Friday, 23 January 2015

A mermaid costume and a homemade gift

I love sewing and have certain standards for the things I make. I'll unpick and re-sew (often several times) until I get things perfect, and visit shop after shop to find the exact right cord or ribbon. When it comes to kids' costumes, however, the opposite is true. Almost every costume I've ever made has been a slapdash, lazy effort replete with dodgy gathering, shonky hemlines and a few safety pins making up for less-than-perfect fitting. Because the costumes may only be worn once, and because I'm just not that into making them, there's only so much time and effort I'm prepared to put in.

So I wasn't planning to blog this outfit, whipped up the night before R's friend's party for which mermaid attire was required. But when she tried it on (ten minutes before the party was due to start, with me holding the safety pins in preparation) it not only fitted her perfectly, but she looked so gorgeous I pulled out the camera and started snapping away.

The outfit is self-drafted, if cutting and sewing by eye can even be called drafting. The skirt is just a stretchy tube with some ruffles at the end, and the top is bandeau-style (another tube, really) with halter-neck straps. The fabric was Spotlight's cheapest sparkly stuff and has a kind of psychedelic blotchy yellow-and-green effect going on, but it's perfect for mermaid clothing. I used stretch stitch throughout, but the fabric is actually not all that stretchy so getting into the car was a bit of an ordeal for poor R. Fortunately the skirt/tail can be hiked up and worn as a short, pouffy skirt (which looked really cool - wish I'd taken a photo of it) so as to be able to play party games, dance and outrun other children during the treasure hunt.

For the birthday girl I made a 'make your own cubby house' kit similar to the one I made for my nephew last year. My own kids adore building cubbies but are constantly frustrated by the difficulties of getting sheets and blankets to attach securely to chairs. The kit solves this problem with a bunch of clamps (SO much better than clothes pegs), some rope, and loops and ties on each corner of the sheets (I use strips of jersey and add loops/ties at the centre of each long edge too). A few glow sticks add mood lighting to the cubby house, or you can throw in a torch like I did last time.  I packaged the whole lot  up in a tote bag made from Ikea fabric - I love this fabric, and am really pleased I have some left so I can sew myself a bag too! Check out this tutorial for more details of cubby house (or 'fort') kits.

I suppose I should make my kids their own kit now, but last time they built a cubby - just a few days ago - a cat pooed in it. Nice. So I'm not that into cubbies at the moment, but I truly hope our little mermaid birthday girl enjoys hers!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Pineapple dress

Pineapples are all the rage, so a friend told me recently. All I know is that this cotton knit fabric called out to me from the racks of Darn Cheap Fabrics, and since I didn't think I could get away with wearing so much tropical fruit, I made a dress for R.

The pattern is dress M-2 from the Japanese Sewing Lesson Book and while I loved the look of it on the model in the book, it came out a little baggy on R - this despite my having used my usual trick of making the width a size smaller AND taking a couple of centimetres off at the centre folds of front and back. Never mind, it still looks pretty good and it's bound to be very comfy to wear.

This pattern is a simple one: just front, back, sleeves and pockets, but the little details of the angled pocket tops (see photo above right) and the cute bow closure at the back (almost too cute, but I knew R would love it) make it special.

Anyway, who doesn't love pineapples?

Monday, 5 January 2015

Cushions and a kitten

For nearly a year now a selection of Japanese fabrics from Spotlight has been languishing in my fabric cupboard waiting to be made into cushion covers. And at last - in the absence of any other  sewing projects - I got around to making them. They may not be the most exciting thing to make, but they certainly provide great aesthetic return for a very small amount of effort! 

The big cushions are simple 50 x 50cm squares with a zipper at one side. I used these cushion inserts from Ikea and cut the fabric the exact dimensions of the insert because I find that not adding any seam allowance makes the covers fit more snugly. I like to use this method for inserting cushion zips, setting the zips in 5cm or so at each end for neater corners.

For the one smaller cushion I had run out of the beautiful tree fabric and used some thick linen for the back. It looks so good, I really wish I'd done the same for all of them! Oh well, next time...

This is how the cushions look on our couch. But hang on - who is that sleek black creature with the white whiskers? Allow me to introduce our new kitten, Moriarty. We have all fallen completely in love with him and I could probably write a very long blog post about his beauty, his outrageously playful and daring antics, his cuddliness and his ability to locate cosy and cute places to sleep - but I'll spare you. I will say, though, that it's nice to have someone around who truly appreciates R's wardrobe!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Spotty New Year

Cosi swimsuit number two: the same style as the first one, but in a 'proper' swimsuit fabric. I still love the first one I made but the scuba knit fabric isn't holding up that well, so I thought I'd better re-make it in something more appropriate.

I bought the white spotty material at Joelle's Fabric Clearance Warehouse, which I discovered when searching for swimsuit fabric on Ebay. I noticed their physical location was quite close to where I live, so one day I set out on a swimsuit-fabric-buying mission and was not disappointed - this place has loads of the stuff and it's quite inexpensive. The spotty fabric was a huge piece of remnant that cost me only $5, and I also got some UV-rated chloroban fabric in pink stripes to make a two-piece out of.

As with my first Cosi the straps are tied in a halter-neck style. I left them long and just tied little knots in the end to keep them neat. And because white fabric tends to be a little see-through, I fully lined the swimsuit with some lining from Joelle's.

R wore her new bathers to the local pool the other day and looked so cute in them. As I've said before, I really recommend this pattern for anyone wanting to give bathers a go. I also heartily recommend the use of ice creams as a modelling prop (a.k.a. bribe) - this was far and away the most pleasant photoshoot I've ever done!

