Thursday 27 June 2019

Sustainable Sewing: Zero-Waste Product Swaps

For the last six months or so I've been seeking out swaps I can make around the home, switching our usual products for non-disposable versions. There are, of course, heaps of fancy-looking, eco-products now available in ethical shops and online to help with this. But I've been relieved to find that a basic level of sewing ability and the reinterpretation of textiles we already own has saved me a stack, even if my versions aren't so pretty! I know that a lot of people are trying to make similar changes, so in the hope of providing inspiration, here's what I've been making:

1) Dish scrubbers. There was a surprisingly involved discussion in the comments section of my IG post about possible alternatives for what to use to when washing up. I bought a couple of VERY cute, fruit-themed, crocheted pads from Etsy, however they disintegrated pretty rapidly when they were put to the task of actually washing up multiple times a day. I finally landed on making these towelling circles for washing up, instead of the disposable, synthetic, sponge scrubbers we were using. I cut up an old, 100% cotton towel that was already pretty abbrasive, and overlocked/serged two layers together. You could even stuff them with scraps if you wanted to make them bulkier and possibly easier to grip. I made three so that I could chuck them in the wash regularly, and after six months of intense use, I can report that they are only just starting to develop a couple of holes. I don't think this is bad going, considering we don't have a dish washer and therefore do A LOT of washing up. And because these are 100% cotton, I feel much happier about eventually chucking them in the textile recycling bank (which may actually mean landfill because sadly who knows where it all actually goes).

2) Surface wiping cloths. Instead of using the same synthetic sponge scrubbers that we used to use to wash up with, or those foam-y sponge cloths that eventually disintegrate, I cut up yet more of that sacrificial towel (which we got via Freecycle about 10 years ago) and simply overlocked around the edges. Pat actually prefers these to wash up with as well; I think I made the circle ones a bit small for him. Anyways, these have been great.

3) Hands/face cloths. A former baby towel that got too ratty for bath-time got cut up into squares and the edges overlocked. We use them dampened for dealing with sticky toddler hands and faces after meals times. I'm not proud to admit that we used to keep a pack of disposable wet wipes/baby wipes on the dining table for this purpose. Marilla Walker recently shared on IG that she'd made some far more attractive ones of these using scraps of vintage towelling, but whatever works!

4) Nappy changing wipes. When we emerged from the 'milky and puke-y' stage of babyhood, we were left with a mountain of muslin cloths. I've still got some on hand for mopping up spills and covering the table when it's painting time, however, I've given a couple of the softest muslins the old cut-into-squares-and-overlock-around-the-edges treatment. I've been using these to further reduce the amount of disposable wet wipes/baby wipes we get through by dampening one before a nappy change to use if it's just a wee-based situation. I then chuck the used wipe directly into the washing machine to be washed in the next round of laundry. I still use regular wet wipes for dealing with pooey nappy changes, but these muslin squares alternative have meant we are buying the disposable kind far less frequently. I'm kicking myself for not doing this when my daughter was a baby/toddler too; I shudder to think how many of those things, plus the plastic packets, we've sent to landfill.

5) Handkerchiefs. I wrote about my foray into making fabric hankies to use instead of paper tissues here, but they have since been embraced by the whole family, so we needed MORE. This batch are bigger, 'man-sized' hankies (45cm x 45cm before hemming) made from a soft, old, bed sheet. I've discovered that when choosing suitable fabric for making them, softness really is the most important factor. Even though we have this new stack in addition to the previous ones, we still don't have enough if one of us has a cold or a bout of hay fever, so more are on the way. Plus Dolores has lost most of hers at school. 

6) Menstrual pads/Panty liners. Last year I made a batch of menstrual pads/panty liners, and I'm pleased to report that they are still going strong. I have not bought any panty liners since making these, which is a total win.

