Friday, 29 August 2014

Teaching Workshops at Tilly HQ, London

This blog post is pretty pointless for two reasons but I'm going to write it anyway because I hate not doing something that I planned to. It's meant to be a post announcing the exciting news that I'm going to be teaching two of Tilly and the Buttons's new workshops. However this post is pointless because it is unlikely that there's anyone who reads this blog who wouldn't have already read about the workshops over at Tilly's when she announced them on Tuesday (aside from my folks, hi Mum and Dad!).

Tilly has a whole host of wonderful workshops that will take place in her EPIC new studio space in London. Most of the classes will be taught by herself, plus there's also a Zips and Buttonholes class that will be taught by Lauren from Lladybird when she's in town! I'm tempted to take that one myself just to hang out with her... Does that sound creepy?!

My involvement will be teaching the Copy Your Clothes! and Sewing Knits: Make a Coco workshops. If you were counting and wondered what the second reason why that this blog post is pointless is, it's because both of them have sold out already. However, it is very likely that they will be rescheduled at some point in the future, so if you are interested in taking them you can get on the waiting list by contacting Tilly.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Baby Leggings and OWOP 2014

You know how it is. After a project FAIL that used up a whole load of time and sewing mojo, like my would-be denim sweet shorts, you often need a quick pick-me-up project. Something so quick and easy that it restores your faith in sewing. For me that invariably means making something from knit fabric. And what's even quicker than a project made from knit fabric? Something made from knit fabric that has JUST ONE PATTERN PIECE. 


I already have about five editions of the kids version of Ottobre design magazine from my subscription which ended last year. However, a couple of weeks ago I found the latest edition on sale in my local WHSmiths, and seeing as I have never seen them on sale IRL before, I was tempted to add another to the stack. At first I was reluctant to fork out £10, but when I saw that it had a baby/younger toddler version of the Tiny Path toddler leggings that I made my niece for Christmas, I decided it would be an investment. If this pair worked out well, I envisioned making a stack of these over the next however-long-Dolores-fits-into-the-sizes-of-this-pattern.  

Dolores is about to turn 11 months old, and is about 70 cms high last time I measured her. I traced the 74 size because that was probably couple of months ago now! I also added an extra 1 cm to the hem allowance because she tends to grow out of clothes length-ways long before she grows out of them width-ways. 

The thing to remember about Ottobre patterns is that they have hem allowances, facings and waistband turnings included, but not seam allowances. I didn't. I prepped this pattern, this whole one piece of pattern, whilst chatting to Pat and keeping an eye on Dolores, and totally forgot to add the seam allowances. DUHHHHH. I only remembered about the seam allowance after I finished sewing them. Anyway, the fit of this pair actually turned out ok, but I retraced the pattern piece, the one pattern piece, and added the seam allowance for future versions which will therefore hopefully last a bit longer than this one will.  


How good is this jersey fabric?! Not only is the print super cute, but it is also amazing quality. As you probably know if you read this blog often, I tend to either use stash fabric or harvest fabric from unwanted garments for my sewing projects. I do because fabric production and treating is very environmentally damaging, and I try to lower the impact my sewing habit has on the planet a little bit where I can. But this fabric was bought by a friend of mine brand new (as I wrote about here) and I must admit that it felt like a treat to work with and now have in Dolores's wardrobe. She bought it from and although they don't seem to have the same print anymore, there are a lot of other very cute children's print jersey if that's your bag. 


Naturally, as soon as I made these I uncovered an enormous pile of hand-me-down trousers and leggings that I'd stashed away in Dolores's current size. But none as fun as these of course. I'm going to continue to make a load more of these leggings though in the next size up because she is growing at such an alarming rate, she'll probably need them next week. You'll have to wait for a modelled shot of these leggings, however you won't have to wait long because I've decided to use this pattern to take part in this year's OWOP challenge....

