Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Podcast / Audio Post #3: Tired and Busy and Being Silly

It's only taken over two and a half years to make another audio post! If I'd had more control over things, this one would have been an in depth piece about something that I'm passionate about. Instead this is a silly little sewing-related conversion I had with Pat whilst I traced out a pattern and he tested his new audio-recorder/toy...

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Five Genuinely Useful New Baby Makes #2: Elastic-back Shoes

Hello! If you’ll indulge me, it’s time to have a look at my second monthly suggestion for something to make for a new baby that will actually get used. Massive thanks again to the Village Haberdashery for allowing me to repost this that was originally posted on The Daily Stitch.

Let’s face it: there are few things cuter on this earth than a pair of baby shoes. No doubt, the new parents will be given a clutch of baby shoes (what is the collective noun for shoes, anyway?), but if you heed my advice, yours make will stand out from the rest. How so? Because the ones you make actually have a chance in hell of staying on the little feet they were made for!

The thing I never realized about babies until I had one is that, when they are awake, babies are NEVER still. Those little arms and legs are always moving. In fact, they even move a fair bit whilst the baby is asleep as well. Any slip-on type shoes will slip right off again, and after a couple of attempts to put them on their baby, the parents will give up and consign those shoes back to the drawer for good. To make sure your pair of shoes stays on (and therefore gets used) my advice is to choose a style that is either elasticated or tied on around the ankle. Hopefully then the baby will wear those shoes for longer than it takes to get a photo!

There are literally hundreds of sewing patterns for baby shoes/slippes/booties/footies available, but the one I used here is a free one via www.poopockets.com (!) that can be found here. It is graded for two sizes, 0-3 months and 3-6 months. It consists of three pattern pieces and you’ll need two types of fabric (outer and lining) plus a small length of elastic. I changed the construction method slightly by choosing to line the back heel section too, plus I used 3/8” wide elastic rather than 1/8” wide as the pattern suggests.

Most of the fun here lies in choosing awesome fabric to make them in (as with all sewing projects, let’s face it!). With the outer fabric, you really can go to town. They can be as cute, kitsch, contemporary, classic or bizarre as you want! We went ‘subtle contemporary’ by picking some gorgeous 100% organic Cloud9 First Light flannel/brushed cotton in turquoise by Eloise Renouf. You only need about 30cm of fabric, so why not pick something really special?

As with the outer fabric, your lining fabric options are pretty broad but make sure that whatever you choose is soft. For this pair, I used a scrap of white felt from my stash, but toweling/terry cloth, sweatshirting, or velour would be great too.

We let the fabric do the talking on this pair, but there’s nothing stopping you from customising your baby shoes with ribbon, braid, ricrac, (very securely stitched-on) buttons, or whatever else your heart desires!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Breton Fleece

So I made a fleece garment, for myself. Quite frankly, I can't believe we're having this conversation. I've always associated fleece with hiking or children's wear only, and I am NOT generally a fan of it in any other guise. But I got fed up of feeling cold, and now I'm wearing fleece too, outside the house even. I've adopted such a mum style, I'm even wearing wellies.


This garment is the last of my nippy weather sewing plans. My aim was to make another version of my 1960's Breton top, as I wear that thing sooooo often. When I took out the fabric that I had lined up for my second version, I realised that it was way too thin to keep me very warm in nippy weather. I'll still make that version, but when the fleece came into my life, the project took on a different angle and the fabric and pattern kind of informed each other. 

I decided that full length sleeves would be required, and that the drop shoulders of the original 1960's Breton top pattern (based on the pattern pictured above) probably wouldn't sit very well in the stiffer fleece fabric. It became clear that a mashup was being called for so I used the Tilly and the Buttons Coco pattern (pictured below) for the armholes and sleeve in a size larger than I would usually require, and I decided to incorporate the funnel neck option as well for maximum snugness. I basically used my original Breton pattern from the armpits down, omitting the bust darts. 


I found approx. 1m of this stripy fleece in a reduced bin in a fabric shop/haberdashery called Thimbalinas in Bexhill. I was in there with Dolores and my mum a few weeks back (the latter was buying yarn to knit a cardi for the former). When I saw it I joked to myself 'I could make a fleece Breton!" Then I thought, 'Umm, actually I could make a fleece Breton...'. So I spent about £5.60 on the metre and took it home to ponder. I decided that a contrast shoulder panel in a solid cream would hopefully make it more evident that a Breton top was what I was trying to emulate. The solid cream fleece also came from the Hastings branch of Thimbalinas. Initially I had intended to cut the sleeves entirely from the stripy fleece only, but there wasn't enough to I had to use the cream fleece for the tops of the arms as well. I kind of dislike the slight difference of fleece textures that comprise the sleeves, but there wasn't really any other option. The garment seams where stitched using my (long-suffering) overlocker, and I used my regular sewing machine for hemming. 


