Thursday, 11 October 2018

Burnside Bibs: Serving Land Army Realness

I've got so much love for dungarees and pinafores these days, I can't even tell you. I bought this pattern back in May whilst I was making the most of the generous Me-Made-May'18 celebration discount codes after coveting almost every pair I'd seen on Instagram.They finally got made at the tail end of the summer after I'd finally managed to answer the all important question of what fabric to buy. 

(image source: Sew House Seven)


In case you haven't come across the Burnside bibs pattern by Sew House Seven, lemme talk you through. Both versions include fabulous, large, curved, front pockets and clever straps/ties that narrow from the shoulder to the back and can be tied in a number of ways. There are two different bib shapes: scooped and straight across. Both versions feature a gathered back waist detail (great for bypassing a lot of trouser-fitting headaches), but version #1 is a little more fitted, with back darts and a concealed side zip to help you get in and out. There are optional patch back pockets and two leg lengths. 

Initially, I preferred the straight across bib shape, but had changed my mind by the time I had to cut the pattern pieces out. I was always going to go for the more fitted back waist option, as I wanted to reduce the likelihood of the back area looking like a gathered-up bin bag as much as possible. I hoped the addition of back pockets would help with that too. 

There was something that I found a bit off-putting about the back belt loops as well. I think the way the straps run through them and they gather up makes me think of curtains or something, so I decided to perform a small pattern hack to eliminate them. I made a channel from a rectangular strip of fabric and stitched that to the area where the belt loops should have been applied instead, and I'm much happier with the resultant look. 


After two recent successful firsts (1, sewing with and wearing linen and 2, embracing this colour green), I felt emboldened to choose this olive green cotton/linen mix from Fabric Godmother, which I never would have chosen before those two projects. The linen content gives it a lovely flow, and the cotton content means it doesn't wrinkle half as badly as regular linen probably would. It's quite a loose weave, so I was afraid of it fraying, but I just handled it carefully and there wasn't an issue. Plus, after making my Lander shorts and wearing them extensively during the summer, I was really surprised by how well this colour fits with the very limited colour palette that the rest of my wardrobe adheres to. Until recently I had been freely calling this colour 'khaki', but this week I received some schooling that khaki is actually this colour, and my shorts and burnside bibs are more accurately described as 'olive', or  'army green' perhaps. You live and learn.


Truth be told, when I first put these bibs on after completion, I must admit to feeling disappointed. Even having chosen the 'fitted' option for the back waist, I feel that I haven't fully avoided the gathered-up bin bag look from the back. Also, the crotch depth is REALLY low. And this is coming from someone who needs to 'scoop out' the rise (i.e. lower the crotch point) of every trouser sewing pattern I'm ever going to encounter. And I think that the position of the back pockets is much too low, and that plus the unflattering gathering and low crotch are all combining to give me the appearance of a saggy bum. And lastly, although I'm now down with this colour, is this much of this colour in this style of garment just too Land Army re-enactment? Is 'Land Army reenactment' even a thing? (Fun fact: one of my nans worked in the Land Army during WW2.)

(image source: Women's Land Army Tribute)

On the other hand, I love the shape of the bib section and they are tremendously comfortable to wear, so wear them I most definitely will. I think that the angle that these pics have been taken at aren't showing them totally at their best, and when I wore them whilst helping out at the recent Fabric Godmother open day, I inspired two people to buy this pattern. 

Will I use this pattern again? I'm not sure. I'd be tempted to try again with a drastically raised crotch and some tweaking to reduce the fullness at the back. However, I *may* have accidentally just bought another dungaree pattern to play with in the meantime... 

If you have any ideas on how to approach reducing the fullness in the back whilst maintaining the balance between the front and back leg pieces, I'd be VERY grateful to read your thoughts. Thanks in advance...

Friday, 5 October 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Tank

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

I'm really excited to be highlighting this free pattern today because, if you've got kids between 18m and 6 years old, it could become your new favourite pattern, no matter what season you're currently heading towards. I can attest to this tank pattern being a fabulous addition to a kid's summer wardrobe, but I'm also expecting these tanks to do a turn as a useful under-layer during winter. The pattern is by Life Sew Savoury (AKA Nap Time Creations), a big thanks to Emily for sharing this for free. It's labelled 'Girls Free Tank Pattern', but I totally think it's a very unisex style, and I've made a couple for Frankie to prove it.

