Friday 5 April 2024

Free Pattern Friday: Full Moon Bag (small size)


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 try to 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.


Sometimes I like to revisit free patterns that I have road tested previously. I think (/hope) that it's helpful for you to see that these patterns are useful enough to want to return to. Also, I think it can be fun to show how the same pattern or tutorial can be used as a basis to make a very different looking item. That's what I've done with this post. The basis of these projects is the Full Moon Bag by All Well Workshop that I previously road tested here when I made the larger sizeThis time I wanted to explore how the basic circle shaped bag could be adapted and personalised, in this case for my kids. Big thanks to All Well Workshop for sharing this fun pattern for free. To access the pattern, you will need to sign up to their newsletter


Pattern type and changes:

The Full Moon bag pattern is a simple, unlined, circular shoulder bag that comes in two sizes. Both feature zip closures and interior and exterior pockets. Instructions for applying a leather strap or making fabric ones are included. 



This time I decided to omit the pockets entirely, and instead use the circular design to makePok√© Ball for my son and a classic smiley face for my daughter. I used fabric scraps secured with wonderweb and machine satin stitch to form the details of the pokeball. For the smiley face, I sketched out the features and made a stencil, then used my little screen printing kit to print the design onto the fabric. The other changes were to line both bags and add piping to the edges. 



Sizing info:

The smaller is 6.5" across, ideal for travelling (very) light and for kids. The larger is 9" across. Previously, I made the larger size. This time I used the smaller. 

Fabric info:

The pattern advises using canvas type fabrics around 10oz-12oz in weight. For both of these I used scraps of cotton or poly/cotton twill for the outers. The pattern is unlined, however I lined both of these with scraps of poly/cotton from my stash. Random lengths of bias binding were used to finish the inside seams. I also made and inserted piping round the edges which has given the bags some pleasing additional structure. 



Findings:

I stand by my previous findings: that this is a really fun little project and a great opportunity to use some fabric leftovers. The pattern is well drafted with both A4 home printing and A0 copy shop file options. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, making this very much a beginner-friendly option. The only real challenges are handling layers of thick fabrics and applying the binding to finish the raw edges inside. This would be a wonderful project for making speedy gifts for adults and kids. In fact I had these bags cut out with the intention of making them for my kids two Christmas's ago! For whatever reason, it didn't happen then, and I'm pleased to have the guilt lifted by having completed them!

Now that I have had my version of this bag (the larger one from the previous post) for a while, I can honestly say that I use it regularly. It's great for any time I'm popping somewhere but don't need to take a water bottle with me (i.e. the pub). 



Customisation ideas:

In addition to the ideas mentioned in my previous review of this pattern, you could applique or printing to make the circle into other designs including:

- a pizza

- various types of ball

- the moon

- a donut or bagel

- cross section of a tomato/cucumber/orange/grapefuit

- a fried egg

- a plate with food on

- various emojis

- various characters such as the cookie monster! 


Would I make it again?

Absolutely! I don't really need two of the exact same shape bag, however I'd like to make one in a chunky corduroy at some point. 

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Me-Made-May 2024 Is Approaching!

Another year, another MMM logo! It's been 15 years since I accidentally started this whole thing: the wardrobe challenge that helps you learn about your handmade wardrobe. To break it all down, here are some handy graphics. And if you'd like to hear more about the creation and evolution of the challenge, as well as how you can participate, please check out Ep. #84 of my podcast, Check Your Thread.










Here is a blank square if you wish to use to for writing your pledge. 


If you have any questions, please get in contact via email (zoe at checkyourthread dot com). I have also created a helpful (but entirely optional!) workbook to accompany the challenge. It will help you capture the lessons you'll learn about your wardrobe so you can apply them to your future making. 


If you're challenging yourself this year, I wish you a super fun and useful challenge!

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Honeymoon Leopard Twill Pinafore


Over the last few months, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the fabric that lives in our stashes. A lot of the thoughts have become podcast episodes, including Fabric Goals for 2024, Seasonal Stash Organisation, and Sew the Precious with Stephanie Canada from Backroom Finds. I'm more convinced than ever that leaving our fabric sitting on a shelf or inside a tub or drawer, is an enormous waste. Participating in the Last Sewist Standing challenge led me to face some of my own long-term stash residents, and a clear out in advance of attending a fabric swap in London helped me address what I genuinely wanted, and what needed to be passed on to another sewer. 



