Friday, 5 March 2021

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Clementine Nightie


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 pattern has been on my 'Free patterns to try' list for yonks. Designed as a nightie, the Clementine pattern by Sewpony can also be the basis for a great Summer dress (or even colder-weather pinafore if made in a thicker fabric and worn with a top underneath). There was snow on the ground here when I started prepping this project. And even though we're a long way from Summer warmth, I thought other Northern-hemisphere dwellers might also like a dose of warm-weather sewing inspo, and Southern-hemisphere dwellers might have time to squeeze this project in. Thanks heaps to Suz from Sewpony for sharing this pattern for free. It is easily acquired via the checkout on the Sewpony website (no payment required). 

(image source: Sewpony)

Pattern type:

The Clementine nightie (or dress) features a lined bodice with tie straps, and a gathered skirt with optional hem ruffle. There are no fastenings: it pulls on and off over the head. 


Sizing info:

The pattern is graded between 12 months and 12 years, equating to 80cm to 152cm in height. There is no layer function to avoid printing out sizes that you don't need. However, you can avoid printing unnecessary pages by only printing the ones that include the bodice and strap pieces, and using the measurements in the instruction document to draw the skirt and ruffle pieces directly onto the fabric.  

Going my the height of my model, I used the size 8 pattern pieces for my first version (the coral one). It came out wayyyyyy too big, however that does have a lot to do with my fabric choice (see below). 


Fabric info:

This pattern could be suitable for a wide range of fabrics, including most lightweight wovens and knits. I love that Sewpony recommend using an old duvet cover to make it, which would be lovely and soft if it's been well used and washed multiple times. 

I didn't have any suitable woven fabrics in my stash, so I turned to some very lightweight, very slinky jersey instead. I'd been scratching my head over what I should use this jersey for for at least eight years ever since my lovely friend Claire gave it to me. It's super thin so would most likely highlight lumps and bumps, but because the bodice of the Clementine is lined, I thought it just might work for this. As you can see, the finished garment ended up very wide and the armholes are very deep. I feel that the pattern should have included the suggestion to size down if using a knit, particularly those with quite a lot of stretch. 

This pattern would also be very sweet if made up in a needlecord or denim and worn as a pinafore.


Findings:

As with every Sewpony pattern I've tried, the instructions and the pattern itself were a joy to use. Both are so clear and unfussy, with just the right amount of explanation included in the instructions. A beginner with a couple of previous sewing projects under their belt would have little trouble following along. 

As I mentioned above, my coral version ended up way too big. It's possible that my slinky is on the outer limits of suitability, but I also feel that sizing down if using knits should be recommended. However, it did feel that the slinky jersey did look really good in the gathered skirt and ruffle by providing fantastic drape and movement. 

I decided to try another slinky jersey version because I've been trying to find a use for my scraps and leftovers of that type of knit. I sized down two sizes but kept the bodice length the same as the size 8. I also raised the armholes by about 3cm. I wanted more drama for this version, so lengthened both the skirt and ruffle pieces at bit, but kept the widths the same. I cut sections of knit (observing the grainlines as far as I could) of differing widths but the same length which I seamed together to form the skirt and ruffle. I think the result is pretty awesome and I've busted a masses amount of my slinky jersey scraps by making this dress. Dolores loves it, however, she does liken it to something Cinderella might be found in!


Customisation ideas:
  • Experiment with shortening or lengthening the bodice, skirt and/or ruffle pieces to create different looks and proportions.
  • Create a V at the neckline on the front and/or back.
  • Use three different fabrics, one each for the bodice, skirt and ruffle. A tonal effect would look amazing!
  • Shorten the skirt piece a lot and omit the ruffle to make a peplum top (I plan to try this).
  • Make it in needlecord or denim and add cute patch pockets to the skirt, or even one on the front of the bodice.


Would I make it again?

Absolutely! I definitely want to try making a peplum top based on my adapted version of this pattern. I can also see other versions for sleep and day wear, it's a great basic shape. 

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Josie Bra Experiment

Bras. The final frontier. Well, MY final frontier, anyway. I've been sewing for over twenty years, making my own clothes for about thirteen, yet until this weekend I had never made a bra. Catherine from Clothes and Sewing blog (sorry, can't find the link ATM) even challenged me to make a bra a couple of years ago! (And who can resist a challenge?!) Yet, I still hadn't made one. 