7) Wash mitt. I made a basic wash mitt for myself from yet more of the sacrificial towel. I zigzagged two layers of towelling together that I'd cut into the shape of a mitt. I used some leftover bias binding to finish the edge of the hole where your hand goes in, and some grosgrain to make a hanging loop, although I never actually hang it up. Picture an oven mitt made from an old towel. It didn't warrant a photo, but it does gets used everyday.

8) Cotton pads. I don't use cotton wool pads very often because I prefer to remove my make up with a foaming face wash, rather than specific make up remover. However, when my current stash of cotton wool pads runs out, I plan to make some like these from the Helen's Closet blog for taking off nail varnish.

So what about you? Are there any product swaps you've made that have been made easier and/or cheaper because you have a sewing machine and stash of textiles? Have you made any alternatives to products not listed above? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Frankie's Joggers Update

It may not be very noticeable in my blog content and IG feed most of the time, however, a lot of my brain space these days is occupied by the topics of waste reduction and the consumption of stuff. But the trouble is: when it comes to my sewing-related consumption, I really can't seem to stop myself from buying some lovely new fabric now and again. So I've set myself two rules by way of compromise, until I finally manage a bigger, better commitment. Firstly: I am only allowed to buy some new fabric if I know EXACTLY what I'm going to make from it, and that that item will definitely receive a decent amount of wear from whoever I'm making it for. And my second, more recent rule, is to alternate my sewing projects between those that use new fabric (either stuff I've bought recently, or that has been languishing in my stash for a while) and those that use fabric that's leftover from previous projects, or that use fabric that has been harvested from unwanted garments. In reality, that has actually manifested as a couple of projects in a row that use unused fabric (category A), followed by a run of items made from the reclaimed section (category B).

I don't always share the category B projects, because often they are repeats of basics for my kids (like yet more leggings), but I will make more of an effort to share them in the hope that it sparks some thought and/or discussion about fabric consumption, even though I'm not exactly a shining example of fabric consumption habits myself at the moment.

So on to these two new garments. Having wee people about the place is a freaking gift to a newly emboldened stash-and-scrap buster, such as myself. The pattern pieces are small, and the need for clothes in the next size and season seems insatiable. The summer is taking it's time to kick in, plus I've got laundry issues at the moment, so a couple of extra pairs of trousers for Frankie would come in VERY handy. I'm also vaguely aware that potty training is on the horizon, and lord knows we're going to get through a lot of bottoms as soon as that begins. 


Most of the time, I prefer to put Frankie in knit garments so that he has complete freedom to move,  hurl himself around and do funny little dances. So I turned to my trusty stash of increasingly dilapidated Ottobre magazines, and had a hunt for a joggers pattern that I hadn't tried before. The gem of an issue that is Spring 1/2014 (pictured above) threw up this sporty looking option called the 'Relaxed Fit Sweatpants' (pictured below) that included his current size, so out came the tracing wheel. 

I really liked the overall shape, plus all the additional details that would make them both a more fun project to tackle, and hopefully a more 'elevated' garment when finished. The details include a faux-fly front, and front and back pockets with visible coverstitch (or in my case, faux-coverstitch) stitching. Frankie is mad into pockets at the moment, so I knew they would appeal to him. I found the waistband design interesting: it's pretty deep, but you only insert elastic in the top half, and topstitching around the centre to keep the elastic from roaming around in there. I decided to omit the waist tie, plus I chose not to include the coverstitch stitching along the waist and ankle cuff seams because I knew my machine would be unlikely to cooperate through those bulky layers. I also swapped the overly complicated front pocket mouth bias finishing for a self-band overlocked on. Oh, and I altered the order of construction by applying the ankle cuffs as a band to the bottom of the legs, rather than stitched on flat to the bottom of the legs after the side seams had been stitched but before stitching the inside leg seams. If that last sentence didn't make sense, then don't worry, you didn't miss anything interesting.


