Tuesday 31 March 2015

Me-Made-May'15! SIGN UP HERE

Yes indeed my friends, here it is! 2015's official Me-Made challenge that celebrates all the love and hard work that so many of us put into crafting unique, special handmade clothing and accessories. If you want to improve your relationship with your me-made items, then this challenge is for you!

What is Me-Made-May'15?

Me-Made-May'15 (#mmmay15 for social media interaction) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle garments for themselves to actually wear and love them. The me-made and self-stitched challenges have been taking place for five years now and they work on both a personal and community level. The participants decide the specifics of their own challenge pledge, so that the month is appropriate and challenging for them (more on this below). For example, a very common pledge is for a participant to aim to wear one self-stitched or refashioned garment each day for the duration of May 2015. The participants can also choose to document their challenge with daily photos (though this is in no way compulsory for taking part) and share them with other participants (more on this below).

What isn't Me-Made-May'15? 
  • The Me-Made-May challenges are NOT all about taking daily outfit photographs. However, many participants do choose to document their challenge with daily/weekly/as-often-as-you-like photos and share them on their blog if they have one or on Flickr or Pinterest if they are a member. The challenge is about wearing your handmade clothing more often than you usually do, if you choose to take documentation photos, then that is fabulous and we'd love to see 'em, but taking photos isn't necessary or compulsory and really isn't the point of the challenge. 
  • Me-Made-May also isn't reason to panic-sew/make anything. This challenge is about wearing the items that you have already created, not about stock-piling more makes. However, if you want to use taking part in the challenge as the kick in the butt you need to finally hem that half-finished skirt, or rework an ill-fitting garment, then great. Remember, this challenge is meant to be fun, and panic-anything isn't fun! 
  • A competition. It doesn't matter how many self-stitched items you already have or haven't. You can take part even if you just have one solitary self-made item! You just need to set your pledge to make it challenging for YOU, no matter what criteria other participants have set themselves. 

I haven't taken part in any of these before, why should I take part?

Ohh, there are squillions of reasons why you might choose take part! They may include:
  • Do your handmade items often get left in the wardrobe rather than worn as part of your everyday wardrobe? Participating in this challenge can give you a bit of a nudge to help you to integrate your self-stitched items into your daily life.
  • This challenge may also be useful for discovering the 'holes' in your wardrobe so in the future you are able to focus your precious garment-creating time towards making things that will be useful. 
  • If you feel that what you tend to wear, day-to-day, doesn't really suit you or represent who you are, this challenge is a way to spend a month focussing on getting out of your wardrobe rut
  • You may enjoy an excuse to focus on finishing off lingering UFOs (un-finished objects), or to start a project you've had on your mind for ages. 
  • If you have been creating clothing for some time and already wear a lot of your me-mades, this challenge might help you to bring newer self-stitched items into regular rotation. If you tend to make all kinds of garments, you may even want to see if you can get by all month entirely without shop-bought garments.
  • There is also guaranteed to be a lovely online community of fellow participants to give support, advice and inspiration.

I've taken part in these in the past, why should I take part this year?

Did you enjoy it last time/the previous times you took part?
  • If the answer is 'Yes': Then you'll have lots of fun again this year, whilst challenging yourself in a different way and learning something new about yourself and your style/skills/preferences/wardrobe. You just need to think about how you can alter and/or amp up your pledge specifics to get the most out of this year's challenge.
  • If the answer is 'No': Well if that's a 'no' because the challenge you set yourself was too hard, then that is easily rectified this time round; set your pledge so that it is tricky but do-able. If it's a 'no' because you didn't enjoy the pressure you felt to take photos each day, then simply don't worry about documenting your challenge with photos. You'll learn lots of lessons and get satisfaction from taking part in the challenge and completing your pledge, not from the documentation of it (although some participants have found that seeing the daily images of themselves has really helped them figure out what suits them and what doesn't work so well). If you'd like to do a little bit of documenting, then why not just photograph your favourite outfit/garment you wore at the end of the week, or some other version that doesn't make you feel under pressure. But seriously, if you didn't like taking part in it and don't want to try again, fair enough! 

Ok, you've convinced me, how do I sign up?

