Saturday 21 August 2021

Zero Waste Cropped Shirt: Two Attempts


Earlier this summer I bought the ZW Cropped Shirt pattern by Swedish designer, Birgitta Helmersson. There are some really inspiring versions of this pattern on Instagram. Zero waste sewing patterns are unlike regular patterns in that you receive a set of measurements to help you draw shapes directly onto your fabric, rather than paper pieces to cut out and pin on to your fabric. There is zero or very little wasted fabric from this approach, so you often need far less fabric to begin with than with a typical sewing project. For example, the short sleeve version of this shirt in the smaller size range (there are two size ranges available covering bust sizes 33"- 40" and 41" -  50") requires just 90cm of fabric. 

(image source: Birgitta Helmersson)

Attempt #1:

For my first attempt, I used 1m of checked cotton that I thrifted (see below). I really enjoyed this new approach to garment creation, although the project fought me at every turn! Partly the problems occurred because the check is slightly different on each side and I kept messing up my right and wrong sides. The fabric was a little stiff for the sleeves, so I unpicked them, halved them and restitched. Sadly the proportions of this top just weren't right for me, so I found it a new loving home with my friend Sophie, and tried the pattern again a couple of months later when more suitable fabric appeared. 

Attempt #2:

For my second attempt, I used the leftovers of the curtain I used for my recent summer dungers. One of the things I really love about this pattern is how customisable to your own preferences it is. This time I narrowed the width of the body by 5cm front and back (so 10cm all round). I also used the original length (I'd lengthened it by about 5cm for the first version) and tried a version of the long, gathered sleeve hack that is covered in the pattern instructions. For the sleeves, I effectively just used as much of the fabric that I had left and thankfully, I'm thrilled with the volume and length that came out!


I've been wearing this a whole lot since making it. It works well as a top, of course, but also as a kind of summer jacket layer when the weather is a bit changeable. It can be layered over other tops, either buttoned up or left open.  

You can't see them very clearly, but the buttons are ones I've had in my stash for over a decade. I'm pretty sure they came from a market stall when I lived in Barcelona. They have the club symbol from playing cards on them. Playing card symbols have always had a significance for me, not least because I was a croupier for a couple of years in my early twenties! The background colour of the buttons is a dark grey, which suits this fabric perfectly because the black curtain is quite a washed out shade. 

What I'm most surprised about it how soft this curtain feels to wear! I'm definitely on the look out for similar curtains for other future sewing projects. It's such a great way to get a lot of fabric for relatively little money, plus they're often 100% cotton (therefore biodegradable and easily dyed), AND it's not creating additional need for virgin textiles. 

Monday 9 August 2021

Washed Denim Nia Trousers Remake


I'm a big fan of Belgian sewing pattern brand Bel' Etoile. They have a lovely range of patterns for women and children available in Dutch and English. Previously I've bought the Isa sweatshirt pattern and used the free Siem shorts pattern (which I reviewed here), and recently I tried the Nio/Nia pattern to make these trousers for my daughter. 


I'd had my eye on the Nia trousers for some time because the style is very similar to a thrifted pair of trousers that Lola used to love to wear but has since grown out of. Amusingly, it's also very similar to the Helen's Closet Arden pants pattern that I'm currently working on for myself! 

(image source: Bel' Etoile)

The Nio/Nia pattern is good value because it includes a trousers/shorts pattern as well as a top pattern, both of which include a number of style options and variations for kids of all genders. I can image I'll use the bottoms pattern a lot for both my kids over the decade or so. 


The fabric I used for these trousers is the 4oz washed denim from Fabric Godmother, although I can't remember if it was the blue or indigo colour way because I bought it several years ago and the dye batches vary quite a lot. I used the same type of washed denim to make a Tova top and a Block Tee (formerly Kabuki tee)

About two years ago, I used this fabric in an attempt to make some 'summer jeans' using the trouser version of the Tilly and the Buttons Marigold jumpsuit pattern. I got very close to finishing, but a mid-way fitting indicated that they were going to look terrible on me, so I abandoned the project! Thankfully, I kept hold of the half-made item and was able to finally reuse it to make these. 

If you look closely, you may notice that the fabric on the inside of the pocket mouth on one side is a slightly paler colour. That's because I made a mistake when cutting the pocket pieces, so had to use another remnant of the same type of washed denim instead, which happened to be a lighter colour. I know that this fabric tends to fade with washing (in a really lovely way), so I expect the difference will be less noticeable over time. 


I wasn't sure Lola would accept these trousers because her beloved pair that was a similar style was made from viscose, and she noted that these don't feel as slinky. However, she's worn them a couple of times with some light suggestion, and today I noticed that she chose to wear them without any input from me at all! If they look ok by the time Lola is done with them, I'll hold onto them for Frankie. I already have another pair planned for Lola in a printed cotton, plus a shorts version for Frankie for next year from some leftover slub linen that I'm currently working with. 

