Wednesday 31 July 2013

Fancy-Sleeved Maternity T-shirt!

... for want of a better blog post title. After the success of my recent spotty dress to maternity T-shirt project, I felt inspired to make a variation that had something a little more fancy about it. A dash of pattern adjustment rendered the spotty version's pattern a little longer in the body and with a 'scooper' neckline. 

I then jacked the sleeve pattern and armscye shape from the below complicated jersey top pattern.   

For those who may be curious, the above pattern came from the below magazine: a copy of some sort of French Simplicity patterns magazine that I scored at a meet-up/swap a couple of years ago. I don't speak French. Finding out if the pattern pieces already included seam allowances was a challenge (figured out that they do! Who knew?!).

The fabric I used for this top is a total dream! I scored 2 metres of super-stretchy and silky-soft dark grey jersey from a charity shop in Clapham round the corner from Sew Over It for just £3! The gods of charity shopping smiled on me that day. 

I must admit that when I first tried this top on, I wasn't in love with it. The sleeves seemed a bit bizarre, although I have to say that in the flesh they look exactly like the ones on the pink top in the magazine. I think that my lack of initial acceptance might be because the sleeves are a bit of a departure from what I consider to be 'my style', but after a couple of wears this is now my favourite maternity top. It's funny how, when I first became pregnant, the thought of having to put aside my quest to find and represent my sense of style through sewing for a time really troubled me. But as the months have progressed and I've found myself making and wearing things that I wouldn't have gone for had I not been preggers, I've actually found it liberating. The fact that this is for such a finite period has allowed me the freedom to explore things like a different sleeve shape, for example. I'm not sure what effect these experiments and freedoms will have, if any, on my style and sewing in the long term but it'll be interesting to keep half an eye on that. 

Sunday 28 July 2013

Baby Trousers!

Quite a few lovely readers have left comments over the last few months along the lines of 'Can't wait to see what you've been stitching for your little one', and this blog post contains the answer: baby trousers!!!!!! Lots and lots of baby trousers. Pictured above are the completed ones so far, I have a some more pairs awaiting elastic. 

A super-lovely reader of my blog called Catherine emailed me in the Spring offering to send me a few maternity patterns that she no longer needed. In her package she also included a couple of baby/toddler patterns that her boys were now too big for, and also leant me a copy of the Finish Ottobre Design magazine (pictured above). I'd seen the women's version of the magazine on a few blogs before, but hadn't really come across the children's edition. OMG. It's flipping awesome. It works in the same way as Burda magazines in that all the patterns are printed on folded up sheets that you have to trace and add seam allowances to. The benefit of the children's version of course it that the pattern pieces are much smaller, therefore much quicker to trace! 

The magazine does contain all sorts of uber-cute baby grow and envelop-neck t-shirt patterns for babies, but seeing as those types of garments are so readily available for very little money (as I discussed in my previous baby clothes post), I thought I'd focus my energies on making these fun trousers which are both really quick to make and good for stash bustin' scraps of jersey left over from other, larger projects. Heeding the advice of a whole heap of people, I didn't bother to make the smallest size as everyone has been saying how quickly babies grow out of the tiniest clothes, so I traced the second smallest size and a couple of larger sizes for use further down the line.

I started making these trousers before we knew the gender of our little baby, but I find the concept of gender-specific baby clothing pointless and annoying so I love that she now has a varied selection of garments! My favourites so far are the magpie and fuscia pair pictured above and the leopard and jade pair in the centre of the top image. Disco baby!!!

I loved this magazine so much that I told my mum about it, who very sweetly offered to buy me a subscription for my birthday. Rather than wait until my actual birthday (end of October in case you were planning a whip-round) she went ahead and bought the subscription and I already have three copies of my own now. As soon as she is big enough for a garment to fit her for more than a couple of months, I'll start integrating more of her second-hand clothing selection with me-made garments. I can't wait!

Friday 26 July 2013

Refashion Friday Inspiration: Breton-Effect Lace Embellished T-shirt

This is a super-simple idea for creating a Breton-effect top with a twist. Making the stripes with navy lace on a white background gives a feminine touch to what is usually quite an androgenous garment. This effect can be created by simply applying lengths of lace to an existing T-shirt, or (as I have done here) applied to the front piece after deconstructing and before reconstructing an old, larger, plain T-shirt. 

My version started out life as an unwanted mens oversized white T-shirt which I recut using a self-drafted bateau-neck T-shirt pattern. I used strips of jersey harvested from the T-shirt to bind the neckline. This was the only navy lace I had to hand, but I'd love to see this effect created with thinner lace as well. And of course the colour combo needn't be the traditional navy and white!  

Tuesday 23 July 2013

New Baby: New Clothes?

It's time to address a subject that I've had seven months to develop an opinion about now. I am of course talking about baby clothes and how I plan to dress my baby. What have we got for our baby to wear when she comes out? SO MUCH: is the answer!!!