Let me explain why. You see, my body has been through two pregnancies and breastfed two babies (the second one for 19 months). My once-pretty-nice-if-I-say-so-myself boobs are now somewhat deflated. They need structure to give them a decent shape, and to keep them from resting on my stomach! Having tried a few different RTW bra styles, I always end up going back to basically the same style of bra from M&S. It's a super plain, T-shirt bra with underwires and moulded foam cups. My boobs seem to have specific requirements so I never thought I could sew myself a decent bra that would give me a good fit and be comfortable. At least not without spending a lot of time, effort and money on several failed attempts first. But the fact that this post includes photos of a bra on my dress form would indicate that something changed my mind and I have, in fact, made my first bra. 

(image source: Made My Wardrobe)

Over lockdown I noticed that my regular bras were cutting in to me in various places and just don't feel as comfortable as they used to. I'm not sure if they always felt like this and lockdown has just made me super sensitive to anything uncomfortable, or if my body has changed in some way. Certainly my bras are no longer brand new, but if anything, I expect age would make them looser and I'd feel them less rather than more

I love the Made My Wardrobe patterns, and I started eyeing up the beautiful, comfy-looking, jersey confections made using the Josie bra (and pants) pattern. I always thought that jersey-type bras (rather than moulded foam type bras) were for women with smaller, perter busts. However, some of her models are full-busted and look quite supported in the images (see above). Then Lydia, owner/designer of Made My Wardrobe, announced a free workshop supporting the pattern and it just felt like the stars were aligning for me to make a damn bra...

Fabric and haberdashery:

Made My Wardrobe stock some beautiful kits including everything you need to make a lacy bra and pants set. However, I couldn't justify shelling out for the whole set when I wasn't entirely convinced this plan was going to work out. Then a recent sort out of my jersey scraps led me uncover some really thick, stable jersey leftover from some jogging leggings I made a while ago. If ever there was a jersey that could give my saggy boobs sufficient support, I felt that it was this stuff! The Josie pattern can be made with a combo of jersey and lace, or jersey alone. I'm not massively into lacy undies, so taking the more simply jersey-only option whilst using what I already had suited me fine. 

Several months ago, I bought some lovely teal/peacock coloured fold over elastic from Plush Addict whilst I was ordering my rainbow webbing. I've been really happy with their FOE in the past, and wanted to make my webbing order more worth the postage. I ordered the metal ring and bra closure from Made My Wardrobe whilst buying the PDF version of the pattern. 

Pattern and workshop:

Having never made bras before, I was super interested to discover what all the pattern pieces looked like and how they went together. This particular bra pattern consists of just four pattern pieces, including a choice of narrower or deeper under band. The narrower option fastens with a hook and eye bra closure; the deeper is simply seamed together to form the band. I knew the deeper option wouldn't work with my high natural waist, plus I wanted the adjustability of the bra closure. As well as the under band options, whether or not you use lace and which type of elastic you go for all combined gives you the ability to make heaps of different variations from the same pattern. 

I never usually take part in sewalongs or follow online pattern workshops, at least not at the time that they are released.  However, I felt that the timing of this one was auspicious, so even when Lydia had to delay the workshop by a couple of weeks, I prevented myself from jumping ahead and did another little sewing project whilst I waited for it to begin. The workshop is free (you can make a donation) and is still available to access via the website . It's split into four parts and was released over four days. For me, the most useful section was the first where she demonstrated the various techniques for applying fold over and plush/picot elastics. I'm no stranger to either, but it was interesting to learn a new-to-me application method.

For my bra, I used only fold over elastic (rather than plush elastic or a combo of the two), and I ended up having to unpick parts where applying the FOE (which is wider than plush/picot) was causing problems. For example, the front strap pattern pieces just seemed too narrow to be able to stitch the FOE to both sides as per the method described in the video and pattern instructions. I was able to fudge it a bit and it looked ok in the end. 


The videos are beautifully produced, and Lydia talks through the steps in a clear and relaxed way. It was all very visually appealing and inspiring. There were a couple of times when I wished she'd have gone into a little more detail, and I found not being able to ask questions during the video frustrating! Plus, it would also have been good to have got some really clear, close-up shots of the pieces after some of the steps and technique demos. But it really was nice to feel the additional support of the designer as you embarked on the project. 

