I know I’m not alone in the sewing community in making cloth masks, and I’ve been pretty small scale compared to many. This week though I decided that it would be a good idea to make a couple for myself and Matt, and also for my parents and sister.
I was rummaging through my cotton offcuts and fat quarters for another project, so it was fun to pull out a few scraps which were a bit small for other sewing. I tried to choose a print with each person in mind because I wanted them to be comfortable with my choices but also for them to lift their mood and make them smile. I went with prints on the outside and a solid colour inside to make it really easy to get it on the right way around. These prints are all fairly simple designs, but with uplifting colours!
The pattern I have used is from Patrick Grants Big Community Sew project. I wanted a shaped mask because quite a few members of my family are glasses wearers at least some of the time and my understanding is that the rectangular pleated masks don’t mix so well with glasses. This pattern was a pretty quick easy sew is you are comfortable with curved seams and small seam allowances.
These masks won’t last forever. I didn’t worry about finishing the internal seams so there might be a bit of fraying eventually, especially if they are washed regularly, but I’m still hopeful that this is a temporary situation and I’m pretty sure they will outlast their need. It is possible though that if we end up wearing them a lot then everyone might need a second so that they can be washed after each use.
My sister works in a research lab using lithium and needs to wear a mask to help keep the moisture content of the air low. She says she might continue to wear these masks once she is back at work too. They are much prettier than her standard masks.
I know that people in essential services that are wearing masks everyday have found the elastic behind their ears really uncomfortable. This mask has the elastic going behind the nape of the neck and over the back of the head instead. Hopefully it will be a suitable balance of comfort and practicality. We won’t be wearing masks all day, or needing to replace them regularly so I think that these will do the trick for now.
One of the things that I really enjoy about pattern testing is trying out different designers and getting a chance to see their instructions and how they interact with their customers. I recently did a little pattern test for a really new company- Wildflower Patterns.
I don’t have loads of time to sew at the moment, and pattern testing is usually done with a fairly tight deadline so I only volunteer to test patterns if I know that I’m going to have time to do it properly. This ‘Fat Baby Slims‘ pattern is a really quick sew, so I actually had time to sew a quick first test fit and a second ‘pretty’ pair with a few tweaks.
One of the tings that I am discovering is that I would definitely class myself as an intermediate dressmaker now, so I felt like I was actually able to give some useful and constructive commentary on the pattern based on my personal preferences and experience. This pattern is aimed at much less experienced sewists so I could see why the construction had been instructed the way that it had, but I tweaked the construction of the waistband so that it was easier to sew on an overlocker. My method also traps the elastic in the seam line instead of in a casing, so there is no chance of it twisting or bunching up. Amy the pattern creator was really gracious in letting me experiment with her pattern during the test, and I’m really pleased with how this pair have turned out. She even switched the method to mine in the final instructions.
I like that the trousers are roomy around the bottom so that there is plenty of space for a big cloth nappy, but still nice and slim at the ankle so that they aren’t always slipping off over Lottie’s feet. She is pretty much perfect for the recommended measurements for the smallest size so she is probably quite a useful reference as to how they should fit on a little baby.
This fabric is cut from some of the offcuts from one of my t-shirts, so perhaps at some point we will have to do some mummy and daughter matching! It always amazes me how little fabric is needed for baby clothes.
While I like these, I think my favourite trouser pattern for Lottie at the moment is still the Made By Jacks Mum Harems. They just seem a bit easier to get on and off having slightly longer elastic measurements, and being UK rather than Australian sizing I just find it a bit easier to get my head around. It is nice to have some variety though so I’m sure I will make other pairs of these too.
I’ve been thinking about sewing smarter rather than sewing more. Part of that has been to plan and cut in batches. The next phase is to plan stratecigally about what I sew, so I’ve decided to plan Toby clothing as a whole capsule for the next year or so. It’s a bit like the planning I did for Lottie before she was born, and the yellow bananas set, but on a bigger scale.
First, I wanted to think about the fabrics that I have ready to sew for Toby and how they might fit together. I came up with a bit of a colour scheme based on fabrics that I definitely wanted to use, and then looked for a colour palette that included them.
Now that I had a collection of colours, I went back to my fabric and pulled out any others that would fit in, including a few prints and lots of solids. I also looked out for some extras to fill in the gaps in a few fabric shops, because it seemed like a great excuse for a little fabric shopping!
