Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Check Your Thread: I've Started a Podcast!


I know, I know, I've been keeping it quiet! I always feel weird about mentioning a project before it's ready to go, call me superstitious. But after making the initial plan about two years ago, my new podcast FINALLYYYYYY out there in the world! I really hope you'll have a listen...

Each week Check Your Thread will look at how to sew more sustainably, through inspiring conversation and fun explorations. For those of us who are concerned about the climate crisis but love sewing our own clothes, it's an opportunity to nerd out about garment sewing, whilst figuring out ways to reduce the impact it may have on the planet. In the first episode, I take everyone on a journey through my sewing history, from fashion student, to garment industry employee, to sewing blogger, to dressmaking teacher and more. I do this to illustrate what inspired me to start Check Your Thread, plus I explain what you can expect from future episodes. 

You can listen to the first episode (and all future episodes) via the player directly on the Check Your Thread website. Alternatively you'll be able to listen through your favourite podcasting app (although I've been told that the Google podcast app is taking an additional couple of days to verify a new podcast). It's currently available through the Apple podcast app, Stitcher and Spotify. 

I've got some fantastic, inspiring guests already lined up and I can't wait to share the conversations. Plus there's some interesting solo episodes also in the works. I've decided to keep this podcast ad-free as I want to feel free to share my thoughts without feeling compromised by obligations to sponsors. I've set up a Check Your Thread Patreon, so for the equivalent of the cost of a cup of coffee each month, listeners can contribute to help cover costs and keep this project going. 

There'll also be a monthly Check Your Thread newsletter that you can sign up for on the website. If you have any feedback, comments or suggestions for future episodes, please find me on Instagram @checkyourthread or email me at zoe@checkyourthread dot com. 

Thanks so much for your support!

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Scrap Busting Jersey T-shirts

 

During the winter lockdown, I was without an overlocker. Now, I know that you can sew any garment on a regular machine: that overlockers are entirely optional. I have told people this a million times during sewing classes I've taught. However, I just didn't want to make anything that wouldn't look as neat on the inside as I've become used to. 


Because of this, the only things I made were oven mitts that have no exposed seam allowance plus a couple of items with french seams. I also cut out a few projects to stitch together in the future, and I allowed myself to go down a rabbit hole that resulted in these wild patchwork tops! 


I'm really into the idea of using up fabric scraps and leftovers from previous projects to make new garments. Most examples of this kind of thing, including most of my previous attempts, involve woven fabric. However, in the autumn I made a couple of sweatshirts for Frankie using up pieces of sweatshirt fleece and ponte roma pieced together, which really helped me get those types of scraps under control. So the next logical step was to try something similar with jersey scraps. 



My jersey scraps tub was becoming overwhelming. I'd cut out as many pairs of adult and kids undies as possible from suitable pieces of jersey, but I was left with so many pieces that were too small or odd-shaped to squeeze out any more. I decided to try piecing some of them together to make a top for my daughter. And when my husband saw what I was creating, to my enormous surprise, he commissioned one for himself! 


Method:

My approach to piecing was to play around with how I could combine some of the shapes without needing to trim too much away whilst also keeping the grainlines in roughly the same direction. If the edges weren't straight, or at not quite the right angle, I'd trim away a bit from the edge, then I stitched two pieces together using my regular sewing machine. I stitched them using a narrow seam allowance and a narrow lightning flash stitch which meant the seam allowances weren't too bulky. I kept adding more and more shapes until the bigger pieces could be combined, and eventually became big enough to fit the pattern pieces within them. 


Patterns:

If you are attempting to create jersey tops from scraps and leftovers, you either need to use a sewing pattern that already features a lot of seams (like the new Shift tee pattern by Misusu patterns), or you need to do the piecing yourself and choose a very simply sewing pattern with minimal seams. For my daughter's top, I chose a very basic top pattern (see the two images below) from a 2014 edition of Ottobre Design magazine. 


It's effectively just a front and back, with a neckband. I forgot that the armholes were also meant to be bound, and I just turned those under and stitched them. I love Ottobre Design for these basic, knit fabric garment patterns. Their styles tend to be really wearable and comfortable, and IMO don't look dated. I got a year's subcsription back in 2013 when I was pregnant with my daughter. As she's grown, she's fitted into the different styles in the magazines, so it's been like getting new sets of patterns every few years.


