You may remember that in February I discovered Spoonflower, and made my awesome Octopus print Kielo dress using their Sport Lycra. (If you don’t remember it, I recommend you go read the post, because it’s amazeballs. Basically.)
Shortly after my introduction to the Spoonflower world, I discovered that they have a sister company called Sprout Patterns.
If you’ve not heard of Sprout, let me tell you about their awesome idea. The thing with Sprout is that you can choose a sewing pattern, and buy your choice of fabric with your pattern pieces already marked out on it, ready to cut. Yep, you read that right. No tracing required. You just have to cut along the lines which are already there for you, in the size you chose. You don’t even have to cut notches, they are already marked for you too.
Sounds good, right?
You can choose from a curated selection of sewing patterns by indie brands such as By Hand London, Named Clothing and Papercut Patterns, and then browse through all the Spoonflower fabric designs (all 500,000+ of them) and choose the print and fabric type that you’d like to use for your project. You can, if you like, use the same print for the whole garment – but you absolutely don’t have to! You could go totally crazy and mash up different prints together (which I recommend, btw).
The big plus point of Sprout, for me, is the ability to choose different prints for different parts of the garment, without having to buy multiple fabrics. It’s just hassle to spend time sourcing matching fabrics, in the same weight and finish and *exactly* the right colour to use together on something, but with Sprout – no problem!
So what pattern did I choose? Well, you all know how much I love making shirts, and through Sprout you can buy a kit for the Grainline Archer shirt – a very popular design amongst the sewing community, which I actually hadn’t yet sewn. Sprout sent me a kit to try out, to see if it revolutionised the shirt making process for me.
You can use their online tools to put together your dream design – I made a selection of designs before settling on my final one. I still think I might go back and make some of these afterwards, or at least use these design combos on other garments! (Numbers 9, 10 and 11 were close contenders for the top spot. And yes, that’s neon dinosaurs on number 8. Yes I’m 33 and I want a shirt with neon dinosaurs on. You haz problem? #dontcare #JogOn).
I chose my Archer kit on the cotton lawn – I usually make my shirts with Liberty cotton lawn so this seemed the logical choice for comparison to my other shirts.. It’s actually quite a crisp cotton lawn (crisper than Liberty), not too drapey – perfect for those sharp collars. Print quality wise, it’s not as intense as the Sport Lycra I used for my Octopus Kielo dress – the black on the Sport Lycra is proper black, but on the lawn its a very very very VERY dark charcoal and the printing isn’t *quite* as sharp – but then variations are to be expected across different fibres and weaves as the dye will absorb differently. I’d recommend you get a sample if it’s that important to you.
With Sprout you can visually design your project on-screen – something I found really helpful as even with the scale indications on some of the design photos it can be quite hard to visualise. Some fabrics I loved the look of, but when I loaded them up into the 3D image I realised immediately that it was a big fat NOPE as they did not take well to a shirt, so you’re able to dodge the bullet of wasting money on fabric that you’re not going to love once it’s made up. Even when rulers are included on fabric photos it’s still a little bit tricky to imagine it as a dress/skirt/whatever, so I’ll use this useful little tool when I next buy fabric from Spoonflower, so that I can get an idea of how it’ll look.
I lost days, possibly weeks, browsing through fabrics and trying out different combos – it’s addictive! My design palette ended up with a massive amount of pink in it, which is standard for me. Names and designers are below if there’s anything that takes your fancy 🧐
Once you’ve got your design palette together, you can start on the fun bit! To make up your design, you click on the part of the garment you want to change (yoke, pockets etc), and then choose the design you want to use for it from your palette. Simples.
You can view a flat 2D visual of your fabric with all the pieces laid on it (this is how your fabric will actually arrive), and a 3D visual of the finished item. The colours on my screen are a bit more punchy than the fabric is in real life – I saw proper hot pink and true black on-screen – but again this will be down to the way the chosen fabric base takes the dye.
One thing I found hard when finalising my design was getting the pattern matching spot on across the front – Sprout tells you to use the 2D layout for pattern placement rather than the 3D representation. I levelled up either side of the shirt on the 2D version, but then it looked slightly out on the 3D version which made me a little nervous about hitting the ‘order now’ button. I heeded their instructions and went with it, as it was level on the 2D version. When it arrived though I could see that the placement wasn’t level across the two sides – it looked like the 3D version rather than the 2D version. Gah. I had some other designs that I created which relied very heavily on perfect pattern placement – so I think for these ones I would buy a few metres of the fabric from Spoonflower and cut the pieces myself, and use Sprout for the designs where perfect placement wasn’t make or break.
Another thing I noticed while placing my pattern pieces on the digital fabric, is that some pieces are ‘linked’ – for example when you move fabric placement for one sleeve, it moves the other sleeve along with it – but they don’t both start at the same place on the fabric so pattern placement will be different on the two sleeves no matter how much you move it. Not much of a biggie on my final chosen design, but on my design shown below this meant that one sleeve would be different to the other as I couldn’t place them independently on the fabric – see that the pattern on the sleeve on the right is ever so slightly higher than the one on the left?
There was another design where I tried to pattern match the pockets exactly with the fronts, but no matter how I moved them I just couldn’t get them to line up *exactly*. (The middle leopard currently has a double-eye). So the lesson I learned here is that if you’re wanting to be proper fussy with your cutting, go old-skool and buy the yardage from Spoonflower and cut the pieces out of the fabric yourself.
