Thursday, 19 January 2017

Breastfeeding Agnes Tops

A few years ago I wrote this tutorial/pattern hack for making a breastfeeding/nursing-friendly knit top. I based that tutorial on the Tilly and the Buttons Coco pattern, but in hindsight what the tutorial was really waiting for was Tilly's Agnes jersey top pattern, which was released after I wrote it. The closeness of the fit of the Agnes is much better suited for the type of 'access' the tutorial creates, and shortly after the birth of my second child in October 2016, I set about to prove it. 

I prepared my Agnes top pattern pieces as per the tutorial: making two front pieces instead of one with an overlap. This time I had to make the overlapped section lower than my breastfeeding Coco top, because the effects of breastfeeding and three more years of gravity sadly made it necessary! 

For my first version I used some of this cheetah print jersey, which was kindly sent to me by Girl Charlee. I love the neon green in it, which has pushed me slightly out of my stylistic comfort zone. The fabric itself is the perfect weight for an Agnes: fairly light-weight with excellent stretch and recovery. I also love that the print is performing a cheetah skin's original task of camouflaging, and you can barely see the edge of the overlap at all. 

I've been wearing the cheetah print top almost constantly from the day it left the sewing machine, so another version was clearly on the cards. Not wanting to splash out on fabric for a top that I'll probably only wear for a year or so, I hunted through my stash for a suitably sized piece of knit. This super soft striped interlock is lovely to touch and feels great to wear, but not as ideal as the cheetah print in other ways. 

Firstly, the overlap on the front is much more obvious, which might make it look a little weird to some, especially those who haven't figure out that it's there for boob-access. Secondly, I should have made the neckband shorter than the pattern piece because it doesn't lie flat. There's no elastane/lycra/spandex content to this interlock to help it spring into shape. It doesn't help that I tend to shove my hand down the neckline of these tops to unclip my nursing bra (TMI? Don't care).  


Although both these tops have been worn way more regularly than any of my other tops over the last few months, it's probably no surprise that the cheetah print one sees much more action. Not only does the superior stretch and recovery work better for this adapted Agnes, but the print is more fun to look at. I was considering making more of these with the shorter sleeve options for when warmer weather blesses us, but by then the longevity of my need for breastfeeding/nursing tops will be even further reduced. I'm also sorely tempted to make a breastfeeding Bronte top, but having already made a squillion Bronte's, I think I'd rather try some new-to-me patterns like Jennifer Lauren's Gable knit top pattern. With so little sewing time currently at my disposal, I'd rather spend it making myself garments that will potentially have years of use in them. Ya dig?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Bird Print Summer Dress on a Winter's Day

Happy New Year one and all!!! Ah, I love the beginning of a new year for an opportunity to get my head straight with what my hopes are for the near future. And in terms of sewing and blogging, this year my aims are simple: to just to do some! The not-so-mini-dude is now three months old and lots of fun. His three-year-old big sister is awesome and energy-filled, and requires A LOT of attention during her waking hours, so mumming duties are plentiful and opportunities to do either sewing or blogging are currently very limited. But the boost to my mental health that they give me makes them all the more important, so I certainly will aim to get a some done when I can, even if it's just 10 minutes here or there. 

I'm not going to make any promises as to the amount or frequency of my sewing projects or blog posts, as that would probably become one more thing to feel pressured by and frustrated about. I also endeavour to focus on sewing from my stash of fabric and upcycle-able garments, because I'm feeling more than ever that it is important to use existing materials where possible rather than buying new. Plus, we could use some more space in our little home! I wish you all the best with whatever sewing or non-sewing related resolutions and aims you may have made for 2017. 

I want to start this blogging year by tying up a couple of loose ends and posting about some garments I made in 2016. And whilst the UK is currently in post-Christmas winter dullness, why not start with a sunny summer project that I made back in August as part of the last KCW challenge that I participated in? 


