Wearable Art = A Memory Tribute

Today’s Guest Blogger is Duncan Carter, a contestant on this year’s “Great British Sewing Bee.” Duncan runs a fashion website of his own and is also a monthly blogger for Minerva Crafts in the UK.


You know what, I don’t actually have many dress shirts in my wardrobe. There are two reasons for that: First off, ready-to-wear shirts rarely catch my eye and secondly, constructing a shirt at home is not quick and can be a bit of a headache. So when I saw Sprout offering the Negroni shirt by Colette Patterns I knew it was a sign to face my fears and make a unique garment, without worrying about tripping over a million pieces of tissue pattern!

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Thus began many days of searching through Spoonflower’s massive selection of fabric designs. Anyone who has read my blog or seen my videos will know I like colour and a bold design. There’s plenty of that on Spoonflower but what intrigued me more were all the stories that designers like Whimzwhirled had attached to their creations. When I found this design (Burning Down the House), I knew it was for me.

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Is it colourful? Yes. Bold? No question! But it was the story that really caught my eye. After a fire burned down this designer’s studio and left her with nothing she made this design from a collage of newspaper cuttings that reported on the fire. She talks of a phoenix rising from the ashes, letting go and moving forward. I like a cool design, but a cool design with a story like this? Perfect!

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This was my first time using a Sprout pattern and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When the parcel arrived I tore in and was thrilled at the colours, design and feel of the fabric. I waited patiently as my machine pre-washed and used the time to read the downloadable instructions. I am big believer in keeping good notes so the printable instructions were brilliant to have.

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I did part-print some of the pattern pieces from the digital pattern to get my pleats and buttons lined up, but I must say it was a dream to get stuck in without having to wrestle with any pattern pieces.

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Another thing I love about this fabric design is that the intricate collage effect would help to cover any little flaws. (Although, of course, there aren’t any in this garment. Honest. Maybe.) Seriously though, if you’ve never made a shirt before then choose a design that is a little forgiving and you’ll sew it up no problem! The Negroni shirt is a great pattern – nothing is under-explained and there was a cool wee tip for perfectly shaped patch pockets.

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The Cotton Sateen fabric is medium weight so it has a sturdiness that means I will be able to use the shirt as a top layer in the springtime but it is also soft enough to wear against my skin as a casual shirt.

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I have to say my experience with Sprout and Spoonflower was amazing from start to finish, and who knew something could get across an ocean so quickly? A million thanks to Caroline at HQ for being so welcoming and patient with me. I already have ideas for a design of my own on the next garment, maybe something with a little Scottish flavour…

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Altering The Alder, Part 2: Adding Sleeves

Our guest blogger today is Kelly Walsh, the Director of Engineering at Spoonflower and an avid seamstress who loves a good hack. In the second of two parts, she explains how to alter the very popular Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio to add sleeves. If you missed it, part 1 of this post is here.


I don’t know about you, but I’m a sleeves girl. Short, long, three-quarter, poofy, flowy, bell, cap—about the only sleeves I don’t go for are the old historic ‘leg of mutton’ sleeves, I can’t imagine many things less comfortable looking. Sleeves are an extra element to an outfit, they’re another place to add detail, structure, balance, or style. The shape of a sleeve can totally change a garment. When I was looking at the Alder dress after my first round of alterations, I just felt like it was crying out for sleeves!

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Good news! Drafting a simple short sleeve is actually a lot easier than you think it is. There’s a fair number of choices to make along the way, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. The Alder is actually great for this modification because the bodice structure is pretty normal, and the armscye (AKA the armhole) is quite standard. If there’s a blouse or dress you’ve made before that has a similar shape, and sleeves you like, there’s a really good chance you can just lift that pattern piece wholesale and sew it right into the Alder. I wouldn’t recommend trying that without testing it on some scrap fabric first, just in case. But I can tell you that it’s worked for me in the past! There are a whole lot of great tutorials on the internet that go into a lot of detail, but I’ll touch on some of the basics of a simple short sleeve, and then look at how you might modify it for different shapes.

