Thursday, 26 February 2015

Crochet lessons

My lovely friend Sandra - a super-creative mum at my kids' school - has been giving me crochet lessons. You might think that with all this sewing under my belt I'd take to it readily, but you'd be wrong. For the first few lessons I forgot everything the minute I walked out of Sandra's house - and then when I tried to practise at home our kitten Morry would go crazy trying to get my wool. So when we went away on holiday recently I took my crochet gear and a couple of how-to books from the library, determined to get my head around it. Despite the hopelessly dim light at our rented holiday house I managed to get a few things made in the evenings, consolidating what Sandra had taught me with the help of the books.

My crochet ambitions are pretty humble - I just want to be able to make little things like garlands, baskets and trim for clothes. With mild arthritis in my fingers I don't anticipate being able to make clothes, let alone bedspreads and blankets. So I was very happy when I managed to make two garlands and three baskets. The garland pattern is from here although I don't think I followed it correctly, but never mind. The baskets I just kind of made up as I went along, having miraculously remembered Sandra's instructions on how to make a magic circle (the starting point of any circular crochet). They're kind of wonky but I'm very proud of them nevertheless.

My crochet teacher is running the craft stall at the upcoming school fete, and asked me to make a few things for it: chalkboard bunting (I made three, each backed with two different colours of felt) and girls' fabric headbands (I made ten reversible ones). I enjoyed putting together these little items and I really hope they help raise some money for our school.

You know how I mentioned a while back that we got a kitten? Well, we ended up getting two: Morry (top left) and then Zindzi, a beautiful tabby girl (bottom right). They are regular visitors to my sewing room and besides crocheted items are especially fond of dangly bits of bias binding, large pattern sheets from sewing books and magazines, cotton reels and elastic. Nothing is safe from cats around here!

Happy Valentine's Day to me!

How lovely it was to arrive home yesterday afternoon to find a Valentine's parcel waiting for me from Becca in Texas. I excitedly opened it to find a handsome and beautifully-made boxy zipper pouch accompanied by a card with a stunning Kenyan fabric design printed on it (if someone sold these cards here in Melbourne I'd be buying them by the boxful!).

Inside the pouch was a tiny triangular pouch, ingeniously made out of one long zipper. I've seen tutorials for these things before but have never been brave enough to try making one. Anyway, it  has lace trim on the outside and a floral print on the inside - very pretty (and my son was rather impressed by the nifty zip construction). Many, many thanks to Becca for her lovely and thoughtful gifts that will definitely be well used and loved.

And thank you once again to Sanae and Ute for organising this very special exchange. Sign me up for 2016!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Secret Valentine Exchange - what I made

A couple of months ago I signed up for Sanae and Ute's Secret Valentine Exchange, because I love sewing little gifts for people AND I love getting parcels in the mail. Win, win! The recipient of my Valentine's gift, Kelley, emailed me last week to say she had received her parcel, so I can now safely show what I made for the exchange (my own gift hasn't arrived yet, but that's OK - mail is sometimes very slow around here).

For the exchange I was given some information about Kelley: she likes blue, purple, green and grey, is fond of cute animal prints (among other things) and enjoys gardening. When posting overseas I like to make things that can fit in a large envelope, because our postal charges are ridiculous once packages are deemed thick enough to be 'parcels'. So with all these things in mind, I decided to try out the Straight Stitch Society's 'forget me not' jewellery pouch pattern, which is a round pouch with several internal pockets for small jewellery items and a central space perfect for bracelets and larger items. I used a lavender-coloured linen for the main fabric and some chambray-coloured linen and spotted quilting cotton for the interior. I love the way this worked out and this pattern is definitely going to be used again and again.

I also made a little heart-shaped zipper pouch in Cloud 9 canvas (I've previously made one for my daughter as a Valentine's gift and it's been a great little schoolbag coin purse) and one of my 'Nude Food' sandwich wrappers (tutorial here) in a doggy print. As Kelley likes gardening I added an envelope of parsley seeds from my back yard, because even if she already has parsley growing I always think it's nice to plant seeds from somewhere far away. I wrapped everything up in pieces of Chinese and Balinese calendar (one of them dates from nearly two decades ago, evidence of my serious paper-hoarding tendencies) and sent them off to California.

Kelley sent me a lovely email thanking me for the presents, but really the pleasure was all mine. I so enjoyed putting this little package together that I can hardly wait for the next SVE!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sunsmart bathers

In the two evenings before leaving for our holiday I managed to sew (at breakneck speed in between packing, cleaning and child-wrangling) a rash vest and bather pants set for R. She loves her spotty bathers I made earlier this summer but really needed something a bit more sunsmart, and as this Chloroban fabric is UV-resistant it should do the job very well. 

For the top I used a pattern from an old Ottobre I found in an op-shop recently (a real bargain at just one dollar). This was my first time using an Ottobre pattern (and my first time sewing raglan sleeves), and although the instructions were minimal, the construction was very simple. The pattern was for a boy's top with ribbed neck and cuffs but I lengthened the sleeves a little and hemmed them instead, also drafting a fabric neckband in lieu of ribbing. The size was total guesswork as I sewed it at night when R was asleep, but when I tried it on her in the morning I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was perfect. The pants - which I adapted from the Cosi swimsuit pattern - are quite a tight fit and I doubt they'll last til next summer. But never mind, I have enough fabric left to make a larger version when required.