This is what I came up with. The fabrics are mostly knits of a mixture of different weights from t-shirt jersey to sweatshirting. Most of the clothes that I make Toby are stretchy because he wants to be able to move freely, though I think I might also pull in a few cotton or linen type fabrics too. I’m hoping that this capsule will be sufficient for approximately a year, so I’m planning to make things with a bit of growing room and to suit a range of weather too. I’m hoping to be able to include a few quirky and unique touches like some of the animal inspired outfits I made in the past, but keep everything as interchangeable as possible.
Once the fabrics are finalised, it was time to think about patterns and quantities. I’m not sure yet if I will end up making everything or if I will supplement what I make with hand me downs, charity shop finds or even a few ready to wear pieces. The clothes will all get a lot more wear by keeping the number of items low, so they all need to be able to withstand lots of wearing and washing.
I decided that Toby probably needs:
5 short sleeved t-shirts
5 long sleeved t-shirts / lightweight jumpers
2/3 warmer jumpers / hoodies
5 pairs of trousers- 3 warmer, 2 lighter
2/3 pairs of shorts
This should be enough to avoid washing every few days, but few enough that they should all be able to coordinate and also get worn regularly. To make it as simple as possible to get him dressed I’m going to keep the prints to the top half, so they can be layered up but should match with any of the shorts or trousers.
I already have a great selection of patterns to choose from, so I don’t think I’m going to look for any new ones particularly, unless I come across a real gap. Some of the ones that I’m already planning for are a zip hoodie, some joggers, ringer tees, and a yet to be blogged grow with me pattern. I’ve also bought a few other patterns recently so I’m looking forward to incorporating those too.
I’m really excited now about the prospect of creating a structured and cohesive set of clothing. Now I need to start pairing fabric to patterns and get started. A few of the items are already underway or completed so they will be appearing here shortly. I’ve also been planning something similar for Lottie (and got sucked down a fabric rabbit hole) so I’m quite excited about that too!
I did have something different scheduled to post this week, but it has been such an odd week that it seemed more appropriate to address the world news and also the everyday stories of how they are affecting our lives at the moment. Thus far, our household is well apart from the usual colds and sniffles that beset all families with small children. We are very grateful that so far we are healthy, but we fully expect that at some point in the future we wont be. While that seems scary, we are trying to keep it in perspective with the knowledge that even in the scariest or most unknown situation God is with us and will never abandon us.
In the meantime, we are washing our hands and starting to hunker down at home, trying to do our part for social distancing. We’ve been going on walks, feeding the ducks, colouring, building, playing and generally trying to keep Toby’s life as normal as possible while protecting ourselves and others. Matt is now working from home, so sadly my sewing space has returned to being his office most of the time and sewing opportunities are going to be more limited. Even more so now that Toby is no longer going to nursery, so his nap time or evenings are now the only opportunities to potter along with a few projects.
So what am I going to do without sewing? I think first of all I’m going to be a lot more tired having Toby home full time on my own so I might not really feel like doing much. However, I am going to try to keep opportunities going because I really value sewing as good mental health downtime where I can focus on each step as it comes. I’m going to be planning projects for when I have a bit of time or energy, tracing patterns (possibly on the floor while Matt uses the desk), continuing to digitally organise my fabric and patterns and generally dreaming about sewing. I’ve been doing a little knitting too. I have a few projects finished or nearly so which I will continue to share over the next few months, and I will keep enjoying wearing and seeing my family wear the things that I have made for them.
While the physical world for a lot of us is going to be getting smaller for a while as we stay home more, there is no reason for our contact with the outside world to stop. I’ve been so happy to hear from people who are coming up with innovative ways to use technology to keep’meetings’ going. This morning I’m taking part in a live streamed church service, and I’m planning to join in with some exercise classes via Facebook too! I can see that for some, being physically isolated might mean anxiety, loneliness and the very real concern that fewer opportunities for exercise and interact with others might result in depression. I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression at various stages, and I am also trying not to succumb to my fears and concerns that this isolation could be very damaging for my own, and others mental health. It might be a small thing, but if it helps even one person I think its worth it, so I’m going to keep blogging wherever I can (and that person might just be me!). Keep in touch if you want. It’s always nice to know that there is someone out there reading, and stay safe, wherever you might be in the world.
