Monday, 16 January 2023

Scrappy Knit Cardigan


This is a recently completed project that is the result of an idea that I just couldn't shake. Inspired by the success of Pat's scrap busting Apollon sweatshirt (which in turn was inspired by the success of these scrap busting jersey tops) the thought popped into my brain that I could apply the same idea to actual knit fabric.     I am very interested in clever ways to reuse old garments, and am always looking to bulk out my chilly-weather clothing selection, which is pretty limited. So I cleared the decks of other projects and decided to have a play. 


I have a big bag of old knitwear garments and scraps: items that are moth eaten, felted, misshapen or badly pilled, plus scraps of knit fabric that can be bought by the metre. Some of the knit garments I've had in my stash for over a decade, that I've harvested bits from for other projects, mainly mittens over the years. I was keen to reduce the volume of my knit stash and claw back some space in my airing cupboard. 

I started out my selecting pieces that made a fairly pleasing colour palette. The chartreuse colour is my favourite. I previously used some of that moth-eaten jumper to make myself some mittens. I made sure to use include every last scrap of that garment in this project. There's quite a lot of pink in this project, which is NOT a colour I ever usually wear, but with the other bold colours, I think it looks ok and the over all effect is graphic and fun. 


As for the piecing, part of my goal was to try to be as economic with each piece as possible and be left with very few unusable scraps. I cut along the seam lines of some of the knit garments to access as much of the fabric as possible. I let the resultant shapes guide the forms and I jigsawed them together over the course of a few evenings until I had sections large enough to fit my pattern pieces on. 


The pattern I used at the base of this projects was the Jamie cardigan by Ready to Sew, which I adapted slightly to my preferences. I used some black Ponte Roma for the neck band, and black ribbing for the cuffs and waistband. I like how the solid black of these pieces creates a kind of frame for the colours and patterns within. 

As you may have noticed, this cardigan features some basket weave type knit that I also used to make the polo neck top I'm wearing here. I'm enjoying the 'alternative twin set' look! It's also nice to have a bold, fun garment to wear when the weather is freezing. Any addition of colour in the winter is welcome. 

Friday, 6 January 2023

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Movie Night Pajamas


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. I also firmly believe that pattern designers deserve to be properly paid for their work, so if you enjoy using a pattern and can afford to do so, make sure you support that designer. Some designers' websites offer the option to make a donation, alternatively you can buy one of their paid-for products. If you can't afford to do so, you can support the designer by sharing your project via social media to help draw more attention to their work. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.



Hello and Happy New Year!!!! This is the first blog post of 2023, which will see this blog's 15th birthday! Wild, eh?! This Free Pattern Friday blog feature has also been running for a fair while. I just counted and I've written 54 blog posts road testing free sewing patterns and tutorials, starting in the Autumn of 2017. Phew! I've actually decided to put this feature on pause for a few months. I never want to be sewing for the sake of it. Up until recently, I've had a backlog of free sewing patterns and tutorials that I want to try that I believe will be genuinely useful for myself, my kids or my home. But right now, there aren't any that I can say with honesty we could really do with right now. And with my sewing time being very limited, it seems pointless, not to mention unsustainable, to make things for the sake of having something to post about. I'm definitely going to return to this feature and post more road tests towards the summer. However, for now, this'll be the last for a while. Good job this pattern is a good one! 

Nearly a year ago I road tested and posted about the men's version of the free Movie Night Pajamas pattern by Sew A Little Seam. Today I'm posted about the kid's version of this truly excellent pattern. There's also women's version and all three versions are available for free by joining their Facebook group. That will give you access to a code that you can use at the checkout on their site. If you don't have a Facebook account, or wish to support Sew A Little Seam with a purchase, this pattern is only $5. As always, massive thanks to Sew A Little Seam, and all designers, who make their work available for free.


(image source: Sew a Little Seam)

Pattern type:

The Movie Night pyjamas are a close-fitting set designed for knit fabrics. There are lots of style options. There's long and short sleeves for the top, plus long, Capri or short versions of the bottoms, so it's a great pattern for all seasons. You can personalise them further with the other style options included: gathered sleeve, neckline placket and yoga or elasticated waistbands. That's a lot of options. 



