Friday 28 March 2014

Refashion Friday: Sleeping Tops to Baby Trousers

So here's something I've learnt about babies: they grow really fast. So fast that if you watched them constantly, you could probably see it happening. Clothes that seemed a bit big on Dolores one day can be far too small a couple of weeks later. Thankfully we have positioned ourselves down-stream of a flow of garments from her 20-month old cousin, however a healthy dose of charity shopping or mum-makes is required to fill in the gaps. 

A very good thing about babies is that they had absolutely no sartorial opinions. Therefore you can make their clothes out of anything and they won't complain! Clothes that are super shabby, like these two sleeping tops that I've owned for longer than I care to remember, can be given a second life when hacked up and used as baba-garms. 

For the pattern, I started with an Ottobre magazine pattern that I redrafted to alter the style and improve the fit. I incorporated the original hem ribbing from the pink towelling zip-through and the original hem finishing from the grey ribbed striped top saving me some construction time on both the pairs of trousers. If you'd like to get an idea of what it feels like to wear these trousers, here's a wearer's-eye-view (kind of):

I've written a lot in the past about how much I love the idea of turning old garments in to new ones, especially new ones intended for loved ones to wear. It's very satisfying to cut away the worn bits and end up with something that's got a whole heap of new life in it (literally!). Clothing that is passed it's best can be such a great source of sewable fabric, particularly if the things you are making are for a tiny person. I can see A LOT more reworking of my old clothes into useful things for Dolores in the future, hopefully most of them will end up as useful as these trousers have been so far.   

What about you? Have you reused old clothes for babies and/or children? What do you like about it? Have you any tips or ideas to share with the rest of the class?!

Thursday 20 March 2014

Big Spring Contest: 'Everyday Awesome' Finalist and runners up

I don't normally write about who has won the giveaways and competitions I host on my blog because usually I don't think it makes for very interesting reading, but the Big Spring Contest is a different kettle of fish. For this contest, entrants had to dig deeper than usual and really think about what garment they'd make using Offset Warehouse fabric to fulfil the brief of 'Everyday Awesome'. The entries were fantastic. I received lots interesting, ingenious and super-creative responses, many of which with beautiful illustrations to put across their plans. But sadly I could only choose one 'Everyday Awesome' finalist who will go on to receive the fabric of their choice to make the garment and enter the second phase of the contest against the other three finalists.

So the 'Everyday Awesome' finalist is.......

Miriam! Here's what she wrote:

'I would love to use the hand blocked scarlet organic cotton (pictured below) to make an everyday awesome dress. My theory with dresses and fashion is all about everyday is a celebration, everyday is worth dressing up for, everyday is awesome. As a person I love to dress up and living through the thousands of earthquakes (in Christchurch, New Zealand) that destroyed so many possessions it has really confirmed to me the value of treasuring AND using your lovely things. If it's in your wardrobe wear it, or let someone else enjoy it. Not saving them only to find they are smashed in a disaster or eaten by a moth! 

I like the aesthetic of the hand blocked fabric and the colour but also I think something so lovely should be out and about everyday, also it tells it's own story, it should be touched and worn and it would look perfect on a bicycle. The little people at my sons' new school have started to ask me 'did you make that' as they chat to me. 

It excites me that ethical fabric can be so beautiful and made into something that doesn't scream 'hippy dress', even though I am kind of a hippy! 

(image source: Create, Hope, Inspire)

This is the pattern I would use (pictured above). Halter neck, fullish skirt, 1950s style, not everyday for everyone but everyday for me. Living our lives car free in a new city - this dress would tell a story that everyday is worth celebrating, ethical can be beautiful, and cycling can be done in style!'

I chose Miriam because her sentiments, about making the most of the possessions you have, have stayed with me every since I received her entry. I think everyone (myself firmly included) should be reminded every now and again that we only get one life so let's make the most of the lovely things we own by enjoying them everyday, and not save them for some special day that may never come. Every day is special (and awesome!)! I also really like her commitment to living an ethical lifestyle by riding a bike rather than driving a car around her city.

