Saturday, 9 April 2016

Hide and Seek tunic with an indonesian twist

Some years (decades!) ago in a market in Singaraja - a town in the north of Bali - I bought a bunch of cloths made for Balinese traditional dancers and have kept (hoarded!) them ever since. From time to time it's struck me that R would adore the pretty, bright colours and the touches of silver and gold, but I haven't been able to figure out how to incorporate these things into an actual, wearable garment. Until now - when I realised that a cut-up songket scarf would make a perfect yoke for an Oliver + S hide and seek dress. Songket is an Indonesian fabric woven through with metallic threads, with the woven designs creating a shimmery effect.

I was worried about all those metallic threads coming loose while cutting out the yoke, but zigzagging the edges before sewing seemed to do the trick. The main fabric of the tunic is a beautiful soft linen from Darn Cheap, a rich browny-grey colour that I love so much, I'm thinking I should go back and buy a couple of metres to make something for myself. I remembered the first Hide and Seek I made as being quite a bit of work, but without the pockets this shorter version was pleasingly fast to sew. I made the size 5 with size 7 length, which turned out just about perfect. Just one modification: snaps at the back in lieu of buttons. Beautiful though buttons are, I just can't cope with the tears and tangles when R's long hair wraps itself around them.

I love this top so much I'm almost reluctant to hide it away in R's cupboard. The plainness of the linen with the richness of the yoke - so lovely. Plus it carries fond memories of Singaraja market and my fabric purchases all those years ago.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Skinny jeans and a corduroy jacket

I did it! I finally made jeans - real ones, with flat-felled seams, a coin pocket and LOTS of topstitching. And it was fun! I used Titchy Threads' well-loved Small Fry Skinny Jeans pattern and thoroughly enjoyed the process. Now, I do realise I'm probably the last person left in the sewing world to discover this pattern, but I must say I am truly impressed. The pattern itself is great, and the instructions are very clear and well-written. The only thing I will change next time is to sew the waistband inside buttons on at the very end as they interfered with my topstitching. Also, my machine rebelled against sewing on the belt loops with topstitching thread, so after several attempts at this (all of which had to be laboriously unpicked) I gave up and used normal thread instead. These little difficulties aside, the jeans are not a difficult sew and the results are impressive.

I made the fully topstitched version with a half fly, reversed for a girl as outlined in the instructions. I cut a size 5 in width and size 7 in length based on R's measurements but the jeans are far from skintight so I probably could have reduced the width even further - although this might make them more difficult to put on, which could then lead to them not being worn. I really love them just the way they are and it's such a pleasure to see my girl in jeans at long last. A side benefit of all that thread changing while sewing: I worked out how to use the automatic threading function on my machine! No more squinting at the needle for me!

We went into town today for a Japanese lunch and a trip to the Chinese Museum, and I managed to get some modelled photos on our outing. R wore her new jeans with another new item - a baby-wale corduroy jacket from Kids! magazine. The cord is beautifully soft and is an unusual shade somewhere between grape and... well, whatever colour is greyer and murkier than grape (why am I so often attracted to colours I don't know the names of?). Indoors it looks a little dull, but in natural light its true colours shine. I lengthened the sleeves a little and bias-bound the facing, but otherwise it's made exactly as per the pattern. The cute wooden buttons are from Darn Cheap, as is the fabric. I love the style of the jacket but the neckline is weirdly large, so this will need some modifying if I make it again. Kids! magazine has quite a lot of nice patterns, and best of all, they go up to size 150 so I can use them for a few years to come - at least, that's how I justified buying it!

R happily put on the jeans today, so I'm considering this a turning point! Hopefully they'll get loads of wear over the cooler months.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

An Autumn outfit

R never wears pants, but I decided to  make her some anyway - nothing too complicated and time-consuming, because after all, they might never be worn, but something simple and comfortable as sort of a trial. I traced off pattern O from Happy Homemade, straightened the line of the leg and added back and side pockets from pattern I. In a soft and thin black denim the pants were easy to sew. The waist is elasticised (I added an 'x' at the back waist to secre the elastic) and I threw in a bit of topstitching at the hems just because I felt like they needed something extra.

I paired the pants with a loose-fitting top from Girls Style Book - you can see my previous version here. This is a great trans-seasonal top because it looks lovely with a long-sleeved top underneath on colder days. When I checked the cupboard for an appropriate fabric I found I had just enough of this soft, flowery voile, last used several years ago to make an amazingly similar top (which pre-dates this blog, but you can see it on my Flickr stream, along with the many Oliver + S ice cream dresses I made back in those days!). I made just two modifications to the pattern: omitting the ruffles on the sleeves and taking a couple of centimetres off the centre of the front and back pattern pieces.

I took R outside to take the photos but weirdly every single one of the pictures is out of focus... so I've had to pick out the least blurry ones. I think the outfit looks just perfect on her, and to my amazement, she actually likes the pants.

Morry strolled by as we were photographing and scored a starring role in the one-and-only sharp focus shot:

R has given me permission to make her more pants, and I'd like to try some skinny jeans. Is the Titchy Threads pattern the way to go? Give me your skinny jeans recommendations, please!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

A pair of flower skirts

Last year I ordered some South African fabrics for my Dad to bring back from Cape Town for me. As well as a few metres my beloved Three Cats brand, I chose a selection of rectangular cloths which are traditionally worn by Tsonga women (you can see some examples of the way they are worn here).