I'm in two minds about this garment. On the one hand I love it because it is now the cosiest garment I own, and it means that my only other two cold-weather tops can get a tiny break! On the other hand, I look at these pictures and I see a someone who belongs on an allotment. Which is a ridiculous thing to think because actually I would LOVE an allotment! Although I've been a mum for a couple of years now, and my barfly days have been largely left behind (two drink limit these days, amirite?), and I've long been committed to comfort in any clothing I make, I think this garment is a significant leap in that direction that I didn't quite see coming. 


Stripy fleece: approx. £5.60
Cream fleece: approx. £8
Pattern: £0 (the vintage one has been in my stash forever, and I got the Coco one for free because I teach the Coco workshop, but it can be bought here for £12.50)
Total: approx. £13.60

I imagine I'll be using this fleece top for years and years. If it gets covered in paint or something, maybe it'll be relegated to the allotment!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Scrap-busting Summer Shorts

My goodness that's some pleasing alliteration, isn't it? Since I made the commitment to get to grips with my over-flowing scrap-and-small piece boxes, I've been having lots of fun using some lovely pieces of cotton to make super cute summer shorts for the scamp. But it hasn't stopped there. I've also been making them for other children as birthday gifts and bartering fodder. I've been sharing most of them via my Instagram feed, but these two pairs are my favourites.  


I first made the Dana made it Kid Shorts pattern last summer as a sample for a Village Haberdashery window display. It's a really simple pattern that is graded from 12months to 10 years that has a squillion style variations. You buy the pattern in PDF form, which includes the pattern pieces and cutting guide and pretty much nothing else, all the construction details are to be found on her site. I really like this idea because it is then available for others who perhaps drafted their own pattern or are using another, I think it's pretty selfless to make it available in that way. 

As you can imagine from these images, it is a really basic pattern. It consists of just two pieces (with different length and style options) with a separate optional pocket piece. However, the layout of the PDF has been cleverly thought out with the sizes batched in pairs so you only have to print out the pages you need and no more. If you're looking for a basic kids shorts pattern that will last you for many years (that you could theoretically extend to make trousers from also), this would be my recommendation. The only two minor flaws I can think to mention are, 1) I've found the sizing comes up a bit small, I've been making the size bigger than the age of each of the kids I've been sewing for and that's worked out well, 2) and this is me being ridiculous, but I don't like that the lengths are labelled 'girl' and 'boy'! But that's it. 


I made the size 3 for these two pairs and they really do take a tiny amount of fabric (I chose the shorter/'girl' length, of course!). The spotty fabric was a tiny strip of cotton that I bought from a charity shop in Southend about 9 years ago. I thought it had a Japanese vibe and I'm so glad that I didn't use for anything else like a bag lining in the meantime. 

The tropical pair was squeezed out of two weird-shaped scraps from fabric left over from more Village Haberdashery window display sample making. FYI, the garment I made was this awesome Kim dress that you can see Annie wearing here. Isn't she the very picture of summer?! Dolores, on the other hand, reminds me of a toddler-Hunter S Thompson with the vest and socks! Sadly, it looks like this tropical fabric is no longer available. If you're interested, it might be worth contacting them to see if they will get some more for this summer, it is divine. 

I added a cute little label so we can quickly tell which is the back using woven ribbon from my blog sponsor Textile Garden


I'm officially obsessed with making these shorts. Check out the Instagram hashtag #kidshortsmade to see loads of amazing versions other people have made. However, Dolores now has enough shorts lined up for this summer, so I need to complete the pairs I've cut for the other kids and turn my attentions elsewhere. I'm sorely tempted to start making her pairs for summer 2017, but she'll be out of nappies by then so the size 3 might last her more than one summer...


Pattern: £0 (I was sent it to make samples from, but it can be purchased here for $8. I have used this pattern seven times so far and am not finished by a long shot)
Fabric: spotty fabric 50p, tropical fabric £0
Label ribbon: £0 (I was given some sample lengths but you can find Textile Garden's woven ribbon selection here from £1.25 per metre)
Elastic, thread and bias binding: £0 (from the stash and I'm pretty sure I didn't pay for the elastic or thread originally anyway)
Total: spotty pair = 50p, Tropical pair = £0

Thanks so much everyone who chimed in with how I should cost my makes (that I was discussing at the bottom of this post). There were quite a few differing opinions so I can't adopt all suggested approaches, so I'm going with what makes the most sense to me whilst providing as much info as I can for others who are considering making something similar or buying the pattern etc. For patterns that I pay for, I'll divide the cost with the amount of initial makes, and then divide the cost further if I make more things from it if I blog about those as well (and of course note the full price paid). I'll share how many times I've used the pattern and if I think I'll use it again or not. I have decided to include the price of fabric and notions from my stash if I can remember or accurately estimate what I paid for them. Sound fair?

