Saturday, 6 December 2014

Nutta fabric shop blog tour: a double gauze dress

My friend Shino, who blogs at Nutta, recently opened an Etsy store, Nutta Fabric. She has some really beautiful and unusual Japanese fabrics, so I was very excited when she invited me to be part of her Nutta Fabric Shop blog tour. It was hard to decide which fabric to sew with, but in the end I chose her double gauze 'mimosa' and made dress 'A' from the Japanese pattern book Sweet Clothes for Girls.

This dress has some very pretty details: a v-neck, flutter sleeves and a yoked back piece that extends over the shoulders to join with a pintucked front section. The dress is drawn in at the waist by ribbon threaded through an inside casing, although I modified this by using elastic and just tying the ribbons on at the sides, which makes for easier dressing. I also changed the front, back and yoke pieces by making them a couple of centimetres narrower at the fold, because R is very slim with narrow shoulders. This had the effect of making the v-neck shallower, which is a good thing as it would otherwise be too deep to wear without a top underneath (which is how it's styled in the book). I made size 110 with 120 length and the fit is absolutely perfect.

I couldn't resist making a couple of fabric flowers and attaching them to hairclips. The raw edges of the double gauze tend to fray a bit, and I like the effect of this. 

You can see from the photos that the fabric has a very pretty, subtle pattern of blue berries (or are they flowers?) with little pale green stems. But what you can't see is how beautifully soft the material is, and what a light and airy feeling it gives to the dress. My photos don't really capture how lovely the dress looks on R - it's so just incredibly lovely.

Shino has many other kinds of fabric in her shop including knits, linen, quilted cotton and sweatshirt material. To celebrate the tour she has a fantastic giveaway on her blog, which you can enter here. And all visitors to the Nutta Etsy shop can use the code THANKS20 until December 8th to get a 20% discount on fabric.

Speaking of thanks, I'd like to thank you so much, Shino, for having me on your blog tour. I loved using this very special fabric, and R is thrilled with her new dress.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Constant Change: a birthday bag

Changes, transitions, transformations - they are our constant companions as we move through life (or rather, as it whizzes by, sometimes all too quickly). When Jenya and Renee invited me to be part of their Constant Change sewing series I had so many ideas: a dancing skirt for my daughter, who's just experienced the excitement of her first stage performance - or perhaps new cushions or a duvet cover for my son, who's soon to get his own bedroom at long last. Or even something for myself, to mark this very change-filled year in which I returned to work after almost ten years of child-rearing at home.

In the end the choice was obvious: a gift for my sister Lucy, who celebrates her fortieth birthday today. My sister is my closest friend and has been with me through many of life's great (and not so great) changes. She is such a supportive and kind person, and is a wonderful and inspiring parent to her two children (even if my son complains that she's too strict about bedtime when he stays at her house!). Growing up, I was the well-behaved one while Lucy was the slightly naughty one, or to look at it from a different perspective, I was (and perhaps still am) more compliant while she has always been great at speaking her mind and standing her ground - qualities I greatly admire. My kids love to hear stories about the things Lucy did as a child, like the time she ate all the chocolate biscuits and let us all blame it on the cleaning woman til she owned up to it thirty years later, or the time she was expelled from Sunday school for folding her homework into a paper plane and throwing it to the teacher, then hiding in a doorway and jumping out at him.

For such a special birthday it seemed completely right and appropriate to sew something - something I'd never sewn before. I bought the beautiful book Carry Me by Yuka Koshizen and made the 'Left Bank Granny Bag' featured on the cover - a giant of a bag with a zippered internal pocket, a very capacious interior and side slits which allow the bag to open up wide. The book explains that the bag is designed for browsing flea markets and antique fairs, and I'm sure it will come in handy for a bit of op-shopping or Sunday market visiting (or perhaps just to carry birthday gifts in). I also made a little pleated pouch using the same fabrics. The pleats match nicely with the tucks in the Granny Bag.

I used a cotton-linen fabric that I absolutely adore. It's quite thin and soft, so I interfaced the bag with medium-weight fusible instead of the light-weight that was recommended. For the lining I chose another cotton-linen from the same range, a sky-blue with white birds. I like the feeling of escape and freedom that this fabric evokes. I have to say, I really love the way the bag turned out, so much so that I'm going to have to make one for myself too.

Happy birthday, my beautiful sister! May we celebrate many more of life's changes together.

And thank you for having me, Jenya and Renee!

You can see today's other Constant Change post at La Folie Sewing Booth, and the series continues tomorrow with posts from Made with Moxie and Sewpony.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

An outfit for Baby B

Last week I made a little outfit for the baby boy of an old friend who lives in South Africa. I never sewed for my own babies - my youngest was a toddler before I had a go at sewing kids' clothes - so it felt rather novel to be making something for someone so young.

Not owning any patterns suitable for babies, I used two free online ones: the envelope-neck top from small dreamfactory and Made by Rae's newborn baby pants (which I enlarged a little, since Baby B is already 8 weeks old). Both were nice and easy to make, with no closures or complicated details. I used cotton jersey knit from Spotlight, added some coordinating cuffs to the pants, and loved the way I needed so little fabric for these tiny (hopefully not too tiny) garments!

