Spoonflower Denim Hop {Thurlow Shorts}

The nice folk over at Spoonflower have once again asked me to work with some of their fabric, this time it’s their Dogwood Denim and coincides with a promo that they are running – 10% off 1+ yards of their Celosia Velvet, Dogwood Denim, Linen Cotton Canvas, Lightweight Cotton Twill and Cypress Cotton Canvas from February 7-February 10. There is no promo code required.

The fabric was sent to me free of charge but as always, my thoughts are my own.

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When Spoonflower first emailed me to ask if I would take part, they did suggest that I use the denim for a home decor project, rather than clothing as it is quite a heavy fabric. But since home decor isn’t really my thing, I decided I’d throw caution into the wind and make something to wear out of it anyway.

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The obvious choice would be jeans, of course. But since we’re currently averaging 32 degree (about 90F) days, I thought shorts would be a better choice. And because I’ve recently made Sewaholics Thurlows and wear them a lot, I knew another pair would be a welcome wardrobe addition.

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Right, fabric base sorted. Pattern sorted. So time to browse the huge range of prints Spoonflower has on offer. Now you know I’m a crazy print lady through and through, but I thought making something slightly more neutral would make the shorts more wearable. So what better than this mudcloth inspired print by my friend Michelle Aitchison. In a delightful dusty pink, no less. SOLD. I was pretty impressed when it arrived – the colour was nice and saturated and it washed and dried very well, without any fading.

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I did make a few changes to the pattern and the construction to make sure I wasn’t sewing through too many layers of denim (FYI it’s 395gsm or 11.7oz per square yard and doesn’t have any stretch at all, it’s more like a traditional, rigid denim). Firstly, used a heavy duty size 100 denim needle and sharp scissors. I used a lighter weight quilting cotton for linings and facings wherever I could and I finished raw edges with my overlocker before sewing pieces together, so I could press them open to avoid added bulkiness at the seams.

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It all worked really well, the only sign of a struggle was stitching those belt loops down along the top of the waistband. I’d already anchored them at the bottom by basting them on before adding the waistband, instead of sewing them on after the waistband is finished, as per the instructions. I think the finish is nicer and it’s another way to avoid added bulk.

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I treated these like a bit of a jeans hybrid by adding extra top stitching, a jeans button and a metal zip. The later two were op shop finds from a long time ago. See? It does pay off to grab stuff for ‘one day’.

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Oh yeah, she’s a fancy summer girl.

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Her welt pockets still need a bit of work, but the fit on these is pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.

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And on fit – for my first pair I made a straight size 12 and had to take them in a huge amount at the centre back seam. I quite like that method, by the way – you leave the CB seam open until the end, baste it and then try on. It means you’ve still got a bit of leeway for fit. For this version though, I graded down to an 8 at the waist and kept the 12 everywhere else. Mwah mwah! Tip top fit. Sewaholic patterns are geared towards those of us with a smaller waist and bigger hips and thighs. NOTHING fits me in the thighs straight out of the envelope, but these did. Happy jiggly thigh dance.

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Do love these, would 100% make again from the Dogwood Denim. I think as long as you make provisions for the heaviness of the fabric and use the right pattern, you’re golden.

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I managed to make a tote bag (using this pattern) out of the scraps too.

 

We Are Helping, We’re Helping Hands {MBJM Hot Coffee Top in Spoonflower Fleece}

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Recently, the lovely Allie from Spoonflower got in contact to ask if I’d like to take part in another blog hop featuring Australian makers – they kindly provided the fabric of my choice but my words and opinions are my own (as always). They’ve also provided 10% off their fabrics with the code katie10 (valid for a month).

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Since winter is on its way, I chose this awesome print by Amy Blackwell on Spoonflower’s fleece and used the MBJM Hot Coffee pattern. Even though I’ve blogged makes from this pattern before, this version was my very first jumper from it.

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Let me tell you a bit about winter where I live. It’s mild. Google tells me the average winter temperature is 22 degrees celsius (that’s 71.6 F). It’s a nice winter, some people even swim all year round because the water is still quite warm (Google also tells me the average is 21.4C/70.5F, so pretty much on par with the air temperature). So the southern states do smirk when we complain about the cold. Let me tell you something else though, our houses are built to keep the heat out. We have homes equipped for summer, but not really for winter. For that reason, it can be a balmy 22C outside and a chilly 15C inside the house. I have been known to go outside and lay on the lawn in the sun, trying to warm up like some kind of pale, blonde reptile.

