Brindille & Twig x Sprout Patterns

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I was intrigued when Spoonflower announced its new venture, Sprout Patterns, combining its print-on-demand fabric with patterns from indie companies. When Sprout launched with a limited range of designers and patterns I had a bit of a play around with the site but didn’t order anything. But when I learned a couple of months later they had added kids’ clothing designers Brindille & Twig to their range I was back like a shot. I’m a big fan of the company’s modern, funky designs and the fact much of their range is great for boys or girls.

Since Sprout is relatively new, I’ve seen little around the web about how it works (apart from one post on Brindille & Twig’s blog, which was super helpful when I had a crisis of confidence and couldn’t remember whether the pattern included seam allowances or not). I can see both pros and cons in its service, which definitely affected what I decided to order, but overall I think it’s an interesting idea and good luck to them.

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The main reason why I didn’t order anything when it first launched was because of the way the sizing is done. You have to choose a single size for the garment you’re ordering and the pattern pieces are printed on the fabric with about 1.5cm white space around them (as seen above) so you can see where to cut out. Inside the white space the pattern piece is defined by a solid black line, which is where you cut along, and the seam allowance is included in the printed part. While all this saves you a lot of time in tracing and cutting patterns (and printing and taping if you’ve gone the PDF route) — definitely an attractive prospect — it does mean that if you fit across two sizes, as many people do, you can’t really grade between them. I imagine it would also be much harder to make alterations — you definitely couldn’t do an FBA, for instance.

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However, since the initial launch, Sprout has added a bunch of patterns where sizing is less of an issue: children’s clothes, at this stage by Brindille & Twig and See Kate Sew, as well as several bags and a hat. I haven’t sewn much for Theo largely because it seems so time-consuming fussing around with patterns to make something he might wear a few times before growing out of. Obviously, the service Sprout offers does away with a whole lot of those concerns.

I ordered the baby harem romper in sizes 0-3 months (the cockatoos) and 3-6 months (the pandas) sometime around Black Friday/Cyber Monday when they were offering a discount plus free shipping (shipping to Australia being the killer for most overseas fabric orders).

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It’s possible to become paralysed by choice with the entire Spoonflower library of fabrics available to customise your patterns but I knew immediately I wanted to have Elvelyckan Design animals. The fabric search function on the Sprout website was a bit clunky to use. I’d suggest browsing via Spoonflower’s website first, noting down the keywords or name of the print or designer you want and using that to search on the Sprout site. They also now have fabric suggestions from the pattern designer and you can browse combinations ordered by other customers.

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After you’ve ordered, the instructions for the pattern and the entire PDF pattern (yay!) are loaded into your account on the Sprout website, where you can download them. This part wasn’t entirely clear to me and I spent a long time waiting for an email with the files to turn up. There is no email. It’s on the site.

You will definitely want to wash your fabric as soon as it turns up because it smells quite chemical, I’m guessing from the printing process. Ahem, I mean I always wash my fabric acquisitions immediately…

As far as sewing this pattern, it was very easy. I did the whole thing on the overlocker and it took about an hour from cutting to completion, including inserting the snaps. I really like how this romper looks and it’s nice and roomy around the bottom (important for fitting over bulky cloth nappies). I’m yet to sew the larger size but I think I will use ribbing for the cuffs instead of the supplied pieces. The organic cotton knit feels like good quality but it is quite thick and not hugely stretchy when doubled over.

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One final thing to note that may annoy some people is that you have no control over pattern matching. For a print like this I wasn’t concerned but you can see by the layout of the pattern pieces on the fabric that if I’d gone with plaid or stripes they wouldn’t have matched up at all because the top of the front and back pieces are lined up, not the side seams. Hopefully the Sprout team has thought about this for the adult garments (or will think about it in future).

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Lastly: while we were doing Baby’s First Blog Photo Shoot (modern milestones!) I also popped Theo in this lovely gown his grandmother sewed when she was in school. Maybe not the most practical of garments, but I particularly love the stitching on the ruched front (EDIT: I’m told it’s actually called smocking).

Planning day

In the interests of keeping my sewing brain from skit-skatting around and actually shopping the stash this year (never mind that many of these fabrics were bought in the past month…) I’ve been thinking ahead about what to make and what to make it in. Herewith my plans as they stand right now; perhaps making them public will keep me accountable. Or perhaps not. 

  

Already on the cutting table is a Grainline Alder shirtdress in this tencel chambray. I’m going to make view B and am contemplating whether to use the wrong side of the fabric as accents in the button band, collar and possibly pockets. Having held the pattern pieces up against me, I also think I’ll add a couple of inches in length. 