All you have to do is copy the pledge below and post it in the comments section of this post adapted to include your details and the personal specification of your challenge before 1st May:

 'I, (insert name here and blog address if you have one), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '15. I endeavour to wear......................................................... each day for the duration of May 2015'

Points to consider when creating your pledge:
  • This is YOUR challenge, write the pledge any way you want, just remember: IT IS A CHALLENGE and not meant to be easy or what you do usually. In the past I have received the odd comment saying 'Oh, I already do this so I may as well sign up', however those people had clearly missed the point which is to challenge yourself, and therefore they would be unlikely to learn very much or feel much satisfaction at the end of the month. 
  • THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION. It is a personal attempt to achieve a better relationship with your handmade creations, which you may or may not choose to share with the creative online community. What I mean is, don't set a pledge that you've seen other people make that sounds good but in reality is unobtainable for you and your lifestyle. For example, if you have to wear a uniform for work each day, you may prefer to pledge to wear self-stitched items at the weekends or days off only. 
  • There's no rush to sign up immediately, as long as you do so before 1st May. Have a think for a while about your current relationship with your creations, then think how you might want to improve that relationship.
  • If you have taken part before, or already wear a fair amount of self-made clothing and/or accessories, think how you can up the ante from the standard 'one self-stitched garment a day' pledge. How about wearing two or more self-made garments each day? Or pledge to try making a new type of garment by the end of the month to wear on the final day? Or pledge to finish all your UFO's by 31st May? Pledge to focus on wearing your 'meh' garments to see if you can fall back in love with some of them? Pledge to only wear separates to force yourself to get creative with your mix-and-matching? Pledge to only wear each garment or garment-combo once? Pledge to wear an outfit including one sewn or knitted garment AND one refashion each day? There are near-infinite ways to amp things up for yourself. 
If you have a blog, why not re-post your pledge there so your readers and followers can see what you are up to and be inspired by your endeavour? Please include a link to this post so others can also sign-up if they are interested. If there's one thing I've learnt from these challenges, the more people involved, the better the party!

I've signed up, what do I do now then?

Nothing in particular until 1st May 20145, except let an underlying sense of excitement brew! You may decide to finish up that UFO, but please people, NO PANIC-SEWING/MAKING NECESSARY OR CONDONED!!

If you would like to advertise your participation on your blog if you have one, why not treat yourself to the addition of the Me-Made-May'15 widget/gadget/button? The code can be found at the top of the right hand column of this blog's home page. The widget/gadget/button not only looks cute, but it shows other participants/potential-participants at a glance that you are taking part this year. Plus when clicked on, it will ping you to this sign-up post so others can read what this whole damn thing is about without you needing to go into too much of an explanation yourself. If you aren't sure how to apply/insert a widget/gadget/button code, check this post for explanations for Blogspot/Blogger and Wordpress blogs.

How do I interact with other participants throughout the challenge?

If you would like to see what other participants are up to throughout the month and/or show others how you are getting on then there are several ways to do so. 
  • Blogs. If you have a blog, then why not tell/show your readers what you are up to? Reading about others' experiences of these challenges is always so interesting and often useful. If you'd like to discover some blogs of other participants, you will be able to find lots by looking through the comments section of this sign-up post. Some participants like to post their outfit photos on their blogs, and remember if you want to do that but don't have the time or desire to post daily, you could post more manageable summaries once or twice a week, which I prefer to do, or even just at the end of the month.
  • Flickr. If you wish to be a part of the Me-Made-May'15 Flickr group, head over there and request membership. I'll 'let you in' within two days so you can begin posting your outfits/garments from 1st May. If you wish to start a discussion over there before 1st May, please feel free to do so! If you choose not to sign up to the Flickr group, you will still be able to see all the photos added by other participants and read the discussions being had over there, however you will not be able to comment on the photos or add to the discussions. The Flickr groups are always heaps of fun and such a lovely way to see lots of participants all in one go participating in different countries and climates. Plus it can be a fabulous way to discover new inspirational bloggers and blogs to follow, and generally make some new e-friends!
  • Pinterest. After the popularity of last year's, this year we have a Me-Made-May'15 Pinterest board. To pin your garment/outfit pictures on there, you will need to 'follow' the board. It'll take up to two days for you to be allowed access, so don't panic if you can't pin on there immediately. Please add the #mmmay15 hashtag to your pins. 
  • Twitter and Instagram. It would also be totally ace if Twitter and Instagram users posted about and discussed the challenge using the #mmmay15 hashtag.

Anything else I should know?

!!!! This challenge is meant to be explorative, illuminating and beneficial, but above that it's meant to be fun! Getting dressed can often be fun, and if you haven't felt any clothes-based fun for a while, why not see if this challenge can help inject some of that back? 'Hanging out' online with the other participants can be a big part of that fun by seeing what they are wearing (either by visiting their personal blogs or through the Flickr group, Pinterest board or via Twitter and Instagram) and by sharing your own unique take on this challenge.

