Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Kabuki Tee Experiment


You know when you have a ma-hoooossive list of projects that you want to sew, many of which you already own both the pattern and the fabric for? And then you have an idea for a new project, something clicks in your mind and you push aside all your carefully laid plans because you have to make it RIGHT FREAKING NOW? You do? Good, then I don't need to explain. 


Pattern:

I had been aware of the Kabuki Tee by Paper Theory Patterns for a couple of months before the sudden urge to make it took hold. If Hunter S Thompson had been into sewing, that last sentence would definitely be something he'd have written I think. Anyways, the Kabuki tee is a definite deviation from the rest of my wardrobe, but after the success I had with my recent experimentation with volume, I felt the Kabuki tee pattern just might work out for me. With a contemporary Japanese feel that I very much appreciate on others, but is something I have yet to dabble with personally, I decided to take the leap. I kept my fingers crossed that I had some other items in my wardrobe that I could match it with, so that it wouldn't be an orphan. 

(image source: Paper Theory Patterns)

I love the drafting of this pattern. Those sleeve insets-come-bust darts look so simple but are executed so nicely. The bias-bound neckline and basic hems complement the general clean look of this style. The pattern's body measurement put me (as per usual) in two sizes: a 12 for the bust and 14 for the waist and hips. Looking at the finished garment measurements, I decided that the design ease was sufficient for me to just go with a straight 12, and the resultant fit is great. 


The instructions are lovely and clean, with very clear illustrations. However, when I got stuck into the construction, I was a little disappointed at the sparseness of the guidance. There was one mention of possibly overlocking the raw edges of just one of the shoulder seams, and that was the only reference to finishing raw edges throughout the project. Similarly, there was little mention of pressing seam allowances, and the instructions for the hems were just to turn up and stitch, with no direction to finish the raw edges first or to double fold them.


The lack of seam allowance finishing and pressing directions left me feeling somewhat in the dark when it came to those tricky sleeve insertions, more hand-holding would definitely have helped me feel a bit more confident there. I'm a fairly experienced sewer at this point, and I've inserted panels like this before so it came out alright (FYI, I overlocked the seam allowances of the sleeve insertion together, pressed them towards the body of the garment, and decided to topstitch them down), but I suspect that the explanation for this part of the project might be a head-scratcher for someone who hasn't been sewing for long. Which is a shame, because the lack of fitting required with this style would otherwise lend it well as a project for a newer sewer.


Fabric:

As we know, fabric choice is key and can totally make or break a sewing project. I adore the plain linen sample version photographed on the Paper Theory website, however I wanted to work with what I already had in my stash if possible. I was also carrying a mild concern that this top might end up looking a bit 'flouncey pottery teacher in her 60s' (no disrespect intended to anyone, that is OBVIOUSLY where my style is ultimately heading, I just don't want to get there too soon!), so I aimed to pick a fabric that would work for this pattern but be a type of fabric I do already wear, to bridge the gap between the new-to-me and the more familiar.  


I had recently become the grateful recipient of a remnant length of this 4oz washed denim from Fabric Godmother that had some light damage in parts. It's the same fabric I used for my most favourite, and possibly most worn, top ever so I already new its properties and how it will eventually age. I was able to cut this pattern whilst avoiding the most obvious light damaged sections. I think the fabric has just enough structure to hold the shape of the Kabuki pattern style (although probably not by it's millionth wear and thousandth laundering I'll wager), and I'm excited to see how it fades at the seams, neckline and hems over time.


Thoughts:

Luckily for me, as soon as I finished this top, the climate dealt us an extra helping of late-summer warm, sunny days to wear it in. It felt so breezy and nice. I've also found a surprising number of bottoms that it looks pretty good with, including these Cobra corsage Luna pants, and my three knit pencil skirts. Will I make another Kabuki tee? Possibly. If some lovely linen or linen blend lands in my lap at some point, I may take the next step towards my inevitable complete Art Teacher aesthetic. 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Panda Pants!


I'm so into busting fabric scraps at the moment, that I've started busting other people's scraps too! After talking to my lovely colleague Linda about my sewing plans for my 2yo, Frankie, she very kindly brought me in a bag containing pieces of leftover fabric from some of her sewing projects. Her own daughter is now a teenager, so using scraps by making tiny-people clothes isn't on Linda's agenda. I was the grateful recipient of some lovely pieces, including this awesome panda Ponte Roma. When I brought it home and told Frankie I was going to make him some trousers for him out of it, he wrapped it round himself and was annoyed when I kept telling him that it wasn't ready for him to wear just yet!


