Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Zero Waste Cap Sleeved Tee for Kids

I'm really into the idea of zero waste sewing patterns and had a lot of fun preparing an episode about them for my podcast, Check Your Thread, a couple of months ago. I'd experimented with Birgitta's Helmersson's Cropped Shirt pattern which I had a lot of fun with, and I was keen to try more zero and low waste patterns. Thread Faction Studio is a Australia-based sewing pattern company that has a range of ZW patterns for children, and as far as I'm aware they are the only ones experimenting with zero and low waste patterns on a little scale (i.e. for kids). I've bought a couple of them and decided to start with the ZW cap sleeved tee pattern (pictured below) for my daughter because it looks like such a useful style.

(image source: Thread Faction)

I was also keen to try this one because it requires a really small amount of fabric! It's potentially a great way to make wearable pieces from strips of leftover jersey. The pattern can be oriented either along or across the grain, depending on what you have to hand, as long as the fabric has a four-way stretch. I cut this tee across the grain (so perpendicular to the usually way you'd position T-shirt pattern pieces), and it only required about 55cm of fabric for the size 8. As well as requiring a four-way stretch for this to work, you also have to keep in mind any print design, otherwise the resultant garment might look a bit odd. The fabric I chose for my daughter's top was a piece of slinky jersey with an abstract print design so I could get away with the alternative pattern positioning. 

The pattern actually more of a low rather than true zero waste pattern because the neckband strip isn't part of the tessellated layout of the other pieces. It's also unlikely that your fabric would be the exact width, but I can't see how a true zero waste pattern could be created whilst also offering a wide range of sizes (this pattern runs from ages 2-14). 

The only change I made was to cut the neckband deeper than the pattern called for. And because it's not part of the main rectangle formed by the other pattern pieces, you could easily cut it from a scrap of contrast jersey or ribbing from your stash, or even from the neckband harvested from an unwanted T-shirt. Putting the garment together was very fun, but also pretty fiddly. I made the size 8 and I wouldn't have enjoyed trying to stitch the neck or sleeve bands on a smaller size. 

My daughter wasn't thrilled about my plans when I showed her the pattern and fabric. However, she didn't outright veto it so I pushed on regardless. Now that it is complete, it has actually had quite a lot of wear already, and we're still in winter. I think she actually enjoys the feel of the slinky jersey, and the colours work pretty well when paired with a number of other garments. I'll definitely keep this pattern in mind when I'm next in possession of a suitable piece of fabric. 

Friday, 7 January 2022

Free Pattern Friday: School Cool Dress for Dolls

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 (or even a doll'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.

Ok, so the free pattern that I've road tested today may not be of interest to everyone. However, it's a really great little free that pattern that will be a delight for some people. Ellie & Mac have a whole heaps of patterns available for adults, kids and home projects, one of which is a kid's dress pattern called the School Cool tunic and dress. And they have generously made a doll's version available for free. The idea, of course, is that you can make matching tops or dresses for your child and their favourite doll. But whether you choose to go down the matching route or not, the School Cool doll's version is a fantastic scrap buster. I made three versions for my daughter for Christmas to clothe a doll she bought herself from a charity shop. Thanks heaps to Ellie & Mac for sharing their hardworking on this pattern for free. 


(image source: Ellie & Mac)

Pattern type:

This jersey dress pattern has an impressive number of variations. It includes four sleeve options (tank, puff short sleeves, flutter sleeves, and long sleeves) and two lengths (tunic and dress lengths). However, it is incredibly customisable so you can play around and make a variety of garments that all look completely different. I tried the puff short sleeves and the flutter sleeves options. Skirt-wise, I used the standard skirt pattern piece for two versions, but my scrap of the teal colour wasn't the right size or shape so I made a basic gathered skirt in a longer length for that. 

Sizing info:

The pattern has been graded for 15" and 18" dolls. However, the doll I made these clothes for is a bit smaller so I simply adjusted the percentage that I printed the pattern out to a bit smaller. I think that this tactic would work well for pretty much any doll larger than a Barbie sized doll. Things might start to get frustratingly fiddly any smaller than that, but of course you're free to try! 

Fabric info:

The pattern recommends knits with 50% 4-way stretch. However, I think that pretty much any single jersey would be fine. The white/grey bunny print jersey I used for the bodice and sleeves in the top version was a 100% cotton jersey harvested from a little T-shirt my daughter wore when she was two, and it has very little length-ways stretch. The sage-y green fabric I paired it with is a scrap of very stretchy bamboo jersey. The leopard print skirt that I paired with the black bodice is a double knit of some kind, which works fine for the skirt but would probably be too bulky for the top part. What I'm saying is that I think there's some wiggle room to play about with the scraps in your stash. If you're making a gathered skirt to go on the bodice, you could get away with a woven fabric for the skirt as it doesn't really need to stretch to get the garment on and off. Woven might work for the original skirt pattern piece also, but I'd have to try it to say so with confidence. 


