Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Hand-Stitched #MMMay16 Badges By Tasha

If you are taking part in #MMMay16 and all the incredible handmade clothes being worn so far are getting you itching to make stuff, then may I suggest this awesome project that is the brain-child of challenge participant Tasha from Stale Bread Into French Toast? She has written a lovely explanation of what inspired the idea behind these gorgeous celebratory badges in this post, which also includes a complete explanation of how you can make your own, including a FREE PATTERNS PDF! Don't feel you need to have any previous hand-embroidery experience. Tasha takes you through the whole process, including useful info on materials and techniques, with beautifully clear photos for each step. 

Also, don't forget to enter the awesome Fabric Godmother 'Dream Wardrobe' giveaway if you haven't already and are taking part in #MMMay16. You have until Saturday night...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Happy Me-Made-May'16! Fabric Godmother 'Dream Wardrobe' Giveaway

HAPPY ME-MADE-MAY'16!!!!! It's here and I'm sooooo excited to get cracking and to see everyone's challenges unfold. As with previous year's, we will be celebrating this month of awesomeness with weekly competitions/giveaway for the participants of #MMMay16 to enter. I will be hosting two, and the lovely Jen from Jennifer Lauren Vintage will be hosting the other two. And ohmygoodness, is this first one a cracker!

UK-based (but will send internationally) online fabric seller, Fabric Godmother, has offered up a very exciting prize: a month's instalment of their 'Dream Wardrobe' project kit. 'What's that?!' I hear you ask. Well, when someone signs up for the dream wardrobe package, they receive a style consultation with Josie, owner of Fabric Godmother. She finds out all about their style preferences, lifestyle, colouring, body type and so on, then they will receive one package per month for the duration that they have signed up for that contains everything required for a fantastic sewing project. 

(some stunning rose print stretch cotton sateen, available here)

It's such an amazing idea and would really benefit lots of sewers. Maybe you are fed up with making the same type of garment project and need a gentle push towards something you may not usually gravitate to? Maybe you're frustrated by having made poor fabric choices for sewing projects in the past, and would like someone else to take on that part of the equation for you? Maybe you simply don't have time to go shopping for all the elements required for a sewing project and would appreciate receiving them all in one bundle in the correct colours and necessary quantities, so you can crack on with the fun sewing part?

(elegant 'Delphi' layered maxi dress pattern by Named patterns, available here)

To enter, all you have to do is answer a quick question to help Fabric Godmother stock the things you'd really like to see in their online shop. Quickly visit the sewing pattern section of their site and see which of your favourite indie sewing pattern brands they don't currently stock that you think they should. Leave your answer in a comment at the bottom of this post, and remember to include your email address if I can't easily find it within two clicks of my mouse.

Every time I host a giveaway, I end up having to redraw the winner because someone didn't leave a way for me to contact them. If you win but there's no email address, then there's no way to get the Dream Wardrobe instalment to you. 

Your email address will not be used for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner. Please remember that the giveaway is open to participants of Me-Made-May only. Leave your comment by midnight GMT Saturday 8th May 2016. I will pick a winner by random number generator the following day and contact them.

Good luck!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Cabernet Cardigan: Round #1

So with #MMMay16 providing the wind beneath my wings, I've dived head first into my Spring/mid-pregnancy sewing plans. The remade denim Tova top has been a real success, but this second project may have spawned a new obsession. May I introduce my first attempt at the SBCC Cabernet cardigan pattern


If you recall, I bought the Cabernet cardigan pattern because I had 1.5m of turquoise Ponte de Roma burning a hole in my stash. As soon as I bought the pattern though, I knew it was the best decision I'd made all week. Suddenly, in my future I could see complete cardigan self-sufficiency! What power! I loves me the Jenna cardi pattern, and my Brightside shrug will certainly come into its own as it gets warmer. But what I hadn't realised I needed until now was a looser, layerable, low-neck cardigan pattern that looks good unbuttoned. Basically, I needed a way to recreate my beloved secondhand mustard cardigan, which you can see me wear an embarrassing amount of times during this week four years ago!

