Friday 29 September 2017

Ruffle Tova Dress

Ruffles and black-and-white-gingham? It seems I've accidentally made a super on-trend garment. I promise it's purely coincidental.


Due to the need for breastfeeding 'access' I haven't worn a dress now for a year, and although I'm not normally a frequent wearer of dresses, I've missed them. So for this, my fourth project using the Wiksten Tova pattern, I wanted to make a dress version in celebration of almost no longer needing boob access during the daytime.  

As with all my other versions of the Tova pattern, I started off using the size M, blending to a size L at the hips. You may or may not recall that, for my denim Tova top (which I wear embarrassingly often) I altered the sleeves to be a little wider around the bicep. For this version, I took that sleeve piece and slash-and-flared the pattern from the bottom edge to add an extra 6cm width of fullness. I made the cuff piece deeper and, as I'm sure you've noticed, added a rather epic ruffle round the bib section. 

For the ruffle, I just cut a strip the width of my fabric and two times (plus seam allowance) my desired ruffle depth. After that the construction got a bit fiddly. The mid-section of the front of the Tova pattern is gathered into the bib. However, I was applying another gathered thing on top of the mid-section gathers before attaching the bib. A lot of tacking (basting) happened. Then, in the end, I decided to press the seam allowances of the bib under and topstitch it onto the prepared front dress-with-ruffle rather than trying to do the awkward corner pivots that are tricky enough without a ruffle involved. 

The only other changes to the pattern were to apply interfacing to the collar and cuffs, and make the bib panels double thickness to add weight to cope with the heaviness of the ruffle. Oh, and I added 7cm to the length at the hem, but I may shorten it a bit in the future.  


This black and white gingham is slightly heavier than your usual run-of-the-mill school summer dress ginghams. It's still pretty breezy, but hopefully this dress will still be wearable into the colder weather with thick tights, boots and cardigans. Plus, it doesn't seem to crease, which is great because I only ever get my iron out whilst I'm making a garment; my clothes never get touched by one again after they're finished!

I've had this fabric in my stash for years, and I'm so glad I waited until now to use it. These days, I'm much better at making garments that I'll actually wear a lot. I make sure they fit me well and suit my lifestyle (ha! As if I have a lifestyle!). If I'd used this fabric as soon as I got it, then I possibly would have wasted it by making an ill-fitting 50's style thing that I'd never wear (like this. Or this. Or this. You get the idea).


As I planned this project, I was trying to channel 2000's era Built by Wendy. But when it was finished and on my dress form I feared it was a bit 1970's Amish. Then I actually wore it (to the Great British Sewing Bee live event on Sunday and I didn't have Frankie with me all day) and it felt fabulous. The shape of the sleeves could be a little more refined, and the cuffs narrower, and as I said before it might get shortened to sass it up a bit, but generally I'm coming down on the side of 'very pleased'.  

Saturday 23 September 2017

My Retro Cardigan Craze

I'm not the only one on the receiving end of new cardis round here. Initially, I bought the Brindille & Twig Retro cardigan pattern because, like many babies, Frankie was going through a phase of not liking clothes being pulled over his head. He seems to be largely over that now, however they've turned out to be so useful and fun to make that I can't stop...


The Retro cardigan pattern is a fabulous unisex style which can be fastened with buttons or press studs/poppers/snaps. It is crazy quick and simple to construct, particularly if you omit the pockets, like I have done. You can basically stitch this up entirely on an overlocker/serger, and the only thing that slows you down is applying interfacing to the snap/buttonhole area of the neckband, and applying/making said snaps/buttonholes. 

The pattern is sized to fit between 0 months and 6 years, although, as with all the B&T patterns I've tried, I found this to come up a size or two larger than stated. Both the rainbow and navy/white striped cardigans here are size 6-9 months, but at almost 12 months, Frankie still fits them fine (he's about 8 months in the picture below). The cardigan Dolores is modelling, that we made as a birthday present for  her friend Arthur, is size 3-4 years (Dolores and Arthur are almost four). 

(image source: Brindille & Twig)

If you are making a buttoned version, I recommend you make the buttonholes on the neckband BEFORE attaching it to the rest of the garment, instead of making them at the end. The neckband is pretty narrow, so it'll be easier to do it first. One thing I noticed about this pattern is that the position of the top button/snap is a little weird, IMO. It is positioned on the curved part of the neckband, so when the the finished garment is fastened, it doesn't sit quite as flat and in line as it otherwise might. I adjusted that for the grey/black leopard print version and it sits better (I reduced the number of buttons because I only had four of the green I wanted to use).   

My only other criticised of this pattern is that the widths of the neckband, waistband and cuffs remain the same throughout the sizes. Looking at these pictures has made me realise that I'd prefer the waistband to be wider for the larger sizes, something I'll amend for future versions. 


It seems to work in lots of different types of knit. The rainbow striped fabric is a kind of fleece-lined sweatshirt stuff that feels very cosy that came from the Village Haberdashery yonks ago. The navy/white stripe is some super soft interlock that was harvested from a thrifted T-shirt I got for 50p. The grey/black leopard print is ponte di roma, some scraps leftover from my Jenna cardi. The neckbands, waistbands and cuffs are all made from ponte di roma, but you could use ribbing, medium/heavy-weight jersey or interlock.  