I haven't sent this gift off yet, because I have one problem: the elastic in the waist of the pants. I have no idea how tight or loose to make it. I think I'm going to have to corner some mums of babies and see if I can measure a three-month-old. In the meantime if any readers know the average waist size of a baby this age, please let me know!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Halloween, and a KCW interview

Halloween for my kids: lollies, fancy dress and door-knocking. Halloween for me: a lovely warm evening out on the street with my neighbours, drinking champagne and sharing stories.

To my great relief I didn't have to sew any costumes this year. R wore her Elsa dress from a couple of months ago, and K wore a supermarket-bought vampire cape and fangs. My only creative effort was a night-before-Halloween ghost garland. When R saw it in the morning she rushed off to make her own version (below). So sweet!

And that's all I've got for you today, because I've been busy writing a post for the Kids Clothes Week blog: an interview with the very talented Amy of Amos El. Go on over and have a read!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Kids Clothes Week: 'Dancing Men' singlet

In my post on how to sew with words on the Kids Clothes Week blog I wrote about using freezer paper stencils to paint a word in Dancing Men code, which features in a Sherlock Holmes story. The freezer paper worked brilliantly, but I decided to use a different (coded) phrase on a singlet for K and, having run out of time today to painstakingly cut out a freezer paper stencil, went for the quick option and printed an iron-on transfer. Somehow the transfer looks much more plasticky on this top than it did on the Pierre top, so I'm not 100% happy with it. Another weird thing is that this singlet, though drafted in an identical way to the previous one, does not fit as well around the chest. I guess I can put that down to fabrics behaving in different ways - unless, of course, K has shrunk overnight...?

By the way, if you're wondering what the coded phrase is, I'm afraid I can't tell you because I want K to read the story and work it out for himself!

K was more than happy to get outside and model today as we had basically chained him to his computer and forced him to complete a school project. Well, that's what you get for leaving things til the last minute.

And that brings my Kids Clothes Week sewing to an end, and while it's been fun, I'm more than ready for a break! Did you manage to finish everything you wanted to sew?

Kids Clothes Week: Mama Jumbo dress

For this dress I took my inspiration from a South African children's book, Zanzibar Road by Niki Daly. In this story, Mama Jumbo arrives in Zanzibar Road carrying all her possessions in a basket on her head, then builds herself a township-style home out of corrugated iron and bits of wood. Throughout the book she wears a series of wax-print dresses - not at all South African, but then, she is an immigrant... And since I adore colourful African fabrics - kangas are my favourite - I decided to make a 'Mama Jumbo' dress for R.

I used pattern M from Girly Style Wardrobe, but turned the facings to the outside to make a blue border around the neckline and added matching pockets with a blue band at the top. The fabric, amazingly, is not actually African - I bought it at Darn Cheap about a year ago and although it's clearly a wax-print-style design, it has a very shiny quality more like sateen. I'm so happy with the result, and I think the style and colours look just beautiful on R.

The KCW website is full of amazing things ranging from the practical to the incredible, so it looks like everyone's been extra-productive this season. As for me I have just one item left to finish up and - hopefully - photograph today. Bye for now!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Kids Clothes Week: Pierre top

There once was a boy named Pierre
who only would say "I don't care!"
Read his story, my friend
For you'll find at the end
that a suitable moral lies there.

That, for those who don't know, is the prologue to Maurice Sendak's tiny book Pierre. Pierre is part of the Nutshell Library, a  collection of four miniature books (and the other three are pretty cool too). I had these books when I was growing up, and my sister bought a copy for my kids a few years ago.

Since Pierre is a favourite at our house, and since my son K shares some of Pierre's lack of respect for parental authority, I thought it would be appropriate to use Pierre's catchphrase on a top for him. Originally I was just going to use the words, but I thought they might seem a little less harsh if combined with Pierre's image - less 'ten-year-old ratbag' and more 'clever literary reference'. Those who find the phrase a little negative will be heartened to know that at the end of the story the moral is 'care' (but what would be the fun of putting that on a kids' top?).

While K is not short of attitude, I get plenty of smiles as well. And gosh he's a ham - most of the photos I got were of ridiculous faces and silly Michael Jackson-like crotch-grabbing dance moves.

Anyway, on to the details: the singlet is made from brushed cotton jersey and instead of ribbing I used a very stretchy cotton jersey in a different colour. I drafted the pattern based on one of K's tops and the sewing was very straightforward. I printed the image and text onto T-shirt transfer paper and ironed it onto the top. It seems to have adhered well but there are some slightly whitish bits that feel like they may be residue from the paper. Either they'll come off in the wash, or else I overcooked the whole thing and... well, I've never used these transfers before, so I'm a little scared to wash it and find out!

My next KCW project, which I will attempt to photograph tomorrow, is - coincidentally - also blue and green. Back very soon, I hope!