My first version were the lightning flash French terry pair (pictured above and below). There are no prizes for noticing that I used the leftovers from his dad's Apollon sweatshirt for this pair. I also used up the rest of the matching cotton ribbing so this double-scrap-bust was extra satisfying. This fabric is very soft with quite a loose knit (I really struggled not to type 'weave' then), so scored high for comfort and movability.

Once I knew that this pattern was a pretty good bet, I felt emboldened to use it as the basis for a refashion/upcycle project, and finally cut into Pat's unwanted hoodie that I'd been storing for a year or so. He's decided he no longer suits hoodies (something about turning 40 apparently), but this one's zip had broken so we couldn't send it to a charity shop in the hope that someone else could get some use from it. I'd always really liked the colour, plus the fabric was still in good nick, so I decided to hang on to it knowing that I could weave some magic with it somewhere down the line.

Harvesting its fabric wasn't too tricky, I just had to unpick the front pockets and cut along the seam lines. I lengthened the legs on the pattern because the cuffs from the original sweatshirt were narrower than the ankle cuff pattern piece required, and I didn't want to lose overall length. As you can see I managed to include the little metal Fenchurch logo on the front of the final trousers. The placement isn't ideal, but the hoodie was a small size so I didn't have much width to work with. I also included the little side seam tab from the original hoodie, positioning it at the side of one of the back pockets. Anyways, these joggers totally fooled my friend Joe who commented on Frankie's Fenchurch trousers when he saw him recently!


Despite the issue of Ottobre being over five years old, I think the shape and proportions of these joggers look fresh and modern, and definitely a bit Scandie-cool. All the extra topstitching and details meant these took a lot longer to make than the very basic joggers I usually rustle up for Frankie, but I really think it was worth it and I'm happy he has some nice new bottoms. I am going to go back to my super-fast, down-and-dirty basic joggers pattern though to make more in preparation for potty-training, but I imagine I'll definitely trace out bigger sizes of this Relaxed Fit Sweatpants pattern to make more in the years to come.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

All The Quilted Mustard Cardigans

Recently, here in the UK, the weather has turned a bit shitty. Therefore, it doesn't feel at all out of season to be sharing these recent makes. I'm trying to be more mindful about what fabric I buy to make additions to my wardrobe with, and I must confess straight away that I already own two mustard coloured cardigans (this one and this one). However, neither provide much warmth, so I justified making this one because a cosier mustard cardigan would be serving a slightly different purpose to my other two. I know I said in my Me-Made-May 2019 Lessons to Learn post that I was going to start branching out of my limited colour palette, however I'd already bought this gorgeous fabric before I'd come to that realisation, plus it only came in mustard and navy anyhow! 


Throughout the recent autumn/winter/spring, I massively over-relied on my black quilted ponte Kinder cardigan. By that I mean that I wore it so much/often that A) it's starting to look pretty bobbly, B) I panicked over what I was going to wear when it was in the wash, and C) I felt slightly embarrassed (which I know is stupid) at how often I was being seen in the same garment. When I saw this quilted mustard jersey at Fabric Godmother, I knew it would be great for making a similarly-cosy alternative to the black Kinder. Plus, it appealed to me because it's 80% cotton (the black quilted ponte was 100% polyester), and I'm trying to keep purchases of synthetic fibres to a minimum. Admittedly this mustard quilted jersey is also 20% polyester, but I felt this was a step in the right direction. As well as being warm, it has a lovely, soft feel, and I really enjoy the feeling of it on my bare arms. 

(image source: Ready to Sew)


Umm, yeah so you made have noticed that the sample pictured above appears to be made from the same fabric as I have chosen. Well, at least I knew that my quilted jersey was going to work well for my selected pattern! It's the Jamie cardigan pattern by French pattern company, Ready to Sew, and it's been firmly stuck to my 'Sewing Patterns I Want' Pinterest board for months. The volume and poufy-ness of this boy-friend style cardigan appealed to me, and feels like a mild deviation from my current usual style, which excited me. 

