), and this Burdastyle pattern was that she had used. This is another fantastic-looking version that I just found whilst trying in vain once again to find the Danish one. (Forgive the dark spots on the images of my coat on the stand, it had been snowing (!) earlier that day and the coat was a bit wet when I took the photos.)


I loved the interesting seam lines that attach the grown-on sleeves, the simple rounded neckline, concealed fastenings that meant I could avoid making buttonholes, and the overall volume. Sold. 
Now, despite the simplicity of the coat design, I knew this project was going to be a job of work. My first two coat projects (my leopard coat, and blue wool coat) nearly broke me, and I was determined not to hate this experience. So I took my time; I gave myself no particular deadline (it ended up taking about three weeks) and I worked on it along side some other, simpler projects that could be made almost entirely with my overlocker. 

The PDF coat pattern consisted of a whopping 54 pages. It was a little confusing because Burdastyle have lumped a few style variations of the same basic coat into one PDF, so there are some pattern pieces and cutting lines you need to ignore, and a couple of pattern pieces you need to draft from scratch yourself. Then there's the seam allowances to add, what with it being a Burdastyle pattern and all. Man, the instructions were sparse. No step-by-step illustrations or photos with very limited explanations for each step. I would not have liked this to have been my first ever coat project. You can buy an online video via Burdastyle to talk you through the construction, but I resented the idea that I'd bought a pattern that was so lacking in detail that it was necessary to shell out an additional $19.99 for the privilege of being able to use it. I did find watching the 10 minute free taster useful though. Oh, and I may well have missed something, but I found the pattern and instructions lacking entirely when it came to creating the front lining pattern piece.  


There seems to be very few reviews of this pattern online, so I was having to guess where there may be issues. It did appear that this coat comes out BIG. In fact, the finished coat that was being made during the online video can be seen here. The woman that made it makes light of it (probably because she's employed by Burdastyle) but it's clearly come out so massive that she decided to make some changes, like adding waist elastic to bring the volume under control, and to stitch the front edges down like lapels. I find that Burdastyle patterns often come up really large anyway, so I cut out the smallest size included in the pattern, which was a full two sizes smaller than my measurements would have suggested I use. 

As I began to construct the coat, it became clear that the fit was somewhat insane. I tried on the outer shell and showed it to Pat, and ended up laughing so much I nearly wet myself. The sleeves were so large and curved that I looked like a cartoon gorilla. I spent ages pinning out a bit, stitching it, then trying on and repeat, until I got a shape and volume I was happy with. I think I pinched out a good 4cm from the bicep in the end, so that's taking 8cm of circumference from each sleeve. I also brought the side seams around the waist in a touch too. 

Aside from the sizing and reshaping, the the other ways I veered from the pattern was to interface everything (more on that in a bit) and to hand stitch down all (ALL) the seam allowances inside to help them lie flat. 


Fabric:

I've had this gorgeous ex-big-name-designer wool that came from a previous place of employment in my stash for over five years. I ended up using about 2.5m for this project, and I still have about that same amount left. This fabric was destined to be a coat, however I questioned that it was thick enough for this pattern. I had read Marilla Walker's blog post about her beautiful Honetone coat and been really impressed by how the interfacing she'd used kept her outer fabric so smooth. Luckily, she had included a link to where she bought her interfacing, and I followed suit. I fused all my wool pieces, and I'm so glad that I did. After several weeks of daily wear, my coat still holds its shape wonderfully.  


I could have continued to channel Marilla during this coat project and used quilted lining for extra warmth, however I already had this amazing spotty lining from Merchant and Mills in my stash. I bought it a couple of years ago when I visited their bricks and mortar shop in Rye. I rarely buy fabric unless I have a clear idea of which project I'm going to use it for, but I thought this was such a classy and unusual lining that I bought 2m on spec.


Thoughts:

I was aiming to make a simple, practical coat with a retro vibe, however I seem to have made a classy, modern one instead. I'm not sure it's very 'me', but I think I'm going to grow in to it, stylistically speaking. Even my mum nearly walked past me the other day when I was wearing it because she didn't recognise me. Plus, there's something else I've noticed about it. You know how people who know you sew often ask you, 'Did you make that top?' or 'Did you make those trousers?' when they see you? No one has asked if I made this coat. I'm not sure if it's because it looks shop-bought, or because it doesn't look like something I'd make.  


I also must admit that it's not the warmest coat ever made. A quilted lining would have definitely have made it warmer, but it has sufficient volume to layer up underneath and it looks great with the hot pink scarf my mum bought me. Plus, with my chosen lining, I'll be able to wear this coat from October to May (though I hope I don't have to). And yes. I do know that I need to fix the lining that's peeking out from my left sleeve. But did I mention that I made a coat?


Cost:

Pattern: $5.99 (approx. £4.33)
Fabric: free
Interfacing: £18.98 for 2.5m from English Couture (however I used less than 2m)
Lining: approx. £9 for 2m from Merchant and Mills (no longer available)
Press studs: £4.71 from this eBay seller
Total: £37.02

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Happy 10th Birthday to 'So, Zo...'!!!


Can you believe it?! Today is this blog's tenth birthday. TEN YEARS!!!!!!!!! With the odd gap of two or three weeks here and there (like, for example, immediately after the birth of my children), I have managed to consistently maintain this blog for a decade. It's a wonder to me, it really is.

