Friday, 3 June 2022

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Woodstock Swing Tee (PLUS 2 X Dress Hacks)

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. I also firmly believe that pattern designers deserve to be properly paid for their work, so if you enjoy using a pattern and can afford to do so, make sure you support that designer. Some designers' websites offer the option to make a donation, alternatively you can buy one of their paid-for products. If you can't afford to do so, you can support the designer by sharing your project via social media to help draw more attention to their work. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

The free pattern I'm posting about today is a revisit. I first posted about Hey June Handmade's Free Woodstock Swing Tee pattern two years ago. I'm posting about it again because A) the fact that I've used it again means it's an evergreen pattern that's worth downloading, and B) I've hacked the pattern to make two different styles of dress, making it even more useful. Thanks so much to Hey June for sharing this pattern for free. 

Pattern type: 

As the website says: 'The Woodstock Swing Tee is a casual trapeze-hem top for Juniors.  It features a wider neckline and short cap sleeves as well as a slight high-low hemline.' My daughter has worn her previous version many, many times in the last two years (yes, it's still fits, just about...) because it's such an easy, breezy style. 

(image source: Hey June Handmade)

Sizing info:

I love that the Woodstock Swing tee is graded form 6 years all the way up to 16 years. Plus, I think it's a style that would look good on both a 6 year old AND a 16 year old, opposed to looking too grown up for a 6 year old, or too childish for a teenager. The sizing goes up in twos, so ages/sizes 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 are included. My earlier versions shows me that the sizing is spot on, if slightly small. For my now-8yo (although is 135cm in height and definitely closer to a 9-10 in clothing sizes), I cut out the size 10 pattern and the fit is excellent. 

Fabric info:

Designed for knits with at least 30% stretch, I would go a step further and suggest that it is most suitable for lighter weight jerseys that drape well. The black T-shirt is made using an old slinky top of mine that had become too tight in the sleeves. The nautical dress that she uses as a nightdress was made using an old dress of mine that I used to wear when pregnant with her, and the faces print dress is made using a remnant of viscose jersey crepe. 


This pattern was really enjoyable to use. Accessing it through the Hey June Handmade online shop was easy, and the pattern is very professionally produced. The instructions and pattern pages are all in one PDF, and the pattern pages span ten sheets. Allegedly this pattern features the layers function, which allows you to save printer ink by only printing the size/s you need, but for some reason I couldn't get that option to work for me on this pattern. It also includes an A0/copyshop file version if you don't have access to a home printer, or you fancy sticking all those pages together. 

The instructions are clear and simple with each step demonstrated with an illustration. As with most free sewing patterns, I'd say this one is beginner friendly, and an enjoyably speedy make for more experienced sewers. You could easily whip up one of these the evening before going on holiday for example, without breaking into much of a sweat. 

I'm really pleased that I was able to make these super useful garments from clothes that I no longer wear, and the awesome remnant that's been sitting in my stash for yonks. All three items pictured in this post have been worn multiple times since their completion, and we're only at the very beginning of the summer. 

Customisation ideas:

As you can see, I hacked this pattern to make two different styles of dress. For the nautical print nightdress, I simply extended the side seams as long and as wide as the original garment allowed. For the gathered skirt dress, I folded the bodice pieces up so the waist seam would land around her natural waist, folded back the sides to create straight side seams (see picture below). I was working with very limited fabric so the skirt was formed from the widest and deepest rectangle my remnant would allow. 

Important note: if you're making a gathered skirt dress like this, add elastic into the waist seam to stop the waist line stretching out with the weight of the skirt. Cut the elastic ever so slightly shorter than the waist seam of the bodice. I zigzagged the elastic along the bottom edge of the bodice before attaching the skirt. 

More customisation ideas for this pattern that I'm stealing from my former self:

  • Use another slim-fit knit pattern with a long sleeve (like the Ester & Ebbe top pattern by Thread by Caroline perhaps) to make this into a long-sleeved top pattern also.
  • Add a ruffle around the hem, possible shortening it also so the final length remains similar to the original.
  • Add a ruffle into the sleeve seams (again, like the Ester & Ebbe top pattern perhaps). 
  • Add a patch pocket on the chest
  • Apply decals, screen prints or appliques to the front.
  • Create seam lines within the front and back pieces to create even more scrap-busting and colour-blocking opportunities. 
  • A tiered dress.