For Mr SoZo's T-shirt, I traced round one of his very favourite T-shirts that was starting to fall apart at the seams. Next time I make him a T-shirt from the pattern, I'll add a little extra width at the hips, but other than that, it's a great fitting garment. 


Having cut out the main pattern pieces from the pieced together fabric, they then lay dormant for a few months. During that time we moved house, seasons changed, and I bought a new (secondhand) overlocker! So a couple of weeks ago I took them out again and finally whipped them together. 


It's so pleasing to reduce the amount of scraps in my stash (particularly the pieces that I'd owned for years and was sick of the sight of) and turn them into useful, wearable garments. I'd say that the colour palette in Lola's top works better, but Pat has definitely got more use from his T-shirt so far. The scraps bins will never be completely emptied of course, because new projects results in new scraps. However, I'd like to try making undies from pieces together fabric next, with wearability being even less of a consideration when combining a wild selection of fabrics.


Friday, 2 July 2021

Free Pattern Friday: Adult's Valley Jumpsuit



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.

Friends, have I got a blinding free pattern to tell you about today?! (Short answer: yes.) You've probably already heard of the amazing resource that is the Peppermint Magazine's collection of free sewing patterns. But if you haven't: this Australia-based magazine employs the talents of an indie pattern designer to produce a free sewing pattern to coincide with the release of each print edition of their magazine. The magazine is released quarterly, so that's four incredible new free sewing patterns a year with 41 patterns already available to trawl through. The patterns are really easy to access; the A4 and A0 pattern files plus instruction documents are downloaded directly from each style's webpage, with just a sign up to their newsletter required (which you can obviously unsubscribe from, should you wish). It is also easy to donated a few quid if you can afford to, and seeing as print magazines are generally in a precarious position these days, I think it's important to do so to say thanks and to support this wonderful resource. 



Pattern type:

The pattern I've just road tested and am writing about today is the Valley jumpsuit. Designed by RaphaĆ«lle Bonamy of Ready To Sew patterns, the Valley jumpsuit is a casual, super wearable style with elasticated waist, button front and large patch pockets. I absolutely love that the instructions are available in English, French and Spanish. The design itself is is really clever, consisting of just three pattern pieces that need to be cut from your fabric. The bodice and sleeves are ingeniously formed from just one pattern piece that you cut a pair of, and in the same vein, the trouser part has no side seams so is also made from one pattern piece. To get the garment on and off, the button front is assisted by a small back neck closure to open things up sufficiently.



Sizing info:

There's so much talk in the sewing community in recent months (years?) about size inclusivity, and many pattern companies are listening and expanding their offerings. I think the sizing of this particular pattern is a great example of what we'll see from most sewing pattern releases in the future. Spilt into two ranges (sizes 32 - 46 drafted for a B-cup and sizes 46 - 58 drafted for a D-cup) resulting in busts from 31" to 54" and hips from 35" to 60" approx. being catered for. In total the pattern has been graded to 28 sizes, including half sizes, which should help you to achieve an accurate fit. I appreciated that the garment ease for bust, waist and hips has been shared to give additional information when picking a size/s, because who wants to toile/muslin a whole damn jumpsuit?!

For mine, I used the size 38 for the top part of the bodice, and blended out to the size 40 below the bust for the waist downwards. According to the size chart, I should have gone for a larger size for the waist, but the elasticated waist meant that I was easily able to accommodate by tum. 



Fabric info:

The Valley jumpsuit instructions suggest that you select 'light weight fabric with drape ranging from tencel, cupro, linen, ramie or hemp, batik, poplin or light denim' for this pattern. 

This is my third jumpsuit made from African fabric, I just think they're a match made in heaven, and I'm sure this will end up getting as much use as the other two get. This particular fabric was given to me by Wax and Wraps, who sell African textiles by the metre, or in fantastic, monthly, sewing subscription boxes. It's a printed version of a traditional fabric from Cameroon called Ndop that's usually resist dyed with indigo. Check out this interesting article for more info on Ndop. This fabric I used for my jumpsuit is a wonderful, light-weight cotton with a similar handle to a poplin, but slightly less crisp. Because there's a linear aspect to the print design, there's a noticeable chevron effect at the centre back seam of the bodice, which I really love. The fabric was slightly narrower than the pattern called for, plus the fabric matching gave me some additional head-scratching, and I ended up having add a seam and piece the fabric to fit one of the bodice pattern pieces. I defy you to spot where it is in the finished garment though! 



