Friday 28 December 2012

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013!!!

Bloody hell. At the start of 2012, I thought the year, our second full year living in our adopted city, would be a fairly calm affair. I predicted settling into our new 'grown-up' lives and the consolidation and continuation of lots of the projects we already had on the go. I entered 2012 more secure than I have ever been in terms of where I want to live and who I want to spend my life with. But I can't say the rest of the year was in any way 'calm' or 'settling'. It reminded me quite firmly that you can't really plan for anything; or more precisely that you must be prepared to have your plans knocked about and you must be happy to alter those plans as life monkeys around with them.

I can't really discuss a round up of 2012 without mentioning that it was the year in which I got married. As much as I'd like to make light of it, for fear of coming across as a stereotypical princess-bridezilla, getting married was a pretty absorbing experience. We got engaged just before Christmas last year, and even though we planned a relatively short engagement, I totally under-estimated how stressful and consuming planning a wedding would be, even a low-budget and relaxed 'do like ours. We took a very DIY approach which one the one hand was great because it made everything more personal, affordable and 'us', plus there wasn't too much relying on others who might let you down or inflate the prices of stuff. But on the other hand, taking so much on ourselves meant there was so much to think about and work on. It was a bit like having an end-of-year dissertation hanging over your head: it was very difficult to ever properly relax because you'd feel like there was something you should probably be doing, or that if you took your eye off the game for a minute you might over-look something major, like rings or footwear! But all that aside, it was a wonderful day that everyone in attendance thoroughly enjoyed. But I never plan to do it again!

Source: via Zoe on Pinterest

The other major thing that happened this year, whilst we were neck-deep in wedding arranging, was both Pat and I losing our jobs and as a result deciding to have a crack at being self-employed. Of course, there is never a good time to loose your job and/or find your income drastically cut, but the fact that it happened to both of us within a couple of months of each other felt like quite a kick in the teeth at the time. But I have to say, there is a part of me that relishes big seismic changes like that, especially ones that free you in some way. It has been an insanely rocky eight-ish months, but rolling with the punches and constructing a new way of life has been very invigorating, and I am so happy to report that it has solidified rather than weakened our relationship. As things have panned out, our finances have flipped and for the first time since we got together, Pat has been in the position to be the one to pick up the financial slack when things have got difficult. It's a really strange position for me to find myself in and not an entirely comfortable one.

In terms of sewing, 2012 was kind of a year of three parts for me. Until the Summer, I was really prolific. My then-boss was on maternity leave and I had taken the helm at TRAIDremade, making daily design and construction decisions with almost complete freedom. The sweet set up of a permanently free cutting space, sewing machine and overlocker meant I zipped through my own sewing projects, racking up new garments and refashions at a rapid rate of knots. Then the wedding makery took hold and I had to throw myself into making my wedding dress, the bridesmaid's dress and Pat's waistcoat. But after those were done my sewing took a massive nose-dive. I think that was due to the combination of lack of sewing and cutting space when the studio closed and the loss of mojo from all that important non-frivolous sewing. That said, I did release two free downloadable sewing patterns this year, that I'm very pleased with.

My main plans for 2013 are self-employment related. There are so many things I've now got myself involved in that now form what can loosely be termed 'my work'. I need to figure out how to get them to financially support me AND I need to figure out how balance my time so I can do them all without being the massive stress-head I've recently allowed myself to become.

But arguably more excitingly, I have big plans, hopes and schemes for my sewing this year, which include:
  • Get my post-wedding, post-reduction in sewing space sewing mojo back. I can already feel it working its way back, plus some ace new sewing patterns have found their way into my stash recently which can only be a good thing for my mojo. 
  • Have a major clear-out and be brutally honest about which self-made garments no longer fit or are looking too tatty. 
  • Focus on creating a look that bridges the gap between what I feel comfortable wearing and what I would ideally like to dress like. In part this means creating better fitting garments that feel good to wear, but I think it also translates to actually wearing some of my fancier creations!
  • Host another awesome Me-Made-May!!!! Personally, I'm hoping to have some great new garments to wear that are closer to how I dress in my imagination than I have worn in past challenges. 
  • Tackle lots of the wonderful sewing patterns that have been languishing in my stash for ages. I have so many vintage gems as well as newer ones that are crying out to be tested.
  • Work through some of my enormous hoard of secondhand fabric, AKA do some serious Stash Bustin'. There is some great stuff in there and it should be enjoyed as fabulous garments, rather than residing in plastic bags stored away like it currently is. 
  • Make some garments that closely resemble some of the amazing visual inspiration I've been collating for yonks on my laptop and on Pinterest.
  • FINALLY make a freaking diner waistress dress or maybe blouse!!!!!