Would I make it again?

Most definitely! As I say, I'd like to try another dress hack, this time with a tiered skirt, possibly made of remnants and scraps like the one at the bottom of this post

Monday, 30 May 2022

FREE Resource: The Me-Made-May and Beyond Worksheet


Today is the penultimate day of this year's Me-Made-May challenge! If you've read this blog for years or you've heard Episode #36 of my podcast Check Your Thread, you will recall that Me-Made-May is the wardrobe challenge I inadvertently created thirteen years ago. Its purpose is to help participants improve their relationship with their handmade wardrobe, and learn lessons that they can apply to future projects. If you have been challenging yourself this year, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! I hope you've had a wonderful, fun and insightful month.

I haven’t in previous years talked much about what next after Me-Made-May. I guess I always thought that everyone would have different takeaways because everyone’s pledge and challenge was different. However, after reading heaps of people’s Instagram posts about the challenge during this month, I think that there are a lot of experiences, lessons and takeaways that are fairly universal and common to most participants. I realised that there must be a way that I can help people drill down on what it all means for THEM. 

And after some chats and some brainstorming last week, I came up with an idea. And that idea has become a free downloadable resource for participants of MMM. Its purpose is to help us participants gain insights from our MMM experiences and capture the lessons we’ve learnt. It’s called the Me-Made-May and Beyond worksheet.

So here’s how you can get hold of it: sign up to the CYT newsletter from 30th May and the end of June and a download link will be sent to your inbox. To sign up to the newsletter, head to and scroll to the bottom of the page. Existing subscribers to the newsletter will have had the link sent to them automatically already. 

So get the download, have a go at the worksheet, then please let me know what you think! Email me at sozoblog (at) g mail dot com, or find me on Instagram @sozoblog or @checkyourthread.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Leopard Print Ginger Jeans and a Realisation

It's slowly been dawning on me that I can't really wear the style of jeans that I prefer, and also feel comfortable AND have them stay on my body properly. And honestly, I think this has always been the case. What I mean by this is that, the slim/skinny legged jeans with a low-rise, hipster waistline which I love the look of just don't work for my body. I've always had a bit of a tum, even when I was in my 20s and weighed the least in my adult life. I've always found the waistline of jeans cut in to my tum uncomfortably. I got so used to undoing the top button of my jeans each time I sat down after years of doing so, but I've grown tired of that now. 

Through the power of sewing my own clothes, I tried to solve the issue by grading between two different sizes for the waist and the hips-downwards. This has never worked well because they end up too loose at the waist and often slip down a bit. 

Having gone on a journey which resulted in my workwear denim Lander pants, I came to the realisation that I need extra space around my tum only, not all around the waist. The full-tummy adjustment I did on the Lander pants worked really well, and for the first time ever I have a pair of fly-front jeans that I can sit down in without needing to undo the button of. 

Naturally, I wondered if I could apply the same magic to a slim/skinny legged pattern, seeing as that is the type of jeans I wear most often. And what I then realised it that I don't think I can make that adjustment on a low- or even medium-rise style and expect them to stay up. 

So what I ended up doing for this project was to trace the high-rise version of the Closet Core Ginger jeans pattern (which I have previously made with low- and medium-rises) as my starting point. I already own a medium rise version which are still in action, so I was able to try those on with the button and fly undone which allowed me to assess how much addition width I'd need to properly accommodate my tum, AND where the additional width should land. As I've discovered through watching videos and reading posts about full-tummy adjustments, I knew I'd also need to add some additional height at the front. 

Because the Ginger jeans pattern calls for stretch denim, I decided not to add the entire additional width it would appear I required, because the stretch content might result in them becoming too accommodating and therefore not staying up!

As you can see from the side view (pictured above), the side seam is pretty much in the correct position: perpendicular to the ground. That's one of the main clues that tells me this adjustment worked. The other is that I can sit down without having to undo the button!!! Woo hoo!!!!

The fabric I used was a seconds/remnant from Fabric Godmother. It's a very soft stretch denim with this super-cute leopard print pattern. I like how the jeans look like pretty standard blue jeans from afar, but the little leopard print becomes visible when you look closer. It was a remnant because a fade mark had occurred along the folded edge when the fabric was on the bolt. I was easily able to avoid the fade mark when cutting out these jeans, however. 

