Friday, 20 December 2013

Fineliner and home-made watercolours

If you're looking for a children's art activity that's absorbing and yields beautiful, frameable results, I have just the one: fineliner drawings painted over with liquid watercolours. R came home the other day desperate to do 'water paintings' like the ones they had been doing at kinder, and luckily I had some liquid watercolours ready to go (I made my 'watercolours' from old markers - see this post for details of how I make them; it's very easy). R sat down at the table with fineliners, paper and paints and didn't stop drawing and painting for the next couple of hours. Her brother soon joined her and spent a long time drawing a highly detailed picture of our garden and shed, which inspired R to go outside to scout around for trees and flowers she could draw.

I am so in love with the results of the watercolour session that I've already bought frames for a few of the paintings. The combination of detailed fineliner drawings with glorious colours melting into each other is just beautiful.

Artist at work
Mexican paper flowers hanging in the loungeroom
Some of R's paintings laid out to dry
Silver birch tree and house, by K

Bottlebrush tree

In a moment of inspiration, I persuaded R to do a few tiny pictures to use for making cards. When they were dry I glued them into pre-cut 'frame' cards and put them aside to accompany our end-of-year teacher gifts  - you may have seen them next to the lavender bags we made in this post.

This watercolour session provided literally hours of enjoyment for K and R, and I can't wait to frame some of their work and put it up for us all to enjoy.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Chevron dress

My first garment from 'The Sewing of Children's Clothes Lesson Book': Dress H-2 in size 110, narrowed a little for a better fit.  This book is fantastic because although it's in Japanese, many of the instructions include extensive photographs of the sewing process - like mini sewing lessons. Although this particular dress has limited instructions, the blouse version of the same pattern is amply illustrated, enabling me to figure out how to put the dress together reasonably easily (assuming I got it right, that is). And to further simplify matters I omitted the side pockets.

The fabric is a very light cotton (voile perhaps?) found on the discount table at Darn Cheap. It's a border print, but the area where the border met the main fabric has been all messed up in the printing - presumably why it was selling for $2 a metre. Still, I knew I could work around the badly-printed section and use the border and main fabric together in some way, so I bought a few metres. I was a bit concerned that pintucks might look bizarre on the chevron fabric but as it turned out, all the zigzags seemed to match up nicely.

I love this pattern and adore the sweet little details on the ribbon ties at the back. It's a great fit on R, too. Just don't stare at the chevrons for too long or your eyes will start to swim...

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Little lavender bags

Every year I try to come up with ideas for small gifts the children can make (or help make) for teachers and friends. My 9-year-old likes to use the sewing machine, my 5-year-old loves things that smell nice, and I like things that use up scraps of fabric - so I decided that lavender bags were the way to go.

I used this tutorial with one alteration - I ironed one edge of each square in to the wrong side about 1cm, to make sewing the sachets closed a little easier.

In order to avoid having children rifle through my fabrics I first cut out several sets of two squares, 5" x 5" (my ruler uses inches - but that's about 12.5cm in metric), and ironed one side in as mentioned earlier. Once the children had selected the fabrics they liked I pinned each set of squares right sides together, adding a little ribbon 'tag' as suggested in the tutorial, and K sewed them around three sides, leaving the ironed-in side open. We turned the squares the right way and filled them with a mixture of dried lavender flowers and rice before sewing the open sides closed. R is very enthused about end-of-year/Christmas gift-giving (and, of course, receiving!) and made some beautiful water-colour cards to go with her bags:

These are so quick and easy - an ideal project for little ones wanting to have a go on the machine. The lavender bags smell absolutely divine and I will definitely be making a few for myself if there's any lavender left. And if you're in Australia and are wondering where to get lavender, I found mine in the craft section of Spotlight.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Golden Book bunting

At my son's school fair earlier this year I bought some Little Golden Books with the vague idea of making something out of them. Having successfully concealed them from the children for several months I decided it would be fun to make bunting, so I selected 'Day on the Farm' and (mercilessly!) chopped it into triangles. With the top edges sandwiched in bias tape, it made a very sweet little garland which I gave to my sister as part of her birthday present (I'm not sure if vintage children's book illustrations are really her thing, but she does have young children who will most likely appreciate them).