Sizing info:

These pyjamas are graded to fit 12 months to 12 years, by which point your kid might start fitting into the smaller sizes of the adult versions! I made the size 10 for my 9yo who is on the large side, and the fit is great. I think I also added a few extra centimetres to the length of the bottoms for extra room for growth. 


Fabric info:

The pattern recommends cotton/spandex (AKA Lycra or elastane), rib knits or thermal. For this pair I used a cotton pointelle that I picked up at the Ukraine fundraiser fabric swap I organised in 2022, which may or may not be what they refer to as 'thermal'. I also used ribbing for the neckband and cuffs. If you're being critical, you might say the the rib I used was a shade too thick for this pointelle, but it functions well enough. 



Findings:

As with the men's version, this pattern was a joy to work with. It includes both A0 and print-at-home versions of the PDF files, both with layers which I really appreciate. And there's a projector file too, if that's your jam. The instructions are clear, and include photos of the steps to help you along. 

The PJs themselves have come out really well. I was working with limited fabric and I wanted to squeeze out a vest as well (using this pattern), so I had to add a centre back seam to the top. To prevent the seam allowance feeling annoying, I added a back neck facing, which gives some nice solidity to a project anyhow. 



Customisation ideas:

There are heaps of customisation options included in this pattern already, but there is a distinct lack of pockets! 


Would I make this pattern again?

I'm sure I will, now that I have downloaded it. You could get a similar look to these, however, by using a leggings or slim joggers pattern and a basic T-shirt pattern if you already had some in the correct size. I'm not sure I like the feeling on these slim fit PJ bottoms, but I might use the top of the women's pattern for myself at some point in the future. 

Sunday, 18 December 2022

Scrap Busting Apollon Sweatshirt

I can't remember precisely where the idea for this project came from, but it has served to solve two issues. The first was Mr SoZo running low on clothes, and the second was my own excess of sweatshirt scraps. In many ways, it's an extension of the scrap busting jersey T-shirts I made for him and our daughter last year. This project follows the same principles and largely the same technique. 

I was becoming aware that my collection of sweatshirt scraps was taking up a sizeable chunk of space in my fabric stash. I started out by getting all my sweatshirt scraps and remnants out and getting Mr SoZo to pick out any that particularly appealed to him. We then messed around with combinations until we had developed a pleasing colour palette. Some of the scraps came from sweatshirts I'd made for him previously, so were already within his existing wardrobe colour scheme. However, having made him the very wild scrap T-shirt that he is happy to wear, I knew I could push the combination further than many people might be comfortable with!

Here's some things I've learned about scrappy garment projects:

  • Make sure you're using a TNT pattern. You need to know that the fit will be spot on: now is not the time to try something new that may require tweaks. The pattern I used for this is the Apollon sweatshirt for men by I Am Patterns that I have used at least six times for him previously.
  • Limit your colour palette, unless you're really doubling down on the scrappy look.
  • Keeping the scraps large results in a bold look, reduces the amount potentially-annoying seams in the inside, and makes the process of piecing MUCH quicker.
  • For this project I kept an eye on the direction of the grain line of each piece, and tried to keep them vaguely in line with each other. However, with sweatshirt fabric you can probably get away with ignoring grain lines altogether.
  • Keep joining scraps until you have shapes large enough to fit your pattern pieces on. Keep your pattern pieces to hand so you can keep checking. 
  • Be aware that the additional seams create additional bulky bits inside. It doesn't bother Mr SoZo at all, but when I made a pieced sweatshirt fabric cardigan for my daughter, she refused to wear it because she found the seam allowances on the inside uncomfortable. If making tighter fitting garments, or garments for kids or sensitive folk, top stitch down the seam allowances as you go to reduce the bulk. 
  • When you have made sections large enough to fit your pattern pieces on, try flipping them 180 degrees to see which way looks best. I tried this and found the upside down version of what I'd been creating looked way cooler. 
  • If your combination of scraps is pretty bold, using one colour for any neckbands, cuffs and waistbands can create a nice 'frame' and make the whole garment look more intentional. 