After the first scan went well, I started hitting up the charity shops and a nearly-new sale for baby grows, vests and anything else that looked in good condition. At first it was a few things here and there, then we found that the charity shop at the end of our road sells all its baby clothes for 30p a garment! Umm, I went mental in there and hoovered up all the nice things, regardless of colour (i.e. gender) which seemed to really confuse the more conservative shop assistants, particularly when I told them we already knew the sex of our baby! And then the donations started to come in. Friends and relatives with babies and toddlers started giving us bags of baby garments (and heaps of equipment and other stuff). Even an associate of my best friend's dad who I have never met kindly gave us what must be over a hundred pound's worth of stuff. 

Sorting through it all I realised we had more 0-3 months things than we would possibly ever need so I had to place an embargo on myself when near charity shops and start donating some things to a friend of mine who is also expecting but not quite as prepared as we are in terms of 'stuff'. These two drawers pictured above and below are stuffed full with all of the 0-3 months clothes we now have, except for a couple of outdoor padded suits that won't fit in here. 

So, aside from a few pairs of tiny socks (eye-wateringly cute, BTW) and the trousers I have made (blog post to follow), EVERYTHING we have acquired so far, clothes, equipment, furniture, etc, is second-hand. The reasons behind this are predominantly ethical and secondarily financial. 


As I have talked and written about many times, I dress myself exclusively in self-made or second-hand garments, aside from bras and hosiery. I do this consciously and deliberately for a variety of reasons that I feel passionately about. My feelings about the environmental damage caused by the production and transportation of mass-produced garments, the welfare of the workers in those industries, the 'disposability' of fast-fashion and the comparative lack of satisfaction shopping awards us compared to sewing or thrifting are not going to go away because I'm about to become a mother. In fact the opposite is happening. I'm more aware than ever of the shitty state our global eco-system is in (BTW, have you watched 'The Island President' yet? Such an amazing film) and the way our capitalist financial systems prioritise profit over human life, safety and well-being, and I feel guilty and embarrassed about the world we are leaving our children. 

My daughter is not going to be in any danger from second-hand clothing that has been thoroughly laundered before she wears it. Nor from unbroken equipment or furniture that has had a good clean before she touches it. There is so much damn baby stuff already out there in existance that has barely or not even been used (so many of the garments I've bought second-hand or been given still have the original price tags on), it will not make me a bad mother for (re)using those existing resources rather than buying more brand-new mass-produced items that will be useless to us within a couple of months. 

In fact I believe the opposite. I believe I'm a better mother for trying, at least in some limited way, to put less pressure on the social and environmental fractures that unchecked consumerism is causing. I am the first to admit I live a far from 'perfect' life (if such a thing exists) in terms of my carbon foot-print etc., but I will at least be able to have something to say for myself when she inevitably asks me what me and her dad where doing to stem the damage our generation is inflicting right now.


Aside from the ethical reasoning behind buying (or receiving) second-hand things where possible for our baby, ourselves and our home, there is no denying that there are real financial benefits to be enjoyed. I've written and spoken in the past about how being self-employed since losing our jobs has had its ups and downs and how it helps to have a certain disposition to ride those waves. 

Recently Pat and I attended a four week course called Parentskool that was chock full of advice for first-time parents of 0-6 month babies. A lot of the discussions revolved around what items and types of items are good and not so good to buy for a baby, including buggies/prams, high chairs, breast milk expressing machines, clothing, cots/bedding, nappies and much more. After a couple of sessions it dawned on me that none of the other couples had any intention of buying second-hand items for their babies, aside from the items that friends and family had already given them. I guess prioritising second-hand options when sourcing things is now so ingrained in me that it occasionally surprises me when people that I can really relate to in many other ways don't feel the same about that too. Then thinking about it a bit deeper, I realised through all the discussions we'd been having that all the other couples were in a much higher income bracket than Pat and I so they didn't have that extra incentive to source the cheaper second-hand options. 

We are kind of in a funny situation in that we are classed (in the UK) as a low-income household, but not low enough to be entitled to any assistance or benefits. I have applied for and been told I'm entitled to Maternity Allowance (the self-employed person's version of a salaried employee's maternity pay) which isn't much but will help with my disappearance of income at the end of my pregnancy and first chunk of our daughter's life. Plus, when she comes along there are some benefits and assistance we will then be able to receive that are designed to help make sure she is secure and well-nourished. As I've said before, I'm not in the habit of overly planning or worrying about the future, so we'll see what happens. 

However, the upside of being self-employed and therefore more flexible is that, unlike the other Parentskool couples who all have complicated plans for their maternity and paternity leave and for what will happen when those allocations dry up, we have time on our side. All being well, touch-wood, Pat and I will be able to share childcare so one or both of us will be with her all the time. We won't need to worry about finding the cheapest nannies or nurseries to leave her with, or experience the guilt (not that anyone should necessarily feel guilty about going back to work) of leaving their baby with strangers, or wrestle with the frustrating reality that childcare costs about as much as the wages you are going back to work to earn. 

