Thursday, 26 November 2020

Mend it, Wear it, Love it: I WROTE A BOOK!!!!!

So, funny story: I WROTE A BOOK!!!! An actual, IRL, paper-and-ink, honest-to-goodness book! I know, I can barely believe it either.

Towards the beginning of Lockdown 1.0 DK publishers approached me to write a beginner-friendly book that will help people make their clothes last longer. After explaining why this is important, it covers simple mending techniques for common garment mishaps, ideas and how-tos for altering the fit and style of your garments, as well as loads of info on how to care for your clothes properly. The book is called ‘Mend it, Wear it, Love it’ and will be available from 4th Feb 2021. It’s currently available for pre-order, and if you’re in the U.K., please may I recommend checking out Bookshop.org to support indie bookshops if you’re thinking of ordering a copy (it’s really reasonable, BTW).


Truth be told, when DK contacted me, I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the new reality of life in lockdown. I had to think hard about whether or not taking this on was the right thing to do, but writing it ended up being a truly wonderful, if frantic, experience. And now that I have a copy in my possession, I could not be more proud to have been part of its creation. The design team have done an amazing job, and I genuinely think that content is really useful for those wanting to make their wardrobe more sustainable.


DK has a rep for producing very clear, user-friendly, practical guides. So whilst being pretty, I’m also confident that ‘Mend it, Wear it, Love it’ sufficiently supports beginners through all the mending, refitting and altering techniques, even if you’re completely new to the sewing game. As I was writing the steps for each technique, I drew sketches for each step that the fantastic illustrator Steven Marsden then made actually recognisable!


For me, the parts of the book that I’m most proud of tho, are the sections where the problems of today’s clothing industry are linked to the practical steps in this book. My aim was to help the reader feel empowered and emboldened to give the techniques a try, including the embracing of imperfection. We also managed to make the topic of laundry and garment care interesting hahaha!


‘Any repair that extends the life of a garment by even one more wear is a major success’ - me!

Friday, 6 November 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Mini Sewpony Doll's Clothes


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.

So as you may recall, last month I dropped the ball and road tested a sewing pattern that patterns to be precise) has only just dropped. It's another child-related post, so sorry if you only tune in for the adult sewing-content. But hopefully this will be a particularly useful post if there's a doll-loving kid in your life that you plan to give gifts to this Christmas, or for any other holiday or event that may be coming up. It also offers a great opportunity to use up some scraps of fabric that you may have leftover from previous projects. 


Sewpony is one of my very favourite children's sewing pattern companies. Their pattern selection skilfully combines modern and classic design elements, and skews towards the traditionally female. I have bought a couple of their patterns in the past, and took part in the testing for another. Some time ago, I saw on their IG feed that Suz, the designer of Sewpony, was working on a collection of mini Sewpony patterns to fit Paola Reina Las Amiga dolls. I hadn't heard of the dolls before, but having recently had a conversation with my daughter about her wanting a doll, I did some research and ear-marked them as something my mother-in-law could buy Dolores for her recent birthday. So that Lola's doll wouldn't be naked (her's arrived just in her pants), I put my hand up to join the testing group for the doll's clothes patterns. Some of the little garments you see in this post are pre-testing versions of the patterns, and some are made using the final iterations. Massive thanks to Suz from Sewpony for offering up these adorable patterns for free. I can't even imagine how much work it took to draft the patterns and produce all the instructions. And now she's doing it all over again for another doll range called Minikane

(image source: Sewpony)

Pattern type:

The mini Sewpony collection includes miniaturised and simplified versions of no less than eight Sewpony patterns. They can also be used as a basis for making all sorts of variations. The patterns include all seam and hem allowances. All but one of the styles have written but un-illustrated step-by-step instructions, however, the Miss Polly dress instructions include photographs. Which is handy because that appears to be the trickiest!

Sizing info:

Las Amigas dolls are 32cm /13" high, so these patterns have been developed for that. However, you could try monkeying with your printer's scale settings to make the patterns suitable for larger or smaller dolls and toys.