If you're interested in creating something along similar lines, I hope these pointers helped. And above all, have fun!!!!! Pieced fabric garment projects are more time consuming than 'regular' sewing projects that use a length of virgin fabric, but can be so much more creatively fulfilling. 

Friday, 2 December 2022

Free Pattern Friday: Bowl Cover Tutorial


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 in today's case, something for the home. 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. I also firmly believe that pattern designers deserve to be properly paid for their work, so if you enjoy using a pattern and can afford to do so, make sure you support that designer. Some designers' websites offer the option to make a donation, alternatively you can buy one of their paid-for products. If you can't afford to do so, you can support the designer by sharing your project via social media to help draw more attention to their work. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.


(image source: Hearth and Vine)

I've had my eye on this tutorial for yonks, and have mentioned it a couple of time in my podcast Check Your Thread. This project is a great potential scrap-buster (tick), quick to make (tick), could be used to make cute and useful gifts (tick tick) AND helps you to be more sustainable in your everyday life (TICK!). Bowl covers can be used instead of single-use cling film or tin foil to keep food covered in the fridge, on the table, on the kitchen counter or at picnics. You can chuck them in the washing machine and use over and over again instead of frequently adding to landfill. They obviously doesn't provide a vacuum seal, but they certainly will help to keep things fresher for longer and keep insects or animals (and perhaps even small kids!) off the contents of the bowl. I'm posting about this now in case you're on the look out for quick stocking filler/gift ideas to make for friends and family, but equally these might be lovely as a home warming gift. Thanks so much to Patti from Hearth and Vine for sharing this tutorial for free. 




Pattern type:

This tutorial shows you how to make cute, reusable, washable bowl covers to protect your food. 


Sizing info:

The awesome thing about this project is that you can make custom covers for the bowls you already own. I make homemade pizza dough and usually use a tea towel to cover my bowl whilst the dough is rising. However, this is a better option because I was able to make a cover to exactly fit the mixing bowl I always use. I also made a smaller one that fits the cereal-sized bowls we own to protect leftovers and such. 


Fabric info:

The tutorial recommends using quilting cotton for this project. You really want to use something with a tight weave to keep the food as fresh as possible, and that can withstand high temperatures when washing, so woven cotton is likely to be your best bet. Although, I think you could expand the recommendation to include cotton lawn, poplin and shirtings. Obviously, I'm always going to urge you to use what you already own, however, if you had nothing suitable in your stash or you really wanted to personalise the bowl covers, particularly if making them for a gift, you could buy fat quarters that represented the style of the recipient and their home. The red sailboat fabric used in these pics is a scrap of Atelier Brunette cotton poplin leftover from some pyjama shorts I made myself earlier this year. The pinup cowgirl fabric was a piece of quilting cotton I got in a fabric swap years ago. It had already been cut into a circle for making wax wraps, but I never got round to it. You will also need 1/4" elastic and making thread. 



Findings:

This was an incredibly quick and satisfying project! Within an incredibly short amount of time I had made two super useful bowl covers from fabric and elastic I already had in my possession. The explantion was clear and very easy to follow. 

The post/tutorial also includes a small Q&A section answering any queries you might have about making or using these covers. That was very helpful, however, I disagreed with one point. The tutorial recommends washing these in cold water. Cold water is not as effective at killing bacteria as hot water, so I wash mine in a 60 degree wash along with my tea towels and surface cleaning cloths, and they've held up perfectly well so far. 

My ongoing findings revolve around discovering different uses for them. For example, I was recently given a large bag of figs which I planned to make into jam (pictured above). I processed the figs, many of which were already soft and mushy, and used the bowl cover to keep the fruit flies (which my kitchen is plagued with) at bay until I had time to make the actual jam. 


Would I make these again?

Absolutely! It was a very pleasing project and the outcome is genuinely useful. 

