Desert Island Sewing: Our second castaway, Zoe of SoZoWhatdoyouknow

Hello!  Onto our next eagerly awaited castaway on the most awesome of desert islands: the lovely Zoe from SoZoWhatdoYouKnow.  I was about to try to write a sentence describing “in a nutshell” what we know Zoe for, but let me tell you, this sentence would be very long!  This ultra stylish & super lovely lady  with a keen eye for retro style which spilled beautifully into her 2012 hand-sewn wedding, provides us with a seemingly endless supply of refashioning ideas,is the genius behind the Me Made month challenges & responsible for so many of us becoming successful at sewing pants (hers was the first blog post that demystified the process to me) & enabler of vests.  I guess she could be clearly described as an influential facilitator of me made &  sustainable fashion…. See, told you it would have been a long sentence, & that’s only the nutshell…

Setting the scene then …

You are stranded on a desert island, surrounded by beautiful crystal blue water populated by turtles & tropical fish (no sharks!). You have a comfy cosy shelter, an abundance of food & drinking water & a solar generator. Upon exploring the island you find a container that has fallen off a cargo ship & guess what? It is filled with what seems to be a never ending supply of fabrics of all descriptions, threads & notions!! What chance!

You are allowed to take your sewing machine & sewing box but which would be your 8 desert island patterns? (Note I will leave it up to my interviewees to imagine that their desert island’s climate & their adventures did not only require bikinis & sarongs but maybe more of a variety of clothing- but up to them! This is about designing their dream but limited wardrobe.  The patterns might be practical choices, or maybe they have more sentimental meaning).  So what will it be?”

Ok, so to clarify before I begin, this desert island I’ve landed on is WARM! Maybe in the interior of the island it can get a little cooler, but along the shoreline there are palm trees and a fair amount of sunshine to be enjoyed. Oh and the sunsets are beautiful, you really must swing by sometime. Bring a bottle of wine with you, I’ll barbeque some prawns.

So I imagine my life is going to be a moderately active one, there may be some fire wood that requires collecting and those prawns aren’t going to catch themselves. So I’m thinking jersey, comfortable and practical (plus doesn’t require ironing, I’m not going to want to iron too much unless I’m working on a sewing project).

1. Therefore, my first Desert Island pattern is going to be my self-drafted batwing top, both the slash neck version and the woven collar version

[Editor’s note:  I understand that Zoe aims to have at least the slash neck version available for download soonish, so other sewers can experience how comfortable this top is! What a scoop, you heard it here first!!]

Here’s another one to whet your appetite

2. Continuing on the jersey theme, I’d also bring my self-drafted T-shirt pattern as I’ve made a squillion variations from it, including contrast yoke tops, short sleeved versions and gathered sleeve head options.

3. But what to wear those with? Probs some sailor trousers of some description. I’ve recently located some other sailor trouser pattern options I plan to give a whirl, but on this island with only 8 patterns, I’d best take my tried and tested option: Burda 8488

I really hope there’s some navy, red and mustard linen in that fabric store that’s washed up with me.

4. For warmer days and for prawn-catching, I could do with a pair of shorts. I’m pretty excited about my recent purchase of Kwik Sew 3854, but once again my judgement leads me to taking a tried and tested pattern instead, so probably the Burdastyle Ruby shorts pattern would do the trick (my previous versions can be seen here: and here)

I hope there’s some sets of super cute buttons washed up with me, because between the Ruby shorts and Burda 8488, that’s a lot of buttons I’ll be getting through…

5. I don’t wear skirts very much these days, but that’s largely because I don’t trust the British weather. On my desert island the predictability of sunshine would make a skirt pattern a wise investment. I’d go for Simplicity 2451. The mini skirt version (view D) is so quick to make and easy to wear, plus the pockets would be useful for all the intriguing little things I might find when walking along the shoreline.

6. For days that are too hot to wear clingy jersey tops, looser woven tops would be preferable. Simplicity 4589 gives lots of options to create a variety of loose fitting but super-cute woven tops. I’ve made this a whole bunch of times before with great success and have another currently in the pipeline.