We've had a tricky spell, financially speaking, recently. And I'm sure that if we'd gone out and bought new all the things we've so far acquired second-hand, we would be in a really difficult situation right now. And there really is enough to concern ourselves with at the moment with the prospect of very shortly becoming parents. 

Friday 19 July 2013

Refashion Friday: Spotty Jersey Dress to Maternity T-shirt

I promise I am not moaning in the slightest, but the weather in the UK has been HOT for the last couple of weeks! Last week I realised that I didn't have anything with short sleeves to wear to preggers yoga. Oh, if only I could sew.... hahaha!!!!! So anyway, I made the T-shirt pictured above.  

I picked up the large navy spotty jersey dress in a charity a month or so back. In fact, I didn't buy it when I first saw it. I later realised I was a dumb arse and went back the next day, and thankfully it was still there. When visiting charity shops I've recently started to make a bee-line for the larger sized dresses as my first port of call. This dress is the perfect example of just how much sewable fabric you can get for your money. After washing and unpicking it I found I had sufficient fabric for a gathered-side maternity T-shirt will ample left for either a pair of undies or a baby garment of some description. Not bad for £4.50, plus the fabric quality is really lovely. 

Anyways, this T-shirt is based on the basic self-drafted T-shirt pattern I made my striped long sleeve T-shirt from (but with a slightly higher neckline and short sleeves) and adapted using my gathered-side maternity top technique (tutorial can be found here). Because the front T-shirt pattern piece gets extended, the pattern piece ended up being a bit too long to cut in one from skirt section of this dress, so  I cut it in two pieces, creating a seam across the front yoke area. I then disguised the seam with a length of red ric rac that I had in my stash which I think adds a nice little pop of colour as well. That's the thing with refashioning/remaking existing garments, you are often forced to be a bit more creative with your cutting than if you started from a flat piece of 'pure' fabric! Most of my sewing projects these days use fabric from my stash. But I occasionally I like to source some 'new-to-me' secondhand fabric or existing garment to start with. As my current stash becomes smaller, I imagine that increasingly I'll be looking to larger sized charity shop garments such as this for my sewing projects. 

So what about you? Have you had any recent refashioning/remaking successes? Any refashioning plans for the weekend? 

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Maternity Sewing: Successes and Failures!

Ok, so I'll start with the failure because it's the funniest! A couple of weeks ago I published a post with all my maternity sewing patterns that I've collated and I asked my lovely readers' opinions about which they thought would be worth sewing up. Thanks to all for adding their tupp'ny worth! Many favoured the Vogue 7382, as did I, and when I discovered some amazing eyeball-print African Wax fabric in my stash of a sufficient quantity needed for View C, that is what I went ahead and made. The result:


I laughed my arse off for literally 10 minutes. Then Pat came in to see what the hysteria was all about and then we laughed our combined arse off for a further 10 minutes. Would it shock you to learn that I didn't bother to do any kind of mid-way fitting?! Unlikely. To be honest, I felt something was going awry as I was attaching the skirt section to the bodice. There wasn't anything like the amount of fullness in the gathering that the illustration lead me to believe there would be. It was more like a few little tucks rather than a baby-doll gathered empire-line effect. But I couldn't be arsed to get Pat to pin me in to see what was going on, so I carried on and even hand-picked the zip in (my machine is massively playing up at the moment and wouldn't let me machine-stitch the zip in place). 

So with the zip in I finally tried it on! To be honest, I'm not particularly bothered that this is an epic fail. I'd already eliminated the neck-hole and armhole facings in favour of a simpler overlock, turn and stitch method. I certainly cannot be arsed to unpick the dress and re-fit the bodice and finish it off. It didn't take me long to get to this point and I had a good laugh over it, so I think I'm going to throw it back on my fabric shelves and use the fabric for something else one day. Oh, and in case you hadn't noticed, further humour can be derived from the fact that somehow I'd managed to place one of the most prominent eyeballs right over my belly button!:

So, have we all calmed down a bit now?! I just about have. Looking at the pictures just made me crack up all over again. That incident would have been a bit depressing if I hadn't already finished another, infinitely more successful, maternity dress creation a couple of days before!

Just as I threatened to do in my last post, I whipped up another version of my nautical batwing dress. This solid black dress is the same in shape albeit for two small changes: it's longer and therefore hopefully a bit more ladylike (seeing as I am no longer meant to be sitting with my legs crossed!) and the neckline is the same in the front and back. I wanted a more slash-neck style for this one so didn't lower it at the front like I usually do when making my batwing creations. This has had the unexpected benefit of making the dress reversible! Being black, I've found since making it that it gets marks on it easily. Being reversible means I can get a bit more wear from it before chucking it in the wash. Call me a skank if you will, but when you have a very limited selection of clothes that currently fit you, benefits like that go a long way! 