I made the straight size 40 which related closest to my measurements, and the fit through the body seems to be fine. I deviated from the construction method to add clear elastic to the shoulder seams to prevent them from stretching out. I always do this anyway with knit garment projects, however I think it is especially important when the sleeves are as full, and therefore heavy, as these. I also added some fusible interfacing to the lower sections of the neckband which was not asked for in the instructions, to strengthen the area for buttons/buttonholes. As you may have noticed, I have yet to add buttons. I didn't have anything suitable in my stash, and I'll probably add some eventually, but that's not stopping me wearing it in the meantime. 


When I first put my finished cardigan on, I found that the sleeves felt uncomfortably short. I unpicked the cuffs and recut them from some scraps so that the finished length was 3cm longer (I added 6cm to the depth to the pattern piece, which gets folded in half). In the future, I'd probably add the 3cm by extending the sleeve piece itself, then add an additional 1.5cm or 2cm to the finished length of original cuffs as well. I also think the waistband would benefit from being a bit deeper. 

Aside from those tweaks, I'm super happy with this garment. It is definitely fills a spot in my wardrobe when I want extra warmth, and I've loved wearing it with my Heyday dungarees and basic, white, Agnes top. I'll keep my eyes peeled in the future for different, interesting knits to make another.   

The Jamie cardigan pattern required 1.5m of fabric, so I bought 2m thinking I could use the extra to make Frankie some joggers. But then Dolores had a massive growth spurt which left her low on warm tops. I didn't have anything else suitable in my stash, so the leftovers became a cardigan for her instead. 

(image source: Brindille & Twig)


I reached for the Retro cardigan pattern by Brindille & Twig, which I've used many times (you can see the previous versions here and here). You can't accuse me of not getting my money's worth from this pattern! I already had this, the largest size (sniff), printed out including the tweaks already done from when I made her the black quilted ponte version (another mini-me cardi using scraps from my own cardigan project). If memory serves, those tweaks included making the curve of the front section where it joins the neckband smoother and not so angled, so that it sits flatter after the neckband has been applied. I also made the waistband and cuffs deeper. The original pattern has the same widths for the waistband and cuffs across the size range, from preemie to 5-6 years, which looks odd to me in the larger sizes. It's possible I also made the neckband a little wider, but I can't be sure at this moment in time. 


Dolores is tentatively leaving her pink phase, and has embraced this cardigan surprisingly well. I thought it was going to be a grower, but she's worn is a few times in the couple of weeks since its completion, including on her non-school uniform day. I wonder if she likes the colour, enjoys the soft feel of the fabric, or because I have a near-identical one. I can't even deal with how grown-up she looks in the photo below. I may use this pattern again once or twice for Dolores, now that I have the pieces prepped. I will continue to use it for Frankie as well for several years to come. I still have a limited amount of scraps of this quilted jersey left, and I may combine it with some other leftovers further down the road to make a coloured blocked cardigan or sweatshirt for Frankie also. 

Friday 7 June 2019

Free Pattern Friday: Women's Super Basic Tank Top

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.

For as long as I can remember, my hot-weather-clothing game has been weak. Even when I lived in Spain, I owned very little suitable clothing for when it all got hot and sticky. Last year I made some real improvements in this area, but there was still a gap where some knit tanks should have been. Twice previously I've tried to fill this gap with free sewing patterns (here and here), but neither of those patterns quite hit the spot. Well, today I can finally announce that the spot has been hit and the gap has been filled! This Super Basic Tank Top pattern by Halfmoon Atelier, free when you sign up to their monthly newsletter, is exactly what I needed all along. Thanks to Meghann for sharing her hard work for free. 

Pattern type: 

Super basic tank top by name, super basic tank top by nature. The scoop neck, skinny fit style is great as standard, warm-weather wear, but is equally handy for layering under jumpers when it's cold. The arm and neck holes are finished with bands of fabric, and the straps are wide enough to cover your bras straps. 