If you are concerned or confused about any aspect of this challenge, please email me at sozoblog (at) g mail (dot) com.

Let the signing up commence!!!!!

Sunday 29 March 2015

Stripy Mabel Skirt: Take Two!

Alrighty. So the saga of the stripy Mabel skirt continues... You may or may not recall that I made a knee length version in this black and white synthetic double knit back in January. I was concerned that it was too tight and too long, and would end up getting constantly over-looked when deciding what to wear. I was debating about what to do about it; do I simply shorten the version I'd made or to I remake the whole damn thing adding width to the thigh area? 

I forced myself to wear it a couple of times and came to the conclusion that it was definitely too tight and not enjoyable to wear. Taking the hem up a bit wasn't going to be enough to make it something I'd reach for regularly, so I found the remnants of the fabric and cut myself out another, shorter version (though not as short as the pattern's short version) with about 1.5 cm added to each side seam around the thigh. I was able to unpick and reuse my take one's waistband and facing which made my take two a little quicker to construct. 

So how does the second version fare? It's definitely better. I've worn it a couple of times and it doesn't feel restrictive anymore. I'm not in love with how it sits on the waist though. Perhaps it could be improved by tightening it up a bit or even exaggerating the curve of the back waistband, but I feel that those potential solutions would make getting it on and off difficult. I can't help but think that eliminating the curved waistband idea entirely and creating an elasticated waist would feel generally more secure. 

Although this second version is much better than the first and will see some wear for sure, at present it's still not the comfy-as-wearing-T-shirt-round-your-bum plan I had in mind for a knit skirt! Ideally I was going for something I could wear to play groups and mess around in without a second thought, but I do find myself somewhat conscious of this skirt (as I feel in all skirts to be fair) and have to readjust how it is sitting from time to time. I don't think I'll make another Mabel skirt, but at some point I may use it as a basis to draft an elasticated waist knit skirt pattern, which is probably what I should have done in the first place. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to get a pic of the second version actually being worn. Trying to get one actually delayed me in publishing this post, but with #mmmay15 just round the corner, I figured you'll see it worn (hopefully!) soon enough to get an idea of the fit!

Well, I wasn't going to waste the first version of this skirt, was I?! Using my go-to baby/toddler Playful Kitty leggings pattern, I cut the biggest size (size 92) as I wanted to get maximum use of the remaining fabric after the waistband had been removed. Dolores probably won't fit these for at least a year, but that's totally fine as I've made heaps of leggings for her for the nearer future, and have plans for many more pairs of stretchy bottoms in the pipeline. 

I attempted to make this version of the leggings pattern more interesting to make for myself by adding these appliquéd heart knee patches. The hearts are made from tiny scraps of the T-shirting left over from the retro running shorts and are adhered to the leggings with double sided bondaweb. Usually when I do  appliqué, I fuse some interfacing to the back of the area before satin-stitching round the edge of the shape, but I skipped that step this time as I didn't want to make them restrictive with too much bulk so that she can't easily bend her knees! It meant that the hearts looked a bit wavy and not as flat as they would do if I'd applied interfacing, but a good old press with the iron elimated most of the wobbly effect.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Brindille and Twig Free Raglan Hoodie Pattern

Who doesn't like free stuff?! I know I do! Especially when the free stuff in question is sewing patterns. A lot of pattern designers release free products and I'm guessing for a variety of reasons. Some do it to showcase their drafting and instruction writing skills, some want to garner Facebook 'likes' and newsletter sign-ups. And some do so just to get something 'out there' without the extra pressure that would be heaped on top if the products were to be bought (which was very much my own motivation when I released my free patterns). 

Having been crushing pretty hard on Brindille and Twig designs recently (see my independent children's sewing pattern post here), I was thrilled to learn that they had released a free pattern for download. Particularly because I really can't justify buying any new patterns at the moment whilst I have so many children's sewing patterns already in my possession that I haven't used yet and cash is tight at the moment, in no small part due to the recent demise of my last sewing machine and the purchase of another. 


The free raglan hoodie pattern is great because it'll look super cute on both boys and girls. The options for clever combinations with contrast cuffs and hem bands, hood lining, sleeves and shoulder seam detail are near-endless so you could make this pattern up lots of times and it always look like an entirely different garment. 

