Tuesday 26 February 2013

My Free Sewing Patterns Results!

(image source: Scruffy Badger Time)

I really love seeing other people's versions of the same sewing patterns. Individual personalities have made their own decisions about fabric and notions, etc. and even thought the base pattern maybe the same, the outcomes are always unique. After all, isn't that why a lot of us choose to sew? So we don't end up at a party or walking down the street and bumping into other women wearing the exact same outfit? I know it's certainly one of my motivations.

(image source: Sarah Sewing

It was therefore particularly exciting for me when images started to sprout up on the internets of garments made using the free sewing patterns that I drafted and released for download. So in case you were thinking of downloading them, or have downloaded them but not got round to giving them a whirl, take a look at these pics for inspiration!

Lovely blog reader Ashley from Orlando, Florida sent me some pics of the colourful array of undies she's made using my pattern as a base (see above). She says:

"Some of them are made from old shirts I've refashioned and some are made from the scraps of my sewing projects that use knit fabric. I can almost always squeeze a pair of undies out of the scraps if I'm creative with my cutting. What I love most is that, as a runner, I have a weird (apparently) waist to leg ratio so all the undies I buy are either too baggy in the waist/butt or too tight around the legs. My homemade undies allow me to make the legs looser and get a perfect fit. I had to make a few adjustments since I don't have a serger (wishlist!) but they still work great on my simple machine!"

I make me so happy that Ashley can not only use the pattern to create really useful items from the scraps of jersey she otherwise might have thrown away, but also that she's been able to adjust the pattern to suit her athletic shape and make well fitting undies where mass-produced undie-makers have failed!

(image source: Karen from Did You Make That?)

I guess it shows how little exercise I do, but it surprised me to see quite a few sewers making the vest/camisole/singlet pattern for sporting purposes! But for whatever use they are intended, I think all the versions have come out fantastically and look like such useful, wearable every-day type items. 

Source: fehrtrade.com via Zoe on Pinterest

(image source: Melissa from Fehr Trade)


If you have made either of the free patterns I have released and wouldn't mind sharing your undies with me and/or the internets, PLEASE send me a picture or a link to a post including them! Thanks heaps and happy undie-making! 

Friday 22 February 2013

Refashion Friday: Your Interviewee Thought Please...

I am very pleased to report that last Friday's interview with talented Refashionista Portia went down a treat with you all. Her though-provoking responses to the questions seem to have inspired a number of you to head to your wardrobe or local charity shop and get remaking and reworking those tired, unloved threads.

So I ask you, dear Refashion Friday readers, who else you would you like me to interview? I've got a few ideas under my hat already for future interviewees, however I'd love to hear your suggestions. Whether you are nominating a blogger whose refashions you keenly follow, or if you'd like to have a stab at answering my probing enquiries yourself, either leave a comment below or drop me a line at sozoblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Anyone got any refashioning plans for the weekend? I'm heading back to the Motherland (Essex) to catch up with some peops, including the wonderful Portia herself. I'm hoping she'll show me where 'the magic happens' and perhaps even a give me a peak at her stash... Oh, and BTW, that chica has recently gone and turned her hand at jewellery refashioning with stunning results....

Monday 18 February 2013

The Ultimate Cropped Trousers?

The 'Ultimate Trousers' is something of a holy grail for most women, I'd wager. The Ultimate anything is a bold enough claim, let alone adding the noun of the most tricksome of sewable garments right next to it! And yet, that is what I am discussing today. 

I must explain that it was not I that chose this title: it is the name of the class I taught last Saturday at Sew Over It in London. To prepare for teaching this class, I naturally wanted to test the pattern and instructions so I could best advise the students who were under my guidance.

Having taken a look at the pattern and measuring a few key points, then comparing the dimensions with what I already know about my physique, I knew some tweaks would need to be made before any fabric got involved. The original pattern has front darts but my ever-present belly was going to need more space, so I eliminated them entirely and added a tiny bit extra width to the side seams at the waistline. I then did what I ALWAYS seem to have to do when making myself trousers or shorts: added 2cm to the back rise to accommodate the bootay my mumma gave me. 