(image source: Halfmoon Atelier)

Sizing info: 

This pattern has been graded to ten sizes, which cover 30" to 44" busts. For my first version (the blue and white striped one) I followed the pattern's measurement chart to the letter, using a size 4 at the bust, grading out to the size 5 for my waist and hips. If you don't know how to grade between sizes, information on how to do so is included in the instructions for this pattern. 

I also pinched out 2cm from the length of the waist at the shorten/lengthen line, which is a standard alteration for me to account for my short-waistedness. The sizing and fit turned out perfectly so I made no additional alterations for my second version. 

It is also worth noting that this pattern includes not one, but two methods for making a full bust adjustment on this pattern (depending on how much bust you need to accommodate). 

Fabric info:

Light- to medium-weight knits like jersey, rib knit and interlock with a 4-way stretch work best for this pattern. Details on ideal percentage of stretch are included, as are some suggestions of suitable fibre types. Personally, I wouldn't like to use a knit that didn't have a lycra/elastane/spandex content. 

For my first version, I used a thrifted knit maxi dress that I bought at least a year ago because it had so much re-useable fabric. Ironically, this tank has ended up looking very much how the top part of the original dress did anyhow! 

For my second version, I wanted to use this secondhand New York Dolls T-shirt that had been in my stash for over five years. Although the original T-shirt it looked like a standard rock T-shirt, the fabric it was made from wasn't the regular 100% cotton you'd expect, and had a decent elastane content. Annoyingly, it was too narrow around the hips for me to cut both the front and back from the same T-shirt, so I used some black regular cotton/spandex knit from Girl Charlee UK that I had lurking in my stash for the back and the bands. It's hardly noticeable, but on this version, I made the arm and neck hole bands a smidge wider. 


The pattern PDF and the instructions for this pattern cannot be faulted. Most of my sewing these days involves PDFs rather than paper patterns, and I appreciate the layers function if present (as is is here) to save on printer ink. The detail and info included in the instructions goes above and beyond what you'd expect for a basic tank pattern, and the level of both make this an ideal pattern for those new to, and nervous about, sewing with knits.  

As I'm sure you've guessed by now, I'm more than pleased with the finished garments. I like the shape and proportions of the front and back neck scoops, and the skinny-but-not-too-skinny fit through the body is just what I was looking for. From the images on the Halfmoon Atelier website it wasn't clear if it was designed to be worn bra-less, but I was relieved to find that the width and positioning of the tank straps covers my bra straps with zero tweaks required.  

The only thing I wasn't wild about, was how the lightning flash stitch looked where I'd topstitched down the seam allowances of the bindings on the blue and white version. I've decided that that tank will most likely be used for wearing down the allotment in the summer. I used a small, regular zigzag stitch on the black version to a more pleasing effect. 

Customisation ideas:
  • Try contrast coloured bindings round the neck and arm holes (solid bindings on a printed knit tank would look great)
  • I'm not sure if it's exactly my style, but I'm tempted to use some stretch lace on the back with a solid or print opaque knit on the front
  • You could break up the front and back pieces to create a scrap-busting colour blocked effect
  • If, unlike me, you can use a twin-needle successfully on your machine, or you have a coverstitch machine, you could use contrast thread to stitch down the arm and neck hole bindings and  hem the bottom edge. 

Would I make it again?

Absolutely! If the right knit falls into my stash, I'd definitely make more for wearing in hot weather. If I didn't already have a ton of vests made from my free vest/camisole/singlet pattern, I'd most likely make a stack of these super basic tanks for wearing in bed and under jumpers in colder months too.

Monday 3 June 2019

My Me-Made-May 2019: Lessons To Learn

(my favourite outfits worn during Me-made-May 2019)

I'm sure that every year I state that Me-Made-May went by in a flash, but somehow I feel that it's especially true this year. By writing this post, I hope that I can draw some conclusions from the fleeting experience that was my challenge, and extract some lessons that I can make use of.