I added a little ribbon tag to the side seam of the navy/white striped version to make that fairly plain garment a bit more interesting. It's possibly the most 'normal looking' baby's/children's garment I've ever made! The ribbon came from Textile Garden, they don't seem to have this one in stock any more but there are heaps of other lovely ones to choose from. I bought the white and red snaps from eBay, and the vintage green plastic buttons were 50p from a charity shop.


These cardigans are one of my very favourite things to make at the moment. I love that they can be made in different weights and types of fabric to be suitable for different activities and types of weather. They're a very useful layer for the unpredictable and changeable climate that we live in. I've got some fine knit jumpers and cardigans that have gone a bit out of shape that I plan to cut up and try with this pattern next. 

Monday 18 September 2017

Peak Anchor

According to Pat (Mr SoZo), I've finally done it. I've finally reached peak anchor. I'll grant him that this garment does feature A LOT of them, but I'm pretty sure this won't be the last anchor-clad item that sneaks its way into my wardrobe... 


The truth is that, since I made them, rarely a day passes where I'm not wearing either my navy or mustard Cabernet cardigan. One or the other seem to go with just about every garment I own, and they are so comfy and easy to wear. I even wear my first, less successful, turquoise version a hellofalot when I'm at home (like right now in fact). So it wasn't a giant conceptual leap to decide to make another. 

For this version, I decided to go use the width of the button stand/neckband from my navy (#2) version, and the width of the front panels from my mustard (#3) version. Like all my versions, I stabilised the shoulder seams with twill tape, and stitched the buttonholes on the button stand/neckband before attaching it to the rest of the garment, not at the end of the project. Sometimes it's so pleasing to make a garment that barely requires you to think during it's construction. Kind of an anti-challenge.


I spied this incredible anchor jacquard Ponte de Roma at the Fabric Godmother open day a couple of months ago, along with the ivory colour way. At the time, the ivory sung out to me the strongest and I bought 1.6m with cardigan dreams. When I got it home, although I still loved it, I begun to regret my decision. I realised the navy version as a cardigan would fit into my wardrobe better. So when I went to visit Josie (Fabric Godmother's owner) a few weeks later, I got some of the navy too. It's not cheap (£18 p/m) but it's the loveliest fabric to work with and wear: stable but with a soft handle. And it's really wide so I got a Cabernet out of it with plenty left to make some bits for Frankie too. 


Yes, I did add anchor buttons too. What did you expect?


Pattern: PDF $12 (£8.37) from here. I've used it four times now so I'm counting my pattern cost as £2.00 for this project
Fabric: £18 p/m from here. I used 1.6m for this project and got a little discount so cost me about £25
Total: £27

I'm really out of touch with high street prices these days, but I'm guessing that's in the ball park of what you'd expect to pay for a cut-and-sew cardi? However, I also got the added benefits of having the fun of making it, being able to tweak the fit to my personal specifications AND being able to ladle as many anchors into this project as feels correct.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Free Sewing Patterns Update and a Plan

Since I published My Favourite Free Children's Sewing Patterns post back in February, I've spent even more time trying to unearth the nicest and most useful sewing patterns and tutorials for children's clothing that designers have generously made available for free. I feel like I've followed every link on every blog post or Pinterest image to leave no stone unturned. Thanks also to the commenters on that post who gave me a heads up of some great ones I hadn't seen before.

I've updated the original post by adding lots more great-looking patterns that I'd like to try, and removing a couple of others where I've found better (like a multi-sized version) or more appealing (to me) alternatives. Please remember, this list is based on my own personal tastes, and is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every free pattern available out there.

I've also become mildly obsessed with seeing if it's possible to make a child's whole entire wardrobe using just free patterns and tutorials, so I've tried to include something for almost every type of garment a child would need. Aside from coats/jackets (understandably), knitwear (surely there are free children's knitting patterns out there though?!) socks and tights (although leggings can be a great alternative to tights), for certain sizes, I reckon you could!

I also want to mention that lots of kind pattern designers have released heaps of potentially wonderful free patterns out there that are available in just one or a couple of sizes, like this dressing gown/bath robe and this toddler jacket for example, which may be just what you need for the child you're sewing for. I haven't included any of those (Made by Rae's baby tights being the exception) because I want this list to be a useful resource for as many sewers/sewists as possible, so I have only included patterns that are available in a decent range of sizes.

So here's my plan. I'm going to start a new monthly feature on this blog where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes a women's one. I'll publish those posts every first Friday of the month, timed to hopefully provide inspiration for some who plan to get their sew-on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive pass time. Plus, I don't think that home-sewn clothes need to always work out more expensive than the shop-bought equivalent. I'm pretty skint since my maternity allowance ran out, so this is a theory I'm keen to test! Therefore, for these projects I'm going to use my stash of unwanted garments and fabric scraps left over from previous projects wherever possible. Let the PDF downloading commence...