I was thoroughly impressed with both the drafting and the instructions. The latter were as clear, bright and easy to understand at the website lead me to expect. I made the size 90, which indicates the height in cms and is meant to correspond roughly to 18-24 months. Dolores is almost 18 months now but I was expecting it to be way too big as she measures 81 cm at the moment. I was happy with that as I thought it would be fine for her at the end of the year going into autumn, however it actually fits her well now. 

I used my regular sewing machine to apply and topstitch the front pocket and to baste on the shoulder seam detail strips, and my overlocker for everything else. It was a little more involved than my usual knit projects for Dolores, but that was almost entirely because I was trying to match the stripes at various points. One negative thing I have to say about this pattern is that the seam allowance is a scant 6 mm / 1/4". I would have liked it to be at least 8 mm, preferably 1 cm, as I think that would have made including the shoulder seam detail easier and in general I like to shave off a bit when sewing with my overlocker rather than trying to position the raw edges so that nothing gets trimmed away at all. I also think such a tiny seam allowance might be make a beginner sewer balk a bit when otherwise it's a pretty easy, beginner-friendly pattern. 


The pattern recommends this pattern be made in medium weight knit fabric, like cotton/lycra jersey or french terry. In that case I assumed regular sweatshirt knit would be too thick and bulky, but personally I didn't feel a jersey would have the right look or weight for a hoodie. I'm happy with the compromise I found in this organic cotton interlock. Interlock knit is effectively twice the thickness of jersey but behaves in a similar way. It has the right look for this little hoodie but with the correct amount of stretch required by the pattern. I had a small piece in my stash left over from making a Moneta dress for Annie, owner of the Village Haberdashery. They don't seem to have it in stock at the moment, but you can see it on their website here, and they have similar available. 

This organic interlock is ridiculously soft and cosy. Having already made a pair of leggings for Dolores in it, I knew that it would be appropriate for children's wear, but I also knew that it will grow a bit as the garment gets worn and laundered as it has no lycra/elastane/spandex content to keep it taut. Knowing that this hoodie is going to get a bit bigger over time and usage actually feel like a plus in this instance, as the hoodie's lifespan will increase as it grows along with her for a while!

Matching the stripes at the side seams, on the pocket, across the hood curve and a bit at the shoulder seams gave me a mild headache, but it was worth it for a nice, neat looking that my mother-in-law said 'looks like something you'd buy in the shops'!  

Keeping the organic theme going, the hood lining and shoulder seam detail strips are made cut from some cream jersey (actually it may also be interlock know I think about it) from Offset Warehouse that I was given to try out for free last year. It's the same stuff I used to make this breast-feeding friendly Coco top and these fancy pants.

The pattern suggests cutting the cuffs and hem band from rib knit or 'other stretchy stuff'. I decided to use the same stripy interlock but with the stripes going in the other direction. The cuffs actually came out quite a bit tighter than I was expecting and I was prepared to remake them a bit wider, but once she tried the hoodie on I found that they are actually fine. 


In general I love this pattern and the finished garment I made for Dolores. But for a fully balanced review I will share all my niggles, even though they are pretty tiny ones. So, aside from the seam allowance issue, I also think the neck hole is a bit too wide. If I am making the next size up next time, I will probably still use the neck hole and hood from the size 90. I will also stitch a row of stay-stitching around the neck hole just incase any stretching occurs and baste the hood onto the neck with my regular machine before going over the seam with my overlocker, incase I stretched it out a bit by stitching the hood on only with my overlocker as the instructions directed.

I also think the shoulder detail strips should have been a tiny bit wider. It annoys me that they are slightly narrower than the white stripes of the interlock. This is my fault for cutting the too narrow, but it was also hampered by trying to attach them within the tiny 6mm seam allowance.  
But as I say, overall I'm extremely pleased with this make. Plus I'm happy to have acted upon my recent musings that I need to stop making Dolores light-weight clothing and summer dresses and instead focus more on things that she will not be restricted in at all and are more suitable for our climate. I'm very grateful to Melissa from Brindille and Twig for sharing this pattern for free. I was more than happy to hand over a Facebook 'like' and sign up to the newsletter in exchange for it! I'm sure I'll make many more of these in the future when appropriate fabric comes onto my radar. 

Saturday 21 March 2015

1960's Breton Top: The Best Thing I Have Ever Sewn, Maybe

A bold title, non?! This top may not look super-exciting, but by making it, I have managed to make EXACTLY the garment I wanted in my wardrobe. So, some back story... 

