A sewing project using cloth from The Honeycomb Loom

You may already know that Firespiral Slings have teamed up with Baie Slings in a joint venture called The Honeycomb Loom. We pooled our considerable collective skills and experience to develop a beautiful woven wrap cloth that we can sell by the metre for use in all manner of projects. Our weave structure has a simple elegance with two different faces to the cloth and has been carefully crafted to function beautifully when sewn into wraps and carriers. It is, however, useful for making so much more than slings.

I decided to put it through its paces and bought 2 metres of ‘Stone’, with a plan to make myself a pinafore dress. I love a good pinny, especially one with plenty of pockets, but they can be hard to come by on the high street, and incredibly expensive given how relatively simple they are to make.  There are lots of free patterns out there, and I have drafted my own in the past too, but cut and drape is everything when it comes to pinafore/apron dresses, and small details can make the difference between fabulous and frumpy. My 36 yr old body has carried and nursed 3 children over the past 7 years, and deserves more than a poorly shaped garment!

I’ve found a pattern that I really like from Verity Hope’s Wardrobe etsy shop. It cost £9 for the PDF download pattern, but I’ve had plenty of use out of it so I think it has been worth the money. Saying that, I’ve still had to make some alterations from the original basic pattern to suit  my style and body shape, but that is all part of the fun of making your own clothes isn’t it?

I’m a creative person, but my artistic nature is a little at odds with my level of ‘craftswomanship’. I tend to cut corners, get carried away, improvise;  traits that can often be my downfall when it comes to skills such as sewing which require care, precision and accuracy! I am a passable seamstress though, with enough basic understanding to fudge my way through a pattern, and not worry about a slightly untidy finish. I figure that I’m the baseline, and that if I can make it, then anyone with the most rudimentary sewing ability could have a crack at it.

The Honeycomb Loom: Stone
I chose 2m of ‘stone’ for my project.

Lots of us babywearers become passionate about wrap cloth and want to make things from it, but it is important to understand how the cloth functions in order to avoid making some basic mistakes.

 The key thing with any wrap scrap is to give yourself a big enough seam allowance to avoid the cut edges fraying through your stitching. If you have an overlocker then overlocking the edges  (called ‘serging’ in the US) will help, or a zig zag stitch along the cut edge prior to sewing pieces together will help too. If all that sounds a bit much to you, then just cutting your pattern with a little extra allowance for hemming will help. 
Another issue is shrinkage. Brand new cloth will shrink down on its first wash, and this can not only change the size of your finished item, it can also mean that cut edges can shrink though the hemming stitch and poke out of your seams. There are two ways to deal with this; you  can pre-shrink the cloth by washing beforehand (you may want to quickly stitch/overlock the raw edge of the cloth before you do this), or you can take the shrinkage into account before you cut (including the seam allowance).dsc_0597-min-1

I only had 2.5hrs to knock this up in and as I’ve already confessed I’m a real corner cutter, so I just forged ahead with the unwashed cloth. In my defence, trial and error has shown that if I make this pinafore in a medium size with unwashed cloth it shrinks to the perfect size for me when it goes into the washing machine. I did get a little too sloppy at the end when it came to the hems of the neckline so I had to do a bit of unpicking and neatening up post wash to remove some straggly bits as payback for that…

 

 

The pattern actually requires slightly more cloth than I bought, but I had some other wrap scrap that I wanted to use on this project, so I had enough in total. Choosing which side of the cloth should be the ‘right side’ was tricky, but in the end I went for the paler grey face of the cloth. I used the cloth with the other face showing for the pockets to add a bit of interest. It wouldn’t take much to hide the side seams and make this pattern completely reversible. The neckline hides the stitching quite nicely. Maybe one day I’ll try not to be on the last minute and go that extra step, because the cloth has two very distinct looks to it and I reckon the difference is worth the extra effort.
The pattern calls for you to make (or buy) bias binding for the armholes. In a nod to this being wrap cloth, I chose to use a rolled hem instead which was no real extra effort and made use of the dark face of the cloth. 

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My sewing machine is a simple workhorse of a thing- an old ‘Jones’ that would probably be termed ‘semi-industrial’ although it is a household machine. I got it from our local sewing machine repair man, reconditioned for £65. It only has two stitches, straight and zig zag, it can reverse and you can change the width of the zig zag but that is pretty much it. It has a metal body andweighs a toe-crushing amount, but can sew through anything and I wouldn’t trade it in for even the fanciest of modern machines. 

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Despite having successfully made this pinafore a good few times, I don’t think I have ever completed the neckline the same way twice! The pattern includes some basic instructions for piecing together, but I confess that I don’t really follow what I’m supposed to do to attach the straps and yoke to the body of the dress! I always manage it satisfactorily but feel like there should be an easier way… I’m not sure whether the problem is my lack of skill or the lack of clear instruction in the pattern. I might need to make a walkthrough to show how I make it work for me and then those of you who are more competent seamstresses than me can point out where I’m making life hard for myself.

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Even with the making-up criticism, this is still a really manageable pattern for a beginner. I normally make square or rectangular pockets for simplicity, but this time I was left with two lovely half oval shapes in the cloth left over from cutting the main pattern, and they were perfectly hand sized, so I made use of those! I like to put the pinafore on in order to position the pockets at just the right height for shoving my hands in. I also went for a large rectangular pocket at the front, and used the selvedge of the extra bit of scrap I had to create a sort of fringed, fluffy detail along the top of it. My husband wasn’t convinced that it looked quite right but I love it! If you love pockets too there are are some great articles out there about why pockets (or the lack of them) are a feminist issue

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So here you have it!! A practical pinafore made from wrap fabric that can be worn over a dress/longer skirt or just jeans and a t-shirt. The open armholes are perfect for breastfeeding access. It isn’t perfect, but it is unique, practical and sparks joy in me when I wear it, which feels like success to me!20161117_125713-min-1 20161117_130223-min-1

You can buy cloth from The Honeycomb Loom here, in multiples of 1m.

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