Monday 15 July 2013

Maternity Wardrobe: Six Months!

Would you believe that I'm over six months preggers now?! Insane. Anyways, I'm super proud to say that, aside from some new bras, I have bought precisely NOTHING in terms of maternity wear and in no way intend to do so. I know that I've mentioned this before, but I get a real buzz from being able to use my hard-won sewing skillz to meet the challenges that life throws up. And dealing with a rapidly and dramatically changing body over the last six months has been one of the biggest challenges me and my sewing abilities have faced yet. 

Early on in my pregnancy I realised that there are heaps of amazing, inspiring women out there in blog-land (including Veronica Darling) and IRL (including Paula, my ex-TRAIDremade boss) making fabulous DIY maternity creations who showed me that it can be fun rather than panic-inducing, and that you needn't set aside your personal sense of style. I really hope that my self-stitched maternity clothes will go on to inspire other women who become pregnant in the future to create or supplement their maternity selections with self-stitched garments. 

Now of course there is no such thing as 'content list' for a maternity wardrobe. Having read a pile of pregnancy books and spoken to other women, I can tell you that no-one can agree on what garments you'll need at each stage of pregnancy, in just the same way that no-one can agree on what a 'capsule wardrobe' should consist of. What job you have, what climate you live in, what your leisure activities are, what you feel comfortable in, your personal style, stage of pregnancy, size and shape during pregnancy and a squillion other factors would/will make your selection of maternity clothes different to every other woman's. 

That said, I know that I would have found it super-useful to be able to see exactly what a DIY-inclined preggers chica has in her wardrobe, so today I'm going to share with y'all what my six-month pregnancy wardrobe consists of:

Jersey Tops:

If ever there was a time to wear comfy clothes, it's during pregnancy. Plus jersey stretches so any jersey garments you own/make will have a larger window of useful-ness than woven garments. At six months my modest selection consists of: Peter Pan collar batwing top, tiny bird print 3/4 length sleeve jersey top (not previously blogged about because there isn't much to say) and my mid-maternity striped top. One glaring omission to this section is the mustard version of the Peter Pan collar batwing top. That is because, at time of writing, I'm waiting to find out if my attempt to remove a greasy curry stain that I inflicted on it a few days ago was a success or not! Fingers crossed... 

Woven tops:

I am assuming that my pussy bow blouse still fits, it did a week ago. But if I've learnt anything about clothes during pregnancy, it's that just because something was ok last week, doesn't mean to say it'll fit now! I don't expect to get many more wears from this, antenatal, but it's been a really useful 'smarter' option up until now. And then there's my Modcloth-inspired maternity smock top, which I've just realised is my only sleeveless item. Says more about the climate I live in than anything else. 


My nautical jersey dress has been possibly the most useful and comfortable garment I've ever made. When it's hot (like when I went to Madrid and during the hot spell the UK is currently enjoying) it is fabulous as a dress. When it's a bit cooler, this dress is short enough to be layered over treggings or jeggings without looking weird. I have another version of this cut out and ready to sew because I panic about what to wear when it's in the wash! My Tova dress has now turned into a tunic to be worn with trousers underneath rather than as a dress as originally intended. This is because, as my bust and rib-cage have expended, it kind of sits a bit higher up on my chest making the length a bit indecent when worn as a dress! 


From left to right: a normal pair of jeggings that are a size or two larger than I'd go for pre-pregnancy. I wear these unbuttoned with en elastic extension that stops them falling down either with or without the belly band depending on the length of tunic/top I'm wearing them with. Then there's my faithful blue treggings (the black ones no longer fit). These are the only bottoms that I can wear to yoga so those ladies probably think these are all I own! I'm planning on making another pair of these with the front waist cut even lower for when my belly gets larger still. The last pair are Topshop Maternity jeggings and I am at least the third pregnant lady to wear them. My aforementioned ex-boss Paula leant them to me, but wants them back if she ever gets pregnant again! They have a wide jersey-covered elastic panel across the front. She did lend me two other pairs of Topshop Maternity jeans but neither of them would stay up!


Anyone that followed my MMM'13 progress will probably be sick to the back teeth of seeing my Captain jacket! It has been soooo useful since the Spring. It can't quite button up now, but still good as an extra layer when necessary. I picked up the orangey-red swing coat in a charity shop a couple of weeks ago for a fiver. It needed a bit of hand-stitching but now it's as good as new. Plus is buttons up over my bump! Amazing!

Other six-month pregnancy garments that I didn't bother to photograph:
  • Cardigans. I have a delightful array of secondhand cardigans that provide sufficient variety when combined with the above items. 
  • Sleep wear. Most of my nicer, more feminine sleep things no longer fit so I'm left with a couple of pairs of loose jammies and some over-sized mens T-shirts.
  • Lounge wear. That is a comically glamourous phrase for what consists of the two pairs of secondhand tracky bottoms and one secondhand over-sized hoodie for when extreme levels of at-home comfort are equipped.
  • Undies. Either my bum has grown a bit in this six months, or my tolerance of any discomfort has diminished, so I'm now finding my smallest smalls are no longer wearable. I haven't had to make any larger sized knickers yet, but I know I have the skills should that be required in the near future. I've had to make a couple of longer and wider vests that accommodate 'le bump'. As mentioned at the top of this post, I've had to buy a fair few new bras. 