The pattern is easily accessible via the webshop on the Ellie & Mac website (no payment needed). There's no signups required or anything else. The pattern is professionally produced and easy to use. The instructions offer extra tips for sewing with knits, and I appreciated the many photos of different versions to help you choose which style variations to pick, and which fabrics might look good. 

Cutting out and making this little pattern is pretty fiddly, but the instructions make the construction as simple as possible. I couldn't find any of the hook and loop tape that they recommend for the back fastening, so I bought some tiny press studs to use instead. I also realised after my first one that the jersey isn't going to fray so I stopped bothering to hem it which made the process quicker. 

The finished dresses are incredibly cute. Small things are just so satisfying aren't they? I think for future versions I'll lengthen the bodice slightly to suit the proportions of my daughter's doll a bit better. 

Customisation ideas:

  • Add trim to the hems, or along the centre front like a faux contrast button stand
  • Use small buttons, little decals or even do a some miniature embroidery to create a detail
  • Play around with mixing and matching colours and prints from different scraps for the different pattern pieces
  • Increase or decrease the scaling when printing to make the patterns suitable for a wider range of doll sizes
  • Cut a wide rectangle and create a gathered skirt rather than the circle skirt included in the pattern
  • Turn the bodice round and have the fastening at the front

Would I make it again?

Definitely! Although I feel my daughter's interest in dolls may be on the wane. If it is revived at some point, I'd love an excuse to bust this pattern out again and try the other two sleeve variations. 

Friday, 3 December 2021

Cheap Pattern Friday: Adult's Sorrento Bucket Hat (Winter Edition)

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial (or in today's case, a cheap pattern). Sometimes I post about 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 (or cheap!).

I posted about the Sorrento bucket hat by Elbe Textiles about a year and a half ago, back when it was a no-cost pattern. Since then it's become a very reasonably priced pattern. I have used it a number of times since I last posted about it and continue to recommend it. I recently had an idea to use the pattern in a slightly different way to my other versions: as a winter hat rather than a summer hat. In this post I'm including some of the information from my original post, plus some extra bits that relate to this version. 

Of course, this monthly feature is usually about free patterns and tutorials. Therefore, if you wish to try a bucket hat and are looking for a free pattern, you could try one of the following patterns:

(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

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. 

For my winter version, I decided to try a look that I've seen around a bit lately. I've seen some sheepskin-esque bucket hats knocking around on advertising and Instagram, and remembered that I have some leftovers of faux-sheepskin from a cardigan project I made last winter. For the lining, I used scraps of black sweatshirt fleece, fleece-side out. 


Working with this pattern is 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. 

Because of the bulky, springy fabric, I didn't bother to do any topstitching for this version, which made it a really speedy make. I probably should have sized up though, to get that real, casual bucket hat look. 

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. I have plans to make myself a summer version next year. 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. 

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Denim Shirt Anthea Blouse

I'm so excited to finally share this project with you because more went into it than most of my projects. More time and more techniques, and a lot more thought. This was an idea-itch that I had to scratch, and I was more invested in manifesting my idea than the actual outcome. However, I do love the outcome also!

This secondhand denim shirt has been in my stash for a shameful ten years! I feel bad about that because it's possible that someone else could have been during that time. Anyhow, I was keeping it out of landfill at least! I've always loved those pearly snaps and knew that they had to be included in whatever it was to become.

I'd had my eye on the Anthea blouse pattern by Anna Allen (pictured below) as soon as I clapped eyes on it. I have adored every single version I've seen on Instagram. And it's been a very popular pattern so there are a TON of versions to behold! 

(image source: Anna Allen)

The problem was that I didn't have any pieces of fabric in my stash suitable for the pattern, and I couldn't justify buying a new pattern AND new fabric when I already own a lot of both. I'm not exactly sure where the idea came from to use the denim shirt, but I've been having so many inspiring conversations with interesting people lately for my podcast, Check Your Thread, that my mind is kind of permanently in this kind of zone these days. 

I removed the front pockets so I could fit the Anthea front pattern pieces on, and I love how a shadow of the pockets remain. I reapplied the pocket flap on one side to reference the removed pockets, and stitched it into position with random sashiko style stitching. For this I used some 'proper' sashiko thread that I bought on eBay a couple of years ago but had yet to try. That spot on the sleeve is a hole that I covered with satin stitch to stop it getting any bigger.

As you can probably imagine, this project was not without it's challenges, but I like how the challenges determined the aesthetic in some cases. For example, the pattern pieces for the body were wider at the hem than the original shirt. So I ended up piecing together the side seams with sections of the original collar (see above). I then decided to highlight the join with another row of sashiko-style stitching, which is a theme that I continued throughout the project.