Planning for a new year requires both a bit of ambition and a reality check! While I would love to commit to sewing everything that inspires me I need to be realistic about the fact that having two small children around is going to change my sewing routines once again! On the other hand, sewing is my relaxation and ‘me’ time, so I certainly don’t want to give it up altogether, or make my plans so unambitious that I don’t feel inspired. Its a difficult balance! Last year I think I sewed and blogged the fewest garments so far, but I am also really proud of what I have achieved. The vast majority of what I made was a real success so I’m hoping to take what I learned last year and let it inform my planning.
I have a few definite plans, and some other thoughts in the works, but want to leave some scope for flexibility too. I know I want to have a variety of projects for me and the children, and of different levels of complexity and ‘newness’. I think a make 9 has been a pretty useful tool over the past couple of years, with my usual proviso that I might make some changes or include a couple of wildcard options!
I have purchased a couple of new patterns recently with the intention of adding them to my 2020 plans. One is the Closet Case Carolyn PJ’s and another is the Sarah Kirsten Raspberry Rucksack. The PJ’s are definitely going to be fed into the planning- I would like to make a short sleeved, short leg version as a test run, and then a full length pair with all the piping and cuff trimmings!
The raspberry rucksack is a bit more of a trial run, and I don’t yet know if it will end up being quite what I am looking for. I like the idea of creating my own bag which suits my needs. Currently I carry a rucksack almost everywhere full of drawstring bags of nappies in two sizes, wipes, spare clothes, and snacks! It would be great if I could lose some of the bags, and have the right pockets permanently in my rucksack.
I also won some Sew Over It Patterns ages ago in the summer, and finally made my pattern choices to include the Georgie dress, and the Maple Cardigan which might be cute for both Toby and Lottie. I’ve actually already made a Georgie as my Christmas morning dress and hopefully I will get some photos soon, but I would like to make another in a lovely heathered grey ponte. I love that I didn’t need to make any adjustments to the pattern to make it work for breastfeeding, or to flatter my bit of a tummy! The Maple cardigan also has some fabric already lined up- I have some mustard coloured French terry to make one for Lottie.
I actually have about 4m of the mustard French Terry- I liked it so much when I received 2m, that I had to go and order 2 more! I’m planning on some footed pants for Lottie to co-ordinate with her cardigan, a Raglan hooded sweatshirt for Toby, and probably also an Oslo cardigan for me! They are all patterns that I have made before, so I’m anticipating these being pretty simple projects to tackle when there isn’t much time available. We will just have to make sure what we’re not wearing them all at the same time!
Toby’s bunny coat was such a success I’m planning a fox coat from the same book of patterns for next winter. I’ve already started looking out for some rusty orange coloured coating or corduroy, though I think this will be a project for later in the year once our routines have settled down a bit. Hopefully Lottie will get to wear the bunny coat next winter too!
I think that is probably enough actual commitments for one year so far so I’m leaving the last slot as a wildcard entry for something that excites me. There are quite a few options- I still want to finish my Taylor Trench, I have some fabric for a pair of Ginger Jeans that got put on hold once I found out I was pregnant, or perhaps something completely different will come along. I do want to keep trying to use fabric from my stash as much as possible though this year. I have been a bit less restrained in the last couple of months and have done quite a bit of fabric shopping, though in my defence most of it has been solid colour cotton lycra from Girl Charlee which I consider a bit like having flour and sugar in the kitchen- its a cupboard staple!
I’ve decided this year to extend my hits and misses thoughts to a couple of new categories as a bit of a countdown from 5 to my proudest make of the year. I’m including some of the things I’ve learned this year, and the skills I have learned. Before I jump straight into the sewing though I thought I would introduce a different kind of special ‘make’ – meet baby Lottie!
She is a grand total of 4 weeks old, and is just lovely. We are all doing really well, and getting used to being a family of 4. She looks great in this wee lap tee and hat I made her, but we should probably get back to the sewing! So without further ado…
I still haven’t worn this Ascent Fleece very many times but already I can tell that the sizing is great, resulting in a fleece which is comfortably roomy without being oversized. The feeding zips work really well, so I’m sure it will keep getting worn as the weather gets colder.