Although I still don't love the look or feel of high-rise jeans, I do love generally how comfortable these jeans are. I can wear them all day without wanting to take them off the second I get home. And honestly I never wear my garments tucked into my jeans as I am in the photos: I did that to show the fit of this garment around the tummy. I forgot to take a photo of these jeans shown seated, but I'm wondering if this adjustment might be of particular use to some wheelchair users who would like to wear skinny jeans but find them uncomfortable around the waist. I'm pretty evangelical about this adjustment because I don't think it's one that many sewers know about. 

Now that I have this adjusted pattern, I plan to make a couple more pairs in different colours to flesh out my wardrobe a bit. Currently I own a few tops and blouses that I love and would pair well with skinny jeans, but don't look good with the two blue pairs I know own.  

Friday, 6 May 2022

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Bikini Bottoms

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. I also firmly believe that pattern designers deserve to be properly paid for their work, so if you enjoy using a pattern and can afford to do so, make sure you support that designer. Some designers' websites offer the option to make a donation, alternatively you can buy one of their paid-for products. If you can't afford to do so, you can support the designer by sharing your project via social media to help draw more attention to their work. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

When I first found this free sewing patterns years ago, I thought "Who would need a pattern for half a bikini?!". Well, it turns out, me! I recently made my daughter a two piece swimming cossie that consists of a top and cycling shorts-style bottoms. Initially the fit of the original cycling shorts bottoms wasn't great and I didn't have a lot of faith in them working out. Plus my daughter has swimming lessons, we live close to the beach AND we have a summer holiday booked with a pool on site, so I felt that expanding the set would be a useful endeavour. And it meant I could use up some of the leftover scraps of this spotty fabric. Lord knows I have enough scraps. 

Big thanks to Treasurie for making this bikini bottoms sewing pattern available for free. To access the sewing pattern, visit the blog post and you should find the download link buried in the text after the first couple of paragraphs. The blog post itself contains quite a lot of information including additional tips on how to use the elastic and sewing with Lycra. However, I really hate blog posts with heaps of pop-ups and imbedded videos, so I'd advise using the instructions in the PDF file once you've downloaded it. 

(image source: Treasurie)

Pattern type:

This pattern is for simple, basic bikini style bottoms. No bells. No whistles. The options include unlined, half lined (with lining at the front) or fully lined, depending on the thickness/opaqueness of your fabric and personal preferences. The pattern pieces could also be used at the basis for making undies. 

Sizing info:

The pattern is generously graded from two years to fourteen years. A body measurements chart is included to make sure you're selecting the right size for the child in question. 

Fabric info:

Lycra or spandex with at least 75% stretch is recommended for this project. It takes very little, so could be a great way to use up scraps from adult swimwear projects. I used some scraps of fabric probably originally intended for dance wear, and mesh swimwear lining. Swimwear elastic is also required. I used rubber elastic which I feel is less bulky than other types. 


Once I'd navigated the annoying pop-ups and downloaded the pattern, it was very plain sailing. The PDF file, which contains both instructions and pattern pieces, is well designed and easy to use. It doesn't include the layers function, however the pattern pages are grouped into two size brackets so you're not wasting too much ink on unnecessary sizes. 

I appreciated the additional tips on handling this tricky fabric, which many sewers might not have worked with before. However, I do think I came up with a better and tidier (albeit more complicated and less beginner-friendly) construction method. I used a kind of burrito method for both the crotch seam (above) AND the side seams (below), which meant the insides were super neat with reduced bulk (*brushes her shoulders off*). 

The elastic I had to hand was narrower (6mm) than the pattern calls for (10mm), so I trimmed away the edge of the leg holes so that the crotch wouldn't end up too wide. After the faff of making the two piece bikini for my daughter, and then a bikini for myself, this project felt like an absolute breeze. The fit is excellent. 

Would I make this again?

Absolutely! Although my daughter prefers the look of the cycling shorts part of this three-piece set, I can definitely see myself reaching for this pattern again to bulk out her swimwear selection in the future. 

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Me-Made-May '22!