I couldn’t resist this fleece at Spotlight the other day and bought a couple of metres (and nearly-matching green ribbing) with the intention of making a zip-up hoodie. I could modify the Thread Theory one I’ve made a bunch of times but the shape of the Jamie Christina Sol is exactly what I’m after without any extra work.

  
I bought the True Bias Sutton blouse as part of a pattern bundle (I think) and have been intending to give it a go for ages. Hopefully this orange/blue/cream peach skin polyester fabric from Girl Charlee won’t prove as scary to sew as I’ve been fearing. 

  
I bought this metallic polka dot French terry from Miss Matatabi with the intention of turning it into a relaxed Grainline Morris blazer to wear with jeans. Then it got hot and those plans got put on ice. So here’s to getting it done by autumn!

   
  
 These two I want to turn into more nursing dresses using my hack of McCall’s 6886. The floral is an Art Gallery knit from Addicted to Fabric and the brown/mustard is a double knit from Girl Charlee that was a birthday present last year. I’m intending to show off bothsides of the latter with a further, colour blocking modification to the pattern. Still trying to decide whether the stripes or teeny dots should make up the majority of the dress. 

  
Of course, the Cashmerette Appleton wrap dress. Still need to actually order the pattern, but I bought this polka dot jersey from Addicted to Fabric with it in mind. 

  
I can’t remember what I thought I was going to do with metres and metres of this eucalyptus-ish jersey (it’s more green in real life than the grey of this photo) but now I’m going to use a tiny bit to make either a bralette or top from the EYMM everyday essentials pattern. 

  
Finally, there’s this remnant of stripey jersey from Addicted to Fabric. If the EYMM pattern turns out well, I’ll use this to make the top, otherwise there’s a Lekala nursing crossover top I’ve got my eye on.

I don’t think this counts as a “capsule wardrobe” since nothing really goes together and, um, there are no bottom-half coverings. There are one or two other ideas knocking round in my brain too, such as a couple of cardigans in some lovely merino jerseys, but fabric and pattern haven’t quite come together for those yet. Hopefully these plans aren’t bigger than my sewing appetite! 

Have you had success in planning out your sewing? Or do good intentions get flung out the window when you *need* another party dress?

Pattern exploration: sewing for feeding mothers

In thinking about sewing nursing clothes (well, dresses really) I’ve worked out there are three main ways of giving your baby access to food: pulling your clothing up, pulling the neckline down, or an opening down the front. So with this in mind, I’ve pulled together a list of patterns that I know of which will fit in with these or could be modified to do so.

First up: the nursing-specific patterns I’ve discovered.

  • Megan Nielsen has an extensive range of maternity and nursing patterns including the Amber and Alissa (version 3) tops, both of which I expect could be lengthened into a dress relatively easily. She’s also got the Pina dress and a nursing nightie, but neither of these are available for sale right now (darn!).
  • I stumbled over Peek-a-boo Patterns just this week – they sell a specific alteration pack to turn their camisole pattern into a nursing singlet top. They’ve also got quite a few maternity patterns.
  • EYMM has a nursing bra/tank top/dress set that looks like it could be made up as is or altered into a whole range of dresses.
  • I’m told there’s a good nursing top pattern in Anna Maria Horner’s Handmade Beginnings book.

Next, patterns that would give you quick pull-down access.

  • Cowl-neck  dresses. I’ve previously made the fabled V1250 DKNY for Vogue and two versions of Simplicity 2580 view D and both would work fine for feeding if sewn in something nice and stretchy. In fact, a new version of the V1250 is high up on my list of sewing plans, since my old one has had a fight with the washing machine and is a bit holey. Looking at the Simplicity drawings, view C would probably work too since it’s just the cowl neck with a tab to hold it in place at the bust.
  • I’m keen to try Cashmerette’s Appleton wrap dress, which Jenny assured me via Instagram would work fine for feeding. I’ve got a RTW wrap dress I’ve worn a few times recently that has worked well.
  • Lily on Instagram contacted the team at Colette about their new faux-wrap dress Wren, and was told they’d tested it for accessibility during the design process.
  • Speaking of wrap dresses, I also have the Papercut Midsummer Night’s Dream dress pattern, although I’ve yet to sew it. This is designed for a woven fabric but if you sewed it in a knit instead and stabilised the neckline you’d be able to yank it about. Otherwise, Kat has described how she made one up in cotton and modified it for feeding, with snaps on the straps.
  • I’m also planning on giving the Sewaholic Yaletown a try, possibly just the blouse version first to see how it works before I commit the four metres of fabric the dress requires.