Fabric info: 

Each style has its own fabric recommendations, however, generally speaking, light-weight woven cotton and single jersey with good stretch and recovery will be the most useful for this project. One point to consider: if you wish to use a fabric with print or pattern, make sure that the scale of it doesn't look odd when made into tiny clothes. 

I absolutely love that these little garments can be made using small scraps that might otherwise be pretty useless. In general, I adore sewing projects that use scraps and leftovers because they feel like they're a 'free' project (especially when they're used with a free pattern or tutorial)! I used scraps of cotton/elastane single jersey for the Sorella T-shirt (the white-with-gold flecks one) and Sorella dress (the red/white/blue striped one), ponte Roma and rib for the Sorella sweatshirt, swimwear lycra for the Cosi (you could easily use cotton/elastane jersey for this one but my daughter was very adamant that it had to be real swimwear fabric!), double gauze for the skirt, chambray for the 'jeans' and pleather for the Twiggy dress (the gold one). 


Findings:

Sewing dolls clothes is really fun but sooooooper fiddly! I wouldn't recommend trying to make these in a rush. The pattern pieces are really clear (and very cute). The step by step instructions provide the help you need, but are not excessively hand-holdy, so I probably wouldn't recommend this project for a beginner. Your child could definitely help you make these doll's clothes, but it would need someone with a few garment sewing projects under their belt to work alongside.

Customisation ideas:

These patterns definitely provide a great basis for experimentation. In my local haberdashery/craft shop I found some miniature buttons that I'm looking forward to using. I also added some extra topstitching detail to both the trousers and the pleather dress. I'd recommend following the #minisewponycollection hashtag on IG to see what others come up with. 

Would I make them again?

Without a shadow of a doubt! I'm considering getting my daughter another of these dolls so her current one (officially 'Liu', but Dolores's is called Rose) has someone to hang out with. I really hope they get on...

Friday, 2 October 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Woodall Cardigan


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.

Ugh! So this is annoying: I've just road tested a fantastic free sewing pattern, and now I come to write about it, I discover that it is no longer available! Sorry everyone. It was the Goodall cardigan pattern by Petit a Petit patterns, which, I just learned, ceased trading at the end of last year. For those who had not come across them, it was a super cool kids' pattern company that offered up some really wearable and interesting styles for boys and girls. I downloaded their free Goodall cardigan pattern (just in time it would appear) at some point before they shut up virtual-shop, and busted it out last week when I discovered my daughter has grown out of all her non-school cardigans (like her mum, she's a big cardi wearer). Sadly, the whole blog seems to have been taken down too, so I can't link to them, but you can check out the IG account @petitapetitblog so you can at least see how cool the pattern brand was. The owner Celina (@celinabailey) is now concentrating her pattern-making energies on a women's line called Ensemble Patterns, which also looks wonderful and very wearable.


I don't have any other road-tested free patterns to write about instead, so I'm popping up a couple of photos of my version anyhow. Perhaps they will inspire those who already downloaded it to give it a go. I made it using some quilted ponte leftover from a sweatshirt I made Pat, and a sliver of pink sweatshirt fleece. But because this pattern is no longer available, there's little point in me writing a full review like I usually do. I'm so glad I didn't go through the rigmarole of trying to cajole my daughter into posing for some modelled photos! Normal Free Pattern Friday service should resume next month...

Friday, 18 September 2020

Modal Kinders


If autumn was an object, surely it'd be a rust-coloured cardigan, no? My wardrobe is hardly a cardigan-free zone, but I felt an urge to own one that would offer my outfits a pop of colour. A pop of colour other than mustard, that is. Speaking of mustard cardis, I recently made another one, however this one was for my best mate Vic.  


Pattern:

For both these cardigans, I used the Kinder cardigan pattern from Wendy Ward's 'A Beginner's Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics' book. I was given this book for free when I participated in the blog tour, and I must admit that this is still the only pattern I've used from that book so far. But oh how I've used it! I've made six Kinder cardigans so far, and I doubt these'll be the last.