I would include both the lion and penguin dungarees in this category, even though the lion ones aren’t in use yet. Toby looks really sweet in the penguin pair, and I love that they are totally unique with their self drawn applique pocket designs. These are definitely ones to keep for Lottie to wear when she is bigger and I’m thinking about ways that I can customise some other garments for them too!
My Oslo cardigan was one of my first makes this year, and consequently is probably one of the most worn. I think it gets worn at least twice a week because it is great for layering up and is really comfortable too.
I am wearing this long sleeved Amber top in constant rotation at the moment. I’m loving being able to layer it up under dresses and shirts. Sometimes the tried and tested patterns like the Amber are the best, and while basics in solid colours aren’t the most exciting to sew they do get worn!
Not sewing, but I am really pleased with the cardigan that I knitted for Lottie. She has worn it a couple of times, though it is a little bit big at the moment. Hopefully that means it will fit all winter! More than anything, I’m just proud that I got it finished because my patience for knitting is definitely limited!
Toby’s Honeydew Hoodie hasn’t been worn as much as I would like. He seems to have loads of jumpers at the moment so there is too much competition when I open that drawer, and one of the snaps isn’t set very well and doesn’t do up properly. It does seem like a shame though, because I really like it in these photos!
The proportions on this Raspberry Romper just seem a bit off. I’ve been meaning to modify it to make it less voluminous on the bottom but didn’t find time over the summer. I think I might take the romper part off and add a simple gathered skirt instead for Lottie.
This Givre Top just struggled to make it into regular rotation, partly because it was totally the wrong size during my pregnancy and isn’t very feeding friendly. I think I may see if it fits better into a friend’s wardrobe because I can’t see it becoming a staple for me and it seems wasteful for it to just sit there waiting.
Not exactly a ‘miss’, but two years after buying the pattern and fabric this coat is still not finished. I think I’ve just struggled to commit time to a big project, and it might be even more difficult now that my sewing time is even more limited. The draw of the quick progress keeps bumping this down the ‘to do’ list, but I do need to prioritise finishing it next year!
3 learning experiences or “what would I do differently next time?”
Be really careful when setting snaps- as already discussed above! Also, reinforcing knits in the areas where the snaps will end up seems like a good idea in future. I’m always a little worried that the fabric will stretch and the snaps will fall out. They don’t feel as sturdy as I would like.
Small seam allowances in high stress areas might need reinforcing. Toby’s bunny coat is beautiful, but the heavy ears have been pulling on the hood seam and need a bit or TLC. Next time I make one of these coats I’m going to make extra sure that the ears are secure and I think I would sew them in twice- once at the actual seam allowance, and once inside it. These ones I’m going to have to open up the hood slightly to repair which might be quite fiddly!
Measure more accurately. Fortunately I was able to adapt this overlocker cover by hemming it much shorter, but it would probably have been better to make the adjustment before cutting out. The covers are both a bit floppy too, so if I did it again I think I might interface them with some fusible fleece to give it a bit more body.
2 new skills
My applique skills have improved no end this year. I’ve used them on the bunny coat to attach the fur to the hood and ears, and for the animal pockets of the lion and penguin dungarees. With some experimenting I’ve worked out some settings that seem to work well. I think my next challenge should be to do some applique on jersey, perhaps a t-shirt or jumper for Toby.
Being willing to adapt the instructions to achieve a better finish. It didn’t work perfectly on the Eugene Henley, but it was definitely an improvement on the methods suggested in the instructions. I am pleased with the finish on the Oslo cardigan though. I’m going to remember in future that the instructions for a pattern are just guidelines or suggestions. It’s ok to read ahead and adapt them to suit my needs.
1 proudest moment
Whenever Toby wears his bunny coat and I get asked about it! Authough it is the most complex completed project from this year I found it very satisfying watching it come together and I love the end result. Being so small it was fairly easy to just do one or two steps at a time and each seam is pretty short and speedy. I’m definitely still thinking about making Toby another animal coat for next year.
Once again this year I chose to set myself a ‘make 9’ to help focus my sewing to patterns that have been waiting around or wardrobe gaps which need filling. I found it really helpful in 2018 to have a combination of focus, and freedom and I think it has been successful again this year. Once again, I needed to change and review the plans part way through the year to accommodate the baby bump so these are my thoughts on the year as a whole.