You know me, I usually prefer to make/wear vaguely retro style clothing, and I've been thinking about moving in a slightly different direction from my usual inspiration points. For a couple of years now I've been inspired by looser, boxier fitting tops from the 1960's, like the garment on the right of the pattern illustration pictured below, but haven't done anything about it. Until now, that is. 

This style top looks excellent with skinny jeans and capri pants, and seeing as I already live in the former and would like to wear more of the latter, I knew this type of top would fit in with what I've already got going on. 


I've had Simplicity 7023 (pictured below) lurking in my stash for yonks. In fact, I can't remember when or where I bought it, but I wouldn't be surprised if eBay was involved. The overblouse design has got the right silhouette for my needs: boxy but not baggy. Plus I love the bateau neckline and extended/dropped armhole seam.  

I toyed with the idea of making a roll collar to create more of a look like this or this. But to make a garment with maximum usefulness, I knew it needed to fit easily under a cardigan, jacket or a coat so I went with the pattern's original neckline. 

I made a few modifications to the original pattern. The major change I made was to eliminate the centre back seam and fastening. I measured the neck hole on the pattern first to make sure I wouldn't have any trouble in getting it on and off, then cut the back piece on the fold instead. I also made the hem a bit wider to accommodate my hippage, plus added side splits because I really like that detail on these kinds of tops. I altered the sleeves too, but I can't remember exactly in what way, perhaps making them a bit narrower and shorter at the hem? And of course I drafted some simple patch pockets that would allow me to alter the direction of the fabric for a bit of interest. One more thing I did that turned out to be completely pointless was to drop the bust darts by about 2 cm to reflect my shoulder-to-bust point measurement.


This navy and white stripy, synthetic double-knit-type-stuff has been burning a hole in my stash for a few years. I've had so many ideas for it that I was kind of paralysed by indecision and it languished in there unused. When I first acquired it (I got it second hand, it could well be from around the same time as the pattern!) I was erring towards making a dress, perhaps something fit and flare like this, or more of a shift dress shape like this. Then, I started imagining spring coats and jackets, perhaps along the lines of this. Eventually reality kicked in and I figured out that I probably didn't have sufficient quantity for any of those plans, and a top would be far more practical and useful for me anyhow. 

The navy stripes in the fabric have a raised texture which made pattern-matching at the side seams a nightmare/impossible, so I brushed my shoulders off and moved on. The fabric doesn't fray so I stitched it using my regular sewing machine and left the edges raw. Not much else to report I don't think.


Umm, I've not exactly been subtle so far about my thoughts and feelings towards this top! I freaking love it and that's all I can say. As soon as it comes out of the wash it gets put on again. I'm not sure quite what I'm going to do during Me-Made-May, because I keep wearing it with the charity-shopped skinny jeans as seen in these pictures, and I'm not sure I'm going to get a chance to make some myself before then. Hmm... just one of the many challenges to figure out during May I guess!   

So, what's the best garment you've made to date? 

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Me-Made-May'15: Coming Soon...

Listen up peops! If you'd like to take part in the Me-Made-May challenge this year, the sign ups will begin in a couple of weeks. You'll be able to sign up and specify your personal pledge between 1st April and 30th April. So head back here then (if not before!) to find the signing up post with FULL details on the hows and whys of participating.

In the meantime, why not have a little think about how you might like to improve the relationship you have with your handmade clothing? Asking yourself some of the following questions might help:

  • What have you made that doesn't get worn? 
  • Why don't they get worn? 
  • What things do you currently wear the majority of the time (be they self-stitched or shop bought)? 
  • What clothes/outfits make you feel comfortable?
  • What clothes/outfits make you feel special?
  • What clothes/outfits make you feel 'you'?
  • If you've participated in these challenges before, what did you learn from completing your previous pledge/s? 
I really look forward to reading all your pledges from 1st April, whether you have participated in these challenges in the past or it'll be your first time! Here's to #mmmay15. 

Saturday 14 March 2015

Copy Your Clothes

A squillion years ago I studied Fashion Design at University. I quickly learnt that I wasn't a very good designer, but found the that more practical parts of the course, garment construction and pattern cutting, really floated my metaphorical boat. The lecture I still remember as being the most interesting was an 'extra' (not part of the syllabus) taught by a lovely pattern cutting tutor called Karen. She showed us how to take a pattern from a pair of trousers or jeans that fitted us well. This blew my mind at the time, and I've been fascinated by this subject and the challenges involved ever since. 

