Saturday 23 February 2019

So, I Was in The Guardian Talking About Sustainable Clothing...

(image credit: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian)

Earlier this week The Guardian newspaper published an article called 'Don't feed the monster!', which included some interviews with people who no longer buy new clothes by way of discussing approaches to dressing sustainably. I was lucky enough to be included in the article, in effect to represent the DIY facet of the topic. What 'sustainable clothing' actually is is complicated of course, and means different things to different people (if they've spent any time thinking about it in the first place!). But it's clear from all the stats that RTW, and the lower-end 'fast fashion' business model in particular, is incredibly damaging to the environment and the workers involved in its manufacture. So sustainable clothing is something that we all need to address and consider for ourselves.  

I am incredibly grateful to have been asked to contribute to this discussion on a broader platform than this blog and my Instagram account usually provides, and I'm so happy to have some new followers to both since the article's publication that are clearly the kind of people who consider sustainability important. I feel that some of what I was trying to get across in the interview ended up being a little disjointed, and I'd like to explain my stance more freely here.

(image credit: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian)

Firstly, I want to emphasise that I don't think that sewing your own clothing should necessarily be considered a sustainable option by default, and certainly is not as sustainable as sourcing all clothing secondhand. Even though I personally try to use secondhand fabric and thrifted garments as a starting point for some of my sewing projects rather than always buying new fabric, I'm careful not to ignore the fact that home sewing still produces a lot of waste and uses a lot of resources. And I doubt that any fast-fashion garment workers working in unpleasant and dangerous conditions for barely any money would thank me for opting out of buying mass-produced clothing completely. 

Yet I do think that, as far as environmental impact goes at least, home sewing can be more sustainable than buying RTW. All the choices that sewing your own garments requires you to make (are you starting with a sewing pattern, which version, any changes to the design or fit, what type and colour of fabric, what buttons/notions blah blah blah...) means you can't help but end up with an item that is uniquely yours: that becomes an investment of self. And the more you learn about your own style, preferences and lifestyle requirements, and the better you get at altering and fitting garments to your own body, the more likely you are to end up with a garment that is entirely custom to you and you have deep investment in. Theoretically, most home sewn garments, if created with care and thought, should get countless more wears than the average fast-fashion item. Which is four, out of interested. 

(image credit: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian)

A year and a half ago, I wrote this post about how we can be more sustainable in our home sewing, and I'm sure this is something that I will continue to think and write about going forwards. Of course, one way you can make sure you're getting the most out of your existing selection of home made garments, and learn lots of useful lessons to help make your future projects as successful as possible, is to challenge yourself during this year's Me-Made-May! If you have any thoughts or feelings about dressing sustainably, or more sustainably to be accurate, in relation to handmade clothing or more generally, I'd LOVE to read them so please leave a comment below or hit me up on IG (@sozoblog). 

Thursday 14 February 2019

Wool Freya Winter: AKA How I'm Surviving Winter

Agh!!!! I hate winter. I cannot wait for it to be over. However, this top is making it somewhat bearable. At the start of every winter, I think to myself, 'I really don't own enough warm clothing'. However, I always come up against the same problematic equation: I don't buy RTW, I don't knit and I never find knitwear I like in charity shops. But when Fabric Godmother got a whole load of actual wool knit fabric in last December, I realised this was my chance to sew myself a cosy top that would hopefully function like a cosy, knitted garment. 

I snapped up 1.5 m of this cream basket weave wool fabric as soon as I saw it, then threw out the question of what I should make with it to the Instagram massive. (BTW, Fabric Godmother currently have a version in coral pink on sale.) Some suggested a boxy top like a Toaster, some thought a tighter fit top for wearing under dungarees and pinafores would be useful. Others thought a chunky cardigan like a Kinder should be its destiny. All were fabulous ideas, and all potential garments I'd love to welcome into my wardrobe. However, when the pre-wash shrunk it by about 30 cm, my options became limited. 

I *just* managed to squeeze a long sleeved Tilly and the Buttons Freya top from the fabric. For this, my third version of the Freya pattern, I decided to do a sway back adjustment. I found my previous two Freyas bunch a bit at the small of my back, and I really didn't want this chunkier fabric to so the same. I used one of the three sway back adjustment methods explained in this excellent YouTube video and it has worked out really well: no annoying pooling of fabric above my bum. The only other alteration I made to the pattern this time was to make the funnel neck a little higher.  

I wasn't sure how to approach actually sewing this chunky fabric. In the end I settled on stitching all the seams with a walking foot on my regular sewing machine, and going over the raw edges with my overlocker afterwards. If fabric hadn't been so tight, I would have considered finishing the cuffs and hem with bands. But the situations being what it was, I turned both back a scant 2 cm and stitched them in place with a three-step zigzag stitch.

I've worn this top A LOT this winter, usually under my black linen Heyday dungarees, black linen York pinafore and, more recently, my vintage denim Ivy pinafore. The hem has started to stretch out a bit, so I need to go back and nip it in again at the side seams around the hips. How comes it's so much more appealing to start a WHOLE NEW PROJECT than to make a minor improvement to a completed garment?!