I was hoping that, at best, these would turn out to be a wearable toile. So I picked some stash fabric that wasn't my favourite, but that I also have lots of, so wouldn't be heart-broken or even particularly annoyed if they didn't turn out to be wearable. Goodness knows what type of fabric this is, all I can tell you for sure is that it's pale grey and very soft!

And a wearable toile is what I think I achieved. They have come out a tiny bit tight, so I plan to add 1cm to each side seam to loosen things up, plus I've raised the front rise a little as the waistline dipped down a bit too much at the centre front. Aside from being a shade away from perfect, fit-wise, this is also a colour I can't see myself wearing often, which is why I'm NOT counting these as one of my '12 wearable garments in 12 months' sewlution. But what I am really excited about, is that these are the closest I have ever got to successful fitted trousers!!! I've paid my dues with several failed attempts at Burda magazine and Burdastyle trouser patterns over the years, plus last year I spent far too much time  trying to get the Colette Patterns Clovers to work out. But I think with these I am so close to well fitted trousers. SO CLOSE!!! 

Having made those pattern tweaks I mentioned above, plus lengthening it to make a long version, I'm set to cut out some more in some fabric I really do care about. Watch this space.... Oh, and Lisa from Sew Over It has informed me that this Ultimate Trouser pattern may be one of the patterns they will be releasing for home-sewing in a couple of months time. I'll keep you updated in case you fancy getting your mitts on it too. 

Friday 15 February 2013

Refashion Friday: Interview with Refashionista Miss P

(All images in this post are care of Miss P except those acredited to alternative sources)

Something a little different for today's edition of Refashion Friday: an in-depth interview with the deeply talented refashioner Miss P! Enjoy... You can thank us later!

1) Refashioning, up cycling, remaking, reworking.... How would you describe what you do and/or what term do you use?

I think any of these terms are equally valid. I tend not to get hung up on putting things in boxes :) Essentially it's the process of taking a garment that, as it stands, just doesn't work for you. Whether that be size, style, colour, whatever. Then it's figuring out what you can do to make that garment more "you". Sometimes it's as simple as shortening something, dyeing it, or adding something like an embellishment of some kind (applique, embroidery,buttons etc) that speaks to your sense of personal style. (We all know about your love of anchors Zoe! ;) Sometimes it's more involved and means totally deconstructing the garment  and putting it back together in a totally new way. Using the fabric from a skirt to make a top for instance.

2) What proportion of your sewing projects are refashions compared to projects that start with a piece of fabric? 

I'd say it's a 60/40 split with refashioning projects in the lead! My refashioning "queue" is usually much longer than my dressmaking queue!

3) What appeals to you about refashioning?  

Several things really. When I first started learning to sew, I found that deconstructing a garment taught me as much about how a garment is constructed as making something from scratch did. When you first look at a commercial pattern as a "newbie" it's difficult to see each step in the context of a finished garment. That takes time and several projects to achieve. Deconstructing existing garments helped me to put the steps I was learning in dressmaking in context. Does that makes sense? It's another way of viewing the process. Working backwards and breaking a garment down from the finished garment back to the original pattern pieces is another way of making sense of it. Or maybe my brain is just wired in a weird way!

Another element is the creativity that starts to flow from "thinking outside the box" and the challenge around working with what you have rather than just going out and buying what you need. I feel much more creative when I'm refashioning than I do simply following a set of instructions in a commercial pattern.

Then there's the "fast fix" you can get from a refashioned garment. Garments from scratch typically take several hours of work, whereas you can refashion a garment dramatically within half an hour. Small changes can make a massive difference and it's a great way of getting that creative "fix" when time is tight. Let's face it, time is ALWAYS tight.

It's cheaper than buying a pattern and all the material and notions you need for a dressmaking project (why is it that non sewers seem to think that making your own clothes is a cheap alternative to RTW??!) and there's the added ecological benefits of reusing existing materials. I also have this "thing" where I  can't bear to throw something away when whatever is "wrong" with it is fixable. There's a sense of satisfaction to be had from giving a new lease of life to something destined for the shredders of the textile recycling plant!

4) Where do you source your 'raw materials' and what do you look for when selecting a garment to refashion? 