The bra itself came together surprisingly quickly, and before long I had a finished item in my hands. I feel that some of the steps could have used a bit more explanation, for example, what to do if you find the ends of the under band too wide for your bra closure. But it you've been sewing for a while, you can probably figure out some solutions yourself. After an initial trying on session, I went back and made a couple of adjustments. I unpicked the bra closure on both sides and reduced the length of the under band by 1cm at each end to make it tighter. I also shortened the front straps by a small amount to make it feel more supportive.


Thoughts and result:

It probably doesn't need pointing out, but this dress form in no way resembles my actual body, so the fit on this dress form is very different to how it looks on my body. I'm not really loving my body very much at the moment, and I didn't feel comfortable modelling the bra myself and having pictures of it on the interwebs. So I'm sorry that I was unable to give potential-Josie bra makers a more accurate idea of how it might look on an actual person. 

Well, after my first 'bra-making-journey', did I end up with a wearable bra? No. Sadly, I didn't. I wore it all Sunday, and aside from the initial vague discomfort that I reckon is caused by simply wearing a new shape of bra, the shape of it just isn't right for my boobs. As I mentioned at the top, my boobs are a bit deflated from breast feeding, and a bit 'spongey' compared to their previous fullness. The front edge of the straps/cups pushes along each boob, giving a kind of double-boob effect that neither looks nor feels nice. If I had applied the elastic more loosely along these edges, they wouldn't give me sufficient support, so I must conclude that this shape just doesn't work for the boobs that I'm currently sporting. It's also worth noting that the straps sit closer to your neck than most bras, which means the straps will be visible if you are wearing a top that doesn't have a tight crewneck or high neck.  

However, I DID love making it! My IRL sewing pal, Naida, is obsessed with making bras and I now see why. She's tipped me off to some other patterns that might work better for my shape, so when I have sufficient funds, I think I'll dive in again and hopefully have something useful at the end of it. So even though this bra didn't work out, I got the first non-functioning bra under my belt that I always predicted that I'd have to make, and it didn't cost too a lot in time and money. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Rainbow Raspberry Rucksack


I bought the Raspberry Rucksack pattern by Sarah Kirsten at the beginning of 2020. However, the rest of the year took all the unexpected turns that we know about now, and my sewing plans didn't follow the route that I thought they would! In fact, it took me so long to actually get round to making the pattern, that I ended up being one of those annoying people who had to contact the seller because they had lost the download link! 


Pattern:

I finally did get round to making the Raspberry rucksack after two years' worth of intense daily use of my Range backpack. It had got so tatty, faded and misshapen that I was getting pretty embarrassed to be seen with it! I don't embarrass easily when it comes to what I wear, so I knew it was definitely time to make a replacement. I fell in love with the Raspberry rucksack pattern the instant I saw it, and have loved every version I've seen on Instagram since. The pattern's similarity to the Kanken bags by Swedish company Fjallraven cannot be denied. I've admired those for many a year also, and the opportunity to make something similar for myself without having to work out how to do so on my own was an opportunity too good to pass up.

(image source: Sarah Kirsten)

The Raspberry rucksack pattern, like the Range backpack pattern and every other 'proper' bag pattern I've encountered, is really involved. There are a lot of pieces to cut out (from outer, lining and interfacing fabrics), extras like special hardware and zips to procure, and lots of construction steps to undertake. It's a meaty project, not a quick win. But if you're up for that and not in any particular rush to use your new bag, then it can be a really enjoyable challenge. 

The constructing the front 'pop' pocket (which is fully lined, FYI), and then stitching it to the front panel were possibly the trickiest steps. There are so many layers involved, and with a domestic machine, it was a struggle at times. And even after the pocket was attached, the pages of construction steps kept on coming and at many points it felt like the end would never be in sight!


What I did enjoy was learning some new tricks. The Sarah Kirsten blog includes a few very detailed posts which support the pattern, and I whole heartedly recommend reading them before you embark on the project. One of them taught me a lot about zips, including how to turn a regular, double-ended zip into a bag zip. In short, you cut off one end and remove one of the zip pulls, turn it up the other way and pull it back on. This felt very risky, especially considering I had had to wait a long time for my zips to arrive in the post, but it worked perfectly (after a couple of attempts) and it kind of blew me away! 

Another new-to-me element to this project was using webbing for the straps and handles. My previous 'real' bag projects involved straps that I'd sewn from fabric. I found working with the webbing really fun and I love the result. 