Note-worthy points:
  • Umm, how comes nearly everything I now own is blue?! I really didn't notice that until I got all my garments out to photograph for this post! I haven't had much trouble mix-and-matching my selection of separates and now I'm coming to realise that is probably because of the limited palette. There's a lesson in there somewhere maybe... Thankfully my cardigans are red, mustard, emerald and black which provides some necessary variety. 
  • The other main thing I've noticed when looking at these pics is there just isn't very many garments there. Figuring out just how few garments I realistically need, whether pregnant or not, has been illuminating. Of course, it's not quite as much fun as 'shopping' in a wardrobe with heaps of choice, but it certainly has made getting dressed each morning much quicker and more content with the outfit I've selected. It's good to know that, if I keep on top of my laundry, I'll already have ample wearable items after the baby is here and my capacity to sew myself things is dramatically reduced. 

Friday 12 July 2013

Refashion Friday: Overcoming Refashioning Fears...

Today I want to talk a bit about overcoming any fears that might be holding you back from giving refashioning a try. I guess I'm specifically talking about the fears some people have about potentially 'ruining' an existing garment in their attempts to refashion/upcycle/alter/remake it into something new.

I totally can relate to these fears. I felt like that myself for A. Long. Time. Whether it's a garment you've had for years that is no longer worn, something donated from a friend or relative, or an item you thrifted, the possibility of making what could potentially still be worn into an un-wearble mess leaves lots of us in a state of paralysis. But then sadly the garment stays un-refashioned (or 'fashioned'?!) and it still isn't getting worn by anyone anyway.

If this is the case, then you need to objectively ask yourself whether or not the garment as it stands is still in good condition with years of wear left in it. If the answer is 'yes' and that fact is putting you off from taking the scissors to it, if you can't get over that then it's probably better to 'set that garment free' and donate it to some else who will wear it, or send it to the charity shop/thrift store/op-shop and hunt yourself out a new project starting point. However, if the answer is 'no' you really can't imagine anyone wanting to wear the garment for a number of years as it currently is, then try to give yourself carte blanche to have a go at reworking it if you are inspired to do so.

(image source: Renaissance Girl)

Refashioning Starting Points Sourcing

Your Wardrobe:

One of the best things about refashioning projects is that they needn't cost you a bean. If you fit into the category of being a person who lives in the developed world in 2013, you will probably have some garments in your wardrobe that you haven't worn for upwards of a year. That's just normal. Why not go 'thrifting' in your own wardrobe and unearth one of those items and have a think about how you could refashion it into something that you will potentially want to bring back into regular wardrobe rotation? Laura from Renaissance Girl recently did just that by turning an old pair of jeans into some super-cute Summer shorts (pictured above) inspired by my recent Refashion Friday post. (Thanks Laura for allowing me to use your image in this post.)

Fears of refashioning items from our own wardrobes can sometimes arise from having already formed an emotional bond with the item. I'm not suggesting you go ahead and cut up your teenage Nirvana t-shirt or wedding dress here! If something really is special, and holds important memories, then maybe it would be better to get it out of your wardrobe and put somewhere designated for important, special things. Just a thought. It's important to figure out just how genuinely deep your bond with an item is. If, upon reflection, you aren't particularly bothered about an item anymore (if you ever where), then there's no loss in having a go at reworking it. If you do really like something that you no longer wear remember that, if the refashioning project goes well, you'll be breathing new life into it and can enjoy it afresh rather than leaving it languishing at the depths of a drawer. 

Charity Shops/Thrift Stores/Op-Shops/Jumble Sales/Car Boot Sales/Yard Sales/etc.:

The joy of finding refashion-able treasure in these locations over your own wardrobe is that you haven't formed an emotional bond with these garments, and in fact they've already been rejected for one reason or another by their original owner so you have no need to feel guilty if your project doesn't work out! However, you may experience the same fear as noted towards the top of this post that you don't want to 'ruin' something that someone else could otherwise enjoy. You could try to overcome this by asking yourself whether or not the garment in question is such an unusual garment that anyone else who might want to buy and wear it couldn't find something similar in the shop or elsewhere. If you really aren't confident enough in either your refashioning skills or the idea you had for reworking a garment you really like, then why not buy and keep hold of it for a while to give yourself time to overcome the lack of confidence? If you find you haven't done anything with it a year later, you can always donate it back to the charity shop. 

