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!

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Arrietty dress

I love it when R makes dressmaking requests, and since seeing the beautiful Studio Ghibli film Arrietty she's been asking for a particular dress from the movie - a red one, with a high neck and long sleeves, that the tiny Arrietty wears to go 'borrowing'.

When R started asking for the dress it was nearly summer, so I told her she'd have to wait until winter. I thought she would probably forget about it, but no, the desire for the dress stayed with her and the requests became demands. Then I came across some thick, red wool jersey at Kim Anh Fabrics and knew this dress had to be made. There remained only the issue of how to draft it, and after much indecision I used the Oliver + S school bus T-shirt as the basis for the top part, shortening it considerably and adding a high neckband (much as Shelley did here - thanks for the inspiration!), then using Dana's First Day Dress for the skirt. All surprisingly easy and pleasant to sew, although it took a few fittings to get it just right.

I sewed a little square of 'apple' jersey to the inside back neckline so R will know which way to put it on, since the front and back of the dress are just about identical except for the seam on the neckband. The dress is such a great fit on R, and has a beautiful twirl to the skirt (not that I could persuade her to demonstrate this for my photos - it was a cold and windy afternoon and our photoshoot had to be extra quick).

In the movie Arrietty goes 'borrowing' with her father, carrying a cross-body bag with a huge button. Just for fun I decided to have a go at the bag. Copying a cartoon character's dress and accessories can be a complicated process. Before you even draft the things you have to figure out what they actually look like, and how that might translate into real materials and designs. I thought I could improve on the bag a bit, making it a less sack-like and more practical, so I drafted a curved messenger-style bag, added some pockets to the lining and put a little stamped cat tag inside (R's favourite bit!). The tape I'd bought for the handle was too narrow so I improvised some 'adapters' to join the handles more neatly to the body of the bag. These echo the design of the bag in the film, conveniently enough! Despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing, the bag worked out beautifully - in fact, I kind of want one for myself now.

In the movie, Arrietty is a tiny person who lives with her family beneath a house, surviving by secretly 'borrowing' items from the people upstairs. I  promised R that I would photoshop some pictures to make her small, so I enlisted the help of some local wildlife:

I made Arrietty's giant pin (which sadly got cropped out of the cat and cockatoo photos above due to my limited photoshop skills) from a knitting needle and a polystyrene craft ball, just so R would have something to swish around while I took the photographs. I was tempted to keep going and make Arruietty's other accessories too, but they can wait until Halloween (if that's what R chooses to dress up as. She dressed as Studio Ghibli's Kiki one year and that was super cute). Anyway, both the dress and the bag are practical and and R loves both of them. Besides, it is DEFINITELY the weather for high necks and long sleeves!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

And now for something cute...

Kids! magazine, besides having heaps of clothing patterns, has instructions for making all sorts of accessories: ear muffs, slippers, hair accessories, bags and more. When I spotted this rather cute bear scarf, I thought how much cooler it would be if it were a cat. The fact that I happened to have some cat-like black fleece in the cupboard was most fortuitous.

Above is the scarf as pictured in the magazine. I changed the ears to pointed ones, embroidered a cat's face and changed the bear paws to silver claws, but I did use the original scarf pattern and the template for the head. I'm a pretty hopeless embroiderer but I like to think that my 'naive' style did the job well enough!

R really loves her new scarf. Putting a cat on things pretty much guarantees that they will be worn!

So cute... do you think I could get away with wearing one myself?

Sunday, 5 June 2016

A sweet winter jacket for R

The weather has taken a turn for the chillier here, and as R has pretty much grown out of her old jacket, a new one had to be made quickly. This is pattern W from Sweet Clothes for Girls (you can see the same jacket on the back of the book, shown above), modified to include lining and in-seam pockets. I used a wool blend from Kim Anh fabrics and some long-hoarded cotton for the lining.

The jacket pattern is fairly straightforward, with patch pockets (I left those off), facings and a lined hood. Although I've added lining to unlined patterns before, I always find the process quite mind-bending. How do I incorporate the facings? When I sew the lining and outer together, which bits have to be left open so I can turn it right-side-out successfully? How does that magic sleeve-sewing technique - where you sew the outer sleeve hem to the lining sleeve hem - work again? (there's a summary here if you want to know, although I did mine a little differently). Somehow I muddled my way through and it all worked out. I even added a little 'secret pocket' to the inside of the jacket and remembered to include a fabric loop below the hood so the jacket can be hung on a hook if required (although I can't imagine when this might be). Five big red buttons add a bit of colour and are nice and easy to do up and undo.