Source: via Zoe on Pinterest

I wish you all a wonderful new year! I hope it brings you fun and excitement, plus relaxation and calm when needed. Thank you so much for stopping by and/or following my blog for the last year, I promise my blog will remain at the heart of my creative activities in the forthcoming year and it'll be worth swinging by from time to time! Big love to you all xxx

Monday 24 December 2012

Giveaway: Eliza M's Vintage-Inspired Sewing Patterns!!!


So, dear sewers, have you heard of Eliza M's vintage style sewing patterns (website pictured above)? Due to time constraints I don't get to spend as much time surfing the online-sewing community as I'd like, but I have to admit that I hadn't heard of them myself until last week. But I am very pleased that I now have! Based in Manchester, UK, they have recently relaunched themselves and I recommend you to head over and see what they've got on offer. 

If, like me, you're into sewing vintage-y/retro-y garments but find all the sizing-confusion and redrafting of vintage patterns a bit of a drag, their range is definitely worth a look. I've just received my copy of the Pussy Galore blouse (pictured above paired with the Hop and Swing pants) and the packaging looks great. I'm really excited to get cracking on it early in the new year, after which I'll of course post a full review. 

In the meantime, the Eliza M team are offering up a free pattern for three of my lovely blog readers so you can give them a whirl yourself for nowt. Consider it a Christmas present you'll really want to receive! And what better way to kick start your New Year's sewing, with more than enough time to create a nice addition to your self-made wardrobe for 2013's Me-Made-May?!

Excitingly, entrants to this giveaway can pick their favourite pattern to win. So whether it's the 40's inspired swing style Grace dress (pictured above), early 60's style Ruby Wiggle dress (pictured below), or any of the others in their ample collection, there's probably something that could become your next party outfit or daywear addition.  

Eliza M patterns are like genuine vintage patterns in the respect that they are single sized, so you'll need to let me know which pattern AND which size you require when entering. So let me know those two things in the comment section below, and whilst you're at it, let me know what fabric you'd possibly make your pattern in if you're successful in winning it (just because I'm nosey!). 

If I can't access your email address within two clicks of the mouse, please include it in your entry comment. Email addresses will not be used for anything other than to contact you if you are one of the three lucky winners of this giveaway. This giveaway is open internationally and the winners will receive their choice of sewing pattern completely free of charge. The giveaway entries will close at midnight GMT Sunday 6th January 2013 and the three winners will be chosen by random number generator and contacted Monday 7th January. Good luck, my pattern-loving friends!

Friday 21 December 2012

Refashion Fridays says Happy Christmas!!!

It's unlikely that the outfits these cats are sporting are refashioned. But I think that is because they are cats and cannot work a sewing machine, not because their not interested in refashioning. Look at the anger on their faces because they are forced to wear only mass-produced, shop-bought garments!

As humans, we do not have this cruel refashioning disability. So if you have come over to my blog today to get an injection of refashion-y inspiration, may I direct you to my back catalogue of Refashion Friday posts or my Refashion Resource page. I promise you that I have heaps of lovely refashions/remakes/upcycles to share with you going forward, PLUS a super-exciting sewing pattern giveaway this very Monday, but until then, Refashion Friday says Happy Christmas one and all!!!!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

My Nan's Sewing Pattern Stash

A whole bunch of time ago (like 15 years or something), my nan, who has since passed away, went into a home for the elderly when she was no longer able to look after herself. My folks spent ages sorting through and re-distributing decades worth of her possessions, including wardrobes upon wardrobes full of clothes. I also recall a couple of suitcases full of 1960's fabric and wool from her former crafting days, but those got chucked out. There was also a brown paper bag containing sewing patterns from the 1950's - 1970's which my mum was also about to throw away. I don't know why, because as a moody teenager I had yet to develop an interest in sewing, but I suddenly got a sense that throwing them away was a terrible idea and I rescued them from the 'to bin' pile. 

