Saturday, 27 August 2016

New Dolores Maternity Dress Pattern WIP: Plus, A Shout Out For Testers

Let me introduce you to my new favourite dress! The shape may well look familiar because it's based on my Dolores batwing pattern, subtly reworked for a third-trimester pregnant figure, and I couldn't be happier with (or currently more reliant on) the result.

A new pattern is born

If you read my previous post, you will have seen that adapted versions of the regular Dolores batwing pattern featured heavily in my four-to-seven month maternity wardrobe. However, towards the end of that period I found that those dresses stopped being suitable: the mid-section was starting to stretch out of shape and the side seams ended up curved to accommodate my growing belly, and the hem was no longer even. So around the time I finished drafting my Cordelia maternity camisole pattern, I began work on a specific maternity dress version of the Dolores pattern which took all those issues into account, as well as a couple of other bits I wanted to change. After extensive fitting to multiple third-trimester bodies with both long-sleeved and short-sleeved options, I'm hoping I've nailed it.

Tropical knit

So lemme tell you about this Hawaiian/tropical fabric. Back in May, the 12-year-old, but admittedly new-to-me, online craft shop Sew Essential got in touch offering me some fabric to test and blog about. You know me, never one to turn down free fabric, so I asked for a couple of metres of this vibrant John Kaldor slinky knit and they kindly obliged. Sadly, the pink colour way seems to be currently out of stock, but they have it here in blue, as well as some other lovely prints.

My initial intension for this fabric was to make maternity leggings after receiving confirmation that it has a four-way stretch. But when it arrived I discovered it was was too lightweight and slinky for that purpose. Then, when the development of this new Dolores maternity dress pattern called for some slinky, drape-y knit, a massive AHA! occurred, and a beautiful marriage of pattern and fabric was born.

Pattern details and testers please!

Like it's predecessor, the Dolores maternity dress pattern has two sleeve options, long and short, making it a versatile pattern for different climates and occasions. It looks epic in a fun, crazy print, and also elegant and work-appropriate in a more subtle fabric choice.

This is a super quick project, because who's got the energy when your very pregnant?! After you've assembled the PDF pattern and cut out the pieces, construction should take approx. 2 hours, if you already have a bit of sewing experience. It requires just 2m of light-to-medium weight knit fabric, ideally with a drape-y/slinky quality. The sizing and corresponding body measurements are below (please note: these measurements relate to a pregnant, third trimester body):



So, as the title of this post suggests, I'm on the hunt for willing pattern testers. If you, or somebody you know, are currently in your/their third trimester of pregnancy (27 weeks +), you would like to try this pattern and are able to give me your feedback by 18th September, then please send me an email to sozoblog (at) g mail (dot) com. Testers will receive a zip file including a PDF pattern file (that will require printing out and taping together), a PDF instructions file (that you can read from a screen if you prefer to save on printer ink) and a list of questions to help formulate your feedback. If this appeals to you, please get in touch, I'm aiming to send out the files on 1st September. Thanks so much in advance! 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

My Maternity Wardrobe: Four to Seven Months

During both my pregnancies I've written a few blog posts about my maternity sewing plans, and then during my first pregnancy I wrote a couple of posts about what I actually wore (see the six month one here and the eight month one here). A few lovely readers have commented in recent months that they found these posts really useful for getting their heads round preparing for their own pregnancy wardrobes, and one reader asked me to do an update on what I have been wearing this time round. So here you go: a summary of the (predominantly handmade) items I wore between being four and seven months pregnant during my second pregnancy.

Four months onwards is really the time that I found that only the most smocky, stretchy or over-sized garments in your regular wardrobe still fit. This is the point that you're probably going to need some specific maternity garments, whether they be mass-manufactured or homemade. 

Obviously, one woman's maternity wardrobe requirements may vary wildly from another's. But for me, as a self-employed person-slash-SAHM living in a temperate climate during late spring and summer, these are the items I wore during the four-to-seven month maternity period (plus some jackets and cardigans).

Dresses/tunics (pictured at the top of this post):

The black and nautical short-sleeved jersey dresses were both made during my first pregnancy and based on what was to become my Dolores batwing pattern. They have been leant out to several women over the last few years before coming back to me for my second pregnancy. If I recall correctly, they were made by grading out from a size 12 to a size 14/16 at the side seams from just below the bust. I've worn both on their own as dresses, but also layered on top of my leggings when the weather demanded it.