(image source: Tilly and the Buttons)

On and off, I've been using existing garments to make sewing patterns ever since, whether to try to accurately copy the original, or to use it as a way to get closer to the style I'm aiming for than if I started cutting with basic pattern blocks. Then when Tilly suggested we run a workshop at her HQ/studio around the subject of copying existing garments, I did masses of research to really hone the techniques into a process I could break down and teach to others. 

Coincidentally, around the time that Tilly and I started discussing the workshops, my best friend Vic asked me to copy her beloved spotty Peter Pan collared T-shirt (pictured above). For the first four or five Copy Your Clothes workshops, I actually used her T-shirt in the demo part of the workshop, which gave me the kick up the bum to actually get on with the task (sorry it took so long, Vic!). 

With the pattern finally complete, I then made a copy in a lovely soft teal interlock that had been lurking in my stash (sorry for the pics, it's one of those colours that my camera can't deal with accurately! The picture at the top of this post is the most like the colour in real life). This fabric doesn't have exactly the same properties as the original jersey, but it's close enough and Vic says the fit of the copy is great (phew!). Here she is rocking her new/reproduced top:

You may notice that the copy isn't exactly the same at the original: the keyhole detail has been constructed differently and is an oval rather than teardrop shape. Plus the sleeves have bands rather than binding at the hem. This is because I had to adapt the construction process to suit the machinery I have at home, I (lamentably) do not have access to an industrial binding machine. And this is one of the points I make in the class: you may not be able to make an exact replica of your original garment, particularly if it's been mass-produced, but you can get a damn good approximation (or even improvement!) that you will love just as much!  

The Copy Your Clothes workshops at Tilly's have been really popular, with each one selling out not long after it's been scheduled. If you are interested in taking the class, currently there are two scheduled for 9th May (10am - 2pm) and 30th May (2pm - 6pm). 

Monday 9 March 2015

'So, Zo...' Investigates: Independent Children's Sewing Pattern Companies, Part 2

(image source: Shwin & Shwin)

Hi peops! Here's the second and final (for now) instalment on my mini-feature about independent children's sewing pattern companies....

(image source: Kitschy Coo)

Kitschy Coo

Amanda from Kitschy Coo is a rather awesome knit fabric purveyor as well as pattern designer/seller. I had to look at her online shop through my fingers to try and avoid being tempted to buy some of the incredible printed organic cotton jersey.

Check out: She's developed some wonderful patterns for women and children, the Lady and Little Girl's Skater dress patterns being particularly popular. However, if I'm going to do some spends on any of them, and I most likely will, it'll be for the Boy cut unisex brief (pictured above), entirely due to Jenna's amazing versions and her daughter's approval of the fit.

(image source: Made by Rae)

Made by Rae

Rae is the design genius who came up with awesome Washi dress pattern, that must have saved sooooo many preggers women since it was released (myself included), Rae has also release a some children's patterns (as well as designed some pretty awesome fabric prints for Cloud 9, which I learned by hanging out at the Village Haberdashery).

Check out: The Geranium dress pattern (pictured above). Yes, one pattern can make all those different looking garments. I told you she's a freakin' design genius! The pattern includes heaps variations for different lengths, necklines, sleeves, gathering etc. That is some serious value for money right there and as soon as I get round to making some of the patterns I bought during a recent splurge, I'm going to chuck money her way to get my hands on a copy.

(image source: Misusu patterns)

Misusu Patterns

If your ideal of kids clothing is comfortable, quirky and contemporary, then you need to check out Misusu patterns. All their designs have really clever features and details paired with interesting silhouettes. This brand is unique, and I wish I was even a fraction as good at putting colours together as this designer is.

Check out: the Bruno cardigan (pictured above), among many of their designs, encourages experimentation with fabric and colour combinations. I'm also big into the Lotte dress and tunic pattern which cleverly creates the illusion of separates.

(image source: Oliver +S)

Oliver + S

If you haven't seen their patterns before then you can't be into sewing and I don't know why you're reading this blog. Go away. I'm joking, I'm joking, come back! Maybe you just hate kids... Another joke, I promise. Don't be so sensitive.

In short: Oliver + S are to children's sewing patterns what This American Life is to podcasts: better quality, more prolific, and deservedly very successful. If you aren't into PDF's then you're in luck because Oliver + S patterns are available in both digital and paper format. And from my experience of them so far, their instructions are excellent.