My make 9 ended up looking like this after my mid year review, so how did I fare with completing it?
So all but one of my plans was completed, and I think several of them have been huge successes in either my wardrobe or the skills that I have been developing. I’ll go into more detail about some of the successes and failures when I do my top 5 hits and misses for the year, but I do have some initial thoughts on each of the projects.
This got off to a great start with the Rebecca Page sew along early this year, but stalled somewhat once I got behind and hasn’t got going again. I love some of the trench coat details and am proud of the accuracy involved in finishing them well so far. I really do need to get this coat finished because I really want to be able to wear it in the spring! I have got to the point where the main body of the coat is complete and the lining is almost there, so the two just need combining and finishing off.
This hasn’t had as many opportunities for being worn as I would like. I’m not sure if it was actually worn again after taking these blog photos because I was already starting to get a little bumpy. I’m hoping though that it will be in more regular circulation next year, especially as I find button-ups a practical clothing choice while breastfeeding.
I haven’t done a huge amount of sewing for Matt this year so this Henley is one of the few pieces that have been for him. It definitely wasn’t prefect in the construction, and the pattern instructions were a bit problematic too, but the finished item is happily worn in rotation with all his other t-shirts. Its nice that it is something a bit more interesting than the basic metro tees I have made in the past.
This has go to be one of my most reached for items, especially during the end of my pregnancy. It fits over a couple of layers, but is still slim enough to wear under a coat. It worked with a huge belly, and is still getting worn as a practical option for breastfeeding too. I’m so glad that I finally got around to sewing it up! I’m actually contemplating another with some mustard French Terry that I bought recently too.
I haven’t been wearing these leggings so much in recent months because I have been firmly in the maternity leggings, but they did get lots of wear in the spring and I am confident that once they fit comfortably again they will continue to be a wardrobe staple.
I have only just started to wear this, but I’m already feeling confident that it will be in regular use over the winter. I hate having to take layers off when it is chilly, so in combination with an Amber tee it is a really practical way of feeding without getting cold! I like it as a fleece too, so I’m sure that even once feeding is done it will get lots of wear, and I’m tempted to make other fleeces or jumpers from the pattern without the extra feeding zips.
This has to be one of my favorite makes this year because it is just so cute! Toby has been wearing it quite a bit now the weather has cooled down, and though the sleeves are still too long it does mean it should fit him comfortably all winter. I also love it for the complexity and precision of the sewing. It was really satisfying to sit down at a more complex project and just tackle the next step. I’m definitely inspired to make him something similar for next winter, and have been dreaming up lots of variations with different animals too!
It feels like this has been in Toby’s wardrobe for ages, but it still fits comfortably. Admittedly, it’s not the first jumper to get pulled out of the drawer so I’m not sure that I will make another, but it is pretty practical and I really like the reversible nature of it. It was fun choosing two fabrics that co-ordinate, and Toby gets to match with either my Oslo Cardigan or Matt’s Eugene Henley depending on which way round he wears it!
This dress feels nice to wear now but it did end up a bit long originally! It turns out that my previous Amber dress also needed shortening, so I need to note that with the pattern for future reference. I’ve been wearing it more now that I’ve shortened it, and I know that the style is something that will be really practical for the duration of breastfeeding so it will definitely get worn lots in the spring. It feels lighter and more spring appropriate than the previous Amber Dress that I made, but I have been wearing it with a long sleeve underneath recently too.
I haven’t quite decided how I am going to structure my sewing plans for the new year yet, but there are definitely a few ideas floating around. Some of the projects that I have enjoyed the most this year have been the ones which have stretched my skills a bit, so I’m hoping to add a few of those again mixed in with some much needed basics, unused patterns and possibly a few easy wins for when I need a bit of a mental break. Its going to take a bit of getting used to having two small children around who need me too, so I’m not sure yet how that is going to affect sewing time opportunities either!
This coat is coming together so much more quickly than I anticipated! I am just loving seeing it come together, and that it great motivation for fitting in just one more little seam. Initially I wasn’t sure what the experience of sewing with the fur would be like, especially with the constraint that it can’t really be pressed so many of the seams need topstitching flat, but so far it hasn’t been a problem at all.
