Friday, 14 August 2020

Hawaiian Helios Dress

I'll be honest with you, I don't remember too much about the construction of this sewing project. These photos were taken a year ago, shortly after I made this dress, and my memory of the blow-by-blows is hazy. The reason I waited a year to blog about it is because this week was the first time I got to wear it. The dress was made to showcase a new fabric design (more on this in a sec), and was on display at a couple of fabric and sewing shows. Seeing as large-scale shows (both trade and public) are not happening for the foreseeable future, the dress resurfaced and I got to give it a whirl during this week's heatwave. 


I was given the opportunity to sew with some of the first batch of fabric produced by Fabric Godmother. All their prints have been developed using vintage pattern designs derived from textiles, wallpaper and even floor tiles. They were all lovely, but this amazing Hawaiian design called 'Hula' sung out to me the loudest.

The base cloth is a viscose crepe, which is a fabric type that I have little experience using. As you'd expect with a viscose, it can be quite slippy, so I really had to take my time cutting out the pattern pieces. Stitching it wasn't too challenging, but pressing flattens the texture somewhat, hence the slight fluted appearance of the sleeve hems in these pictures. They'll lay flatter once the dress has been washed, I have no doubt. 

One of the things I love about this fabric is the scale of the print. The designer has clearly thought about it carefully, and with garment sewing firmly in mind. It's large enough for the images to be recognisable from afar, but not so large that it limits the types of garments you can make from it. 

The colours are great too. As a lover of Hawaiiana and Hawaiian-inspired fabric, I'd be the first to admit that the colours are usually very bold. But the colour palette in this feels more wearable, and makes me think of vintage postcards sent from holidays long passed. 


Fabric Godmother also allowed me to choose a pattern to use to try out their fabric. Historically, I don't gravitate towards flow-y fabric to sew with, so I had to give my pattern selection a lot of thought. I have, however, experienced many hot days, both on abroad and in the UK, when I wished my warm-weather clothing selection was a bit bigger. A floaty dress that skimmed my body would have been very welcome. 

Eventually I opted for the Atelier Scammit Helios dress pattern, because it had the breezy style that would suit a viscose, plus it had a cinched-waist silhouette that I feel my body needs. As with most Atelier Scammit pattern designs, the Helios dress pattern offers multiple style possibilities (see below). There are two sleeve variations and three lengths. I went for the less dramatic sleeves, and picked the tier-free skirt shape but lengthened it to hit just below my knee. 

(image source: Atelier Scammit)

Elastic is inserted into the back half of the waist, and the front is pulled in with a drawstring, meaning that although it defines the waist, it's still really comfy and can be adjusted easily. Of course, I had to position the waist channel higher than the pattern recommended to account for my short-waistedness. 

As you can see, the neckline is a deep V-shape. I normally dislike V-shaped necklines on me (unless it's at the back!), but I think the width and depth of this one looks nice.


As you can tell, this project and garment took me out of my comfort zone. Sewing with an unfamiliar fabric pushed me, and since this project I have taken on a number of viscose and slinky fabric projects. The style still isn't something I'm immediately drawn to, but when I wore it during this week's heatwave, it felt fantastic. This also raises the dress-tally of my wardrobe to two (discounting two shorter ones that I now wear as tunics over jeggings)!

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Lola's Remade Sundress

About a third of my stash consists of clothes destined to be remade in some way. The original version of this dress (pictured below) was made using some vintage Laura Ashley printed cotton and a vintage Simplicity sewing pattern. I made it 9 years ago, but truth be told, the fit wasn't very good. Why I didn't just toile up the front and back bodice pieces, I don't know.  

Because of the poor fit, it only got a couple of wears, so the fabric was still in excellent condition and prime for remaking. This summer, Lola was short on warm-weather clothes. She loves wearing dresses that have a fitted bodice and a full skirt, which I felt I could easily create from this similar-styled garment. I carefully unpicked the original dress, retaining the side seams and binding of the skirt section. 

