Thursday, 25 June 2020

Washed Denim Petites Choses Blouse

So here is another lockdown make. I'm not sure if I'd be achieving my current state of productivity if we weren't in lock down, it's not like I have much of a social life anyway. Almost all of my recent makes involve busting my stash, but this is one of the exceptions. Read on, if you please. 


I cannot be accused of being an impulsive sewing pattern purchaser. Most patterns have to grow on me over time. And even if I do like something straight away, I tend to take my time before buying it, often waiting to see a number of other people's versions before I crack open the Paypal coffers. This pattern is the Petites Choses blouse and dress pattern by French pattern company, Atelier Scammit. It was produced in collaboration with a popular and talented French Instagrammer named Fanny (@petites_choses__) who posts about her gorgeous sewing creations and interior decor skillz. I saw this pattern yonks ago, probably on IG, and I finally bought it many months later when Fabric Godmother started to stock some of Atelier Scammit's patterns in paper form.  

For me, the real genius of this pattern lies in the panels and gathering around the bust and on the sleeves. The pattern includes a number of style options that can be combined to create 24 different looks. I chose to make a top with the V-neck, full back and long sleeves options. The pattern is bilingual, English and French, and the the packaging is gorgeous. The only annoying part was that the pieces needed to be traced off before you can start. The step-by-step photos could have been clearer, but generally speaking I found the construction to be fairly straight forward and fun. 


This pattern had been burning a hole in my stash; once I'd finally bought it, I was desperate to make it. But I just didn't have anything suitable in my stash that felt special enough for this project. I randomly ended up on the Village Haberdashery website a while ago, looking at something completely different, and I chanced upon this anchor-embroidered washed denim. It's virtually the same base cloth as the washed denim that Fabric Godmother stocks, and having used it a number of times (here, here and here, for example) I knew it would be wonderful to both sew with and wear, as well as age nicely.

The only fly in the ointment was that the useable width of the fabric limited because the embroidered anchors started and finished a little way in from the selvedges. This was further hampered by the need to make sure that the anchors were placed symmetrically on all the pieces and panels. I really had to take my time positioning the pattern pieces on the fabric before cutting, and I was left with little more than dust from the 1.5m I ordered. 


My version is definitely more English-mum's-tunic-top than French-Instagrammer's-chic-and-breezy-blouse, but I'm happy with it and I know that it'll see a ton of wear. I'm confident of the latter because it's effectively an updated version of my denim Tova top that I wore almost constantly for a few years (and still trot it out to wear to the allotment). Plus it gives me the opportunity to drop a double-denim look! I can definitely imagine using the pattern again at some point. I'd love to try it in a check or stripe, with the side panels cut on the cross grain to emphasise them more as others have done before me.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Patchwork Denim Coat

This coat. Well, lemme tell you two things about it. 1) it took a bloody age to make, and I loved almost every minute of making it. 2) I don't think I'm going to keep it. 

Ever since the success of my scrap-busting patchwork viscose Scout tee, I had in mind doing something similar with denim. I had masses of scraps and small pieces of denim left over from other projects. Denim scraps just aren't as useful as lighter weight fabric scraps for working into other garments or turning into useful gift-y things like schrunchies. I was inspired by a couple of upcycled denim projects that I'd seen on Instagram, including a haori-style jacket that I can't find now. So I decided to use my beloved La Trop Facile pattern by Delphine et Morissette as the base, but lengthen both the body and the sleeves.  

Next was the fun bit. I got all my denim pieces together, and spent a number of the evenings over a couple of weeks hacking them, matching them and stitching them together. I got to select the pieces I liked the best to feature more prominently, and tried to combine them so the overall effect was varied. I decided to include some of the lovely selvedges to break up the blue a bit, and to (hopefully) create an interesting, graphic effect. 

I started on a few sections, joined some of them together and expanded where necessary until I had panels large enough to fit my pattern pieces on. There was a massive back panel, two front panels, two sizeable sleeve-rectangles and a collar. I stitched the outer together, save for the collar, then made a lining. 

Because I was working very much from the angle of #usewhatyouhave, I used some turquoise silk lining from my stash. In hindsight, I don't think it was the best choice as it's very fine, and probably more suited for use in a dress. Anyways, I made the lining then spent a lot of time head-scratching, trying to work out how to insert it. Have done so, I then attached the collar, hand-stitching the inside seam. 