Pattern:

Coincidentally, I had just received the offer to review some sewing patterns/ebooks by German kids' sewing pattern brand Koko & Dolores. They offer a small-but-ever-so-fun range of styles, to make the kind of clothing that you see the kids of super cool families wearing in the playground! But before I even saw their patterns I was into them because of their name 😉. I decided to try the Big Easy pattern: loose, harem-style trousers designed for knit fabrics which provide a great canvas for a fabulous print.

(image source: Koko & Dolores)

These ebooks are written in German, which I do NOT speak or understand, but the instructions include such clear illustrative photos that I had zero trouble putting these together. The Big Easy pants pattern is graded between sizes 86 and 116, which translates to height in centimetres. And priced at just € 4.90, it's a major bargain. 


Fabric:

As previously mentioned, I used a Ponte Roma fabric for the front and back leg pattern pieces, as well as for the ankle cuffs. To get the pattern pieces to fit the leftovers, plus keep the pandas the right way up, I had to add a centre back seam rather than cut the back piece on the fold as per the original pattern. Although this Ponte has moderate stretch (for a Ponte), I knew it wouldn't have enough stretch and recovery for the waistband. 


The waist is finished with a band of fabric, no elastic involved, so I needed to use something with a hefty elastane/Lycra/spandex content for sufficient stretch and recovery. I had some scraps of solid black cotton/Lycra jersey from Girl Charlee that worked perfectly. I love a fabric band waistband for ease of construction, plus it allows for lots of growing room. However, it has to be said that the trousers don't stay up quite as securely as they would do if elastic was inserted. 


I'm pretty sure that the samples shown on the Koko & Dolores website also use jersey for the leg pieces as well. And I'd be really interested to see this pattern sewn up with the leg pieces made from a light weight woven, double gauze perhaps. I must admit that I have little experience of combining stretchy knits and wovens in the same garment...


Thoughts:

We all adore these trousers! When Mr SoZo is dressing Frankie, it's almost always the panda pants that he reaches for, if they are clean. And when given a choice, Frankie himself usually chooses them too. The volume gives him lots of room to move and play: freedom of movement should always be the most important criteria in children's clothes, IMO. I'll definitely reach for this pattern again in the future, and and when another suitable fabric crosses my path. 


Friday, 6 September 2019

Free Pattern Friday: Women's Mandy Boat Tee


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 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.

The free sewing pattern that I'm talking about today has been available for yonks and is already well known around the sewing community. Caroline from Blackbird Fabrics has talked about it many times on the Love To Sew podcast. What I'm saying is, I've haven't unearthed any rare gem here. But a gem it certainly is.


Luckily for those of us who are interested in trying to keep the cost of our sewing addiction down, Australia-based Tessuti Fabrics offer a range of free sewing patterns. I loved listening to the Love To Sew podcast episode which featured an interview with Tessuti founder, Colette Guanta, and hearing about how most (all?) the Tessuti patterns began life as the patterns designed by her mother, which were then made into garments in her clothing factory. I wasn't massively into the Mandy Boat Tee when I first saw it as it was too loose and boxy for my then form-fitting, retro/Rockabilly aesthetic. These days my style has more of a more relaxed look and silhouette, plus Tessuti have met me half way by rereleasing the previously-one-size-only Mandy Boat Tee pattern, which is now graded to four sizes. Thanks so much to Tessuti patterns for sharing this, plus the other free patterns, for us all to enjoy gratis. 

(image source: Tessuti Fabrics)

Pattern type:

The Mandy Boat Tee is a boxy, knit top with drop shoulders and a gently scooped boat neckline. The sleeves are designed to be quite fitted, and a choice of full length or 3/4 length is included. 

Sizing info:

As previously mentioned, the Mandy Boat Tee was originally a one-size-only pattern, but is now available in four sizes. These sizes span 81cm to 116cm bust measurements. I would be interested to know which of the four sizes was the original, one-size-only Mandy Boat Tee pattern. My measurements put me in the size 2 group, so that's what I went for. The fit through the the body is roomy, and what I expected from this style, however I found the sleeves came out uncomfortably tight. More on this in the 'Findings' below... 