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There’s several important aspects to a basic sleeve shape that I really look at. The circumference of the bicep of the sleeve, the circumference of the armsyce (aka the armhole) of the garment you’re fitting it in, the “height” of the cap, and the length of the sleeve. On my super high tech drawing below, the red line represents the bicep of the sleeve. The purple line is the length of the sleeve from your shoulder until the end.

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The green line is the circumference of the armscye. And the light blue line is the “cap height,” or if you think about it another way, the difference between the length of the sleeve at your inner arm (armpit) and the length of the sleeve from your shoulder. You can also get this measurement by looking at the pattern pieces for your bodice, and measuring in a straight line from the side seam top corner straight up to the outside corner of the shoulder seam.

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Now, one of the most subtlest things about sleeves is how you draw that curve along the armscye. It can absolutely make the difference between a poofy sleeve, and a sleek tight fitting sleeve, and it’s all in what effect you want. I didn’t really want a poof sleeve here, but I’m also too lazy to do some of the intense work that is required for getting a perfectly fitted inset sleeve. And that’s where “ease” comes into play. It’s the fudge factor, the simplifier. It means that, for all intents and purposes I kind of eye-ball it, test it out, and in the end just go with it. Ease is your friend. The curve I draw might not fit perfectly into my armscye, but with some basting stitches and a tiny bit of fidgeting, I make it work.

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After taking my measurements, thinking about how long I wanted my sleeves, and using some tricks I learned before, this is the sleeve shape I came up with. One of those tricks, by the way, is to use Spoonflower to print what is effectively graph paper fabric. It’s a 1-inch grid printed directly on their basic cotton fabric, and it is GREAT for pattern drafting. You could even get a roll of it on gift wrap and use that way!

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Above you see my sleeve shape, with the red line representing the sleeve length. It’s about 9” inches, which I know from past experience works for me, and is similar to most other sleeve shapes I’ve found.

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This green line is the bicep line. Now, if you want sleeves that really hug your arms, you’d make measurement similar to your own bicep circumference. I like a bit of moving room, so I usually just draw the cap lines nearly vertically down. You can also even expand them a touch further out if you want a more flared shape. As long as this measurement is more than your bicep, it’s more about what style you’re looking for.

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The sleeve cap curves I usually draw with my french curve ruler. Its useful that way. But finding that “inflection point” where the concave curve becomes a convex curve is pretty important. Its easiest to do it with your bodice pattern pieces in mind. Think of it as the same point where the curve changes in the shoulder of those pattern pieces. This is where the fabric is curving around your arm, and finally folds into your armpit.

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There’s a blog post by ikatbag that goes into a whole lot more detail in this area that I really like. Check out her cardboard box demonstration if you really want a good understanding of how this curve and the cap height of your sleeve can really change its shape. If you’re curious I definitely recommend if.

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If you just want some sleeves and you want them now, then forge on ahead, trust yourself, and trust pattern makers who have gone before you. And when you’re drafting it all up, don’t forget your seam allowance! Trust me. It’ll go downhill fast if you forget that. Not that I ever do that of course (yeah right!)  If you want a basic short sleeve, you’re done, it’s really that easy. But there’s also a lot of things you can do to get interesting sleeve shapes.

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If you like cap sleeves, it’s as simple as shortening the length so that your entire sleeve is basically the cap height, and if you want the edge higher, just give that line a curve upwards.  There are so many sleeve options, but one of my favorites are called “tulip sleeves” or “petal sleeves.” They’re really only one extra step beyond a basic sleeve shape, but they add such a lovely detail that it instantly becomes the start of any garment.

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Tulip sleeves are made by visually layering the fabric in the sleeve with a curved edge, so that it looks like two flower petals over top each other. Seamwork Magazine has done a great tutorial on transforming a simple inset sleeve into a tulip sleeve, and I definitely recommend reading it as well, you can find it here.

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First you take your basic sleeve shape, and draw a curved line from one of the shoulder notches to the opposite corner. Yep, here comes that handy french curve ruler again!