The sleeve pattern pieces on the Anthea are pretty massive, far larger than the original shirt's sleeves. So to form a sufficient area of fabric, I had to piece together pieces of the original sleeves with lots of other pieces harvested from the original garments. I didn't think about it too much, just joined the edges with my overlocker, then 'topstitched' down the seam by hand using a mixtures of stitching styles that I was totally winging. 

I really like the hints of shading and differing colours that existing in the original shirt. However, I tried to play down the patchwork vibe a little, I'm not sure if I quite hit the right balance. 

I made binding from some scraps of lightweight washed denim from my stash. That was used to finish the neckline and the sleeve hems. I don't really like the bias for the sleeve hems and I think the opening is a bit wide. I think I'll go back at some point and make cuff bands instead. 

What is incredibly pleasing is the little pile of scraps that remain from this project. I really wish that I'd weighted the original shirt, and then weighed the scraps to see if I beat the industry average of 15% of fabric wasted during the cutting process.  

The lack of available fabric meant that I couldn't really overthink the placement of various elements in this garment. That felt pretty freeing actually, and I just have to accept the outcome and find elements to enjoy. 

I haven't owned a proper denim shirt since I was a teenager, so I was very surprised by how warm it actually is. Pictured below is how I've enjoyed wearing it the most since I finished it: layered with a long sleeved thermal top underneath and dungarees on top.  

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Claire Sweatshirt and The Sleeves-of-Dreams

No, I am not immune to the current big-sleeve trend. I'm digging the many voluminous-sleeved patterns as much as the next home sewer. And today I'm sharing a recent project that uses a pattern that has an interesting twist on the trend. BTW, I received this pattern for free from the designer who hoped that, if I liked it I would post about it. so AD:PR. 


The Claire sweatshirt pattern by Kate's Sewing Patterns is a relatively standard raglan sleeved style with one clever design detail: the balloony lower part of the sleeves.  I love how the this pattern wasn't over-designed, retaining a really wearable, casual shape overall. 

The pattern is graded between EU 34 - 54, which translates to 31" to 47" bust measurements. The pattern consists of A0 and A4/letter sized formats. I got the A0 printed out by Fabric Godmother because it looked like the file might be wider than standard A0 and I know FG's large format printer has a wider option, but I'm not sure it was required in the end. The instructions are pretty clear with photographs showing the construction steps. I actually prefer a different construction method for raglan tops so I kind of disregarded them to be honest. I've seen some criticism about the English translation with a different pattern in this range, and there were some confusing parts in the Claire pattern also. I made a number of suggestions to Ekaterina to improve the English which she has taken on board and implemented. 


To be honest, I can't remember if I bought this fabric with pattern in mind or not, but I know I'd had my eye on it for the best part of a year before making the leap. This grid print organic sweatshirt fleece was bought from Fabric Godmother in the early summer, but I waited until I felt some early autumnal chilly before actually using it. There wasn't a matching colour for the ribbing and I feared some weird visual effects if I used the self for the cuffs, neckband and waistband, so I went with plain white organic cotton ribbing for those. It gives it quite a bold contrast, but I like the overall look. Because the ribbing is quite stretchy, I reduced the length of all the bands and cuffs, particularly the waistband.


I'm pretty damn thrilled with this sweatshirt. My hope was that it would provide a pop of fun into my chilly weather clothing options and it really has done that. The fabric is really soft and snuggly but not bulky (I can easily layer up underneath for extra warmth), and the sleeve shape adds drama and interest without getting in my way at all. I can definitely see myself using this pattern again at some point, probably in a solid colour. 

Friday, 5 November 2021

Free Pattern Friday: Walk the Plank PJ Bottoms for Everyone


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.

On the odd occasion for my Free Pattern Friday posts, I write about a pattern that I've road tested and reviewed in the past. I think it's useful because it shows which of the patterns are so good that they've been used multiple times. I previously wrote about the Walk the Plank PJ bottoms 18 months ago, and I've made five pairs using the kid's version of the pattern to date. My most recent version were a pair of summer sleeping shorts for my daughter (pictured above) made using some gingham leftover from a school dress I once made her. I just read through that previous post and I don't really have anything to add, other than to highlight the adult version a bit more than I did last time. 

The adult's version (pictured below) is graded between 33" to 58" hips. The largest size of the kids version, 14, fits a hip measurement of 34" so if you're sewing for teens, you can go straight from using the kid's version to the adult's with no gaps! The adult Walk the Plank PJ bottoms pattern also includes two rise heights and three length options, but of course you can make them however long you wish. The only reason why I haven't made the adult version yet is that I already have my own woven PJ bottoms pattern that I copied from a RTW pair years ago. 

I want to say a massive thanks to Patterns for Pirates for sharing their hard work and making these patterns available for  sewers to use for free.  

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Tadah! I Made Birthday Outfits!

