Wednesday 30 August 2023

Viscose Scraps Patchwork Trousers

Hello! First up, apologies for these terrible, dark photos. We tried to take some pics just before we went on holiday but clearly the light levels were too gloomy. So even after some editing you still can't see what's going on too well. Anyway! 

I tend to find my projects largely fall into one of two camps: 
  1. A garment or accessory I really want to wear or use
  2. An idea or thought experiment or that I want to see come to fruition 
This project was definitely from the second camp. In my experience, when it comes to working with scraps, slinky woven fabrics such as viscose and Tencel are the hardest to find uses for. I've tried piecing them together to make a garment from previously, but it didn't hold up very well because of my choice of seam finishing, plus I wasn't in love with the outcome stylistically. So I wanted to see if I would have more success by using a similar piecing technique to the one I adopted for my patchwork quilted denim jacket project. 


I started by getting all my slinky woven scraps out and selecting some that formed a nice colour palette. As you can tell, I'm really into autumnal shades such as mustard, rust, teal and forest green. It's fun seeing my previous garment projects represented in this selection! There's leftovers here from a dress that I still wear a fair bit, a Vali top that I love, a rust coloured tank that didn't work for me that I gave to a friend, my slinky Luna pants, plus a couple of bits from the scraps bin at work. 

The next step was to dissect larger scraps and trim everything up into rectangles. I find my rotary cutter, cutting mat and set square make this part of the process pretty quick. Then with the rectangles laid out, I started to find a pair that each have an edge about the same length. I pined, stitched and overlocked them together, then pressed the seam allowances to one side (I do this in batches to save time and energy). 

I would then add another shape to that joined pair, or another pair of shapes, with an edge a similar length and so on. The shapes then started to come together to make larger 'islands' of fabric. You'll often get to a point where you need to cut some 'custom' shapes to make the design work, so I kept some of the original scraps back for that. The main piece of advice is to not overthink the piecing process. It's super easy to spend too long questioning the position of each rectangle in relation to the rest and drive yourself insane!


It took quite a long time to eventually land on what I was actually going to make from these pieced together scraps. At first I thought a top, then I realised that I'm in far shorter supply of bottoms and I thought a wide-legged pair of culottes might look good. Then I realised I had enough scraps to make full-length, palazzo-style trousers, so I went with that plan. The pattern I created for this project is a hybrid of two other patterns. I used the top part of the trouser section from the Peppermint magazine/Ready to Sew Valley jumpsuit (then lengthened the rise in both the front and back). Plus I used the leg width and shape of the Wide-leg jumpsuit pattern by The Assembly Line, but eliminated the side seam as per the Valley jumpsuit. Having no side seam was going to result in less waste and fewer awkward shapes of pieced fabric at the side seams. 


The 'fabric' I was creating by piecing scraps together slowly continued to grow until I could see that it had become big enough to fit the pattern piece on top. Obviously, I needed two of these large shapes of fabric. Then I cut out a pair of the pattern piece and constructed then garment as if I had cut it out of a flat piece of virgin fabric. The waist is elasticated, the channel constructed by simply turning down the top edge twice and edge stitching. 


I LOVE that I managed to make an entire garment from leftovers from other projects, the scraps that would so often just go into the bin. I'm not sure if I'm super into the finished look, but I'm certainly into how they feel! Tencel and viscose fabrics usually have a wonderful drape to them anyhow, but all the additional seaming on this project has given the fabric some extra weight and made them somehow feel extra luxe. I do notice the seams on the reverse side a little against my skin, but I wouldn't describe it as unpleasant or annoying. 

I really hope that more sewers/sewists develop the habit of saving their scraps and leftovers where possible to use for other things. It's a good way to extract more value from the natural resources and the financial costs that went into the fabric in the first place, and it can keep textiles out of landfill for a bit longer. 

Friday 4 August 2023

Free Pattern Friday: Siem Shorts for Kids

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.

This month I'm returning to a pattern that I have made and loved previously. It's a unisex shorts pattern designed for knit fabrics called the Siem shorts pattern (pronounced 'seam') by Bel'Etoile patterns. I reviewed it two years ago, and I have been wanting to make it again ever since. I really love the retro stylings, plus it's a fantastic way to use up smaller amounts of knit fabrics that aren't suitable for undies making. Let's get into my experience this time round....

Pattern type: 

The Siem shorts pattern is a retro style designed for knit fabrics. The pattern consists of three pieces: front, back and waistband. Plus you need binding (preferably stretchy) to finish the edges. 

Sizing info:

This pattern is graded between a generous 98cm (approx. 3 years) and 164cm (approx. 14 years) which I really appreciate it. I made the size 152 this time, going by my daughter's hip measurement as opposed to her height, and the sizing is pretty perfect. 

Fabric info:

Fabric types that are listed as suitable for this pattern include jersey, ponte roma, french terry and sweatshirt knits. This is such a fantastic pattern for using up scraps and leftovers from other projects, so as long as the knit is pretty stable and isn't too light-weight it's probably worth a try. Last time I made and reviewed this pattern, I declared that I'd love to make these in a classic retro towelling or velour knit. My wish was granted when I found this discarded small remnant of pink velour at work. The burgundy pair are made using scraps of ponte roma that have been hanging around in my stash for a couple of years. 

The pattern calls for 'stretch bias binding' for finishing the edges. That's not a super common item to find in fabric shops or haberdashers, plus I'm still participating in the Last Sewist Standing challenge so I can't buy new sewing supplies at the moment anyway. So for the pink pair I used strips of white cotton ribbing (the kind that's sold for cuffs and neckbands). For the burgundy pair, I chanced my arm with something a bit thicker, and used a strips of printed french terry. I cut the strips along the DOGS (direction of greatest stretch) rather than on the bias.


The pattern and the instructions come in separate PDF files. The pattern is easily obtained via the Bel-Etoile website, with no sign-ups to anything required. I was super happy to find that the pattern file includes the layers function which is great for saving ink, particularly when the pattern is graded to such a generous number of sizes. 

The instructions document was equally user-friendly. The only thing I felt was missing was some advice on making your own binding. It is an easy enough process to do, but the lack of that step in the instructions may cause a beginner sewer/sewist to have a bit of a head-scratch. This time I did remember that SEAM ALLOWANCE IS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS PATTERN. However, it did take me a while to work out that it's not necessary to add allowance to the curved edges. 

So I kind of messed the fit up a bit on these. When I made this pattern for my daughter two years ago, she found them to sit too high on her waist for her liking. This time, I made the burgundy pair as per the pattern and she experienced the same problem again. As before, she kept pulling them down to sit on her hips which resulted in a bunching of excess fabric at the front. So I unpicked the waistband and lowered the waist, particularly at the front. I made the same change to the pattern before cutting out the pink pair (see above for the pattern pieces with the new cutting line drawn in). Except now, as you can see from the picture below, that has resulted in the front rise being too short and a whole world of ugly tightness (*major eye roll*!). 

I think I've also stitched the side seam down too far on the burgundy pair as there's some tightness where the curve begins. I'll probably unpick it a bit at some point. 

But these things are my mistake! Don't let that put you off this super cute pattern. 

Customisation ideas:

Stealing my own ideas from last time:

  • Adding patch pockets to the back
  • Adding front pockets with curved pocket openings and matching bound edges like these 
  • Lengthening or shortening the legs if the wearer has a different preference
  • Applying a cute patch or decal for extra vintage coolness

Would I make it again?

YES! I have to work out how to alter where the waist of these shorts sit on her body without messing up the rise length. But I'd love to make these again in the future if she still likes the style in a year or so. 

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