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Teach All The Classes!

(Tilly and the Button HQ's breathtakingly lovely workspace features a distractingly impressive view of the London skyline)

So I've finally created a 'Sewing Classes' page. Anyone who's interested can now easily see what sewing and dressmaking classes I'll be teaching in the near future, rather than having to head to the individual websites of the places I teach at to see what's up.

(It's arguably the perfect shift dress pattern, want to make one at The Village Haberdashery?)

I teach at four location: two in London (Tilly and the Buttons HQ and The Village Haberdashery) and two in East Sussex (MIY Workshop and Fabric Godmother). I've only listed the classes that aren't sold out at time of writing, and I'll try to update the page regularly to add newly scheduled classes and remove the ones that are either sold out of have been and gone. Each class listing on the page includes a link to where you can find more info, including how you can book up.

(everyone's bust creating awesomeness at MIY Workshop)

I love each of these establishments, they each have a very different feel. The Village Haberdashery and Fabric Godmother include the benefit of being able to gaze at (and buy from) two of the finest selections of fabric in the UK. Whilst Tilly and the Buttons HQ and MIY Workshop are genuinely two of the most creatively inspiring spaces I've had the pleasure to hang out in.

So if you happen to live in the south east of the UK and are looking to learn how to sew, or to improve your existing skills (or you want to see what I get up to whilst Pat and Dolores drink too much coffee and apple juice respectively and hang out at the park), then please check out my new 'Sewing Classes' page! And in case you are interested in booking a class taught by me, please know that I make excellent tea and coffee. Fact.

Monday, 25 January 2016

My Perfect Knit Skirts

Now, these are not the most exciting garments you'll probably see on a blog today, but in my opinion, they may be the best! These are stealth garments: not attention grabbers (well, maybe the spotty version is a bit), they're just quietly doing their job really well. They are the result of my penultimate nippy weather sewing plan. Please read on...


The pattern I used for both of these is the third (and possibly final) incarnation of the easy knit pencil skirt from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual book (pictured above). If you recall, a navy Ponte de Roma skirt was my first attempt, and I made some tweaks to the height of the waist, hem length and side seam shaping as I went. My second version (the faux denim skirt) was improved further still. And for these two I made one more adjustment by lowering the waistline even more so that the waist elastic sits below my belly button rather than on it. 

I stitched the side seams using my overlocker (having basted them together first to check the fit, every knit fabric behaves differently), then finished the top and bottom edges with my overlocker also. Next, I used the lightning flash stitch on my regular machine to hem them and make the elastic casings. 

Fabrics and notions:

The black skirt, although nothing to write home about, is actually super soft and feels quite luxurious. It's made from a small piece of black Ponte de Roma that's been in my stash for years. I think it was probably a sample piece that I got whilst working for TRAIDremade, however this jersey Roma from Fabric Godmother looks pretty much the same, and Girl Charlee has some really fun printed Ponte de Roma's here that would also work well. 

The spotty Ponte de Roma was something I actually bought with my own money specifically for this purpose. I first saw it at the Fabric Godmother's open day last August when I went to help out. Josie was very generous in offering me some fabric for my troubles, but I picked the light weight denim and faux stretch denim instead. I kept thinking about the spotty stuff though, and when I went to visit her before Christmas, I bought about 70cm which was the perfect amount for this skirt. 

I utterly adore this fabric! It's not a solid black, you can see some of the white showing through the black which gives it a lovely textural look. It's bobbled a bit after a few wears and washes, but it's still my favourite skirt to date. 

Finally, I added a couple of cute labels so that I could easily identify the fronts from the backs. I'd already started doing this for Dolores's clothes, and it makes sense to do it for my own as well when it would be useful. These woven ribbons come from my blog sponsor Textile Garden which have a superb and adorable selection. I stole this idea from Marilla Walker who swears that she in turn stole it from someone else! If you haven't started doing this yet, feel free to steal it from all of us! 


I now own four of the best and most useful basic skirts in the history of (my) skirts. I love the simple, close-fitting silhouette, but the elasticity of the fabrics and the elastic waistbands mean they are also as comfy as can be. My levels of comfort when wearing these skirts are now entirely governed by the tights I wear with them, as I can bearly feel the skirts themselves at all! I don't think I'll need to make any more for a number of years, however that could all change if I came across some leopard print Ponte de Roma! Oh, and I'd also like to try this pattern with an unwanted men's wool jumper (a bit like this). So maybe I'm not done with this pattern at all. 