These things come in a variety of super-bright colours and have a flower motif along the border, making them perfect for simple gathered skirts with just one seam at the back. All I did was cut them to size, sew them into 'tubes' of fabric, make a double casing for elastic at the top, then hem the bottoms. So quick, so easy! I had to line the yellow one, though, because it was a little transparent - and then I accidentally snipped part of the fabric so I used the lining as the waistband as well.

One for R and one for her sweet little cousin! The girls made such an adorable pair in their matching skirts, I couldn't stop snapping away.

Little M is somewhat recalcitrant when it comes to modelling - this is a girl who knows her own mind! - so it was fortunate that she took a liking to the skirt and put it on happily (unlike R, who only put hers on because I refused to give them a tub for their 'Barbie bath' until she did so).

Two happy cousins, two cute skirts and several very clean Barbies! 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Kids Clothes Week: cat dress

I've only made one thing this Kids Clothes Week and I'm pretty sure I won't finish anything else by tomorrow. So here it is, the 'ribbon-back tunic' from Linen Wool Cotton: Kids. I made the sleeveless version of this top (here) and loved it, but this one didn't quite turn out the way I imagined.

I had a vision of the tunic lengthened into a dress, but I was far too short of fabric to make the double-layered skirt I had envisaged. And as it was, the skirt part of the dress turned out rather too short. As I did with the previous version, I lined the top (and also the sleeves) instead of using facings, and I should have narrowed the bodice like I did last time, but I forgot, which made the neck and shoulders a bit too wide.

I'm not thrilled with the giant flutter sleeves - they look ready to take flight! I prefer a far smaller flutter, so if I made this again I would be chopping a fair bit off their width. I'm also not sure about the merits of the waist, where a gathered top part meets a gathered skirt part, which is kind of weird. Then there's the back - there's something about the way the tunic/dress hangs that makes its loveliest feature, the open back, not sit as nicely as it does in the sleeveless version, which has a band at the bottom. But as I didn't manage to get any decent photos of R from behind, you'll just have to take my word for it!

It's not so obvious in the photos, but the unlined skirt portion of the dress is quite see-through. As I write this, R is wearing the dress with leggings and a cardigan, and it suddenly looks much better. Given the issues of size, length and transparency combined, I think it's destined to be worn as a tunic. I'm not sure if I'll shorten it or just wait til R grows into it - she's shooting up fast lately - but as a top/tunic with a pair of leggings or pants (will she ever agree to wear pants??) it's clearly going to work much better. And it HAS to work, because I adore this fabric with its little hidden cat faces:

So not a total sewing success, but not a complete failure either. I reckon by next summer this dress will have a new life as a top!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

2016 SVE - what I received

Putting together a parcel of gifts for someone in a land far, far away is so much fun - but the joy of the Secret Valentine Exchange is as much in the receiving as in the giving. Arriving home to find a parcel on your doorstep is a wonderful, wonderful experience. And if that parcel is covered with colourful stamps, and if, when you open it, there is a large box inside, all the better! My parcel came from Mirjam in Switzerland, who blogs at Miushka learns to sew and and who goes by @miushkamiushka on Instagram.

I had to shoo Moriarty away so I could open the wrapped gifts without him chewing the paper off (that cat chews anything!). Inside the two beautifully-wrapped packages were... (drumroll):

A little handmade pincushion turtle (tortoise?) so beautifully hand-sewn and decorated with sashiko stitching. He has magnets in his hands to collect pins, and as I write this is making himself useful beside my sewing machine. And...

An oven glove with spotted linen on one side and striped on the other, also decorated with sashiko. Mirjam very creatively embroidered little crosses on the spots, which is a really effective technique (and, she told me, a great way to keep your stitches even and in line!). Going to have to try this myself one day.

Both gifts are so thoughtful and beautifully made, they really made my Valentine's Day special and will always be treasured. Thank you so much, Mirjam!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

2016 Secret Valentine Exchange

This was my second year participating in Sanae and Ute's Secret Valentine Exchange, where sewing and craft enthusiasts make handmade gifts for a secret partner. You're given a few details about them - their favourite colours, fabrics, motifs - and if they have a blog or instagram account you can get a sense of their style that way too. It's amazing how much fun it is to make gifts for a stranger - it gives you license to sew all sorts of pretty little things you might not otherwise have a chance (or an excuse) to make. And you can't beat the scrap-busting opportunities that little sewing projects provide!

My SVE partner Sarah lives in Florida and blogs (occasionally!) at dear little water. When I looked at her blog, though, there weren't any recent posts, so I mostly went by the information Sanae and Ute gave me: she likes triangles, moons, stars and nature-inspired things; linen and cotton; and the colours blue, lavender, grey and white. I'd also seen from her blog that she had a young daughter and liked gardening. With those things in mind, here is what I made her:

Drawstring bag from the book Carry Me, made in linen-cotton, lined with lavender linen.
Pleated pouch (from this tutorial) in linen.
Little paper-covered notebooks (inspired by this tutorial) using reproduction vintage paper.
Parsley seeds from my garden.
I also included a teeny tiny paintbox - I adore these, and they make a great handbag-friendly portable activity for little kids.

It was so exciting packing everything up and posting it, although once you place something in Australia Post's hands you never really know what's going to happen to it. It eventually reached its destination only one week late, which isn't too bad. I

You can see all the other Valentine's gifts on Instagram using the hashtag #2016sve. It's well worth a look if you need ideas for handmade presents - there are SO many beautiful things there and plenty to be inspired by. I'm really tempted to buy myself the Stowe Bag pattern now that I've seen so many stunning versions of it, but I really should stick to the patterns I already have, shouldn't I... let's see how long my resolve lasts!

In my next post I'll show you what I received from my lovely SVE partner Mirjam!