(image source: SBCC Patterns)

However, I know that an exact replica of the mustard cardi would never be achievable: the Ponte doesn't behave anything like fine manufactured knitwear so the best I was ever going to get was a decent interpretation. Plus, I knew I wasn't going to nail it first time, so going into this project I kept in mind that the best possible outcome would be a wearable toile. 

I checked the fit half way through this make which resulted in me making two small changes. Firstly, I'd forgotten that SBCC patterns are intended for petite figures, which is fine for me in the body because I am short-waisted, but it meant that the sleeves were coming up too short. I ended up recutting the cuffs as the easiest solution for this version, and made a note to extend the sleeve pattern for future ones. The second change I made was to unpick the waistband and reshape the side seams for a straighter shape. You can see below the new line I drew on the front and back pieces to bring the side seam in from above the waist down to the hips.  

I also decided to omit the pockets as I didn't plan to wear this cardigan buttoned up, and I thought the pockets might create bulk that would prevent the front from hanging properly. This didn't really work out (more on this below), but I don't think I will be arsed to go back and add them. 


I wrote about this turpquoise Ponte de Roma in my Spring sewing plans post, and now all I really have to add is that it was lovely to sew with and wear, but has bobbled (pilled) a little bit after several wears and one wash. The colour is still gorgeously vibrant and it makes me happy to look at, although finding clothes to match with it, other than black, has been a bit tricky. 


Well. You could interpret this project as a success or a failure, I guess. A success because it was a really fun project, I intend to use the pattern again AND I've worn the outcome heaps. Yet a failure because it's been assigned to house-wear only because it looks really frumpy (I included these last two images as evidence). It's managed to hit the 'sweet spot' of neither baggy-in-a-cool-way, nor the more slender fit of my beloved secondhand mustard cardi. So I have work to do. 

So what do I intend to do? I have two more recently acquired pieces of Ponte (this navy and this mustard) that are earmarked to try this pattern again. I think the navy will be first on the chopping block, and I'll start with a whole size smaller (this turquoise was a medium). I'll also include the straightening of the side seam and make the button stand/neckband narrower. I may even slim the front panels down as well, making the front edges straighter and less curved. I've also got some beautiful grey marl wool blend knit that I recently bought for lounge-wear trousers but that has washed up a bit too itchy. I'm tempted to try it as a Cabernet, but go the other way and select a larger size for an oversized look. 

Fabric: Ponte de Roma remnant £6.99 from Ditto Fabrics in Brighton
Pattern: PDF $12 (£8.37) from here
Buttons: vintage from stash
Total: £15.36

As someone who is used to sewing from stash and getting any non-me-made clothing, especially knitwear, from charity shops, that feels like quite a lot for a cardigan that is only getting worn around the house. However, house-cardigans see years of wear, so in terms of pounds-per-wear, I know it'll more than justify that outlay in the long run. But more importantly, I see that cost as an investment in being able to create the cardigans of my dreams with my own hands in the future! 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Me-Made-May '16: Your Pledges

(divine Jenna cardi by Crafty NH Mom)

I LOVE reading all the #MMMay16 pledges as they come in. The most popular pledge by far, of course, is the aim to wear one self-made item per day for the duration of May, which is an awesome, and hopefully very useful challenge. But other participants have been coming up with different specifics that they feel will have a more directly beneficial effect on their relationship with their self-made wardrobe.

If you are planning to challenge yourself this Me-Made-May but are struggling to come up with pledge specifics that inspire you, here area few of this year's pledges that may offer up some ideas. I've illustrated this post with some of my favourite handmade garments/outfits from last year's Flickr group pool (if you wish to share your documentation photos on this year's Flickr group, please find it here and request admittence). 

(nicely combined separates and cute compadres! By Just Sew Jenna)

I think the pledge Morocco-dwelling @janomegnome has come up with is genius and very touching. She intends to wear as many handmade clothes as possible and 'above all **to talk about them with non-sewing folk** and not skip the chance to share the love out of modesty or suchlike daft habits'. Me-Made-May is such a great opportunity to bring the handmade and non-handmade facets of your life a bit closer!

It's good to have a reminder that Me-Made-May isn't only for sewers/sewists, or people who already have a huge array of self-stitched clothes. Ninja-crocheter @salapes is pledging to wear 'all of my handmade items of clothing at least once during the month of May'. How nice, to give every garment you have made an airing during the challenge! What better way to assess and compare how you feel about the things you have made?