To make a pattern for Lola's version I started off with the bodice pieces from a children's pattern from a recent edition of Burdastyle magazine. Lola likes the waistline of her clothes pretty low so I lengthened the pieces. I want it to last two summers, and therefore needs to survive at least one grow spurt. I did what I should have done for the original dress and made a toile of the bodice to assess the fit. This told me I needed to reduce it across the width, but otherwise it looked alright. 

Because the adult version's skirt was obviously going to be too long, I had a bit of fabric from the top of the skirt section to play with which became the straps. Unlike the original dress, I decided to line the bodice of this incarnation. I lined it using some red poly/cotton from my stash (that had been table clothes at Pat and my wedding!), inserting the straps into the seam at the neckline at the front. 

Next I attached the skirt. The original skirt was never very full, so I used the full width of what was available. The original dress had the zip inserted into the side seam but I wanted to position the it in the centre back this time round, which meant that the other, former, side seam ended up at the centre front. Thankfully my original pattern matching wasn't bad, and it's largely hidden amongst the gathers anyhow. 

With the skirt attached and zip inserted, it was time to sort out the other end of the straps. My first thoughts were to have the straps simply going over the shoulders. I got her to put the dress on, and after some playing around, I discovered that a cross back style was possible. I planned to stitch on some buttons at the back as a decorative feature, however, when I realised that it was going to be too tricky for her to get the dress on and off with the straps stitched in place, I added buttonholes and made the buttons functional. It adds some additional future-proofing too, as I can restitch the buttons a little further down on the straps in the future.


What often surprises me about adult's-to-kid's clothes refashions is how little fabric there is left over! I guess this is especially so now that my six-year-old is almost in eight year old-sized clothing! I'm thrilled that the lovely fabric got to have another life, and she definitely enjoys wearing it. If I say so myself, I think I nailed the fit of the bodice: it's fitted (as per her liking), but not too tight (as per my liking!). Remaking garments always throws up challenges that a regular sewing project that started with an adequate length of fabric wouldn't have. But working out how to roll with those, and coming out with a wearable garment that the recipient enjoys wearing is super satisfying. It also feels like a 'free' project!  

Monday, 10 August 2020

Ankara Roberts Collection Jumpsuit

I've been getting a lot of satisfaction recently from using some of the older pieces from my fabric stash. This African wax print (AKA Ankara) fabric has been in there for at least 8 years, and became many different project in my mind before I actually made it into this jumpsuit. 


To finally get this fabric out of my stash and into my wardrobe, I added it to my #2020makenine plans (which you can see in this post). As Ankara/African wax print fabric goes, this one is pretty stiff, so finding the right project for it had taken me some time. I'd pre-washed it twice to see if it would soften up, but I think that's only going to come with lots of wear and the sporadic washes it will receive over (hopefully) years. 

As you can see, this fabric as a bold, large-scale print. I had quite a bit of it, but full-length jumpsuit patterns are hungry for fabric, so I didn't have the luxury of trying to match sections of the print at any point. I think the random-ness and resultant placement looks fine though. 


I've been in love with the Roberts Collection pattern by Marilla Walker for yonks. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this one, as the pattern includes a jumpsuit, dungarees, pinafore and top patterns. I finally decided to buy it in paper form from Fabric Godmother just before lockdown. 

(image source: Marilla Walker)

I traced the pieces for the jumpsuit off as I wanted to retain the original. I knew I'd been making some adjustments, plus you never know if you'll need a different size somewhere further down the line. Firstly, I altered the shape of the back pieces, to change the inverted V-shaped seam (see the line drawings below) into a regular, straight waist seam. I always have to remove length from the torso of tops, dresses and jumpsuits, and even though I then folded out 2cm from the front and back pieces to account for this, I wanted the option to add some length back or remove more length, should a mid-way fitting deem it necessary. 