The stripy faux-Boden tunic was almost always worn with leggings underneath, and I'll probably take all three of these dresses/tunics in at the side seams one day so that they will have new incarnations as post-natal garments. 

I'm not really into wearing full skirts, but I have seen other women wear Vogue 8728 (Jennifer Lauren Handmade highly recommends this one for maternity wear) and the Colette Patterns Moneta dresses during this stage of pregnancy too. 


Knit/jersey is always going to feel better, particularly when you're expanding! And that is reflected by how many tops I own for this stage of pregnancy that are made from woven fabric (i.e. one) compared to knit.

The denim Tova top looked great with all the maternity jeans and trousers I borrowed, plus when it was chilly I wore the long-sleeved stripy T-shirt underneath as well.

The long-sleeved stripy T-shirt and bird print T-shirt were made from a self-drafted pattern, but I'm sure the Grainline Lark T-shirt pattern would make a great basis if you're looking to make something similar.

It'll probably come as no surprised that the jazzy print short-sleeved tunic and the Peter Pan collar top are both based on my Dolores batwing pattern, and made by blending out the size at the side seams (as specified on the dress section above).


As I've mentioned before, I tend to prefer garments that sit under my bump rather than over so I developed my own maternity leggings pattern that I hope to release in PDF form one day. I did also wear a rather ratty second hand black pair that a friend leant to me that sat fairly low under my bump, but I stopped wearing those entirely once I'd made these two pairs.


I had vague plans to refashion some existing jeans into maternity jeans by cutting away the front section and adding a panel of jersey, but I ultimately decided that life is too short. Instead I put a shout out on Facebook in case any of my friends and acquaintances had some maternity trousers or jeans I could borrow. About five lovely ladies stepped up, and I received a total of 15 pairs to use during this pregnancy! I have worn several of the others, but the four pictured above have been the ones I that saw the most action in the four to seven month period. If I had been shopping for maternity bottoms myself, I wouldn't have gravitated towards any of these, either because of their style or colour. But I've really enjoyed wearing each of them, as well as being pushed slightly out of my stylistic comfort zone. 

Rather than making (yes, there are specific maternity trousers sewing patterns out there!) or refashioning maternity trousers or jeans, I really recommend trying to borrow some or, failing that, buying them secondhand (eBay is a great source for secondhand maternity wear).

Other garments:

My navy and mustard Cabernet cardigans have been amazing through out my pregnancy, I'm so glad that I made them. My Woodland stroll cape provided a cosy layer when it was chilly, and my slightly over-sized Sailboat raincoat kept me dry at times too. At night I wore large dude-T-shirts and my usual jammie bottoms. 


I'm lucky that my work and childcare responsibilities during this part of my pregnancy meant that I could dress pretty casually. I learnt a lot of lessons from my first pregnancy, like sticking to one predominant colour, in my case blue, so that mix-and-matching is easier, and that no one will notice if you wear the same handful of items in different combinations all the time. And I was able to reuse a number of the items that I made for that first pregnancy too. All the clothes I made during this pregnancy that I wore up until seven months in are either suitable for non-maternity times (like the Tova top and Cabernet cardigans), or can be easily altered to fit a non-pregnant form (all my Dolores dresses and tops and the faux-Boden tunic).

If you're preparing your own pregnancy wardrobe, I wish you a smooth ride and all the best.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Kid's Clothes Week Summer 2016: Celebration

My last blog post was basically a pile of kid's clothes that I've made, and this one is basically the same. Last week was the summer 2016 edition of the Kid's Clothes Week challenge/sewalong. As I'm sure you know by now, the only criteria for taking part is to sew clothing for children for at least an hour a day for a week. Each instalment has a theme, that you can adopt or ignore as you please. This summer's theme was 'Celebration', and I decided to translate it as a celebration of the little girl that my baby is turning into. So that meant embracing her defiantly girly, dressy clothing preferences! 

