Tuesday 18 December 2018

#2019makenine Plans And A New Pace

This will be my last post of 2018, so I'd like to say Happy Christmas (or whatever you celebrate around this time of year, if anything!) and Happy New Year. Thanks for visiting my blog during 2018, and I hope you'll pop back next year. I'll have the kettle on.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I LOVE the start of a new year to reflect on what went well during the previous twelve months, and the chance to concoct some plans for myself going forward. Maybe it's because I'm an upholder, but I find creating resolutions and plans really fun, not stressful or something I immediately want to push back against. Sewing wise, I really enjoyed making a #2018makenine plan this time last year, and I got a lot out of executing it, so I've been very excited to make another. I understand that I don't *have* to complete each goal that I've set, but when I'm feeling uninspired or indecisive about sewing projects, I'm sure that it's going to be useful to have this grid to refer back to.

So pictured above is my #2019makenine plan! Like a genius, I've come up with a new angle this year (ha). I've selected nine pieces of fabric which are currently residing in my stash, and I plan to turn into wonderful, wearable garments by the end of 2019. Two of these pieces have been in my stash for only a couple of weeks, whereas one has been there closer to seven years. I've got a pretty clear idea of what I want to make from most of them, but I'm going to keep most of those ideas close to my chest as they are liable to change.

Here's the run down:

1) Mustard viscose twill from Fabric Godmother. One of my newer purchases, I recently made a top from this fabric in a different colour way, so I can vouch how lovely, drapey and soft (although liable to wrinkle) it is.

2) Lock and Key print African wax fabric from Goldhawk Road. I have tons of this crispy cotton, I may end up giving some away once I've completed my project. I've had this for three or four years.

3) Lightning print french terry knit from Girl Charlee UK. I've had this knit for less than a year, but my initial plan for it fell through. It's feels like quite a loose knit: floppy and drapey.

4) Ruffle print Liberty Tana Lawn from Sewbox.co.uk. I bought this from Sewbox at the GBSB live event last year. I had a great time: leaving my kids behind for a day and heading into London with my sewing-loving friend Rea, chatting to various sewing people at the event and picking up a couple of select goodies. I suppressed the urge to buy a print that featured sailboats instead of this one, and I'm pleased that I did because my love for this print has grown even more over the last year. It's a crime to leave it folded up in my airing cupboard.

5) Turquoise stretch denim from Fabric Godmother. I bought this about 18 months ago, and to be honest I can't really remember why I bought it (maybe sleep deprivation?). I don't dislike it, but I'm not in love with it, as I am with much of their current denim selection. Anyways, it's great quality so I'm going to use it to make a hopefully-wearable toile of some 'proper' jeans. I feel like taking a step beyond my jeggings journey, but taking all that I've learnt about fit and pattern tweaks with me.

6) Bird print viscose crepe from Fabric Godmother. This is another newbie, but I really don't want to waste it my letting it languish in the dark for long. Its drape and busy print is dictating a top pattern that is free of a lot of detail, but makes the most of its flowy movement. I'm pretty sure that this will be the fabric that gets used first.

7) Dark blue stretch denim from Ditto Fabric. I've had this for about 18 months also, and I'm praying there's enough for some dungarees.

8) Cream/navy striped knit. This is the piece that I've owned for about seven years. It's such great quality and the perfect Breton stripe, but it there's only a short length. I'm thinking of using this for some selfless sewing, otherwise I'll squeeze a short-sleeved t-shirt out of it!

9) Buffalo check coating from Fabric Godmother. I bought this maybe two or three years ago, and I'm not sure of the fibre content but it feels synthetic. It's good quality and pleasingly soft though, so it deserves to become a fabulous jacket using one of the vintage coat/jacket patterns that I've been hoarding.

A change of pace...

I announced, but a month ago, that I intended to continue my pledge to use up one piece of fabric per week (like I just did for a year). However, more recently, I've been having a change of heart. I have some new constraints on my time: a new part-time job, some of which I do from home, a toddler who has started to drop his afternoon nap, my recently acquired allotment that I will have to spend more time on when the weather warms up and the days start to get longer, plus an additional top-secret project (NOT another baby, before you jump to conclusions).

My rethink is also because I don't want to load up my wardrobe unnecessarily with piles of garments, and, I must admit, that the successful using up of a piece of fabric per week (even if the outcome was a useful and well-fitting item) occasionally eclipsed the enjoyment of making and wearing the actual garment, which feels wrong.