I really want to thank everyone who took the time to enter. I genuinely wish I could have got their choice of fabric sent to all of them so that everyone's idea of 'Everyday Awesome' could be actualised.

You can see the other three theme finalists on Offset Warehouse's Facebook page. A list of my highly commended submissions will also be on there in the next few days - and you might be on it! Also please don’t forget to VOTE for Miriam (or one of the other three finalists) from the 9th April!! The judging is open to public votes, and I really think she deserves to win, don't you?!

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Book Review: The Great British Sewing Bee, Sew Your Own Wardrobe

What it is, basically?

To be honest, when I was sent a review copy of this year's Great British Sewing Bee book, my expectations were low. I was cynically expecting it to be a fluffy, glossy series companion with bios on this year's contestants and plenty of 'swoon-worthy' pictures of Patrick Grant: a homage to the show and little more. I hold my hands up, I was wrong. There, I said it.

It is actually a book about sewing. As in, it teaches you how to sew. I guess the clue is in the tag line 'Sew Your Own Wardrobe', which somehow I must have missed at first. And there aren't even that many pictures of Patrick in it. The best bit is that it has a very generous separate patterns pack which includes loads of multi-sized patterns for women, men and children, all of which have been (or will be, I assume) featured in the challenges set in this year's series. You'd really struggle not to find at least a couple of the styles worth having a go at (personally, I think I'll give the leggings a whirl...). Plus the patterns are printed very clearly, it's not a headache-inducing mess of lines like the pattern sheets from a Burda magazine. With the pattern pieces traced off, the book then assists the reader with the construction of those garments using clear diagrams and helpful written explanations.

Who is it for?

Unless you've been sewing for as long as May Martin (Patrick's super-skilled sewing teacher co-judge) or Anne (the 80-something winner from series one), this book is bound to be useful. All it assumes from the reader is that they own a sewing machine, can thread it already (or can find out elsewhere how to thread it) and aren't afraid to put the pedal to the metal. Ideally it'd make a great gift for someone who has watched the show and expressed an interest in getting into sewing themselves, or perhaps for someone who has already made a few things but lacks confidence in expanding their repertoire.

Is it any good?

Yes, for the reasons given above. Plus it's only £25, which I think is a really good price for so much detailed information and heaps of useful sewing patterns. However, if I were to pick holes in this book, I might say that it's not an overly stylish publication in terms of the book design and the garment styles involved (but we've got Tilly's book on the way for that). But in a way, that is also this book's strength, because I'd imagine it will then appeal to a wider range of would-be sewing enthusiasts. Don't get me wrong, the book does include lots of beautiful photographs that inspire you to run to your sewing corner (or carve yourself out a sewing corner) and immerse yourself in buttons, but it doesn't have a strong particular look, if you get what I mean.

Neither does it particularly encourage the reader to unleash their creativity and f^*k shit up with their sewing machine. By which I mean, it doesn't offer variations on these basic patterns by suggesting alternative collars, sleeve styles, skirt lengths, pocket additions etc. But that's not what this book is concerned with and it doesn't need to be. It's teaching you to make a really wide range of great, wearable garments by acquiring and applying a whole heap of sewing techniques. If you are creatively inclined beyond that, I don't think you really need a book to give you permission to then take things further.

For me, my favourite part of the book is actually the foreword written by May:

'...It's so rewarding making an item of clothing, for yourself or somebody else, that is all your own work. If you keep it, you can give yourself a pat on the back and if you're making it for someone else, you're giving them a part of yourself...'

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Big Spring Contest: Last Few Days to Enter...


This is a reminder that there is less a week left to enter the Big Spring Contest to come up with something to sew using Offset Warehouse fabric for the chance to win that fabric and much, much more. The closing date is 16th March, AKA this Sunday, so you still have time to concoct an 'Everyday Awesome' garment, and/or something that fits with the other three themes that have been conjured up by the other blogger judges. You can enter once for each of the themes, so that's four chances to win the fabric of your choice and have a chance to go on to win a whole heap of amazing prizes. 

