Please join me in welcoming Esme to the blog today! She’s stopping by to share her Oliver + S makes that she’s made over the years. Thanks for visiting us Esme!
Hi all, it’s Esme here from Esme In The Attic! Actually, I don’t have an attic to sew in anymore, and I’ve barely updated the blog in the last few years (these two things are connected…). But I still sew when I get a chance and can clear a space on the kitchen table, so it wasn’t difficult to tempt me out of sewing retirement to tell you about my favourite Oliver + S patterns!
I’ll confess up front, I’m a bit of a pattern magpie and I do love trying new things, so it’s not often I’ll return to a pattern. One thing I have made an exception for, though, is the ultra-practical Art Smock from the charming Little Things to Sew book. Isn’t it amazing how kids seem to end up with more paint on their sleeves than on their paper?! These long-sleeved smocks are the solution…. I’ve made three now, they’re THAT practical. Seriously, barely a day goes by when these don’t get a splattering from either the girls’ paint boxes or, as aprons, from their messy eating habits! I love how professional the french seams look, too – they’re just as functional without, but somehow so much more satisfying with… I’ve never made them with pockets though as I know they’d just end up gathering crumbs (or worse).
To my dismay, my eldest daughter recently maxed out of the largest size, so I added a bit of length and breadth to the pattern pieces to make an ‘extra large’ version, and fortunately, the sizing worked out great. I actually added quite a bit of length for this one (more child coverage = less laundry!). Here it is below, in all its Alexander Henry glory. I know these smocks are just going to end up covered in stains, but when you’re going to look at something every day, I think it’s totally worth using a special fabric for it.
Another gem from Little Things to Sew is the Reversible Bucket Hat. This is a great little project if you’ve got a small piece of special fabric you’ve been saving up. I’d been holding on to this snippet of beautiful strawberry fabric and I think this was the perfect project for it. If you don’t yet have the book, you’re in luck, because the pattern is also available here, and it looks like there’s now a lovely tutorial, too – yay! I don’t know about your kids, but no matter how good the hat, they just don’t stay on the head without a ribbon. So mine’s not really reversible, but at least it hasn’t been blown out to sea or lost at school. Yet.
Here in the UK, the girls wear school uniform most of the week. Fortunately for me, their school is pretty relaxed about these things, so I occasionally get a chance to bend the rules by sewing them something a little bit different. I admired this super stylish, kimono-style Library Dress pattern for such a long time before I plucked up the courage to try it, but it’s probably the pattern I’ve learned most from. Facings and understitching were new to me, and those buttonholes…! If you’re not a pro before you start, you will be by the time you finish! Here’s my sort-of-almost-legal-school-uniform version below.
That’s the thing I love about Oliver + S patterns – they’re practically a ‘teach yourself to sew’ course. So long as you know how to operate a sewing machine and can handle a pair of scissors, the instructions walk you through the rest, and there are plenty of instructions, diagrams and nuggets of sewing know-how to help with new techniques. I’m really no good at ‘whipping things up’ quickly (I wish I could!), but I do get a lot of satisfaction from making something well.
I kept it more straightforward for this gingham school Butterfly Skirt (I love the understated pleats at the front). I’m itching to try the Badminton Skort as uniform next – it looks such a practical and smart piece, and would solve the cartwheeler’s perennial problem of needing to wear shorts under a skirt…!
School isn’t all uniforms though – sometimes it’s a fancy dress day! When it comes to costumes, Oliver + S haven’t let me down. I sewed up a modified (hoodless!) Red Riding Hood Cape (again, from Little Things to Sew) when my youngest dressed as Madeline for World Book Day – here she is, demonstrating that she’s not afraid of mice!
The tutu pattern from the same book also came in handy for making a daffodil outfit for St David’s Day, our national day of celebrations here in Wales. I loved choosing the tulle for this – different layers of gorgeous peach, yellow, white and cream. I’m so sad I never got a good picture of the girls actually wearing this, and it’s been so well used ever since that it’s practically ripped to shreds now. Apparently, that happens if you play fairies in prickly bushes… Here’s all I have left; you’ll just have to take my word for it that it used to be every bit as delicate and ethereal as the pictures in the book!
On the other end of the spectrum is the sweet, simple Sunny Day Shorts pattern. Not delicate or ethereal, granted, but ever so good for playtime – and not so easily ripped to shreds! I already had a good shorts pattern so this wasn’t an easy sell, but they came together quickly and easily and have been well worn since, so that’s definitely a win.
Also easy to wear is the Roller Skate Dress. It’s so pretty and practical, and easy to dress up or down, so it’s seen a lot of use over the past few years. I could definitely see myself making some more of these!
Like so many people, I have a real soft spot for the Ice Cream Dress, having made a little version when my youngest daughter was small. My eldest begged for one too (“just the same, Mummy!”), so eventually, I acceded and made an almost identical larger version. We’ve tended to keep this one for special occasions, mainly because the fabric is light coloured and easily stained. It’s such a versatile pattern though, and I think it would stand up well as a play dress if I made it out of something a bit more the shade of dust and dirt! My youngest daughter then inherited the larger version of her original, but she’s a pickle and for some reason, would only wear it under duress! Until now, that is… Just as she’s grown out of it *sigh*!
But both girls are really growing out of the girly twirly dress stage now, and by preference will pull on a pair of leggings and t-shirt after school and at weekends instead. Thankfully there’s an Oliver + S pattern for that too! Enter the School Bus T-shirt and Playtime Leggings patterns! They’re a really great introduction to sewing with stretch fabric, so if you’re thinking of giving knits a try, I’d totally recommend starting here. I made a lovely pair of jersey pyjamas using a combo of the two, and they turned out really nicely – fitted, soft and stretchy – so satisfying! The fabric I chose was a bit thin and the knees wore through after a while, so I recently ‘upcycled’ them into summer PJs. Jersey fabric is so lovely and forgiving and doesn’t fray, so it was just a case of snipping off the arms and legs at the right point. Note to self: I must use these patterns more!
Next up? I think I might sew some Lazy Days Skirts with my daughters, or perhaps try the lovely new Girl On The Go Dress for my rather tall eight year old. At the rate she’s growing, I’m so glad to see Oliver + S introducing some tween and teen patterns! Now I wonder, will they have wedding dress patterns available in about 20 years’ time?!
Thanks so much for having me!