Fabric and haberdashery:

A complicated backpack isn't usually the first project that pops to mind as a fabric scrap-buster. However, I had the leftovers of the rust cotton twill that I used for my Thelma boiler suit ear-marked for a bag almost as soon as the cutting out of the boiler suit pieces was complete. The Raspberry rucksack pattern includes dimensions for two different sizes of bag. I wanted to make a larger one as it'd be more practical, but I was willing to size down if my fabric was of insufficient quantity. Thankfully, I had more than enough for the larger one, and in fact there is more twill left than I'm thinking I'll use for a sun hat for someone. 

The lining I used for the rucksack is making me very happy indeed. It was a length of quilting cotton that I bought from the Village Haberdashery on the last day that I taught there before giving birth to my little boy (so about 4.5 years ago). Initially, I had planned to make myself a blouse from it, but my tastes shifted before that could happen and it's languished, unused in my stash ever since. I still adore the print design and its colours, I just could no longer see myself wearing it as a garment. So it's great to be able to see and enjoy it regularly, every time I open my bag.


I'd like to be able to take credit for the inspired choice of rainbow webbing, but I cannot. I had been debating what colour webbing to choose that would work well with the rust, and I almost bought some teal cotton webbing on a trip to Brighton, but held back for some reason. A little later, I saw an online ad pop up for Fjallraven bags featuring an orange one with rainbow webbing and my heart skipped a beat. I sourced my rainbow webbing from Plush Addict, who stock a range of widths, and I LOVE how its turned out. I never would have thought that clear rainbow colours would work with a muted tone like rust, but I think it looks awesome. My only regret is that I couldn't source cotton rainbow webbing (this one is polypropylene), but at least this won't soak up the rain. 



My zips came from Zipper Station, who stock a broad range of lengths and styles, and have excellent customer service. The reason I had to wait a while for their arrival was because I ordered them on Christmas eve in a pandemic! Another order from them arrived only a day or two after I placed it. I planned to use my fave bag hardware purveyor, U-handbag, for my slider and rectangle ring, but they were out of stock of my first choice (silver coloured metal) for one of them. I ended up getting plastic versions from a seller on eBay, which worked out well as they make the bag lighter than the metal ones would have.   


Thoughts:

Thankfully, after the marathon make, I'm really happy with the look of the finished bag. It feels a bit lighter and flimsier than I was expecting though, which I think is partly due to using webbing rather than fabric for the straps. Also, I guess that the twill fabric isn't as stiff as the fabric used for Fjallraven bags, although I really don't think my sewing machine could have handled anything more robust. As you can see from the photo of the bag on my dressform, it sags and doesn't hold its shape when not completely stuffed. The front handle also flips down. I considered making one of those little loops held together with press studs which keep handles together, but honestly I don't think I care that much. 

Another big takeaway: Scotch Guard spray is excellent! I found a can in the cupboard under the sink and used it on this bag the night before we took a trip out whilst it was snowing, and the bag remained completely dry. Why didn't I use this stuff before? All those school and nursery runs in the rain where my bag and its contents got completely soaked could have been avoided! 

Friday, 5 February 2021

Free Pattern Friday: Washable Sanitary Pads

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.

As I mentioned last month, I've decided to revisit some free patterns that have appeared on this blog in the past. The free cloth menstrual pad patterns and tutorial by Luna Wolf is, in my opinion, so good and so useful that it deserves to be highlighted again for anyone who missed it the first time (or needs reminding of it!). I published my initial post about the pattern/tutorial over two years ago, and features the pads that I've been using regularly ever since. I returned to the pattern recently to make a batch of pads for the Pachamama Project, a UK-based organisation that distribute reusable pads to refugees. The goal, as I understand it, is to help make the refugees' difficult lives a little bit easier, by easing the worry and problems caused by not having access to sanitary products each month.  The Pachamama project is super interesting and worthwhile, if you can help out by making a few pads, or donating some funds for operations, then please do. 

If you're interested in using this pattern/tutorial, then please check out my first post. This time my aim was to make 'proper' pads, rather than pantiliners, so I did things a little differently....

Pattern:

The Luna Wolf pattern is very helpful because it includes templates for pantiliners, 8.5" pads, 9" pads, 10.5" pads AND 11.75" pads. Each size pad also has its own corresponding core template. I chose the 8.5" size, as that most closely resembled the dimensions of disposable pads I've bought in the past. 

