Sunday, 25 October 2015

KCW - a summer outfit

So often I read on someone's blog that they just 'whipped something up' in an hour or two, and I am always amazed and impressed that anyone can sew that quickly. My own sewing always seemes dogged by interruptions, mistakes and the discovery that I am lacking certain crucial items (zips, buttons, thread). But last night I surprised myself by whipping up something super-quick. Something straightforward, with a two-piece pattern and with no zips or buttons. And it was SO satisfying!

This little singlet in cotton jersey was a nice easy sew, even with a few modifications. I used this free pattern from small dreamfactory - it only goes up to size 4, but that size is spot-on for R's measurements. To get a less tightly-fitting singlet I added a few centimetres to the width of front and back pieces and gathered the neckline and back before sewing the bias tape (which was just a length of the same jersey, cut cross-grain). I also crossed the straps at the back for a bit of interest - the pattern has them going straight down.

The shorts are from Kids Clothes Sewing Lesson Book and were made last week, so not strictly a Kids Clothes Week item, but I'm throwing them in anyway. This is a really cute pattern with front and back pockets and an elasticised ribbed waist. I used a French terry from Darn Cheap (another $2 p/m find, hooray!) and I really hope R will wear these despite her anti-pants stance because they fit her so beautifully.

In a final, frenzied burst of activity this afternoon, I sewed a bucket hat from this tried-and-true Oliver + S free pattern. I made size L, and as with my last version, I broadened the brim, added grommets to feed a strap through, and eliminated the hand-sewing by using this easy method. Having lots of scraps of striped jersey lying around my (insanely messy) sewing room, I added faux piping to the edge of the brim so it matches nicely with the singlet.

Now I'm looking forward to taking a breather and checking out everyone's projects on the Kids Clothes Week site!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

KCW - a party dress

Every little girl needs a party dress, right? Well actually, no - not when birthday parties typically involve such activities as trampolining, swimming, racing around play centres and going wild in a giant room full of inflatable things. But do you think I'm going to let the fact that R doesn't need a fancy party dress (complete with tulle petticoat) stop me? No. As the mother of a girl, it is my right to make one, so make one I did!

I wanted a fitted bodice and a full skirt, so I diverged from my Japanese pattern books and bought Dana's First Day Dress. It's such a cute pattern, and seemed perfect for the job. But it turns out the back closure is basically just a small slit with a button, and I could imagine the shrieks of outrage from R as I tried to pull it over her head. I decided to do a little modification and use an invisible zip instead, a nice long one that extends into the skirt. This worked really well and I don't think I'd make the dress any other way now. I also recut the neckline a little to make it lower - this thing has a super-high neck - and I'm happy with this change, too. I fully lined the dress - instructions for this are included in the pattern - and spent an unhappy few hours trying out various ways of adding a layer of tulle between dress and lining. I eventually hit on a solution that didn't look ridiculously bulgy, which was using a folded-over section of cotton lawn for the top part of the tulle petticoat, and gathering the tulle before sewing it to the lawn, sandwiched between the two layers (I have no idea if that makes sense, but it's late, I'm tired, and also I don't really want to revisit the trauma of sewing the tulle). The result is rather nice even from the inside, and it hangs well.

The fabric is Dear Stella Confetti Dot, which I got on sale a while back when I ordered some stuff from Fabricworm. I like it, but fear it may be horribly crinkly once washed. Time will tell! The lining is cotton lawn which is lovely and soft. I bought a few metres so I'd have plenty left for future projects, then wasted most of it making stupid mistakes with the lining. In fact, the litany of errors, blunders and stuff-ups made during the construction of this dress could fill an entire blog post, if not a series of them. Honestly, I'm surprised I emerged from this experience with a decent garment and my sanity (kind of) intact. Marisa's law: whatever can sew wrong, will sew wrong.

I made the bow on R's headband using the Oliver + S felt bow pattern. These things are so quick and satisfying to make - and I know my finger will recover from the glue-gun burn in no time at all. I didn't have any felt, but I think I've found my favourite use for all those scraps of Mexican oilcloth I can't bear to throw away.

How is Kids Clothes Week treating you?  I hope your sewing is not as frustrating as mine has been!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Citronille's 'Marie', modified

When I sewed the Paloma dress for Sew Mama Sew's Citronille challenge, Abby from Fiddlehead sent me a bonus pattern, which I launched into at the first opportunity. The 'Marie' is a  peasant-style top or dress with a gathered neckline held together with bias binding - you can see the details here.

Having become addicted to the French Citro-fan website Je Couds Citronille I had already checked out numerous Maries, and decided to try out the modifications described on the blog By Mimosette. This 'manche papillon' (butterfly sleeve) version involves adding about 20cm width to each pattern piece, which, when the pieces are sewn together and gathered, results in a fuller dress with flutter sleeves. As I was making a larger sized dress than Mimosette's example, I added around 25cm to the sleeve pattern piece and added the same amount to the front and back pieces just by placing them 25cm away from the fold when cutting. It was a super simple modification, although all that extra fabric did make gathering a little more intense!