Check out: Their range is ridiculous. So many wonderful patterns it'll make your eyes water (figuratively, otherwise you should probably turn down the brightness on your screen). I already own four or five Oliver + S patterns, but another that I certainly aim to get my mitts on in the future is the Sailboat Top, Skirt and Pants/Trousers pattern (pictured above). I think I'll get it in the larger size batch (4-8 rather than 6 mths-3) so I can make the most of every size included.

(image source: Shwin & Shwin)

Shwin & Shwin

This crew actually produce patterns for girls, boys and women, and have clearly been busy because there's heaps of them! Their products seems really lovely, I especially like how many of the kid's patterns are unisex.

Check out: there are quite a few I'm tempted by. The Lucille top which is pictured at the top of this post looks like a fun pattern for using up colourful scraps of jersey. Plus I imagine there's many a little girl who would go crazy for a Georgia Twirl top/dress (pictured above).

(image source: Too Sweets)

Too Sweets 

Too Sweets patterns came onto my radar when I took part in the blog tour for the little girl's Perfect Pattern Parcel by making their September tunic/dress pattern. It was an enjoyable make, and having just a nose at their Etsy site, I can see there's some other lovely options. However, as someone who lives in a more temperate climate, I think it's clear the designer lives somewhere pretty warm (Arizona) as there's not really any cooler weather garment patterns in this collection. That's something I've been thinking a lot about recently, as I find I'm making Dolores heaps of lovely things that will see her through for the warmest part of the year, but for the chilly part (i.e. the majority)? I'd best get re-thinking my next few sewing projects, or start hitting the charity shops even harder than I already do!

Check out: I reckon the Roo Romper pattern would be ace for fully potty-trained kids. No way I'd make it before that point though. You know how long it can take to get out of a playsuit when you need a wee!

(image source: Willow & Co)

Willow & Co

So what's unusual and very cool about Willow and Co, is that they are a design collective. Five women for the price of one! I really love the idea of a collaborative effort like that, hopefully a super-supportive and no-egos type thing.

Check out: The Fawn Lily dress/tunic (pictured above) is hands down the most awesome. Soooo many fabulous fabric combo opportunities I can hardly breathe! But do check out the rest of their small but perfectly formed current collection. Plus the sneaky peak of their SS 2015 collection looks very promising also...

Thursday 5 March 2015

'So, Zo...' Investigates: Independent Children's Sewing Pattern Companies, Part 1

(image source: Brindille & Twig)

If I'm sounding a bit weary these days, it's because I've been out there on the front line investigating  where exactly to find the bestest children's sewing patterns so you don't have to! So what are my findings? Here's the options:

Obviously there's the Big Four children's patterns offerings, many of which are quite nice and some are full of potential, if you can overlook the super-traditional fabric choices and styling. You could try to scout out some fantastic vintage children's patterns on eBay or wherever. Then of course you've got pattern magazines (Ottobre Design magazine being the most awesome), which can work out great value if you like several of the designs in an issue. And finally, and for me most excitingly, there are a whole host of independent children's sewing pattern companies. Basically, it's just like the world of adult sewing patterns in terms of sources. Who knew?!?

So today I want to start talking about the indies. I've only just scratched the surface but initial research suggests that there are loads. And more seem to be appearing almost every day. There's even a flashy online magazine called Stylo dedicated to them! As you would expect, the independent companies often offer less traditional styles, more like the kind of things most parents actually want their kids (or even themselves, some are that good!) to wear. Something I love about these companies is that many/most of them seem to be run by mums from their homes whilst looking after their own kids, and selling their designs through their own sites and blogs or via Etsy.

If, like me, you are new to this subsection of the sewing pattern world but would like to investigate further, here's Part 1 of my little guide to some of the companies that are well worth a look, with Part 2 coming in a few days time. Please note: due to the fact that I have a daughter rather than a son, I've highlighted a few more patterns for girls' clothing than for boys'. Plus I have to say that, just like the adult sewing pattern world, there sadly seems to be far more choice of products for females than males (boys-and-unisex-only company Titchy Threads being a great exception).

(image source: Brindille & Twig)

You can tell that designer Melissa Hendrickson is a mum herself designing with her daughter in mind because the entire collection is, or can be, made in jersey! The majority of these patterns are unisex and the vibrant fabrics used on this site brings a real sense of fun, and I feel that that is what sewing for kids really should be about.

Check out: My personal favourites are the excellent unisex crew neck sweatshirt (pictured above) and the darling flutter sleeve tunic (pictured at the top of the post).