To be honest, I often find the Big Four's children's pattern to be fairly uninspiring. The fabric choices and styling on the envelopes often look so cutesy and twee, particularly compared to Ottobre magazines and independent pattern companies like Oliver + S, that I find it hard to get excited about using them. However, I could see some real potential in the pattern pictured above.

This McCall's M6059 was generously sent to me a couple of years ago by Adey from The Sew Convert, along with lots of other patterns. I've had a whirl at the cute cuffed, puffy shorts (unblogged) from this pattern and they came out really big. So even though at the time of making this dress Dolores was about to turn three, I used the size 2 dress pattern, but combined it with the size 4 length to get a couple of year's wear from it. It was generally an easy make, with a bit of fiddly concealed zip insertion and some hand stitching round the yoke. 


The bird print fabric was a small piece of secondhand, silky, synthetic twill with a tiny bit of stretch that I got whilst working at TRAID about four years ago. The print features blue tits as well as paler versions of the same blue tits, which kind of make the fabric look semi-translucent, which it isn't. All told, this is rather odd but fabulous fabric that I'm guessing was originally intended for lingerie or nightwear. If I'd had enough of it, it would have made for a lovely Tilly and the Buttons Fifi set.

The outer yoke is made from leftover washed denim from my Tova top, and the yoke lining is leftover cotton lawn from my Mimi blouse. The whole thing was looking a bit plain so I added these gorgeous little shell bird buttons which were kindly given to me by Maggie from Textile Garden (you can find a black version of them here).  


I, personally, was really happy with this creation; it is pretty without being super-sickly/girly, plus it busted a treasured piece of stash fabric that I previously couldn't work out what to do with. However, it took a couple of weeks for Dolores to accept it. I want her to be free to dress as she wishes (which is almost always in a dress), but she needs help with choosing weather and activity appropriate outfits, so each morning I offer up a few suitable options for her to pick from. It took quite a few rounds of outfit choosing before this dress beat its competitors for the honor of being worn that day. I'm glad to say that, as long as it remains in Dolores's good books, it should hopefully have at least another two summer's worth of wears left. And now that I've got three bodies to sew for, longevity is key in the garments I make. 


Pattern: £0 (a gift)
Fabric: approx. £1 for the bird print fabric (we had a karma tin that we contributed to when we took a piece of fabric for our personal use), the rest were scraps whose cost was factored into other projects 
Buttons: £0 (a gift)
Total: £1

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Dolores Maternity Dress Pattern: On Sale Now!!!!

Woo hoo!!! Here's my latest PDF sewing pattern: the Dolores maternity dress pattern! As I mentioned in this post, I decided to create a re-working of my popular Dolores batwing pattern specifically for the third trimester of pregnancy. Like the non-maternity Dolores, this pattern is a casual batwing style with two sleeve options, and is easy and quick to make. Unlike the non-maternity Dolores, this pattern can help you get dressed during the part of pregnancy when pretty much every else in your wardrobe no longer fits! I had three versions of this dress during the third trimester of my recent pregnancy and wore them on rotation.

This sewing pattern comes in a digital format. When you buy the Dolores maternity dress pattern, you will receive both print-at-home and copy shop versions of the pattern, as well as detailed instructions on all aspects of how to use this pattern and make the garment. It includes tips for sewing with knit fabrics if that is new to you, PLUS a condensed-single-page version of the instructions for confident sewists, or once you have already made one Dolores maternity dress. 

Visit this page for more information on the Dolores maternity dress pattern, including how to purchase it! Enormous thanks to Claire for her help creating this pattern, for Cordelia for fit and photo modelling, and my fantastic and generous pattern testers.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Oliver + S Hopscotch Skirt Pattern Hack Tutorial

Here's a super-easy pattern hack tutorial that was previously published over at The Village Haberdashery's Daily Stitch blog back in September. Thanks to them for allowing me to repost it over here. It features the second of my creations for the summer instalment of Kid's Clothes Week, donchaknow

If your interested in sewing clothing for little girls and haven’t come across the Oliver + S Hopscotch pattern, then allow me to introduce you! The skirt, in particular, is a wonderful, timeless garment that has perfect proportions and great details. However, it only really works in solid fabrics or prints with a small-scale design. The skirt’s button placket and clever pleated pockets would most likely chew up a larger design of print. But wait! I have the answer: an incredibly simple pattern hack that turns the Hopscotch skirt pattern into the ideal canvas for fabric with a bold print. We’re going to ignore the pockets and omit the button stand.