Fabric:

I took my two oldest stash dwellers (and my pal Catherine!) to the London Fabric Destash Swap, and I have no regrets. The were both amazing quality, deadstock fabrics from Burberry that had been in my stash for about thirteen years. I'd used half of both of them and I just couldn't see myself using the rest. Well, with those lengths out of there, this length of leopard print twill took on the status of oldest stash dweller!

I bought about yard or so of this stretch twill from Mood Fabrics in New York during our honeymoon in 2012! I had a very Rockabilly-inspired look at the time, and I bought it with the intention of making a knee-length pencil skirt. However, soon after our return, I became pregnant, and that skirt never got made. I continued to enjoy the fabric, even as my personal style shifted away from Rockabilly, but the limited quantity made it tricky to find a use for it. 


(image source: L. F. Markey)

Pattern:

A couple of months ago, lightning eventually struck and the idea of a pinafore emerged! I'd recently had to declare my much-loved and often-worn black denim Cleo pinafore unwearable due to body changes, so I was missing a pinafore in my wardrobe. Then I saw an advert for the L. F. Markey dungarees pictured above, and found the shape of the bib really inspiring. So I unearthed my Tilly and the Buttons Cleo pattern pieces and drafted a new bib shape, and new pocket shape for it for good measure. 



The project: 

Cutting the pinafore from the limited fabric was a challenge. The leopard print fabric had two darker sections running parallel down the length of the fabric, and it required a bit of Tetris-ing to get the front pieces, back pieces, pockets and straps out of the fabric in a way that suited the darker and lighter parts of the design. The facings were cut from a remnant of dark blue stretch denim because there was no way to squeeze those out of the main fabric as well. 

I decided to alter how the garment was constructed. I wanted to future-proof this garment and make it as easy as possible to let it out if necessary as and when I change shape again. I learnt so much from making the two Sewing for Body Changes episodes (Part 1 and Part 2), and I've tried to apply those lessons where possible. During a mid-way fit session, it became clear that I had to take it in at the side seams a lot, so I now have very generous side seam allowances, which is great!



Thoughts:

I'm soooo happy that this pinafore now exists! I've worn it quite a bit since completion, and it's so nice to have the fabric on my body rather than in my stash. I figured out that that length of fabric has moved homes with us five times in those twelve years! I'm hoping it'll soften up a tiny bit through wear and washing, and I have no reason to suspect that it won't. 

Friday 1 March 2024

Free Pattern Friday: Sam Apron for Adults



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 try to 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.

To be honest, I haven't done a great job this month in actually showing you what my chosen free pattern actually looks like made up. I've omitted the pockets and created my own 'fabric' for it that makes it tricky to see what's actually going on. ANYWAY. Hopefully you will get a sense of the proportions at least, and also the versatility of this pattern as a canvas of sorts. If you want to get a clearer idea of what this pattern can look like, I'd recommend checking out Amy from Craft and Thrift's awesome versions (here and here). But what am I even talking about? Let me introduce you to the Sam Apron pattern by Helen's Closet. Thanks so much to Helen for sharing this (and a number of others) for free. There are many free apron patterns and tutorials out there on the interwebs, but I wanted to highlight this one specifically because of the interesting details and multiple sizing options. In my experience, Helen's Closet patterns also have excellent instructions. You can access the Sam Apron pattern through the webshop on their site (no payment is required).


(image source: Helen's Closet)

 

Pattern type:

The Sam Apron is cleverly designed to be suitable for lots of activities. I can imagine cooks, bakers, barbers, hairdressers and all manner of artists and crafts-people wearing a version of this apron. It includes chest and waist pockets, towel loops, and two strap options. But what is really unusual about this pattern over most free apron patterns is the graded size range and instructions for creating a custom fit based on your width, height and even bust size. 




Sizing info:

The apron fits sizes 0-34 (up to a 62″ / 157.5 cm hip) which has been broken down into five size bands. There are also five height options, from less than 5" to over 6". My plan was to make a cooking apron that would fit both Mr SoZo and myself. Helpfully, our hip measurements are similar so I cut the size 8-12. He's taller than me, but I don't think a cooking apron needs to be knee length anyhow, so I used the length that's shorter than both of us. Included are instructions for adjusting the bib section to accommodate a larger bust. Not something I need personally, but I appreciate that they included that for others. 