Fabric info: 

The pattern calls for two-way stretch cotton, wool or viscose jerseys or knits with elastane, lycra or spandex content. I went with this fantastic red/white/blue striped cotton jersey, kindly given to me by Girl Charlee UK. It's 100% cotton, so no elastane/Lycra/spandex, however this fabric has a good amount of mechanical stretch, and it has proved to be fine for this pattern and the casual knit-top-with-jeans look I was going for. I'd hunt out a slinkier knit, a viscose or bamboo knit possibly, for a Mandy with a more drape-y look.   


Findings:

Accessing this pattern was easy: you simply make a transaction through the Tessuti Fabrics site but without having to input any payment info. The pattern is comprised of two downloadable PDF files: the instructions and the pattern itself. The instructions were illustrated with step-by-step photos and were very easy to follow. This project does include the use of a twin needle, but if you are up for that, or feel emboldened enough to defy the instructions and swap it for a zigzag finish, this would be a great project for anyone new to sewing with knits and/or sewing generally. 


The pattern PDF itself, as with all Tessuti patterns as far as I understand, is a hand-drawn pattern that must have been scanned. I was kind of surprised that a relatively large independent fabric and pattern company hadn't taken the extra step to digitise their patterns. I'm not complaining of course, this is a free pattern that I'm grateful to be able to access, however, I'd probably be a bit disappointed with this if I'd bought one of their paid-for patterns.



So as I mentioned above in the 'Sizing' bit, at first try I did find that the sleeves were uncomfortably tight. It may be worth repeating that my knit doesn't have any elastane content, and my upper arms are on the full side compared to the rest of me. Therefore, this might not be something that would necessarily effect you, I just mention it so that you may proceed with caution. Aside from feeling a bit tight, I also wasn't keen on the look of the fitted sleeves combined with the loose, boxy fit of the torso. Luckily, I had sufficient fabric left to recut the sleeves. If I hadn't, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have got very much wear from it as it was. In the end, I probably cut the replacement sleeves a little bigger than the largest size of the pattern, and I'm now much happier with both the feel and the proportions of this top. 


Customisation ideas:
  • Shorten the length into a boxy, cropped top
  • Lengthen into a boxy dress (I'm imaging of the proportions of the Tilly and the Buttons Stevie Tunic)
  • Make a seam line just above the natural waist and add a gathered rectangle skirt to make a dress (think I Am Patterns Cassiopee Dress).  
  • Add a ruffle into the seam where the sleeves are attached. (I was actually attempting to do that with this top but when I cut the strips to form the ruffles, I could tell that the edges were going to roll too much to look any good).
  • Add a little ruffle around the cuffs. I think this would look particularly cute on the 3/4 length sleeves.


Would I make it again?

Yes, I think I probably will. I'm wearing this top properly for the first time today, and it was the perfect top to throw on this morning before corralling my scamps out the door for the first day back at school. I have a pair of tight, navy jeggings that I haven't worn for a year or so, but combined with this top, I can see them being brought back into regular rotation. If I were to make another Mandy Boat Tee, I would like to try a really slinky, light-weight knit in a solid colour. Rust, because I'm currently obsessed with rust. 


Friday, 23 August 2019

Summer Hat-aganza!


Where we live, it felt like summer 2018 consisted of three months of back-to-back, warm, sunny days. No doubt due to climate change, the consistency of the sunshine and warmth was unlike any summer that I can remember. If this alarming trend is here to stay, then I'm going to have to up my skin-protection game. I'm very good at putting sun hats and sunscreen on my fair-skinned kids, but I'm pretty rubbish about protecting myself, and last summer I frequently came home from a park or beach session with a sunburnt scalp and hairline. So at the beginning of this summer, I set out to make sun hats for one and all. 


Frankie's bucket hat:

Frankie still fit in Dolores's old sun hats but most of them are looking a bit ropey, so I decided to make him a fresh one. I reached for my TNT bucket hat pattern, the excellent and FREE Oliver + S Reversible bucket hat pattern (that I have previous used here, here, here and here). I made him the size Medium with no changes. I was determined to use fabric from my stash of woven scraps and small pieces for all the hats I planned to make. I had a sizeable piece of this tomato-red and white canvas-y stuff that I bought for one of the samples of my Anya shoulder bag pattern, and after an extended session of pattern piece Tetris, I was able to squeeze both Frankie and Dolores's outer hat pieces from this one small piece of stash. I used another scrap for the lining, this time some solid teal/turquoise/green quilting cotton that had been leftover from a commissioned sewing project from a few years ago. 