(image source: A Good Talking To)

Another way to avoid the fear of messing up a lovely garment is to thrift a garment that you like, but don't feel passionately about. Or a garment that is ubiquitous like a mens button-up shirt, t-shirt or pair of jeans. Then if the project doesn't go well and you end up chucking the whole thing in the textile recycling bin, the worst that's happened is you had a learning experience plus you donated some cash to a good cause (be that to charity or the person who was trying to scrape together a few quid by selling their old clothes). This is how Jacq C from A Good Talking To overcame her fear of refashioning, and as a result she freed herself up to create a gorgeous skirt (pictured above) from an over-sized thrifted top! (Thanks Jacq for allowing me to use your image in this post.)

Finally, I think it's important to remember that having an idea, trying it out and it going 'wrong' is way more valuable than never trying it out at all. What are you going to learn from keeping the original notion in your head? And if the project takes an expected tack, ride that wave, how exciting! Plus, an hour spent in a creative pursuit, even if the outcome wasn't quite the wearable delight you intended it to be, will nourish you in a way that doing something like watching TV for an hour probably won't. Not that your project is destined to go wrong, I'm just talking about the 'worst case scenario', which is of course what we have to address if our fears of what we want are to be banished! Happy Refashioning (or anything else you'd really like to be doing), people. 

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Introducing 'Hello Sewing Machine' E-Book with Discount Code!!!

I don't know about you, but I love to find out about what interesting and innovative sewing-related things people get up to. Which is why I was really excited when Tasha from Stale Bread into French Toast emailed me about her recently created e-book designed to assist and encourage more people to get over the hurdles that might be preventing them from learning to sew.

I'm a firm believer that more sewers equals more creatively nourished, self-expressive and actively thrifty people in the world and helpful, encouraging and beautiful texts/blogs/articles etc. like this e-book will help swell our ranks. 'Hello Sewing Machine' really does 'what it says on the tin': it introduces you to your sewing machine and helps take the fear out of all those confusing dials, knobs and pedals. It'll have you get your machine up and running in no time with lovely illustrations as well as carefully written descriptions to guide you. It also helps you actively get over any fear you may have towards your machine with simple drawstring bag-making project that makes you put a lot of what you've learn into action. The super-helpful troubleshooting and glossary sections are fantastic as well.

Tasha has generously offered readers of my blog a substantial 25% discount on 'Hello Sewing Machine' which you can use when checking out of her Etsy shop. Looking at the sales of Tasha's shop, her e-book is already 'out there' in the world actively helping heaps of people get their heads round the tricky parts of the awesome activity known as sewing. So if you feel you could use some support in this area, or have a friend who is interested in sewing but needs a little push to get over the technical barriers, then why not buy yourself/your friend this e-book using the code HELLOSOZO, which is valid until the end of August 2013.

But you know me, I'm a nosey bugger and I wanted to hear more about Tasha's project. She sweetly agreed to answer some questions about it which I'm sharing with you here...

Z: What inspired you to create this e-book? 

T: Since I started my blog, I’ve been amazed at how much is online for sewers. There are many wonderful blogs of course (including yours Zoe!) and also so many beautiful independent patterns, tutorials, sew-alongs—pretty much all the help you could ask for, but I still thought there was a gap where someone who hasn’t sewn anything before would be lost. Most of what’s out there assumes that you have some basic skills already. If you have never used a sewing machine before, there are some really basic facts (like how the machine makes stitches and why tension on the thread is important, etc.) that are hard to find online, but will give you a much more solid foundation for sewing. Also, I know a lot of people in real life who have a sewing machine, and even plans for things to make with it, but don’t quite have the confidence to get it out and get started. I wanted to create a thorough, approachable way for all of them to fill the gap between what they know and what they would like to know about sewing, and to give them a confident start to take on bigger projects. I’ve taught lots of beginners in face-to-face sewing classes, and I wanted to translate what I’ve learned from that into a format that could work all over the world.

Z: Why is it important to you to get more people sewing? 

T: I’m trying to save the world! It may sound silly, but I think it’s better to just admit it. I was talking to a friend who is an environmental journalist, and she gave me the most blank look when I talked about how crafting is tied to conservation, but to me it totally is. You don’t have to make all your own clothes to discover the work that goes into the everyday items in your life, and then to realize the satisfaction of making some of them yourself. I think making things for ourselves is a powerful force for change in our whole society. It can break us out of the cycle of consumerism, and into a place where we are really content with what we have and what we can provide for ourselves.

Z: What part of making it did you enjoy the most? 

T: My favorite part was doing the drawings. It was also difficult, it was at the edge of what I could do illustration-wise, and I definitely erased as much as I drew! But in the end I loved how the drawings came out, especially some of the ones of the old treadle machine (I think old machinery is beautiful) which I did near the end. Now, if I can just keep my drawing skills up until the next project!

Z: What part of the process presented you with the biggest difficulties? 

T: The very technical parts are the most challenging to me. I had to learn a whole lot more about Photoshop than I had ever used before, in order to take the drawings on the screen from what came out of the scanner back to what they looked like to me on the page when I drew them. And at the end it seemed like I would never, ever stop editing the text, but eventually of course I had to declare it done! 