I soooo wish I was the type of person who would wear this. I love the idea and ethics behind 'making fabric' from fabric scraps, and I wish I could fully embody that by wearing this coat out and about. But I've come to accept that it just really isn't my style. It's just too jarring with the rest of my wardrobe.

Therefore I'm going to ask around my IRL friends to see if any of them would like it. I do not regret making it at all, it was such a fun project to work on. I loved exploring the concept of 'fabric from fabric scraps' further and I'm sure I'll do more in the future. 

Now, a tiny bit of house-keeping. I'm afraid I've had to turn off the comments on this blog, at least for a while. The amount of spam I've been getting is ridiculous, I even had two people actually message me about it via Instagram last week. I've exhausted the options within Blogger to curtail it, so I'm not sure what to do. I'm so sad to have had to take this step though, because I absolutely love reading the genuine comments and having a dialogue with my readers, but those comments usually get completely lost within the spam. Thanks so much if you are someone who has commented on previous posts, please know that I really appreciated them. If you would ever like to get in contact with me, my email address is available on my About Me page, and my IG handle is @sozoblog. 

Friday, 5 June 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Adult's Sorrento Bucket Hat

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. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

Well, I've done it. I've finally made good on my threat to make Pat (AKA Mr SoZo) a sunhat. He's long been convinced that neither hat nor shorts are for him. However, it can get pretty hot here in the south of England at times, so I personally believe that he needs both. Every summer he regularly suffers from sunburn, and this year I decided that enough was enough and made him a sunhat anyway. Now all four of us can go to the allotment or the beach in our me-made hats! Even though someone will undoubtedly take theirs off within two seconds.... Massive thanks to Lauren from Elbe Textiles for her hard work and sharing the Sorrento bucket hat pattern for free. It is easily accessible through the shop and check out on her site, no sign ups required.  

(image source: Elbe Textiles)

Pattern type:

The website says it best: 'The Sorrento Bucket Hat is a unisex design featuring a downwards sloping brim with optional top stitching detail. This hat is fully lined, with the ability to be reversible.'

Sizing info:

The hat pattern is graded to four sizes, 21"-24" head circumference. Based on his measurements, I made the largest size for Pat, although I never considered him to have a particularly big head. My 6.5yo daughter's head measures 20", so I think this pattern might work for kids from approx. 8 years and up also. If you required sizes larger or smaller, you could try adjusting the scale on your printer settings. I did this with success when making Elbe Textile's other hat pattern, the Serpentine hat pattern, for my daughter last year

Fabric info:

It is suggested that medium to heavy weight woven fabric like drill, canvas and denim work best for this pattern, as they hold their structure. I completely agree, however, I would stretch that to include linen and linen-blends, which might not hold their shape so well, but might be more pleasant to wear in the heat. 

I'm also very interested in making an adult hat pattern such as this in some waterproof fabric, like this child's bucket hat I made a few years ago. I think that having a waterproof hat stuffed into my bag would be preferable to having to carry a brolly around. These days are nearly over for me, but brolly carrying and pushing pushchairs don't mix, so a waterproof hat for those occasions could also be a game changer when it's raining. 

One of the things I really love about making hats is that you can use up leftovers and smaller pieces of fabric that might be tricky to use up otherwise. For Pat's, I used some brick-coloured denim, leftover from his Quadra jeans, which definitely has the body required for this hat. I chose some fun African wax print cotton scraps leftover from my Zadie jumpsuit for the lining. I love the contrast the print brings to an otherwise pretty utilitarian item. 


Working with this pattern was a real pleasure. I've made a lot of bucket hats in the past, so I must admit that I didn't refer to the instructions constantly, but when I did, they were clear and easy to follow. This would make a great, confidence boasting project for a beginner, and a satisfying make for those more experienced with a scrap stash to burn. 

I chose to up the ante slightly and add the optional rows of top stitching around the brim. I really like both the look and stability that extra step brings to the party.

Despite his general misgivings about hats, Pat has really embraced this one. He's happy with the fit, and it must be comfortable as he has worn it numerous times in the month since I made it. Much of the back of his neck still remains exposed, but it does a great job of protecting his forehead and face.  

Customisation ideas:

  • Extend the brim for extra sun protection
  • Test the accurracy of your stitching by using contrast thread
  • Make a decorative strip for the band, either with contrasting fabric, grosgrain ribbon or some other trim
  • Insert eyelets to the band for some ventilation
  • Add straps to tie under the chin if it gets windy where you live/holiday!