I failed to do any sewing on Monday or Friday, so I made sure I caught up by doing more than an hour on other days and extended it to include Monday this week. I managed to complete three woven garments, a skirt, a tunic top and a dress. I actually cut out the tunic top months ago, and it was great to be able to use KCW to fit in the actual construction, since I had clearly been stalling for various reasons. 

I intend to write individual posts for each of these garments in due course. However, I must admit at this point that the dress is the only one that Dolores hasn't refused to even try on! So modelled photos may be thin on the ground. 

Any tips on getting head strong toddlers and children to put on clothes when they don't want to?!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Refashion Friday: The Refashioners 2016 Result!

Ohmygoodness have you even seen the refashions coming out of this year's Refashioners blogger challenge hosted on at Portia's Makery blog?! TOO MUCH AWESOMENESS!!!!! I genuinely didn't expect the level of innovation AND wearability from every single instalment so far. If this doesn't get sewers running for their nearest charity shop/thrift store/op shop, then literally nothing will. Well, until they see my contribution perhaps!! I jest. I'm really pleased with the three projects I created from the three (ok, it ended up being four) pairs of unwanted jeans pictured below.

The garments I made are useful, well-made items that I know will see lots of use. However, I'm just not in the headspace these days to respond to this brief as creatively as the other bloggers seem to have so far. But no matter, if I have been able to inspire some people to look to existing textiles rather than always opting for metres of new fabric to indulge their passion and clothe their kids, then I couldn't be happier.

So what did I make? In short I made a pair of stretch denim jeggings for Dolores, two denim bucket hats (one for Dolores, one for the mini-dude I'm growing), and a pair of appliquéd dungarees (also for He-who-has-yet-to-be-born). As I mentioned in my previous post, I was interested in using this year's Refashioners challenge brief to explore the different types of denim that are used to make mass-produced jeans, and to figure out suitable projects to best utilise the variety of properties. More details of the why's and how's of what transpired can be found on my post over at the Makery blog, but basically there was a lot of this type of thing going on:

What's been your favourite of the blogger jeans refashions so far? For me, from what we've seen so far, it's a toss up between Rosie's graduated shades of denim dress, Joost's epic denim shoes and Megan Nielsen's panelled dress. Don't forget that there's a hefty prize for the winner of the community challenge, so why not have a bash at a jeans refashion yourself?

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Comfort and Joy

Not that anyone's keeping tabs, but I've got one final posts-worth of makes from my Spring/preggers sewing plans to share with you. It's all about the comfy bottoms! Warning: not particularly glamourous images contained below. And look away now if big ol' preggers bellies freak you out! 

In the end, I decided not to try a maternity jeans refashion, NOR did I refashion the thrifted leopard leggings, NOR did I make a maternity knit skirt. Instead I borrowed a stack of mass-produced maternity jeans and trousers from several friends, decided to keep the leopard leggings (my only non-maternity pair of leggings) as the are, and accept that I'm just not particularly a skirt person, especially during a time when sitting crossed-legged is increasingly difficult!

So I made some leggings, some navy blue (pictured at the very top of this post), some red (pictured above and below, although I doubt you've missed them!). In the aforementioned Spring sewing plans post I was talking about a couple of pairs of traced/self-drafted leggings/treggings things that I made during my first pregnancy that I then wore to death during and after. As I admitted in that post, I was never entirely happy with the fit of those two original pairs, so I planned to buy another sewing pattern and adapt it in the hope that I would land on the perfect fit. Then I realised what a lame-arse I was being. Those two pairs were so damn close to what I was hoping for, why bottle out and assume someone else's pattern drafting would be closer to the mark?  

So I unearthed the pattern pieces and set to work. The original pattern was formed from separate front and back leg pieces, and I decided to rework them into a single-leg pattern piece with no outside leg seam. I then made further tweaks that I hoped would improve the fit, and made a version up in some navy blue four-way stretch double knit that I bought in Ditto fabrics in Brighton. The result was excellent (in fact I'm wearing them now) but still not perfect. I prefer maternity bottoms that sit underneath my bump, and the navy blue pair still felt maybe 2cm too high round there. Plus, there seemed to be a tiny-but-unattractive excess of fabric at the front crotch area if I stood with my legs together. I made further tweaks, plus decided to make a 3/4 leg version of the pattern to wear to preggers yoga class, and stitched it up in some lovely red cotton/spandex blend jersey kindly sent to me for the purpose by Girl Charlee. BINGO!!!! Just what I was after: the perfect (for me) fitting maternity leggings. Most shop-bought maternity leggings that I've seen either cover the bump entirely, or come up pretty high onto it. Mine sit just wear I want them, but are high enough around the bum and hips that they feel totally secure and there is absolutely no risk of them working their way south! I'm so happy with it that I may develop and release this pattern in PDF form one day....