According to my stats, I've written 917 posts in total. Some were quick ones, like musings on an outfit in the early days, or a brief update during Me-Made-May. And others took longer to write than some of my degree coursework. Anyways, that averages out at 1.7 posts published per week over the course of this blog's life. These days, I'm posting about once a week, which is just about sustainable given my other current commitments.

Last night I spent a while reading some of my very early posts (I wouldn't recommend it.) It felt so bizarre to get a peek into who I was a decade ago. Around the time I begun this blog, I was busy dismantling the life that I had grown bored of, and to start up a new one by setting off on a major adventure. I moved to Spain, with no plan, no employment, no Spanish and very little money. I had complete freedom and it felt amazing.

And like my life at that time, I wasn't entirely sure what this blog was going to become (hence the vague and, in hindsight, stupid title). I knew that sewing would feature a great deal, as it was steadily becoming a bigger and bigger thing in my life. But I also wanted to use this space to explore other topics and issues that interest and influence me, which I have done to a greater or lesser extent over the years. At risk of sounding dramatic, this blog has been an amazing tool for self-discovery and helped me find my voice. If anyone is considering starting up their own blog, I would definitely recommend it.

To be honest, I don't remember actually setting up this blog, but going back to my first post I saw that it was my amazing friend Silvia Sella who helped me do it. It is the very same amazing friend, Silvia Sella, who very kindly spent some of her recent post-operative convalescence designing me a new banner for the top of this blog. She also designed the fabulous logos for my sewing patterns, and I love how it looks a lot more cohesive now. To say that I'm thrilled to have this spanking new, slightly slicker and more grown up banner is an understatement. I can't thank her enough.

I also want to thank everyone who has read and commented on this blog, and I hope that you will continue to do so in the future. I wish you all much love and happiness xxxx

Friday, 2 February 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Women's and Kids' City Gym Shorts


This is my monthly feature where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes a women's one (or in today's case, both). I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those of you who plan to get your 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.

Today, I'm keeping to the theme of out-of-season shorts projects. Last month I shared my stack of kid's shorts, but today's pattern is sized for women and kids. I would have loved to have made some small ones, but what with all those Sunny day shorts I've made, my kids really don't need any more shorts for the summer, so I've become the recipient of a test pair of Purl Soho's City Gym Shorts pattern


(image source: Purl Soho)

Pattern type:

The City Gym Shorts are a retro, 70's sporty style which have been brought up to date by New York's Purl Soho with the use of fancy fabric. I was unsure if I'd enjoy wearing this style as regular shorts, so I've intended this test pair as sleep wear, which I think this pattern also easily lends itself to. It consists of just three pattern pieces (front, back and waistband) with the edges of the legs bound with bias binding.   

Sizing info:

This pattern is rather generous in that it covers ages 2 to 11 years for kids, and 33" to 46" hip circumference for women. My hip measurement is 39" so I made the 38"-40" and I feel the fit around the hips is spot on. I have yet to wear them properly (what with me making these in winter and all!), so I can't comment fully on the fit at this time.



Fabric info:

I imagine that Purl Soho released this free pattern, at least in part, to promote the fabrics they have for sale, so they link to specific fabrics on their site rather than give generic specifications on fabric choice for this pattern. I think that what you're looking for is a light-to-medium weight, stable woven fabric: cotton is going to be your best bet. It's important to make sure the main fabric has enough body to hold those crisp curved shapes on the outer leg. I've used some thickish shirting for these, but I may make my next pair in quilting cotton. 

The pattern suggests making self bias binding, but I didn't have enough of my main fabric so bought this floral bias binding from my local haberdashery. I recommend doing a Google image search for this pattern to see the many amazing fabric choices and combinations that have been made by other people. 

Findings:

The PDF pattern files are grouped into kids' sizes and women's sizes. The seam allowance is included in the pattern, but I'd already cut out my pieces before I realised it's a scant 1/4". I'd have increased it to 1cm (3/8") if I'd realised sooner. But it was a fun and relatively speedy make, applying all the binding was the most time-consuming and fiddly part. 

The instructions for construction are presented in the blog post, rather than a separate PDF file, which I like because it's easy to access them on a phone as opposed to getting my laptop out. Better for when you can only sew in short spurts of time...

I was hoping that I'd like this style on me enough to be happy wearing it outdoors, however I think for my proportions they aren't the most flattering garment, so I'll keep as sleep wear and pottering-around-indoors wear. 


Customisation ideas:
  • All manner of fabric combos, as I say, just Google 'city gym shorts' to get inspired
  • Add front pockets by altering the front piece to add a pocket mouth, and draft pocket lining and facing pieces
  • Add patch pockets to the bum
  • Lengthen the legs to make them a surf-y, bermuda style
  • Apply a trim, such as pompom trim or lace, around the leg edges. 



Would I make them again?

I'd be surprised if this is ends up being my final dealings with this pattern. I'm waiting for warm weather to see if I feel the rise needs to be altered for me, and then I'm sure I'll make at least one more pair to sleep in/knock about the flat in. And when Dolores has grown out of all her current shorts, I'd love to make some for her. You could go to town using up cute pieces of quilting cotton making these for kids (or adults!). 

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