Saturday, 22 October 2016

Japanese Day

R asked me to make her a special outfit for Japanese Day at school: a yukata (summer kimono). How tough could it be, I thought, as I ordered a cute-looking pattern from Amazon Japan. Sure, I had no idea what a yukata looked like close-up, nor how they were traditionally constructed, but given my years of sewing from Japanese patterns I didn't think it would be much of a challenge.

The pattern arrived and I realised that a yukata is made from mega-long pattern pieces that form both front and back sections - there are no shoulder seams. This requires a good few metres of fabric, which immediately ruled out just about all the fabrics I liked due to budget constraints (because how much is it really reasonable to spend on a school fancy dress outfit?). Eventually I found some Japanese-themed voile on sale at Spotlight that worked quite nicely.

The Japanese teacher at my work lent me a yukata so I could see how it was made. This helped me make sense of the bizarro pattern pieces, although being an adult's yukata it was different from the one in my pattern, which had the tucks at the shoulders and waist which - I have since figured out - are there to allow the garment to be let out as the child grows.

So I sewed the yukata, which, once I'd got my head around it, was quite simple (this series of posts on sewing a child's yukata was helpful). I even changed things up a little and used French seams so it would look neater from the inside. Then came the obi. I found some dimensions from a shop selling them on Rakuten, and, using some soft voile from my stash, sewed a giant sash (basically a massive long rectangle). Things were so rushed in the lead-up to the 'big day' that I didn't have time to try the outfit on R in advance, but in the morning I used this tutorial to help me tie the obi.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time admiring kanzashi hair ornaments on the internet and ambitiously had a go at making my own, but after two ribbon flowers I'd had enough. Cutting and gluing tiny bits of ribbon is really not my forte, but luckily the two I managed to make before giving up looked quite nice when attached to a two-dollar shop headband, and R was thrilled with her new accessory.

At school I watched R walk around, smiling sweetly as people admired her outfit. She continued to be a sweet little Japanese girl even after she came home that day, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her bow to me and pretend to be polite! Given the generous tucks in R's yukata (meaning that it is likely to fit her forever) I'm not expecting to have to make another, but since I've got a grip on the general construction principles I think I'll have a go at a jinbei, which has a very similar top section. I just have to find the right fabric and finish a few WIPs first...

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Living in the 70s - a floral dress

A roll of fabric on the clearance table at Spotlight caught my eye. I pulled it out and was immediately reminded of a 1970s curtain - or maybe a doona cover. So I put it back and went home, only to find that images of the blue, green and yellow vintage print kept popping into my head. Those who spend way too much time obsessing over fabric will understand that I was compelled to go back the following day and pick up a couple of metres. And yes, it does resemble a 1970s curtain, but in a really good way, right? And I just love the colours - perfect for spring.

My first thought was to use the fabric (a bargain at $4 a metre, by the way) for a dress in a similar style to the poppy one I made recently. I used a bodice from a Japanese pattern, lengthened it, and added a gathered skirt with piping at the waist. This time I made the skirt wider and included in-seam pockets. The bodice is lined with voile, closes with an invisible zip and has a little stamped cat tag on the inside (because our home is ruled by our cats). I didn't do quite as great a job with the zip this time round, but given the length of R's hair it's not likely anyone will ever see this little imperfection! And because I'm already lamenting the fact that the perfectly-fitted poppy dress will not fit R for long, I made this one a good few inches longer and a little wider. I don't think it looks too baggy, and it should be good for next summer too.

I gave R some 'punching balloons' to keep her amused during her brother's (very long) cricket match today. I must say, they are pretty irritating things, especially when they are being 'punched' right next to your head as you attempt to watch your son batting. They also make a terrifyingly loud bang when they pop, which, of course, occurs when the balloon is right next to your head.

So now I can stop thinking about blue and green flowers and swirls and move on to finishing R's yukata. But I'm not quite done with this fabric yet - I have just enough left to make a skirt for my little niece, who saw the fabric when she was here and pronounced it beautiful. Such good taste and only four years old!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Black and grey on a sunny day

She asked for a black dress, so I made her one. I used the same silky, subtly-checked cotton that I used a couple of years ago for my disastrous sack-like number, and I'm so happy to have found a better use for it. This is one of those fabrics that's much lovelier in real life, because the pattern is really hard to photograph and the drape and feel of it are just stunning.

The pattern is from A Sunny Spot and it's actually meant to be a top, but I lengthened it substantially and changed the back bodice design to make a neater opening - basically I cut the back as two pieces, then joined them only part of the way up, and finished the neck with bias binding and ties at the back instead of facing and a button.

The cardi is from the same book, and replaces a much-loved and much-worn earlier version which now has ridiculously short sleeves. Like my first one, I made it in French terry, having fortuitously picked up a half-metre cut from The Fabric Store's remnant bin during a rare visit there last month. I was careful to make the sleeves on this cardigan nice and long, and I added a few centimetres to the hemline as well. The buttons are lovely and sparkly; hard to see in the photos, unfortunately. Gathering the 'skirt' section of the cardigan was a bit of a challenge - I ended up sewing a thin strip of interfacing along the stitching line before my second attempt at it, and this really helped everything gather up beautifully.

Sewing this outfit has reminded me what a fabulous book this is - and it's all about layers, which is so perfect for Melbourne and its 'four seasons in a day' weather!

Friday, 19 August 2016

A denim skirt and a terry top

A few weeks ago I made the great trek across Melbourne to go the The Fabric Store's sale and walked out with the most stunning French terry in a magnificent, almost fluorescent, shade of orangey-red on the outside and yet another hard-to-describe shade of yellowy-orange on the inside. Not the sort of colours I usually go for, but I fell in love and had to have it.