(as a side note, HOW cool is this fabric?!)
For the cost of the Sprout kit you also get the pdf version of the pattern as (for reasons I’ll explain a bit later) you actually need this as well – so when you factor this into the overall price, a Sprout kit is extremely reasonable! Plus they ship from the EU, no so extra import fees for us UK peeps 🙌🏼
When my kit arrived I was ridiculously excited 🤓 I opened it out and saw all the pieces printed on the fabric just as I’d chosen them. Shrinkage is already factored in to the printed pieces, so after you wash the fabric for the first time (following the washing instructions that they give you!) everything should be at the right size. I didn’t print and cut pattern pieces to verify this against the fabric, but the finished shirt fits just fine according to the size I chose.
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting (in fact I’m not even too sure that I really thought about it enough) but I was surprised that you still need to trace (or cut) the pattern pieces from the pdf. I thought I’d literally be able to cut and sew – but then of course there are things like buttonhole markings and pocket placements. Obvs. When you think about it logically, *of course* these won’t be printed on the fabric because then you’re constrained to using that exact placement – or else you’d see the mark. Duh. I hadn’t printed my pdf, so when it said ‘position the pockets on the markings’ I was a little bit confused to start with – I was genuinely looking on the fabric for some markings, and it was a little while before it dawned on me that I needed to reference the pattern pieces. I don’t have a printer at home, and I wanted to carry on sewing, so I’ll admit I just eyeballed the positioning 💁♀️
So on to the Archer pattern itself…
This is my first time sewing the Archer – usually I use Vogue/DKNY V1462, but it’s not without its issues. Room at the boobs being one. The Archer feels like it has a little bit more room up top, so it doesn’t pull at the armpits in the same way as the Vogue pattern – yay! I chose a size six, even though I was at different sizes for the bust, waist and hips. Size six correlated with my bust measurement, the most important when it comes to a shirt.
The collar and collar stand don’t seem to look how they should – the ends of the collar don’t meet perfectly in the middle over the top button (in fact, they are some distance apart). I’m not sure whether this is dodgy alignment on my part, or if it’s indeed meant to be like this – I have seen some shirt patterns where they purposely don’t meet in the middle, so it might be right. I can’t find many pictures online of people wearing Archers with them buttoned right up to the top, so I dunno 🤷♀️
The sleeves on the Archer are HUGE at the lower part of the arm, as are the cuffs – though I do have narrow wrists. Look how far in I had to move the button! I do narrow the cuffs on the Vogue pattern too, so I guess it’s just standard for me. The plackets are the small bias-strip type (I have no idea what the proper name for these are – someone help me out here!) These type of sleeve plackets confuse me a little bit – in order to close the cuff, you have to overlap the sides of the sleeves. The Bruyere by Deer and Doe has these same plackets, but the cuff extends past the end of the placket so that it’s the cuff that’s overlapping, rather than the sleeve, and the placket opening remains it it’s normal state rather than twisting to overlap. (Does that even make any sense?! I hope so…). I think for future Archer’s I’d convert to a regular tower placket.
The shirt gives me 80’s feels, and the lipstick print reminds me of the Rocky Horror picture show. These are both good things. The black cotton did lose some of its colour in the wash, so it’s now definitely more of a charcoal grey, but I feel like it gives it that true vintage look – like the shirt was indeed made in the 80’s, has survived the decades and is still going strong 💪🏼 (just like me, lolz).
So what’s my view on Sprout?
- Absolutely ENORMOUS choice of fabrics and prints – I’m *extremely* fussy with fabrics but I found so many designs that I loved
- No tracing and cutting of fabric – yay! Perfect for people who don’t have a lot of room to cut, or a lot of time. Or those that have a dog that just CAN’T RESIST walking over the cutting mat whenever it’s out, whether there’s fabric or razor-sharp rotary cutters on it or not 🙋
- Good range of sewing patterns to choose from, all from modern indie designers
- The level of customisation with prints/colours for your design allows you to get EXACTLY what you want (you could even design your own fabric if you wanted!)
- Very reasonable prices, and they are based in Berlin so no import taxes if you live in the EU – yay!
- Hard to be perfectly precise with the pattern placement on the pieces, so for designs that require this I’d recommend buying yardage of fabric direct from Spoonflower instead and cutting the pieces yourself
- Limitations on the fit adjustments that you can make – no problem if you’re shortening/narrowing but not ideal if you generally have to add length / width to pattern pieces (as the template lines are already drawn for you)
I’ll definitely use Sprout again, as anything that allows me to have less time tracing and more time sewing is a win! It *just so happens* that one of the patterns available though Sprout is the Kielo wrap dress, and if you’ve ever sewn this pattern you’ll know that the templates are absolutely monstrous – the idea of not having to get out those traced pieces to cut around, and instead have the lines pre-printed on the fabric for me sounds like a dream 😍 So, um, you can guess what my second (and probably third) Sprout project is going to be… 🤔
Like I need an excuse to sew another Kielo though. And speaking of the Kielo, have you seen that the #SewTogetherForSummer challenge this year is a wrap dress? The Kielo happens to fit this requirement too…
Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… continuing the 80’s theme with another make for the husbeast – a totally mental vintage fur coat 😍 I’m such a good wifey. (Despite the fact he bought the fabric for it about a year ago.) Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!
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