My kids' birthdays are ridiculously close together. In fact, their special days are only one day apart. To date, our family more or less treats the situation like they're twins that are three years apart, and the celebrations kind of overlap and get all smooshed together.  I guess this will change as they get bigger when their friendship groups get more defined and separate, and perhaps as soon as next year the events will be more distinct. I also feel that the clock is ticking for how long I can get away with making them matching clothes! To make the most of this fleeting opportunity, I decided to make these coordinating garments for them to wear as they turned eight and five. 


When I first laid eyes on this fun emoji print viscose lawn from Fabric Godmother, I knew I had to get some for my kids. To be honest, I rarely buy fabric to make clothes for my kids. I mainly use leftovers from other projects and fabric harvested from existing garments when making things for them, with the occasional new purchase or gifted length that's more specifically 'kiddie'. I love how this print is more subtle than a fabric designed for kids though. In fact my colleague Kerry has also bought some to make a dress for herself. Full disclosure: this is not a paid ad or freebie, I bought this fabric myself but with a staff discount.

The fabric is lovely, but as with most viscose fabrics, it's light-weight, slippery and a big fan of developing creases. Having decided to make Frankie a shirt and Lola a dress, I knew I'd be pushing the limit of fabric suitability for the styles I had in mind with this fabric selection. I think I just about got away with it though!

(image source: Tadah! Patterns)

Dress Pattern:

I'll start with Lola's dress. Around the time that I was gearing up to buy the fabric, I was contacted via Instagram by Sewing Gem, a UK-based online sewing shop, asking if I'd like to try out a pattern by Tadah! Patterns, an Aussie brand that they stock and were hoping to promote. It was an obligation-free offer, and the timing was just right considering I was on the hunt for a pattern to make a part dress. When I looked through their selection of Tadah! Patterns, I clocked the Tea Party Dress pattern (pictured above) straight away as one that I've had on my Pinterest board for years. 

(image source: Tadah! Patterns)

In essence, it's a fairly traditional fitted bodice-and-full skirt dress style. However, it includes a crazy amount of style options (see above). It allows you to make a ton of different looking garments all from the one pattern. I let Lola choose her own style variations. She selected the V-neck, classic back (she was going to be wearing this in October after all!), regular arm height, gathered cap sleeve and circle skirt options. 

The pattern is graded between 6-12 months to 8 years. Lola is a touch larger than the measurements that correspond with the size 8, so I lengthened both the bodice and skirt by about 5cm each (also so she'll be able to get more use from it as she gets bigger still). I also made the bodice a tiny bit wider at the centre front and back. I wish I'd had this pattern from when she was much smaller so I could have made many more garments from it over the years!

The construction was pretty simple and suitable for someone who has made a few other garments previously, particularly if you choose to make it in a more stable fabric. The bodice is fully lined and back fastens with buttons, which makes this a slightly more time consuming project, so I wouldn't recommend making it the same day your child is due to attend a party! The only part of this project that gave me pause was trying to work out whether the top edge of the circle skirt should be gathered into the bottom of the bodice, or if it should be sewn flat. The instructions mention creating gathers, however the illustrations look like it should be sewn flat with no gathers (spoiler alert: it should have gathers). 

For future versions, I would also prefer to make the bodice and skirt separately and the join them at the waist seam, instead of attaching the skirt pieces to the front and back bodice pieces and THEN stitching the side seams in one. But that's just a preference of construction order and wouldn't change the look of the finish garment particularly. 

(image source: Fibre Mood)

Shirt Pattern:

I love making shirts for Frankie, and mercifully he enjoys wearing them also! I recently made him a shirt using my regular little-boy shirt pattern with a camp collar, so I was on the look out for something different this time. I found the Rupert shirt pattern (pictured above) in Edition 14 of the Fibre Mood magazine, but you can also buy it separately here. It's got a different silhouette and collar to the others I made for Frankie so decided it was worth the tracing out for some variety! 

I ended up combining sizes for this garment to prevent it being too wide. I used the size 4 for the width and size 5 for length. I altered the sleeve pattern so it wouldn't have the turn up because I didn't want to reverse of the viscose to be visible. I also made a regular hem instead of the facing around the bottom edge because I felt the latter wouldn't be suitable for the slinky viscose. I also added two pockets to the front rather than one upon Frankie's request.

With the bottom hem facing eliminated, this shirt was pretty quick to put together. I like the look of the collarless neckline, and the wider fit is a nice variation to Frankie's current clothing selection.


My main conclusion is: viscose isn't the ideal fibre for making kids clothes, but it is do-able! Both kids seem to enjoy the slinkiness of the fabric in their respective garments, even if I don't enjoy the ironing! They both chose to wear these garments multiple times over their extended birthday celebrations, and I've put them aside for a month so they'll be in decent enough condition to wear to a wedding in December. 

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