Thursday 7 February 2019

Ginger Jeans Triumph

Hi guys. I know that exclamations of pride and amazement at having sewn 'proper' jeans are nothing new in the sewing community, however, I MADE JEANS!!!!!!! Before we dig in, I just want to mention that I had major technical difficulties getting decent pictures of these jeans. And now that I'm looking at these pics, I see that my photographer, Mr SoZo, didn't account for our height difference and my legs look weirdly foreshortened. But hopefully you get the idea of what's going on with them anyhow, I'm sure as hell not taking these pics again!!


After a lot of back and forth, I decided to go with the Ginger skinny jeans pattern from Closet Case Patterns for my first real pair of jeans (as opposed to the denim trousers or jeggings that I've made in the past). I'd heard great things from others about the fit and the instructions, plus I liked all the extra info and support that was included in the sewalong. 

I knew straight away that I'd be making View A: the low rise, stove pipe leg version. My measurements put me as a straight size 12, and although I had heard that this pattern can come up big (particularly with very stretchy denim like mine), I couldn't bring myself to size down for fear of them ending up too small. I did decide to go ahead and scoop a bit of the crotch out straight away as this has been a really successful adjustment for me in recent trouser-type projects. I decided to do the scoop-crotch adjustment to the pattern first, rather than scooping as required once they were basted together, because the topstitching on the CB seam meant I wouldn't be able to adjust them at the basted together stage without A LOT of unpicking. The other pattern alteration I made before cutting out my fabric was to increase the amount of curve around the back of the waistband. I have a slight sway back situation, and the waistband as it was originally drafted just didn't look sufficiently curved for my needs. 

As suggested in the instructions, once the front and back were both completed and joined at the crotch seams, I basted the inside leg seams and side seams to check the fit before proceeding further. Woah, they were big. They were about a size too large through the waist and hips, and the legs were wayyyyy looser than I was aiming for. It took a couple of sessions to wrangle the fit to a point I was happy with, and made the changes back on my pattern pieces for future reference (#payingmyselfforward). 

Fabric, thread and hardwear:

I bought this dark indigo stretch denim at a sewing meetup a couple of years ago from Ditto fabrics when Ditto was selling off some stock before vacating their storage space. This is the first garment I've made using some of the stash fabric I selected for my #2019makenine plans. I've decribed it as indigo, but there's a slight greyish tone in there as well. It's soft and very stretchy and I 
really love it. I used leftover corazones quilting cotton (a Henry Alexander print I believe) for my pocket bags and waistband facing. 

I'm lucky enough to own a cone of gold top stitching thread (that I found on the street in the middle of the night in Barcelona, but that's a story for another day), but I wanted to add a pop of red as well to make these jeans a bit fancier. I used the red topstitching thread in the back pocket design (that came from the free downloadable back pocket design sheets available by signing up to the Closet Case Patterns newsletter), for the buttonhole and for the bar tacks at the fly and side seams. 

I failed to get a decent shot of it, but the jeans button I used is a copper colour with a pair of scissors design on it. I got it about 10 years ago in a slightly sneaky manner: I found it on the floor of a Zara changing room in Spain. It was meant to be the spare for a garment on sale, but I took it home for a future sewing project. The rivets are by Prym in antique copper that I bought from Fabric Godmother. I wasn't sure if I was going to bother with rivets because I was kind of viewing this pair as a wearable toile, but I'm really pleased that I did because it really elevates their whole look.


Wow, jeans-making is intensive, isn't it?! But also SOOOOO satisfying. I honestly haven't enjoyed a sewing project so much in months. As is usual these days, I had to make these in instalments in the small pockets of time I managed to carve out for myself. At each point I really couldn't wait to get back to them and do another step or two. Even though this is denim has a sizeable stretch content, it still behaved really well, I just had to be careful not to stretch the raw edges too much when handling it. Plus, I LOVED doing the visible topstitching, it's so pleasing to see the finished result.

But all that time and effort that went into these jeans gave the whole project somewhat higher stakes than your average sewing project. Thankfully, the final fit is pretty good (*massive exhale of relief*). All the faffing about with the fit through the leg was totally worth it because they are exactly what I was hoping for from the thighs down. I feel that they might still be a touch loose around the hips, particularly after a few wears (they are fresh from the wash in these pics), but I bought a vintage plaited leather belt for £1 in a charity shop which keeps them in place fairly well. I'd also say that the crotch-scooping was definitely necessary, without that I think there'd be a lot more wrinkles under the bum than there currently are. 

After finishing these, I wore them for the following six days straight before putting them in the wash, so I'd definitely class these as a success. And they are the only bottoms I currently own that I don't want/need to change out of as soon as I get home. However, I do find the low rise too low rise, especially at the back. They are fine whilst I'm wearing a vest/camisole tucked in, but I predict they will feel a bit exposing at the back when it's too warm to wear them as part of an outfit without a vest. I don't think I want to go for View B, the high waist option, but I am considering buying the mid-rise version and starting with a size smaller next time. And there will definitely be a next time.