Sewing up one piece of fabric per week served me well for the last year. It gave me an over-arching project and my life a bit of momentum when I was generally feeling frustrated with the constraints of being a SAHM. But now that things have shifted a bit, the one-piece-of-fabric-per-week project has started to feel more oppressive (and wasteful) than engaging. Therefore, I'm going to implement a more considered, slow-fashion approach to my sewing for a while and see how that goes, which definitely sits more comfortably with my general ethics surrounding consumerism and possessions any how.

I'm mentioning this in part because this slower approach may result in a slightly reduced blogging output. I don't want you to think that my commitment to this blog is on the wane at all. This blog is still as important to me as it always has been, and there will be exciting things happening here in 2019, including the tenth Me-Made-May!!!

Friday 7 December 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Washable Menstrual Pads

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes a women's one. I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those of you 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 way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

I'm definitely still on the sustainable-sewing (or sewing for sustainability) kick that I begun a month ago. After the successful making and implementing of fabric handkerchiefs to cut down my families consumption of tissues (and the plastic that they come wrapped in), I felt it was finally time to try something that I've been planning to make for years: washable menstrual pads/panty liners. 

My initial research found that different people swear that a myriad of different fabrics are the best for the job, but having found this easy-to-use free pattern and tutorial by Luna Wolf (thank you, Victoria!), I decided just to get stuck in and have a go, and hopefully figure out my own preferences through experimentation. BTW, although this is a free pattern, there is a link on her site where you can buy her a cup of tea via Paypal to say thanks. Some free patterns are released as a way to encourage customers to buy some of a designer's other products. But Luna Wolf/Victoria doesn't have anything for sale, so this is a really nice way to show your appreciation.  

Pattern type and sizing info:

The Luna Wolf pattern/instructions actually includes patterns for five different types of pad: pantiliner, 8.5 inch pad, 9 inch pad, 10.5 inch pad, and 11.75 inch pad, along with fabric suggestions and step-by-step  instructions. Personally, I prefer wearing tampons during my period (small personal deviationI know that menstrual cups are the more sustainable option, however I had a bad experience with a moon cup and to be honest I'm afraid to try them again. As a compromise, I've started buying tampons from TOTM, as they are made from unbleached, GOTS certified organic cotton, and do not contain, nor are wrapped in, any plastic. The next step I'm about to take is to start using non-applicator tampons to reduce waste further. TMI? Don't care), but prefer using panty liners at the end of my period, and at other times through out the month. It's my consumption of these disposable panty liners that I'm trying to put an end to with this project. I hate to think about how many of them I've sent to landfill during my life so far, and I'm determined not to throw away any more. Long story short, I used the smallest sized pattern for these.  

Fabric info:

As I mentioned above, many makers of washable pads seem to have very strong ideas about the best fabrics and fibres for absorbency, preventing irritation, longevity and so on. The Luna Wolf pattern/instructions includes advice about which types of fabrics can be used for the topping, backing and the core, and how many layers you may need. I wasn't making pads for the heaviest part of my period, so maximum absorbency wasn't necessarily my goal. Therefore I decided to try mainly using what I already had to hand. I did, however, 'splash out' on a fat quarter of PUL, a type of breathable but waterproof fabric that is often used for washable nappies, that was mentioned by a lot of pads makers during my research. It cost £3 from Plush Addict, and I reckon nine small pads could be squeezed out of a fat quarter. 

My initial experiments can be seen in the picture above. The one on the left is formed from the following: quilting cotton topping, three layers of 100% jersey for the core, and quilting cotton and PUL for the backing. The one on the left is formed thus: 100% cotton jersey for the topping, plus three layers of the same for the core, and only PUL for the backing. Personally, I found the jersey better for the topping as it was slightly more absorbent and a bit softer. The PUL-only backing was fine but I preferred the heft and appearance of the extra layer of woven cotton backing. 

For my 'final' versions (pictured above), I decided on the following: 100% cotton jersey topping, three layers of brushed cotton for the core (made from a decommissioned pair of pyjama bottoms, see below), and PUL and woven cotton for the backing. 


I have yet to try out the new batch of pads/liners during a period, however the first batch worked fairly well, so I have high expectations for the improved versions. The size and shape of the pattern seemed to work perfectly for me. When using the first versions, I could sometimes feel the 'wings' against my thighs, which hopefully won't be the case with the second batch as I've added an additional set of press studs to each. It did, however, feel great to be using a reusable product rather than a disposable one and I'd like to encourage anyone who has a period, uses pads or liners and likes to sew to try making something like this to cut down their waste.