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There is a point and I’m getting to it. On the days when I’m stuck inside, either at the sewing machine or computer or maybe even just on a Netflix binge, I like to wear an oversized, cosy hoodie to keep me warm. In the past, I’ve pinched my husband’s hoodies, but sometimes he needs them, so it’s nice to have my own.

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I was excited to get my cool handsy printed fleece and sew it up into a big snuggly hoodie. When the fleece arrived, I was a bit surprised. I’m not sure what I was expecting – maybe something like what we get here called polar fleece – but it was definitely different to that. It was quite dense, almost like a felt and it really had very minimal stretch. I figured I’d wash it, tumble dry it and then reassess. Turns out the washing and drying process fluffed it up quite a bit and it came out softer than it had gone in. It was still very different to what we call ‘fleece’ here, but it didn’t feel bad – just different.

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My measurements put me in an XL for this pattern, but I erred on the side of caution and made a 3XL to account for the minimal stretch (the pattern asks for 50% stretch) and because I wanted it to be quite big. I don’t usually like ribbing on the bottom of my jumpers, so I left that off and lengthened the pattern slightly to compensate. The kanga pouch sits on the bottom of the jumper between the main fabric and the ribbing, so I had to change my construction process slightly too, but it worked out fine.

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I wasn’t keen on the ribbing I had for the cuffs, so went a bit fancy and used stretch velvet instead. It’s not as stretchy as ribbing, so I did cut them a bit longer. I also needed to take about 2 inches off the sleeve length. The inside of the hood can be self lined or you can use a contrast. I used the wrong side of a grey printed fleece scrap I’ve had  in my stash for ages.

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Most of it was constructed on my overlocker and I used my new bestie, lightning bolt stitch for the hems and pocket. It is quite a quick sew (I think about an hour from cutting to finishing) and the fleece was really nice to use too – it didn’t slip or slide or stretch out of shape like polar fleece can.

Awesome prints in sweater knits are really hard to find (especially here), so it’s great to have the custom print option in fleece. I know this one will get a lot of wear, so I’m already planning another. Bring on winter.

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Slip, Slop, Slap…. Iced Vovo. {Megan Nielsen Rowan x Spoonflower}

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Recently, the legends at Spoonflower got in contact and asked if I’d like to take part in a little blog hop they’re organising to show how makers around the world are celebrating the holiday season. They suggested that perhaps I’d like to make an Australian themed swimsuit or similar from their sport lycra (which is the tits and I’ve used many times). WOULD I? Of course! This time of year is alllllll about the water based activities for us. While half the world is freezing their butts off and singing about letting it snow, we are sweating and eating mangoes in the pool.

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Now, if you are Australian you’ll totally get the references in the title. If you’re not, let me explain the Australian summer to you (at least in my neck of the woods, we’re a big country, it varies a lot), our sun will burn you in minutes. The whole ‘slip, slop, slap’ thing was a campaign launched by the Cancer Council in 1981 (the year I was born!) and refers to slipping on a shirt, slopping on some sunscreen and slapping on a hat. Apparently it’s one of the most successful health campaigns in Australian history. There you go. No wonder the jingle has been stuck in my head for 36 years.

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And iced vovos are a pretty iconic biscuit made by Arnott’s (which is no longer an Australian company, but lets ignore that). I have very fond childhood memories of iced vovos with tea.

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I was browsing through Australian designer’s stores on Spoonflower, looking for a print that would fit the brief, when I stumbled across Natalie’s amazing iced vovo design. YAS. This was it. I knew what it had to be – a rashie that I could easily create from Megan Nielsen’s (another Aussie, can you see how loyal I’m being here?) Rowan pattern.

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So while Rowan isn’t technically a rashie pattern, I have made swimmers from it quite successfully before. This time was even more simple – I used the t shirt version of the pattern, added a seam allowance to the front pieces for the zip and cut it in two pieces instead of cutting it on the fold. Easy.

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I sewed most of it up in about 15 minutes on my overlocker, finishing the centre front edges, hem and sleeves – which isn’t even necessary because the lycra won’t fray, it just looks nice.

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While you can sew the band on folded, I decided not to. I wanted to encase the scratchy edges of the top of the zip in the neck band – even though when I checked my RTW rashie I found out it wasn’t done this way.

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Just a warning, attaching the zip might make you cry a little bit. To make it less painful, you can add some fusible tape to the edge of the fabric, but if you find that’s not enough (like I did), heavier interfacing is better. Basting helps too but I found that it’s not enough on its own to stop the fabric stretching.