I used it to make pattern Q from Kids' Clothes Style Book: a loose-fitting raglan-sleeved top with three-quarter sleeves and a high-low hem. Of course I had to make the most of the beautiful inside of the fabric, so I used it to make flat piping for the raglan seams and rolled up the sleeves to make cuffs.

The skirt is BurdaStyle's girls' metallic skirt, which I made in denim. Simple enough to sew, provided you don't mind making up your own instructions as the ones provided are exceptionally brief (directions for sewing the fly were particularly unhelpful). I followed 'instructions' religiously when cutting the waistband but I'm sure it's meant to be significantly wider as it turned out too narrow for a decent-sized button, and it looks different from that shown in the pattern photograph. I would have redone it, but didn't have enough fabric as I was already using leftover scraps from a previous project. I wound up using a bar fastener in lieu of a button and also adding buttonhole elastic to the back section of the waist to ensure a good fit (a wise move, as it turned out).

R snatched the skirt from me the moment it was finished, which surprised me a bit, given that it lacks colour, glitter, decoration and cat motifs. The whole outfit looks quite grown-up compared to some most of her other clothes, but happily she's still a bubble-blowing little girl whose favourite food is fairy bread and who teaches a class of Beanie Boos in her bedroom every day after school.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Pretty in poppies

Possibly the prettiest dress I've ever made, this was sewn from a Bambiblauw panel from Maai Design. When I saw these stunning panels I just couldn't resist, especially once I realised that R would soon be too big to make a whole dress from one - it was my last chance to try a panel print! Here is what the panel looked like before I finally bit the bullet and cut it up:

The cotton panels are 70cm wide and 140cm long, so finding a way to get the style of dress I wanted out of the limited metrage was quite a challenge. I cut off the skirt sections at either end, which left me with a blue centre section from which to cut a bodice. I tried out the fairy dress bodice (no) and a couple of Japanese sewing book bodices (no, no) before finding one that fit: the top part of dress F from Girls Style Book. I made a muslin first, then added a few centimetres so the bodice would end just below R's belly button. It was a rather tight fit getting the three bodice pieces from my little piece of fabric, but it worked out (just!).

Having splashed out on the stunning panel fabric, I wanted this dress to be perfect. I added lining to the bodice, took my time with the invisible zipper (as opposed to my usual slapdash efforts) and sewed the skirt with French seams. I used some of Maaike's cream piping at the waist, ending it a centimetre or so before the zip to avoid bulkiness. With the Bambiblauw fabric pretty much used up, I bought bias binding to finish the hem and face the armholes, then handstitched (ugh) the armhole facing and the lining.  The results are rather pleasing, if I do say so myself!

Conveniently, the sun came out today after weeks of wintry weather; perfect timing for a trip to the park and some photos of the dress in action!

I just love this dress, and R says she will keep it FOREVER. Poppies and winter sunshine - how wonderful!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Kids clothes week: a Bearlin skirt and a school bus tee

Recently I ordered a little bunch of goodies from Maai Design, among them a half-metre of this fabulous bear fabric. It was no easy task getting this skirt out of my little half-metre, and in the end I had to compromise by making the pocket bags white - much to my frustration.

The skirt is self-drafted, with hip-yoke pockets edged with gold piping (I just LOVE Maai Design's metallic piping), gathers at the centre front and back, and a wide waistband with an elasticised back. Apart from endless rearranging of pattern pieces to get the most out of my fabric, this was a straightforward and pleasant sew. I didn't even have to unpick anything!

To go with the skirt I made a school bus tee out of cotton jersey. This was a bit of a rushed sew, so don't look too closely at the neckband or hemming! The top looked a bit long when I finished it, so I ruched each side a little at the bottom and it turned out to fit beautifully this way.

How funny is R's face in this photo?!!

I really like these as an outfit, even if it's a little cool for bare legs at the moment. Now to see if I can finish something else before the week is up!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Dress with box pleats

Another winter dress for R, if only to give the Arrietty outfit a break (it was worn five days in a row last week!). This is dress V from Kids' Clothes Style Book, a really cute pattern book from the same designer as Kids' Clothes Sewing Lesson Book. Both books include patterns for boys and girls, and both have a practical but stylish vibe - lots of basics, but with little details that make them special. This is one of the dressier designs, but still very wearable.

The dress has beautiful box pleats, in-seam pockets and three-quarter sleeves. Unusually for a Japanese pattern, it also has a zip at the back. Thanks to the zip fastening it's quite a fitted dress. I sewed size 110 with size 120 length and the fit is perfect.

I made the dress in a super-soft pinwale corduroy and lined it fully with the kind of slippery, synthetic lining stuff that I usually avoid because I can't stand dealing with its fluffy, fraying edges - but I thought R would appreciate the slinky, non-sticking quality of the lining. The pattern is designed just to have facings, so adding the lining provided me with no end of problem-solving opportunities, the first of which was figuring out what to do about the pleats. Having tackled this conundrum (I treated the outer and lining as one and pleated them together) I battled through several more, eventually managing to achieve a reasonably successful lining, although it's a bit dodgy around the zip area.

R put the new dress through its paces, climbing a tree, throwing a hoop and scooting - all as I was trying to get some photos. It was freezing today and so our shoot was short and sweet. I totally failed to get a photo of the lining, but if you just imagine some silky greyish stuff with embarrassingly childish hand-stitching around the zip, you'll get the idea. And if anyone has any suggestions for tights-friendly alternatives to Spotlight-style slippery lining, I'll be very interested!