Fabric info:

The pads consist of three sections: the top layer, the core, and the bottom layer. A lot of info is included in the tutorial about what types of fabric are suitable for which section, depending on the absorbency level you're aiming for. It's a great guide, but I would argue that doing a bit of experimentation to find out what works best for you is the best plan. It's very likely that you'll be able to use some scraps or leftover fabric from previous sewing projects, so these can work out quite a cheap project. 

For the pads pictured here I used cotton jersey for the top layer (from personal experience I find this to be more absorbent than woven cotton fabrics like quilting cotton that is often used). The cores are made from scraps of cotton towelling left over from my dribble bib making days, plus three layers of cotton jersey harvested from old T-shirts. For my bottom layer, I used woven cotton (scraps of African wax fabric and gingham from my stash) for the layer that sits against your undies, and a layer of PUL on top of that. (PUL is a plastic coated fabric that creates a barrier to prevent leaks. It is often used in washable nappies, rainwear and has various medications applications. At the start of this project I bought some PUL from Plush Addict when I saw they had a discount. Shortly after placing my order, a lovely lady who lives locally offered me two bags of offcuts from the scrubs she has been making! I'm now swimming in PUL, so I plan to send some along with the pads so that Pachamama can distribute it out to others who are making pads for them.) So these pads are made from seven layers in total. 

Findings:

I'd like to repeat my previous finding that two pairs of press studs are better than one, otherwise you may start to feel the corners of the tabs brush against your inner thigh. Some people have commented that they find reusable pads tend to shift around, but if you test the pads in the gusset of some undies when deciding where to position your press studs (or velcro, snaps, buttons or whatever), then you should be able to make the pads fit of the pads sufficiently secure. 

Thursday, 4 February 2021

'Mend it, Wear it, Love it!' IS HERE!!!!

 


I am delighted to be able to say that the book I wrote, 'Mend it, Wear it, Love it!' gets published today!!!! I wrote about it previously when it became available for pre-order, but anyone wanting to buy it from today won't have to wait so long to get their hands on a copy. It's so exciting to think that it's now out there in the world, hopefully inspiring and guiding people to mend, alter and care for their clothes so that they last longer. 

The book is very beginner friendly and assumes no previous sewing experience, yet more experienced sewers/menders are also likely to take away some tips. All the how-to's can be completed by hand, with additional advice for tackling it with a sewing machine if you have access to one. Left-handed people are not overlooked, with suggestions for how best to approach each technique if the step-by-steps pictured feel uncomfortable. 

To help those starting at the very beginning of their mending journey, a helpful list is included of what equipment and haberdashery to acquire to complete all the repairs and alterations included in the book. My favourite parts of the book are the intros to each section. I tried to impart the importance of attempting to give your clothes a long and happy life, and to infuse the reader with positivity and confidence to just have a go. 

I learnt a lot in the process of writing this book, and my approaches to laundry and garment storage in particular are forever changed! 

Friday, 15 January 2021

The Soleil Knitted Headband (Yep, knitted!)

I hope you're sitting down, because you're in for a shock: today I'm dropping some knitting content!!! Honestly, I'm as shocked as you! This is the first item I have knitted (and finished) in about twenty years, and I'm thrilled with it. 

Just over a year ago, a casual IG scrolling session brought me to this fabulous Instagram post by @fortheloveofted_x. That in turn led me down a rabbit hole which landed at the Soleil earwarmer pattern (pictured below) by Debrosse. As I say, I hadn't knitted anything in an age, but my mum is an excellent knitter and she assured me it wouldn't be too tricky. Around the same time, my IRL sewing mate Paula was also giving knitting a whirl (winter will do that to a sewist, it would seem!). Paula was having a go at knitting a beanie hat, which encouraged me further still.

(image source: Debrosse)

Having bought the Soleil pattern, I then needed to acquire some circular needles (which I purchased very cheaply via eBay because my mum didn't have any), yarn and stitch holders. I know less than nothing about different types of yarn, except that you're meant to call it 'yarn' rather than 'wool' (unless it's actual wool, I guess) so I needed to get face to face with some experts. Remember being face to face with anyone that isn't in your immediate family? No, me neither, but anyway...