(image source: Compagnie M)

Compagnie M

This small but perfectly formed selection of patterns is predominantly for girls and I literally want to buy them ALL. Also one of the few children's sewing pattern companies not to include 'and' or '&' in their name. Fact. Their strength lays in the potential for awesome fabric combinations and bold button usage.

Check out: The Louisa dress pattern, which if Pinterest is to be believed simply cannot be made into a bad version (I've already snaffled it up). Also the amazing unisex Charles pants/shorts/dungarees pattern pictured above.

(image source: E & E Patterns)

Elegance & Elephants (AKA E & E Patterns)

These are some pretty hip but wearable patterns here, all modelled (as most are, let's be honest) by the designer's own kids. I nearly wrote 'kiddos' then. I have never actually said 'kiddo' out loud in real life. I've clearly been spending too much time reading children's sewing blogs lately.

Check out: The rather excellent unisex Spring Showers jacket pattern (pictured above). The Bubble Pocket Shorts pattern is also all kinds of amazing!

(image source: Figgy's)


I am not cool enough for Figgy's patterns. If they were made in adult sizes I would not be allowed to sew them, I'd look like I'd stolen someone else's clothes because they are far too contemporary. Figgy's are available as PDF's AND as actual paper patterns from actual shops. Each non-virtual pattern pack contains a sweet little woven label that you can sew into your finished creation.

Check out: The effortlessly chic Stellar Tunic/Dress pattern (pictured above) which is ripe for all many of wonderful contrast fabric fun. The unisex Banyan Trousers/Shorts pattern is also a winner and I'm excited to say that I own it. I'm going to wait a couple of years before I make it for Dolores though, I feel they'd suit older children better.

Ok folks, that'll do for today. Tune in again very soon for the next instalment when I'll reveal a further five independent children's pattern companies that you should know about....

Sunday 1 March 2015

Ditsy Floral Mimi Blouse

True to my word in my mini-review of Love at First Stitch, I made a Mimi blouse before the end of 2015! Pretty near the beginning of 2015 in fact. The Mimi blouse is my favourite pattern from the book, and I loves me a vintage-y style little blouse (as proven by my collection of patterns you can see here). Also, sometimes when I'm teaching workshops at Tilly's HQ, I think it's nice to represent 'Team Tilly' by wearing a creation from one of her patterns. Just as soon as it gets warmer...


So the first thing to mention about the pattern is that is needs tracing. The patterns in the book are helpfully ordered so all the bits you'll need for one of the styles are all grouped together on one large page per pattern, so no magic-eye skillz required like with the Burda or Ottobre magazines. PLUS, unlike those 'zines, seam and hem allowances are already included. Want to see a video of Dolores 'helping' me trace out the Mimi pattern pieces? Of course you do...
If I'm looking slightly less than a picture of patience in the video, despite the evident cuteness of her assistance, it is because it was taken at the end of a long day full of 'helping'! 

So back to the pattern. I decided to monkey around with the sizing a bit. Generally I like my blouses to be quite fitted, and the style ease in the Mimi seemed quite a lot more than I'd usually go for. So to this end, even though my measurements corresponded closely to the Size 3 of the pattern, I actually traced the Size 2, and used the Size 3 for the sleeve. Generally I think this was a good tactic, however it did come out a tiny bit tighter than I expected in a couple of places, so maybe I'd make the Size 3 after all if I make this again. Oh, and I'd probably go up another size to the Size 4 for the sleeves next time as they are a wee bit tight, although that could be the crappy interfacing I used for the stiffening the facings which always seems to shrink whatever I'm fusing a little. 

There are some really lovely elements to this pattern and it was a really enjoyable make. I think the proportions of the gathered yoke and collar are really lovely. The only thing I felt I could add to the pattern was to make a different configuration of the buttons, which I placed in pairs for a little extra interest. 


Hmm, so I'm not really sure this fabric is 'me', and my personal jury is still out on this subject. It's an undeniable pretty ditsy floral Liberty or faux-Liberty (I'm not sure, I didn't buy it) print cotton lawn that has been lurking in my stash for an age. Just as Karen wrote in the awesome Liberty Tana Lawn edition of her fabric Focus series, it feels wonderful to both work with AND wear. I cannot wait for warmer months to wear this regularly and enjoy that experience! 


I'm actually surprised by how much I like this blouse despite the 'un-me' fabric. I think the fabric a good pairing with this sewing pattern, and that is what is winning me over. As Tilly writes in the book, the Mimi blouse looks great with skinny jeans, which is pretty much my uniform at the moment. 

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