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?
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