Saturday 29 November 2014

The Dolores Batwing Pattern: Solids!

I can't tell you how flippin' exciting it's been to see what other people have made from my Dolores batwing pattern. As more and more versions pop up on the interwebs, I've been squirrelling them away on a Dolores batwing pattern Pinterest board. I'd love to share with you all the versions I've seen so far, but I'll just highlight a few now and then so you can see how ace they look in a variety of fabrics. Today let's take a look at a few versions in solids (AKA plain, unprinted) fabrics, which seem to really show the bones of the garment's style:

(image source: Pelly Melly Patterns)

How lovely does Jane look in her classic black long-sleeved version? She undertook a FBA to get the fit right for her, check out her post to find out her preferred method. 

(image source: Laurasaurus)

Pattern tester Laura's deep pink knit was originally destined for other plans. But the Lady Skater's loss was the Dolores batwing's gain. Check out her stunning short-sleeved dress version (pictured above) above whilst feeling simultaneously jealous of her idyllic holiday location AND of her amazing belt!

(image source: Sleek Silhouette)

Just how glamourous does pattern reviewer Katy look in her mustard yellow version of the Dolores pattern (pictured above)?! Lemons were thoroughly turned into lemonade here when her lack of sufficient fabric resulted in a 3/4-sleeve pattern hack!

(image source: Oranges & Apples)

Check out pattern reviewer Franca's delicious raspberry coloured short-sleeved dress version (pictured above). It looks particularly awesome paired with her oranges tights, doesn't it?!

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Self-Employment Update: 1 Year in with a Family

I've written and even spoken pretty openly in the past about my reality of being self-employed and  trying to make a living from my creative and sewing related endeavours. I've been meaning to write an update on the subject for ages. There's been a fair bit written in the sewing community of late about bloggers who make money from sewing, and whether or not their blogs should or shouldn't be used to promote their money-making activities. Sadly, I don't have a fraction of the time I'd like for reading blogs these days so I'm not fully versed in all aspects of the debate. However, reading Karen's fascinating recent post and all the interesting comments that followed, I found it surprising that there was such a clear opposition from some to sewing bloggers making money from their passion. 

I don't have the energy to wade in to the debate right now, but I'm certainly not about to stop mentioning things that are related to my income if I feel they may be of interest to some of my readers. For example, if I'm teaching a class on how to Copy Your Clothes (which I am, BTW), for you to decide that it's a class you'd like to take to expand your skills, you're going to need to know that it's happening. And if I've developed a sewing pattern to sell and you're into sewing, how can you decide if you want to buy it if I don't tell you about it and show you versions already made? I respect the emotional intelligence of my readers to engage with and/or enjoy the parts of my blog that interest them, and to click away when it doesn't feel relevant to them. 

Plus, I can't help but feel that a significant number of people would like to make at least part of their income from their hobby, so my assumption is that at least a handful of people who read my blog will be interested in me writing about my experience of this. Indeed, from the comments I've received from all those posts in the past, quite a few people are interested in that as a subject, and some even pondered how I'm going to juggle those things with a baby/child on the scene. So here goes...

The main reason that it's taken me so long to write a self-employment update since becoming a mum is that things have been in pretty constant flux. It's only after a year that I feel that things are starting to stabilise for long enough to have a status quo to write about. It's been a hell of a learning curve, in every respect, and it's been both the most amazing and the most difficult year of my life. The majority of the difficulty, I can now see, was perpetuated if not caused by my foolish assumption that I could achieve just as much with a baby as I could without one, with absolutely no additional childcare. That and a lack of sleep!


Before Dolores was born, Pat (Mr So Zo) and I decided that we would undertake all childcare ourselves until she becomes eligible for the free 15 hours per week that all three year olds in the UK are entitled to. That decision was based on a mixture of what we felt would be best to create stability for her, as well as necessity as we live prohibitively far away from any family assistance, and we couldn't afford additional childcare even if we'd wanted it.  