Customisation ideas:

I'm not sure this is exactly the type of project to let your creativity run wild, however, here are some ideas for ways you may wish to try to alter/improve this pattern:

  • Experiment with different fabrics and fibres for the topping, core and backing. There are heaps of washable pads listed on Etsy, so that would be a good place to see what other people have used
  • I've heard talk of some people making pads with removable inserts, I'm not entirely sure of the purpose for this, possibly for easier laundering?
  • Stitch the core to the topping in a different way, creating a striped or check pattern perhaps?
  • If you don't have this type of press studs and clamp combo in your stash, try stitch-on press studs or buttons/button holes for fastening
  • One commenter on my Instagram post about this topic said that she found plastic press studs lasted longer than metal ones. I've used these metal ones on baby dribble bibs that have seen many washes though, and haven't had any problems with them

Would I make it again?

I'm guessing that my total of six pads may not be enough to see me through the month, so I may make more in the future. And if I do, I'm 95% sure this will be the pattern I'll use. These would also be a quick and fun project to give to a sustainably-minded friend who has made noises about switching to washable pads but has yet to take the leap (niche, I grant you). 

Have you made washable pads or liners? How have you found they fair compared to the shop-bought, disposable versions? Have you swapped all your period products over to washables?

Thursday 29 November 2018

Finally, A Range Backpack

A backpack has been on my list of things to make for an embarrassingly long time. There have been  many trips to the woods, beaches, parks, playgrounds and so on with my kids where my shoulder bag/s kept getting in the way, and having my hands completely free would have made the experience easier and more fun (for me). The last straw came about six weeks ago when a friend and I took our little boys for a walk in the woods. I was carrying my usual shoulder bag and a cumbersome changing bag on my shoulder, and Frankie refused to walk, demanding to be carried round the whole trail. I decided that enough was enough, and later that evening I purchased the Range backpack pattern by Noodlehead that I'd been eyeing up, and set about collecting all the materials to create my ultimate backpack. 

(image source: Noodlehead)


Let it be known that working on a Range backpack project is no act of whimsy. There are A LOT of pattern pieces (even the front pocket has its own lining) and it requires at least three different fabrics plus fancy, profesh-looking hardware. Following the #rangebackpack hashtag on Instagram showed me that wildly differing looks could be achieved by the choice of fabric, and that it wasn't necessary to cut the pattern pieces from the fabrics that are suggested by the pattern (for example, the pattern suggests to use the same fabric for the lining and the strap pieces). 

However, I don't want to give the impression that it is not a great pattern nor an unnecessarily challenging project. The pattern is very well designed and thought out, with excellent and very detailed instructions. The pattern itself is given as dimensions rather than actual pattern pieces because it's comprised entirely of rectangles, and the designer has thoughtfully included a sheet of little square labels that you can cut out and pin to all your pattern pieces so you don't get confused by all the rectangles of fabric that you've amassed after cutting. I found these little labels particularly useful for planning which pattern pieces I was going to cut from what fabric as I was decided to not to follow every fabric/pattern piece suggestion, partly for aesthetics and partly because of fabric limitations. 

The cutting out part took about the same time, if not longer, than the actual bag construction part. Putting all the pieces together was straight forward and methodical, even with the painstaking pattern matching I'd signed myself up for. I made this bag in small instalments of time over a period of about a week, and it was thoroughly exciting to see the pile of rectangles slowly take shape into a 'real' bag!

Fabric and hardware: 

Because this project was going to be a bit more time-consuming, brain-taxing and financially costly than most of my sewing projects tend to be, I wanted to get this as close as possible to my Ultimate Backpack. The main way I was going to achieve a finished bag that was totally 'me' was through the fabric/colour choice. I scratched my head and poured over the hashtag seeking inspiration. Eventually, I found two remnants (some striped pique and some mustard denim) at Fabric Godmother, and I knew the hunt was over. What says 'Zoe's Style' more than navy/white stripes and mustard?! 