Fabric info:

The pattern recommends medium to heavy-weight woven fabrics with no stretch. Cotton broadcloth, denim, linen, cotton twill, quilting cotton and canvas are all suitable options. Waxed Canvas can also be used for a water-resistant apron. I didn't have any suitable fabric in my stash (thanks Last Sewist Standing challenge!) so I 'made' fabric by combining scraps of non-stretch denim and twill. It's basically the same technique I used for my denim patchwork dungarees. If this approach to scrap-busting is of interest to you, I have an episode of my podcast planned for next month with an accompanying downloadable guide that will talk you through using scraps for garment making. 

I used a lighter weight denim for the straps, because I thought a heavy weight fabric would be difficult to tie. You could also use twill tape, wide ribbon, braid or cord for the straps. 




Findings:

Ah I love a Helen's Closet pattern. Your hand is so thoroughly held and it feels like no detail has been overlooked. Presumably, their free patterns have been created to give potential paying customers a sneaky peek into what their patterns and instructions are like, and they deserve to get a good conversion because the quality is high.

I literally found only one thing that didn't work well. I found that the bias strip pattern piece that's used to finish the side curves was too narrow if using the 1cm seam allowance that is suggested. It would have resulted in the bias strip being too thin to cover the seam allowance when you flip the bias over to the wrong side. I used a narrower seam allowance and trimmed down the seam allowance to prevent that happening. 



The finished apron is pretty cool though. The denim is perhaps a bit thicker than necessary for a kitchen apron. And if I were to make it again, I'd add velcro to one end of the neck strap so it could be tighter but we'd still able to get it on and off with ease. 


Would I make it again?

If I ever had the need for another apron, then yep. I'd give more thought to fabric suitability depending on the intended use however. 


Monday 5 February 2024

Corduroy Remnants Backpack



Here's a recent project that has already put to daily use: my new backpack! I became a backpack convert when my kids were tiny. When my son came along, it became very useful to have both hands free. Plus backpacks aren't likely to swing round and hit a small child in the face! However, my kids are no longer tiny, so when my last backpack died (after years of service), I thought I'd make a crossbody shoulder bag next. It was fine, and I used it for quite a while, but I started to develop the suspicion that it's not great for my posture. Time for another backpack...




Inspiration:

The feeling that I should make a backpack switched from being a feeling to an actual plan when I found the above photo on Pinterest. There weren't any links attached to the image, but my pal Julia did a reverse image search for me and discovered it's by Zara. Corduroy is, of course, usually used for making garments. And seeing it used for a style of bag that you'd usually see made from canvas or something synthetic really appealed to me. I also loved the mix of colours, and I'm always drawn to styles that could be recreated using scraps, leftovers and remnants of fabric. 




Fabric:

I had a rummage around and unearthed my collection of corduroy scraps. A couple of them are leftover from previous projects, the rest came from the scrap bin at work. Very spookily, the colours of my selection are incredibly similar to the colours of the Zara bag! I decided to put the leopard print cord aside for now, and work with the solid coloured pieces. They are all different colour ways of the Fabric Godmother 5 wale cord: super soft but also pretty robust. 




I also used some quilting-weight cotton from my stash for the lining (the same fabric that I used to line my previous version, actually). Plus the gold bias binding that I got in the Fabric Godmother advent calendar was put to use to finish the inside raw edges. These days I struggle to find the motivation to make my own matching binding. The interfacing required to give the bag some body was frankensteined-together random pieces from my stash. I'm trying to move away from synthetic interfacing where possible, but this bag won't get washed much, so won't release microplastics into the waterways too often. Therefore, I felt this was a good opportunity to use up a lot of what I still own.




Pattern:

I wasn't desperate to recreate the exact shape of the Zara bag, it was more the combining of the corduroys that was inspiring me. Therefore, my main criteria when selecting a pattern was that it could be cut from different pieces of fabric easily enough. In the end, I used the Sarah Kirsten Raspberry Rucksack pattern that I made previously three years ago. It worked because all the pattern pieces could be cut from the different fabrics, and I already owned it! Which was another plus because I'm still challenging myself as part of Last Sewist Standing, so wouldn't have to wait to get this project underway until I could buy a pattern. In this vein, I realised that I could also harvest the zips and hardware from my now-dead previous version. I'm glad I hadn't got round to chucking it out yet!