Would I make it again?

Yes, for sure. If Pat needs another, or a gift is required, then I'd be very happy to whip up another. Plus I'll most likely to turn to this pattern in future years for Frankie, as the sizing of the Sorrento seems to start roughly where the Oliver + S bucket hat pattern leaves off. 

Friday, 29 May 2020

Tencel Twill Luna Pants

I'm sitting at my desk and should really be writing something else, however I'm going to quickly tell you about my new Tencel twill Lina pants instead....


This is the same Tencel twill from Fabric Godmother that I used to make a Wiksten Tank top last month. This is the mustard colour way, but I'd describe it as 'ochre-of-my-dreams'. It was kindly sent to me for free by Josie, essentially to cheer me up about being in lockdown. As I mentioned previously in my tank post, it has incredible drape, with an almost rubbery handle, which sounds odd but is great! 

I've been wearing these trousers all day, so I can attest to some creasing, but not as much as you'd probably get from a viscose. As with any slippery fabric, cutting out and handling it whilst sewing was a challenge. But it doesn't fray too badly, and presses really well. 


I bought the Made by Rae Luna pants pattern a few years ago, and made the pattern up twice, first in a light-weight, washed denim, and then in cotton lawn. The fabric of the denim pair disintegrated, but, although very faded, the cotton lawn pair have stood the test of time surprisingly well. This garment style is so comfy to wear, in no small part because the elasticated waist sits on the hips rather than higher up on the natural waist: the former being my preferred position. 

Rae reworked the Luna pattern last year and re-released it. I received the updated file but haven't printed it out, so I'm not sure how the pattern pieces differ from the original. For this pair, I wanted a slightly looser, less tapered look through the legs. To do so, I added about 2cm to the outer leg seam at the hem of the front and back leg pattern pieces, blending it into the original seam by the lower hips. I also made this pair a few centimetres longer, as I found my other pair have shrunk a bit over the years, and I'm not sure how this Tencel will behave over the long term.


I'd seen these cool Isewlation garment labels popping up on Instagram during lockdown, and eventually their designer, Sally (@modistasewing), got in touch with me to request some help in promoting them during Me-Made-May. All the profits she receives from their sale goes to the National Emergencies Trust, which supports local charities in helping the victims of disasters and emergencies. I bought some myself, and they are awesome. I held off finishing this project until they arrived, because they are the perfect colour and shape for these trousers.


I'm so happy with these trousers! I'm wearing them right now with my washed denim Kabuki tee. I feel comfy and breezy on this warm day, but somehow I'm also looking pretty stylish, if I say so myself. I love how this pattern hits a sweet spot of being loose but not baggy, which I think is particularly important around the bum! I doubt this will be my last pair of Lunas. The next time a super-fluid, woven fabric that I adore crosses my path, I'll be ready to deploy this pattern.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Endless Summer Dorothie Blouse

A year ago I made one of my very favourite me-made garments of all time. It was a sweet little blouse made using the Dorothie Blouse pattern by Slow Sunday Paris, in some mustard viscose twill. I loved it so much and wore it a lot. But sadly it started to literally come apart at the seams along the collar/lapel in a way that was not repairable. 

Later that year I made another Dorothie blouse with longer sleeves, but it didn't work out quite how I pictured it would. My mum has that one now, after virtually remaking the whole thing because she's much smaller than me! 


So, third time lucky? This time, I went back to those gathered, mid-length sleeves that drew me to this pattern in the first place. I omitted the weird split, bias-finished hem of the original pattern, and hemmed the whole bottom edge with a simple double turn. I also raised the armholes by 1.5cm, which was a faff but totally worth it. I would have raised them even more but that would have risked messing with the yoke seams.


Oh, this fabric. I cannot properly explain how much I love it. If you could reach inside my head and pull out the most perfect fabric design for me, it would likely be something just like this. I adore the kitsch Americana, the nod to vintage postcard designs and visions of exciting road trips.  

I bought it from Fabric Godmother last summer. It also came in a navy background version, but both have long sold out. The 1.5m length had been sitting in my stash for many months whilst I tried to figure out how best to use it. 

I included it in my #2020makenine plans (which you can see in this post), because I didn't want it to become one of *those* fabrics that live in my stash so long that eventually my tastes change and I end up not being all that into it. The little red plastic buttons are vintage ones that have been in my stash forever. I was careful this time not to position them too far away from the front edge, like I did with my original mustard Dorothie. 