I had no idea what I would do with them, if anything. But even then, at the stage when I was at my most selfish, I think I had a sense that this bag of home sewing patterns was a tie to a former generation that was starting to slip away, although I wasn't quite able to fully recognise or express that at the time. But I have to be honest with you here, my parents and I had a far from close relationship with my nan, so this move to rescue her patterns was not born out of sentimentality, although now I am older I do feel pleased to have a physical link to the era and situation my dad came from. 

My mum (who hooked up with my dad in the mid-sixties when they were just 16!) remembers this nan (my dad's mum) doing a bit of sewing and knitting around that time. My mum also remembers making some of the later 1970's patterns for her. I find it really interesting that my dad's mum had this looser domestic approach to sewing and knitting, whilst my mum's mum and aunts were factory and workroom based seamstresses by trade. It's a bit bizarre that my own relationship to sewing is slap-bang firmly in between the two! Or straddling the two perhaps. FYI, 'Seamstress' is written as the occupation on my wedding certificate, for lack of knowing what else to call myself!

Most of my nan's pattern stash seems to have come from magazine offers. Many of them are still in the envelopes she received them in, which is how I know they are all from between 1956 and 1978. She must have filled out the offer coupons, specifying her size, and posted them away. Those coupons were then glued to the front of the envelope to form the address labels (pictured below). 

I've tried to arrange the patterns in this post roughly in date order from oldest at the top to the most recent at the bottom. My favourites by far for envelope design alone are the 'Be a SUN-GAY GIRL' and 'HOLIDAY HAPPY' patterns pictured below. On the 'Sun-Gay' one, it looks like my nan took a biro to the situation and did a bit of re-designing of the neckline!

At the moment, all but the 'Sun-Gay' one are still living at my folks', where, I'm ashamed to admit, I still store a fair chunk of my possessions! I'm 33 and married yet still clog up my parents' house with my stuff. Not very impressive, eh?!

I haven't made any of these yet, one reason being is that they are all one size bigger than I like to start with, and I'm a lazy-arse who can't be arsed to grade! But I would like to one day. Which of these patterns, if any, would you be tempted to make first, and what fabric would you use?

Friday 14 December 2012

Refashion Friday Inspiration: Lace Stripes Sweatshirt Remake

Happy Friday, my weekend loving friends! Well, how is it round your way? Here it's damn chilly and all I can think about is warm clothing and layers, so today's Refashion Friday inspiration is another recut and remade sweatshirt refashion. 

I haven't reinvented the wheel here with this one. It began life as an unwanted dude's sweatshirt which I recut to have a nicer, more feminine fit. Read about some of my other remade sweatshirts projects if you'd like more info on how I do that. However, this particular sweatshirt features a super easy lacy striped design that could be applied to lots of refashions or sewing projects.

As you can see in the picture above, I added the lace stripes to the front piece before I reconstructed the sweatshirt back together again. The centre stripe has a simple bow feature which was made with two extra small lengths of the lace stitched down. I really like the 70's retro vibe this garment has, I think it's got a kind of feminine yet sporty look. 

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Christmas Brighton Craftaganza: I can haz my lyf back now plz?

Ah I jest! Well, actually I only half-jest. For the last month I have thought about little else, whether awake or asleep. This past weekend's event was the fifth craft market I have either co- or sole- organised but each time round I seem to forget how much effort and energy it's going to take to get to the other side! Plus for the last week I've had a proper nasty cold. But moaning aside, I have to say it was totally worth it. If you'll forgive my crude vernacular, the event FUCKING ROCKED. 