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Then you do the exact same thing going in the other direction. Your one sleeve piece has now become two separate pattern pieces. Your two sleeves will actually require four smaller pattern pieces  (or 8, if you choose to line them.) See how their shoulder points line up, and overlap in the middle, and the bottom edge creates a flower like shape?

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Actually, this is the other reason I chose tulip sleeves for this Sprout Patterns project. When you’re working with scrap material, it’s frequently easier to find lots of small pieces than a few large pieces. I found it easier to fit four of these smaller curved pieces within the margins of fabric. But, if I’d wanted more expansive sleeves, I could have just bought a fat quarter of the same design from Spoonflower and that would have been more than enough extra fabric. It’s part of what makes the whole Sprout Patterns concept amazing!

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In the end, my sleeves looked like this, and in my mind they are just right for this dress. I love the playful effect the tulip shape gives them, which I think matches the gathered skirt and adds an overall balance to the garment.

Don’t be afraid of drafting your own sleeves, and experimenting with other shapes. It’s part of why so many people enjoy sewing, because they get to have some creative expression with what they make, and what they wear! There are a lot of great resources out there if you’ve seen a sleeve you like but have no idea how you’d go about making it.

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And don’t think that just because the lines are printed on the fabric, you’re trapped into that shape. Sprout Patterns is about helping you express your creativity in sewing, and it’s about giving you a starting place. Add onto what you’re given and change it up. See how many different ways you can use the scrap fabric to add unique details. A pocket, or a ruffle, or some sleeves. It’s all in what you can imagine.


kellybiopic.jpgKelly Walsh attended the NC School of Science and Mathematics and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Philosophy. She spends most of her free time reading, sewing the most elaborate Halloween costumes she can envision (and the occasional everyday outfit), and learning to weave on her 1900s Leclerc floor loom. Her favorite Sprout Pattern of the moment is the Archer Button Up. She joined the Spoonflower team in 2011 as a printer operator, and is currently the Director of Site Engineering.

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You Had Me at Honey: Halloween at Sprout

Today’s blogger is Nicole, Sprout’s Product Development Manager. Halloween is one of her favorite holidays, as you can see in the photo below. 😉


As far as I am concerned, Halloween is the best holiday of the year. It’s the one day where there are no restrictions to what you can be, dreamers rule and the sky’s the limit. Plus, you get to watch scary movies while stuffing your face with candy. OBVIOUSLY, the BEST holiday. And here at Sprout, Halloween opens up a world of endless costume possibilities!

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Most people flock to their local party shop in search of the latest in sexy costumes during the month of October. Not me, I would much rather create something original and more importantly, that is work appropriate. For someone who has several DIY costumes under her belt, making a Halloween costume through Sprout this year was an obvious choice. Though nothing will ever compare to the rainbow glitter unicorn costume that I wore last year…..

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Since I already had clocked SERIOUS hours of mocking up projects, I couldn’t resist making a bee costume using our fun Vanessa wing pattern from Mainsail Studio and the Inari Tee Dress from Named Clothing. These wings are really perfect for playing year round and now I basically want a pair for every kid I know.

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I wasn’t really feeling the Madame Butterfly look at the moment, which is when I had a stroke of brilliance and thought…BEES. Bees have wings! Plus our amazing city of Durham, NC was officially certified as a Bee City USA this year. Basically we are obsessed with bees. Save the bees, y’all!

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The Inari Tee Dress’s cocoon shape is perfect for showcasing the honey bee’s stripes. I paired the dress with the Vanessa Wings in a size Medium – a great size for a kid and a great size for some little bumble bee wings. I found awesome repeat designs of dragonfly wings on the Spoonflower marketplace, which I used on shiny satin.

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The dress was very straight forward to put together (shout out to Named Clothing for having incredible patterns and instructions!). A tip for Silky Faille and stripe matching: if you are attempting to match stripes, I highly recommend basting or using wonder tape along those side seams before sewing the garment up. Silky Faille can be slippery and will slide your matching skills right into the garbage.