Both these cardigans were made using the size medium. The rust version includes the separate cuff piece and hip length pieces. Vic's mustard one is effectively a copy of my own mustard one, which has the plain sleeve, and is in-between the waist and hip lengths included in the original pattern. I omitted the pockets on both these because I felt the fabric is too stretchy. 


Fabric:

Speaking of fabric, for both of these I used some beautiful modal french terry from Fabric Godmother (mustard for Vic's, terracotta for mine, but I'm calling it rust!). As far as is possible, I'm really trying to only use great quality fabric for my sewing projects these days, especially for basics like cardigans that are likely to get tons of wear. If I'm buying virgin fabric, I've got to give the finished project every chance of having a long, useful lifespan. 


Thoughts:

As if you couldn't tell, I really love this fabric: it's soft and has really excellent stretch/recovery. As modal's a regenerated fibre, it's super drape-y, which limits the cardigan patterns it can be used for. But a simple, no-frills style like the Kinder makes the most of that quality. 

Friday, 4 September 2020

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Raglan Sweatshirt


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.



Last week somebody flipped the switch from summer to autumn. It really did feel that sudden. Short sleeved garments now need to have long sleeves layered over the top when we're going outside. It's time to take an inventory of what chilly-weather clothing still fits my kids, and I imagine most people with kids in the Northern hemisphere will be doing something similar. Today I'm talking about a sewing pattern that may be useful to a lot of people who need to panic-sew their kids some warm tops. And because it comes from a company not known for sewing patterns, I'm guessing that a lot of the sewing community will not have heard of it before. Bobbinhood is fantastic screen-printing company based in Rotterdam. They aim to make getting into screen printing super simple and super fun. I have one of their starter kits and I can attest that printing with it definitely is both. This free kid's crewneck sweatshirt pattern is meant to be used to make a basis on which to print your own designs, but of course doesn't have to be. This pattern is easily downloadable via their site, no sign-ups or webshop transactions required. Thanks heaps to Bobbinhood for sharing this pattern for free. 

(image source: Bobbinhood)

Pattern type:

The 'crewneck pattern' is a loose-fitting sweatshirt with raglan sleeves. The pattern consists of two PDF documents, one with the instructions and the other with the print-at-home pattern sheets (no A0 option, but the pattern is only 12 pages). Seam allowances are not included so need to be added to the pattern pieces before cutting out.  

Sizing info:

This pattern includes six sizes, spanning from approx. 1/1.5 years to 9/10 years. My daughter is almost seven so I made her the 7/8 years size and it fits her well. It's fantastic to find a free pattern that includes such a wide size range, however, the it may be worth noting that the neckband, waistband and cuff pieces are the same widths for all sizes, and I feel it is worth making them wider for the larger sizes to keep the proportions looking right. I widened all of them for the version photographed here. Also, I had to shorten the sleeve pattern and widen the cuff piece even more to compensate and keep the sleeve length the same because the fleece fabric I was using was only a remnant. 


Fabric info:

The pattern suggests using jersey, sweat fabric or teddy (although I'm not sure what that means). Jersey would create a more T-shirty type of garment. However, personally, I feel the silhouette leans more towards a sweatshirt, and therefore sweatshirt fleece, loop-back French terry, or possibly ponte roma would work best. I used this stretchy, unicorn-print, fleece fabric as I already had it in the stash. I fully expect it to look pretty ropey after a few washes though. The neckband, waistband and cuffs fabric will need to be sufficiently stretchy, so it might be best to use ribbing for these.  


Findings:

The instructions and pattern files both feature a lot of the fun visual design details that make up  Bobbinhood's identity, so the project is an enjoyable one from the very beginning. For a company that isn't directly related to sewing, the instructions for this pattern are very good and extremely easy to follow. The pattern doesn't go into all the nitty gritty of sewing with stretch fabrics, but I'm guessing a beginner sewer with one or two completed projects already under their belt could follow along with little issue. 