I also made a small change to the way the back opening is constructed - I sewed a facing instead of binding a slit in the fabric. This makes for a neater opening and is easier to sew (the photo above left shows the facing attached to the right side of the fabric before being turned inside and sewn down - I did mean to photograph the process in more detail, but forgot about it in my rush to get the dress sewn up!). Then, instead of a button and loop, I used a metal snap to join the two sides together. I will use this technique next time I make the Paloma, as well.

I couldn't be happier with this Marie - it's so sweet and summery. The fabric I used is a cotton voile from Spotlight's clearance table and I absolutely love it. It's a happy compromise between red (which I love and R hates) and blue (which she loves, and I don't mind). And as if on cue, Melbourne's weather suddenly changed from winter to summer. We went to take some photos in front of a factory wall down near the train station and discovered this lovely little patch of greenery right by the tracks, complete with dandelions and snowbells.

I really recommend this pattern as a sweet little basic with an easy modification. Vive la Marie!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

La belle Citronille

Have you heard of Citronille patterns? They are a range of children's and women's clothing patterns with classic, vintage-inspired style and super-cute cover drawings that remind of of Oliver + S. Until recently, these patterns were only available in French - but now Fiddlehead Artisan Supply has started selling a range of patterns complete with English translations, which is very exciting news for anyone who has ever admired French bloggers' gorgeous Citronille outfits.

I was lucky enough to be given a pattern to sew for Fiddlehead and Sew Mama Sew's Citronille Challenge. Mine is the Paloma, a sleeveless dress with a fitted bodice and two gathered skirt sections. The pattern is nice and quick to trace and cut out (seam allowances are included! hooray!) and the instructions were pretty straightforward and easy to follow.

I made size 6 length with size 4 width based on R's measurements. I sewed the dress exactly as instructed but replaced the buttons on the back with metal snaps so they wouldn't catch on R's hair. The snaps are such a great alternative to buttons, and having spent a lot of time unpicking botched buttonholes lately, I was only too happy not to have to sew any! I also increased the width of the binding by a half centimetre or so - it's something I always do, because I'm not too good at working with narrow binding.

I really love this dress, and you can see from R's expression that she loves it too. It has just the right degree of fullness, giving it plenty of flounce and a nice full profile - not to mention a high degree of 'twirlability'! The fabric I used is a bouncy cotton seersucker which worked beautifully for this style. My only regret is that while the bodice is a perfect fit for R right now, I don't know if it'll last more than a season. But never mind, our warm weather is just beginning here so she'll get plenty of wear out of it, and I'll have an excuse to make a new Paloma before too long.

While Citronille patterns are quite simple in design and straightforward in construction, they are best suited to those with a bit of sewing experience. The instructions are quite sparse - although they do include diagrams - and they don't mention anything about seam finishing, nor do they give details about techniques such as gathering (for the record, I top-stitched the gathered sections of the skirt to make the gathers lie nicely). Rather, the patterns assume a basic knowledge of sewing and provide you with classic styles that can be made 'as is' or customised as desired. The beauty and simplicity of Citronille patterns is evidenced by the enormous following they have in France - check out the French-language site Je couds Citronille for numerous examples of every pattern in the range.

Now click over to Sew Mama Sew for the chance to win a Citronille pattern of your choice! Or visit Fiddlehead to get your fill of French style en Anglais.

You can also check out the blogs of these sewists, who will be posting their Citronille creations between now and 25 September:

Michelle Morris of That Black Chic
Sherri Sylvester of thread riding hood
Tenille Brien of Tenille's Thread
Maris Olsen of Sew Maris
Vanessa Lynch of Punkin Patterns
Sara Johansen of The Sara project
Natalie Strand of Vegetablog
Diane Reafsnyder of Gator Bunny
Jessica Wright of Willow & Stitch
Sara Homer of Now Try This
Kelly Donovan of Craftree

Thank you Fiddlehead and Sew Mama Sew for the opportunity to try out the Paloma - I'm so happy to have sewn my first Citronille !

Monday, 3 August 2015

Easiest birthday cake ever

K turned 11 recently and decided he was too old for a birthday party - what he really wanted was to have six friends over to stay the night, watch a movie and eat pizza and ice cream. His dad said no but I said yes, because I could see how excited he was and because I wanted him to have the best birthday ever. So - long story short, they came, they ate. they fought with nerf guns, they stayed awake til after 4am. And they made noise. LOTS of noise. It was heaven for the boys and hell for the rest of us, and I'm glad they had such a good time because it won't be repeated EVER again.