Anyone who reads my blog will know my obsession with charity shops! (Just look at her recent scores pictured above!) I'm lucky enough to live in a place that has "old school" charity shops. The kind that pile it high and sell it cheap. Thrifting heaven! Larger chains of charity shops and those in big towns or cities are more inclined to over price in my view. The best kind of charity shops, in my experience, are the independent ones, and those in smaller, more rural towns and villages. Church jumble sales are also brilliant. But beware pensioners with walking sticks and sharp pokey elbows!

I tend to buy according to the quality and quantity of fabric in a garment first, colour and pattern second, and style last. I can change the style, and in some cases the colour, but if the fabric is nasty then it's an absolute no go for me. Buying second hand means you can afford more luxury fabrics like silk and pure wool, so my radar is firmly set for those types of fabric! Heavily gathered skirts are great sources of fabric. Once you cut off the waistband and spread the whole thing out, you'd be amazed how much fabric there is to work with. Similarly, looking at larger sizes than your own on a rail is worthwhile. Again, there'll be more fabric to work with and taking something in is much easier than making it bigger. When it comes to trousers, for the most part I'll only buy them if they fit me in the waist, hips and bum. I can easily reshape the legs but usually can't be arsed to faff around unpicking a waistband or crotch seam! Dresses are great too. Again, alot of fabric AND ripe for a 2 for 1 refashion. Chop it in half and make a skirt AND a top. Especially good for the recent peplum trend.

5) How do you approach a refashioning project? 

With some garments, I know right away what I'm going to do with them. If I find a pair of jeans that fit me up top but are a dodgy shape in the leg, well they instantly get "skinnified" for instance. With others I will fall in love with the fabric but not have a clue what to do with it. I'll tend to hang those garments in plain view in my sewing room so I walk past them every day. Eventually inspiration will strike!

When I look at a garment I tend to take my minds eye out of focus a bit. I always describe it as being a bit like those magic eye pictures that were around in the 80's. You know the ones? When you look at them normally they're just a mess, but if you stare at them for long enough a picture emerges? Refashioning's a bit like that for me. I tend to look past the garment in it's current form and think of it in terms of raw materials. Then I'll work out what existing seams I can work with and which I can't. I'll use pattern pieces to recut the fabric in some instances. In other cases I'll use another garment as a template. Occasionally I'll pin it to fit and mark new seams that way. It's a bit of a nightmare to explain actually because there isn't a "set" process I follow. It's very much led by the garment itself.

What I have started doing since the advent of Pinterest (man oh man I LOVE Pinterest!) is scouring the web for images of garments that I think could be recreated through refashioning processes. So I have a "source book" of inspiration, ready and waiting.

6) What would you say are your favourite refashions you've completed? 

My favourite projects are usually my most recent ones. I'm fickle like that! The top that I made from an 80's dress (pictured at the top of this post) has become a wardrobe staple. Simply because I love the colour, the supersoft fabric, and the simple shape is really versatile. Also because I made this top from my kimono tee pattern, it was drafted to my specific measurements and as a result is a perfect fit! A seamstresses holy grail!

I also really love the monochrome magic shirt refashion I did recently (pictured above). It's a classic example of how a few simple changes can change something from bland to funky in a few simple steps. I simply changed the buttons, the collar shape and added some contrast binding. The whole thing took less than an hour but the results are dramatically different from the original garment.

Sometimes I like to take an entire outfit bought from a charity shop, that is baggy and shapeless and completely transform it (see below). I recently did a refashion like this on a baggy pair of purple jeans (Zoe may recognise them from a thrifting trip we made together in Leigh on Sea in Essex!) and an 80's oversized black silk blouse. I think you'll agree the transformation is pretty dramatic! I've never actually worn the top, but sometimes I just like to try these things out for the hell of it; to see if I can make an idea work. The jeans are in constant rotation though!

Recently I've been dabbling with tea and coffee dying too. I've been super chuffed with the results! Quick, easy and cheap. My kind of refashioning!!

7) Can you share with us some of your favourite refashions by other people? 

Wow, there's so much refashioning inspiration out there! I'm a big fan of a blog called Cotton and Curls. Apart from being ridiculously gorgeous she's also super talented and clever and could make a bin bag look stylish. I know, you hate her already, right?! But seriously, You can find all of her DIY tutorials here but what I really love about them is their simplicity. I'm a fan of simplicity in all things. I don't like overly fussy design or tutorials and this is a great blog to check out if you're like me in that way!