Obvs, the excellent footfall we had can be attributed almost entirely to the festive season and gift-hungry population of Brighton, but it definitely wouldn't have been so good if Pat, Rehanon and I hadn't been outside pretty much all day on both days covering both the entrances hollering about the event and coaxing passing shoppers inside. Plus the seasonal decor, festive choons, beautiful historic venue and friendly chatty sellers created a lovely atmosphere once the punters came in. 

Plus a lot of effort went into selecting sellers who produce really great quality, interesting and contemporary products. The level of quality was thankfully noted by many of the visitors and sellers alike, which will hopefully draw both lots of visitors and new excellent sellers to future Brighton Craftaganza markets. I also hope it helps to set our events at a certain pitch within a pretty craft-saturated town like Brighton.

But as craft-saturated as it can feel at times for someone like myself who is involved pretty heavily in the local designer-maker/handmade/craft 'scene', I can't help but feel handmade products are still so thoroughly ignored by the majority of the population. I really want to see local designer-makers take a far larger slice of retail spending. Plus, as most of us in the sewing community are all too aware, 'handmade' and 'craft' still have so many negative connotations for many/most people (I was just telling a local journalist this very point a couple of hours ago when they phoned me up for a quote to go with their picture story - get me!). So by putting on lovely events full of wonderful, interesting and quality handmade products then almost literally scraping as many people off the street and through the doors as possible, hopefully I can help some people replace those negative connotations with positive ones. 

Watching people walk past the venue all day carrying Primark, BHS, M&S, Topman etc. carrier bags, the ubiquity began to feel so depressing. I know I'm probably preaching to the choir when discussing such things here on this blog, but I just cannot for the life of me see the appeal of mass-produced, cookie-cutter products that have had absolutely no love or passion put into them, over something so unique it may be literally the only one there is and that was made by someone you can physically meet and chat to. 

So anyway..... I know what you're thinking, 'What did you buy there, Zoe?!'. Well, excluding one Christmas gift that for obvious reasons I'm not going to photograph and upload here, all my purchases ended up being for myself!!! And largely all red. However, if you think that's super-shocking behaviour, you'll be pleased to know that I have order an additional five gifts from sellers at the event because they'd either sold out of what I wanted or I didn't  realise I wanted to buy them until the next day. 

So, in no particular order, I bought:
  • A large red felt bow by Stamp & Stitch which I bought on the Saturday and rocked hard all day Sunday on my knitted hat. 
  • Seagull Christmas cards by hello DODO. Actually, considering I'll actually be giving these away, I don't think they count as a selfish purchase.
  • Red vintage buttons for awesome haberdasher The Polished Button all ready for a new sewing project I have in the pipeline. 
  • Amazing playing card suit wrist warmers/mittens by her indoors. I actually bought these for someone else but got way too attached to them after only a matter of hours!
  • Beautiful patchwork case to help stem the tide of my makeup as it endeavours to spread its way around our entire flat. Made by Lisa Jane
Who said a handmade Christmas had to be made entirely by yourself! 

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Thrifty Business

You're welcome.

If only thrifting/charity/op-shopping was always that joyful and successful! No doubt like many of y'all in the sewing/vintage/retro game, I've got a long-term relationship going with charity shops/thrift stores/op shops. But like many long-term relationships, after the first couple of years of passion, things have mellowed as we've both changed and got new things going on.

I'm sure like many of you, when I was in my teens my lack of funds and desire to wear something more interesting than the offerings in local shops drove me to jumble sales and charity shops where I would get a hunter-gatherer style high from bizarre finds from previous decades that often needed a bit of tweaking. But about ten or fifteen years ago many charity shops (in the South East UK at least, I can't speak for elsewhere) started to 'clean up their act'.

Possibly in reaction to rises in retail space rent, or possibly in accordance to a wider social trend, lots of charity shops got re-fits, chucked out anything older than 10 years and cranked up their prices. In many ways, most charity shops started and continue to look like slightly rubbish versions of normal clothing shops. Rather than being treasure troves of wonders, oddball donations and smelliness (which as everyone knows, is the sign of true emporium of hidden gems!), they now appeal almost exclusively to the late-middle aged women who 'curate' them. Plus, as my Dad regularly laments, in many the men's departments have shrunk or even vanished entirely.