I was so pleased to hear that the OWOP is going ahead again! Originally hosted by its creator in 2012, Tilly challenged sewers with a fetish for a particular sewing pattern to wear the garments we'd made from that pattern every day for a week. I took part with Simplicity 2451 skirt pattern and found it a fascinating and fun challenge. It was great to be pushed to find new outfit combinations that incorporated my three versions, but also to see the many versions of others popular patterns that sewers around the globe had made and worn. It's a bit like a mini Me-Made-May, if you will!

This year it is hosted by the super lovely Handmade Jane and will take place from 6th to 12th September. I emailed Jane to check that it was cool to take part with a pattern that wouldn't be worn by myself, and she replied very swiftly to say that she insisted that I took part with this pattern! I can't wait to see what everyone else chooses as their OWOP pattern and to see how they wear them. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Would-be Denim Sweet Shorts

Here's a project that I've been plugging away at for weeks here and there. It's been a crazy summer, with Pat working mon-fri (and therefore me on mumming-duty), and then me teaching sewing classes most weekend days. Not much time for personal sewing, save for scraps of opportunity when Dolores is taking a nap, when I should probably be taking a nap too! 

Anyways, it's been a really warm summer down here on the South Coast, and I've found that I've worn my navy Ruby shorts heaps, almost continuously some weeks. But seeing as I made those back in 2009 (what?!) and the fabric wasn't amazing quality to begin with, they are starting to look a bit shabby. I felt it would be sewing time well spent to make another pair of shorts that looked good enough to be worn outside the house. 


I've been eyeing up quite a few shorts patterns recently, but finally plumbed for the Sweet shorts pattern by Pattern Runway (pictured above). I've loved every version I've seen and I like that the waistband is curved, rather than made from a straight rectangular pattern piece which I always find uncomfortable after an hour or so of wear. The scalloped hem detail adds a wee bit of interest, the front and back pockets break up an expanse of fabric and the side zip eliminates the need to spend precious time on a fly-front.

I cut the Medium, as per my measurements. The waist should have been half an inch too tight, and seeing as I HATE things to be tight round my waist, I added a tiny bit extra width at the top of the front waistband piece only. I added 1.5 cm to the back rise, which I do as standard before I make any trouser or shorts pattern to accommodate my junk. I also decided to fold out about 2.5 cm (1") from the length as well. And finally, I decided to replace the back welt pockets for simple patch pockets. As much as I like a welt pocket, I couldn't be arsed to make them on this version and felt that a patch pocket would suit my choice of fabric better anyhow. 

Pattern Runway claim that their construction techniques are closer to those used in the garment manufacturing industry, rather than home sewing. I did like using a 1 cm (3/8") seam allowance rather than 1.5 cm (5/8"), which is what I used when I learned to sew at university and therefore feels more natural to me. However, if these shorts came out too small, there'd be very little seam allowance from which to excavate extra width. 

However, these shorts DID NOT come out too small. They came wayyyyyy too big! Which is why I've photographed them on the floor rather than on my own (sweet) ass. My fabric does have a bit of stretch in it, but that does not account for how these have come out at least one size too big. I've checked and I printed out the PDF correctly (not on the 'fit to page' setting). There are only three reviews for this pattern on Pattern, and non of them say anything about this pattern coming up large so it's a mystery. 


The pattern calls for light weight suiting, linen and finer fabrics like that, but I went for some medium weight denim that has been lurking in my stash for I-have-no-idea-how-long. I went with this denim because A) it's in my stash and therefore 'free', B) I love denim shorts because they go with everything, and C) this denim has a little bit of stretch in it and I made a pact with myself to only make trousers and shorts for me with some stretch content for comfort and movement, a pact I may well break for my next version of these shorts. As I say, I don't think the stretch-ability can account for why these came out too big, because when I put them on they are too big before the stretch is even 'engaged', if you see what I mean. That issue aside, the denim may have been a leeeetle bit too stiff for this design, as the legs do stick out a bit, but I was kind of hoping that the shorts would soften after wearing and washing a few times. 

