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...


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. 


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.


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. 


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!


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. 
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