Wednesday 26 January 2022

Zero Waste Cap Sleeved Tee for Kids

I'm really into the idea of zero waste sewing patterns and had a lot of fun preparing an episode about them for my podcast, Check Your Thread, a couple of months ago. I'd experimented with Birgitta's Helmersson's Cropped Shirt pattern which I had a lot of fun with, and I was keen to try more zero and low waste patterns. Thread Faction Studio is a Australia-based sewing pattern company that has a range of ZW patterns for children, and as far as I'm aware they are the only ones experimenting with zero and low waste patterns on a little scale (i.e. for kids). I've bought a couple of them and decided to start with the ZW cap sleeved tee pattern (pictured below) for my daughter because it looks like such a useful style.

(image source: Thread Faction)

I was also keen to try this one because it requires a really small amount of fabric! It's potentially a great way to make wearable pieces from strips of leftover jersey. The pattern can be oriented either along or across the grain, depending on what you have to hand, as long as the fabric has a four-way stretch. I cut this tee across the grain (so perpendicular to the usually way you'd position T-shirt pattern pieces), and it only required about 55cm of fabric for the size 8. As well as requiring a four-way stretch for this to work, you also have to keep in mind any print design, otherwise the resultant garment might look a bit odd. The fabric I chose for my daughter's top was a piece of slinky jersey with an abstract print design so I could get away with the alternative pattern positioning. 

The pattern actually more of a low rather than true zero waste pattern because the neckband strip isn't part of the tessellated layout of the other pieces. It's also unlikely that your fabric would be the exact width, but I can't see how a true zero waste pattern could be created whilst also offering a wide range of sizes (this pattern runs from ages 2-14). 

The only change I made was to cut the neckband deeper than the pattern called for. And because it's not part of the main rectangle formed by the other pattern pieces, you could easily cut it from a scrap of contrast jersey or ribbing from your stash, or even from the neckband harvested from an unwanted T-shirt. Putting the garment together was very fun, but also pretty fiddly. I made the size 8 and I wouldn't have enjoyed trying to stitch the neck or sleeve bands on a smaller size. 

My daughter wasn't thrilled about my plans when I showed her the pattern and fabric. However, she didn't outright veto it so I pushed on regardless. Now that it is complete, it has actually had quite a lot of wear already, and we're still in winter. I think she actually enjoys the feel of the slinky jersey, and the colours work pretty well when paired with a number of other garments. I'll definitely keep this pattern in mind when I'm next in possession of a suitable piece of fabric. 

Friday 7 January 2022

Free Pattern Friday: School Cool Dress for Dolls

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 (or even a doll'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.

Ok, so the free pattern that I've road tested today may not be of interest to everyone. However, it's a really great little free that pattern that will be a delight for some people. Ellie & Mac have a whole heaps of patterns available for adults, kids and home projects, one of which is a kid's dress pattern called the School Cool tunic and dress. And they have generously made a doll's version available for free. The idea, of course, is that you can make matching tops or dresses for your child and their favourite doll. But whether you choose to go down the matching route or not, the School Cool doll's version is a fantastic scrap buster. I made three versions for my daughter for Christmas to clothe a doll she bought herself from a charity shop. Thanks heaps to Ellie & Mac for sharing their hardworking on this pattern for free. 


(image source: Ellie & Mac)

Pattern type:

This jersey dress pattern has an impressive number of variations. It includes four sleeve options (tank, puff short sleeves, flutter sleeves, and long sleeves) and two lengths (tunic and dress lengths). However, it is incredibly customisable so you can play around and make a variety of garments that all look completely different. I tried the puff short sleeves and the flutter sleeves options. Skirt-wise, I used the standard skirt pattern piece for two versions, but my scrap of the teal colour wasn't the right size or shape so I made a basic gathered skirt in a longer length for that. 

Sizing info:

The pattern has been graded for 15" and 18" dolls. However, the doll I made these clothes for is a bit smaller so I simply adjusted the percentage that I printed the pattern out to a bit smaller. I think that this tactic would work well for pretty much any doll larger than a Barbie sized doll. Things might start to get frustratingly fiddly any smaller than that, but of course you're free to try! 

Fabric info:

The pattern recommends knits with 50% 4-way stretch. However, I think that pretty much any single jersey would be fine. The white/grey bunny print jersey I used for the bodice and sleeves in the top version was a 100% cotton jersey harvested from a little T-shirt my daughter wore when she was two, and it has very little length-ways stretch. The sage-y green fabric I paired it with is a scrap of very stretchy bamboo jersey. The leopard print skirt that I paired with the black bodice is a double knit of some kind, which works fine for the skirt but would probably be too bulky for the top part. What I'm saying is that I think there's some wiggle room to play about with the scraps in your stash. If you're making a gathered skirt to go on the bodice, you could get away with a woven fabric for the skirt as it doesn't really need to stretch to get the garment on and off. Woven might work for the original skirt pattern piece also, but I'd have to try it to say so with confidence. 


The pattern is easily accessible via the webshop on the Ellie & Mac website (no payment needed). There's no signups required or anything else. The pattern is professionally produced and easy to use. The instructions offer extra tips for sewing with knits, and I appreciated the many photos of different versions to help you choose which style variations to pick, and which fabrics might look good. 

Cutting out and making this little pattern is pretty fiddly, but the instructions make the construction as simple as possible. I couldn't find any of the hook and loop tape that they recommend for the back fastening, so I bought some tiny press studs to use instead. I also realised after my first one that the jersey isn't going to fray so I stopped bothering to hem it which made the process quicker. 

The finished dresses are incredibly cute. Small things are just so satisfying aren't they? I think for future versions I'll lengthen the bodice slightly to suit the proportions of my daughter's doll a bit better. 

Customisation ideas:

  • Add trim to the hems, or along the centre front like a faux contrast button stand
  • Use small buttons, little decals or even do a some miniature embroidery to create a detail
  • Play around with mixing and matching colours and prints from different scraps for the different pattern pieces
  • Increase or decrease the scaling when printing to make the patterns suitable for a wider range of doll sizes
  • Cut a wide rectangle and create a gathered skirt rather than the circle skirt included in the pattern
  • Turn the bodice round and have the fastening at the front

Would I make it again?

Definitely! Although I feel my daughter's interest in dolls may be on the wane. If it is revived at some point, I'd love an excuse to bust this pattern out again and try the other two sleeve variations. 

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