Now Casey, let's talk about Casey! Well I just love her really. Not in a creepy stalky way I promise! I've had a few dealings with Casey over the past few years and she really is as sweet as she seems. But in particular I was bowled over by the refashion that she did (pictured below) for my Refashioners challenge a couple of years ago. (actually ALL of the refashions for that challenge were super cool and inspirational. How hot did Zoe make a tartan kilt look, hmmm?!) The suit that I sent Casey was borderline irretrievably naff. But just look at what she did with it. Amazing!!

(Image care of Casey)

Seriously too, and I'm not just blowing smoke up her ass because I'm appearing on her blog, I promise. But Zoe's sweatshirt refashions are really floating my boat at the moment. Frustratingly I can't seem to find a single sweatshirt in my local charity shops that would fit the bill. (I'm looking for grey, burgundy, khaki, or navy. You'd think there would be loads wouldn't you?!) Sweatshirts are set to make a fashion comeback big time and I'm desperate to replicate (OK, shamelessly rip off...) some of Zoe's designs. In particular the ones with contrast, patterned and lace shoulder panels. Lovin' that look. Of course the beauty of sweatshirt material is it's not going to fray so you can cut into it without fear. No need for hemming or seam finishing if you're not inclined to do so AND if you find a super XL man's sweatshirt to work with (charity shops, are you taking note?! Sort it out!) then there's shed loads of fabric to work with.

8) A couple of years ago you created a refashioning challenge for bloggers called The Refashioners, which I was lucky enough to be involved in. What inspired you to create that challenge? Did the outcomes surprise you? What kind of reaction did the challenge receive? 

Ahh, I loved that challenge! I really need to get my ass in gear and sort another one out! The idea behind it was really to inspire people to get into refashioning and to reach an audience of sewers who may not have considered refashioning as a creative outlet. Apart from yourself (high priestess of refashioning that you are. Don't argue. You are) I deliberately approached bloggers that were known predominantly for dressmaking rather than refashioning and that I knew to be really creative. My reasoning was that if I stuck purely to refashioning bloggers, then by definition, their readers would be into refashioning already, and we'd simply be "preaching to the converted". I wanted to widen the appeal to as many sewers as possible who might not have been bitten by the refashioning bug, and inspire those that already are into refashioning, with exciting new ideas. The participants, Karen Casey, Tilly, Dixie and yourself certainly didn't disappoint. I sometimes feel that refashioning is seen as the poor relation to traditional dressmaking. Somehow requiring less skill. All of the refashions in that challenge proved the complete opposite and hopefully inspired a whole new bunch of peops to give refashioning a go. The response was certainly phenomenal. Those posts are still getting regular page views over 18 months later.

(image care of Tilly)

9) Refashioning projects seem to form a relatively small proportion of the creations shared on the online sewing community. Would you agree with that? And if so, why do you think that is? 

I DO feel that in some respects, refashioning has very much been the "underdog" in relation to traditional dressmaking. Almost as if it's not "proper" sewing. But having said that, I think this is changing rapidly. There's a massive resurgence in the popularity of DIY overall and upcycling in particular. I think refashioning is benefiting from the knock on effects of this and examples of refashioning that I'm seeing online are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Almost art like. It is becoming much more credible.

10) what do you think is the future of refashioning? 

Really exciting! When you look at the current economic climate and our increasing ecological awareness, then combine that with an emerging interest in DIY and upcycling; surely that's a perfect environment for a refashioning revolution?!

Massive thanks to Miss P for taking the time to answer all these questions so damn thoroughly. I don't know about everyone else but I am feeling so inspired to do some refashioning now!

Tuesday 12 February 2013

La Marinière

A couple of Saturday's ago I was lost in a deep Pinterest session. Coffee in hand and still firmly clad in pyjamas, I was stuck to that damn thing in the quest to find more visual inspiration and snaffle it onto the relevant boards. In particular, if memory serves, I had been fleshing out my 'Outstanding Outfits' board, trying to learn some lessons on garment combining, when a trail of links led me to the 'LA MARINIÈRE' tumblr. It's at this point that the hours really started to fly by!