You can see from R's expression that she was a bit fed up with modelling by the time I took that last photo of her with the hood on!

I'm pleased with how this one worked out, although I might opt for a pattern that includes lining instructions next time, in the interests of my mental health. And as this jacket is a perfect fit - that is to say, it doesn't have loads of growing room - I will probably be doing exactly that come next winter.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

KCW: Japanese culottes and a Japanese top

Started well before Kid's Clothes Week, then put on the backburner, here's a little outfit I made for R: a pair of culottes with a piped yoke (and side pockets, yay) and a simple knit top with an interesting shoulder detail. The culottes are from my newest Japanese pattern book Kids Clothes Style Book and I made them in the same beautiful Three Cats shweshwe fabric that I used for R's kimono slippers. I'm really happy with the style and the fit of this cute little skort, and it works well with tights underneath in our cool Autumn weather.

The top is pattern 8 from Fu-Ko Basics and, while it's hard to tell from the illustration contained in the book, it has an unusual design with the back piece extending over the shoulders to form an interesting seam detail at the front (which I totally failed to photograph properly). The back hem is a little lower than the front hem, which is another nice feature. For this top I used a not-too-stretchy cotton knit from Spotlight; good thing I bought heaps of it on clearance as my first top ended up too wide at the neck and I had to throw it out and start again. This top is intended to have a wide neckline, but taking a few centimetres off the neck width ended up being a very helpful adjustment.

It rained solidly all day today and the light indoors was rather gloomy, so photographing this outfit wasn't much fun. But never mind, R likes her new clothes and happily wore them for the rest of the day. Now to work on a much-needed winter coat!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A teeny tiny sewing project

At the kids' request, we're following in the dirt-free footsteps of our Asian friends and going shoeless inside the house. We now have a shoe rack just inside the front door for easy changing over of indoor/outdoor footwear, and are in the process of ensuring that we all have slippers to keep our feet warm while inside. Just the excuse I needed to sew up a pair of Peggy Kimono Shoes, which I saw last year on Masha's blog and loved.

If you're looking for a quick-and-easy project that needs only tiny bits of fabric (scrap hoarders, give yourselves a pat on the back!) this is just the thing. I used some scraps of South African shweshwe and some bits of left-over denim for the outers, with the inside uppers made from fleece. The insoles are made from cotton batting sandwiched between two layers of thick wool and stitched together - the instructions have you sew two insole pieces together, but this proved a little thin, hence the batting and the wool. I also appliqued half a heart to the insole of each shoe to help R remember which foot is which; when she puts them together the right way the heart is complete. For the outer sole I used non-slip fabric with little rubber dots, just like Masha did. It all came together easily and I enjoyed the process.

Yay for cosy indoor footwear that uses up pretty scraps of fabric!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A long-sleeved dress in linen

I made R this long-sleeved elastic-waist dress in a beautiful subtly striped linen. "It's a Laura dress!" R exclaimed excitedly when she saw it. I wasn't convinced - after all, it doesn't have a frilly collar, a full skirt or a high neckline - but then she showed me an episode from the first season of Little House on the Prairie and to my surprise, there was Laura in an almost identical dress. The connection to R's (current) favourite character means the dress has been well-received and will probably be a winter favourite.

The pattern is from one of the A Sunny Spot books and is a wonderfully easy sew. I made two small modifications: I took a couple of centimetres off the centre of both front and back to suit R's build and ensure that the neckline wasn't too wide, and I used a snap at the back rather than a button. The dress has neckline facings that are sewn down, creating a nice stitch-line on the dress.

R was not in a modelling mood on the weekend so I had to settle for a few quick snaps outside the dumpling restaurant that we took my mum to for her 70th birthday/mother's day lunch (AND I had to crop out R's cousin, who arrived just as I was taking the photos - he is gorgeous, but I didn't think he'd appreciate being on my blog!). It was a reasonably mild day, but as the temperature drops I think this linen dress will also look great with tights and a cardigan - or maybe a coat, if I can choose a pattern from the many different ones that are calling me!