Yarn:

Paula and I went on a day trip to Brighton which included a visit to Yak. The incredibly helpful staff members showed me which yarns would be most suitable and told me how much I'd need. I picked this lovely teal colour yarn, and I'm still in love with it a year later. Annoyingly, I didn't save the label. However, having scoured their website, I think it was this one (pictured below). 

(image source: Yak)

Process:

My goodness, I learnt A LOT working on this project. It was really fun getting out of my comfort zone, and I was very grateful to have my mum at the end of the phone at a couple of points! Using the circular needles (which are like two short needles attached by a plastic cable) took some getting used to, and introducing the stitch holder felt risky! Seeing it coming together was very exciting, and I was even able to do a bit on a couple of train journeys (remember train journeys?!) which made me feel very industrious. 

However, I got stuck at the point of having to cast off. I got confused and decided to wait until my mum visited. Then the first lockdown happened and she was not able to visit. I got super extra busy and overwhelmed with the realities of the pandemic and having every one at home. Then the weather got warmer, and the headband got packed away and forgotten about. Until last week.

Just after Christmas, the weather got really chilly and I remembered how much I hate wearing my shop-bought beanie hat. I thought how awesome it would be if I could wear my knitted headband, so I got it out and finished it off. I added a few extra rows were required because my head is apparently bigger than the pattern is designed for. Then a call to my mum about casting off and a shout out on IG about weaving in the loose ends, and it was a wrap!

I bloody love this headband! Is it perfect? Hell no! But it's pretty good and very snuggly. My hair has got quite long and I prefer to wear it tied back in some way. This headband works far better than a hat with long, tied-back hair. At some point, when lockdown eases and we're allowed in shops again, I want to go back to Yak to find some more yarn to make another (let's face it, probably mustard yellow). One day I'd like to make a whole cardigan, but that seems too overwhelming to consider right now. Right now, I'm going to enjoy this headband, which I have worn every day since I finished it!

Friday, 1 January 2021

Free Pattern Friday: T-shirt and Leggings PJs 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.

Happy New Year to you!! I hope that 2021 has many wonderful things in store for us all. Let's start the new year by reviewing some free sewing patterns shall we? A good a plan as any I feel.

Right, so I've made a decision. Going forwards, some of my Free Pattern road tests will feature patterns that I've posted about before. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, some free patterns are so good and so useful that I end up using them again and again. Obviously it's not always clear during the initial road test if a pattern will become a TNT, and I think it's beneficial for readers to hear which ones over time I've found to be real winners. Secondly, I don't expect that everyone that reads a post on my blog or IG will have viewed my whole back catalogue and seen all the patterns I have tested previously! Crazy, I know. And finally, it's pointless and unsustainable for me to sew up a new free sewing pattern each month just so I'll have something to post about. If there is a free pattern that interests me, I'll try it, but I'm not going to sew something for the sake of content creation if it's not what I really want to be making right now. All that to say: I've posted about the patterns in this post on this blog before. However, I hope you appreciate that I'm reusing not one but TWO free patterns, and showing a different way of using them! 

My first review of the Brindille and Twig Ringer Tee pattern from three years ago can be found here. It is easily accessed by adding it to your cart and going through the checkout on the B&T website (no payment required). The Made by Jacks Mum Lightning leggings pattern review was from earlier this year. To access this pattern, you can join the MBJM Sewing Group on Facebook, or you can get it through their site. If you do the latter and are in UK or EU, the transaction goes through Etsy so you will pay a small fee. 

Both patterns are fantastic for making everyday garments, and today I want to highlight that they can also be combined to make knit pyjama sets. As you can see, I've made one summer set with short sleeves and short legs, and one for the rest of the year with the long options. There are other free knit pyjama patterns for kids out there, but to reduce paper and printer ink use, I love that these are multi functional and include various options. Check out the individual posts for more info on each pattern, however I'm including all the most relevant details again here. Massive thanks for both designers for sharing their hard work for free. 

Pattern type:

The Ringer tee is a banded T-shirt pattern that includes both long and short sleeved options. The Lightning leggings pattern includes relaxed and slim fit options, both of which can be made in three lengths, with elasticated or band-finished waists AND hemmed or band-finished hems. Another version of the smaller sizes of both leg fits has also been drafted to accommodate reusable nappies. With all these style elements to choose from, take care to read what pages you'll need before you start so you're not printing out a bunch of unnecessary pages. 