As I mentioned previously, I didn't tie myself to the fabric suggestions of the pattern. I wanted to use the heftier denim rather than a lining fabric for my straps, for example. However, the mustard denim remnant wasn't quite big enough to cut all the pieces I had hoped it would stretch to, and I didn't want to over-use the stripes, so it became clear that I'd need to introduce a third fabric. Luckily, my stash contained some scraps of lovely solid navy peachskin cotton twill that I ended up incorporating quite a bit, plus some spots-and-anchor print cotton for the lining. 

I was able to keep costs down further by turning to my stash for interfacing as well. The pattern suggests that you interface EVERYTHING, so I used up all sorts of weird scraps and leftovers of fusible interfacing for the various pieces. I decided against interfacing the lining pieces as I didn't want to bag to end up too stiff or heavy, and in the end I peeled the interfacing off some of the other pieces that I decided wouldn't need it.  

I searched the internet for a zip with an anchor or nautical shaped zip pull, but failed on that one, so ended up using a silver coloured metal teeth zip from my stash. The pattern calls for D-rings to fasten the closure, but I'd seen on Instagram that some people had swapped this for a hook/catch type fastening instead, which looked like it would lead to quicker and easier access. I found all the hardware I needed from U-handbag (owned by my lovely friend Lisa Lam) and ordered my swivel snap hook, D-ring, rectangle rings and rectangle sliders. 


As you can see above, this bag performs its task of containing my stuff whilst allowing my hands to child-wrangle perfectly! It's surprisingly spacious as well; I can now carry water bottles/sippy cups, snacks, emergency-nappy-and-wipes along with my usual purse, phone, sun glasses case, fabric shopping bags, hand cream and so on without feeling loaded down. The front pocket allows for easier access to a hanky, keys and lip balm. 

However, as useful as I have found this bag so far, I still prefer to use my regular shoulder bag (made with my Anya shoulder bag pattern, of course!) when I'm walking around on my own or going shopping with the pushchair. My Anya bags allows for much quicker access to my belongings, and hangs on the handles of Frankie's pushchair better than this backpack does: the latter ending up a bit too low. 

But back to this backpack. For walks and adventures I feel I'm now set. And although this project cost quite a bit more than most things I make, by using sturdy materials and picking fabrics that fit my style to a T, I'm hoping this backpack has years and years of service in it. I'm sure that in terms of £s-per-use, it'll eventually work out to be a bargain! Now, I just have to get over the fear that it's going to get dirty...

Thursday 22 November 2018

French Fanciness: The Elisabeth Blouse

Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to be a blogger/ambassador for Fabric Godmother, and was given free choice of pattern and fabric from their inventory. In exchange, I had to make up the garment (tough times!) and share my thoughts on the project in the form of a blog post. Lemme tell you, being given free reign on such a decision is pretty overwhelming! Anyways, eventually I realised that this gave me the perfect opportunity to channel my current main style inspiration: French sewers

I chose a combination of the Elisabeth blouse pattern by Republique du Chiffon and the Stardust double gauze in Forest by Atelier Brunette, and used gold ball buttons from my stash. You can find the post I wrote for Fabric Godmother here, however (spoiler alert), in short, I LOVE it!!! I never usually gravitate towards glitz or sparkle, but with Christmas and Mr SoZo's 40th birthday just round the corner, I think I've made myself the perfect semi-sparkly party garment. 

Thursday 15 November 2018

A Year of Stash Busting, PLUS: Dutch Label Shop Discount Code

It’s been over a year now since I begun to really definitely actually start busting my fabric stash. I wrote about my plans back in March of this year to sew up one piece of fabric or reusable garment each week, but I'd actually started the previous October. Are you interested in finding out how I’ve got on?! Well, I'm pleased to announce that, yes, I HAVE managed to keep up with this challenge! Some pieces became time-consuming projects, others became swift and satisfying makes, like these four pairs of leggings for my daughter that illustrate this post. All of these leggings/jeggings were made using the free leggings sewing pattern by Petit Boo that I reviewed here by the way, and have all these pairs been worn many times since they were completed.

Truth be told, not all of those 52 pieces of fabric or garments came straight from my stash. My stash is big, but not so big that it contains a piece of every type of fabric I might like to sew with! So I have been purchasing new pieces of fabric here and there, but only with a specific project in mind, and very often for a specific pattern that's in my possession. This accommodation has worked well, because I have been turning lots of my languishing pieces of stash into useful garments, but I haven't felt frustrated because I wasn't confined to only using stash pieces this past year.