Findings:

Going back through the instructions to write this post, I'm still blown away by the inclusivity of the sizing. I'm sure that sadly there are still a number of sewers that aren't able to fit this pattern who otherwise would have liked to have tried it, but that really has to be small minority. I'm also still really impressed by the drafting: that such a cool-looking, well-fitting style has been achieved with effectively just two pattern pieces. However, because there are so few pattern pieces, and subsequently fewer seams, I wonder if this style offers fewer opportunities for making fit adjustments, I don't know. 

Anyways, on top of my standard blending between sizes, I also shortened the bodice length by 1.5cm to allow for my short-waistedness (AKA high natural waist line). I usually have to remove about 2cm of length from the torso area of all sewing patterns I make, yet this time I wish that I hadn't. If I make another, I'll add that measurement back in because raising my arms up isn't the most comfortable! I might also lengthen the front and back rise on the bottom part a bit, because the rise on this garment is definitely higher than the rise on my other jumpsuits (my Zadie jumpsuit, pattern by Paper Theory and my Roberts Collection jumpsuit, pattern by Marilla Walker). If you are tall and/or have a long torso, I'd definitely recommend lengthening the bodice pieces before you cut out your fabric. It's always easier to remove any extra length that it turns out you didn't need, than to try and figure out how to add in some extra length later on.

Speaking of cutting out your fabric, one downside to having just two mammoth pattern pieces as opposed to a number of smaller ones is that I found that I wasted quite a bit of fabric in the lay. This was compounded by the fact that I had some pattern matching to consider. However, even though you have to cut the pattern out of a single layer of fabric, the cutting out process was probably quicker and potentially less of a headache than a pattern that consists of more pieces. 



When it came to the actual sewing, the instructions were wonderfully clear and easy to follow. To prevent the instructions document from becoming too unwieldy, some steps are included as links to posts on the Ready To Sew website, or in the case of the steps for making the waist casing, a YouTube video. This provides space for more detail and clearer visuals for these potentially tricky bits. I'm sure it's particularly helpful for visual learners, and turns this pattern into a real learning opportunity for beginner sewers.  

As I mentioned above, I would have preferred a tiny bit more length in the body and possibly the rise, but beyond that, I am genuinely thrilled with this jumpsuit! I wasn't sure initially that I liked the look of the patch pockets. I added them thinking that I could remove them at a later date, however I really like their placement and proportions now they're on the actual garment. 


Customisation ideas:

  • Shorten the sleeves
  • Shorten the leg length to make a playsuit/romper
  • Add a side seam to the trouser section then taper or widen the leg shape for some different looks. It's amazing what this can do to completely alter the feel of a garment
  • Adding a side seam to the bottom section also allows you the possibility to add inseam or slanted pockets if you'd prefer 
  • Change the neckline to a V-neck
  • Use smaller buttons and group them in pairs

Would I make it again?

Yes I could easily see myself making more of these, probably in a solid fabric, a black linen perhaps. 

Monday, 7 June 2021

Workwear Denim Lander Pants

 

Those who follow me on Instagram may have seen that I've been working on perfecting the fit of the Lander pants pattern by True Bias. Two years ago I made this pair of 70s inspired Landers, and whilst they've seen heaps of wear, they just don't fit my post-lockdown-increasingly-middleaged body anymore.




I've really missed having them as an option in my wardrobe, so I decided to 'go back in' and see if I could make another pair with an improved fit for my current shape. Having finally accepted to myself that I could do with a full-tummy adjustment, I did a bunch of research on various methods and made a couple of toiles. I think I've worked out a full-tummy-adjustment-lite method that is a bit of a mish-mash of methods that seems to work for me. 




The other adjustments I made to the pattern included scooping out the front and back crotch a tiny bit, and widening the legs at the hem to create a more exaggerated flare. I used the same pocket templates that I worked out for the previous pair. The denim is some gorgeous, sturdy-but-soft workwear denim from Fabric Godmother. Annoyingly, there's some white lines that appeared after my pre-wash. I'm wondering if I could over-dye them out. I've never figured out how to avoid these, if you have figured it out, I'd be very grateful if you'd drop me a quick email!