I'm particularly pleased with the interior of this garment. I used some printed organic cotton by Cloud9 Fabrics (you can get more of their fabulous prints via the Village Haberdashery, which are one of my blog sponsors) for the pocket bags and waistband facings. As you know, I rarely (i.e. haven't for years) buy new fabric, but I had scraps of this left over from sampling the Schoolhouse Tunic pattern for Annie, owner of the Village Haberdashery as I am teaching a class to make this in London on 7th September


Hmm, what to do... I discovered that these were too big way after it would have been possible for me to do anything about it without MAJOR unpicking and reworking. Plus I don't think it would have been very successful to refit them because the scallop would have ended up towards the side seams instead of in the centre, plus the side pockets would have all but disappeared. After I realised, I just finished them up and have decided to keep them for when I inevitably put on weight after I stop breast feeding! I'm seeing it as a 'currently-unwearable-toile', but in general I still love this pattern and I'm sure I'll revisit it at some point when the sadness of this outcome has waned. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Charity Shop Scores in Rye

One of my absolute favourite things to do has always been to have a good old hunt through charity shops. It appeals to my hunter-gatherer instinct, my thriftiness AND my aim to live without buying new products as far as possible. Plus you can't beat the element of surprise and the unexpected. I have mentioned charity shopping and some successful hauls on this blog in the past, like the epic success I had in York and Essex around Christmas last year. But seeing as charity shopping/thrifting forms a big part of how I try to live fairly sustainably, I've decided to catalogue my successes on this blog more often, partly because I love reading about other people's thrifting scores, and partly in the hope that it'll inspire others to have a rummage in The British Heart Foundation shop rather than Primark more often! 

Yesterday my parents, Dolores and I spent the day in ancient town of Rye. It's only a small place, with just four charity shops as far as we could tell, but the Gods of Charity Shopping were smiling upon us and we cleaned up:

Leopard print leggings, £1.99

I've been wearing leggings way more often than I'd like to admit these days, but only around the house, promise! The black ones I made myself are soooooper baggy now and I was planning on making some more some day soon, particularly as I'm going to start a course of mindfulness yoga (?! I have no idea what to expect) next month. I try and make as much of my wardrobe as possible, but I don't currently have any suitable knit fabric in my stash. These bad boys look completely unworn and for a measly £2, they seemed the answer to my leggings issue. 

Black leather Dolly shoes, £5

OMG! I had some almost EXACTLY like these in the 90's which I absolutely adored. I wore them in a Riot Grrl, kinder whore, Hole/Babes in Toyland kind of way. I have no idea if I succeeded in pulling it off. Anyway, these fit me so well it's bizarre. I know lots of people get freaked out by the thought of wearing someone else's shoes, but I am not one of them. The insides haven't really taken the shape of the former owner's feet, and good clean inside and out will be good enough for me. The heel is the perfect height to make them appropriate for work when I'm teaching sewing classes and they even came with replacement heel tips for when the current ones get worn down. 

Clothes puzzle game, £1

I buy all of Dolores's toys and books in charity shops, aside from hand-me-downs and eBay when I'm looking for something specific. I'm not going to start boring you by blogging every single 'That's not my Penguin' book or plastic watering can I buy her, but for obvious reasons I thought you might like to see this one! There are not words to describe how much I love it. I'm going to take it away from her when we she gets big enough to start drawing on things with crayon, it's that good.

So, what thrifting successes have you had recently? Do tell...

Friday, 1 August 2014

Refashion Friday: 4 Ways to Refashion Baby Clothes

The speed at which babies grow out of and/or trash their clothes is frankly frightening. But there are lots of ideas on the interwebs for making their clothing last longer, whether your motivation is financial, ecological or (like me) both! So, if your baby is wracking up the clothing-casulaties, here are four of ideas that you might like to try to get more use from them or to make them pass-on-able to other babies. 

1) Dyeing and Tie-dyeing

If your baba's garments are looking faded and washed out, or have sustained some serious food/poo stains that stain remover and direct sunshine can't shift, then I can't think of a more fun way to refresh them than to get your dye-on. No matter what the packet says, you can never predict exactly what the shade of colour is going to come out so there's an element of surprise to be enjoyed! Plus any visible synthetic stitching or topstitching, poppers and buttons that don't pick up the dye become cool new contrast features. 