Using one piece of fabric or reusable garment per week may sound a lot to some, and you may be concerned that I have been sewing for the sake of it, or that a lot of this output ended up not getting worn. Thankfully, I've kept a list over the last year of everything I've used and what it became so I can address these concerns. Out of the 52 pieces used, only seven were a FAIL (and subsequently were given to a friend, sent to the textile recycling bin, or put back in the stash to reuse the fabric), the rest of the garments I've made have seen a good amount of use. Obviously I have reached for the pieces of stash that I've felt most inspired to use when the right project came to mind, so things may get trickier the deeper into my stash I rummage. But not allowing myself to buy fabric on spec means that I have given each purchase or acquisition of new fabric a great deal of thought, which has reduced FAILS considerably.

Truth be told, there's still a lot of fabric and reusable garments in my stash, but visibly less than this time last year. My sewing time may dwindle a bit in the future as a number of different activities and projects I'm involved in are going to start taking up more of my free time. However, for the foreseeable future, I'm going to continue with my one-piece-per-week challenge, and see how much more I whittle down my stash by creating fabulous and useful garments.

Stash busting update over: on to the discount code! Recently, the Dutch Label Shop generously offered me some store credit for their website to order myself some woven garment labels in exchange for a mention on my social media. Coincidentally, getting some new labels for my family's clothing was on my mind at the time, having just stitched tons of onto my daughter's uniform as she started school this September. The labels I had been using for my daughter's clothes were ordered through Etsy and are very cute. However, I've found that the printed design fades extensively when laundered, so I was musing on acquiring some woven labels to use instead. 

I spent an AGE playing about on the Dutch Label Shop website, designing and redesigning with their pleasingly user-friendly label designing function. Even sticking to the 'Basic' woven label option like I did, you can choose different sizes of labels, different colours for the background and text, different fonts and from hundreds of little logos. I particularly like how clearly you can see how much the different combos of elements will cost you for different quantities before you continue with the ordering process. I managed to make my store credit extend to four different sets of labels. Ta dah!!!!

Cute, non?! I LOVE them, and they make the garments I stitch them into look extra professional (see the My Little Pony leggings above). If you would like to design and order your own garment labels, you can get 15% using the code sozoblog15 (all lowercase) when prompted during the ordering process. This code will be valid for 60 days so you've got a couple of months to go and design yourself some adorable labels, starting from........NOW! Happy label designing!

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Heyday Dungarees of my Dreams

This exact outfit is all I'm interested in wearing at the moment. It's my mumiform, and the rest of my wardrobe may as well go on holiday. You've seen my stripy Gable top many times before, so let me introduce you to the new element.

(image source: Beaton Linen)

So it went down like this... Frankie and I are regulars at a playgroup that is also attended by this cool mama called Seonid (pronounced Shona). She made me aware of the overalls by Beaton Linen (pictured above and below) via Instagram after seeing me rock my Burnside bibs, thinking I'd appreciate them. She wasn't wrong, and I couldn't stop thinking about them. 

(image source: Beaton Linen)


Shortly after discovering the Beaton Linen overalls, I received an email from the Made by Jack's Mum pattern company announcing the release of their new women's 'Heyday' dungarees pattern. They were even offering a 20% discount for the first week or so after it dropped. Despite the discount and their obvs similarity to my inspiration source, I hesitated for a couple of days. I feared that they'd make me look a bit too ceramics-evening-class-tutor. As I have discussed before, my style seems to be travelling towards Art Teacher chic, and I was concerned that this garment would seal that fate. But, ultimately, the pull of linen dungers was too strong and the purchase was made. 

The sizing range of this pattern is very generous, running from XXS to 5XL. The size chart put me as a Small which I wasn't entirely convinced about, so I added an additional 1cm to the side seams in case I wanted to adjust the fit (I wasn't making a toile). The seam allowance of this pattern is 1cm, which I enjoy sewing with, but wouldn't have left me enough wiggle room to take them out. I did end up giving myself slightly more room by letting them out at the side seams around the hip/bum area. 

Aside from adjusting the fit slightly for my booty, the only deviation I made from the pattern was to draft new front hip pockets. The pattern includes two pocket pattern pieces; one larger pocket for the bib, and four smaller pockets (two for the bum, two for the front hip). I wanted a slightly different look at the front, so I used the hip pocket piece I drafted for my black denim Cleo pinafore, but folded the bottom corner in to reflect the shape of the other pockets on the dungarees. Unlike with my Cleo, this time I remembered to apply some twill tape to the pocket opening so I can shove my hands in these ones as often as I like without fear that they'll stretch out. 