Friday, 4 November 2022

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Raglan Hoodie


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. I also firmly believe that pattern designers deserve to be properly paid for their work, so if you enjoy using a pattern and can afford to do so, make sure you support that designer. Some designers' websites offer the option to make a donation, alternatively you can buy one of their paid-for products. If you can't afford to do so, you can support the designer by sharing your project via social media to help draw more attention to their work. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.



This is a pattern that I've been harping on about a lot lately whilst making the Sewing and Saving mini series of podcast episode (in particular Sewing on a Budget and Sewing to Keep Warm). This pattern is a fantastic resource to have if you want to sew some cosy layers for kids. I first reviewed this pattern for the Free Pattern Friday series when my little boy was just a year old. And before that I posted about it when my daughter was equally tiny. But since then, Brindille & Twig have started producing patterns for larger kids and with that have released a larger version of this pattern for free download also. I was looking for a pattern to make for my son for his birthday, so I decided to give this new, larger version a whirl and test out its new hood option as well. Massive thanks to Melissa from Brindille & Twig for sharing her hard work for free.

 

(image source: Brindille & Twig)


Pattern type:

A classic, gender neutral, raglan sleeved, hooded sweatshirt style with front kangaroo pocket and two hood types (scuba and crossover). 


Sizing info:

The original, smaller version of this pattern (with only one style of hood) is sized between 0 months and 6 years. This version is sized between 6 and 14 years. I usually find that B&T patterns come up a bit large, so I'd really recommend going by the height measurements when selecting which size to make, particularly if you need it for immediate use. My son has just turned 6, but I knew the 6-7 years size would be too big for him. I probably could have used the largest size of the smaller version of the pattern, however I really wanted to try the new crossover hood variation. Subsequently, I printed out the size 6-7 but changed to scale to about 95% as opposed to 100%. 




Fabric info:

B&T suggest medium weight jersey, interlock or stretchy French Terry for the main fabric, but warn that using regular sweatshirt fleece may make it difficult to get over head. The hood and pocket can be lined in jersey, and and the cuff and waistbands require ribbing. 

For Frankie's birthday version, I used some stretchy towelling that was donated to me years ago after a sewing friend had a destash. I used some scraps of ribbing for the cuffs, but didn't have enough for a waistband also so left that off. The hood is lined with very lightweight slubby single jersey. It might look better if it were more opaque, but at least it doesn't weigh the hood down too much. 


Findings:

As ever, this B&T was a great pattern to use. There's a really simplicity and clarity to their patterns that make them very user, including beginner, friendly. Also, I love the layers function so you're not printing out heaps of unnecessary lines in particular. 

The instructions are pretty good. The only real flaw I found was that many of the images of garments with the crossover hood show that the hood has been lined, however, the instructions show how to make it unlined only. It's not a big deal of course, but it did throw me off a little. 

The finished garment came out just as I'd hoped. I'd left off the pocket which made construction quicker, choosing to add a Pokemon patch (Frankie's current obsession) instead. As mentioned before, I also left off the waistband and simply hemmed the bottom edge instead. The length of the body was sufficient to not need to add addition length. If I make another version in the future that includes a waistband, I'll consider shortening the body a bit. 




Customisation ideas:

There are a number of customaisation ideas shown in the images on their website, but they are not explicitly mentioned as far as I can tell. Here are their's and some of mine:
  • add eyelets or button holes and thread a drawstring through the front edge of the hood
  • leave the edges of the kangaroo pocket raw 
  • leave off the waistband and simply hem
  • lengthened the sleeves a bit, then leave off the cuffs and hem instead
  • insert piping into the sleeve seams
  • use contrasting fabrics for each pattern piece, or for just the sleeves
  • add patches, embroidery, decals, prints or appliqué designs to the front
  • insert triangles of fabric into the central hood seam, and possibly down the back, to make a dinosaur hoodie
  • lengthen the whole hoodie to make a hoodie dress
  • make in a lighter weight fabric and shorten the sleeves for a warmer weather version




Would I make this pattern again?