Earlier today I was having a think about what my entry would consist of, if I were allowed to enter (which as one of the judges, I'm pretty sure I'm not!). I decided on using some of this lush looking Indigo organic chambray (pictured above) to make an Everyday Awesome dress. I'm a bit late to the Chambray Party, I've only just begun to realise just how casually versatile it is. With the Indigo chambray, I'd use a vintage pattern that has been lurking in my stash for a couple of years, Simplicity 6795 (pictured below) that was published in 1974. I'd probably use a contrast red binding and red buttons to make the whole thing pop. 

I always feel really put-together and special in a dress but I so rarely wear them, particularly during the day. They look like you've made lots of effort, even though to create an outfit with a dress involves much less mix-and-matching than with separates. I'd spend quite a bit of time toiling and fitting the bodice to get a really comfortable and flattering fit so I'd never be put off from wearing it. Plus, I think this dress would span quite a range of temperatures and weather conditions depending how you wore it: just with flip flops and sunglasses in the Summer, or layered with a vest, cardigan, opaque tights and boots for colder months. That's a whole load of potential Awesome I'd be injecting into my Everyday wear.....

So if you haven't already entered, what would your Everyday Awesomeness garment/outfit consist of? Why not email me your entry before Sunday to sozoblog (at) gmail (dot) com?

Sunday 9 March 2014

Nautical Palazzo Pants

Look! I made a thing!!!!!! That's basically the crux of this post, like most of my posts I guess now I come to think of it! Before these beauts were completed I only had two pairs that fit and are ok to be seen in the outside world. With the amount of five-month-old-baby's puke flying round these days, it was rapidly becoming clear that another pair of trousers would be mighty useful. 


Back in December I put the call out to you lovely readers to help me figure out what sailor style trouser pattern would be the way to go, considering my limited free time for sewing. I am very grateful for all the tuppence worths that were subsequently put in. The lovely Handmade Jane threw another pattern option in to the mix by offering to lend me her copy of Simplicity 2654 (pictured above) from which she had previously made an awesome pair of sailor trousers herself.  

I decided to take Jane up on her kind offer because I loved the notched waistline plus she explained how she found the front pleats made them easily adjustable (no time for toiles these days). In the end the pattern size that Jane had already cut out was fine with no modifications required. The loose style and forgiving fabric helped make that so. Styling wise, the simple omission of the side tab detail from the original design and the equally simple application of buttons, and BOOM!: vintage-style sailors slacks are go. 

The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the legs by 5cms to be safe, even though I'm fairly average height. I'm pleased that I did because they are just about long enough with a modest amount of hem turn-up. 


If this grey something-or-other-type-of-fabric looks familiar, it's because I have already used the same stuff for these cropped trousers and my mild-maternity Tova tunic dress. So like the porridge debacle in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this fabric was a bit too thin for the cropped trousers, and a bit too thick for the Tova tunic dress, but just right for this project! Hurrah! It has enough body for the notched waistline shaping and is warm enough to be wearable in Spring, but it also has sufficient drape for the wide legs to flow nicely. I have just enough scrap-age of this fabric left over to create a false hem or false turn-ups if I need to lengthen them in the future (I found with my black and denim wide leg trousers that after heaps of laundering, they slowly shrunk in length to a state of unwearability). 

Extras and thoughts:

The navy buttons are purely decorative, and it may not surprise you to learn that they have anchors carved into them. They were a gift that had been dwelling in my stash, along with this fabric that I don't think I paid for either in the first place, so effectively this was a free garment. I'm not sure if the final trousers are a bit too dressy for my day-to-day life, and I've only worn them to a house-party (daytime baby-friendly house party to be precise) so far. They did glean some compliments and there were vague hints from others to suggest that they would like me to make them a pair, that I managed to expertly side-step! 

So if you've managed to read this far into this post, I shall now reward you with a pic that includes one of the cutest babies in town!