I fell in love with this linen twill from Fabric Godmother after sewing with and wearing it as my York pinafore. The weight, feel, movement and even how it fades slightly made it my number one choice this dungarees project, and I don't regret a thing.


As I already said at the top of this post, I adore these dungarees. After the minor tweaking, I think the fit is bang on, and they are so comfortable that I don't even want to change out of them into some 'lounge wear' for relaxing in the evening, which I normally always do. I even think that I prefer them to the Beaton Linen ones, which look a bit too short and wide towards the bottom of the legs for my liking. Which is handy, because those Beaton ones are $270 a pop. I definitely plan to make another pair in a cotton/linen mix next spring.

Friday 2 November 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Handkerchiefs and on Sewing to Reduce Plastic

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I normally road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes a women's one. I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those of you 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 way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

However, I'm going on a bit of a tangent with this month's instalment, so apologies if you swung by for a regular review of a free pattern (I flatter myself!). Today I want to write about sewing from a slightly different angle. With all the awesome new sewing patterns, beautiful fabric, labour-saving equipment and eye-wateringly expensive machinery available for sewers/sewists to buy, it's easy to buy into (sorry for the pun) the idea that sewing is like many other activities: a pass-time that will cost you a fair amount of money to participate in. But as skilled sewers, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We have forgotten, or perhaps more accurately, have allowed ourselves to be coaxed away from the belief that sewing is a superpower that can save money and resources, perhaps over time if not immediately. 

The point I'm trying to make is that the 'drop £15 on a lovely new sewing pattern, drop £20 on gorgeous fabric to make it in, sew it up then put it on Instagram' formula isn't the only way to engage in and utilise sewing. Don't get me wrong, as you can tell from this blog and from my own Instagram feed, I LOVE making a fabulous, well-fitting, wearable garment that helps me visually communicate to the world who I am and how I feel. But, increasingly, I am trying to make a conscious effort to do more of the type of sewing that the women from previous generations used to do: the mending, the reworking, the fulfilling needs in the home without necessarily spending money on new materials. 

What I'm interested in thinking about at the moment is ways we can use our sewing skills to provide for ourselves and our families, as well as to have 
a positive environmental impact. And as anyone who has been sewing for more than five minutes will have realised, it's impossible not to accumulate a lot of stuff (fabric, patterns, zips, buttons, threads, blah blah). We already have a lot to work with. I think we need to encourage ourselves to flex our creativity more often to do more than just follow the steps of a sewing pattern, and work out how to turn some of what we have accumulated into some of the things we need in our daily lives (other than clothing). 

So how can we use our sewing skills to save money and resources? SO MANY WAYS. We have serious powers. We can mend ripped seams, replace missing buttons, knock up a fancy dress costume from an old net curtain, make the fabric totes and produce bags that we now take to the supermarket instead of accepting plastic bags, and infinitely more. 

Speaking of plastic. We (hopefully) all know now that not all plastic is recyclable. And recently we've been reading reports that the majority of plastic we think we're sending to be recycled isn't actually recycled anyway. I read a horrendous statistic recently (sorry can't remember the source) that said that people have produced more plastic in the last decade than we did in the WHOLE OF THE 20TH CENTURY, AND that only 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. So like many people, I've been looking at my own waste: the amount and types of things my family sends to landfill or to be 'recycled', plastic very much included. I'm focusing on a few products that my family consume and then send to landfill at a time, and am trying to find and/or make alternatives that are more sustainable.

All of which is a long-winded explanation and preamble to say that I've been making hankies. Yonks ago my husband and I got ourselves hooked on buying those multipacks of pocket tissues, with their layers upon layers of non-recyclable plastic. More recently I started buying boxes of tissues to have round the home to reduce the amount of plastic we were throwing away, but I felt that I could go one step better by making old-school, washable handkerchiefs. Now I'm hooked;, it's one of the quickest, cheapest and most satisfying sewing projects I've ever undertaken. It will not surprise you to learn that the process entails simply cutting and hemming a square of fabric, but whilst researching how big to cut my squares, I found this decent Wikihow tutorial if you feel you would like some guidance. 