My final pair of comfies should have been one of the easiest and quickest makes ever. Except they weren't. No fault at all of the pattern itself, mind. For these I used the wide legged trouser pattern from Wendy Ward's 'Beginner's Guide to Dressmaking' book (pictured below). I teach at her workshop in Brighton where she has all her patterns on card for students to trace out and make during a class. I told Wendy of my intentions to make the trousers for maternity-and-beyond use and was moaning that I couldn't find any suitably drapey fabric, and she very generously offered me some soft and slinky grey knit that was lurking in her stash. So the next time I was at the studio, I traced and cut out the trousers, then proceeded to put all of it, scraps and cut pieces directly into the scraps bin whilst tidying up! I didn't realise what I had done until I was sitting on the train heading home. I sent a panic text message to Wendy and she later rescued the pieces for me! I felt more than a bit stupid.

(image source: MIY Collection/Wendy Ward)

The next stupid thing I did was choose some inappropriate fabric for the waistband. The waistband piece requires thicker, more sturdy knit than the legs (the latter can also be made in drapey woven fabric). I used some of the leftovers from my MIY Collection Brightside shrug, which although blending nicely colour-wise, didn't have anywhere near enough stretchiness to perform well as a waistband. I was bemoaning my mistake to Debbie, one of the regular students at Wendy's MIY Workshop, because she is a big fan of this pattern and has made it for herself and virtually every female she has ever met. Bless her, the next class she brought in the leftover waistband fabric from a pair she'd recently made for her hairdresser, so I cut out a new waistband and replaced the old one! Once again because of my preference for firmly-under-the-bump waistbands, I cut the waistband piece approximately 3/4 the depth of the original pattern piece so there wouldn't be so much fabric round my waist (the waistband is designed to fold in half). I'm not showing these trousers off particularly well in these images (plus they have been washed and folded up without being ironed!), but you'll have to trust me that they feel luxuriously slinky. Although a massive improvement on the first attempt, waistband has ended up still feeling a bit tight for a third-trimester belly, but I know that I'll wear the living hell out of these when this pregnancy is over. 

Massive thanks to Wendy, Debbie and Girl Charlee for helping me expand my comfy-trouser selection!!!!

What about you? What is the most comfortable (if not glamourous-looking) garment you've ever made?

Monday, 25 July 2016

Cordelia Maternity Camisole Pattern: On Sale Now!!!!

It's here! My latest PDF sewing pattern which has been designed to help women who are in one of the trickiest points in their lives to dress for: the third trimester of pregnancy! The Cordelia maternity camisole is a potentially invaluable addition to a maternity wardrobe. Suitable for wear in hot weather, as a layer in cooler weather, to sleep in or to wear to pregnancy yoga, this simple strappy top accommodates your bump with side gathers but feels super secure with a snug hem band. AND the pattern includes an optional bust support panel!

As a pregnant lady currently in the third trimester, I know first-hand how useful these camisoles are! During the heat wave the UK is having at the moment, a Cordelia camisole is pretty much the only thing I can stand to wear. In fact, I'm wearing one as I type this.

This sewing pattern comes in a digital format. When you buy the Cordelia maternity camisole pattern, you will receive both print-at-home and copy shop versions of the pattern, the print-at-home version consisting of just 14 pages, as well as detailed instructions on all aspects of how to use this pattern and make the garment.

The Cordelia maternity camisole pattern is suitable for almost all levels of sewing experience. It is recommended that you have a couple of garment projects under your belt already, however the clear instructions include lots of tips for using both knit fabric and fold over elastic (which is used for the straps and binding the top edges) if those elements are new to you. A handy single-page version of the instructions has also been included for those with a lot of sewing experience, or as a reminder for when you make your second and third etc. versions. For further information, including how to purchase it, please head to the Cordelia Maternity Camisole page!