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Because the Vanessa wings are made to attach to your wrist for a massive incredible amazing wing flappin time, I had to rethink how I was going to create them for this costume, as there is no way that any adult arms were going to attach to those little babies. I ended up utilizing some aluminum, very bendable, jewelry wire and hand stitched it along side the outer edge of the wing pieces using the fleece interfacing as a backing.

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This is by no means the best method of adding more structure to the wings, but it was the best idea that I had at the time so I just winged it ;). This method proved to work decently well, although turning the wings right side out was the biggest pain. After sewing the center piece to the wings, I decided to add an additional piece of black elastic to connect the wings together and add stability. It worked perfectly.

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As news spread about the fantastic bee making going down in the Sprout room, the requests started pouring in from fellow employees dying to rock the bee look. Honey, please. No really, please bring honey – Julie did, so she won the modeling gig.

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We drove over to Perkins Orchard, the largest and oldest fruit stand in Durham, to stock up on sweet natural goodies, grab pumpkins for our desks, and to let the bee out in her natural environment. Side note: if you’re local and haven’t been to this place yet, go! It’s full of fresh, local produce and other affordable goodies.

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Julie really embraced the Queen Bee life and upped her supply of honey at the same time. I like to call that a costume success.

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Trying to recreate this look on your own? Don’t have time to sew? Order with our White Glove Service and we will sew it up for you. YAS QUEEN BEE! (Wire not included.) Which brings me to my next costume…add a crown to this look and channel the queen bee of lemonade. If you think Julie is as cute as we do and wanna see more pix of her, head over to our Flickr album. ;o)

Need more costume inspiration? Don’t worry, I GOT YOU.

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Use the Kielo Dress and this makeup tutorial to become the most beautiful giraffe in the Savannah. Or be a deer with this makeup and antlers tutorial and pair it with a deer hide Moneta.

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Start the babe’s fandom early with a baseball romper and a matching lil baseball cap to match. Take it up a notch and have your little one SIT IN A BASEBALL MIT! The cuteness…it’s just too much…can’t handle it.

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If you have a young honey lover in the family who isn’t into bees, you can make a furry hoodie and even create ears with your extra fabric to attach to the hood! Add a faux fur trim and a trick or treat bag made out of honey fabric and voila! Hello baby bear!

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The ideas don’t stop there y’all. I’m like a treasure trove of Halloween Sprout inspiration, don’t worry. How cute would my baby niece look as a lil watermelon?!

pop.jpgLike punny costumes? Why not pair this popcorn shirt with a cute movie theater bucket skirt? Popcornception. What time is the movie? When will these previews ever end??  HAHAHAHA!

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And finally, we can’t leave out your little furry friends. Don’t they deserve to dress up for Halloween too? I am dreaming about making the littlest Aaron wings for my cat so that I can be the MOTHER OF DRAGONS, but until then I did create the perfect pizza princess costume for the pup in our house. The happiest pup, decked out in her favorite food for everyone’s favorite time of year.

Now let all of this beauty and inspiration settle into your minds and…get SPROUTIN’! The only question is, WHAT WILL YOU BE??


nic.jpgNicole has a background in fashion development and design and a passion for businesses that do good, which has taken her to places like Uganda, Pakistan, and now Durham, NC. She is thrilled to be working to empower indie pattern makers through Sprout! In her spare time, you can either find Nicole in her home studio creating with her kitten by her side or exploring new places around town and abroad. She loves live music, Asian cuisine, and laughing.

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Sprout x Berlin Fashion Show Recap

Sprout Patterns Creative Director Caroline gives us the low down about the fashion show in Berlin that happened on September 7th at the Spoonflower European headquarters.


Ok, TRUTH? I now have a new appreciation for all runway shows. Let me tell you a secret – it’s A LOT of WORK! Is it fun? YES YES YES! But the coordination, the hair, makeup, models – it’s just a huge puzzle that you seem to be putting together on the fly, even if you’ve organized and rehearsed!

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Yes, that’s me, doing hair for the show, THANK GOODNESS for hairspray!

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Essentials – makeup, hairspray and chocolate – not pictured.