The first batch I made was from some stripy cotton that lives in my stash and usually gets used for toiling/muslin-making. It has a similar weight and softness to bedsheets, and it's proven perfect for hankie making. The squares I cut were 30cm X 30cm, but I have found them to be slightly too small for an adult woman, so the next couple destined for my own use were 35cm-ish X 35cm-ish pre-hemming. I must admit, having been used to using tissues myself for so long, it took me a while to get used to blowing my nose on fabric, but I've started to find it somewhat luxurious (particularly when I've bothered to iron and fold them into nice squares!).

With my second batch (pictured above), I cast my net a little wider for candidates as I went through my fabric scraps tub. The anchor, spotty and strawberry fabrics are all slightly thicker than the stripy stuff. They aren't quite as nice to use, but are perfectly adequate and will probably soften through repeated laundering. I'd say the thickest weight fabric that is suitable for making handkerchiefs is a light quilting cotton type deal, and a soft bed sheet type affair is ideal. The strawberry fabric hankie is for my daughter, the smaller anchor and the spotty ones are for me, and I also made a couple of anchor hankies for my husband (40cm X 40cm). He has the worst sinuses of anyone I have ever met and gets through a shocking number of tissues per week. I'm hoping that I can convert him. 

Next I plan to try some scraps of cotton lawn. How lovely would a set of Liberty or Cobra corsage cotton lawn hankies be as a Christmas present? I think that would be super fancy. 

What about you? Are you a seasoned hankie-user? Or, like my best friend, can you just not get behind blowing your nose on fabric?! What have you made to replace a disposable/wasteful item you use in you're daily life?

Wednesday 24 October 2018

My Favourite French Sewing Pattern Companies

(image source: Anna Rose Patterns)

Lately I've become obsessed with a lot of French sewing bloggers/Instagrammers and French-speaking sewing pattern companies. Obvs, all French-speaking sewers and pattern companies aren't one amorphous entity, and every sewer and sewing pattern company has their own unique blend of style elements and influences. But that said, I'd say that there are some styles, silhouettes, details, colours and fabrics which I've noticed regularly cropping up in the output of a number of French-speaking sewers and pattern companies, and these are MASSIVELY floating my stylistic boat at the moment.

I'm hoping to absorb some of these elements into my own sewing and wardrobe, and in this post I want to record my favourites from the French-speaking pattern companies I've had a chance to check out so far. If you are a fan of any others I haven't mentioned, please leave a comment so we can go and take a look.

(image source: Aime Comme Marie)

Aime Comme Marie

The Aime Comme Marie site seems to be a magazine and a lifestyle blog, as well as the producers of sewing and knitting patterns patterns for women, children, men and the home. Phew.

Paper or PDF?

I *think* some/most styles are available in both formats.

French only?

From what I can tell, yes. Apologies if I am incorrect.

My favourite:  

This company first drew grabbed my attention with their ruffle-sporting Magellan and Macaroni styles (the latter is pictured above). However, after further research, I now think the Malice dress pattern is the best of the bunch.

(image source: Anna Rose Patterns)

Anna Rose Patterns

This pattern company's style is exactly what I'm talking about: sweet, simple, timeless, wearable, subtly quirky, and loads of other adjectives that I can only hope will one day be applicable to my own style.

Paper or PDF?


French only?


My favourite:  

The Blouse Paule (pictured above) is an interesting, unique take on a casual knit top, but it's the Blouse Ortense that has really captured my heart (pictured at the top of this post).

(image source: Anne Kerdil├Ęs Couture)

Anne Kerdil├Ęs Couture

This collection of patterns neatly straddles the line between vintage/retro and modern in style. Impressive.

Paper or PDF?

Almost all the range is available in both formats, however there are a few that are PDF only.

French only?

Honestly, I don't know. However, the fact that it isn't mentioned, makes me think the patterns are probably French only. Probs worth emailing if French instructions are a deal breaker for you.

My favourite:  

The Bergen cardigan pattern looks a great layer for autumn/winter/spring, and jacket-alternative for summer. However, the stunning scalloped hem of the Cezembre blouse pattern (pictured above) is the one mostly likely to soak up some of my money.

(image source: Atelier Scammit)

Atelier Scammit

If you're into beautiful yet simple, A-line blouses with subtle details, then Atelier Scammit are may well become your favourite sewing pattern company. They do offer a few other styles of pattern, but that type of blouse is clearly their bread and butter.

Paper or PDF?


French only?


My favourite:  

I adore most of their patterns, but the Artesane (pictured above), which is so beautiful from the front AND the back, might just be my fave.