But back to the fit for a second. Overall, I'm super happy with how these have turned out. Even though the denim has no stretch, I can actually wear these comfortably all day. Even days that I spent largely sitting down. This is a MAJOR breakthrough for me. There's still some slight pooling of fabric at the top of thae back legs under the bum still, but I wonder if these are necessary to actually bend forward or sit down properly. 




My confidence has been having a bit of a wobble recently regarding my changing body shape, and theoretically, this outfit of slim fitting top and high-waisted jeans is highlighting all the aspects of my body that I currently feel self-conscious about. However, I actually really like how I look in these pictures. yesterday I unexpectedly caught a glance of myself in a mirror whilst wearing this outfit, and again I was happy with what I saw. Are there elements pf my body that I wish were different? Of course. But generally, I'm pleasantly surprised with how I feel in this outfit. I'm guessing that a big chunk of that is that I actually feel physically comfortable, now that there's adequate room for my tum. 
 

Friday, 4 June 2021

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Siem Shorts


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.

Apologies for the disappearance for Free Pattern Friday for a couple of months, My sewing life and online life get pretty crazy on the run up to and during (Me-Made-)May. But the monthly blog feature is back! I'm excited to road test and write about some fantastic and useful free sewing patterns/tutorials. Today's pattern is one I had my eye on to try for a couple of years. It's a unisex shorts pattern designed for knit fabrics called the Siem shorts pattern (pronounced 'seam', I just had to check!) by Bel'Etoile patterns. Bel'Etoile is a Belgium pattern company, and this pattern is available in Dutch and English. Massive thanks to the designer, Isabel, for sharing this wonderful pattern for free. Let's go...




Pattern type: 

The Siem shorts pattern is a retro style designed for knit fabrics. The pattern consists of three pieces: front, back and waistband. Plus you need binding (preferably stretchy) to finish the edges. These shorts would look awesome on boys and girls, and are the perfect summer staple when paired with a vest or T-shirt. 

Sizing info:

This pattern is graded between a generous 98cm (approx. 3 years) and 164cm (approx. 14 years) which I absolutely love. So often free patterns finish at ages 5 or 6, so it's great to have this pattern to come back to year after year. Lola is currently between two of the sizes, so I chose the larger, size 128. Good thing I did because I made the classic move of assuming seam allowance is included in this pattern. Please don't make the same mistake, take note: SEAM ALLOWANCE IS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS PATTERN! I ended up sewing the seams of these shorts on my overlocker without trimming away any fabric and the resultant fit is fine. 



Fabric info:

Fabric types that are listed as suitable for this pattern include jersey, ponte roma, French terry and sweatshirt knits. This is such a fantastic pattern for using up scraps and leftovers from other projects, so as long as the knit is pretty stable and isn't too light-weight it's probably worth a try. I'd LOVE to make these in a classic retro towelling or velour knit. 

For this pair pictured, I used up some scraps of looped back french terry given to me by byGraziela fabrics leftover from another kid's project that didn't make it to the blog. Another colour way can be found here. I think the retro print design suits the vintage style of garment well. You could have so much fun trying out this pattern with solids, prints and striped fabrics with different bindings. 

Speaking of those, 'stretch bias binding' is recommended for finishing the edges. That's not a common item to find in fabric shops or haberdashers, so you'll likely need to make your own binding, as I did. I used strips of cotton ribbing for both the binding and the waistband. I didn't cut the binding on the bias, because cutting the strips along the DOGS (direction of greatest stretch) is more than stretchy enough, and a more economical use of fabric. 



Findings:

The pattern and the instructions come in separate PDF files. The pattern is easily obtained via the Bel-Etoile website, with no sign-ups to anything required. I was super happy to find that the pattern file includes the layers function which is great for saving ink, particularly when the pattern is graded to such a generous number of sizes. Remember: seam allowances are not included!!!! Make sure to add them to your pattern pieces before cutting out. 

The instructions document was equally user-friendly. The only thing I felt was missing was some advice on making your own binding. It is an easy enough process to do, but the lack of that step in the instructions may cause a beginner sewer/sewist to have a bit of a head-scratch. 

As for the finished garment, I wasn't sure I would be able to sell them to Lola because A) she prefers wearing skirts or leggings-shorts to actual shorts for some reason, and B) she's decided she doesn't like wearing pink anymore. However, I asked her to try them on to take a couple of pictures this morning and she hasn't taken them off many hours later, so they must be comfortable. She has a tendency to yank elasticated waist garments down and wear them on her hips, so if I make this pattern for her again I'll most likely lower the height of them, particularly at the front because the fabric bunches up a little. 