Then clothes with fronts that open up (or which could with some modification).

  • The last thing I sewed while pregnant was the True Bias Southport dress, which definitely works well for feeding although I’m not completely convinced the silhouette is for me (I’ll get around to photographing it at some point). I made it with snaps instead of buttons with the thought that it would be easier to do up one-handed.
  • One of my first-made and favourite dresses is Jamie Christina’s Mission Maxi. I’m turning over in my brain at the moment how to give this a button/snaps placket down the front to the waist. It could also be a candidate for turning into a false-front dress (like the one I made earlier) or possibly its neckline would be ok to pull down with some elastic stabilising it.
  • I’ve also got the pattern for the Colette Aster shirt, mainly because I liked the flutter sleeves of version 3. Again, possibly this could be lengthened into a dress or have a pleated or gathered skirt added.
  • Sewaholic’s Davie dress would be pretty easy to make with an invisible zipper down the front centre seam, instead of having the keyhole opening. That said, I’m not sure how unzipping yourself would work in practice…
  • Similarly, I suspect the True Bias Sutton blouse could also have a zipper in the centre front seam, although it would depend a lot on fabric choice. I’d want to make this one up as per the pattern before giving that a try.

There are tons more button-down dress patterns out there; I’ve just highlighted the patterns I already own and am planning to try out.

What patterns have you found that work for breastfeeding? Did you have to modify them or did they work fine as is?

Pretty (hungry) in pink: sewing for feeding mothers

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This may come as a shock, dear reader, so brace yourself: I like wearing dresses. Like, I *really* like wearing dresses. However, dress-wearing is not especially compatible with nursing a baby. Oddly enough, my criteria for making or buying clothes hasn’t previously included “how accessible are my boobs?” as a consideration. My Kielo, for instance, is a great dress that gave me much enjoyment to wear in the last stages of my pregnancy. But if I were to try and feed in it, I’d have to get entirely undressed. Not ideal. Unfortunately I realised all this quite late in my pregnancy and didn’t have the time or energy to resolve the problem ahead of it occurring.

So I’ve been coping through wearing lots of separates plus a couple of special nursing dresses, and I discovered that two of the three maternity frocks I bought are also feeding friendly. Plus test-yanking the necklines of everything I own to see what else works. Clearly the answer to a long-term solution that doesn’t involve buying a whole new wardrobe lay in sewing.

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Thus my first post-baby foray into dress sewing. I examined one of the dresses I’d bought from Milk Nursingwear and figured it would be fairly easy to replicate. It’s a basic t-shirt dress with two front bodices – the outside one is the regular bodice cut off about halfway between bust and waist, and the inside one has cutaways that you can pull aside for feeding bub. The inside front bodice is all one piece, while the back has an elasticated waist seam.

The Milk Nursingwear dress, inside out
The Milk Nursingwear dress, inside out

I’d been tossing up how easy it would be to trace off this dress when I saw someone on instagram recommend McCall’s M6886 as a good stretchy dress pattern (thank you, grammer whose identity has slipped my mind). They were suggesting it to replicate a sequinned party frock, but on looking it up I realised it was perfect for what I wanted to do. And the local Lincraft even had it in stock!

I always have trouble with measurements in the Big Four patterns and the amount of ease they include, so this time I chose a size based partly on my measurements compared to the finished garment measurements on the packet, and partly on holding the RTW dress against the front bodice pattern piece and guessing. Of course, the knit fabric I had in the stash was slightly thicker and less stretchy than whatever the stripy dress was made from, so the first version I sewed in a straight size 16 was a bit tight. I added 2cm to the side seams of the front bodice and left the back untouched, which seems to have worked out ok in the second (pictured) attempt. The fit is still a touch tight in this fabric, but I’ve sewn a third version in a slightly more stable knit and that looks better.

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Instead of making separate pattern pieces for the outside and inside bodices I cut them both from this one but you may find it easier to have two.

So, modifications. I traced the inside bodice cut-out edge from the RTW dress and used a French curve to make it a sensible shape (the black line inside the armhole on the pattern piece above). For me, it starts about halfway along the shoulder seam (closer to the neck than the armhole by about 0.5cm) and ends 7cm (2.75″) below the armhole. The curve cuts around the bust about a third of the way over its dome.