So, I'm guessing that you may already know about my love of nautical stylings, including stripey Breton style tops. Well, if you are also into those, feast your eyes! So. Many. Amazing. Images. And informative too, it shows every damn way to wear one, and all the possible styles, silhouettes and shapes that they could come in.

If you are a sewer rather than a shopper, I think it's particularly useful because we have to make all the decisions (what type of fabric/cut/fit/neckline/sleeve-length/and so on) before the garment becomes a reality. So seeing them all played out in infinite variations before you is excellent.

What I have learnt from LA MARINIÈRE:

  • Breton tops look effortlessly ACE with skinny black trousers/jeans
  • Breton tops rock hard with mustard as well as with splashes of red
  • If you're not careful, Breton tops can look smart/preppy (which I try to avoid)
  • With so many subtle variations, there is no such thing as one basic style of Breton top

Having 'pinned' half the damn site onto either my 'Outstanding Outfits' or 'Modern Garment Sewing Inspiration' board, I've had to ban myself from visiting the site again. I've got enough inspiration from that site to last a lifetime of Breton-top sewing and wearing. And although I already have a sizeable section of my wardrobe that consists of nautical inspired tops, with this pile of stripey jersey in my stash, I can feel more Breton-makes brewing:

All these other images in this post are care of LA MARINIÈRE, which I whole-heartedly suggest you go and visit.

Friday 8 February 2013

Refashion Friday Inspiration: Contrast Yoke Shirt/Blouse with Petal Collar

I haven't shared much in the way of Zo-made refashioning inspiration for a few weeks, so here's a beaut for you! Well, I think it's a good 'un; there's some interesting ideas in there anyway even if you're not a fan of the actual finished garment. At risk of insulting your intelligence, I'll state that this garment was created using one unwanted mens checked shirt and one unwanted mens denim shirt. 

Starting with some uber simple bog-standard blouse pattern, I altered the bust shaping from a side bust dart into a shaped yoke seam. I ignored the waist-shaping darts on the front and back because I wanted to make a looser fitting garment. I cut both shirts so I'd retain the functionality of the original buttons and button-stands. I really like how the two shirts have different coloured buttons to emphasise the 'cut-and-shut' nature of this shirt. For the same reason I also like how the breast pockets of the denim shirt are only partly visible. 

I drafted a simple 'petal' collar with a scalloped edge and cut the collar pieces from the denim shirt's discarded sleeves. The 3/4 sleeves are cut from the checked shirt but I retained a bit of the original sleeve gauntlets/plackets for an extra bit of interest and a 'nod' to its former incarnation! 

Wednesday 6 February 2013

I'm a Castaway!

(image care of Scruffy Badger)

First I'm stuck in a jar for a whole year and now I'm stranded on a desert island! Whatever next, caught out on the lash with the Hoff?! Anyways, this week I have had the pleasure of featuring on the Scruffy Badger's blog as the second castaway in her fun new Desert Island Sewing feature. This feature promises to be amusing, investigative AND inspirational! What a combo.

In short, the Scruffy Badger is inviting sewers to decide which eight sewing patterns they'd take if they were stranded on a desert island and why. Fortuitously you've been washed alongside lots of sewing equipment and fabric plus an all important generator, but other specifics like climate and wardrobe requirements are for the castaway to divulge. So if you'd like to hear about my proposed island adventure (plus find out how many times I mention prawns), head over to Scruffy Badger's post here!

Sunday 3 February 2013

1940's Pin Up Tea Dress

Alrighty, well seeing as I'm in The Jar having pledged to make 12 wearable garments this year, I'd best get one under my belt should I be called upon to give an update of my progress. Yes, dear fellow Jar-ee's, when I saw Karen IRL yesterday, she confirmed that she would be dipping her hand in there and pulling out a name now and again and contacting that person for an update on how their sewlution is going, be warned! 

