Monday, 21 April 2014

What I made over the school holidays

In general: Treasure hunts.  Trips to the park. Rainbow loom bracelets. Kid crafts. Snacks, snacks and more snacks.

For R's birthday party: chalkboard oilcloth bunting (there is a good tutorial here but I made mine a little differently); the kids' favourite smash cake (a.k.a. pinata cake); snacks, snacks and more snacks. R's party was fairytale-themed (I bargained it down from 'fairy princesses') and she was adamant that she simply had to wear a Rapunzel wig. She also insisted on an official Disney-issue costume, and I must confess to being just a tiny bit pleased about not having to make it, despite my dislike of all things synthetic and Disney-produced - with the exception of the wig, which is spectacular.

After the big bash came Passover, then Easter, with a heap of eating but not much time for sewing and blogging. Besides, I had foolishly given my son my old computer before receiving my new one, which of course was delayed, then plagued with software issues, including the unpleasant discovery that my iphoto contained - inexplicably - pornography and other random images. There's been a lot of deleting going on around here!

I have been sewing a couple of things but they have proceeded at a snail's pace, with a seam sewn here and a ruffle gathered there. More soon, I promise!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Kids clothes week: wrap top

R has after-school dance lessons once a week, at a dance school that allows students to wear whatever they like. The girls come in their princessy, glittery, sequinned finery - it's a great opportunity to dress up. And when the lesson is over, R puts her navy blue school uniform jacket on over her fancy clothes and it looks utterly incongruous. It struck me that a wrap top would be the perfect solution to this affront to fashion, so off I went looking for a pattern. All I could come up with was the short ballet-style variety, but I really wanted something with a bit more coverage, so there was nothing for it but to draft my own.

Using the beachy boatneck pattern (I am really getting good value out of this one) I redrafted the front piece to become two angled pieces and extended the sleeves to full length. Then, after assembling the top, I bound along the neck and angled front edges leaving extra length for ties. It was so quick to draft and quick to make - which was good, since I'm very short of time this week. 

The fabric is yet another cotton jersey from the same Spotlight range. They're such cute prints, and the fabric is so soft, that resistance is futile. And no doubt I'll soon be back there for more.

Koala got a little skirt in matching fabric. Now she and wombat can hang out together in their new clothes...

Unfortunately this is probably it from me for this KCW. I'll be enjoying seeing everyone else's creations in between putting up party decorations, making finger food and sweeping dust under rugs. Happy sewing, everyone!

Kids Clothes Week: chevron top and triangle skirt

I time-shifted my KCW sewing, knowing that this week was going to filled with preparations for R's 6th birthday party (just 25 of her closest friends, plus their parents, plus R's grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins). So what I'm showing you here was finished last week and photographed today. You'd think I could have photographed it in time to get in early for KCW, but R had so many excuses for not modelling, it took forever to convince/bribe/threaten her so I could get it done (and I still don't know what she was doing in the photo at bottom right - fighting off an imaginary foe, perhaps?). Anyway, I'm relieved to be blogging this at last, in between packing lolly bags, sewing bunting and researching make-ahead finger foods. 

Here are the details:

Grey triangle skirt with elephant pockets

Fabric: cotton from Spotlight
Pattern: based on skirt C from Sewing Lesson Book, but essentially self-drafted (the Japanese instructions looked too complicated, so I just cut pieces by eye and put them together in my own way).
Result: I'm very happy with this one, especially given my very gung-ho approach to making it. It's a great fit and the big pockets are perfect for stuffing with acorns, which R can never resist picking up. 

Orange chevron top

Fabric: cotton jersey from Spotlight
Pattern: the beachy boatneck, with sleeves modified to be slightly puffy. I used this tutorial and added 2" to the sleeves.
Result: this is a good fit with a bit of room to grow. I was aiming for a little more puffiness in the sleeves, but they're perfectly acceptable as is. 

Chevron skirt (mini-me size, suitable for wombats)

R's toy wombat scored a little skirt. A wombat in a skirt is, of course, totally absurd, but that's what she went with when I asked her to choose which lucky toy would be getting new clothing. I must say, it's pleasingly fast to sew things for toy wombats, and they are very cooperative when it comes to trying things on. Unlike children.

And lastly...

I made R this fishtail rainbow-loom bracelet to match the top - the chevron shapes of the bands coordinate so brilliantly! If only I'd remembered to get her to wear it while modelling - or maybe I should have put it on the wombat...?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Everything you always wanted to know about me, plus a few things you probably didn't


Have you checked the fabulous Another Sewing Blog? The author - whose name I've just realised I don't even know - has kindly given me the Liebster Award, a virtual award passed from blogger to blogger with the aim of promoting blogs with fewer than 200 followers. The Liebster is akin to a chain letter, as it requires the awardee to answer a series of five questions, provide five facts about themselves, then pass the award on to a further five bloggers. As there are a few different versions of the rules around, I'm going to follow Another Sewing Blogger's lead and not worry too much about them.