Speaking of the fur, it is so satisfying teasing the trapped sections of fur out of the seams once they have been sewn. On the seams where there is fur sewn to fur you can hardly see the seam once it’s done because it gets covered over by the pile.
I did a few test swatches of the settings that I planned to use for the applique sections and ended up choosing a much shorter stitch length than the book recommends. I just preferred the way that the dense stitching completely covered the cut edge of the applique piece.
I also found some suitably coloured and themed quilting cotton to line the pockets. The patch pockets would be so bulky if they were lined in fur like the rest of the coat, so it was definitely a good choice. I like these leaves because they remind me of autumn which seems appropriate in a coat.
The hood is also partially constructed now, including these amazing bunny ears! They are pretty heavy, and I was impressed that my sewing machine coped with 7 layers of corduroy and 2 of fur plus seam allowances without complaint! I did switch to a slightly chunkier needle for that section though. The inside of the hood is just so soft and snuggly!
The only problem that I have run into so far with sewing this up was entirely of my own making. When trying to topstitch one of the seams while keeping the fur out of the way I managed to stitch through my finger! ouch! fortunately it was only the skin at the very tip and it seems to be healing nicely but I’ve been a lot more cautious and careful since then!
I still have the lining to construct, and I’m hoping that it won’t stall me in the same way that lining my Taylor Trench seems to have! I really need to get back on to finishing that coat project too at some point soon! In the meantime, I’m really enjoying the process of creating something which will hopefully be a treasured hand me down for children in my family for many years to come!
I thought I would write about something a little different this week. I have had the privilege of having a close look at a handmade garment which has been passed down several generations babies in my husband’s family. I believe it was originally made for my father in law by his mother- it’s his christening gown.
As far as I can tell, the whole of the gown has been sewn by hand. It must have been a real labour of love, because the stitches involved are tiny and beautiful!
There are actually two parts to the gown, an outer of white broderie anglaise, and a pale blue lining. I guess the blue lining must have been a little prone to fraying because all the raw edges have been enclosed. The side seams are felled seams and there is a double turned hem.
The neckline and armhole edges have been enclosed in a narrow self fabric binding, which it is hard to tell, but I think is cut on the bias.
There are little metal snaps sewn into the shoulders for ease of getting it on over a babies head too.
On the outer dress, the side seams have been left raw, but most of the other seams have been enclosed in a white cotton bias binding. The two back bodice pieces have been carefully cut to use the selvedge edge to help stabilise the opening in the neckline.
The seams attaching the bodice to the gathered skirt have been carefully topstitched, I think to help the gathers and seam allowance to sit flat.
At the back there is a pair of tiny thread loops to close the back neckline. They are just so neat and dainty!
Having a close look at such a special garment has been a lot of fun. I can see the hours of careful sewing that must have gone into creating it and it is a real family heirloom as a result. It makes me consider my own sewing, and while I am improving my finishing and hand sewing all the time, I don’t think I have ever sewn something with quite the same level of care and attention as there is in this little gown. Definitely something to think about for the future. Which of my makes would I want to become family heirlooms to be handed down through the generations.
It’s almost the start of May, and I’ve decided to think through my pledge with you. I’ve taken part a few times in the past, and found it really helpful for clarifying my future plans.
I already wear handmade clothing most days, except the three days which I wear a uniform to work. For the challenge to be useful I think I need so do something a little new. In terms of sustainability and making good use of all of my wardrobe, I would like to think about the combinations in which I wear both my handmade and ready to wear clothes. I want to see where the gaps are- which things I wear all the time and are wearing out, which are great, but don’t fit as well as I would like and need adjusting, which just don’t suit my style now and never make it into regular rotation.
So my pledge for this year: To wear a unique combination of my current wardrobe each day, except where I am required to wear my uniform. I’m also going to keep track of where the gaps are, and what I might need to do to fill them, whether it is looking out for something in the charity shop, or sewing it up later in the year. If there are things that don’t get worn at all, I want to think about why, and consider modifying, remaking, or clearing out those things that don’t work for me any more.
I’m not going to worry about photographing or documenting each day, but I might share any new combinations that I discover and really love! Good luck to any of you that are also taking part, and if you want to know more about the challenge, I recommend that you visit Zoe’s blog here.