Monday 5 June 2017

Spoonflower British Blog Hop et La Brune

Look! I made something fancy! That must make me fancy, right? Thought so. By the way, my definition of 'fancy' is something that is not suitable for running around a play park in. I've got a whole lot to say about this project, so let me crack on...

So this project was instigated by an invitation to take part in Spoonflower's British blog hop. They want to promote the fact that they have a second factory which is based in Berlin. This means, for British sewers at least, no nasty surprise taxes or import duties, plus quicker delivery times. I was offered my choice of fabric to make a garment from and blog about it. Seeing as I am very much in the business of making garments and blogging about them, I told them to count me IN. 

(image source: Natalie Grasso)


As you may know, Spoonflower offer a fabric printing service where you can either design your own print or choose one from their catalogue, and get it printed on one of their base cloths. Having never tried a fabric printing service, I was interested in trying out designing my own print. But my primary aim with this project was by the end to have a garment that was very 'me' and I would love wearing. So I had a think about the inspiration I've collated over years on my good old Pinterest boards, and thought that a striped Breton type design would most fit with my style and be most likely to be worn.  

(image source link broken)

I wondered if I could create a kind of hand-drawn striped design, as a spin on the classic Breton stripes, similar to the images above. However, then I fell down the Spoonflower rabbit hole. Turns out there are hundreds of thousands of AMAZING designs already on there to choose from. For a number of days I got completely obsessed by typing in a word into their search box (cacti! flamingos! sketchy! Mexican!) and seeing the many many different interpretations on each theme. I was really into the work of one particular illustrator/designer who annoyingly I can't remember the name of now, but at the last minute I pulled myself back and remembered my wearable-spin-on-a-striped-Breton plan. After typing in 'striped' and searching through the results I found this print. It was almost exactly what I had in mind, and no doubt much better than what I could have rustled up myself in the limited time frame, so I plumbed for that one.  

Having found the print design, next I had to pick the fabric type. My first thoughts were to go for a knit, because I seem to almost always sew with and wear knits these days. But then I had a sudden epiphany: this was a chance to make something more special than a t-shirt variation, and that I could pick a fabric to make the La Brune sewing pattern I had just bought (more on that in a bit), which required something woven but I had been drawing a blank on. I was a little disappointed with Spoonflower's options for finer-weight wovens. I guess I was looking for something natural with some drape, or a lawn perhaps. But my contact at Spoonflower was helpful in guiding me to this cotton poplin that would probably be fairly suitable for the pattern I intended to make.  

If you find yourself ordering from Spoonflower, I would advise paying close attention to the usable width of the fabric you're ordering. Thankfully I did, and ended up having to order 3 yards for this blouse. I could have got away with 2.5 yards but it isn't possible to order half yards. I'll make Frankie some shorts one day with the leftovers. This fabric is not cheap (this poplin is $20 a yard), which would have been an expensive mistake if you didn't order enough. When it arrived I immediately fell in love with the print, and the fabric itself felt decent quality, although not quite as soft as I was hoping for. I cut off a strip before pre-washing so I could compare the colour afterwards as my big concern with these printed services is that the design will fade significantly. I washed it at 30 degrees, which is what I wash everything on anyway, and the navy colour has faded a tiny bit, but not as much as I feared. It'll be interesting to compare after several washes... 


I think this fact deserves analysing in its own blog post at some point, but recently I've become obsessed with French-speaking sewing blogs, Instgramers and sewing pattern designers. Miraculously, this has coincided with Pat (Mr So Zo) teaching himself to speak and read French (he's going to train to be a French and Spanish teacher next year). Anyways, I bought this PDF pattern pictured below, named La Brune, by Delphine et Morissette. Thank goodness for Pat's French assistance because the method of purchasing her patterns involves messaging via a contact form and then completing the transaction via email, rather than through the predictable online shop format. For all I know she speaks perfect English, however I thought it was only polite to attempt to communicate in French.

(image source: Delphine et Morisette)

I must admit, considering how gorgeous and flawless her website, photography and garment designs are, I was surprised by the PDF I received. The instructions were a very basic Word type document with no step-by-step illustrations or photos. In fact, the construction steps weren't even numbered and, even if French was your native language, you'd have to have quite a lot of sewing experience under your belt before you tackled this pattern. For example, the pattern advises to apply bias tape to the neckline, with pretty much no more detail than that. So you'd have to have worked with bias tape previously, or be up for learning quick smart, before knowing how to finish the neckline. Pat and I translated hard and scratched our heads for some time over a few of the steps, but although I don't think the instructions were as clear as they could have been, it made sense to me once I had the pattern pieces cut out in front of me. 