Z: What does sewing mean to you/ what role does sewing play in your life? 

T: Beyond what I said about saving the world, sewing (and cooking and knitting and fixing things, etc.) to me is about a deep sense of joy. It’s almost like the money-and-environment-saving part of it is just a happy side effect, I really do it because of the lasting sense of self-sufficiency, and resulting satisfaction with my life that I get when I make things—especially the things that I need and use everyday.

Z: What are your hopes for this endeavour? 

T: My biggest hope is that Hello Sewing Machine will take a lot of people from thinking of sewing as something they might try sometime, to actually going ahead and trying it! And that the foundation they get from what I’ve written will serve them well and allow them to take on more advanced projects down the road with confidence. It would be just amazing if I could be part of the journey to handmade for more people! Thanks so much Zoe for featuring me on your lovely blog! I loved answering your questions—they were thought provoking and fun to write about at the same time.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Sew with So Zo This Summer!

I'm lucky enough to be teaching some really fantastic classes this Summer before I go on maternity leave (if a self-employed person gets to call it maternity-leave). Some are classes I have taught before, some are newly developed so I thought I'd outline them all here in case any of them are of interest to you or someone you know who might want to develop their sewing skills and live in South-East England. 

The first three classes are at a new venue called The Village Haberdashery in North London. Its online shop has been going for some time, but it's bricks and mortar incarnation is a newer venture. I'm very proud to join the likes of Tilly and Karen who also teach there. 

Sew a Kid's T-Shirt
Saturday, 17 August, 10:30am - 1:30pm, £60

Take the fear out of sewing with knits while learning to make a classic kid's t-shirt! In this class, you'll be guided through the process of sewing a kid's t-shirt by, umm, me using the Figgy's Banyan pattern and fabric from the new organic Elk Grove Knits collection. The fabric and pattern are included in the course fee and you'll be able to choose from 10 fabric designs for your shirt. The pattern fits boys and girls aged 18 months up to 8/9 years.

For more info and how to book for the Kid's T-shirt class, click here.

Sew Your Own Knickers
Saturday, 17 August, 2:30pm - 5:30pm, £50

You could of course simply download my free knickers/pants/undies pattern and have a go yourself at home, but for those who would prefer a bit of extra guidance plus the hassle-free option of all the materials included, this is a great class to be lead on your undies-making journey. The undies elastic and fabric from the new organic Elk Grove Knits collection are included in the class price, so all you need to do is turn up! 

For more info and how to book for the knickers making class, click here.

Saturday, 31 August, 10:30am - 1:30pm, £80 **PLUS 2.30pm - 5.30pm**

(image source: Sewaholic Patterns)

The Sewaholic Renfrew pattern has become a firm favourite with the online sewing community. And with good reason, it is basically the perfect women's basic tee! In this class you'll learn how to sew with knit fabrics whilst making your own semi-fitted v-neck or scoop-neck t-shirt. The fabric and pattern are included in the course fee and you'll be able to choose from 10 fabric designs for your shirt from the new organic Elk Grove Knits collection. All being well, you'll leave class with a great new top and the confidence to tackle any knit pattern you've been coveting!

For more info and how to book for the Renfrew class, click here.

Saturdays, 27th July & 3rd Aug, £130

(image source: Sew Over It)

This is an awesome intermediate class to help you develop your dress making skills that introduces some techniques like gathering and inserting concealed zips. Make this pretty, retro-vibe dress that you can then make again and again, as you conquer sewing with slippery, drapey fabric. 

For more info and how to book for the tea dress class, click here.

Wednesdays, 7th & 14th Aug, £90

(image source: Sew Over It)

Possibly my favourite class to teach because I've yet to have a student that hasn't had an ace result. I wear my own pussy bow blouse made from this pattern all the time (even whilst I've been pregnant because of its looser fit), so I know just how practical and useful this garment is. Like the more complex tea dress class above, the pussy bow blouse class is a great class for those wanting to push themselves to try more challenging fabrics and some extra techniques like inserting sleeves etc. under supervision!

For more info and how to book for the pussy bow blouse class, click here

Friday 5 July 2013

Refashion Friday Inspiration: Contrast Turn-ups Denim Jeans Cutoffs / Shorts

So I'm writing this whilst listening to the highlights from last weekend's Glastonbury music festival, the UK's biggest and arguably best. Glastonbury kicks off the Summer UK/Europe festival season, which in turn brings forth a slew of articles and photo-spreads in fashion magazines about what a style-conscious festival go-er should be wearing. Those lists inevitably include some kind of update on denim shorts/jeans cutoffs, which could be yours for a whole slice of cash. Well, here's an idea to turn a pair of your own unwanted jeans, or a pair scooped up from a charity shop/thrift store/op-shop, into an updated cutoffs look for a whole lot less dollar. 