One little complaint I have about this pattern is that I couldn't find anywhere on the Bobbinhood website or blog any photos of this pattern actually made up, let alone photographed on a child. Of course it is not fair to have a lot of expectations from a free sewing pattern. However, if someone is investing time, effort and resources into trying out a pattern, it is useful to give a heads up about what the finished item should look like. Subsequently I was a bit in dark about the fit until Lola put her finished garment on. Thankfully, we're really happy with the fit, and I think it could work for children of any gender.  

Customisation ideas:

This pattern is such a great blank canvas for applying different ideas and details. Here's a few off the top of my head...
  • Use up a bunch of leftover knit scraps by cutting each piece from something different for an awesome, contemporary, patchwork look. 
  • Add a hoodie-style kangaroo pocket to the front, or shaped patch pockets (hearts or mitten-shaped, for example). 
  • Insert some piping into the raglan sleeve seams (flat piping made from stable jersey would be the easiest).
  • Shorten the front and back pieces to make a waist-length or cropped sweatshirt.
  • Lengthen the front and back pieces to make a sweatshirt dress. This would look great worn with wooly tights and boots for chilly months.
  • Add printing (obvs), applique or iron-on patches or decals. 
  • Break up the pattern pieces with more design lines and seam lines for extra scrap busting potential. 
  • Shorten the sleeves (without or without cuffs) in a jersey, interlock or ponte roma to make a garment suitable for warmer weather. 
  • Add an open-ended zip up the front to make a casual zip-through/light jacket. 

(image source: Bobbinhood)

Would I make it again?

Definitely! I can imagine making another for Lola if a fun printed sweatshirt fabric crosses my path. And as soon as Frankie needs a new sweatshirt, I plan to have a go at this pattern for him also. 


Saturday, 29 August 2020

The Inevitable Lola Top


I loves me a top with ruffles, so obviously I fell in love the Lola top pattern by Fibre Mood as soon as I saw it. However, I've already made plenty of tops that feature ruffles, plus I'm trying to curb my sewing-related spending, so I decided not to buy it. Then I saw Kate from Time to Sew's (@timetosew) lovely versions, and my decision was overruled. And the fact that it has the same name as my daughter seemed to be further confirmation that I should make it.


Pattern:

Fibre Mood pattern magazine is sold by The Foldline, but they were out of stock when I looked for it. I then saw that the individual PDF pattern was on sale for €5 via the Fibre Mood website. (I later discovered that Fibre Mood is stocked in my local WHSmith, grrr!!!) So it would appear that with Fibre Mood, you receive a link to download the pattern files via email after purchase (as you'd expect), however, the instructions then have to be downloaded via the website (as you would not expect, perhaps). After a million attempts I just couldn't seem to log on to access the instructions though, and feeling like I was going crazy. Finally, I found out that the account you set up to make a purchase is different to the account you make to access the website and community (roll-y eye emoji). 


Anyways, this pattern intrigued me as it had a few features that were unlike other ruffle tops I've made. The back half is comprised of various panels which help create a sweet open-back section. The top is fastened with a tie at the back neck so the garment is loose enough to get on and off over your head, whilst still looking fairly fitted.


As per usual, I made a couple of changes to the pattern. Firstly, I blended between sizes, sizing up at the waist and hips. My ability to do this is the reason I could never go back to buying clothing in shops! I also pinched out 2cm from the length of the torso to account for my short-waistedness. After holding the front paper pattern piece up to my body, I chose to lower the bust dart. But after trying on the finished garment, I think this was unnecessary. 


Fabric:

I've been on a massive stash-busting kick lately, and digging deep to unearth some pieces that have been in there for many years. This fabric is some light-to-medium weight cotton sateen, and its slight reflective quality is what's making it look a bit weird in these photos I think. The fabric is a gorgeous tomato-red colour, and if I recall, it was given to me by my friend Claire at least eight years ago.


