Monday, 19 September 2016

Black and grey on a sunny day

She asked for a black dress, so I made her one. I used the same silky, subtly-checked cotton that I used a couple of years ago for my disastrous sack-like number, and I'm so happy to have found a better use for it. This is one of those fabrics that's much lovelier in real life, because the pattern is really hard to photograph and the drape and feel of it are just stunning.

The pattern is from A Sunny Spot and it's actually meant to be a top, but I lengthened it substantially and changed the back bodice design to make a neater opening - basically I cut the back as two pieces, then joined them only part of the way up, and finished the neck with bias binding and ties at the back instead of facing and a button.

The cardi is from the same book, and replaces a much-loved and much-worn earlier version which now has ridiculously short sleeves. Like my first one, I made it in French terry, having fortuitously picked up a half-metre cut from The Fabric Store's remnant bin during a rare visit there last month. I was careful to make the sleeves on this cardigan nice and long, and I added a few centimetres to the hemline as well. The buttons are lovely and sparkly; hard to see in the photos, unfortunately. Gathering the 'skirt' section of the cardigan was a bit of a challenge - I ended up sewing a thin strip of interfacing along the stitching line before my second attempt at it, and this really helped everything gather up beautifully.

Sewing this outfit has reminded me what a fabulous book this is - and it's all about layers, which is so perfect for Melbourne and its 'four seasons in a day' weather!

Friday, 19 August 2016

A denim skirt and a terry top

A few weeks ago I made the great trek across Melbourne to go the The Fabric Store's sale and walked out with the most stunning French terry in a magnificent, almost fluorescent, shade of orangey-red on the outside and yet another hard-to-describe shade of yellowy-orange on the inside. Not the sort of colours I usually go for, but I fell in love and had to have it.

I used it to make pattern Q from Kids' Clothes Style Book: a loose-fitting raglan-sleeved top with three-quarter sleeves and a high-low hem. Of course I had to make the most of the beautiful inside of the fabric, so I used it to make flat piping for the raglan seams and rolled up the sleeves to make cuffs.

The skirt is BurdaStyle's girls' metallic skirt, which I made in denim. Simple enough to sew, provided you don't mind making up your own instructions as the ones provided are exceptionally brief (directions for sewing the fly were particularly unhelpful). I followed 'instructions' religiously when cutting the waistband but I'm sure it's meant to be significantly wider as it turned out too narrow for a decent-sized button, and it looks different from that shown in the pattern photograph. I would have redone it, but didn't have enough fabric as I was already using leftover scraps from a previous project. I wound up using a bar fastener in lieu of a button and also adding buttonhole elastic to the back section of the waist to ensure a good fit (a wise move, as it turned out).

R snatched the skirt from me the moment it was finished, which surprised me a bit, given that it lacks colour, glitter, decoration and cat motifs. The whole outfit looks quite grown-up compared to some most of her other clothes, but happily she's still a bubble-blowing little girl whose favourite food is fairy bread and who teaches a class of Beanie Boos in her bedroom every day after school.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Pretty in poppies

Possibly the prettiest dress I've ever made, this was sewn from a Bambiblauw panel from Maai Design. When I saw these stunning panels I just couldn't resist, especially once I realised that R would soon be too big to make a whole dress from one - it was my last chance to try a panel print! Here is what the panel looked like before I finally bit the bullet and cut it up:

The cotton panels are 70cm wide and 140cm long, so finding a way to get the style of dress I wanted out of the limited metrage was quite a challenge. I cut off the skirt sections at either end, which left me with a blue centre section from which to cut a bodice. I tried out the fairy dress bodice (no) and a couple of Japanese sewing book bodices (no, no) before finding one that fit: the top part of dress F from Girls Style Book. I made a muslin first, then added a few centimetres so the bodice would end just below R's belly button. It was a rather tight fit getting the three bodice pieces from my little piece of fabric, but it worked out (just!).

Having splashed out on the stunning panel fabric, I wanted this dress to be perfect. I added lining to the bodice, took my time with the invisible zipper (as opposed to my usual slapdash efforts) and sewed the skirt with French seams. I used some of Maaike's cream piping at the waist, ending it a centimetre or so before the zip to avoid bulkiness. With the Bambiblauw fabric pretty much used up, I bought bias binding to finish the hem and face the armholes, then handstitched (ugh) the armhole facing and the lining.  The results are rather pleasing, if I do say so myself!

Conveniently, the sun came out today after weeks of wintry weather; perfect timing for a trip to the park and some photos of the dress in action!

I just love this dress, and R says she will keep it FOREVER. Poppies and winter sunshine - how wonderful!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Kids clothes week: a Bearlin skirt and a school bus tee

Recently I ordered a little bunch of goodies from Maai Design, among them a half-metre of this fabulous bear fabric. It was no easy task getting this skirt out of my little half-metre, and in the end I had to compromise by making the pocket bags white - much to my frustration.

The skirt is self-drafted, with hip-yoke pockets edged with gold piping (I just LOVE Maai Design's metallic piping), gathers at the centre front and back, and a wide waistband with an elasticised back. Apart from endless rearranging of pattern pieces to get the most out of my fabric, this was a straightforward and pleasant sew. I didn't even have to unpick anything!

To go with the skirt I made a school bus tee out of cotton jersey. This was a bit of a rushed sew, so don't look too closely at the neckband or hemming! The top looked a bit long when I finished it, so I ruched each side a little at the bottom and it turned out to fit beautifully this way.

How funny is R's face in this photo?!!

I really like these as an outfit, even if it's a little cool for bare legs at the moment. Now to see if I can finish something else before the week is up!

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?