Enormous thanks to Claire for all her help making this pattern into a product, both Cordelia and Sian for fit-modelling, and Cordelia for final product modelling also, a host of amazing pattern testers, and to Girl Charlee for sending me fabric to make samples from. I used their white stitched arrow on blue jersey (pictured above) and red and blue triangle stag jersey (pictured below).

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Tame Your Fabric Stash!

(image source: Cora)

For anyone who is interested in taming their fabric stash, help has arrived! I've been a bit out of the loop recently due to moving house and Dolores deciding she no longer needs to nap, so I have no idea how widely reported the new fabric stash app, Cora, has been amongst the sewing community to date. So I'm going to pretend that you haven't heard about it yet. Its developer, Hélène Martin, contacted a number of sewers including myself earlier this year about her new fabric stash app project. She was asking if we had any ideas about what we'd like from such a thing, and also if we'd like to trial her beta version. Well, trialling, feedback and a couple of rounds of updating have now taken place, and now it is on sale for use on iPhones, iPods and iPads for $6.99.

I'll be honest, if I hadn't been offered the opportunity to play about with it for free, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Although I love the idea of getting my stash into some semblance of order so I can get some serious stash busting done, I'm not the most technically minded and pretty time-poor these days, so I might have assumed that it wasn't worth investing the time to working it out. If that scenario had played out then it totally would have been my loss. First up, Cora is SUPER easy to use, barely any investment in time was required to get it up and running even though I'm in no way an avid app collector or user. And secondly, I have genuinely found it to be awesome in a number of ways.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, I should explain a bit more about what Cora actually is. This app allows you to catalogue your lengths of fabric by taking a photo and inputting information about them like width, length, if it's pre-washed, fibre content, main colour and lots more. All the info you add, as well as being potentially useful references, can also be used as filters to help you search through it all. You can add a lot of info (including super detailed stuff like where you bought it and on what date) or barely anything if the visual is the most important thing for you, and I really like that you can add 'Notes' on each piece which I have been using to add a reminder to myself about what I intended to use each piece for. Aside from knowing how much I have of the damn thing, remembering what I had planned for it is my biggest stumbling block when trying to use my stash.

(A tiny chunk of my fabric stash. Don't judge.)

I'm not going to lie, the initial inputting of your fabric is a bit time consuming. But once it's in there you can update it easily, for example, if some of it gets used or you have a new idea for what to do with it. Whilst I was packing up my fabric stash for my recent move I added about one bin bag's-worth of fabric into the app, which took quite a while and only amounted to 24 pieces (see image above), about one tenth of my total stash of fabric, scraps and refashionable garments! However, I'm some happy to have those catalogued, and I regularly go into the app to look at them and mull over what they should become. Even with that small chunk catalogued (along with recently having to pack and unpack it all!), I feel much more in touch with what fabric I own.

I can imagine that many people might find the app useful when shopping for sewing patterns to see if they already have something suitable to make it in. Me? I'm finding that it's making me feel more accountable for the vast amount of fabric I own, even though I've only catalogued a small section of it so far. If I'm serious about busting my stash and deploying the lovely pieces I own to make useful garments for myself and my children, then I have to actually start using the damn stuff. And I really think that this tool will help me actually do that. Currently, the app doesn't have a function for telling you how much you've used up in a given period of time, but just knowing that I have 24 pieces of fabric catalogued is making me think that I need to use at least two pieces of stash fabric per month if I'm ever going to make the smallest dent.

As you may have noticed, I feel pretty strongly about everyone, myself firmly included, using existing materials where possible over buying new stuff every time in every aspect of life. I just don't think our planet can support the level of consumption of goods and materials that most Western people (once again, sadly, myself firmly included) are currently engaged in. And fibre growth then fabric production, processing, dying and transportation is a real damaging industry. Aside from being heaps of fun, I really hope that this app will help many of us who like to sew to increasingly turn to what we already own more often than we currently do.

What about you? Have you tried Cora? Do you have any other successful method for tracking your fabric stash? If so, are you diligent at updating it? How has tracking and/or cataloguing your fabric stash altered your relationship to it?
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