Monday 3 March 2014

Offset Warehouse's Big Spring Contest! What's your idea of 'Everyday Awesomeness'?


Oh hi sewing-competition fans! Ethical fabric purveyors, Offset Warehouse, have just launched the Big Spring Contest, and guess what...? I’m one of the blogger judges! Hurrah! Want to win some fabric and a whole bunch more stuff? Of course you do. Read on, friends...

As one of the judges, I’ve been asked to come up with a theme and judge all the entrants for that theme. I get to pick one lucky winner who will get sent the fabric of their choice to make their design in three weeks. If you are selected as the overall winner out of the four 'theme finalists', you will win a whole goodie-bag of prizes!

The theme I've come up with is 'Everyday Awesomeness': garments that you wear day in day out that make you feel great, whatever that means to you. To enter, let me know what you would like to sew for the theme of 'Everyday Awesomeness' using fabric from the Offset Warehouse. You could choose an existing sewing pattern, commercial or self-drafted; you could adapt an existing sewing pattern; or you could design something entirely from scratch. Whatever you come up with, if chosen, you will need to be able to actually make the garment design you have submitted. Make sense?

To submit your idea, please email me your 'Everyday Awesomeness' idea by Sunday 16th March to sozoblog (at) gmail (dot) com. Your entry could be a link to which existing pattern you'd use, a sketch of a new design idea, a photograph: basically whatever you want as long as it adequately conveys to me what you would like to make. Along with your design/pattern choice, you must include details of which Offset Warehouse fabric you’d make it with, plus a sentence or two explaining what's 'everyday-awesome' about your submission. Please include 'Big Spring Contest' in the subject line of your email.

After that date I will choose a finalist who will be sent the fabric/s they need to make their garment. After those garments have been made and judged, an overall winner from the four theme finalists will then be chosen to win the goodies.

To get started, have a browse on Offset Warehouse's site and see what fabric inspires you! Or have a browse of the other themes. Here are all the bloggers participating and the themes you can choose from (click on each image to be magically transported to their blog for details of their themes):

'So what can I win?', I hear you ask! Well quite a-bloody-lot actually!

These bambu Adjust-A-Bowls are the ultimate 'hold everything' bowl and Green Tulip are generously giving one of each - a hemp organic denim one and a cork one. Fold 'em down, or pop 'em up, use them to store your sewing bits and bobs, pop it in the kitchen for fruit, vegetables or bread etc. Hemp has eight times the tensile strength and four times the durability of other natural fibers, and is mildew resistant and anti-microbial. Cork is renewable and biodegradable, and cork forests are essential to preventing soil erosion, maintaining water resources and storing CO2.

This gorgeous leather trim buckle basket is handmade in Morocco with palm leaves. It is lightweight, strong and free standing, great for shopping, the beach, picnics, gym, nappy bag and much more! The leather handles are incredibly soft and long enough to go over your shoulder and tuck under your arm. With the added bonus of a leather strap and buckle to keep everything safe - it'll be your new best friend!

DIY Couture: Create Your Own Fashion Collection, by Rosie Martin (former interviewee here on this little blog). The DIY Couture collection is 10 stylish, easy to make pieces of clothing that can be endlessly reinvented in different fabrics, textures and colours. This is the perfect book to give to someone who always sighs wistfully saying 'I wish I could sew...' whenever you rock up in a new creation! With no complex sewing patterns, even beginners at sewing can make their own beautiful clothes.

Make It Your Own, by Anna Alicia, the designer-maker behind eco-ethical homeware and jewellery label A Alicia, brings you 25 beautifully designed projects to help transform your home into a wonderful living space that truly reflects your personal style. The gorgeous photography throughout shows how the projects can work with your existing d├ęcor to transform your space. Anna also gives tips on using eco-ethical and vintage materials, a subject close to her heart. Whatever kind of space you live in, this book is about creating beautiful handmade objects that will make it really feel like your home.

For more details, check out Offset Warehouse’s site here. Now go and get your crayons or have a rummage through your pattern and start planning your everyday awesome garment!
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