It's time for me to launch the Me-Made-May 2022 challenge! These challenges are now in their 13th year. Can you believe we've reached the teenage years?! To celebrate this milestone, this year I'm giving it a relaunch of sorts. I've clarified what the challenge is all about: what it is, what it isn't, who it's for and how to take part. Plus the logo has had a beautiful makeover. And because I have a podcast these days, I've created an explanatory episode for those wishing to hear more, delve deeper to get the most out of their challenge.  

I'm the first to admit that, because participants set the specifics of their own challenge rather than everyone following along with one single set of 'rules', MMM does not have a snappy, elevator-pitch style explanation. Plus, now that a lot of sewing community activity happens over on Instagram, the visual nature of that platform means that what it's actually about gets a bit lost. I honestly believe (in fact I KNOW because of all the messages and emails I've received over the years) that this challenge can have amazing, eye-opening effects for participants that can change the way you dress and make going forwards. 

So let's break it down.....

What is Me-Made-May?

MMM is a wardrobe challenge that helps you improve your relationship with your handmade items. It can also teach you what to make (and not make) in the future! To participate you need to wear your handmade items more often or in some way differently to how you usually get dressed. This is an individual challenge so you will decide on the specifics for yourself. The point of doing this is to give yourself the opportunity to learn some useful lessons and/or alter how you feel about those items. There is no set, single pledge because everyone is different, with different lives and different goals, so participants set the specifics of their own pledge so that it'll be challenging and useful for them. The challenge happens by setting specifics for yourself that will be a bit difficult, but do-able.

You can’t really predict what you’ll learn, but by giving yourself a month to focus more on what you’re wearing, you’re opening yourself to gathering heaps of knowledge that you can take forward. That knowledge will help you make better choices for future projects. By applying the lessons, you’ll be upping your chances of your future handmade items making you feel fantastic and having long, useful lives.

What isn't Me-Made-May?

Over the years, I’ve noticed four common misconceptions about the challenge, so let’s address them now:

MMM is not a making challenge. The challenge is about wearing your existing handmade items. It’s not about accruing more things. Giving yourself a month to focus on what you’ve got will help you appreciate what you have, perhaps fall back in love with some items, and subsequently get more from the time, energy, money and resources that you’ve already put into your craft and your clothes.

MMM is not a photo challenge. All the photos of people in their handmade outfits that appear on social media during May can definitely make it seem that MMM is all about donning a cute handmade outfit and taking and sharing pictures. However, and I cannot stress this enough, those photos are documentation of the challenge, NOT the challenge itself, and photos are ENTIRELY optional!!!!!!

MMM is not a competition. 

MMM is a personal challenge, you’re not competing with anyone. You’ll have made yourself a pledge to focus on throughout the month, and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, or wearing. If you go on social media where other participants are sharing photos, it’s an opportunity to cheer each other on, and perhaps garner some style inspiration. The enemy of joy is comparison. Remember to stay focused on your own challenge and what you’re trying to achieve.


MMM is not about having heaps of handmade clothes

I honestly can’t stress this enough: you can participate in MMM even if you have just one handmade item. You just have to set a suitable pledge that allows you to wear that item more often or in different ways. However many handmade items you have, your pledge needs to be challenging but do-able.

So who is Me-Made-May for? 

I’ve lost count of the amount of posts I’ve read over the years saying ‘I don’t think I have enough me-mades to take part in MMM’. You can participate if you have just one single self-made item, or if you wear head-to-toe me-mades everyday already. It’s about working with what you’ve got, setting a suitable pledge, learning useful lessons and having fun.

How do I take part?

You will need to intentionally wear your handmade items more and/or in different ways throughout May 2022. Have a think about the handmade items you own, how often you already wear them, and perhaps if there are any areas of your relationship with your wardrobe that know could use some improvement. Then set your own pledge outlining the specifics of your challenge before 1st May. 

“I (insert name or username) pledge to wear (insert specifics of your pledge) for throughout May 2022”

You can keep this entirely to yourself, tell friends and family, or share this on social media, whatever you wish.

If you'd like to hear me break all this down some more, check out Episode 36 of my podcast, Check Your Thread. If you're struggling to figure out your pledge, there will be two episodes coming up with more ideas, plus we'll hear from some previous participants. In the meantime, if you have any questions about MMM, please get in touch via email at sozoblog AT g mail dot com, or via IG @checkyourthread or @sozoblog.