Sizing info:

Whilst the Ringer tee pattern has been graded to include 0m-3m to 5-6T, I've found that B&T sizing runs at least one size bigger, so go by the height rather than the age when selecting which size to make. I wanted these sets to come up big as Frankie (currently aged 4 and about 103 cm tall) doesn't really need them right now, so I made the 4-5T (that I would expect to fit a 5 year old). As expected, they have come out at least one size too big, and I'm guessing he'll get two year's worth of use from the tees. 

The Lightning leggings are graded to a larger size range: from premie/small newborn, up to 12 years. I've made a stack of these leggings as this point, as well as few other MBJM patterns, and I always find the sizing to be very accurate. If your child tends towards a stockier or skinnier frame than the 'average', you can easily combine sizes as you need to to get a better fit than most shop-bought leggings. I made the size 5 relaxed fit option (one full length and one shorts length) for both these pairs for Frankie. I expect he'll only get one or one-and-a-half-year's worth of use from these, compared to a good two years from the Ringer tees.

Fabric info:

The Ringer tee pattern requires knit fabric for the body and sleeves and it suggests to use ribbing for the bands. I feel that cotton/Lycra single jersey or cotton interlock would work best for the main fabric, although I have also had success using a very stretchy, lighter-weight French terry. I must admit that I've always used the self-fabric for the bands rather than ribbing, but haven't had any problems. 

The Lightning leggings pattern recommends that knit fabrics with good stretch and recovery are used, for example cotton/Lycra jersey. If you're making the slim fit, I'd recommend that you check your jersey isn't too thin. My daughter has bust through a couple of her pairs because the fabric I chose was too thin and was probably better suited to T-shirts. The relaxed leg style option might also work with a lighter-weight French terry that has an elastane/Lycra/spandex content for more of a joggers style garment.

For both the pyjamas sets pictured here, I've used cotton/Lycra jersey. The grey arrow print jersey came from a friend's destash, but originally from Little Miss Sew n Sew I believe. The farm print jersey was sent to me for free from By Graziela. Both fabrics are excellent quality: soft and with excellent recovery. 

Findings:

The Ringer tee pattern is really nice to use. The layers function has been included so you can print out just the size you require, and it's easy to see which pieces you need to cut out depending on your choice of sleeve options. I do find that, as well as coming up at least one size larger than the age it's marked as, the pattern also comes up pretty long in the body. I shortened the pattern by a few centimetres for both the tees pictured here. You could easily make this tee by omitting the hem band entirely, and turning up the bottom edge and hemming instead.

For the Lightning leggings pattern, I'm literally going to copy and paste my original post's findings:

I really like how MBJM's patterns are produced. The information conveyed is very clear and user friendly, without heaps of unnecessary blurb or frou frou. This is particularly important when a designer is trying to guide you through a pattern that contains heaps of options, such as this. Literally the only thing I can think of that is missing but would have been helpful, is a clear, technical spec drawing of the garments. In fact, now I come to think of it, I don't recall seeing a spec drawing for any of MBJM's patterns. I find those can help you get to the bones of a pattern style, without fabric choice, model's pose etc. distracting you.

You might think that, what with all the style options and choices included, that the actual PDF pattern pages would be a Burda-magazine-style web of confusion. However, I am able to report that I found them very well laid out and easy to figure out, despite all the various pieces and cutting lines. In the instructions there is a handy guide to help work out which pages to print for the combo of options you're going for. Plus, both the A4 and A0 copy shop files offer the layers function; yet another way to prevent wasting precious printer paper and ink. If you think you're likely to reach for this pattern again and again as the child you sew for grows, it might be worth getting the A0 file printed at the copy shop with all the sizes (excluding the sizes that they are already too big for). Then you can trace off the size you need onto pattern paper (or wrapping paper/wall paper/whatever you've got to hand that) as and when you need it, to save on ink (and getting your printer out and finding all the relevant wires, amirite?!) further down the line. 

As for the finished garments, I'm really pleased with them. The overall fit of the slim leg option is exactly what you'd hope for in a regular leggings pattern. And the relaxed leg option is a nice, modern alternative that is suitable for any kid who may not wish to wear tight leggings (yeah, I'm trying to find a woke way of referring to 'most boys'!).

Would I make these again?

Clearly, yes!!! I imagine I'll be using both of these patterns until both my kids grow out of the size ranges for both patterns.

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