So, in answer to the questions put to me:

1) What is your favourite make (sewn, knitted, any kind of craft)?

I have so many favourites, but the creations that have perhaps been the most useful are a pair of colourful pillowcases and matching heat packs (rice bags) that I made for my children a couple of years ago. They still adore their pillowcases and those heat packs are looking rather the worse for wear due to frequent use. One had to be replaced after an unfortunate bedwetting incident...

2) What was the last movie/tv show/play/musical/album you enjoyed?

I've been playing The Beatles' 'Revolver' in the car recently, while my son bugs me with constant questions about the tracks. Who was Dr Robert? Was Eleanor Rigby married to Father McKenzie? And why are there so many lonely people?

3) What made you smile today?

Seeing my daughter literally skip into her classroom at school - she is always so happy to be there. Oh yes, and my husband just poured me a glass of wine...

And here are some fascinating facts (insert sarcasm emoticon - is there one?) about me.

1) As a child I excelled in the sack race, the three legged race and the egg-and-spoon race. I still don't understand why these are not considered real sports while things like chess and curling are. The world is a seriously messed-up place.

2) I collect Chinese enamel plates - the cheap ones, with flowers on them. And I'm pretty pleased with myself for having such inexpensive taste.

3) Now and then I search the web to see if I can find any little Japanese paper flowers that unfold in water, or the Chinese equivalent where a shell opens in water and a paper flower floats up from it. I used to have these as a child and I am devastated that they're no longer available. Any leads, please let me know.

4) I have what must be the world's most consistently mispronounced (not to mention misspelled) name. For the record, 'Marisa' has only one S, and it rhymes with Lisa.

5) I've been vegetarian for about 25 years. Almost everyone in my family and my husband's family is vegetarian or pescatarian (an annoying word, but what's the alternative?). My son is such a passionate vegetarian that after parties he usually throws out most of his lolly bag contents in case they have gelatine. I'm so proud :)

Now it's my turn to pass the baton to a bunch of people whose blogs I've enjoyed reading lately. They are all mothers of daughters and they tend to sew from the same or similar patterns to me, which means I can often benefit from their experience before trying things out myself. It's like having my own little gang of pattern testers!

So without further ado, I hereby present the Liebster Award to:

Elephant in the Study - I love Asmita's creations and we have a couple of Japanese sewing books in common, so it's always interesting to see what she makes from them.

Sew it Sherry - another Japanese sewing book enthusiast I discovered only recently.

Nutta! - Shino sews lovely clothing for her daughters from - guess what - Japanese sewing books!

Creative Needle & Threads - I discovered Maria's blog when she sewed a stunning Guatemalan-inspired outfit for the Roots sewing series on Elegance & Elephants.

Go check them out and you'll see why I'm hooked!

Apologies to anyone above who has over 200 followers or has already been Liebstered :)

Now here's what these bloggers need to do: 

A. Answer these five questions:

1) What are your other interests/hobbies besides sewing?
2) Do you have a favourite recipe (or failing that, take-away food dish!) and if so, what is it?
3) Where would you most like to go for a holiday, and why?

B. Add five facts about themselves.

C. Choose some other bloggers to receive the award.

D. Display the Liebster logo. At least, I think you're meant to - but it's not like The Liebster Foundation's going to sue you if you don't.

Remember, bloggers, the Liebster Award has been going for many years. If you keep it going, every blog on the net will soon be festooned with lovely pink Liebster logos. To break the chain is very bad luck and will result in your blog being hacked by teenage delinquents. JUST KIDDING! Participation is entirely optional and I will totally understand if you decline to pass it on. I considered doing the same, but... well, it's nice to be appreciated and I thought I'd share the love.

This has been an epic post, so for now - over and out!

Oh yeah, and Bloglovin wants me to drop this code in here, so I'm just going to be obedient and do it.

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Monday, 17 March 2014

A beachy boatneck dress

Feeling very happy with the success of my beachy boatneck top I decided to try mixing it up a bit for Frances Suzanne's flip this pattern series. 

The beachy boatneck  is designed for knits, but I thought it would make a lovely dress bodice in a woven fabric. I looked at various fabrics in blue and white with a view to having a nautical colour theme, but in the end made the virtuous decision to use some cotton-linen from my stash along with some coordinating Prints Charming flower-printed cotton-linen.