(image source: Atelier Vicolo N.6)

Atelier Vicolo N.6

Actually this company is Italian, but their site is in Italian, English AND French. Clever peops and cute designs.

Paper or PDF?


French only?

I'm assuming that the patterns themselves are in Italian, French and English, but please check before you buy as I can't see it written explicitly anywhere.

My favourite:  

I'm enjoying the Dharma dress pattern (pictured above) for its spin on the traditional fitted-bodice-and-gathered-skirt dress style, but it's the Jolanda blouse pattern that I'm closest to buying.

(image source: Deer and Doe)

Deer and Doe

Deer and Doe are probably the best known French-speaking pattern company in the UK (if not the wider English-speaking sewing community). They definitely seemed like the first indie French-speaking pattern company to get their patterns translated into English, and then stocked in UK craft shops.

Paper or PDF?

All are available in both formats.

French only?

No! Both French and English!

My favourite: 

I've owned the Chataigne shorts pattern for years, and I *will* get round to making next summer, however the new Opium coat pattern (pictured above) took my breath away when I saw it.

(image source: Delphine et Morissette)

Delphine et Morissette

This French-speaking pattern company/epic-one-woman-band is based in Belgium, not France. And thanks to the relentless prodding of my much-suffering husband (who has a decent grasp of French, especially when he's armed with a translation app!) into translating a lot of her blog posts, I've found out that she's really funny. But back to the patterns. Her shop and the patterns themselves are a bit more lo fi than many (for example, her instructions come in the form of a word document with no step-by-step images or illustrations). But the patterns are all (IMO) very wearable with beautiful proportions and clever details. (You can see my version of the La Trop Facile jacket here, and the La Brune blouse here and more successfully here.) Plus, some adorable children's versions of many of her women's patterns are also available.

Paper or PDF?

PDF all the way.

French only?


My favourite: 

I've had my eye on many, but I keep coming back to the Flamenco and Japon patterns (the latter is pictured above).

(image source: Ikatee)


Until recently, this sewing pattern company only produced children's styles. However, they have recently started to produce a selection of their patterns in women's sizes too. You should also know  that they very generously offer a free PDF sewing pattern of your choice from a small selection in exchange from signing up to their newsletter.

Paper or PDF?

Don't quote me on this, but all their children's patterns seem to be available in both paper and PDF, and the women's patterns only in PDF at this point in time.

French only?

No! Both! Woo hoo for me!

My favourite:  

As I mentioned above, some of their styles are being turned into women's versions which I am thrilled about because I am OBSESSED with their two most recent releases, the Ida and Louise, both of which are the fruits of a collaboration with an amazing sewer Fanny (@petites_choses__). I've also had a lot of fun so far sewing the Corfou dress and Avana trousers for my little girl. 

(image source: Mimoi)


This sweet little company offers a handful of patterns, but currently for me it's really all about the Blouse Leonie and it's expansion pack of wonderful style options. 

Paper or PDF?


French only?


My favourite: 

The Blouse Leonie (pictured above) the most perfect collar design in the world, and everyone else can go home. 

(image source: Republique du Chiffon)

Republique du Chiffon

RdC have got a massive range of interesting, edgy-but-very-wearable women's pattern styles. Plus, if you believe that twinning(with your child) is winning, you should know that seven of their styles are available for children.

Paper or PDF?


French only?

Nope. A few months after it's French release, each pattern is available translated into English.

My favourite:  

Ohmygoodness so many. Having made two garments using their popular Suzon blouse pattern, I still haven't got it out of my system. They also have some fabulous coat/jacket patterns (including the Jose), and some Danielle dungarees WILL be mine...

(image source: Slow Sunday Paris)

Slow Sunday Paris

From what I can tell, Slow Sunday Paris is only a couple of years old, but their whole vibe looks so lovely and they have a great range of patterns already.

Paper or PDF?

Both, but surprisingly most of them seem to be available in paper format only.

French only?

Despite the fact that some parts of their website is written in both French and English, it seems as though the patterns are French only. That said, from the PDF I've bought, the instructions look super clear with great illustrations for each step. So if you don't speak French but are armed with a translation app, you'll probably be fine.

My favourite:  

I just bought the Dorothie blouse pattern (pictured above) because A) I'm a sucker for a sweet little blouse pattern, and B) that sleeve. And if you haven't checked out the back of the Lila top pattern, then make sure you're sitting down because it's amazing.

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