Dolores's Serpentine hats:

Although Dolores still fit into the crown of her bucket hats, the brim was no longer actually protecting her face from the sun. I could have extended the bucket hat's brim piece of course, but having tried that approach here, I wasn't sure that the proportions would look very good. I'd already had my eye on the Elbe Textiles Serpentine hat pattern for myself, but I had a minor revelation and realised that it might work well for Dolores also. Her face would be suitably protected from the sun, plus I felt that she would enjoy the drama of a wide-brimmed hat! 


Unsurprisingly, her 5yo head was too small for this adult's pattern. I did some measuring and calculated that printing out the pattern at 95% scale and cutting the smallest size should fit, which it did very well. The first version (red with white print) fit her well around the crown, but the brim, which I had interfaced with two layers of medium-weight fusible interfacing, was too wide and floppy. The lining was a scrap of awesome quilting cotton that I scored long ago at a fabric swap. It had a repro print of 1950s children playing, and although it had been initially okay-d, she later claimed to dislike it. She tended to wear this hat with the brim folded back, 1990s Blossom Russo style, and actually got a fair bit of use from it until she left it at school on the last day of the school summer term (sigh).


With version 1 locked up in a classroom for the duration of the summer holidays, I quickly had to make another before we left on our trip to France, a few days later. I was running out of suitable scraps of fabric that she approved of, but thankfully she gave the thumbs up to this leopard print fabric that was left over from this coat that I made several years before she was born. I used some solid cream cotton twill for the lining, reduced the depth of the brim a bit, and interfaced with fairly thick, sew-in interfacing instead of the fusible, which keeps the shape far better. 


Mum's Serpentine hat:

Full disclosure before you marvel at all this selfless sewing: the Serpentine hat that became my mum's was actually intended for me. My head measurement corresponded with the size Small, so that's what I made, despite being skeptical as my head has never been described as small! Using scraps from this pinafore and this dress, and using the thick-ish sew-in interfacing, annoyingly for me, it came out too small. But my loss became my mum's gain when she declared that she could make some use from it. Hurrah!


My Serpentine hat:

My second version was made from red canvas fabric that I'm guessing is a cotton/something-synthetic blend that I have no recollection of entering my stash. I used the same fabric for the outer and lining because by this point I just wanted to get the damn thing finished. The fit is much better, but I dislike the look of the fabric, especially now it's spent time crumpled up in my bag. 


Thoughts:

This summer hasn't proved as sunny as last year's, and none of these hats became as indispensible as I thought that they would be. They did get some moderate use, plus who knows what future summers hold, so I don't feel that making them was a waste of time or fabric. I'm a big fan of the Serpentine hat pattern though, and I'm pleased that I bought it. Before next summer, I'd like to make myself another, probably in denim, perhaps with gold jeans-style topstitching. Then we should all be set for hot weather head wear, unless Frankie has a growth spurt and I need to bust out the bucket hat patten in a Large. 


Friday, 9 August 2019

Tricolour Yari Playsuit


I've still got a sizeable list of warm-weather garments that I hope to make before the summer is out. I decided to prioritise this playsuit because I really wanted to be able to wear it on the trip to France that we went on last week. In my attempt to save time, I decided to forgo making a toile/muslin (doh! How many times must I relearn this lesson?!), my thinking being that, with all those seams, any alterations would be a case of a simple pinching-out here or a small letting-out there. WRONG....


Pattern:

I snapped up the True Bias Yari Jumpsuit pattern using the discount code during the last week of Me-Made-May 2019. I've wanted a playsuit for years, so it was time that I FINALLY make myself one. I planned to make View B: the shorts-length with extended sleeves (although I didn't have enough fabric for the sleeve bands) with the waist ties (but no D-rings) to create some shape at the middle. The size chart put me at a size 8 for the top half, blending out to a size 10 at the hips, so that's initially what I did. Having looked at at the hashtag on IG, I saw that a lot of people's versions came up a bit long in the body, with the crotch a bit too low. However, when making trousers, I usually have to 'scoop out' the crotch, so I decided to proceed with the pattern as-is. 

(image source: True Bias)

I tacked/basted it all together and tried in on. Oh. Not good. I wish I'd taken a picture at that point for you to see, but basically the whole thing was too big, and the crotch was wayyyy too low. I went back to the pattern and graded between the size 6 and 8 (rather than the size 8 and 10), and pinched out 2cm from the length at the waist to bring the crotch curve up to nearer where it belonged. I unpicked the whole thing and recut each piece, and removed the 2cm excess length by folding it out and stitching at the waistline so, when all the panels were joined back together, it would just look like a waist seam. After making all those tweaks, the 'proper' construction was a breeze, and it all came together easily. 