Thoughts:

Making this top was really fun, and took a bit more time and concentration than most of the projects I've undertaken recently. I found that the lower edge of the cut-out section was a bit gape-y and my bra strap was clearly visible. To combat this, I unpicked it a bit and tightened the elastic. This has helped a lot, but my strap is still visible at times (so I hear). For a future version, I would raise the height of that lower centre back panel. 


'Thanks' to semi-lockdown, I haven't found an opportunity to wear this top since I completed it. I feel that the sateen makes it a too fancy for day wear, but maybe that's just my perception and I could change it. It really feels like Autumn has kicked in now, so unless I find myself going out in the evening some time soon (unlikely!), this top may not see much wear util 2021. 

Friday, 14 August 2020

Hawaiian Helios Dress


I'll be honest with you, I don't remember too much about the construction of this sewing project. These photos were taken a year ago, shortly after I made this dress, and my memory of the blow-by-blows is hazy. The reason I waited a year to blog about it is because this week was the first time I got to wear it. The dress was made to showcase a new fabric design (more on this in a sec), and was on display at a couple of fabric and sewing shows. Seeing as large-scale shows (both trade and public) are not happening for the foreseeable future, the dress resurfaced and I got to give it a whirl during this week's heatwave. 


Fabric:

I was given the opportunity to sew with some of the first batch of fabric produced by Fabric Godmother. All their prints have been developed using vintage pattern designs derived from textiles, wallpaper and even floor tiles. They were all lovely, but this amazing Hawaiian design called 'Hula' sung out to me the loudest.

The base cloth is a viscose crepe, which is a fabric type that I have little experience using. As you'd expect with a viscose, it can be quite slippy, so I really had to take my time cutting out the pattern pieces. Stitching it wasn't too challenging, but pressing flattens the texture somewhat, hence the slight fluted appearance of the sleeve hems in these pictures. They'll lay flatter once the dress has been washed, I have no doubt. 


One of the things I love about this fabric is the scale of the print. The designer has clearly thought about it carefully, and with garment sewing firmly in mind. It's large enough for the images to be recognisable from afar, but not so large that it limits the types of garments you can make from it. 

The colours are great too. As a lover of Hawaiiana and Hawaiian-inspired fabric, I'd be the first to admit that the colours are usually very bold. But the colour palette in this feels more wearable, and makes me think of vintage postcards sent from holidays long passed. 


Pattern:

Fabric Godmother also allowed me to choose a pattern to use to try out their fabric. Historically, I don't gravitate towards flow-y fabric to sew with, so I had to give my pattern selection a lot of thought. I have, however, experienced many hot days, both on abroad and in the UK, when I wished my warm-weather clothing selection was a bit bigger. A floaty dress that skimmed my body would have been very welcome. 

Eventually I opted for the Atelier Scammit Helios dress pattern, because it had the breezy style that would suit a viscose, plus it had a cinched-waist silhouette that I feel my body needs. As with most Atelier Scammit pattern designs, the Helios dress pattern offers multiple style possibilities (see below). There are two sleeve variations and three lengths. I went for the less dramatic sleeves, and picked the tier-free skirt shape but lengthened it to hit just below my knee. 

(image source: Atelier Scammit)

Elastic is inserted into the back half of the waist, and the front is pulled in with a drawstring, meaning that although it defines the waist, it's still really comfy and can be adjusted easily. Of course, I had to position the waist channel higher than the pattern recommended to account for my short-waistedness. 

As you can see, the neckline is a deep V-shape. I normally dislike V-shaped necklines on me (unless it's at the back!), but I think the width and depth of this one looks nice.


Thoughts:

As you can tell, this project and garment took me out of my comfort zone. Sewing with an unfamiliar fabric pushed me, and since this project I have taken on a number of viscose and slinky fabric projects. The style still isn't something I'm immediately drawn to, but when I wore it during this week's heatwave, it felt fantastic. This also raises the dress-tally of my wardrobe to two (discounting two shorter ones that I now wear as tunics over jeggings)!


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