Pattern type:

I've always known this type of garment to be referred to as a 'vest', so I'm struggling to type 'tank' in this post, but whatever you call this simple, sleeveless, close-fitting garment made from knit fabric, you probably already know them as a wardrobe essential. With this pattern, you can start making them yourself, hoovering up a lot of your knit scraps in the process. Seam and hem allowances are included, and the neck and arm hole bindings are indicated as measurements.

Sizing info:

This pattern is graded for approximately 18 months to 6 years, but the blog post/instructions and the pieces themselves handily include chest measurements, so I'd recommend going by those rather than on age alone. Of course, the stretchiness of your fabric will always effect the fit of the final garment, and you may be aiming for a closer or looser fit anyhow. For reference, The green hearts and green floral tanks you see in this post are a size 4 (with the size 5 length), and Dolores was 4.5yo and average-to-slim build when these pics were taken. Based on the outcome of those garments, I decided to make the size 3 for Frankie for next summer when he'll be 2yo, as he's a slightly sturdier build.

Fabric info:

A 'thin t-shirt fabric' is recommended for the front and back pieces of this pattern, and I like that the designer also encourages us to upcycle unwanted t-shirts for this project. She doesn't specify a percentage of stretch, or if the t-shirt knit should contain elastane, so you may need to bare in mind the properties of your chosen fabric going in and consider your sizing choice accordingly, but otherwise I'd recommend experimenting with all those small bits of jersey you been holding on to. I've been using up all sorts of small pieces of knit I've had knocking around, from 100% cotton (the green hearts and pale grey flecked), to mysterious slinky stuff that probably includes elastane (the green floral), to cotton that DEFINITELY includes elastane (the pirate print) and even 100% cotton baby-rib knit (the caravan print, maroon and yellow). 

The neck and arm hole bindings/bands are designed to be made in rib, but if you use a different type of knit fabric for them, it is suggested that you add extra length if it's less stretchy than rib. Personally, I found that when I used a cotton jersey with sizeable elastane content for the bindings, I didn't need to add any extra length. 


With the binding/band pieces given as measurements rather than actual pattern pieces, this pattern requires a pleasingly small amount of printer paper and ink. I also enjoyed how the binding/band measurements AND the sizing/chest measurements are written on the actual pattern pieces as well as being included in the blog post/instructions, which is handy if, like me, you usually do the cutting and the actual making of sewing projects on different days. 

As I've mentioned, the instructions take the form of a blog post, which I really like for quick little projects with relatively few steps like this because I find it easier to refer to my phone than getting the laptop out.

Generally, I love this little pattern, which you might have guessed at by the number of versions I've made. But I've have found a few little niggles with it that I think are worth mentioning. Firstly, the front and back shoulder seams (at least on the sizes I've made) are of slightly different lengths and, therefore, don't quite match up. Secondly, the neck line on the back piece isn't at a right angle with the fold line at the centre back, so if you cut it exactly as the pattern piece suggests, the result will be a slight 'V' rather than a smooth curve. Thirdly, and this is a personal preference thing, I found the neck and arm hole binding measurements result in bands that are a bit narrow for my liking, especially on the smaller sizes. And lastly, because the hem kind of curves up at the side seams, I would suggest hemming the front and back pieces BEFORE stitching the side seams, rather than leaving that step to the end.

Customisation ideas:
  • Use contrast solid or patterned fabric for the bindings/bands
  • Use a solid knit for the front and bold, patterned knit for the back, or vice versa
  • Add a cute little breast pocket
  • Applique or fabric-paint a design on the front
  • Apply a layer of stretch lace over a solid knit on the front piece, or all over
  • Straighten and shorten the hem, then add a gathered rectangle of fabric to turn this tank into a summer dress
  • Skip the topstitching around the neck and arm holes for a cleaner look

Would I make it again?

What? Aside from the seven times I've already made it?! Yes. I would definitely make it again, and I intend to each year until both my children grow out of the size range. 

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