There are definitely things I could point to on this blouse to prove its imperfection. But that would be silly, because, overall, I've made a lovely blouse and I'm very excited to wear it. Although my style is far less vintage/retro inspired these days than it used to be, this somehow still feels very 'me'. I can't wait to wear it with my Romero trousers and some sandals and go somewhere that isn't my home! 

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Biro-Ink Pivoine Blouse

Here's a new little blouse that kind of got made by accident. I had both the fabric and the pattern sitting in my stash for over six months, and finally I made the connection that they might work well together. And by Jove, they did!


As I've have proclaimed many times before on this blog, I'm a big fan of Delphine et Morissette patterns. And although I'd had my eye on the Pivoine pattern for some time, it wasn't until I saw a few versions on Instagram without the collar that I was truly sold. 

In essence, it's a sweet little loose-fitting blouse. There's gathering into the yoke on the front and back, plus an interesting, sloping yoke seam that piping can be inserted into, should one desire. The armholes are finished with simple, turn-back cuffs. The original pattern includes a rounded collar, but I used bias binding to finish off the neck edge instead. 

The construction of this garment was straight-forward and enjoyable. The instructions are in French, so I copy-and-pasted chunks into Google translate to guide me through.


Isn't it weird how differently the colour of this fabric looks in these two sets of photographs? IRL, it's a biro-ink, navy blue: somewhere in between the two colours that have come out in my pics. The colour aside, what I can tell you is that it's a crepe, most likely viscose. It came to me in the form of a remnant without a label, just over 1m in length. Even though the pattern called for 1.5m, because I was leaving out the collar pieces, I was just about able to squeeze the blouse out of my length of fabric with basically only dust to spare. 

I'd held onto this remnant for about a year because I wasn't sure I'd even wear a top in this colour. I tend to wear dark-coloured bottoms, so I didn't think I could make a navy top work in an outfit with the rest of my clothing selection. But having recently made the fawn-coloured Harper pants, I realised that I do have something suitable now. 

I love garments with simple, contrasting buttons. I went with these basic, two-hole, plastic ones from my stash so that they'd add contrast but wouldn't effect what other colours I could wear this top with too much. 


I'll admit, I haven't fully integrated this top into my wardrobe yet, and I've only worn it once so far. However, I am currently working on some more bottoms that I hope will look good with it. As for the pattern, I can definitely imagine using it again. I'd like to try it in a cotton lawn, or a double gauze perhaps. 

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Frankie Baseball Tee in Isewlation

This garment was the first thing I sewed during lockdown. That was just seven weeks ago, but emotionally speaking, it feels like a whole year may as well have passed. Seven weeks ago I was definitely in shock, but also trying hard to make the most of the situation, and had a Blitz-era, 'What would Nella Last do?' spirit about me. I decided it would be a great opportunity to tackle my fabric stash, and make what I could from the things I already owned safe from the temptations of new fabric, seeing as I wasn't going to work. Pat was still at going to work during that first week, so I had decided to carve out an hour to spend sewing each day, when I would plonk the kids in front of some CBeebies and give myself a little break.

But the following week brought a less chipper attitude about the whole lockdown/global pandemic/thousands of people dying/the world being broken situation. Plus, Pat had to start working from home, so my sewing area became a permanent 'office' set-up in the daytime, as our bedroom is the only place we can shut the door on the kids and be able to concentrate. No daytime sewing for me anymore.

I've still be working through my stash, and making some great things, but it's all been in the evenings when I'm exhausted and sadly it feels like more of a slog. Anyways, I'm soooooo lucky in so many regards. Including having this great new baseball tee! (See how I brought things round there? Pretty smooth, eh?!)


You may recognise this fabric from a previous creation. I used some of this amazing hands-print interlock a couple of years ago to make a Freya top, and I had a weird-shaped piece left over that was burning a hole in my stash. The interlock came from Cotton Bee, a fabric printing service based in Poland that is similar to Spoonflower. They kindly offered me a voucher to test out their process and products to help promote them amongst my readers. I had been dwelling on how best to use the funny-shaped leftovers, and it eventually dawned on me that I could combine it with something else to eek a new, adult-sized garment out of the situation. 

This black knit, also an interlock, has been lurking in my stash for sometime too. In fact, I cannot reliable tell you how it got in there, or when. It's thinner than the hands-print, which concerned me a little, but they seem to behave well together. The black interlock is particularly soft and makes this garment the very definition of 'secret pyjamas'. 