I suspect this is is due to pressure to 'compete' with the high street, which is pumping out ever cheaper pieces of what many sadly view to be disposable clothing. But bizarrely enough, as most charity shops now only stock newer items and their prices are quite high, you can often find donations from the cheaper shops on the high street like Primark and Peacocks at about the same price, or perversely for even more, than they originally sold for new!

Obviously I understand that I cannot expect their rails and shelves to contain the boxy 60's jackets , 70's maxi dresses or 50's ceramics that I remember being available in the 90's. But having worked until very recently for a textile and clothing recycling charity, I know A LOT of pre-80's vintage is still out there and being donated. If the 'good shit' gets diverted by retro-savvy sorters and dealers before the rest of us get a chance to snaffle any of it, that's one thing, and I can probably stomach it. But my fear, my true honest-to-goodness-wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-sweaty-and-crying fear, is that LOTS of it is just getting binned.

Some years ago, a friend of my mum's was (maybe still is) the manger of one of these gentrified-but-blandly-style less charity shops. Having heard that I was a big charity shop fan, she invited us to come by and said she'd give me a discount on anything I liked. There was not one thing I wanted in that whole damn shop. And believe me I looked hard. She was clearly so proud at how 'modern' her shop was, entirely misunderstanding the route of my fascination with them. I wasn't just looking for high street items with perhaps a couple of quid knocked off the original high street ticket price. I was out to go hunting through the belongings of previous generations and make potential-filled, amusing and, yes, maybe even smelly discoveries!

But, if I have to really boil down why I dislike gentrified charity shops, with their cheap laminate flooring and Radio 2's Stevie Wright in the afternoon blaring, into one single reason, it's this; I am convinced that all those lovely volunteer late-middle-aged women have collectively received thousands of donated vintage sewing patterns, maybe had a laugh with their colleagues about how their old mum used to sew all her clothes, and then systematically binned them all like some horrendous vintage sewing pattern holocaust.

Ok. So to be fair to charity shops, as I said earlier, I have also changed and become distanced. For one thing, I got into sewing my own clothes from scratch. The challenge of learning to make all the things I normally would have bought from a shops was/is so exciting. Starting a new sewing project from scratch is so full of promise, possibilities and offers complete control, that wandering around trying to find a gem in a charity shops when in your head you have a vision of exactly what you are damn well after can just be too bloody frustrating. And when you start to furnish yourself with the skills to make that vision a reality, it can be hard to go back to relying on the offerings that the charity shop gods choose to bestow on you during any given month.

Also, I physically moved away from charity shops, driving a further wedge between us. Correct me if I'm wrong, but from my experience of living in Barcelona, there seem to be no charity shops in Spain aside from a crazily expensive chain called Humana. I used to get my fixes when possible during visited back to the UK, but I guess I just got used to not having them as an option in my everyday life.

Then when I moved back to UK, as formerly mentioned, I ended up working for a textile recycling charity. When you receive bags and bags and bags of unwanted textiles every fortnight, a few pieces of which you are allowed for personal use for a small donation, the paltry stock of most local charity shops does not look inviting or inspiring. Ok, I got spoilt. I admit it, I am spoilt.

So where do things stand now with me and charity shops? You know what? Our relationship has entered a pretty stable phase. I'm still going to sew my own clothes, but the things I can't produce myself that I can get second hand, I'll keep hunting for in charity shops. So now, when I go in them I usually look for the following things: curtains and fabric if they have it (a guilt-free stash addition!), knitwear (especially fine-knit cardigans because I'll never be able to create those myself even when I learn to knit), shoes and boots (yeah some people think that's grim, but if they are fairly new then I'm fine with it), kitchen equipment (within reason, I wouldn't buy second hand pots and pans) and belts.

What about you? Have you noticed a change in your relationship to charity shops/thrift store/op-shops? Have they 'smartened up' and become boring round where you live? Do you prefer this cleaner thrifting experience? Do you have set things you always look for when you visit them?