(image source: Marilla Walker)


I was hoping that the unfussy, casual style of the pattern would prove a suitable canvas for this intense print, and overall I think it just about works. There's a slight vibe of sleeping onesie/pyjamas about it, but that doesn't bother me at all. I could have positioned the lowest button slightly higher, which I would alter next time. Plus there's something slightly off with the fit around my bum (it often needs readjusting after leaning forwards) but it's not a major issue, and I reckon I could sort that out for future versions by comparing the rise of this pattern with the rise of the Heyday dungarees pattern. Ultimately though, I'm very happy with this make and wearing it is a lot of fun. I've got more older-stash items busting to share with you soon. 

Friday, 7 August 2020

Free Pattern Friday: DIY Floor Pouf

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. And today, one for the home! 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.

The free pattern that I'm reviewing this month has been round for a couple of years, but it's one that you kind of need to save up for. I'm not talking about money, of course, I'm talking about saving up fabric scraps. The DIY Pouf pattern by Closet Core Patterns (formerly Closet Case Patterns) packs a double scrap-busting punch: you can use up stable, mid-to-heavy-weight woven leftovers for the outer, and stuff it with just about anything at all. To access the pattern files you will need to sign up to their newsletter. Big thanks must go to the Closet Core team for helping the entire sewing community work out what to do will all their fabric scraps!

(image source: Closet Core Patterns)

Pattern type:

According to the supporting Closet Core blog post, this is a Moroccan inspired floor pouf which can be can be embellished by applying piping into the seams. The pouf has a zipped opening so the contents can be removed so the outer can be washed when necessary. The pattern consists of three pieces, and the instructions are in the form of an aforementioned blog post. 

Sizing info:

When fully stuffed, the pouf should be about 51cm/20" across and 28cm/11" high when fully stuffed, however I found that mine squashes down and spreads out so it is usually wider and lower than this. You could alter the scale on the printer settings to make it wider/narrower or taller/shorter. 

Fabric info:

For the outer pieces, Closet Core recommend 'sturdy, medium to heavyweight fabric; you can use lighter weight fabric if you interface them first'. You will also need a long zip, buttons, velcro or press studs to fasten the opening. As you can see, I took the opportunity to use up a bunch of the denim scraps that I still had leftover after making my patchwork denim coat. Inside are all sorts of tiny fabric scraps, hole-y socks, and unwanted/un-donate-able clothing. A friend of mine managed to pack hers with an entire double duvet set and still had room for more! 


Making this was a whole load of fun. We used it as an opportunity for my daughter to have a go at using my machine to stitch a couple of seams on a 'real' project. The pattern pieces included all necessary information and fit together perfectly, and the tutorial in blog-post form meant that I could follow along on my phone without having to get my laptop out. Obviously, I left off the piping on my version. I'm not a massive fan of piping on soft furnishings, and excluding it made this an even speedier make. 

What I have found is that mine does NOT stay a perfect pouf shape. After being sat on (or receiving a battering from the kids), it gets easily squashed, and flattens and spreads out. I had to kick and whack it back into shape to take these pictures! My husband hates it as he thinks its a waste of space in our already cramped lounge. I have heard from others that the contents kind of settle, so I definitely need to stuff it some more, but I doubt it'll ever retain the desired shape permanently, unless we leave it untouched! 

Customisation ideas:
  • Alter the size or make it taller/shorter to suit your room and preferences.
  • If you have an old, unwanted bean bag, you could fill it with bean-bag-beans instead of fabric scraps. 
  • Tape together two of the wedge-shaped pattern pieces so you could make the top section from six wedges instead of twelve. 
  • Add top stitching along the seam lines for extra detail, which might be particularly welcome if you've used entirely solid-coloured fabrics, or even the same fabric, to cut all the pieces (I very nearly added gold, jeans-style top stitching to mine).
  • Instead of filling it with fabric scraps, you could use it as storage for soft toys.
  • Patchwork together smaller pieces to cut the pattern pieces from.

Would I make it again?