Since this is a “behind the scenes” look at the show, I wanted to also share how beautiful our models were without any special hair or makeup – naturally gorgeous!

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Jasmine and Martha – natural beauties!

We had a lot of help from the Spoonflower office dog, Ben. He made sure everyone got their daily dose of snuggles, petting, and canine slobber.

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Ben says all that snuggling is hard work!

I also got to meet with some of the designers before the show, like Mele de la Yglesia. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anyone so excited about seeing their art on fabric. I loved Mele’s enthusiasm and it was AMAZING to share in her pure joy!

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Mele trying on a Kielo dress with her design

One of the BEST things about this show was that we hired a professional photographer, Benni Janzen. He is AMAZING, and sweet and super easy to work with. Seriously, if you’re in Europe and need a photographer, HIRE HIM! But of course, since I’m stubborn, I had to take my own iPhone photos, like these:

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Juliana models for Benni and Sophie tries on her Inari dress.

I think the models had a good time and made some new friends. They were all a lot of fun and made me wish I could stay in Berlin longer to hang out with them!

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Martha has some serious attitude – LOVE IT!

We held the show at the Spoonflower office in Berlin – which is in a really cool industrial section of Neukölln. The room we used has great light, but we rigged up some LED’s since the event was at night. Here’s the space BEFORE the magic happened. ;o)

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The other thing about having a photographer is that they sometimes catch you at certain “moments” like me absolutely FAWNING over designer Cristóbal Schmal. Not too obvious at all, RIGHT? HAHAHA!!!

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I hope his GF doesn’t see this photo! ;o)

Then the magic started happening. Pablo forgot that he was shy and rocked the runway.

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Laura from Named Clothing remembered that she got up at 4am to fly to Berlin and see the show. THANK YOU for coming all that way, Saara and Laura!!!

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I got to meet some very cool German bloggers and patternmakers and talked to them about Spoonflower and Sprout.

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The show was so much fun and I LOVED meeting everyone! I wore a Named Kielo Dress I’d sewn by designer Alexandra Bordallo of Spain. Little did I know that everyone was going to wear their favorite Kielo! Model Juliana won the battle (I’m totally serious, there was almost a fight!) over the show sample from Pete Corrie, then Laura and Saara wore the Kielos they’d ordered from Sprout. This is definitely one of my favorite photos from the show, and no we’re not terribly short, Juliana was just rocking monster heels.

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And the Kielo prize goes to…..

In conclusion: Berlin was awesome. The fashion show KICKED ASS. All I want to know is when the next one will be. Someone want to volunteer their city? LET ME KNOW! ;o) Tschuss!

p.s. If you saw a dress / shirt / top you liked, it’s probably here on Sprout.

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Matching for Grownups, featuring Sprout Patterns

What’s the secret to dressing your man for a special occasion? Guest blogger Gina seems to have figured it out! Read below to get her scoop on matching your date in an elegant and modern way.


Working at Spoonflower has turned me into someone not unlike Miss Frizzle – I tend to want to dress to match the occasion, especially if there’s a theme involved. This gets complicated at events like weddings, where I have a date to drag along that I’m supposed to match. My tendency toward cats and space and llamas makes it kind of hard for a guy to wear a dignified bow tie and look like he belongs with me simultaneously. But I’m here to tell you, it’s totally possible to make yourself a unique dress and coordinate with your man, with only minor complaining on his part, thanks to Sprout Patterns.

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I’d been looking forward to my friend and fellow Spoonflower team member Jennifer’s wedding for months. (You can read her post about DIY bridesmaid gifts with Sprout Patterns here!) She chose a beautiful mountainous venue in Asheville, NC, so naturally – see what I did there – I wanted to make a nature-inspired dress to wear!

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Look at all of the nature, y’all!

I also decided that since this is the first and only wedding of the year that neither my boyfriend, Kenton, or I are in, it would be the perfect opportunity to make him something to wear, too. I’ve been dying to try a bow tie for awhile now, and the Jaxon Bow Tie by Natty Neckware seemed pretty achievable.