(some of the utterly perfect outfits by Len from Seamless blog

Debbie from 'Sewn From The Heart' has chosen the popular 'oneself-made garment per day' pledge, but added the following that I really wanted to share with you all:
'I have a number of garments I've made since I started sewing again late last year. However, almost without fail, I make them, photograph them for my blog and then put them in my wardrobe, almost never to be worn again. I find it hard to get past that 'I'll keep them nice incase I wreck them' mentality. To make myself actually wear the clothes I've made will be a huge personal challenge and I really hope that it will break the cycle I'm in and start to change the way I look at, and use, my self made clothes.' It's fantastic that she has figured out exactly what's going wrong in her relationship with her handmade wardrobe, and is using Me-Made-may to bust out of that rut. Go Debbie!!!!

On top of the 'wearing' part of her Me-Made-May pledge, Ashlee from This Seams Interesting has given herself an additional aim to sew up 3-5 pieces of fabric from her 'behemoth stash on new projects between now, April 1st, and the end of May'.

So what about you? Do you want to pledge this year but find yourself holding back? Share your quandaries... 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Remade Denim Tova Top

I did it! Against my natural inclinations, I dug deep and found the patience to remake and replace the sleeves of my denim Tova top. If you look back at the original photos, you'd be more than forgiven for not being able to spot any difference! But although the change is very subtle, I'm glad that I did. The sleeves initially felt a tiny bit tight when I raised my arms. I love everything else about this garment, and can see it being part of my wardrobe for years, if not decades, so I didn't want there to be any element that would make me avoid wearing it.

So what did I do? Well I begun by following the steps in this tutorial (thanks Claire for directing me to it), slash-and-flaring the pattern piece out, inserting some paper behind and adding 3cm across the width of the sleeve (see below). By spreading out the sleeve piece in this fashion, you unavoidably monkey about with the sleeve head, making it shallower. The tutorial would have you trace and then retain the height and shape of the original sleeve-head, however I chose not to because A) adding only a small amount to the width like I did didn't change the sleeve head very much and B) the original Tova pattern piece sleeve head was crazy-high and I always felt it was a little unnecessary (not that I know what problem a tall sleeve head might cause!). Because I used the altered rather than original sleeve head, I didn't need to follow step 4, making the armhole larger using one of two approaches. I didn't feel the size of the armhole needed adjusting, and in fact I was concerned that by doing so might start making this top start look looser and potentially lose some of the delicate proportions that makes this pattern so appealing. 

I'm not sure how much more use I'll get from this top during my pregnancy because my boobs may expand even more than they already have (heavens!), and as you can see in the top two pictures, it's already getting a little tight! But I'm very happy that, having made the effort now, when things calm down in the bust area, this top is ready to be reached for as a useful breast-feeding friendly option. It feels good to resist instant gratification sometimes and pay yourself forward, doesn't it?! 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Me-Made-May '16: My Pledge

(Expect to see a lot of crazy prints this Me-Made-May!)

It's been really fun to read all the #MMMay16 pledges that have been rolling in. It's time I threw my hat into the ring as well!

'I, Zoe of 'So, Zo... What Do You Know?' and @sozoblog, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '16. I endeavour to wear only me-made clothing (with the exception of maternity jeans, bras and maybe the occasional secondhand cardi) each day for the duration of May 2016. PLUS: my daughter will wear at least one item of mum-made clothing each day'

BOOM! It's ON. The fact that I'll be pregnant during the challenge this year has naturally amped things up, and it'll be interesting to see how my shape/size alters between the beginning and end of the month and what that means for my wardrobe. I'm also super excited to be bringing Dolores into the challenge this year! I would love to get to the stage where almost all her clothes are made my me, and this will be a great opportunity to see how close to that goal we have already come.

I intend to document my challenge with weekly round ups on this blog, and by participating in the Flickr group and on Instagram and Pinterest when I get the chance.