The pattern itself (pictured above) had not been digitised, and with no clear borders it was tricky to tape together. I'm not dissing this pattern, or the work of the designer, but I'm trying to make clear what you'll get if you buy this pattern. I think that us sewers/sewists have developed certain expectations of PDF patterns, even from the most kitchen-table based pattern design outfit (like mine!), and we've become used to having our hands held through each step of the pattern prep and garment sewing processes. But equally, being able to make a nice, wearable garment from a pattern that makes you work harder is a great feeling.

A 1cm seam allowance had been included to the pattern pieces, however I would have liked a few more notches to help put the pieces together, particularly on the sleeve head. I found that my measurements spanned two sizes, so I graded between the 38 for the top part to a 40 at the hips. I ended up taking that extra in again so in the future I'd make a straight size 38. Before cutting the pattern I also compared the pieces to the Grainline scout tee so I could be certain that it'd fit me.

Having done a Google image search to check out other people's versions of this pattern, I decided to rein the volants, sorry ruffles, in a bit. I think I shaved off about 2.5cm at their widest so hopefully they don't look too much like wings, but I think I could have taken off a bit more considering the stiffness of my fabric. The shoulder line was a bit too angled for me, so I straightened that out a touch. I also widened the neckline slightly to make getting it on and off a bit easier (this blouse has no fastenings so needs to be pulled on and off over the head) and I reshaped the neckline to a more pleasing scoop, which I'm really happy with. The final pattern mod I made was to the sleeves. The original pattern design has 3/4 length sleeves, but when I tried it on, they felt too restrictive around my elbows so I shortened them to this half-sleeve length.


Well, making this blouse was a real experience, I'm so grateful that I got the chance and the push to do so. Choosing my dream fabric print was fantastic, and also created quite a lot of pressure to get this garment right (particularly after my recent FAIL). I didn't have time to make a toile/muslin, so I had to avoid and/or iron out any issues with lots of measuring before choosing my size and trying it on multiple times throughout the construction process and addressing each necessary tweak. Having put the work in to figuring out the construction method, and in to getting it to fit nicely, I definitely intend to use this pattern again. On top of the changes I listed above, I'll also extend the bust dart so that it comes within vague orbit of my bust point (it's in a different galaxy at the moment), and I'll widen the bottom of the sleeves so I can make a 3/4 length sleeve version that feels nice to wear.

Would I order from Spoonflower again? Possibly. There are so many seriously incredible print designs on that site, and I'd like to get my hands on a swatch book to see what the other base fabrics are like. I would be tempted to order something again for a special project, but it would have to be a project that I had time to toile beforehand so that I could enjoy the construction process, rather than it being a bit of a white knuckle ride!


Maider Masustak said...

Zoe, you made a great review, thank you! I love the way, your blouse turned out, gorgeous!!! I think that you need more garment with ruffles :-)
You are going to have a french and spanish teacher at home! Hope he will get it!

Fabric Tragic said...

This is gorgeous on you, and you look so delighted wearing it. Total win!

Stevie said...

Thanks for being really honest in your review Zo! I have some french, but it sounds like I might struggle with that pattern! I love your blouse and that stripe in a knit would be totally dreamy too!

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SJ Kurtz said...

Spoonflower user here: I love the cotton sateen for it's softness, opacity, color retention and price vs width ($27/56" wide vs poplin $20/42"). If I use my own designs, I get a nice little discount (that $27 becomes $24.30). Sorry for the imperial numbers. The price point is about the same for both per square inch, but I can get a lot more into that 56" width with less waste. I cannot emphasize enough to people how easy it is to upload designs into Spoonflower for that discount.

Unknown said...

Holy Crap not ruffles... I wore something like that back in 1970!!!! YIKES!!! Of course to you "youngsters" all this stuff is NEW and EXCITING but a lot of comebacks make me groan! Love the material!

Mother of Reinvention said...

What a nice top. I have a BIg4 pattern that is pretty similar that I made for Sprogzilla when she was younger. It is a great style. I love the fabric and LOVE the Spoonflower website, the fabric designs are drool-worthy, but I have an issue paying so much for fabric that is coming unseen (and felt), Maybe now they have an EU site I will order some fat quarters and a swatch book to try it out. Your fabric is gorgeous. Xx

krikri said...

Hello, I really like your fabric - pattern combo! You look great and kudos for tackling a French pattern. I've made la Brune too but ended up not wearing it because my volants actually did look like wings due to the stiffness of the fabric I chose and the sleeves didn't fit me well. I also totally agree with your impressions of the quality of the pdf. I had difficulty piecing the pages together and would have preferred a bigger seam allowance. There is a step by step photo tutorial on her blog though if you're interested. There's a "pas à pas" for the most difficult parts of construction to be found here :

Kathryn said...

I love those slightly irregular stripes and the ruffles! That's great you've got a translator to help you, I definitely wouldn't attempt this pattern as my French now consists of hello, thank you & counting to 10!

Unknown said...

thank for good sharing,....


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