Extra tip: ask your parent/carer-friends if they have any baby clothing items that they'd like dyeing too to combine with your own. That way you don't need to dye all your items the same colour just to make the most of the bucket/tub/washing machine full of dye.  

2) Lengthening Onesies/Vests

Is it just me, or are some onesies/vests wayyyyy too wide for their length? Dolores takes after her dad and is quite a long baby but not very wide, and I've found that most of these things become too short whilst the width is still totally fine. Slice through the body horizontally and add a band of similar-weight knit fabric (I used an overlocker/serger for that step). Then top-stitch the seam allowances down so that they don't feel uncomfortable round the belly area. So far Dolores has got an extra two months use from these and I think there'll be at least another month or two before they become too small in both directions. Refashioning two of these in this way took me about 20 mins, and with at least three months extra use to be enjoyed I think it was 20 mins well spent. 

Extra tip: play about with contrast plain or print knits for the lengthening band to create really fun, unusual onesies/vests. It's a good way to use up scraps of knit lurking in your stash. You could even swap over the top and bottom sections if you were refashioning more than one of similar sizes at a time for a totally mixed up look. The lengthening band doesn't have to be positioned where I have, it could be more central or round the chest area for example. 

3) Onesies/vests into T-shirts

This is another option for onesies/vests that have got too short in the body but are still fine width-wise. Or, as in the case above, there's an unsightly poo-stain in the bum area that washing powder has failed to shift! Slice through the body of the onesie/vest horizontally and add a band of knit or ribbing that has been folded double. Make the band slightly narrower in width than the bottom of the onesie/vest itself so it fits snuggly and doesn't gape round the waist/hips. 

Extra tip: harvest sections of unwanted t-shirts or the ribbing from old sweatshirts, or use contrast plain or print knit for the bands. 

4) Onesies/Vests or T-shirts into Dresses

(image source: Marilla Walker)

When I was planning this post, I had a 'onesie/vest or t-shirt/top into dress' refashion listed but I had yet to get round to actually doing one to photograph. Miraculously, the other day lovely Marilla tweeted me the picture above of her darling little girl in her very own vest-to-dress creation. Marilla was very kind and allowed me to use the image in this post. Follow the above link to check out her explanation of the method used. 

Extra tip: different looks can be created depending on where you cut the onesie/vest/t-shirt/top (at the waist like Marilla did, or higher up for an empire line effect perhaps) and how much fabric/fullness you add to the skirt section. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Summer in Paris Sun Dress

No, we're not spending summer in Paris unfortunately, however I realise I need to up my game in naming my creations, à la Dolores's auntie Rehanon. This is the first make from the batch of sewing patterns that were kindly sent to me from Adey from The Sew Convert. I stated in my last blog post that I was going to attempt to use each of the patterns sent to me by Adey, Catherine and Jenna, so I'd best get on with it! But don't get me wrong, I don't think that there's any point in making clothing for her just for the sake of it. She has plenty of clothes for her current size, however she doesn't have a 'special dress', if a baby needs such a thing. We were invited to lunch a couple of weeks ago and that provided the catalyst for getting this make completed. 


I used the pattern pictured below, Newlook 6718, view B omitting the contrast lower band. The pattern was already cut to the Small size, which according to the pattern envelope should have been almost too small for Dolores in terms of weight and definitely too small for her in terms of height, but the final garment actually came out quite roomy and may even span two summers. Win! 

As you can imagine, this pattern sewed together very quickly, particularly because I left off most of the faff and frills. Unusually, the dress fastens with buttons on the back, kind of like a backwards pinafore, so I chose the flattest buttons in my stash so hopefully they won't be uncomfortable when she lies down. I did add a single strip of lace from my stash along the top of the front yoke for a little bit of extra interest, and to make it clear that I HADN'T put the dress on her the wrong way round if people were to notice the button fastenings being on the back! The only part of the construction that I changed was the method for binding the armholes. I preferred to trim away the seam allowance and apply the binding to cover the raw edge, making it visible rather than tucked away on the inside creating lots of bulk. 