Pattern: £0 (I received the book for free in exchange for an honest review, however it can currently be purchased here for £17.94)
Fabrics: black = £0, Spotty Ponte de Roma = £10.49
Ribbon for labels: £0 (I was given them by Textile Garden, however you can find their selection here with prices starting at just £1.25 per metre, which would make A LOT of labels!)
Elastic and thread: £0 (from my stash)
Total: £0 for the black skirt, £10.49 for the spotty one.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Scrap-busting Sailboat Skirts

Spending a lengthly spell at Christmas staying with relatives meant that I couldn't WAIT to get stuck into some sewing projects when we got back home. I finally articulated my plans earlier this week, but I'd been aware since we returned that the scraps-and-small pieces tubs needed dealing with. So I went to work...


I'm setting you the following challenge: type 'Oliver and S Sailboat' into a Google image search. If you have a small person to sew for, I dare you to try and NOT immediately buy the pattern! Unless you already own it, you may find it almost impossible. 

One of the things I love about this pattern is that the garments genuinely seem to look awesome on girls as well as boys. Just as great looking sewing patterns for men are relatively thin on the ground, it seems that there are slimmer pickings for boys as well. When I looked into the independent children's sewing pattern companies last year, I did find some fantastic boys patterns, but the quantity of options was significantly less, which makes this pattern a total win, IMO.

I bought the Sailboat pattern in PDF form in the smaller size range, which runs from 6-12 months to 3T. I used the straight up size 2T for my first version (the pink one) and it although Dolores's waist is slightly smaller than the pattern sizing was designed for, it fits her perfectly right now. I made the denim version in the size 3T to keep for later this year. For that version, I lengthened it by a couple of cms and made a back waist facing piece rather than folding over the denim to encase the elastic, as I felt the denim would be too thick and potentially uncomfortable. 

As with all my experiences of Oliver + S patterns, this was a total joy to sew. Their patterns are usually fairly involved (for a child's garment pattern), with well drafted details and clever constructions steps. I finished the pink skirt and almost immediately dived back into the scraps-and-small pieces tub to see what else I could find for another go-round. 

Fabric and notions:

Although I'm not a fan of dressing Dolores in pink, I can't deny the fact that she is already responding to that colour more powerfully than I would like. However, this pink needle cord is a raspberry shade that I can handle better than most others. It was a small piece, no more than 40cm in length, that was left over from some sampling work I did over a year ago. It is beautifully soft and a real pleasure to sew. The buttons were from my stash, which I originally bought from Britex in San Francisco back in 2006-ish. I've seen these buttons crop up elsewhere on sewing blogs, and the reason that I hadn't used them until now is that I only bought four. Perfect for this project, and Dolores adores them. 

The denim is thicker and much crisper than the cord, although it has some stretch content so hopefully it'll still be fine to wear. It was the final scrap from the piece that also became the Sweet shorts Fail and super cute fawn pinafore dress. Consider this denim busted! The front facing and back waist facing fabric was a tiny whisper of a piece that I got from the scraps bin whilst teaching a sewing class at the Village Haberdashery. 

No voyage into a nautical sewing pattern would be complete without some anchors somewhere or other! These gorgeous plastic buttons were in my stash and I believe were a gift from a sewing friend. HUGE apologies but my memory is too foggy to remember from whom exactly. Please know that they are loved and I am so grateful!!!


These projects made me soooo happy, both in regards to the construction and the outcome. And as you can see from these pictures, Dolores was equally happy dancing about in her new pink skirt. Whenever we put her in a dress or skirt, she instantly and automatically starts circling the room!

Although they are more expensive than many children's sewing patterns, particularly PDF's, I feel that Oliver + S patterns are totally worth it. I intend to make both the top and trousers parts as well to justify the purchase further.


Pattern: $13.95 (approx. £9.80) available here
Fabric: £0
Buttons and notions: £0 (if they've been in the stash for longer than I can remember the original price, then that's £0 in my book)
Total: Either £9.80 or £4.90 per skirt. 

Which leads me to my current conundrum that I would like your opinion on please. I'm not sure how my project total costs should work. If a pattern costs me £10 but I use it twice, does that make each garment cost £10 because that is what it would cost if I only made one? OR does each garment end up costing £5? If you think the latter, what happens if I go on to use the pattern a third and fourth time? Do those garments then cost £3.33 and £2.50 respectively? Or do all four then become £2.50 each? I'm obviously not going to go back to previous blog posts and adjust the total cost, that would be insane. I'm over thinking this aren't I? Even if I am, I still need to come up with a strategy I can stick to. Please help!

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