Friday 7 December 2012

Refashion Friday Tips & Ideas: Remaking T-shirts into Pants / Undies / Knickers

This is not the first time I've mentioned making pants/undies/knickers out of unwanted T-shirts, and I can't promise this'll be the last! It's such a fun, quick and cheap sewing activity that I really want to inspire some of my lovely blog readers to give it a whirl. 

Obvs this comes off the back of the release of my free downloadable pants/undies/knickers pattern that is now available in printable PDF form. It's a very short leap from a pile of unwanted T-shirts (above) to a host of funny new pants (below). Plus, as well all know, sewing isn't always the cheapest of activities. So once you've over-come the small hurdle of getting hold of some underwear elastic (I've found bargains on market stalls and eBay), with a free pattern and an unwanted T-shirt uncovered from a bottom drawer, you've actually got a very cheap little sewing project on your hands. 

So does one go about reusing old T-shirts to make pants? Well, as with reusing old T-shirts to make vests, I have personally found the best way to start is to cut up the side seams and along the sleeve seams (the T-shirt I used below already had the sleeves removed for a previous project). Then I fold the T-shirt in half lengthways so you can easily find the grain line plus you have the most width to fit the pattern pieces on. 

T-shirts, especially mens ones, often have little to no lycra/elastane content, which means they aren't the most stretchy source of jersey/knit fabric out there. Subsequently, as I have previously mentioned, it is advisable to cut a pattern size larger than you might otherwise choose if using jersey with no lycra/elastane content. 

But back to folding the T-shirt in half. If you are using a T-shirt with a print design, folding the front or back in half length ways will help with placing the pattern piece centrally on the print, if a centralised print is what you are looking for of course. Using existing prints can be really fun. They can look great across the front of the pants or on the bum!

The pants pictured above were made using flat underwear elastic with a picot edge. I have used two different methods of application of this type of elastic, one method for round the waist and one method for around the leg holes. I've written more in-depth about that in this post

The pants in the pictures above and below were constructed using FOE (AKA fold over elastic) both around the waist and round the leg holes. I have written about using FOE for this purpose in this tutorial

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Free Downloadable PDF Pattern: Pants / Undies / Knickers. Plus, How to Use This Pattern

Dear friends, readers, visitors, etc., I have a present for you! It's my self-drafted, multi-sized pants/undies/knickers pattern available as a PDF file for you to download for FREE. Head over to my 'Free Patterns' page to download it. Then read below in this post for further information about how to use this pattern. Finally, head over to my previous 'How to Construct Undies with a Serger and FOE' post for instructions on how to sew together your pants/undies/knickers!

Materials and equipment required. 
60 cms or 1 yard of jersey or a large T-shirt
2.5 metres or 3 yards of underwear elastic
I have used fold over elastic (aka, FOE) for the undies pictured, but advice about using flat or edged elastic is below
Overlocker / serger (optional)
Sewing machine

Preparing the pattern.
The undies pattern PDF consists of 4 pages. When printing the pattern, make sure that you have do not have 'print scaling' checked so the pages print out at the correct size. When printed, measure the test square to check the size is correct. Align the pages by matching the numbered triangles to the corresponding ones. Cut off or fold back the margins and tape or glue together.

Choosing a size. 
This pattern includes sizes 8 -16. These sizes are UK dress sizes, if you do not know which UK dress size you are, check out the conversion below:

UK    USA      EU      AUS     IT      JAP
8          6         36       10       40       9
10        8         38       12       42       11
12       10        40       14       44       13
14       12        42       16       46       15
16       14        44       18       48       17

Please note, the pattern size you should cut may vary depending on the elasticity of your fabric. This pattern has been drafted for fabric with an elastane/lycra content, however other knits/jerseys can also be used to excellent effect. If you are using a knit/jersey fabric with no or very little elastane/lycra content (this may especially be true if using old T-shirts), you may have a better result by using the pattern size larger than you normally would pick.