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For the outside bodice, the length was a bit of trial and error. The first one was too short and wound up looking like the kind of underboob-flashing crop top Paris Hilton might wear. the second version (that’s this pink dress) is maybe a touch long, which just makes it a little more awkward to pull up. The third (unphotographed) is just right, Goldilocks-like. I ended up with it being 17cm (6.5″) below the armhole. The hem is simply a straight line at right angles to the grain/centre front.

I also lowered the neckline from the original pattern, but that had nothing to do with breastfeeding and everything to do with personal preference.

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For construction, the first thing is to overlock the cut-out edge of the inside bodice, attaching some clear elastic. There’s been some discussion about clear elastic over on my instagram because the one I used is very sticky and does tend to stretch out while sewing, thus creating un-needed gathers. For this reason I didn’t use it on the shoulder seams as well, although ideally you’d stabilise them too.

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Secondly, hem the bottom edge of the outside bodice. I found it worked best to stay-stitch 1cm (3/8″) from the edge, fold the hem up along this line and zig-zag stitch, then fold a second time and straight stitch it from the outside 0.5cm (1/4″) from the edge.

After that, it’s fairly straightforward dress construction as per the instructions, except with two front bodice pieces. Stitch the shoulder seams right sides together with the outer bodice piece sandwiched between the back and inside bodice. Line up the side seam notches on all three pieces and stitch the side seams. Attach the neckband. Hem the sleeves then attach them. Hem the bottom of the dress. Voila!

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I road-tested (meal-tested?) the dress shortly after taking these photos and it definitely works. It would be easy enough to draft something similar from any basic stretch dress pattern or a lengthened t-shirt pattern (maybe my beloved Kirsten kimono tee). What pattern would you recommend?

Sewngineering

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Every year in high school I competed in Tournament of Minds, a team problem-solving challenge. You might think that for someone who’s made a career of words, I’d have entered the English or social sciences section but in fact I joined the maths and engineering stream every time. You’re given a puzzle, a set list of materials and a strict budget and your team has to create a contraption that solves the puzzle while telling a story through a play about how it came to be. One year we had to build something largely out of cardboard and masking tape that you put a marble in the top of and it wouldn’t come out the bottom until a set amount of time (60 seconds, I think). All of which is a fairly long-winded way of saying I’ve long enjoyed the challenge of having an idea and trying to work out the engineering to make it happen.

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So naturally when I got inspired to make a baby play mat, it was never going to be the basic one pictured in the Made For Baby book a friend gave me a couple of years ago. For starters, I decided that one (at 64cm diameter) was going to be too small. The petal shape pattern had to be photocopied at 200 per cent anyway, so I did that than enlarged it another 130 per cent to get an overall centre size of 84cm diameter. Then I decided it really needed to have hoops over the top for hanging toys and things from. I had a look at a friend’s play mat and some in shops to see how they were attached and then pretty much made it up from there.

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Inside the hoops is soft, flexible clear plastic hose from the hardware shop. The hose is about 25mm diameter and the plastic itself is about 3mm thick. I picked it because it felt soft enough that it wouldn’t hurt too much if the whole thing came crashing down in case of some vigorous baby chin-ups or something (babies totally do chin-ups, right?). It’s encased in simple fabric tubes with 6cm tabs on each end that attached with velcro onto matching tabs sewn into the mat. I had hoped the tabs might end up between the petals so they were a bit more hidden, or on the underside, but the maths of one at each quarter circle and 14 petals (not divisible by four) obviously didn’t work out that way.

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The hoops were dangerously skewiff initially so my dad suggested attaching a brace to hold them together. This is just a square of fabric (well, two squares sewn together inside out then turned, so the edges are strong and neat) that I sewed to the middle of one of the fabric tubes and attached by press studs to the other, as you can see above. This way the hoops still separate from each other for easy storing but they seem to be much more sturdy when standing up.

Of course, any self-respecting play mat makes noises. All I could find at Spotlight were regular squeakers which are okay but they all make the same noise. Then I remembered there’s a build-a-bear shop nearby so I went and explained what I wanted and the woman said, “Oh, you mean Sounds!” They’ve got a whole range of animal noises plus various song snippets (I was seriously tempted by the Imperial March but thought it might drive us crazy pretty quickly) for about $5-6 each. The dog certainly thinks they’re interesting sounds… I also got a piece of florist’s cellophane to make the crinkle noise in one petal, in the hope it won’t dissolve in the wash.