As much as I LOVE the idea of having the new-found ability to make pieces of furniture, I'm not sure how many of these realistically we need. Maybe I'll make another further down the line to go in one of the kid's bedrooms (in my fantasy-future home where my kids each have their own room!). I would like to encourage any one interested to make one of these though, as having a semi-useful depository for tiny, unusable fabric scraps has got to be better than chucking them all in landfill.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Crew Neck Sweatshirt Update

Like many parents, I try to keep an eye on my kids' clothing selection to avoid getting caught out when a growth spurt occurs. I think this is particularly necessary if, like me, you don't buy new clothing for your kids, because getting what they need can take a bit more time and planning. My children's wardrobes are comprised of handmade, hand-me-downs, thrifted and the odd new item given to them as a present from someone else. 

A recent sort through of Frankie's future-selection of clothes showed me that he has very few items for the next size up (aged 4/size 98+), which he is rapidly hurtling towards. I had a rummage in my clothes-to-upcycle/reuse pile and found a couple of sweatshirts, the first being a sweatshirt that has already had a number of incarnations! I made it (see below) when I worked for Traid about 8 years ago by combining a couple of red, donated sweatshirts and adding a leather anchor applique.   

Adding the navy leather shape was a gamble because I had no idea how it would wash, but actually it came out perfectly well from each wash cycle. Obviously I have no idea how much wear the original sweatshirts received, but I wore mine a lot over the years. 

I used the Brindille & Twig crew neck sweatshirt pattern for these upcycles, as I already had it in my stash and have enjoyed using it previously. I had to make seams at the shoulder for Frankie's version, just as I had to when making my adult-version. I like the additional detail that it brings. 

The second sweatshirt started out as a plain, turquoise, Damart sweatshirt that I picked up in a charity shop for 50p a few years ago. I really liked the colour but it was too small for me so it had been hanging around waiting for a purpose.  

I took the opportunity to finally bust out my Bobbinhood screen printing kit that I had got for my 40th birthday last October. I'd wanted one of these kits ever since I got to have a play with my friend Emily's last summer. But as soon as I got one of my own, all my print ideas seem to evaporate! 

Just to finally give my kit a go, I decided to use someone else's design as a starting point. I found this awesome Octopus design in one of my kids' copies of DOT magazine (which I highly recommend, BTW). I obtained permission from the designer (@annalisedunn) via Instagram, explaining that I was only going to use the design for my son's sweatshirt, and got going. Cutting the stencil out of the special plastic-y paper was the trickiest and most time-consuming part. The actual printing took literally 10min, including prepping the screen! The Bobbinhood kits are designed for stencils, so there's no exposing the screen or anything like that required.


I love how both these sweatshirts came out! The journey the red sweatshirt has been on reminds me how good quality fabric can have many incarnations. Hopefully I can pass this on to someone else when Frankie eventually grows out of it. And I'm thrilled to have been able to have found an opportunity to break the seal on my awesome printing kit! I can't wait to get some new inks (I currently only have black) to give me more options for customising my clothing projects. 

Friday, 24 July 2020

Scallop-hem Ashton Top Hack

During Me-Made-May this year I saw a lot other participants wearing lovely tops made using the Ashton Top pattern by Helen's Closet. I've always got one eye out for a great-looking woven tank pattern because they are almost as comfy to wear as a T-shirt and only require a small amount of fabric. I remembered that I already own this pattern, having been sent it for free shortly after its release (with no expectation of making or reviewing it, I may add). And with some nice pieces of woven cotton fabric in my stash itching to be used, this project was asking to be made!

(image source: Helen's Closet)


This pattern is a shift style, with a simple rounded neckline and hem facing. Included are two bust size options, two length options and two neck-and-armhole finishing options (bound or faced). I chose to start with the longer length and according to the size chart, my measurements made me a size 10 at the bust and size 12 at the waist and hips. 

I dutifully blended between the sizes and folded out 2cm from the length on the torso, as I always do. Because I was planning to use some fairly precious fabric, I made a quick toile (muslin). That first toile came out too big, so I started again with a size 8/10 combo which a second toile told me was much better. 