At the tacked-together fitting stage, I decided the waist ties weren't going to be for me. I wasn't convinced that they would bring the waist in without creating some odd folds or tucks at the sides, so I decided to stitch some elastic in at the sides of the waist to bring in that fullness more evenly. 

Because I didn't have enough fabric for the sleeve bands, I finished the armholes with bias tape as per the instructions for the sleeveless version. 


Fabric:

As you can see in the photo above, this fabric has an awesome chevron-y print in red, white and blue. The base is a medium-weight woven fabric that I suspect to be a poly/cotton blend, and I it has lived in my stash for a million years. I have had so many plans for this fabric over the years, but I'm pleased to have finally turned it into a useful item, even if this project really made me work for that outcome! It's likely that this fabric is actually vintage, from the 1970's perhaps, as it was really narrow. The limited amount meant that, not only did I have to omit the sleeve bands, but I also had to use something else for the for the neck line facing. I used a scrap of 4oz washed denim instead, I really like contrasting facings though, so it's possible I would have used a different fabric for the facing anyhow. 

The gold-coloured metal buttons also came from my stash, having previously been used on this cardigan. I harvested the buttons from that Jenna cardigan before it was sent it to the textile-recycling bin due to pilling fabric and not having worn it in years. 


Thoughts:

Why oh why do I not ALWAYS make toiles when attempting new sewing patterns?! In the end, this garment has turned out pretty well and is definitely wearable. But it would have been so much better to have ironed out all the fit issues on a separate toile before snipping into my precious final fabric, rather than stressing myself out by trying hard to salvage my final fabric/only version.  

So, after all the faff, have I nailed the fit? I'm not sure. The Yari jumpsuit is a lovely design, and it I think it successfully walks a difficult line between loose and fitted. I do find though, when I wear it, that I have what feels like excess fabric around the front crotch/hip area. I think that could be reduced by making an adjustment to shorten the front rise, however I'd be fearful to over-fit this and make it too restrictive and therefore uncomfortable to wear. Although it doesn't look like it in these photos because my photographer is taller than me, this playsuit is really short! Wearing it whilst sitting down, I was repeated alarmed to be presented with so much of my own thighs! It kind of felt (and I fear, looked) like I was just wearing my pants!

All that said, it is a successful garment and I'm happy to have it in my wardrobe. I'm tempted to try the pattern again, probably the longer version in a solid black or navy linen. But I'm on a fabric buying ban until my stash has been substantially whittled down, so future Yaris are likely to occur next Spring at the earliest. 

Friday, 2 August 2019

Free Pattern Friday: A Review

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 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.

When this post goes live, I will be on holiday in France (whoop whoop!). The weeks running up to my trip has been jam packed, and subsequently, I do not have a new pattern review to share with you this month. However, I have been publishing these posts for over a year and a half now, so rather than leaving my blog blank for a month, I thought it might be fun and/or useful to have a look at all the women's and kid's patterns and tutorials that I've previously road tested. So (if the html does what I hope it it will), click on any of the images below that take your interest, and you will be magically pinged to the original post. I'll be back with a fresh, new, free pattern review on the first Friday of September (and with other projects before then). 


Women's Durango Tank
Women's Durango Tank
Washable menstrual Pads
Washable menstrual Pads
Handkerchiefs
Handkerchiefs
Kid's Flora Capri Leggings
Kid's Flora Capri Leggings
Kid's Tank
Kid's Tank

Women's and Kid's City Gym Shorts
Women's and Kid's City Gym Shorts
Women's Matilda Leggings
Women's Matilda Leggings
SEO-Kid's Retro Sweatpants
Kid's Retro Sweatpants
Kid's Flutter Sleeve Top, Dress & Romper
Kid's Flutter Sleeve Top, Dress & Romper
Kid's Knit Skirt
Kid's Knit Skirt

Women's Lago Tank
Women's Lago Tank
Women's Knit Headband
Women's Knit Headband
SEO-Kid's Hoodie
Kid's Hoodie
Kid's Olli Shorts
Kid's Olli Shorts
Kid's Rowan Tee
Kid's Rowan Tee

Women's Boxy Top
Women's Boxy Top
Women's Super Basic Tank Top
Women's Super Basic Tank Top
Kid's Sunny Day Shorts
Kid's Sunny Day Shorts
Kid's Bummies
Kid's Bummies
Kid's Dulcie Dress
Kid's Dulcie Dress
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