Customisation ideas:

I don't have many ideas for this one, however you could try:

  • Adding patch pockets to the back
  • Adding front pockets with curved pocket openings and matching bound edges like these 
  • Lengthening or shortening the legs if the wearer has a different preference
  • Applying a cute patch or decal for extra vintage coolness

Would I make it again?

Frankie doesn't need new shorts this summer because I've been busy cutting off the legs from all the joggers and leggings that he's busted through the knees of to make shorts. However, I can't wait to try this pattern for him next year. I've got some stripy towelling in my stash that will look fantastic, I have no doubt! If Lola truly is convinced by this style, I'll happily make her more pairs too. 

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Mini Nova Jumpsuit


I'm going to try a new approach to blogging today. As you might have noticed, I'm publishing blog posts far less frequently these days. Truth be told, taking photos, editing them, writing text, editing it and so on is super time consuming, and I'm really struggling to find the time to do it at the moment. I'm still sewing, still thinking about sewing, but it's not making to the blog very much these days. It's kind of ironic that I'm posting this today as the recent interview I did for the un:CUT podcast about being an OG sewing blogger went out yesterday!


Anyways. As so many of us that used to be frequent bloggers have found, Instagram is just a much quicker medium for sharing sewing projects and other stuff. But I love having this blog as a record and as a wide open space for recording my experiences and thoughts on whatever I fancy (but let's face it, it's mainly sewing!). So today I'm going to post in a new-to-me way: photos of a recent project with very little text. It's not exactly the type of post I'm happiest to produce, but it's better than nothing. And maybe if I take the pressure off of writing detailed entries about each project, I will post here more often. And when there's time, the words will come back too!



So in short: this project is the Mini Nova jumpsuit pattern by True Bias. I made it using some lighter-weight ponte roma that my friend Naida gave me when she was having a clear about about six months ago. It's probably at the thicker end of suitability for this project (hence omitting the waist elastic that Lola would have preferred), but it's worked out pretty well. She reckons it feels like wearing a baby romper, but that didn't stop her from choosing to wear it today. I love how much freedom of movement she has in it. I'll definitely be making more. 




Thursday, 13 May 2021

Free SoZo Undies Sewing Pattern: Updated and Re-released!!!

 


I am very happy to announce that my free undies pattern that I originally released nine years ago has had a major overhaul and is now newly available! The main three changes are:

  • It's been graded to cover full hip measurements of 32" to 50", that's TEN sizes!!!! This is a major improvement on the original five sizes. A 32" full hip is the average measurement for a 13 year old. I wanted the pattern to cover teen sizing because A) there are very few free sewing patterns (or paid for patterns, for that matter) that cover older children and teens so I wanted to help redress that a little, and B) I hope that this might be a fun project for teens getting into sewing to try for themselves. 
  • Included in the pattern and instructions are two methods of construction: the classic version (as per the original pattern) and the enclosed gusset (AKA the burrito method) version. The classic version is slightly less time consuming and slightly less fiddly to make. However, some people prefer the look of the enclosed gusset version, and it allows for more scrap-busting opportunities. 
  • The instructions are vastly improved with a better layout and much more detail. Each step is illustrated with large colour photos. Also present is lots of information about fold over elastic and how to use it is. For me, the most significant improvement is that the instructions now contain detailed measurements for the elastic required for each size AND an improved method of application which should help you achieve a successful, comfortable fit on your first attempt. I now feel confident calling this a beginner friendly project

Head over to the Free Patterns page to download your pattern files (which are now available in A4/US letter and A2) and instructions file. A lot of time and work have gone into this major overhaul, so if you do decide to give this pattern a download, please consider buying me a coffee whilst you're there. And if you make the pattern and decide to share your creation on social media, please use the hashtag #SoZoUndies so we can check them out! 

I'd like to thank my incredible friend Claire (@clairesews) for generously flexing her impressive digitising skills! Thanks also to Craft and Thift for providing all the fold over elastic for my samples, and the solid fabrics used that I've previously shared on Instagram. Thanks to Fabric Godmother for gifting the leopard print jersey seen in the image above and in the instructions. The cat print jersey is also from there.  

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