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After that I just pinned the rest of the neck band in place and zig zagged it above the neckline seam. I finished the hem and and sleeve hems with a zig zag too, you need lots of stretch for this baby.

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I managed to piece together my scraps to get a matching pair of bikini bottoms. I didn’t have enough fabric for my usual high waisted pair (pattern cloned from my favourite pair of RTW knickers), so they are lower than usual and I didn’t have enough for the top band either. Still, they aren’t bad and I do like making the most of my fabric scraps. Ooh and the bottoms are lined for obvious reasons. The rashie isn’t because I’ll always wear a bikini top under it for support. Or it will go over something else in a fantastic clash of prints.

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Spying on my neighbours.

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Submerged.

Yes there’s a dolphin in our pool, his name is Dave. He was there when we bought the house although we didn’t know it at the time because the whole thing was pond green.

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If you ever need a reminder that you are not a graceful mermaid, just get some photos of yourself underwater. YOU’RE WELCOME.

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If you made it this far through my incessant chatter, I have a reward for you – use the code katie17 to get 10% off your Spoonflower purchases until the 31st of December. Happy Dance!

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Reinventing Ready To Wear Again {Using Megan Nielsen’s Rowan As A Base}

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I know it seems like I’ve been sewing a lot of swimmers lately and that’s because I have. Ha. There is a real gap in the market for one piece swimsuits for women that aren’t keen on the whole backless, flimsy, high and cheeky cut or the full bottomed, ruched and paneled offerings. Like a huge gap. I’m 36 and struggle. My mum is 60 and struggles. Bikinis seem to offer a little more variety, but one pieces? Nup. Your choices decrease even further if you can’t deal with halternecks. I can’t and incidentally neither can my mum. Instant headaches for both of us. Plus there’s the whole ‘go into the shop and try on at least 10 pairs under ugly lights and try not to cry’. NO.

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So what’s a girl to do? Well, you know the answer to that. You sew your own. Minimal melt downs and swimmers that fit just how you want them to. For me, that means lower legs, thicker straps that run over the shoulder and nice bust support. But no ruching – no matter how ‘flattering’ everyone likes to tell me it is. Plus, this way you get to have nerdy Nintendo swimmers. And match your husband if you want to. Even though he might not be so keen.

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Fabric is Spoonflower’s sport lycra and it’s a ripper for swimmers, it’s a polyester lycra blend with 75% stretch across and 50% stretch up and down. It’s colourfast in saltwater and chlorine and therefore ideal for swimwear. I’ve lined mine with swim lining from The Remnant Warehouse.

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See this top? I bought it. GASP. I love this high neck style, the wide back band without a clasp and this is one of the first I’ve found with thicker straps that run over the back instead of around the neck. It’s a bit low for me around the armholes, which is a common problem for me with this style  (hello side boob) and I hate how those bra cups float free and move around. Incidentally, the one on the right looks like it’s turned sideways. Annoying. I bought it specifically to make a pattern from.

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So I clipped that sucker down flat with wonderclips and I cloned it – adding seam allowance and also raising those arm holes.

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I compared my new pattern pieces to the Megan Nielsen Rowan pieces and look at that, they matched up really well. The Rowan pieces are folded down because I’ve been too lazy to trace and cut new ones for my swimmers.

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I added swim cups for support again, these ones came out of an old pair of swimmers and really, they are too small for me. But they work well enough with the tension in the fabric when they’re on. I recently watched Beverly Johnson’s class on sewing swimsuits and used her starburst method for adding the cups, which basically entails zig zagging them onto the lining and then cutting into the lining over the cups which then makes the lining and fabric sit better over the bust. As long as those cups don’t move around, I’m happy.

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I decided that I’d attempt to finish the neck and armholes the same way as the RTW top – sew the lining and outer together right sides together so no raw edges show and then add elastic to that seam for support. At least, I assumed that was how I did it but I’ve made a mistake somewhere there because my lining wants to roll over at the edges a bit. I have to think about it a bit more for next time. It’s not such a big deal because it’s black and tends up blend in pretty well. It’s worth noting that RTW uses pretty specialised machines for their construction, so it’s not always something that’s easy to replicate on the home sewing machine.

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Other than that though, I’m pretty pleased. Once again I finished the legs with this method of binding and used this method for my straps. Learning both of these methods has been a game changer for me, I think it makes handmade swimmers look pretty damn professional.

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I’ve been swimming laps at my local pool almost every day recently, so a good solid one piece really is a wardrobe staple for me at the moment.