We were lucky enough to have some beach weather today and the bathers had their first outing. I feel very satisfied with this last item for Kids Clothes Week. Simple, practical, cute - and for probably the first time ever, I didn't have to unpick a single seam!

Friday, 6 February 2015

KCW: A trio of t-shirts

The theme for this season's Kids Clothes Week is 'upcycled'. I'm not a huge upcycler, mainly because I wear my clothes til they are literally falling apart, and by then there's not much left to work with. And while I have my eye on a few of my husband's shirts, he's not prepared to part with a single one (despite having nearly 100 of them, which I think is ridiculous). Nevertheless, KCW provided the impetus for me to clear out a pile of old torn, stained and too-small clothes that I'd kept in hopes of repurposing them in some way, and in doing so I found a couple of upcyclable tops.

Daydreaming about what to make, and having decided that this will be the year I sew some boring things like plain leggings and t-shirts, I sketched some ideas for t-shirts for R. I was aiming for 4 and managed to make 3 before preparations for our family holiday took over and I had to call it a day.

The grey t-shirt turned out the best. I used one of K's t-shirts and retained the existing neckline and shoulder seams, but cut out all the rest using one of R's tops as a guide. I also used the sleeve hems to be the hems of the flutter sleeves, which worked out great.

The bluey-grey t-shirt is not upcycled. It's made from some stretchy cotton jersey, with the flutter sleeves made from South African Three Cats fabric. I got lazy and didn't use my double needle for the hem; consequently it doesn't look great. Oh well...

T-shirt number three is made from an old top of mine and I have no idea how it looks on R because I haven't yet tried it on her and she was too hot and bothered after school to model anything (and I was too hot and bothered to take decent photos). I'm thinking the sleeves look kind of ridiculous - I didn't have much fabric to work with as I had to avoid a paint stain on the original top - but if they look silly on, I'll just downcycle it into a rag and call it a learning experience.

In my enthusiasm for upcyling I made a little stamp with a recycling symbol on it, so my upcycled garments now have their own special label!

Friday, 23 January 2015

A mermaid costume and a homemade gift

I love sewing and have certain standards for the things I make. I'll unpick and re-sew (often several times) until I get things perfect, and visit shop after shop to find the exact right cord or ribbon. When it comes to kids' costumes, however, the opposite is true. Almost every costume I've ever made has been a slapdash, lazy effort replete with dodgy gathering, shonky hemlines and a few safety pins making up for less-than-perfect fitting. Because the costumes may only be worn once, and because I'm just not that into making them, there's only so much time and effort I'm prepared to put in.

So I wasn't planning to blog this outfit, whipped up the night before R's friend's party for which mermaid attire was required. But when she tried it on (ten minutes before the party was due to start, with me holding the safety pins in preparation) it not only fitted her perfectly, but she looked so gorgeous I pulled out the camera and started snapping away.

The outfit is self-drafted, if cutting and sewing by eye can even be called drafting. The skirt is just a stretchy tube with some ruffles at the end, and the top is bandeau-style (another tube, really) with halter-neck straps. The fabric was Spotlight's cheapest sparkly stuff and has a kind of psychedelic blotchy yellow-and-green effect going on, but it's perfect for mermaid clothing. I used stretch stitch throughout, but the fabric is actually not all that stretchy so getting into the car was a bit of an ordeal for poor R. Fortunately the skirt/tail can be hiked up and worn as a short, pouffy skirt (which looked really cool - wish I'd taken a photo of it) so as to be able to play party games, dance and outrun other children during the treasure hunt.

For the birthday girl I made a 'make your own cubby house' kit similar to the one I made for my nephew last year. My own kids adore building cubbies but are constantly frustrated by the difficulties of getting sheets and blankets to attach securely to chairs. The kit solves this problem with a bunch of clamps (SO much better than clothes pegs), some rope, and loops and ties on each corner of the sheets (I use strips of jersey and add loops/ties at the centre of each long edge too). A few glow sticks add mood lighting to the cubby house, or you can throw in a torch like I did last time.  I packaged the whole lot  up in a tote bag made from Ikea fabric - I love this fabric, and am really pleased I have some left so I can sew myself a bag too! Check out this tutorial for more details of cubby house (or 'fort') kits.

I suppose I should make my kids their own kit now, but last time they built a cubby - just a few days ago - a cat pooed in it. Nice. So I'm not that into cubbies at the moment, but I truly hope our little mermaid birthday girl enjoys hers!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Pineapple dress

Pineapples are all the rage, so a friend told me recently. All I know is that this cotton knit fabric called out to me from the racks of Darn Cheap Fabrics, and since I didn't think I could get away with wearing so much tropical fruit, I made a dress for R.

The pattern is dress M-2 from the Japanese Sewing Lesson Book and while I loved the look of it on the model in the book, it came out a little baggy on R - this despite my having used my usual trick of making the width a size smaller AND taking a couple of centimetres off at the centre folds of front and back. Never mind, it still looks pretty good and it's bound to be very comfy to wear.

This pattern is a simple one: just front, back, sleeves and pockets, but the little details of the angled pocket tops (see photo above right) and the cute bow closure at the back (almost too cute, but I knew R would love it) make it special.

Anyway, who doesn't love pineapples?