This year has been a constant juggling act. We are always negotiating with each other about what time we need, work-wise, and when we can take the baby. At times Pat has had to work full time, so has been around very little during the week and I have had to cram everything I've needed to do into nap times, evenings and weekends. There has been very little family time, to be honest. But I have plans for that to change in the New Year. So what have I been working on?

Sewing Classes

The majority of the money I bring in is from teaching sewing classes. Which is fortunate because I LOVE teaching sewing stuff. I literally get paid to talk about my favourite subject for hours on end with lovely, engaging people who want to learn and enjoy themselves. The downside is travelling. For financial reasons, we had to move from Brighton to a cheaper town on the South Coast which has made it harder to get to the schools I teach in. But it's fine, time to myself sitting on trains is pretty welcome! 

Currently I'm teaching at:

Tilly and the Buttons HQ in West Dulwich, London. 
Currently I'm scheduled to teach a Coco workshop, a Francoise workshop and some Copy Your Clothes classes. Check out her workshops page for details here

The Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead, London. 
There are plans in the works for lots of classes next year, and currently scheduled are an Emery dress class, a Renfrew top class and a Sureau dress class. Check out their classes schedule here

Badger & Earl in Chiswick, London.
The new kids on the sewing-cafe block, I'll be teaching a beginner's dressmaking class for making a pair of child's PJ bottoms. Check out that and the rest of their range of classes here

Sew In Brighton in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex.
As soon as I moved away from Brighton, I picked up a job in Brighton. Genius! Anyway, I can sometimes be found here teaching beginner sewing classes and my very own 'Rework Your Wardrobe' class. Check their extensive list of class options here

Sewing Patterns

You may have noticed that I released a sewing pattern a couple of months ago! The Dolores batwing pattern has been selling steadily and it's been thoroughly wonderful to see other peoples' versions start to pop up on the internet. I currently have no plans to release any more patterns, but never say never! However, please remember that I have also designed two other sewing patterns which are available here FOR FREE.

Brighton Craftaganza

See the beautiful poster at the top of this post? That's the artwork advertising the latest craft market event which takes place at our usual location of Fabrica Gallery in Central Brighton THIS WEEKEND!!!! If you happen to be in the South East of England and at a loose end, this event won't disappoint. 

From a personal stand point, I've found this year's event much easier and more enjoyable to organise. After the ridiculousness of organising last year's double weekend market around the time I went into labour and then with a tiny baby, I decided more hands were needed on deck. This year I have shared the organisational responsibilities with my super talented friend/jewellery maker Kirstin, and brought in my event-organiser friend Claire to inject some energy and creativity into the decoration.

'Hey Baby Yeah'

For some unknown reason, when Dolores was about three months old, I decided to set up a little baby wear range. Actually I think my reasoning was that I wanted to be a seller at craft events, not just an organiser. Maybe I wanted to spend more time sitting down! (Not that I sit down as a seller, BTW.) Anyways,  I developed a simple range of three products: dribble bibs, jersey trousers based on the ones I'd been making for Dolores, and washable breast pads for boob-feeding mamas. Some of my products can be found in my Etsy shop and I've been really enjoying selling at a few craft fairs here and there. 

My Blog

I've met and 'e-met' some wonderful people through having this blog, it's my favourite outlet for self expression (aside from sewing itself) and it has opened up some great opportunities as well. It's been the source of so many good things for me, particularly since I became self-employed. I don't feel I currently have sufficient brain-space to write as often or as in depth on certain topics as I'd like to at the moment, but of course I'm not apologising for that!  I'm blogging when I can, and not feeling pressured to do so. Plus, FYI, I'm going to continue organising Me-Made-May for as long as the sewing community wants it to go ahead. 

Next Year...

As I mentioned above, it's taken me all year to figure out that I can't pile on the projects and plans like I used to. I used to get a real buzz from having my fingers in lots of metaphorical pies, and plotting and scheming new angles of income. Now I have a child though, I (perhaps unsurprisingly) find it very stressful having lots of things on the go at the same time. With limited attention and energy left for work, I'm worried I'll miss something or end up doing it half-arsed. 