Happy 2015, everyone! 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Same dress, same fabric

A geranium dress for R's much-loved teacher, who's expecting her first baby early next year. I chose the geranium because it's the only pattern I have that comes in baby sizes, but it really is a favourite of mine. I've made a few of these in the past, like this one with flutter sleeves and this one with the pleated skirt (which I absolutely love, and which R has sadly grown out of). 

There is only one problem with the geranium, and that's the way the back opening of the skirt folds over itself when the bodice is buttoned. It just looks a little less than perfect to me, and lets down what is otherwise a lovely pattern. I did once modify the bodice to include an invisible zipper, and that worked very well, but it didn't feel right to put a zip in a baby's dress. Instead, for this dress I made a very simple modification: when sewing the gathered skirt to the bodice I set the ends of the skirt in about an inch from each side of the button placket, so that when the buttons are done up the skirt sits nicely, without any overlap. So easy. In fact, much easier to do than to explain, but hopefully these photos will make it clearer:

Having chosen this beautiful cotton voile from my stash, I later remembered that I've made the exact same dress in the exact same fabric for my niece - which just goes to show how predictable I am.

Wishing everyone a very happy new year and a wonderful holiday season!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Nutta fabric shop blog tour: a double gauze dress

My friend Shino, who blogs at Nutta, recently opened an Etsy store, Nutta Fabric. She has some really beautiful and unusual Japanese fabrics, so I was very excited when she invited me to be part of her Nutta Fabric Shop blog tour. It was hard to decide which fabric to sew with, but in the end I chose her double gauze 'mimosa' and made dress 'A' from the Japanese pattern book Sweet Clothes for Girls.

This dress has some very pretty details: a v-neck, flutter sleeves and a yoked back piece that extends over the shoulders to join with a pintucked front section. The dress is drawn in at the waist by ribbon threaded through an inside casing, although I modified this by using elastic and just tying the ribbons on at the sides, which makes for easier dressing. I also changed the front, back and yoke pieces by making them a couple of centimetres narrower at the fold, because R is very slim with narrow shoulders. This had the effect of making the v-neck shallower, which is a good thing as it would otherwise be too deep to wear without a top underneath (which is how it's styled in the book). I made size 110 with 120 length and the fit is absolutely perfect.

I couldn't resist making a couple of fabric flowers and attaching them to hairclips. The raw edges of the double gauze tend to fray a bit, and I like the effect of this. 

You can see from the photos that the fabric has a very pretty, subtle pattern of blue berries (or are they flowers?) with little pale green stems. But what you can't see is how beautifully soft the material is, and what a light and airy feeling it gives to the dress. My photos don't really capture how lovely the dress looks on R - it's so just incredibly lovely.

Shino has many other kinds of fabric in her shop including knits, linen, quilted cotton and sweatshirt material. To celebrate the tour she has a fantastic giveaway on her blog, which you can enter here. And all visitors to the Nutta Etsy shop can use the code THANKS20 until December 8th to get a 20% discount on fabric.

Speaking of thanks, I'd like to thank you so much, Shino, for having me on your blog tour. I loved using this very special fabric, and R is thrilled with her new dress.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Constant Change: a birthday bag

Changes, transitions, transformations - they are our constant companions as we move through life (or rather, as it whizzes by, sometimes all too quickly). When Jenya and Renee invited me to be part of their Constant Change sewing series I had so many ideas: a dancing skirt for my daughter, who's just experienced the excitement of her first stage performance - or perhaps new cushions or a duvet cover for my son, who's soon to get his own bedroom at long last. Or even something for myself, to mark this very change-filled year in which I returned to work after almost ten years of child-rearing at home.

In the end the choice was obvious: a gift for my sister Lucy, who celebrates her fortieth birthday today. My sister is my closest friend and has been with me through many of life's great (and not so great) changes. She is such a supportive and kind person, and is a wonderful and inspiring parent to her two children (even if my son complains that she's too strict about bedtime when he stays at her house!). Growing up, I was the well-behaved one while Lucy was the slightly naughty one, or to look at it from a different perspective, I was (and perhaps still am) more compliant while she has always been great at speaking her mind and standing her ground - qualities I greatly admire. My kids love to hear stories about the things Lucy did as a child, like the time she ate all the chocolate biscuits and let us all blame it on the cleaning woman til she owned up to it thirty years later, or the time she was expelled from Sunday school for folding her homework into a paper plane and throwing it to the teacher, then hiding in a doorway and jumping out at him.

For such a special birthday it seemed completely right and appropriate to sew something - something I'd never sewn before. I bought the beautiful book Carry Me by Yuka Koshizen and made the 'Left Bank Granny Bag' featured on the cover - a giant of a bag with a zippered internal pocket, a very capacious interior and side slits which allow the bag to open up wide. The book explains that the bag is designed for browsing flea markets and antique fairs, and I'm sure it will come in handy for a bit of op-shopping or Sunday market visiting (or perhaps just to carry birthday gifts in). I also made a little pleated pouch using the same fabrics. The pleats match nicely with the tucks in the Granny Bag.

I used a cotton-linen fabric that I absolutely adore. It's quite thin and soft, so I interfaced the bag with medium-weight fusible instead of the light-weight that was recommended. For the lining I chose another cotton-linen from the same range, a sky-blue with white birds. I like the feeling of escape and freedom that this fabric evokes. I have to say, I really love the way the bag turned out, so much so that I'm going to have to make one for myself too.

Happy birthday, my beautiful sister! May we celebrate many more of life's changes together.

And thank you for having me, Jenya and Renee!

You can see today's other Constant Change post at La Folie Sewing Booth, and the series continues tomorrow with posts from Made with Moxie and Sewpony.