Cutting out. 
Once you have selected the size you require, cut out the three pattern pieces. You will have one front pattern piece, one back pattern piece and one gusset pattern piece. All three of the pattern pieces are cut on the fold (as indicated on the pattern pieces). Position the pieces of straight of grain of your jersey/knit/T-shirt fabric (the grainline is indicated on the pattern pieces).

As mentioned at the top of this post, head over to my 'How to Construct Undies with a Serger and FOE' post for instructions on how to sew together your cut pieces. The seam allowance on the side seams and gusset seam is 1cm / 3/8".

If you do not have a serger/overlocker: 
The instructions I previously prepared used an overlocker/serger for stitching the side seams and gusset seam, but a normal sewing machine can do these steps just as well. If you will be using a normal sewing machine for all the processes of construction, then test out different stitches on a scrap of your jersey fabric to find the stitch you feel works best. Your sewing machine manual may have suggestions about what stitch type and needle would work best for jersey.

Personally, when sewing jersey, my sewing machine works best on a long but very narrow zigzag and I use a fine needle (I don’t bother buying special jersey needles). The zigzag gives a degree of stretch so the side seam doesn’t break when putting the garment on and off. The narrowness seems to prevent puckering. Some prefer to use a straight stitch and them zigzag along the edge of the seam allowance to finish the raw edge. Experiment and find what works best for you.

If you want to use flat underwear elastic not FOE (fold over elastic):
The instructions I previously made use FOE for the waist and leg holes. For that method the raw cut edge of the fabric gets trapped inside the FOE, which is then stitched on top of to secure it shut. But if you wish to use what-I-call-flat-elastic (basically any other type of underwear elastic that may well have a decorative edge like picot), that is totally do-able with this pattern.

There are two ways of using flat underwear elastic:
1) An easy, one-step way off applying flat elastic is laying it on top of the right side of the fabric slightly covering the raw edge, and then stitching on top of it (a three-step zig zag is usually used). You can see this method of applying flat underwear elastic in the picture below where I have used it around the waist at the top of the picture. This method will make the gusset width a tiny bit wider and the leg holes a tiny bit smaller (by the amount you allow the elastic to lay further than the raw edge). If you do not want the gusset to be wider, trim away a few millimetres (or imperial equivalent!) from all three pattern pieces around the edges of the leg hole.

2) The other, arguably neater and more professional way of using flat underwear elastic is more time consuming because the application of the elastic is done in two processes rather than one. First the right side of the elastic is stitched to the right side of the fabric along the edge (for this process I prefer a fairly narrow zigzag stitch). Keep the decorative edge of the elastic pointing away from the raw fabric edge. The underwear elastic is then folded under to the wrong side of the fabric leaving a narrow amount of elastic showing (usually flat underwear have a decorative edge for this purpose). It is kind of up to you how much elastic you want showing at this point. You then stitch it all in place, once again a three-step zigzag is a great stitch for this. In the picture above I have used this second method of applying flat underwear elastic around the leg holes at the bottom of this picture. I have used contrast red stitching so you can see what I'm talking about. This method of applying elastic will make the gusset narrower and leg holes wider by the amount you turn the fabric over minus the width of elastic you allow to remain visible. If you do not want the gusset to be narrower than the original pattern, add a few millimetres (or imperial equivalent!) from all three pattern pieces around the edges of the leg hole.

No matter what type of elastic you choose and what method you decide to apply it with, I thoroughly recommend having a good play about on some scrap jersey fabric until you are happy with the effect you are getting.

If you like this pattern.....
I really hope you do enjoy using this pattern. This PDF pattern is the result of a few years evolution of personal pant-making. Pants/undies/knickers making can be pretty addictive because it takes a relatively short time (once you get the knack of using underwear elastic) and a relatively small amount of fabric to make a finished, wearable garment. If you do use it, please pop back to this blog and leave a comment (or a link if you have blogged about it) and let me know how you got on.

Obviously I didn't create this pattern and instructions with the intention of making money, otherwise I would be charging for it! However, if you do download it and enjoy using it, feel free to by me a coffee by way of thanks! You can donate me a coffee by clicking here...
And lastly, a big thanks to Claire for helping me make sharing this pattern possible.