I can't see a baseball tee and not think of my best friend. We've both been fans of them since the 90s, and she still has one or two, I believe. However, when I first received the Stretch! book by Tilly, the Frankie baseball t-shirt (despite being one of my very favourite names!) wasn't one of the patterns that jumped out at me. Then, more recently, one of the women who attends the sewing class I teach made a couple of fantastic Frankies, and I was sold. The fit looked great, casual and comfy but flattering. It's funny that I ended up making two garments from the same fabric, both using patterns from the same sewing book. Yet they perform quite different functions in my wardrobe. The Freya looks and feels a bit more formal to wear. It works very well under pinafores. Yet the Frankie definitely wants to be paired with jeans.

To make this Frankie, I made my usual pattern alterations. I blended between sizes, going up a size for the waist and hips, and I folded out 2cm from the length of the body to account for my short-waistedness. The only other monkey-ing that this project required of me, was to create a seam in the back because because my limited fabric wouldn't allow me to cut it in one piece. You can see the join in the image above, but I doubt you would have noticed unless I pointed it out. No offence. 


So this will probably always be my 'Isewlation' garment, when we were all a bit excited in the early days of lockdown about how much sewing my might possibly get to do. Although there has been, and will be other garments made during this time, this is the one that I will remember as having been made in the strangest of circumstances. Whilst I was making this top, I would have been shocked to learn that almost two months later, little has changed. Apart from having made over 150 face masks. Also from my stash! But that's another post. 

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Candy Cane Emergency Growth-Spurt Pyjamas

The presenter on a podcast I was listening to the other day was urging their listeners to not spend this lockdown focussing on 'when all this is over', and to remember that although life is super weird for most of us right now, it is still life. As someone who has a habit of concentrating on the future, and frequently forgets to 'live in the now', the presenter's comment really struck a chord with me and I've been trying to bring it to the forefront of my mind from time to time. And my kids have been reminding me that life is very much still happening, by getting bigger!

Without warning, suddenly all Dolores's pyjamas were looking decidedly short in the ankle and sleeves. I realised that I had to pause the mask-making for a while and address the situation with what I could find in my stash. 


I've been whittling my stash down somewhat this year, and the jersey section in particular is starting to look a bit sparse. The last suitable piece big enough for my 7yo-sized-6yo was this printed jersey that was kindly given to me by my friend Claire a couple of years ago. It was a sizeable length that she rescued from the bin at a clothing company, and by this point I'd already made three kids' T-shirts from it. After this set, I've probably got enough scraps to make one pair of children's undies, then I really can declare this fabric busted from my stash. 

It's a single jersey, probably a cotton/elastane mix. The stripes are printed on, which gives it a slight stiffness. I couldn't tetris the pattern pieces to also include the bands, so I used a scrap of solid white jersey as contrast for those. 


I decided to add a cute design to make these pyjamas feel more special. Using some more of the white jersey and some double-sided bondaweb, I cut out a cloud shape that I first designed for these dungarees. My sewing machine has a faux-blanket stitch option that I've used with some success in the past, so I stitched round the edges of the cloud with that. Finally, I embroidered a very basic sleeping face with some embroidery thread I found lurking deep in my sewing area. Making the whole applique, from start to finish, took less than an hour, but I think it really packs a (very gentle) punch.


For the top, I printed off the next size up of the free Ester and Ebbe top pattern by Threads by Caroline. I removed a few centimetres of length from the body, but otherwise made no changes. For the trousers, I used the mini Hudson pants pattern by True Bias. I'd recently made some mini Hudsons for Dolores from some scraps of stretchy french terry (as yet unblogged), and I love the fit. I thought the roomy crotch area would translate to being really comfy as pj bottoms. I omitted the front pockets, and narrowed the width of the waistband to accommodate the only suitable elastic I had in my stash. 


Well, Dolores seems to really enjoy wearing these pyjamas, and the fact that this entire project cost me zilch gives me added pleasure. Even the faux-waist tie cord, which I added so she could quickly identify the front from the back, used to be the handle of a carrier bag. I love that I was able to fulfil my child's clothing need with just two or three hours work. Thankfully the pjs are large enough so she should be able to wear them for a couple of years, and hopefully they're gender neutral enough that her brother will also want to wear them in a few year's time! 

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