So I have vowed to have a new approach next year. Looking after Dolores is my full-time job. Teaching sewing classes is my part-time job. Anything else is extra and must only be undertaken if I am sure it's not going to add unnecessary pressure. Let's see how that works...

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Field Trip Dress

Before too much time elapses, I want to blog about the jersey dress I made during the KCW challenge last month. After the time consuming Hopscotch skirt project, I wanted a speedy project to balance things out and make the week a victorious one!


I got the idea from the image above that I found on Marina - Big Sewing Box's awesome kids clothes Pinterest board. The caption read 'Inspiration for dress from Field Trip raglan tee pattern', and I remembered that I have the size 12-18 months of that Oliver + S pattern (pictured below) traced out from when I taught it as a class at the Village Haberdashery earlier this year. 

I cut the main pattern pieces for the t-shirt and added a simple skirt section. To do that I cut a rectangle of fabric, stitched it along one side to form a loop, then attached it to the hem of the t-shirt with little pleats, eyeballing them to make them as even as possible. I made the rectangle as large as I could with the fabric I had left after cutting the body of the dress, so that dictated how full the skirt ended up being. 

Aside from adding the skirt, the one other change I made to the pattern was to cut the neck hole 1cm wider all the way round. I don't think Dolores has got a particularly big head, but I wanted to err on the side of caution as she hates having garments that are a bit tight pulled over her head. 


I was lucky to have been given both the blue polka dot jersey and the cute farm print jersey by Jenna, in her generous haul of children's sewing stuff. They were too awesome to be left to sit in Le Stash for eons, so I'm pleased that both got used with very little but the teensiest scraps left over. They are great quality jersey (you'll have to ask her for the original source) and were a pleasure to sew with.  


I'm really pleased with how this garment came together. It all seemed pretty serendipitous: seeing that image on Pinterest, realising I had her current size already traced in that pattern and finding I had just enough of these awesome jerseys to make it. This dress is currently a bit too big for her, but that is ace because it means plenty of use can be extracted from it! The idea of adding a simple gathered skirt to the bottom of basic jersey top patterns has made me look at the patterns in my copies of the kid's Ottobre magazines in a different light.

I struggled to get a modelled picture because of the murky lighting. This is the best I could manage:

Friday 14 November 2014

Perfect Pattern Parcel #7: The Daphne Bag

Pattern Parcel #7: Choose your own price and support DonorsChoose. Win/win!

It feels to me like the Perfect Pattern Parcels have come thick and fast this year, but this is the final one of 2014 (umm, where did this year go?!). If you don't know what the PPP's are, let the organisers themselves explain:
How Pattern Parcel Works: Here at Perfect Pattern Parcel, we believe in supporting independent pattern designers. It’s our opinion that indie patterns are just, well, better than big box patterns, and we’re pretty sure our customers think so too. So, we allow customers to show their support in naming their own price for each Parcel. We also encourage customers to allocate part of their Parcel price to the charity in order to help classrooms in need. Pattern Parcel donates all profits after expenses from Parcel sales to the charity as well. Its our goal to raise over $20,000 for Donors Choose this year.
The patterns in this parcel are:

BONUS PATTERN: Daphne Bag by Clover & Violet 

When I was invited to take part in the promo tour of Parcel #7, I was really excited when I saw that it consisted solely of bag patterns. In terms of the ratio of 'sewing-time : amount-worn', bags have got to be up there with jackets and coats when it comes to useful things to spend your time making. And yet I've only made one bag from a purchased sewing pattern (RIP, vintage curtain bag), having previously only used self-drafted patterns. When I see bag sewing patterns though, I must admit I usually get a bit turned off by the fabric choice. I tend to wonder what the bag would look like if it wasn't made from Amy Butler quilting cotton (no offence, Amy Butler or her fans, it's just not my aesthetic), but instead in something, oh I don't know, nautical perhaps? Time to find out...