Friday 30 November 2012

Refashion Friday: Invisible Mending, Darning and Tom of Holland

You don't have to have a dictionary close to hand to figure out that 'refashioning' and 'mending' are not the same thing. However, I feel they come from a similar enough angle to justify going on a slight mending tangent this week. They are, after all, both about extending the longevity of existing garments.

I am a sewer who doesn't get particularly excited about mending. I could be spending that time working on a brand new exciting project. When I do get round to mending, it is with reluctance. However, I have been lucky enough to meet someone who feels very differently about mending, someone who relishes the challenge of a holey jumper or ripped jacket, and has gone to great length to study and master many of the long forgotten mending techniques our grandmothers and great grandmothers were probably dab hands at. I am talking about Tom of Holland

(Tom mending some shoes)

As well as a mending and darning sensei Tom is also a total master at knitting, and he teaches all these things here at Super+Super HQ in Brighton, although he can also been found sharing his knowledge at other locations. He has developed a concept that I find super interesting: the Visible Mending Programme, which Tom explains thus:

''The Visible Mending Programme seeks to highlight that the art and craftsmanship of clothes repair is particularly relevant in a world where more and more people voice their dissatisfaction with fashion’s throwaway culture. By exploring the story behind garment and repair, the Programme attempts to reinforce the relationship between the wearer and garment,  leading to people wearing their existing clothes for longer, with the beautiful darn worn as a badge of honour. By writing this blog, running darning workshops and taking repair work commissions I provide mending inspiration, skills and services to people and hopefully persuade them that shop-bought clothes deserve care and attention too, just like a precious hand-knit.''

(Tom's impressive collection of darning tools)

Tom has also started sewing clothing, and with his tenacity and eye for detail no doubt he will soon be a total legend at that too. But right now, whilst I still have some knowledge I can offer him, we brokered a deal: I would help him with some of his sewing and fitting dilemmas and in return, he would teach me to darn properly! A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that I needed to learn how to darn my socks, but after a fairly poor attempt, I admit I gave up. But since conquering how to make so many of my own clothes and largely no longer relying on buying mass-produced items, I want to push that even further, and being able to properly darn my existing socks is something I am now re-inspired to do. 

Tom has a vast collection of books on knitting, darning and mending techniques. My own tiny collection of related books is pictured above! I've long been obsessed with the public information pamphlets that were released during the second world war to show the population how to make the best of their restricted rations and resources. Both these books are basically compilations of those original govverment issued pamphlets. Their illustrations are awesome, and as pieces of social history I think they are priceless. I was thrilled when I discovered the darning technique Tom was to show me was basically the same as the one in the 1940's picture below.

I brought along two poorly socks, Tom took the one with the biggest hole. This is the sock I started with  (pictured below). This pair of socks are actually men's golfing socks that I was given over ten years ago, and although this may sound weird, I have some significant memories attached to these socks! But the sheer fact that they have lasted well over a decade prove that they deserve some investment on my part to extend their life still further!

Obviously this mend was intended to be a visible one, so I chose a burgundy darning floss and set to work following Tom's instructions. I was heartened to find out that, once Tom started showing me the best technique for mu holey sock, that I had been on the right lines with my previous attempts to darn, just that I had been using the wrong type of mending yarn (which I knew) and that my stitches had been too far apart. 

I should mention that all this darning went on whilst the sock was turned through to the wrong side. It's looks like a whole crazy mass of yarn from the inside (I'll get neater with practice, I'm sure) but you can kind of see the grid I created. 

Turned through the right way and it looks really cool! The contrast colour is peeking through. After washing the darning floss goes more woolly and a bit matted which helps to plug the hole further.  

I've properly caught the darning bug now. I've even asked for a darning mushroom and floss for Christmas! I feel guilty about all those otherwise perfectly good socks I've binned in the past that could have lived on much longer if I'd figured all this out earlier. What about you? Do you darn? Do you prefer a visible or invisible approach?
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