Thursday 27 April 2017

My #MMMay17 Pledge

'I, Zoe of 'So, Zo...' blog and @sozoblog, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '17. I endeavour to wear all me-made clothing (excluding bras, socks, tights and footwear) each day for the duration of May 2017'

It's that time again my friends: for all of us who want to take part in the the Me-Made-May challenge to take stock of what's going on in our lives, and think about how we hope to improve our relationships with our handmade wardrobes. Or something like that.

For me personally, this Me-Made-May will be my first as a full-time mum of two little people, and probably my last with a baby hanging around the place. That means needing to wear intensely comfortable and practical things in outfit combos that take NO TIME to put together, with regular breastfeeding access a necessity. That all may sound a bit constraining, but I'm actually feeling really good with what I have, and have to, wear these days. Plus, I'm feeling a real freedom, both practically-speaking in the comfortable clothes I'm wearing, and conceptually by not needing to 'dress to impress' anyone at the moment.

I've accepted pretty fully where I am currently at with my lifestyle/wardrobe needs, so much so that I had a major clear out a few weeks ago. I bagged up and donated at least a third of my wardrobe. I guess, there's nothing like an expanding family to shift and refocus your priorities. That said, I've also been feeling for a year or so that my personal style and influences were shifting somewhat, but being pregnant for most of last year meant that exploring that was put on hold. Now I'm not pregnant, and I have a fairly clean slate in the form of my dramatically thinned out clothing selection, I'm free to add to my wardrobe slowly and mindfully, which I'm really excited about.

But back to Me-Made-May. Although my pledge this year is the same as it has been for previous years (including the first in 2010!), this year will be different for me in that I've decided not to attempt daily documentation photos. Taking photos is, of course, NOT the point of the challenge, but it has always been something I've liked to do (however much of a struggle it can sometimes be) as I've found it really informative and useful. But I just can't see how I'll be able to keep up with that this year, whilst dealing with two tiny scamps with their various and different needs. Plus, Mr So Zo is studying hard at the moment on top of his full time job and childcare duties, so it doesn't seem fair to rope him into daily mini-photoshoots as well. Also, with my current limited clothing selection, I'm expecting lots of outfit repetition, so there's not much point in taking pics of the same thing over and over again.

Instead, I plan to write down what I wear each day, so I can analyse at the end which items get worn the most, and therefore which types of things I should focus my future sewing activities on making. I will take some outfit shots here and there, perhaps when I'm feeling particularly pleased with an outfit, or more likely, when I randomly get the chance!

If you plan to challenge yourself during Me-Made-May, I hope that coming up with a useful pledge wasn't too tricky. I wish everyone heaps of fun throughout the month, and hope that you learn lots of useful lessons along the way.

Monday 17 April 2017

Rainbow Bright Pyjamas

Whilst I deliberate both my current trouser fitting issues and the specifics of my own #MMMay17 challenge, I'm going to share with you a cute little project I completed for Dolores a few weeks back. 


This project came about by acquiring the fabric first and then figuring out what to do with it, rather than finding a pattern I wanted to make and sourcing suitable fabric for it. I saw this crazy rainbow-stars-and-spots knit on one of Girl Charlee's new-stock announcements and my internal WANT alarm sounded loud and clear. It looked so fun and cartoony, and I knew Dolores would love it (in no small part due to it being predominantly pink). 

Mark at Girl Charlee was generous enough to send me 1.2m for free (thanks Mark!), and when it arrived I found it most intriguing. Firstly, because I rarely pay attention to such things even though it is clearly displayed on their site, I didn't realise that the print was on such a large scale. I love how that makes this fabric even bolder. And secondly, it was much thinner than I anticipated, slightly see-through in fact, so my considerations for another Corfou dress went out the window. This fine, light weight knit fabric with an unusual waffle texture was, in my opinion, therefore destined to be summer pyjamas (although I'd love to hear what else you'd make from it). 


My decision to make summer pyjamas gave me the perfect opportunity to test out Brindille & Twig's recently released free Ringer tee pattern (as previously mentioned in this post about my favourite free children's sewing patterns). I actually ended up making two of them. Initially I used the size 3-4 (Dolores is three and a half now) but it came out massive, so I tried again using the size 2-3 and removed an extra 5cm of length from the front and back pieces and the fit was much better for this forthcoming summer. What I really like about this pattern (aside from the price! Thanks Melissa, creator of Brindille & Twig, for your generosity), is that the neckline, sleeves and bottom edge are all finished with bands of fabric so you don't need to do any fiddly hemming. Trying to hem a thin, textured fabric like this would have been quite a headache I reckon. The pants pattern was from Ottobre magazine, which I used last year for the monsters-and-snacks pair. That pattern also deploys bands of fabric to finish the edges, removing the need for hemming. 