The basic pattern is lovely as it is, but I felt that it would also be a great basis for some pattern hacks. So I decided to have some fun and try making a scallop hem, which is something that I've been thinking about trying in a project for a while. To make a scallop hem, you need to create a facing, but seeing as this pattern already includes hem facings, that was one less step to take. 

I also wanted to play around with the neckline a little, so I drafted a V shape at the back (and altered my facing piece accordingly). I love the V shape detail of the Peppermint magazine peplum top, and what better way to expose a ropey, faded early-2000's star tattoo?!


For yonks I've been the owner of two small-ish lengths of lovely Atelier Brunette printed poplin. I put them both in my #2020makenine sewing plans (which you can see in this post) because they've been in my stash for years and really should be enjoyed out in the world. This cute little Paris print on a grey background came from M is for Make at least five years ago. I bought the end of the bolt, which I think was about 90cm. Although it's a bit cuter than anything I'd buy for myself these days, however I still really love the print and TBH I couldn't think of anything else to do with it.  


I'm very pleased with how this top came out and I've worn it a couple of times since completion. Making the scallops added an extra level of challenge to the project, and I had a lot of fun working out how to make them as neat as possible (the key is A LOT of perilous clipping into the curves). I'm not sure if the V-shape is a total success: it looks nice but I'm not sure if it quite fits with the scallop hem detail. The only actual annoyance I feel with this project is that, as you can see in these pics, one of my bra straps is almost constantly visible. Next time I use this pattern, I'll probably build up that area a bit, as I'm never going to wear a strapless bra. Ultimately, it's a win. The overall fit is great and I'm so pleased I was able to find a use for this crisp poplin after so many years of hoarding it. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

They Said it Could Never be Done: A Hawaiian Zadie Jumspuit

I appears that most manifestations of the Zadie Jumpsuit pattern are made in lovely, earthy, solid-coloured linens. And whilst I fully agree that those look incredibly, I decided to head towards the other end of the taste spectrum for this, my second version of the Zadie pattern. 

My first version, if you recall, was made in some wonderful lock-and-key print African wax fabric (AKA Ankara). I adore that jumpsuit and it's one of my very favourite garments to wear. I love both the way it looks, and the way it feels. The only pattern alteration I made was to fold out 2cm from the bodice pieces to account for my short-waistedness, which I feel was a success. 

This Hawaiian print cotton poplin has been in my stash for almost six years. It came from Fabric Godmother, before I worked for them in any capacity. I've long been a big fan of Hawaiian print fabric, so it's a surprise to me that I hadn't used it sooner. I nearly used it a number of times during my several-year-long Rockabilly phase, yet I came out the other side of that phases with the fabric remaining unused, so I put it into my #2020makenine plans (you can see the full nine in this post).

The most head-scratching part of this project for me came at the beginning, trying to position the pattern pieces onto my limited amount of fabric. Not only was my length of cotton shorter than the pattern called for, but I wanted to cut the back piece on the fold (rather than in two halves) so as not to break up the print. In general I had to be very careful about print placement, positioning two sections of the print too close to each other, for example, would be super noticeable. To make it work, I ended up omitted the hip pockets, which was a shame but a necessary sacrifice. I also made the length shorter, but I had wanted to do that anyway.  

I constructed this jumpsuit mainly through the recent, very excellent, online Sewing Weekender event (organised by Charlotte from English Girl at Home along with Kate and Rachel from the Foldline), which I was very proud to contribute, adding my own little talk about saving money and resources whilst sewing. I hadn't expected to the chance to enjoy any of the content (basically due to the kids being around), yet I managed to watch quite a bit of it. Because I had already made this pattern before, I didn't need to concentrate on my project too much which really helped. 

As for this jumpsuit, I really like it! The print and colours are a bit intense, but when the sun is shining, I think it works well. I can definitely see yet more Zadie's in my future. Maybe a subtle, earthy-toned linen one should be next...

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