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My half of the equation was simple: I’m in LOVE with the Kielo Wrap Dress from Named Clothing because I made myself one to wear on my birthday this year and got a million compliments. I decided that a shortened version would be perfect for Jennifer’s wedding, and picked out a sweet wood and leaf inspired design by Ottomanbrim. I chose Performance Pique for my base fabric, and this dress is the comfiest. Seriously, go make one immediately. And then make ten more, because it’s a really quick project.

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Just a little matchy-matchy 😉

So, here’s where it gets complicated. Kenton is very picky about his bow ties, so he was somewhat apprehensive about letting me choose his outfit for the day. He initially wanted me to make him a Doctor Who themed bow tie, which I vetoed immediately. When I finally settled on a design I deemed worthy, I excitedly called him to let him know. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “So, I picked out your bow tie design today! I think you’re going to like it a lot.”

Kenton: “Yeah? What is it?”

Me: “It’s cool! It’s a wood grain design!”

Kenton: “… it’s not like, camouflage is it?”

He has no faith in me whatsoever.

However, when he finally saw what I picked, he admitted the design, Beached Drift Wood Woodgrain by Joan McLemore, was pretty cool. It also went really well with the design I chose for my dress (though he was definitely glad I did not make his bow tie out of the same thing.)

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The Jaxon was a surprisingly quick project! I did skip adding the adjustable section because Kenton knew what size he needed, which made finishing the bow tie even easier.

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And, he looked pretty darn dapper, IMHO.

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Adorable matching couple outfits achieved!

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I also had enough extra printed fabric to make our new pup Riley a bow tie, too! He didn’t argue with me about the design at all. What a good boy.

Riley.jpgRiley doesn’t really hold still, so this is the best evidence I could capture of his affection for his new bow tie.

If you want to make your pooch a bow to match your fella too, here’s the tutorial I used! Just add a smaller piece of elastic to the bow to fit around a collar.

The moral of this story? Make yourself a Kielo dress, and make your man a Jaxon bow tie. He will love it. Or, if he loves you, he’ll at least wear it with only minor complaining. Don’t listen to him if he says otherwise.

Oh, and adopt a dog, because they will gladly wear anything you put on them.


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Gina is a printer operator at Spoonflower (or as she likes to call her position, “Slayer of Ink Beasts”) and a summer intern with Sprout. When she’s not having audible conversations with machinery, she can be found sharing facts about pigeons or Wonder Woman or old buildings with anyone who will listen. Her hobbies include fabric hoarding, wrestling her sewing projects away from her poly-dactyl cat Oz, dressing her new pup Riley, and aimlessly wandering with coffee in one hand and her Polaroid in the other.

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You Had Me at Photo Sharing…

Sometimes Mondays are a bit hard to deal with, so we try our best to give you little surprises to make your day better! For a while we’ve had reviews on Sprout. You’ve been able to TELL us about your experience, but not share images of your project. Well friends, that day HAS ARRIVED! Introducing: reviews with project photos.

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Now you can upload up to three images per project.

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Did you add sleeves to your Grainline Alder Shirtdress, like Kelly? Share it with the world!

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Figure out a hack to add tiny pockets? Scream it from the rooftops!

We hope you’ll like this new feature and share your projects with the rest of the Sprout Community. You know you’re awesome, don’t keep it from the rest of us! ;o)

Sprout Sewing Resources

Sometimes you need a helping hand to start or get through a sewing project—we’ve all been there! So we’ve put together a resources page with sewalongs, tips and tricks and even videos to help you make your next Sprout project great!

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We have sewalongs from our Patternmakers

Grainline.jpgHaving a visual guide when sewing (otherwise known as a sewalong) can be invaluable and boost your confidence!

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Tips and Tricks to help your project be the best ever

Sewing should be FUN, not frustrating! We hope that the resources we’ve compiled will help you feel the same way, sharpen up your stitching game and eventually allow you to create a handmade wardrobe for yourself and your family!

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If you know of any resources that we’ve missed, or have suggestions for topics that we could include, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line and share!