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. 


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)


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!


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. 


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. 

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