I've recently reorganised my fabric, putting the pieces that are too small for adults' garments, but large enough for a child's garment, or at least part of one, in a separate storage tub. This is the tub I plan on mining for Dolores-projects and this awesome Eiffel Tower and birds print cotton sateen scrap was residing within. I originally bought a long length of this fabric about a squillion years ago from Goldhawk Road, before I started this blog and before I realised that the circle skirt style I'd made from it wasn't for me.

I think I donated the circle skirt to a friend, but I still had some fairly substantial leftovers, enough for this project. Aside from being an amazing print, it makes sense to use it for a garment for Dolores because A), despite being cotton it doesn't crease very much, and B) it's red which is the colour of her favourite foods (strawberries, raspberries and tomatoes) so I won't need to soak stains out of this garment, unlike every other garment she owns. In fact, remind me going forward to make everything for her in red and dark colours with busy prints!


I have firmly got the children's-clothes making bug, which is pretty handy when you think about it, eh? Making things for babies/toddlers/children requires less time and less fabric, which is perfect at just the time in life when you have reduced amounts of sewing time, and reduced funds to spend on sewing projects. It is my aim to dress Dolores as far as possible in handmade clothing, and for it to be made from my stash of fabric and notions as much as I can. But it is also my aim for those clothes to be beautifully made and stylish. That way she will hopefully look back at them and feel proud of her mama for making them for her, and also so that they will have further life after Dolores has grown out of them when other children wear them.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Mother Lode of Sewing Stuff

And who knew 'mother lode' was spelt 'mother lode' and not 'mother load'?! Not me until I did a spot of googling just then. Anyways... I am one lucky baby-mama because I have recently received not one, not two but THREE packages of baby/toddler sewing stuff from super lovely sewing bloggers. Up until now, I have mainly dressed her in secondhand and hand-me-down things because she's been growing too damn fast. But I plan to make more of her clothing myself as she gets bigger, with a dose charity shop scores and hand-me-downs for the difficult or boring to make things, and nana-knits for her knitwear. Which is just how I approach my own wardrobe I guess, save for the nana-knits.  

So let me show you the awesomeness that I now have to work with! The top image is a whole of beautiful vintage sewing patterns that were sent to me by lovely Adey from The Sew Convert. Can you see that two of them have a nautical theme?! Amazing! She also sent me the four patterns in the bottom row of the image above (one of which I have just finished using, blog post on it's way...). 

The top row of pattern in the image above were sent to me by fabulous Jenna from Just Sew Jenna. As you know, I have already used the romper pattern, and I can't wait to get stuck in to the others. She also sent me the fabric on the top row of the image below to incorporate into my makes. 

The middle row of patterns were sent to me by wonderful Catherine from Clothes and Sewing, including a super cute dolly sewing pattern that I eyed up on the front of a sewing magazine but couldn't justify shelling out for. Catherine has kindly sent me several packages and parcels of sewing-related items since my baby was born, as well as getting me hooked on the Ottobre design children's sewing magazines.  

All three women sent me these patterns because their own children have grown out of the largest size. I aim to honour their kindness by using each pattern at least once and then to pass these on to other worthy sewing-mamas when I am done.

The wonderful printed fabric pieces in the bottom row of the image above are all big enough for whole garments. They were given to me by a newly made IRL friend who bought them to make stuff for her own baby girl but can't really be bothered. The deal is, I get to make them into lovely clothes for Dolores, and then pass on the garments to her daughter (who is five months younger) when she's grown out of them. DEAL!

So with the awesome sewing patterns pictured above, along with my own modest stash of baby/toddler patterns scored from charity shops and flea markets AND my five copies of Ottobre design AND a couple of Burda magazines AND the patterns from the Perfect Pattern Parcel #2, I think I'm set for Dolores-sewing for some time. Thanks again to those lovely, generous ladies, I'm so grateful.

So tell me, what garments have you enjoyed making for your children/other people's children? Which patterns have you used again and again? 

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