Using the pattern, fabric and zips already in my possession meant I could get cracking straight away. However, for a while I was thinking that I would have to wait until my self-imposed buying ban came to an end to buy some webbing for the straps to be able to finish it off. But then I realised that I never actually liked the webbing straps that the pattern specifies. Amy from Craft and Thrift came to the same conclusion when making her versions. So I had a play around and realised I could cut the straps from the corduroy as well, as long as I made them slightly shorter. Pushing the corduroy straps through the sliders was NOT easy, and I'm not sure how these straps will hold up over time, but they feel good at the moment. 




Conclusion:

I gave this bag a finishing touch with the Handmade label by Little Rosy Cheeks, also from my Fabric Godmother advent calendar. You have no idea how satisfying it was to put this project together using only stuff I already owned. And I've been really enjoying using it every day since. It's a great size for my day-to-day requirements, and feels really comfy to wear. 



Friday 2 February 2024

Free Pattern Friday: Women's T-shirt



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 try to 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.

If you've been a reader of the Free Pattern Friday posts for a while, it'll be clear to you that I only ever review patterns for items that my family has a genuine use for. That means the patterns I pick won't always have mass appeal. So I'm happy to have found one for today that it both useful to me AND probably a lot of other people! It's the Free T-Shirt pattern by Closet Core Patterns. A useful basic with some cute options that's graded to a wide size range, woo hoo! To access it, you will need to sign up to their newsletter, but you can unsubscribe at any time. Big thanks to Closet Core for sharing this pattern with the world for free. 



(image source: Closet Core Patterns)


Pattern type:

The Closet Core T-shirt is a standard crew neck style with set in sleeves. The fit is gently boxy, if that's a thing. View A is a slightly cropped length with short sleeves, and View B is hip-length with 3/4 length sleeves. Throw in a patch pocket piece, and with these options you can mix and match to your heart's content. The pattern files are split into two size ranges, and the larger range features a bust dart. 

Sizing info:

One of the reasons I'm super happy to be shining a light on this pattern is because it includes an impressive range of sizes, from 31" to 60" bust. Sizes 0-20 (full bust 31" - 46") are grouped together and sizes 14-32 (full bust 42" - 60") are grouped in together with the addition of a bust dart. 

Based on the size chart cross-referenced with the finished measurements charts, I decided to make a size 8 at the top, blended to a size 10 for my waist downwards. I made the cropped version, so I didn't need to worry too much about the hip measurement. My fabric is very drape-y which obviously effects the fit, but I think my decision on sizing was good. I'd be interested to see what it looks like in a more stable knit. 




Fabric info:

As per the listing: 'This pattern can be made in a variety of knit fabrics with at least 30% crosswise stretch. For a more structured look, choose 100% cotton interlock and jersey. For a drapier effect, choose cotton/spandex blends, ribbed or rayon knits.' I have nothing to add to that in regards to suitable fabrics. 

My fabric is a lightweight, slightly sheer, slubby jersey of unknown fibres (although I suspect it's a poly-blend of some type). It was leftover from this Lou Box Top kit that was given to me by Amy from Craft and Thrift, back when she sold deadstock fabric. I wear that black Lou Box top ALL THE TIME during the summer, so I'm pleased to have another option that will feel similarly slinky, but with a different silhouette and garment pairing suitability!

Findings:

As you suspect from a major, well-established indie pattern brand, this pattern was a dream to work with. The downloads included A4/letter sized as well as A0/copyshop pattern files. I treated myself to some A0 printing because my home printer is close to death, and was able to specify which size layers I wanted. That saved the printers some ink and sparing me from loads of confusing, unnecessary lines. 

The instructions include diagrams to illustrate the steps. I liked the option they included to bind and reinforce the shoulder and back neck seam. I chose not to do it for this version because my fabric was so thin, but I would definitely include that as a cute, contrast feature in future versions. 

The fit of the finished item is exactly how they described. It's a great basic that I can image using heaps in warmer months with high waist trousers and shorts.  