I wish you a wonderful, insightful and FUN Me-Made-May!

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Cinnamon Brera Cardigan

Ta da!!! May I proudly present to you my first successful self-knitted garment! Every winter I bemoan my lack of chilly weather clothes. As a maker, I can't really bring myself to go shopping, and I'm not a massive fan of shopping for second hand clothes for myself either. Stepping up my knitting skills felt like the right option. 

I can't remember how I first heard about them, but I started following We Are Knitters (AKA WAK) and signed up to their newsletter. Eventually I bought a few of their chunky, super simple knitting patterns when they became available for individual purchase. They regularly have discounts and special offers, and at some point later last year I treated myself to the yarn to make the Brera cardigan. I think the yarn cost me about £80 with the discount. It felt like a lot in one hit, but I saw it as an investment. 

The colour is called cinnamon (which doesn't seem to be available at the moment), and it's incredibly soft. As you can probably tell, it is a super simple pattern. It literally consists of five rectangles of garter stitch, so if you can knit a scarf, you can knit this cardigan. My mum advised me to use the thumb method for casting on, and I watched the same Youtube video at the beginning of every rectangle because for some reason it won't stick in my brain. 

I really enjoyed working on this during the autumn and winter. It's nice to have something to do on the sofa when you don't feel like sitting at the sewing machine. But once I had the rectangles finished, I wasn't sure how to proceed so the project stalled for a couple of months. I wasn't sure if I needed to block them, but after requesting some advice via Instagram, I fell down on no, blocking wasn't necessary for a chunky knit like this. Eventually, I got my friend Julia, legendary sewing and pattern cutting teacher, who is also a knitting expert, to whip me into shape and show me how to stitch them together. 

Thankfully, after the investment of money and time, I am really pleased with the result. I love the chunky look, the colour, the feel, the coziness. It does tend to leave auburn-coloured fluff about the place, and the front edge has started to (inevitably) stretch out a bit. But I've worn it heaps, and will continue to do so for years to come I hope!

Friday, 11 March 2022

Denim Patchwork Dungarees

This project, as you can imagine, was not a speedy one. I've been obsessed with the idea of combining fabric scraps to make more 'fabric' for garment sewing projects for a while now. Previously, I've done this with viscose, cotton lawns and jersey fabrics. And having been left with some scraps from my son's reclaimed denim dungarees (see below), I decided to combine those with the rest of my other non-stretch denim scraps to see what could be made from them. 

Inspiration came from a number of conversations I'd had for my podcast Check Your Thread, and fortified by an online workshop on abstract piecing hosted by quilting legend Sherri Lynn Wood. I love how I can remember where almost every one of these pieces of denim came from. It's also allowed me to use the very last scraps of some of my absolute favourite fabrics. 

There are sections where you can see the darker denim exposed by removing pockets (#pocketshadow!). And there are fade lines that have been exploded by unpicking and letting down the hems. The dungaree straps and chest pocket were reclaimed from my Cleo pinafore, and the front and back pockets from my Lander pants, all of which were harvested when I 'decommissioned' those garments in preparation of making my son's dungarees.  

The denim pieces are combined with a 1cm seam allowance, which I then overlocked together, pressed to one side and top-stitched down. I wanted to give the denim 'fabric' as much strength as possible, but I didn't have the energy to make flat felled seams at all the joins. I also thought that flat felled seams might create too much bulk in some areas and make the eventual garment construction a bit tricky. I wanted to create sections where the pieces were quite small, and others that included larger panels for variety. 


Having combined the pieces into four large panels, I cut the pattern pieces from them and constructed the actual garment. I used my TNT Heyday Dungarees pattern (pattern by Waves and Wild) as the basis. This version obviously took way longer to create than my first and second version. However, reusing and applying existing pockets is soooo much easier and speedier than making new ones!


How 90's do these look?! I didn't expect them to look quite so retro, but I'm ok with it! I had a lot of fun making these, and it scratched a creative itch that making something from a flat piece of virgin fabric can't always reach. 

I've worn these a lot and they've received a surprising amount of love. My friend Eve even said she wanted to lick them! I'm very excited to see how they change over time with wear and washing. I'm hoping that the seams joining the pieces will start to get some interesting fading, and that the pockets will start to blend in more. 

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