In fact, I may be cheeky even alluding to this as a pattern hack. Because we’re not actually going to alter the pattern pieces at all: we’re just going to use them slightly differently and alter the construction method a tad. Aside from being able to now use this pattern for a wider range of fabric designs, it also pretty much halves the construction time. Which may appeal to you, whether you’re creating wardrobe staples for your little girl, or whipping up a cute gift for someone else’s!

You will need: 
Trace the pattern pieces in the size that you require to preserve the other sizes for future projects. For this hacked version of the pattern, you will only need the front skirt piece, back skirt piece and front waistband piece.

When positioning the pieces on your fabric, ignore the ‘cut 2’ direction on the front skirt piece and front waistband piece. Instead, position these two pieces on a fold (like the back skirt piece) as pictured above. You’ll need to trust me on this: the dimensions of these pattern pieces mean that, even though you are using them on the fold and omitting the button stand, the measurements of the finished skirt will remain the same as if you made the regular version of this skirt pattern.

Once you have cut out the pieces, snip a tiny notch at the centre fold on the bottom edge of the front waistband piece, and another tiny notch at the centre front fold at the top edge of the front skirt piece. These notches will be matched up during construction.

The main difference in the construction of this hacked version is that you will now be making one front skirt panel (see above), rather than two. Gather the top edge of the front skirt piece and apply it to the front waistband piece, and continue the construction as per the rest of the instructions.

Congratulations! You have made the ideal gathered skirt, AND saved yourself some precious sewing time. Now, stop being so selfless and get back to making something for you!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Other People's Anya Shoulder Bags

(vibrant Anya shoulder bag by Instagram user abi_norman)

Nearly a year ago I released the Anya shoulder bag PDF sewing pattern. Since then, some seriously lovely versions have been popping up on the interwebs that I've been dying to share with you. I find it very exciting to see how different the pattern looks when made up in a variety of fabrics, and what kind of looks can be achieved through fabric selection. Possibly one of my favourite fabric choices for an Anya shoulder bag was the Melody Miller amazingness pictured above, created by one of my favourite sewers in the whole world, Abi Norman (abi_norman on Instagram). 

(denim Anya shoulder bag by Handmade Jane)

Kind of on the other end of the spectrum is this gorgeous dark denim version made by the very lovely Handmade Jane. She has omitted the optional button tab for a super sleek look. I'm struggling to think of an outfit that this bag wouldn't work with! 

(Vicki Rowe's lovely and practical denim-and-owl-print Anya)

Vicki Rowe also made a lovely dark denim Anya bag (with awesome owl print lining!). The bag pattern has pleats in the bag body which secretly make it pretty voluminous. I'd like to thank Vicki for sending me the picture above of all the things she can fit inside hers!

(Joke's ditsy floral Anya with additional ribbon detail)

Joke from Brugge made the super cute ditsy floral corduroy Anya pictured above. Note how her simple but clever addition of satin ribbon on the yoke really draws the eye! 

(mixed fabric Anya with bronze piping by Prolific Project Starter)

Speaking of customisation, check this one out. For the Prolific Project Starter's third Anya, she not only used an clever mix of fabrics, but she also deployed some lovely bronze piping. I'm bowled over by how neatly she has applied it, such an incredible make this one. 

(blue and white printed fabric Anya by knitwitsowls

This delightful Anya has been made by Frankie (AKA knitwitsowls on Instagram), and has something of a Japanese kind of vibe to it (or is that just me?). A clever use of an interesting print that makes me want to rethink what I may have lurking in my stash....  