Friday 1 February 2019

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Rowan Tee

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 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 usually try to alternate between adults' and kids' patterns for my Free Pattern Friday posts, however, it didn't quite work out this month and today I'm back with another kids' pattern. However, this kids' pattern is an absolute blinder, and if there are any kids in your life of any age that you feel like sewing for, you're going to want to know about the Misusu Patterns Rowan Tee pattern. Massive thanks to Elles, the designer behind Misusu Patterns, for sharing her hard work for free. 

(image source: Misusu Patterns)

Pattern type:

The Rowan tee is an over-sized, boxy, unisex-style T-shirt with two sleeve variations and optional patch pocket that is designed for knit fabrics. The pattern consists of the following: front piece, back piece, long sleeve piece (the short-sleeved version is a grown-on/kimono kind of deal), pocket piece and two neckband pieces, depending on if you are using jersey or rib for the neck band as rib knit (AKA ribbing) is stretchier. The PDF includes a layers function so you can isolate the size you require and save ink when you're printing it out. 

Sizing info:

Check this out: the Rowan tee is graded from approx. 0-3 months to 13-14 years old! It's very rare to find free sewing patterns that go beyond young-child sizes. That makes this a VERY useful pattern, in my book. The pattern recommends that you use the child's measurements when picking a size, rather than going by the age, and I would definitely second that. I measured my (average sized) kids and found they both came at least one size smaller than their age range, plus both finished garments have come out very roomy. The thorough instructions include details on how to combine and blend between sizes and how to lengthen or shorten if necessary, if the child you are sewing for spans more than one size range. 

Fabric info:

This knit top pattern calls for light to medium weight jersey with some lycra/elastane/spandex content so that it has at least 25% stretch. As mentioned before, jersey or rib knits can be used for the neckband, and you could make the pocket from woven fabric if you prefer. 

I used a medium weight knit for Dolores's stripy short-sleeved top, and for the stripy pocket version (made as a birthday present for one of her friends) pictured above. The red stripes are printed on to this fabric, so it has a certain stiffness that keeps the shape of the finished garment well. 

Frankie's version is made from a mash-up of different striped jerseys from my straps bin. Most of them are lighter weight jersey with a lot of drape, which has resulted in a floppier, drapier garment. Thoughts of a garment made from a combination of different stripes have been floating around my brain for ages, and I'm so pleased with how it has turned out. The anchor print jersey that I used for the pocket was from Girl Charlee UK, left over from this Bronte top


A number of people have asked me if I've found that free sewing patterns tend to be poorer quality, or not as detailed, as patterns that are for sale. Most designers who release free sewing patterns do so to showcase what potential customers can expect from the rest of their range. So although I would say that most free sewing patterns tend to be more simple in style with fewer design details, the patterns files and instruction content are almost always exactly as you'd find from the rest of a designer's output. 

The Rowan tee pattern, IMO, is a prime example of this. Not only have Misusu Patterns bothered to grade it out to such a large size range AND include the layers function, but the instructions are fantastic. Included are useful tips for sewers who may be new to sewing with knits or new to making simple pattern adjustments (combining sizes and changing the length), and each construction step is very clearly explained and illustrated. 

For experienced sewers, this is a pleasingly quick make that allows you to create a garment with a nice, clean finish. It's so quick (the short-sleeved version in particular, of course), that you could easily whip up a couple in a few hours if you find your child's wardrobe is suddenly a bit sparse after they've had a growth spurt. 

Customisation ideas:

A great basic tee pattern is a fantastic canvas for personalisation:
  • omit the pocket and consider applique, fabric painting or applying patches or decals. I added the bear iron-on decal to Dolores's tee (pictured above) to cover up a flaw in the print of the fabric
  • alter the size, shape, style or position of the patch pocket
  • a solid coloured pocket on a patterned T-shirt, or a patterned pocket on a solid T-shirt can create surprisingly different looks
  • run with my 'patchwork' idea and cut each pattern piece from a different fabric. Go crazy and combine all manner of prints and patterns, or keep it more subtle with a variety of solids
  • it could easily be shortened to create an on-trend crop top for teens
  • equally, it could be lengthened and made slightly A-line to become a comfy, casual dress

Would I make it again?

As I mentioned before, free sewing patterns in larger kids sizes are rare, as are unisex styles or those more suitable for boys. TBH, I don't feel entirely comfortable with that last sentence, as I firmly believe that kids shouldn't be made to think that anything is specifically, and only, for boys or girl's, and that they should feel free and supported to wear whatever they want. But you know what I mean. 

But in short, yes, I fully intend to use this pattern again. The roomy, over-sized shape is a bit annoying for layering under cardigans and jumpers, but it gives so much freedom of movement which I feel is essential for kids at play. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...