The Pattern:
I chose to make the Daphne Bag by Clover & Violet which is the bonus bag if you choose to pay at least $32 for the parcel. It looked casual enough to suit my everyday style and it had a zip closure which I wanted for security because I travel round London a lot. Plus, the pattern looked like it might have a couple of features that I haven't tried before. I feel my sewing has got in a bit of a rut in recent years, so I wanted to try out some new-to-me techniques, as well as use some bag-making notions and hard wear like plastic canvas stuff for the bottom and sliders (?) and rectangle rings (?). 

The Daphne bag isn't a pattern as such, it's a list of cutting instructions (it's all rectangles) and constructions steps with clear photographs. It was very easy to follow, which is handy coz my brain is in a bit of a fog these days. I made a couple of changes: I omitted the little pleats on the bag body because I wasn't a fan of them, and I didn't bother making the internal zip pocket. I did bother making the 'slip pocket' inside so I can easily access my phone, but this bag isn't exactly cavernous so I didn't think I'd need both the pockets.

The Fabric:

The checked nautical fabric I used was a scrap left over from a curtain my mum bought. She'd picked the curtain up in a charity shop to make cushion covers for my dad's boat and gave me the rest. There was just enough to make this bag (as long as I made a join in the strap section). Seriously, there's virtually just dust left, so I feel this fabric and pattern combination were meant to be. The base section is made from some navy blue faux-suede I've had lurking in my stash for a while. I'd been hoping to use it for a bag somehow, and there's still a lot left for more projects. The lining is some tomato-red and white polka dot poly-cotton that I've had in my stash since before the dawn of time which, quite frankly, I'm pleased to get out of there.

Techniques/notions/hard wear:

This project did provide me, as I'd hoped, with some learning opportunities. It was interesting to see how the zip closure was dealt with, for example. I really enjoyed using the plastic canvas stuff. It gives a fabulous stiff-but-flexible base and I'll definitely use that stuff again. I bought it, along with the slider and rectangle rings from U-handbag.

Now you may well be thinking, 'Zoe, where are the sliders and rectangle rings then?'. Well, I ordered them, they arrived, and then I promptly lost them. I spent (wasted) a whole damn evening trying to find them, to no avail. Ordering another set and waiting for them to arrive would have meant missing the deadline for my scheduled blog post slot. I was really looking forward to using them and I think they would have taken this bag up a notch, but it didn't pan out that way so I just chose a fixed strap length and went with that.

Further notions dramas ensued... The pattern calls for a 14" metal tooth zip for the main closure. I ordered one from eBay that had swanky gold teeth and red tape for contrast, but when it arrived I realised I'd ordered a 14 cm one instead! DUH. Back on eBay, I couldn't find a comparable one the correct length, but found this chunky nautical plastic one instead. Eventual-WIN.


I really enjoyed making something different to my usual projects and am very grateful to the PPP organisers for providing me with the push to do it. If you could use a new bag, then this parcel would give you a lot of great options. Plus with Christmas just round the corner, you could use them to make some very special presents.

Pattern Parcel #7: Choose your own price and support DonorsChoose. Win/win

Monday 10 November 2014

Charity Shop Scores in Darlington

A week at the end of October spent at my in-laws proved very fruitful in the thrifting department. Well, fruitful for Dolores anyhow! Want to have a look?

Spotty long sleeved T-shirt, 50p. Mustard zebra print T-shirt, 99p. 

Spotty knit dress, £1.75.

Nautical playsuit, £1.75. This has the original tags in and I'm tempted to sell it on Ebay in the Spring because it just looks so damn white. As in, won't-be-white-for-more-than-five-minutes-if-Dolores-wears-it. 

My favourite, geometric jumper, £1.

So the total sum: £5.99. All these items, aside from the jumper, are for sizes larger than she is now. She is more than fine for clothing at the moment and it's good to have some nice things 'in the bank' in preparation for the inevitable and unpredictable growth spurts! 

We're going back to Darlington at Christmas, so the town has a while to replenish it's charity shops... Have you had any awesome thrifting scores recently? 

Thursday 6 November 2014

Denim Hopscotch Skirt

If you'll permit me, I'd like to elaborate on the denim skirt I made Dolores as part of the Kid's Clothes Week challenge (the result of which I disclosed the other day). I didn't get round to sharing my creations on their site, but their blog well worth a gander for highlights of other participants inspiring creations. 