(IKEA fabric Anya bag made by Alex's Adventures in Fabric)

And finally, Alex gives a reminder of how good the Anya shoulder bag pattern looks in a bold, retro-y print. This IKEA furnishing/curtaining fabric is the perfect weight to give structure to this shape. 

Thanks everyone who has bought the pattern, made and shared their Anya shoulder bags! If you'd like to see more versions of this pattern, check out this Pinterest board

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

He's here!!!!! Introducing....

Frankie!!! Two weeks ago, at over 41 weeks pregnant, I got induced with oxytocin and I pushed out this little darling! Except, at 9lbs 11oz he wasn't that little, and I failed to receive the epidural I'd requested so was just working with gas and air, but that's another story...

As you can imagine, it's been a crazy couple of weeks of adapting to being a family of four rather than a family of three. As well as juggling sleep deprivation, sore boobs, recovering from the birth and Dolores's 'challenging' response to the upheaval. But in all areas we are improving and I'm so thrilled to be the mum of this adorable little boy. 

Needless to say, there'll be a hellofalot more pictures of this little guy in the months and years going forward, but here are a few of his early photographic debuts by way of an introduction. I love you little guy!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Hearts and Stripes Sally Dress

Two months after the fact, I'm finally getting a chance to share the details of my summer Kid's Clothes Week creations that I made back in August. I guess it makes sense to wait to post about these projects because I can now accurately report on how popular (or not) each of the three garments have been with Ms Thang. 


Thanks to my existing stash of kid's sewing patterns and my seven issues of Ottobre Design magazine, I'm not short of options for things to make. However, I thought I'd start the challenge by splashing out, supporting an independent pattern designer and trying something new. 

The Sally dress pattern by Very Shannon came onto my radar via Pinterest (which is how most things do, let's be honest). At first glance it looks like a fairly standard bodice-and-gathered-skirt dress style, however it's got some interesting details that made me feel like it would be fun to try. Unlike my favourite kid's dress pattern, Made by Rae's Geranium dress, the Sally dress pattern has sleeves which makes this garment suitable for parts of the year that aren't roasting hot. The wider, square neckline looked really pretty and the massive pockets a great opportunity for using contrasting fabric. And potentially the best bit? No fastenings! Which makes this not only easier to sew, but easier to wrestle onto a wriggling toddler.   

The Sally dress is graded from sizes 2 to 8. I chose to make the size 3, expecting it to be a little big. However, probably thanks to Dolores's recently reignited interest in food, the fit is pretty spot on. The construction method suggested was different to other bodice-and-skirt dress patterns I've tried. In the interest of experimentation I followed the suggested method, deviating only to avoid hand stitching the lining round the armholes (I finished both outer and lining armhole seam allowances as one with my overlocker) and using the Geranium dress method of attaching the bodice and bodice lining to the skirt because I think it results in a cleaner finish than how the Sally dress instructions would have ended up. 


The best thing about this make, for me, was that it finally made use of some fabric that has been in my stash for almost ten years! I remember buying a couple of metres of this striped cotton in Bath on a weekend break with an ex boyfriend. It's got little hearts woven into the red stripes, and the red is pale enough for me to reclassify it as 'pink' for Dolores's sake. 


Sometimes I forget how long children's woven garments, especially lined ones like this, can take to make. They usually involve just as many processes as an adult's garment, and sometimes their smallness makes them more fiddly and time-consuming. Thankfully, it only took a few days of offering this dress as one of two outfit options for the day before Dolores chose it to wear. Personally, I really love it. It's got a classic, slightly old fashioned vibe, but the massive pockets keep it interesting and more contemporary. I definitely see more of these being made in the future.


Pattern: $9.95 (approx. £7.62) available here
Fabric: I have no idea as I bought it so long ago, but I'll estimate that it was £5 per metre because I've never been a big spender on fabric, and I used about 1m for this project
Lining: from my stash, and I didn't pay for it in the first place
Total: £12.62 (although that cost will be reduced when I use this pattern again)

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