As with all jeans cutoffs, it's super-important to start off with a pair of jeans that fit you well around the waist and bum area. The fit or state of the legs is irrelevant for obvious reasons, but it's easy to get put off when you try on a pair that looks horrid from the thighs down. 

Having cut off the legs evenly leaving an extra centimetre for a seam allowance, I measured the width of the remaining leg opening and created a band/loop in contrast printed cotton. I stitched the raw edge of this to the raw edge of the leg holes and pressed the contrast turn-up upwards, tacking down the turn-ups at the inner leg seams and side seams to stop them from flapping down again. 

To make a more cohesive and less random looking garment, I made simple belts/ties from more of the contrast cotton. All you need now is a tank top/vest, pair of wellies, greasy hair and a rain mac and you're all set for your festival of choice!

If you'd like more ideas for refashioning or upcycling your old jeans into Summer shorts, check out my previous posts, the bow detail jeans cutoffs and the scallop hem jeans cutoffs

Monday 1 July 2013

Deep-Maternity Sewing: Thoughts please..

Well my lovelies, the on-going adventure of 'what the hell is happening to my body?' (AKA pregnancy) continues... I must admit to being a bit frightened as next week I head blindly into the third trimester. Just how damn big and uncomfortable is there left for me to get?! Only one way to find out. 

So to calm myself I have decided to turn my thoughts to my guaranteed relaxant: sewing. Planning how  I'm going to approach any new phase of my life through what I may or may not sew always lends me some sense of control. For a while now I've been collecting maternity sewing patterns, which all seem to be for the last trimester, plus recently I've been donated some more (thanks lovely ladies!). When I went to get them out to consider and photograph I was surprised just how many I've collated! Now, my life doesn't require me to dress up very much these days (read: hardly ever), but I'd like to make at least one garment from my maternity pattern collection, otherwise collecting them would have been somewhat pointless I fear. Hopefully I can make something that'll be day-wear appropriate also if the sun shines, I can prevent myself from automatically heading for the jersey top/tracky-bottoms combo. I was hoping you'd be able to help me decide which to go for... Patterns are roughly organised in chronological order, from oldest to newest. 

Vogue 9876: This is a beaut, is it not? I snapped it up on eBay a couple of months ago. It's very 'dressy', fabric-hungry and potentially 'night-gowny' however...

Butterick 594: I'm totally NOT going to make this outfit. Who has time to make an entire lined jacket for only two/three months worth of potent wear (weather-permitting)? Not I. It's lovely though. The skirt has a really weird panelled flap contraption that I can't even be arsed to figure out. Ah, the advent of jersey really couldn't have come soon enough for preggers ladies, could it?!

Vogue 6497: Potentially a bit 'tenty', but with really lovely design details. Lots of options for customisation and embellishment as well me-thinks. What if those buttons were little gold ones on navy? Some anchor trim on the pockets?

Butterick 4722: Another interesting 1960's option. Those side tabs make me think of a children's painting tunic!

Butterick 2368: This one would require a bit of grading, but I might actually find the motivation for that considering the style is just a small spit away from being full-on nautical! I'm pretty sure I have some chunky silver anchor buttons that would look killer on this. It could also be a good layering item, with my mid-maternity stripes T-shirt underneath. 

Vogue 7382: Oh this is a cutey, isn't it?! I think the plainer version is white is the most appealing. How on earth has the illustrator avoided drawing buttons on those front plackets? Hmm, maybe they had to avoid giving the impression that there was a functioning button closure. I'd faux-button placket mine to the hilt!

Style 1503: Another potentially tent-y option, but I really like the options for contrast yoke/straps and for choosing a couple of awesome buttons for the front detail. I'd be more tempted to make a dress version if I could find a fabric from my stash that would work well. I think a dress would be more useful at this stage, unless I made the tunic length with sleeves. 

Style 4718: Hmm, you could do something super-cute with this sweetheart seamed design. Some piping? Inserted lace? Lace overlay over the yoke? Anyways, not sure I'll make this as it's way too small for me now. When I snaffled this pattern up at a vintage shop early on in my pregnancy I didn't have an inkling of kind of life of there own that my boobs were about to take on!

Simplicity 9427: Umm, with the belt tho isn't a million away silhouette-wise from my recent men's-shirt-to-maternity top refashion, IMO. Not that that refashion fits me anymore, damn you once again expanding bust and rib cage!!! I'm not sure I can be bothered to make something that looks like a shirt refashion from scratch.

Simplicity 3799: Yes I have shown you this pattern before. No I haven't used it yet. I'm going on a short break to Southern Spain in August which will probably feel about as hot as the surface of the sun, so thinking this might be worth making in the lightest flowiest stash fabric I can locate.  

Megan Nielsen Ruched Maternity Skirt: This pattern has been leant to me by the awesome Emily of The Botterman Empire. It could be awesome, but I'm must admit I haven't missed wearing skirts at all since I've been pregnant so may not make this. But I may. AGH!! Thoughts please!!!

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