If you would like to challenge yourself this Me-Made-May but are struggling to come up with a pledge, I'll publish a post in the near future that will contain lots of pledge ideas that may help you figure out how to get the most from the challenge.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Spring Sewing Plans Afoot

Well thanks so much for all the congratulations that were left in response to the news of my pregnancy! Each comment was thoroughly lovely to receive. It's made the fact that I'm going to be a mum again all the more 'real' now that I've shared the news with the sewing community!

So here's what I plan to make over the next couple of months. This list has ended up being a bit longer than I thought it'd be, but I'm pleased that most of the projects should be suitable for, or easily adapted to, post-pregnancy life as well. I want to keep specific maternity sewing to a minimum because, as I mentioned before, I still own all the garments I made for myself last time plus I don't plan to have another child after this one. I do want to make a few extra stretchy items and maybe one woven top for the final trimester, but I'll deal with those plans further down the line. Here's how I plan to get through the inbetweeny bit of pregnancy...

Maternity jeans refashion:

Just as I wear jeans 95% of the time (outside the house) when not pregnant, I have no doubt that I'll be relying on maternity jeans just as much throughout this pregnancy. So I'm going to need more than the one H&M pair I've been leant (that to be honest are rapidly becoming too small) so far. I bought the pair of thifted skinny jeans pictured above a couple of years ago when I was going through an a-typically tiny phase, and they've been too small for me pretty much since a week after their purchase. I'm going to have a whirl at refashioning them a bit like this, and if it doesn't work out, nothing has been lost. Plus, I've got a few peops out there hunting through their lofts for some size 12 maternity jeans, so I may just end up wearing borrowed maternity jeans for the next six-ish months.

Knit skirt:

Sadly, all my knit skirts (like this onethis one and these ones) are already way too tight round my tum. Something I learnt from my first pregnancy is that I prefer to have bottoms that sit under my belly, rather than over the top, so a skirt style like the Megan Nielsen Erin maternity skirt pattern, although lovely, isn't for me. I was thinking about either sacrificing one of my existing knit skirts by cutting down the waistline and adding a new, better positioned waistband, or altering Gertie's knit pencil skirt pattern to make one from scratch. Then I had an Aha! moment and decided to draft my own from scratch on the off-chance that it's a real success, and therefore something I could release as a sewing pattern of my own in the future.

Breton tunic:

The Fabric Godmother is (almost) literally my godmother! Josie the owner gave me some of this epic stripy Ponte de Roma type-stuff (on the left in the photo below) the last time I visited her studio because she could see how obsessed with it I'd become. I bought some other pieces of fabric that day and had gone way over what I had intended to spend (I'm blaming you, amazing wool blend check). I couldn't justify buying any of this as well but I was really struggling to walk away from it!

I seems to me that there is only one logical use for this stripy stuff: a tunic-length Breton garment based on this vintage pattern pictured above (again). I still maintain that my 1960's Breton top is the best garment I've ever sewn (I'm wearing it as I type, with a vest underneath and two cardigans on top because it's still too nippy for it really) so it is the logical step to make something very similar that will hopefully be loose enough to cover a second-trimester bump, and then worn heaps in the future. My only concern is that I won't be able to wear it again straight away post-pregnancy, as a tunic-length garment without some kind of inventive trap door is going to be useless for breast feeding. Oh well, I'll have to put it by for a year or so.

Turquoise Ponte de Roma cardigan:

Until about two minutes ago, I was going to use this post to request ideas on what to use this turquoise Ponte de Roma remnant (from Ditto Fabrics in Brighton) for. Annoyingly, it's one of those colours that I struggle to get an accurate photo of, it's actually a much clearer, vibrant shade than the image above would have you believe. As you may know, I rarely buy new fabric to sew with, but the early growth of my baby bump set me in a bit of a spin and bought this in a panic because most of my wardrobe was rapidly becoming too tight. I really like it, and don't regret the purchase, but figuring out what to do with it now that I have it has been a little tricky.

First of all, I thought maybe a MIY Collection Walkley dress was the way forward. I'm still head over heels in love with Handmade Jane's stripy top version, and it is a VERY popular project with the students who attend the the classes that I teach at the MIY Workshop. But then I realised that I have so many Dolores batwing dresses knocking about that my knit dress needs are pretty much covered. Then I thought about using it to make some yoga pants/comfy trousers (see above) but it only has a two-way rather than four-way stretch which would limit the comfort and practicality of trousers. I could use it to make the knit skirt I wrote about above, but that would only use about 70cm of the 1.5m I bought so it seemed a bit of a waste.