Even though the temperature at night hasn't really been warm enough yet, Dolores has insisted on wearing these several times. She would not be persuaded to keep them until summertime; I wish I had that problem with all the things I sew for her (check out the grey bubble shorts on my Instagram feed (@sozoblog) for example)! The only issue with this pyjama set is that I have to go back and insert some elastic around the top of the pyjama pants as this fabric is 100% cotton and therefore doesn't have sufficient stretch and recovery to act as a waistband. Once again, the information was clearly there if I'd looked for it... If I'd seen this fabric last summer, I would have made myself a Cordelia maternity camisole out of it, which would have both cheered me up and cooled me down during the uncomfortable last part of my pregnancy. BTW, this rainbow fabric is currently on sale, so if you or your scamps need some summer jammies, or another type of garment I failed to consider for this fabric, you can bag some for just £3.98 a metre. 

Friday 14 April 2017

Trousers Fitting Quest: Update and Please Help!

Please, for the love of god, help me. A combination of being woken up at least four times every night and my quest for nice fitting trousers is driving me insane. I'm hoping that some lovely blog readers could help me with the latter? (Or the former, if you're lactating and fancy looking after Frankie for the night?!) So, the story so far....

If you've read this blog for a while then you probably know that I've been going on and on about wanting to finally nail trouser fitting since 2015. So now that I'm no longer pregnant (YAY) and the shape and size of my body seemed to have more or less stabilised, I decided to pick up where I left off. 

I went back to Sew Over It's Ultimate Trousers pattern as it looks like a good, basic, no frills style with the slim legged look that I'm after. I traced off the pattern, blending between sizes as my measurements suggested I would need to, and made a toile (muslin). Generally, the fit looked pretty good, particularly from the front, but the back definitely needed some tweaking as there seemed to be too much fabric from the bum downwards. I tried bringing in the back inside leg seam at the top, which took away some of the excess fabric, but not all. I then tried taking in the same amount from the back inside leg seam the whole way down, not just at the top, and this seemed to work well. There were more waistline tweaks but I can't remember what they were and I don't think the are relevant to my main dramas. 

With these tweaks made to the pattern, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself so I made them up in some awesome blue stretch denim from Fabric Godmother. The resulting pair of trousers looked pretty good (IMO) and felt really comfy. So, although I know they weren't perfect, I was pleased that I'd made a wearable pair of trousers. But after some wears and washes, I realised that I was only happy with the fit when I wore them when they were tightest, straight out of the wash, rather than a wear or two later. 

So I went back to my pattern and skimmed 0.5cm off both side seams (removing 2cm in total) and tried making them again in some beyond-perfect black stretch denim, also from Fabric Godmother (sadly no longer available, *crying face*). I also shortened the length of the back darts because they looked crazy-long on the blue pair. 

The result of the black ones seemed pretty good: the slim fit I was hoping for in the nicest denim I have ever seen. And then Pat (Mr So Zo) took these pictures. WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME THEY LOOK SO SHITE FROM THE BACK?!?! The front view doesn't look great in these photos but I promise IRL they look ok. But the back? After some interrogation Pat confirmed that they really do look like this at the back. UGH! And now that I've got him to take pics of the blue ones too, I can see that they aren't all that either...

Correct me if I'm wrong (please please do!), but what I'm seeing here is a too-tight bum and a whole world of wrinkles under said bum. My mum, who is great help to talk with about fitting issues, came to visit and we tried to work out what to do about it whilst armed with Pants for Real People. However, that book didn't appear to address the issues my trousers seemed to be throwing up. And having thought about it since then, the style of trousers in that book aren't what I'm aiming for anyhow: slim legged styles don't seem to really be addressed at all, and I'm not sure if fitting/pattern tweaks for classic trousers would be the same as fitting/pattern tweaks for slim legged fits anyhow. 

Anyways, my mum suggested pinching out the under-bum wrinkles (kind of like this), but after some deliberation I'm not sure that that's the way forward. My hunch is that those under-bum wrinkles are the symptom of the problem, rather than the problem itself, if you know what I mean; that perhaps those wrinkles are a pooling of fabric caused by some other issue. Perhaps the shape and/or length of the rise on this pattern is wrong for my body? Memories of stuff I'd seen online and in Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting book lead me to develop...