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Breton Perfection: The Gable Top

I know it's a bold claim, but I think I may have made the perfect basic knit top. I actually made this at the beginning of summer, but it's been so warm that I've only worn it once so far. But now that Autumn and long-sleeves weather is just round the corner, I felt it's time to share it with you...


It could be argued (and often is by me) that Jennifer Lauren's Bronte top pattern is the best knit top pattern ever. Well, hold all your calls, because her Gable top pattern is clearly another contender for that title. It has a 50's style slash neckline that I didn't realise I needed in my wardrobe until Jennifer released this pattern. She really is so skilled at making vintage/retro stylings super wearable.

(image source: Jennifer Lauren Handmade)

By comparing my (well-used) Bronte top pattern pieces, for which I use the straight size 12, I was able to ascertain that for the Gable I would need the size 10 at the top and blending to the size 12 at the waist and hips. I also pinched out a couple of centimetres at the waist to account for my short-waisted-ness. When I tried it on, I found the shape slightly too boxy for my personal preference, so I shaved away at the sleeve and side seams here and there with my overlocker until I was happy with the fit. What I'll probably do for future versions is make a Frankenstein Bronte/Gable using the neckline of the latter with the sleeve and side seam shaping of the former.


As Jennifer's versions prove, this pattern is kind of screaming out to be made in stripes. Now I can't pretend that my wardrobe was a stripe-free zone before I made this, but the recent demise of my slinky Breton top, and my striped maternity top being too stretched out to bother reworking, meant that a new Breton top would be a welcome addition. After a lot of searching, I finally found this lovely medium-weight cotton/lycra blend jersey at the Ditto fabrics warehouse closing down sale/Portslade sewing meetup in April. It has enough body to keep that neckline in shape, but the lycra content means it has excellent stretch and recovery so is super comfy to wear.

I also want to show you the back neck label (Gable-label!) that I added. It's a folded over piece of printed grosgrain that was lurking in my stash. I have no idea where it came from, otherwise I'd go back to its source and buy up their whole supply so I could add these to everything I ever sew.


The presence of this top is making the thought of cooler weather acceptable to me. I'm looking forward to incorporating it into different outfits, and I've got a couple of other garment projects in the pipeline that I'm hoping will pair with it well. If you're looking for anymore reason to try the Gable top pattern, then check out Jane Makes's wonderful (non-stripy) versions

Friday 1 September 2017

Harem Romper Cuteness

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first blog post I've published with Frankie modelling! Let's do this thing...


If Brindille & Twig had a fight with Ottobre design for the title of 'Best children's wear pattern designer' in the knit catagory, who would win? Tricky to say. Anyway, this is the former's harem romper pattern, which spans sizes from preemie to 6T. Having tried five of their patterns now, I find that B&T patterns are consistently on the large side. I made these for Frankie when he was 9 months old so I chose the 6-9 month size. He's now almost 11 months old and there's still heaps of wear left in them.

What I love about this pattern is that you can make the whole damn thing using just an overlocker/serger. No need to flit back and forth between sewing machines. It makes construction incredibly quick; I think whipped up one of these in two hours, including cutting the fabric out. That was especially useful when our washing machine went on the blink and he had nothing to wear the following morning!

The pattern includes options for popper/press stud or tie fastenings at the shoulder, but I can't imagine anything more annoying than trying to tie shoulder ties on a wriggling baby after each nappy change. I'm tempted to try buttons/buttonholes too on future version to use some cute buttons from my stash. And in case you're wondering, there aren't any poppers/press studs round the crotch so you have to pull the whole thing down to do a bum change, but it's not as difficult as I thought it'd be.

For Frankie at least, I found that the fit is slightly off: the top part is much looser than the legs. Granted he's has got pretty chunky thighs, but even so. For future versions, I'll blend between sizes and choose the leg width and ankle cuffs from two sizes larger than the top part. Currently, I'd describe it more as a 'leggings romper' than a 'harem romper'.


If you've visited my blog previously, you may have seen these fabrics in action before (this pattern is a great scrap/small-piece buster in the smaller sizes). The cheetah fabric is from Girl Charlee, which I've used previously for this breastfeeding Agnes top (yes, we have accidentally worn matching outfits!). This fabric is incredibly soft with excellent stretch and recovery, so it is absolutely perfect for baby wear. 

I made Dolores some pyjama bottoms from the monsters-and-snacks fabric as part of a promotion. She's worn them heaps and they still look great, so I knew that the fabric would be super comfy for this romper pattern and launder well. The pink colour way is still available, if you're interested. 


Some might argue that sewing for babies isn't really worth it as they grow out of clothing so rapidly. However, this pattern would be an exception. If you make them slightly too big initially, they will receive plenty of wear for the very little sewing time required to make them. They can be worn on its own or layered with a vest/bodysuit underneath on chillier days. 

And simply by choosing fabric that is even slightly more interesting than the baby wear selection available in most clothing shops (not hard), they cannot fail to garner compliments. I don't think he's ever worn these outside the house without someone commenting on his outfit. One women practically offered to buy the cheetah print one off him whilst he was out with his dad once! If you follow me on Instagram (@sozoblog), expect to see more of these in the future...

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