Then I had a brain-wave. What do I wear 9 days out of 10? A freaking cardigan. The boxy, round-necked, 50's style cardigans that I have a number of, both self made (like this and this) and secondhand, don't look particularly great with a growing bump. I button up the first few buttons, but then my belly just pokes out the bottom, and until I look 'more pregnant' I think it's making me look tubby and like I can't dress myself properly! A looser, low V-necked style of cardigan that looks good unbuttoned seems to be working better at the moment. I have a beloved secondhand mustard one in this style that I have worn to death over the last five years is starting to look really ratty, so some kind of recreation of that would makes all sorts of sense. Pattern-wise, I was checking out the new Grainline Studio's Driftless cardigan pattern which is close to what I was thinking of, but ultimately I feel would work better in a knit that has a more drape-y quality to it than my Ponte. 'Right', I thought to myself, 'time to bust out my pattern-drafting skills'. Perhaps I would make a pattern from the secondhand mustard one but develop it a bit so it was a little larger and with proportions more suited to the Ponte. Then a bit of serendipitous online window shopping brought the SBCC Cabernet cardigan pattern (pictured above) to my attention. It's basically perfect, exactly what I was aiming for. All these awesome independent sewing pattern companies are making me really lazy! Still, I'm growing a human whilst trying to care of another one so I'm not allowing myself to feel guilty for buying a pattern rather than drafting it! Plus, supporting independent pattern companies is no bad thing, of course.

Comfy trousers:

During my last pregnancy, I made two pairs of leggings/treggings type-thingys mainly to wear to pregnancy yoga and knocking about the house: one in a weird blue ribbed knit (which you can see in this post), the other in black double knit. After giving birth, I left the ribbed blue ones as they are for use in another pregnancy, but I took in the waist elastic on the black pair and have been wearing them around the house ever since. And my goodness it shows. The knees and bum area are shiny and baggy, and one knee is ripped to shreads. My criteria for comfy trousers is this: even though they are for wear around the house, I shouldn't be embarrassed if a mate pops by and sees me in them! My black leggings no longer comply with this criteria.

Both those pairs were made from a self-drafted pattern that I was never entirely happy with, so I think I'll either splash out and get the SBCC Pinot pants pattern (pictured above) or use a leggings pattern that I already own but have yet to use as a starting point, and once again adapt it for pregnancy by lowering the waistline at the front. I'll probably taper the lower leg a bit too. I've bought some navy Ponte de Roma with a great four-way stretch content from Ditto that should perform better than the black double knit, which was never very suitable for leggings in the first place.

(image source: MIY Collection/Wendy Ward)

I may also have a go at the wide leg trousers from Wendy Ward's 'The Beginner's Guide to Dressmaking' book (pictured above) as well if I can source some lovely drape-y knit. The waistband doesn't contain elastic, it's made from a wide band of knit that you can then fold over like on some yoga pants, so I reckon they'll be suitable for pregnancy and enormously comfortable.

Leggings refashion:

In much the same way I was considering reworking a knit skirt to accommodate a bigger belly, I'm going to hack up these thrifted leggings too. The waistband was always too tight and I rarely wore them anyway, so it's no loss if it doesn't work out. I'll make them into leggings for Dolores if that's the case. I'm seeing these as another comfy-trousers-round-the-house option, as well as for wearing to preggers yoga, as and when I get my arse to a class.

Rework the denim Tova top:

I still don't know how the upper sleeves of my denim Tova top are too tight, but my grey dress/tunic version is fine when I used exactly the same pattern pieces (and have yet to wash the denim one), but hey! I'm pretty sure I can just about squeeze another pair of sleeves out of the remaining scrap of denim, so I need to push myself to alter the sleeve pattern piece and bust out the seam ripper. I'm hoping I can layer the stripy Agnes top underneath this until it gets warmer. And as long as my boobs don't inflate too much more, it should be suitable for breast feeding wear too.
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