Theory 1:

If I'm aiming for a slim, more jeans-like fit, then perhaps I need a more diagonal, straighter, jeans-like rise? Some participants in this extensive and rabbit-whole like thread would suggest so. Also, this blog post by Sew Chic Patterns says that this increasing of the angle of the back rise is advised for owners of a full butt. I'm wondering if that's my issue? It's a label that was applicable to me a number of years ago, but I thought that many many hours sat underneath feeding and sleeping infants had alleviated me of that 'problem', although maybe that extra junk just got redistributed a bit rather than disappearing. If this is my issue, then I'm assuming I can address it using this method

(image source: Sew Chic Pattern)

HOWEVER.... That Sew Chic Patterns post also suggests that a full bum requires some 'scooping out' of the rise (ouch) as pictured above. Surely scooping out means to remove fabric, so why would you remove fabric if you are trying to accommodate a full bum? And how are you meant to know how much slash-and-flaring to extend the back rise angle and/or 'scooping' out one needs to do? Or is it just trial and error?

(image source: Cation Design)

Theory 2: 

Further internet research lead me to reconsider the under-bum wrinkles issue. What if they are the problem, and their solution (the weird fish-eye dart extraction as generously and cleverly outlined in this Cation Design blog post) also results in the benefit of some 'scooping' out of the back rise/crotch curve (see below), as we discussed in Theory 1? Does this also extend the rise somewhat?

(image source: Cation Design)

In short: what the hell?! If any one can shed any light on these trouser fitting issues PUH-LEASE leave a comment below. I will of course need to do some more toiling and experimentation, but I really feel I need some more knowledge and advise before I know which path to go down. Many many thanks in advance...

Saturday 1 April 2017

Me-Made-May '17: Sign-Up Here!

Welcome to the sign-up for Me-Made-May'17! Can you believe that Me-Made-May is in its EIGHTH YEAR?! This challenge is all about improving your relationship with your handmade wardrobe, and perhaps also learning about yourself and your creativity.

What is Me-Made-May'17 and how it works...

Me-Made-May'17 (#MMMay17 for social media interaction) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle garments for themselves to wear and love them more. The me-made and self-stitched challenges have been taking place for eight years now and they work on both a personal and community level. The participants decide the specifics of their own challenge, 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 2017. Some participants choose to document their challenge photographically (though this is in no way compulsory for taking part) and share them with other participants.

Taking part can...
  • To start integrating your self-made items into your regular wardrobe rotation.
  • Help you get out of a wardrobe rut by focusing on your lesser-worn items and creating new outfits that include those.  
  • Find out what the 'holes' in your wardrobe are so that you are able to use your garment-creating time more usefully in the future. 
  • Begin wearing the clothes that you really want to be seen in, rather than the same old things you usually reach for most mornings.  
  • Enjoy the excuse to finish off any lingering UFOs (unfinished objects), or to finally start a project that has been on your mind for ages. 
  • Discover what the rest of this large community of makers has created and is wearing in their day-to-day lives, and enjoy the support, advice and inspiration that they will provide. 

What isn't Me-Made-May'17? 
  • A photo challenge. You might have seen heaps of Me-Made-May related pictures posted on blogs, Instagram etc. during previous challenges showing participants in their awesome handmade creations. Many like to document and share their challenges in this way, which is obviously amazing, but COMPLETING YOUR PLEDGE is the actual challenge; taking and sharing photos of what you wear during it is ENTIRELY OPTIONAL. I cannot emphasise this enough: you do not need to take any photos. At all. But please do if you want to. 
  • A reason to make lots of new clothes (unless you want to). This challenge is about wearing the items that you have already created more often, 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-making 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. 

How do I sign up?

All you have to do is copy the pledge below and paste it into 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/instagram handle if you have one), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '17. I endeavour to wear......................................................... each day for the duration of May 2017'

Ideas for your pledge...

Remember, this is meant to be challenging (i.e. not what you usually do), so take some time to think about how to get the most from the challenge before writing your pledge. 

If the standard 'wear one self-stitched garment per day' pledge won't help or stretch you, for example, if you have to wear a uniform during the week or you already wear quite a lot of me-mades, then come up with something else. How about pledging to wear 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 tailor the pledge to your own requirements. 

If you have a blog or social media accounts, 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? If possible, 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!

If you would like to advertise your participation on your blog if you have one, why not treat yourself to the addition of the #MMMay17 widget/gadget/button? The code can be found at the top of the right hand column of this blog. 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.

What's different about this year's challenge? 

Participants of previous years' challenges may notice a couple of minor differences this year. Mainly, that there's no official Me-Made-May'17 Flickr group or Pinterest board. Whilst Instagram activity has rocketed, these other platforms have seen less action over the last couple of years, so seeing as I'm pretty time-poor these days I've decided to do away with those this year. Also, for the same reason, I'm going to host one larger celebration giveaway for participants towards the end of the month, rather than smaller weekly ones.

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

Nothing in particular until 1st May 2017, 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 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!!!!!

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