7. And although I haven’t used it myself for a while, my one true pattern-love, Simplicity 3835 [Editor’s note: link to very bargainalicious e-pattern] would have to come along. I’d be able to make all sorts of easy to wear tunic tops and dresses, some with contrast sleeves, some with and some without the neck band, some using the fuller sleeve pattern I adapted, some with a keyhole back, some with patch pockets, and so on. I think this is the only dress pattern I’d bother to bring.

I don’t think there’d be much point in getting ‘dressy’ if I’m basically hanging out on my own the whole damn time.

8. Oh no! I only have one pattern left! Hmm, I’m hoping Winnie might bend the rules and let me bring my vest and pants patterns as a kind of undies set?! [ I don’t know, what do you think people?] If that’s too cheeky and not allowed, I’d take the pants pattern and redraft the vest one using my T-shirt pattern as a base!

A sewing book? If the definition of sewing book can be stretched to include pattern cutting, then it has to be Winifred Aldrich’s ‘Metric Pattern Cutting’.

I’m always tweeking and adapting my sewing patterns, and with a limited number of eight on this island, I’d be even more likely to mess around with them to create different looks and styles.

My luxury item would have to be my overlocker. I’ve grown way too used to it making finishing raw edges and sewing jersey a breeze. I think I’d feel it’s absence during sewing projects bitterly. And with not much to do with my time except sewing and trying to ferment the native fruit into a primitive alcohol, I’d best take it with me!

Disk?: Beck ‘Odelay’. I haven’t listened to it for a while but it’s very upbeat and diverse, plus comfortingly familiar so a good choice I think in the circumstances (I’m a bit concerned I’ll get a bit lonely on this island).

Non-sewing related book: I was toying with bringing Hunter S Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, which is the only book I’ve ever read more than once and enjoyed just as much the second time, I find it really entertaining. However, I would be mental not to take a copy of ‘Nella Last’s War’, which is the published diaries of a British housewife during the Second World War who took part in a Government ‘Mass Observation’ Initiative.

(Image from Good Reads whose review is here)

She was such an intelligent, perceptive, deeply thoughtful and caring woman, and her diary reading touched me deeply. With a lack of human contact on this Island, I think I might need to be reminded about how challenging and multifaceted human interaction can be.

Thank you Zoe for taking the time out to draw together your choices for your desert island.  I think I might have been able to guess your skirt choice ;-s !!  But you have also given us some other interesting patterns to explore, totally perfect for desert island life!   [And you know it was a complete toss up for me whether my luxury would have been my overlocker.]  I am looking forward to following up your musical & book choices too.  Loving all that is coming out of this series, any one else finding new inspiration?

Next Castaway will be Rachel from House of Pinheiro.  Watch this space!!

18 thoughts on “Desert Island Sewing: Our second castaway, Zoe of SoZoWhatdoyouknow

      1. Catherine

        Hurrah! I have tried to find a copy of this for over a year…so pleased to find out it’s available for download! Thanks for the info. Great piece, too. Catherine

  1. Blogless Anna

    Great read. I’ve just purchased that Built By Wendy pdf pattern too. Great minds think alike Roo! I’ve been looking for a paper version of that pattern (that doesn’t cost the earth) without success for months. Yah for pdfs and sales…

  2. Jane

    Fab choices and relieved to see there were some sailor-style patterns in there too! I also heartily recommend Nella Last’s War, a great read. x

  3. Rachel

    What if you happened to be washed up with your current pattern collection and your own fabric stash? You have to match your patterns to your fabric. How inspiring would that be! Yes, you get a fabulous machine and overlocker (serger) washed up too, plus a limitless supply of ‘notions’ (what a fabulous word). And all the time in the world…….

  4. Zoe

    Winnie thanks for the tipoff of the Simplicity 3835 pattern available for download! How did you find out about that? I just bought it as well. I’ve started to find the size 12 a little small so have bought the next size up xx

  5. Angela

    Great selection of patterns. I just recently made my fourth version of Simplicity 4589. And love the new make just as much as the previous ones.


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