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!

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.