While the sleepover was the stuff of nightmares, K's cake was a dream to put together. I made a simple chocolate cake, coated it with buttercream icing and covered it with smoothly-rolled white fondant. I left to harden for a night before putting it out to be decorated with food markers by K's friends.

I kicked off the decorating with a simple 'happy birthday' message on the blank cake and was impressed by how well the markers worked, with clear lines and colour just as intense as regular markers. Having read reviews of various brands, I'd bought Americolor markers rather than the far less expensive Wiltons ones, and I'm so glad I did. Americolor isn't easy to find here in Australia, but luckily I located some at this amazing shop.

Besides looking rather cool, the cake tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself! R has now decided she wants one of these for her next birthday instead of the usual smash cake and I'm all for it. In the meantime, I wonder what other foods I can write on..?

Friday, 31 July 2015

Back in time

"I'm going back in time!" R announced a couple of weeks ago.

I assumed she was referring to some imaginative game related to her Little House on the Prairie obsession, but then she pulled a notice from her school bag about an excursion to an 'olden days school'. I felt a bit jealous, because if there's one thing I love, it's olden days stuff. Among my favourite books as a girl were - in addition to the Little House series - What Katy Did, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and, as a token Ausssie contribution, Playing Beatie Bow. I dreamt of a time when girls wore pinafores, wrote on slates and played with rag dolls.

Having this golden opportunity to live my olden days fantasies through R, I did a bit of research to see what Australian schoolchildren wore in the early 1900s. Then, looking through R's wardrobe, I noticed something curious: she already has a heap of old-fashioned clothes, thanks to my beloved Japanese pattern books. All that was missing was a nice white pinafore, and I had the perfect pattern for it: dress A from Happy Homemade. I used some beautiful white fabric with a seersuckerish stripe and lined it with the lightest, softest lawn. I made two small modifications: I cut the shoulder ruffles a little wider for a more 'olden days' effect and - keeping the bodice the same size - I made the dress a couple of inches wider at back and front.

With her new pinny worn over her Japanese ensemble and a couple of giant hair ribbons, I reckon she really looked the part.

I'm pleased to say that R's dress came back from the excursion as snowy-white as it was in the morning, that she passed her fingernail inspection and completed her schoolwork satisfactorily (on her slate, naturally). Now to work on developing some lovely old-fashioned manners...

Friday, 17 July 2015

Japanese pattern ensemble (and an improved skirt)

A comfy and practical little ensemble: a yoke-panel skirt in soft denim (pattern N from Linen Wool Cotton Kids) and the 'back ribbon tunic' - more of a top, really - from A Sunny Spot/Girls' Fashionable & Pretty Clothes, made in some sort of knit I found earlier this year at the Apollo Bay op shop.

The first time I sewed this skirt pattern it turned out way too big around the waist and I had to move the buttons right off the placket to get the thing to fit. It's a beautiful style, though, so I was keen to remake it with a few alterations. For a start, I added flat piping made from some striped jersey and cut the inside yoke from the same fabric. Most importantly, I added elastic to the waist. In case anyone else is after some ideas about how to do this, here's what I did:
  • Before stitching down the inside yoke, I sewed a strip of waistband elastic to the seam allowance inside the left side of the 'outer yoke'.
  • I folded the 'inside yoke' down and sewed a channel into the back part of the yoke while holding the elastic carefully inside it, making sure not to stitch it down.
  • I used an unpicker to open up a 1" hole in the right side-seam of the inside yoke, then threaded the elastic out through that hole.
  • I pulled the elastic out quite a bit, then cut it down and sewed some buttonhole elastic, double-folded, to the end
  • I hand-stitched the inside yoke to the gathered section of the skirt and added a button for the buttonhole elastic to fasten on to.   

(Please ignore the weird reflection on the middle button - I can assure you it looks exactly like the other two!)

Because the skirt has a side opening, the elastic can only be tightened on the non-opening side, but I find that this works perfectly well, and I will definitely be adapting any future 'yoke panel skirts' in the same way. The photo on the right shows what the back of the skirt looks like:

The top was much more straightforward. I used the denimy skirt fabric for the neckline binding/tie but did away with the hem facing - that is to say, I sewed it in, then decided it made the hemline too stiff and unpicked the whole thing. FUN. I ended up hemming the top with a double needle, which made it hang much better. Oh, and I made the sleeves full-length instead of just-above-the-elbow.

To prevent R from making hideous, sullen faces while modelling, I issued a tower-building challenge. She did pretty well.

...Then they fell down.

It was kind of funny watching R look for pockets in the skirt. It took her a while to figure out that there aren't any!

The whole outfit was made with fabrics I already had lying around. I didn't even have to buy buttons! Surely this virtuous sewing behaviour entitles me to a fabric-buying binge in the near future...?