My daughter thought the bunting was very sweet and I rather fancied having some in our home, so I cut ten triangles out of 'The Poky Little Puppy's Naughty Day' and was very pleased with the result. A cool thing about this bunting is that every triangle has a different cute picture on the back of it, so you can hang it the other way around and have a whole new selection of images!

As we already have a copy of this book the story is familiar, so R can lie in bed, gaze at the little puppies and remember the story. Or plan her own naughty exploits...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Ribbon-tie pants and a ribbon-tie blouse

I recently bought a few Japanese pattern books and am now in the happy position of having loads of things I really, really want to make. For my first dip into Girly Style Wardrobe I sewed up a linen version of the pants that I'd seen on Asmita's blog, with ribbon ties (actually bias tape ties) at the ankles. My daughter is a reluctant pants-wearer, so the idea was that the ribbons would provide just enough of a girly touch to get her enthused. And while it's too early to make a call on whether she'll wear them, they really do look very sweet.

I added a little tag at the back so she can put them on the right way without help. And I really like the way the patterns in this book include a permanent opening on the front inside part of the waistband/casing so that elastic can be adjusted if and when required (well that's what I assume it's for, but since the book is in Japanese I can't be sure...).

The sweet linen pants were crying out for a sweet top, so I tried out blouse C from Happy Homemade vol. 2 using Reprodepot seersucker from Spotlight. I love the cut of this top and the slight gathering of the sleeves that gives them a bit of shape without making them too puffy. I made size 4 with size 6 length and the fit is great, although if R's head grows too much bigger we may be in trouble. I'd like to try out more versions  - perhaps with contrast binding, or a bit of piping - but there are so many other new patterns to make first, so it'll just have to wait.

With not much free time last night, but feeling the urge to make something, I sewed a headband pattern from Sewing Lesson Book in fabric left over from the blouse. The bow is a little oversized, I think. I might just remove it and leave the headband plain. Too matchy? Oh well. On to the next outfit...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Spot the difference

One favourite spotty seersucker fabric, two colourways. You can't tell from my horrible photography (in my defence: iphone, bad lighting) but the pink is an incredibly vibrant colour and has little orange spots. I've used the green fabric before, when I made this ice-cream dress (which, sadly, R grew out of far too quickly) and couldn't resist buying the pink one when I found it on sale. The fabric is so light and breezy, just perfect for today's hot weather.

Both dresses are from Happy Homemade vol. 2. I tried using a ribbon for the neck of the green dress, as per instructions, but it didn't look great and I thought it would cut into R's shoulders and be uncomfortable. I was also concerned that putting on the dress would require readjustment of the gathered neckline every time, whereas something more elastic would mean it could be taken on and off with ease. So I replaced the ribbon with some very stretchy jersey, which looks much better, feels nice and soft and makes dressing and undressing less complicated. The dress is - as described in the book - voluminous, with a nice twirl to it. And it's very easy to make.

The pink dress, while pretty, is not such a great fit as the neck is too large. It's a lovely simple style that is totally wearable, but the constant slipping off the shoulder annoys me a bit. I like the unusual bodice shape (which is difficult to see in these photos) but wonder if I should have accentuated this in some way so it would stand out...? Still, R loves the colour, and the dress is great for wearing on a hot day. I'm sure it will be a perfectly fitting tunic in a year or two!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Our Halloween

Halloween preparations were a little last-minute this year, but I managed to outfit K and R as per their request: Kiki the witch-in-training (from the movie Kiki's Delivery Service) and her sarcastic cat Jiji. For R's dress I used the smock pattern (e) from Happy Homemade vol. 2, moving the elastic casing to the very end of the sleeves to make them look more like the dress in the movie. I also made a big red bow on a headband and bought a witchy-looking broom from an Asian grocery shop to complete the costume. She looked so sweet! I quite like the look of the smock on her, and am thinking I might sew up another one sometime in something less stiff and black.