So here you are: my first completed wearable garment of 2013. However, my criteria of 'wearable' (successful enough in comfort, fit and in reflecting my sense of style, that it becomes a regularly worn item) will remain to be seen because this dress is too thin for February and too low cut to wear a vest underneath! On to the deets:


You may be a little surprised that I've opted for such a grown-up, lady-like pattern here. I actually made this dress to test the pattern and instructions before teaching the 1940's Tea Dress class at Sew Over It a couple of weekends ago. This is not the kind of dress or type of fabric I'd usually reach for, but I'm mighty pleased I was forced out of my comfort zone a little. It's a little tricky to see in the black fabric I've used, but it has a panelled, shaped front mid-drift section, gathered bust panels, a gored skirt, lightly gathered sleeve heads and little turn-up cuffs on the half-sleeves.

Pattern Sizing and Changes:

I was a bit worried about picking a size because rumour had it that this dress came up a bit small. I initially cut out a size 14 bodice which was WAY TOO BIG, but thankfully I had sufficient fabric left to re-cut a 12. I think I still ended up pinching a little out at the bodice side seams, but I may not have if my fabric had had less 'give'. If you know what I mean. If I were to make this dress again, I'd add 15 cms to the skirt length for a more vintage look. 

Fabric Choice:

Straight up confession: I bought new fabric for this project, which as you may or may not know I generally try not to do. Yes my fabric stash could be put to use and clothe a small nation, but in there I failed to find anything that would have been suitable for this dress. Initially I had honed in on some stash-residing navy crepe for this project, but when it came to cutting the pieces, I discovered the quantity was wholey insufficient, so to the fabric shop I went. Damn, buying new fabric is easy, isn't it?!  I just rocked on up, found a couple of drapey woven fabrics (although I was pretty disappointed at the lack of options at the shop I went in, but time was not on my side to shop around) and picked one. Snip-snip went the shop assistant (WHY do some shop assistants refuse to give the rest of what's left on the roll if there's only a tiny length remaining?), tip-tap went my pin number into the machine, and there I was, free to walk away with some brand new fabric. I could get used to it... Only kidding ya! 

As for what the fabric actually is, all I can say for certain is: black. And drapey. The tag had fallen off and the assistant wasn't sure. Anyway it was fine for this project. 


The version of this dress that hangs on a dress form in Sew Over It has a few delightful little contrast buttons down the centre front. I wanted to add some buttons as well because this dress was looking super-boring without. I hunting through my sizeable button stash and located these beauties, four sexy pin-ups in different poses! I bought them a whole chunk of years ago from a button shop near the Farmers' Market in L.A. back when I didn't realise that only buying four buttons would be entirely insufficient for most sewing projects. I'm so glad that I have been able to finally use them for something!

What about you? Have you sewn something that has taken you out of your stylistic comfort zone recently? Was it a surprise success or has it remained in your wardrobe since completion?

Friday 1 February 2013

Refashion Friday: Refashion with 'So, Zo'

If you are interested in revving up your clothing selection but have not the cash and/or inclination to buy some new garments, perhaps it's time you got refashioning your existing items! However, sometimes it can take a second pair of eyes to help you to see the refashioning/reworking potential in a garment. So, if you happen to be based in South East UK, why not come to my second 'Rework Your Wardrobe' session at Super+Super HQ in Brighton on Sunday 24th March?!

The first session at S+S HQ takes place this Sunday, but has sold out, however I hope they will be monthly going forwards. The sessions are simple and work like this: you just need to bring a bag full of garments to fix, fit or rework, we provide all the equipment you will need. However, if your garment had a broken zip, you will need to bring a replacement that I can help you insert. 

We will start the session by taking a look at what everyone has brought and having a brief chat about each garment to establish what needs to be done to bring them back to life. I will then assist you to fix/fit//rework as many garments as possible within the session. Remember, you can also transform charity shop or vintage finds.  

The skills, techniques and approaches you will learn will obviously depend on what your garments require, but they may include: 

 • Hemming trousers and skirts 
 • Fixing rips, tears and holes 
 • Reshaping for a more flattering fit 
 • Inserting a new zip 
 • Shortening hems or sleeves for a new look
 • Adding appliqués for decoration or to hide stains or rips
 • Plus many others! 

All skill levels are welcome. Previous sewing machine experience is helpful but not essential. If you are not sure if this session is for you, feel free to email me (sozoblog (at) gmail (dot) com). Otherwise, you can buy your ticket below! Simples.

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