The bodice is exactly as per the original pattern, but as the fabric was obviously not going to be stretchy I went a couple of sizes up from the cotton jersey version I had previously made for R. I cut the back in two pieces with 1.5cm added to the inside (centre) edge of each in order to accommodate a zip (good thing I used an invisible one because the closest colour I could find was bright red!). Instead of using the facing pieces of the beachy boatneck pattern I faced the neckline with bias binding made from the Prints Charming fabric. I lengthened the sleeves to be full-length, and as I had some binding left, I faced the sleeve hems for a little hidden bit of colour.

For the skirt section of the dress I cut two rectangles of fabric about 1.5 times the width of the bodice. I made a second 'underskirt' layer in the Prints Charming fabric, making it a few centimetres longer than the top skirt. I pinned the two sections together and gathered them, then sewed them onto the bodice, retaining the curved hem of the original pattern so the bottom of the dress dips in the centre front and back. I really love this effect. And I love the way the dress looks on R, with the classic lines of the boatneck and the little bit of peeking-out floral at the bottom.

As we're moving into the cooler part of the year here in Melbourne, I'm thinking of this as an autumn dress that can be layered with tights and cardigan or worn with a long-sleeved top underneath. The boatneck style is perfect for cooler weather, giving lots of coverage. And that pink fabric will brighten even the gloomiest day. As will this smile:

Friday, 14 March 2014

Twin needles and two tops

Last week I tried a twin needle for the first time and I'm a convert. This thing is fantastic for finishing hems and sleeves - you get the lovely double row of stitching plus a zigzag stitch on the reverse side which allows for stretch.

I used my new needle(s) for the sleeves of an envelope-neck t-shirt, which I made in cotton jersey using pattern M-3 in size 110 from Children's Clothes Lesson Book. For the neck edging and the contrast band at the bottom (not in the pattern) I used another cotton jersey from the same range. It is a loose fit on R but I'm happy with the sizing and wouldn't change it.

I bought the same fabric in another colour to make a beachy boatneck with three-quarter sleeves. I made a slightly lengthened size 4 (R is nearly 6 but has a narrow chest) and it's a beautiful fit. I used scraps from the first t-shirt to make the facing, and was very happy to be able to use my twin needle to overstitch the neckline and to finish the hem and sleeves.

R was a bit of a reluctant model today. She has just started her first year of school and by Friday afternoon she is stressed and exhausted, ready to have a meltdown at the drop of a hat (luckily my son has spent all his spare time for the past week hunched over a desk making rainbow loom bracelets, so at least I've only really had one child to deal with). For my ill-timed photo shoot she adopted a range of unhappy expressions ranging from sulky through to exasperated - until I asked her to smooth her skirt down so I didn't wind up with a photo of her undies, which she found so hilarious she couldn't stop laughing.

I love the curved hemline of the beachy boatneck, and I also adore the colour of this fabric (I think they call it 'latte'). I'm feeling inspired to sew lots more stretchy tops and t-shirts, but it's hard to find attractive knit fabrics in natural fibres. Is there some secret shop in Melbourne I should know about? Or will I have to go international and order a year's worth of knits from Girl Charlee?

Sunday, 2 March 2014

My favourite easy bag pattern

It's been so long since I posted anything - where have the weeks gone? OK, one of them was spent away on holiday, and then there's that new job I started in February - but still, time has somehow rushed by without my having sewn anything much at all (I have planned things, traced patterns, even cut out fabric... but it all remains unfinished). So readers, please accept my humble offering of... a bag. I sew a lot of little things like this that I don't often blog about, but this bag is my go-to pattern for an easy-to-sew bag that is great for showing off a special fabric. It's the reversible bag from Very Purple Person (you can find the tutorial and free pattern here), and it has just one pattern piece! The bag is lined, so you cut that one pattern piece out four times. I usually use a thick cotton or drill for both lining and outer, and although this makes the bag difficult to turn out after sewing, it does work... eventually.

I usually make two alterations to this pattern: I add an extra few inches to the strap section as I find it a little short, and I include a little pocket inside.

The bag on the left was made for a friend in Cape Town (I haven't sent it yet, so hopefully she's not reading this!). The fabric is from a Spotlight range featuring linoprint designs by women from Maningrida, a remote aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. This particular design is of waterlily pods - I think. I accidentally threw out the selvedge which had all the info on it. The bag on the right is one I made for a friend, and I liked it so much, I made the same one for my sister, too. I'm so consistent in my taste it's surely only a matter of time before I make someone the same gift twice... or perhaps I've already done it, and they've been too polite to tell me.

Anyone have another simple bag pattern they would recommend?