Most definitely. In fact, I'm quite enamoured with some of the customisation ideas above so I might give them a try! I'm so happy that they have created this pattern in a larger size so that I can continue to make hoodies for my kids for many years to come. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Ermine + Norma = A Fibre Mood Blouse Mashup


Another of my Autumn sewing plans is a wrap! I'm a big fan of a blouse. Just type 'blouse' into the search box on this blog and you'll see how many of the damn things I've made over the years! They make my usual jeans or dungarees look a bit more grownup and me generally more put together. 


Fabric:

I'd had my eye on this awesome printed viscose for well over six months before I finally gave in and bought some. I bought it from Fabric Godmother (not sponsored but I get a staff discount), but I can't link to it sadly because it has sold out now. 

I'm not a natural print wearer, I guess in part because I predict I'll get bored of a particular one before long. Prints can tie you, stylistically, to a time and place in your life in a way that solids don't seem to. And that can limit the amount of use a garment will see. Which is why I approached this fabric with caution. I had to wait to check that I really did adore it enough to want to put it on my body, rather than to just enjoy like you might a poster on your wall for a while. 

What I particularly enjoy about it the indoors theme of this print! Many prints are floral-based, but I really enjoy the domestic setting and mid-century vibes going on here. It's not dissimilar to my own home! And the design includes lots of colours that I enjoy wearing (rust, mustard, navy and possibly even emerald green). But whilst I'm suitably convinced that I won't for out of love with the design any time soon, I'm not entirely convinced the peachy-pink background colour does anything for my skin tone. 


Patterns:

As I say, I love a good blouse. Fibre Mood magazine invariably has at least one I like in every issue. I missed the availability period of the issue that included the Ermine blouse pattern, however we started to stock it at work as a standalone product. My boss, Josie, decided it was a good candidate for a Dream Wardrobe box. I made the sample garment for that month, so I got to test out the construction and even try it on before committing to making my own. 

My conclusions were: I liked the delicate gathering into the yoke, the size M was too big and the sleeves could be more exciting. So I decided to go ahead with it but made the size S and swapped Ermine's sleeve pattern for the more voluminous piece from the Norma blouse pattern (also by Fibre Mood). 
 

Conclusion:

This blouse, as with anything of course, is not perfect. I don't like how there are two green chairs on the front yoke pieces, and the neckline feels a little too wide, despite picking a size smaller than my measurements would have led me to make. And as I said above, the main colour isn't great against my skin tone. But I do really like this blouse and have enjoyed wearing it a number of times since completion. I think it's going to have a long and happy life in my wardrobe. 

Monday, 17 October 2022

Denim V-Neck Jumpsuit: Adult Babygro?


For yonks I've been coveting a denim jumpsuit. A kind of 'uniform' item that I can throw on whenever I can't really be bothered, and just look put-together and casually cool. My main role at Fabric Godmother is ordering sewing patterns, so I'm well positioned to judge the merits of the various options. The question remains however: have I made the most comfy garment ever, an adult babygro, or both?!




Pattern:

After a long hard think which involved a lot of hashtag stalking, I landed on the V-neck Jumpsuit pattern by The Assembly Line to make my jumpsuit dreams a reality. I liked the modern, casual style, but I decided to make some tweaks. Like others before me, I decided to go with buttons to fasten it rather than concealed press studs. I also shortened the bodice length by about 3 or 4cm because I heard it's very long in the body/low in the crotch. I didn't make a toile, but I did muster the patience to baste/tack the main garment together (minus sleeves) before final construction to check the fit. Based on my findings, I chose to make the top part smaller, and slightly closer fitting. I also added patch pockets to the front instead of inseam side pockets to break up the expanse of fabric a bit. 




Fabric:

The fabric I chose for this project is a 9oz mid blue denim made from recycled cotton fibres from Fabric Godmother (not sponsored but I get a staff discount). It also has some stretch content to really double down on the comfort factor. I did a bit of additional top stitching here and there on this garment because I love how after laundering denim fades a bit and the ripples start to show. I absolutely love this fabric and am now eyeing it up in the other colour ways. 


Thoughts:

Yes it is comfy. Yes it looks like a giant babygro. It's not quite the sleak, modern mum-uniform I envisaged but there you go. I've still been wearing it heaps, and having fun layering it under and over other garments. 

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