I must admit that this skirt took up the vast majority of my time during the Kid's Clothes Week sewing sessions. In fact it probably took way longer than it should have done, but I guess that's what happens when you try to sew at the end of a busy day spent dealing with a crazy baby. But it was the promise of seven whole hours of sewing laid before me that lead me to make this skirt. I knew a woven item would take more time than the usual knit leggings I whip up for her. 


I was very kindly given the Oliver + S Hopscotch pattern, among others, by the very generous Jenna. I'm still on the fence about the knit top/dress part of this pattern, but every version of the skirt that google could rummage up looked awesome, IMO. Seeing as Dolores is well stock for clothing for the foreseeable future, I decided to make the Size 2 (years), even though she's currently only 13 months old. That should have the bonus of lasting her a bit longer than if I'd made a smaller size, which helped justify the extra time I spent on this project. 

Cleverly, the front skirt sections are gathered into the waistband, but the back skirt section folds over at the top to form an elastic casing. With the back part elasticated, I'm wondering if you'd need to use the buttons at all to put this skirt on and take it off. I really like how this pattern is drafted, and the instructions are nice and clear. I did spend a whole evening constructing the pockets as per the pattern, only to decide to remove them the following morning, but that was my fault not theirs! 


Now here's the issue: the fabric I used was too thick for this pattern. I really wanted to stash bust this small piece of soft pale blue vintage denim. It reminds me of the 70s and the film Dazed and Confused! The colour in the image at the top of the post isn't very accurate, and I couldn't' get the tweaks right. The above button close-up image is more accurate. If I'd used the recommended weight of fabric (something like a quilting cotton), this project would have been a breeze and the pockets would have looked ace. The thing about children's clothes is that they are small. And the thing about smaller pattern pieces is that it's more difficult to get a super clean, crisp finish when using heavier fabrics than if you were making an adult's sized version. However, I battled on and I actually think the final outcome looks good! Phew! 

The wooden flower buttons were from my stash from an un-recall-able source. I stitched the centre of the flowers with yellow thread. I was tempted to do yellow topstitching on the skirt as well, but considering the difficulties I encountered in getting a neat outcome, I'm glad to didn't. In fact, now I think about it, this little skirt's colour scheme reminds me of Tilly's 70s feel Beignet


I definitely intend to use this pattern again, probably in a larger size and DEFINITELY in thinner fabric. I'd like to have another go at the pockets, as they add something special to this fairly standard skirt pattern. I promise I'm not wishing anyone's life away, but I CAN'T WAIT to see Dolores running about in the outfit above (t-shirt charity shopped from Leigh-on-sea) in a year or so! 

Tuesday 4 November 2014

KCW: Results Are In...

A couple of weeks ago I took part in my first children's wear related sewalong: KCW. Largely because it had the most relaxed rules of any sewalong I've ever heard of. I simply made sure that I sewed some children's clothing for at least an hour a day for a week (more or less). Want to see what I made? OF COURSE you do! You're not mental. Are you?  

I rustled up a denim skirt, a knit dress and finished up a UFO which took the form of zebra leggings. I'm going to post separately and more thoroughly about the first two. For the zebra leggings, I used the playful kitty leggings pattern in the next size up (Size 80). I have no idea when Dolores will fit them, but we put her in leggings A LOT so it's good to have these 'in the bank' for when she grows out of her current leggings stash

The fabric was a gift from lovely sewing lady Catherine, which I received when Dolores was still at the stage when her age was measured in weeks, rather than months or years. Like I did for the smaller size, I redrafted the waistline so that they are a bit lower at the front. Plus I stitched a loop of rainbow grosgrain ribbon into the centre back so I can tell at a glance which way round they need to go whilst wrestling the octopus/baby. 

I actually made two pairs of these leggings exactly the same and gave one to Dolores's friend Naomi to congratulate her on acquiring 12 months of age. I still have a small quantity of this stuff left in Le Stash, and I have a plan...

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