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Speaking of washability, in the interests of making the sounds last as long as possible (I forgot to ask if they’re washable but suspect not because they’re electronic) I made a bamboo terry-backed false top to attach to one side of the mat. It attaches with press studs in between every second petal, with a double snap at one point because my circle isn’t exactly symmetrical and I could foresee some rather frustrating future times trying to reattach the blanket the right way round. (Have I mentioned my new favourite sewing gadget, the press stud machine, yet? It seriously has me wondering how many things I can add press studs to now!)

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The fabrics are mostly cotton duck (with some scraps of blue neoprene), with synthetic toy stuffing and some bits of poly-wool quilt batting scraps in the petals. I read somewhere that babies like high-contrast patterns, hence the crazy fabric selection (though there has been some suggestion it may just be headache or hallucination inducing…). My niece gave the whole, possibly over-engineered shebang a trial run the other week (above) so it’s already baby-approved!

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The other spot of engineering that’s happened on the sewing table in recent months is this rabbit, made for my niece. It’s a pattern from a Burda magazine (can’t find it online) that’s about 50cm tall. All made from stash scraps (wool from a bag, corduroy from a Red Riding Hood cape and some heavy duty floral Ikea cotton that was meant to be a dress before I worked out the weight was all wrong) and miraculously semi-pattern matched although I didn’t think about it too hard. The instructions on this need a serious overhaul, however – it kept having you stuff parts then unstuff them to attach limbs and there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary double-handling of seams. Plus I initially sewed the facial features onto the back of the head… The next attempt will involved very little instruction following, methinks.

Finding Named shapes

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I’ve been making a concerted effort to churn through some of the many half-finished projects taking up space on my sewing table (if only because at some point I guess the sewing machine should return from the dining table to its rightful place…). One of the makes that should have been a simple, super-quick sew was this Named Kielo wrap dress. Should have, but it’s sat there for about three months with just the shoulders and half a side seam sewn up.

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This was nothing to do with the pattern or instructions, which are fairly straight forward, and everything to do with my having a tantrum at the overlocker unthreading itself about six times within 10cm of sewing. I just had to put the whole dress aside and come back when we were both, the overlocker and I, in a better mood. Took a while, as it turned out. But really, this is very easy – a couple of darts, two ties, shoulder seams, two side seams and hems.

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I was initially hesitant about the Kielo because I wasn’t sure how its shape would suit me. I love the interesting styling and silhouettes of Named’s patterns but so often they feel a bit too fashion-cool for me; not quite my aesthetic. But a bit of blog searching turned up a few versions which pretty much convinced me it would be ok. And the forgivingly adaptable shape does make it a good option for maternity wear.

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Instead of the traditional, DVF-style flat wrap-dress shape, Kielo is basically a diamond sack and you wrap the points around to the front or back depending on what you like the look of best. It kind of reminds me of when I’d change my doona cover as a child by climbing right inside it and pretending I was Alfred the water bottle. You can sew this in either a stretch or woven fabric, which makes sense because all the shaping happens in the wrapping (though there are bust darts and back fisheye darts) without needing to stretch things to fit.

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This fabric is a cotton jersey knit (*possibly* a Cloud 9 design) from – where else? – Spotlight. I liked the watercolour effect and it’s pretty soft to wear. Definitely a secret pyjamas feel going on here. (You can see above where I used the selvedge when cutting the ties to make them long enough and it’s not holding up well, but I intend to unpick the seam where they’re attached and take them in a little bit.)

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There are only two things that annoyed me about this pattern (separately from the overlocker issues). One is having to add seam allowances when tracing. I ordered a printed pattern and it comes with the pieces all printed on a single sheet of paper. Because the front and back are just a single piece each (no waist seam) they’re quite large and Named saves paper by breaking them in half so you have to trace to join the parts together. It’ll make sense when you do it. I usually trace patterns anyway so didn’t mind that, but find it annoying having to remember the seam allowance. The second thing was turning the straps. Those things are long! In fact, if you don’t have quite enough fabric to make the recommended length I wouldn’t be too worried about lopping off as much as 10cm.

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This was in fact the second Kielo I made, having sewn one in a much stretchier fabric as a Christmas present for my (then-pregnant) sister-in-law last year. For me, I cut a straight size 46 (based on finished measurements) and made no adjustments other than shortening it substantially to be knee- instead of ankle-length. It doesn’t play terribly nicely with bra straps though, and could benefit from having a couple of bits of ribbon and press studs sewn in at the shoulder seams to hold them in place. Overall I’m glad I gave this shape a go – and came back to it instead of abandoning yet another unfinished object.