Friday 6 August 2021

Free Pattern Friday: Adult's Playsuit (Hacked)

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes an adult'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.

It's the second month in a row that I'm posting about a free sewing pattern from the amazing resource that is the Peppermint Magazine's sewing pattern range. Can you blame me?! There's so many summer-friendly styles that are quick to make and easy to wear. The patterns are really easy to access; the A4 and A0 pattern files plus instruction documents are downloaded directly from each style's webpage, with just a sign up to their newsletter required (which you can obviously unsubscribe from, should you wish). It is also easy to donate a few quid to say thanks and to support this wonderful resource if you can afford to.

A couple of months ago I saw a woman in my local park walking her dog whilst wearing some black, linen-y cropped dungarees that looked amazing. I immediately identified them as the kind of summer dungarees that I wanted in my life! After giving it some thought, I realised that I could create something similar using the Peppermint Magazine playsuit pattern as the basis.... 

(image source: Peppermint Magazine

Pattern type:

This summer playsuit pattern, designed by Emily from In The Folds, is a cute little romper with tie straps, patch pockets and a concealed side-zip fastening. The fit is designed to be close fitting around the bust, with more looseness around the waist and hips with additional ease. 

As you have no doubt noticed, I lengthened the legs to mid-calf length. Where I live, the weather doesn't reach roasting-hot many days during the year, so I felt that I'd get more use from a longer version. 

Sizing info:

This pattern is graded to ten sizes, from 30" to 51.5" bust and 33" to 54.5" hip. I usually I have to grade out between by bust and waist/hips, but because there's more design ease through the waist and hips anyway, I made the straight size D and the fit worked out fine for me.

Fabric info:

The pattern advise is as follows: 'Consider using light to mid-weight fabrics such as: linen, linen blends, cotton, gauze or chambray. You could also consider sateen, silk (crepe de chine or habotai), tencel or viscose (rayon) for a dressier look. For a boxier silhouette, consider light-weight denims or heavy-weight cottons.' 

For mine, I used a light-weight, cotton canvas curtain that I found in a charity shop. It's pretty soft, and has just the right amount of body to avoid VPLs or anything like that. 


I got this pattern printed using an A0 printing service, so I already set myself off on the right foot with this project! As with the other Peppermint Mag patterns I've tried, including others designed by In The Folds, this was a pleasure to use. The instructions are lengthy enough to impart all you'll need to know, without being overly fussy and confusing. Overall, I found the construction process was logical and straight forward. 

I'm pretty happy with the finished item. The model in the photos is wearing the sample without anything underneath in most of the photos, which I think most people (and definitely me!) would find uncomfortably revealing. I love wearing mine as seen here, with a basic, tight-ish fitting knit top underneath. 

Literally my only criticism is that I think there should been a small bust dart positioned from the armpit. That area gapes a little, and for any one fairly full-busted, I'd recommend making a toile/muslin, or at least having a fitting before cutting out the front facing piece, to see if it's something you could use. 

Would I make it again?

Hmm... possibly? There's a lot of dungarees patterns out there that are on my radar to try, but I wouldn't rule out using this again as the basis for another project. 

Wednesday 4 August 2021

Check Your Thread: I've Started a Podcast!

I know, I know, I've been keeping it quiet! I always feel weird about mentioning a project before it's ready to go, call me superstitious. But after making the initial plan about two years ago, my new podcast FINALLYYYYYY out there in the world! I really hope you'll have a listen...

Each week Check Your Thread will look at how to sew more sustainably, through inspiring conversation and fun explorations. For those of us who are concerned about the climate crisis but love sewing our own clothes, it's an opportunity to nerd out about garment sewing, whilst figuring out ways to reduce the impact it may have on the planet. In the first episode, I take everyone on a journey through my sewing history, from fashion student, to garment industry employee, to sewing blogger, to dressmaking teacher and more. I do this to illustrate what inspired me to start Check Your Thread, plus I explain what you can expect from future episodes. 

You can listen to the first episode (and all future episodes) via the player directly on the Check Your Thread website. Alternatively you'll be able to listen through your favourite podcasting app (although I've been told that the Google podcast app is taking an additional couple of days to verify a new podcast). It's currently available through the Apple podcast app, Stitcher and Spotify. 

I've got some fantastic, inspiring guests already lined up and I can't wait to share the conversations. Plus there's some interesting solo episodes also in the works. I've decided to keep this podcast ad-free as I want to feel free to share my thoughts without feeling compromised by obligations to sponsors. I've set up a Check Your Thread Patreon, so for the equivalent of the cost of a cup of coffee each month, listeners can contribute to help cover costs and keep this project going. 

There'll also be a monthly Check Your Thread newsletter that you can sign up for on the website. If you have any feedback, comments or suggestions for future episodes, please find me on Instagram @checkyourthread or email me at zoe@checkyourthread dot com. 

Thanks so much for your support!

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