So my challenge was to wear a unique combination of me-made garments each day throughout May, and to wear a dress, skirt or pinafore at least three times a week. The first part was basically a repeat of my challenge last year, which I had found super helpful when picking out garments for the rest of the year after MMM was over. This year, I did manage to create a different outfit every day, however  I don't feel that I was as inventive as last year with my combinations. I added the second part in the hope that those garments would start to feature more regularly in my wardrobe rotations during the rest of the year, but I just don't think that's going to happen, at least not until the weather gets properly hot. To be honest, I'm not sure if I did manage to wear a dress/skirt/pinafore three days a week during my challenge, I kind of lost track of that part. However, the challenge has helped me ascertain that I should make more and less of the following:

More jeans! 

I love wearing jeans, particularly skinny ones, but I currently only have one pair (plus one pair of jeggings that aren't as comfortable). I'm not going to be able to wear my Gingers when is gets hotter because they sit so low that I don't feel comfortable wearing them without a vest/camisole tucked in. Spoiler alert: I've already started a second, higher-rise, pair of Gingers in turquoisey-blue denim, however I think I should also make a black pair ready for the Autumn.

More dungarees!

I really enjoy wearing my black linen Heyday dungarees and my freshly reworked Burnside bibs, although my Mila dungarees have mainly been assigned to allotment use these days. I own another three patterns for dungarees that I have yet to make, and I can't wait to give them a try as soon as I've got through enough of my stash to justify buying some more fabric.

More coats/lined jackets!

May is often a weird month for weather, and this year that was definitely true. I wore both my winter coat AND shorts (not at the same time!) at different points during the month. I really hate that I basically have to wear a coat for eights months of the year, and my Cocoon coat is starting to show signs of the frequent usage, so an additional lined coat or jacket would be great both to add variety and to prolong the life of my Cocoon coat.

More summer clothes!

I only own two pairs of shorts and two sleeveless tops at the moment, and if this summer gets anywhere close to the consistently hot temperatures of last year's, then a couple more or each would be very welcome.

A jumpsuit/playsuit!

I do not own a jumpsuit or a playsuit, which is ridiculous because I have wanted one for years. I treated myself to the Yari jumpsuit pattern by True Bias, making the most of the Me-Made-May celebration discount code, and I thought that the short version might be a great alternative to actual shorts (see above).

More fitted knit tops!

Looking through the pics of this year's challenge and I can see just how much I wear my stripy Gable top. Which in itself is no bad thing, of course, but I've already had to mend it once, plus I'm often at a loss of what to wear under dungarees and pinafores when it is in the wash. Therefore, for next Autumn, one or two more long- or 3/4 length- sleeved fitted knit tops would be awesome. 

More volume!

This is at odds with my previous statement about preferring skinny jeans, but I'm starting to want to play around with volume in my garments a bit more. I've bought a cardigan pattern that offers a slight deviation from my usual silhouette, so I'm going to start there and see what happens.

More colour!

This feels a bit scary to me to admit, but maybe it's time to branch away from only wearing black, white, navy, denim blue and mustard. Maybe.

No more dresses/skirts/pinafores!

I did enjoy wearing my pinafores on certain days and for certain roles that I perform, but I now have four pinafores and that is definitely enough for my current needs. And although I often see other people's amazing self-made dresses, I know that if I had them, I wouldn't reach for them often enough to justify the time, money and resources that would be required.

If you challenged yourself this May, did you learn any lessons about your wardrobe? What conclusions did you draw? What came as a surprise to you?

Saturday 1 June 2019

My-Me-Made-May 2019: Days 23 - 31

I can't believe that Me-Made-May has once again whizzed by, and is now over! It's been a truly amazing one, in terms of the community love and sharing. This post is the last dump of documentation images from my personal challenge. I'm still ruminating on the lessons and takeaways I've gained, so I'll share my conclusions in another post very soon.

Day 23

Day 24

Day 25

Day 26

Day 27

Day 28

Day 29 (no pic)

Day 30

Day 31
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