For K I just put some fleece cat ears on a black headband, made a long black tail out of fleece and cut down a pair of women's black tracksuit pants. With a black top and some painted-on whiskers he looked very cat-like - apart from being 140cm tall and walking upright, of course. It helps that he has a good head of fur...

In the days leading up to Halloween R was in a state of great excitement. With a bit of help, she made some spooky Halloween lanterns (black paper wrapped around jars with candles inside) and did a heap of ghost/monster drawings which she delivered - anonymously - to every house in the street. And on the night, her efforts - and those of all the other children who joined us to trick-or-treat - were richly rewarded. VERY richly rewarded.

Oh, and I finally found an excellent use for the single pumpkin that grew on our vine last summer...

Hope everyone enjoyed a happy Halloween!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

KCW Project 4 - bleached trackies

As usual, the token Kids Clothes Week effort for my son. I am constantly frustrated by the limited fabric options on offer when it comes to making tracksuit pants - it's either thin cotton jersey, or thick cotton polyester. Why can't we buy nice pure cotton fleecy material in Melbourne? Is there some secret fabric warehouse I don't know about, or is this stuff just not available? But enough complaining. I bought some unsatisfactorily thin black cotton jersey and thought I'd have a go at splattering it with bleach. I was really surprised when, instead of the white spots I was expecting, I got a lovely burnt orange colour - cool! I used one of the kids' old toothbrushes to do the splattering and it was fun seeing the little spots and splatters emerging. I used the last pair of trackies I made as the pattern, but I think I rushed things a bit and the fit is not quite as good. As with last time, I used ribbing for the waistband and put elastic inside it.

K's not completely sold on the splatter pattern, and when he tried on the pants he said they looked too much like leggings. So I added bands of ribbing to the leg hems, which looks weird and wonky when they're not being worn, but does make them look less legging-ish on.

My stubborn boy would only model with his skateboard - like last time - which is strange as he hardly uses it otherwise! I love the splatters and even though the pants aren't the best fit I think they look OK, but it remains to be seen whether they'll be worn or not. Hey, I tried!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

KCW Project 3 - Happy Homemade dress

A tried and true pattern from Happy Homemade vol. 2, this time version B, which doesn't have the shoulder frills. I couldn't believe my luck when I found this cotton fabric on the $2 table at Darn Cheap - I love the bright green checks.

A couple of minor alterations: I used ties instead of buttons at the back, as all R's button-up dresses catch her hair. And I added patch pockets cut on the bias, as she loves to have pockets to put her little treasures in.

The pattern is an easy sew; the only hard part was getting R to model it. I had to play a half-hour of dentist-and-assistant games (all her toys needed check-ups) and a magnetic doll game as part of our deal, after which she sulkily posed for photos, accessorising the dress with a fly-swatter. This one will get a lot of wear, I think - so loose and comfortable. And the fly-swatter will come in handy once the weather warms up...

Thursday, 24 October 2013

KCW Projects 1 & 2 - tiered skirt and hooded top

I seem to have got off to a slow start this Kids' Clothes Week. I have quite a few items in various stages of production, and even managed to finish one of them on the first day, but haven't been able to photograph and blog til now. The timing is perfect for me to make some summer clothes for R as last year's dresses are looking tragically short - more like tops, really - and with school looming next year I'm feeling the need to sew like crazy while she's still able to wear casual clothes every day.

So here are projects 1 and 2: a tiered skirt in seersucker, loosely based on the measurements for the one in Happy Homemade vol. 2, and - from the same book - a hooded top in linen. I adore the linen; it's a beautiful dusty shade of blue and is very light, perfect for warm weather. The skirt was straightforward, the top less so. I found the binding instructions a bit confusing and am still not sure I did it the way the author intended (despite using an English version of the book!). Then I made stupid, time-wasting mistakes like putting the sleeves on the wrong way and sewing seams badly so I had to unpick them, which, as I had matched the cotton perfectly to the fabric, was a very difficult task. The top is lovely but the neckline is huge on R, so if I make it again I will have to do some adjustments.

Now if I can just finish the dress, leggings and track-suit pants I've half-sewn, I'll be very happy with myself...