Customisation ideas:
  • use a different colour or printed fabric for the front, or for the sleeves, or for each piece
  • cut the backneck/shoulder stabilising band from contrast fabric
  • create seamlines and colourblock scraps and leftovers of jersey
  • cut the neckband from a contrast colour to the rest of the garment for a 90s indie-kid look
  • shorten the length of the body for an exaggerated crop, or lengthen the top to create a tunic length garment
  • shorten the sleeves for a cap sleeve look, or lengthened them for full length sleeves

Would I make this again?

Absolutely! I will definitely keep this pattern in my arsenal for when I come across a suitable length of nice jersey. I'd like to try it in a more stable cotton or cotton/elastane jersey or interlock. 

Friday 5 January 2024

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Drawstring Backpack Tutorial


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 try to 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.


Back in the summer, just before we headed off for a little UK holiday, I realised my son didn't have a suitable bag to carry his bits and bobs in. The perfect opportunity to test a free sewing tutorial! After searching through a load of those '30 free bag tutorials' type lists, I settled on this tutorial by Sew Red Poppy. Big thanks to them for sharing their hard work for free. This tutorial is freely accessible in blog post form, no need to download or sign up to anything.

(image source: Sweet Red Poppy)

Pattern type:

This is a super basic drawstring bag, with the drawstring forming the shoulder straps. The pattern pieces are offered as dimensions, no need to print anything out. It requires you to cut out six rectangles of fabric, plus two lengths of ribbon/cord. The project is suitable for beginners and can be made entirely on a regular sewing machine, no need for an overlocker/serger. 


Sizing info:

You can use the pics of my 6-nearly-7-yo son wearing the backpack to get a sense of the scale of the finished bag. That said (spoiler alert) I cut the pieces in the wrong orientation, so mine came out longer and thinner than the intended bag design. 


Fabric type:

Little guidance is given regarding fabric choice for this project, however the creator used a printed lightweight twill for the main section of their sample. I would say that sturdiness is important, but don'y go too thick or gathering the bag up might prove tricky. I used some kokka cotton that I bought on Etsy about a decade ago. I reckon you could go a step lighter in weight for the contrast fabric pieces, a chambray, poplin, shirting or quilting cotton perhaps. I used a scrap of lightweight 4oz denim. 

The tutorial uses ribbon for the drawstring/straps. It's hard to tell from the photos, but I think the ribbon is something closer to a grosgrain, as opposed to a satin ribbon. You could also use drawstring cord, of course, or twill tape. I couldn't buy any haberdashery because of my participation in the Last Sewist Standing challenge, so I had to do the best with what I had in my limited stash. I used some of this anchor design woven braid that I've had for about twelve years! It's not ideal because it doesn't slide through the channel very smoothly, however it does provide nice, wide straps that stay on the shoulders fairly well. 


Findings:

If you've read some of my Free Pattern Friday posts before, you probably already know how much I hate blogs with a million annoying ads everywhere, including animated ones. This is one such blog. I totally understand that this is the business model: that the creators can afford to spend time making tutorials and sharing them with us for free thanks to the ad revenue they earn. But I don't have to enjoy it! 

In general, the tutorial was excellent. There's a video version linked in the post also if that is a better format for you to process. The one thing I had an issue with (well, second thing, if you include the ads) is that they didn't specify which way round the the main rectangles were meant to be orientated, and it wasn't clear from the images. I guessed the wrong orientation which caused me some problems. 

The final outcome is good though, and the backpack saw a fair bit of action on holiday last summer, and a few times since. Shortly after making this backpack, my son got a very similar drawstring backpack free with a magazine. Clearly he prefers the magazine one because it's got Pokemon printed on it, and its synthetic fibres of the free one make it vaguely rain proof. However, after not much use, the Pokemon one is starting to break where the eyelets perforate the fabric at the bottom corners. It's good to be reminded that handmade items often last longer than their cheap, mass-produced counterparts!


Customisation ideas:

I'm going to leave this to you. It's kind of infinitely customisable in terms of dimensions and embellishment potential. 

Would I make this again?

Perhaps, particularly if one of my kids needed a bag to carry a PE kit or something like that. Plus I would consider making another version from a shower-proof fabric, but possibly make it a bit more capacious, for taking to the swimming pool.

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