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.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

An outfit for Baby B

Last week I made a little outfit for the baby boy of an old friend who lives in South Africa. I never sewed for my own babies - my youngest was a toddler before I had a go at sewing kids' clothes - so it felt rather novel to be making something for someone so young.

Not owning any patterns suitable for babies, I used two free online ones: the envelope-neck top from small dreamfactory and Made by Rae's newborn baby pants (which I enlarged a little, since Baby B is already 8 weeks old). Both were nice and easy to make, with no closures or complicated details. I used cotton jersey knit from Spotlight, added some coordinating cuffs to the pants, and loved the way I needed so little fabric for these tiny (hopefully not too tiny) garments!

I haven't sent this gift off yet, because I have one problem: the elastic in the waist of the pants. I have no idea how tight or loose to make it. I think I'm going to have to corner some mums of babies and see if I can measure a three-month-old. In the meantime if any readers know the average waist size of a baby this age, please let me know!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Halloween, and a KCW interview

Halloween for my kids: lollies, fancy dress and door-knocking. Halloween for me: a lovely warm evening out on the street with my neighbours, drinking champagne and sharing stories.

To my great relief I didn't have to sew any costumes this year. R wore her Elsa dress from a couple of months ago, and K wore a supermarket-bought vampire cape and fangs. My only creative effort was a night-before-Halloween ghost garland. When R saw it in the morning she rushed off to make her own version (below). So sweet!

And that's all I've got for you today, because I've been busy writing a post for the Kids Clothes Week blog: an interview with the very talented Amy of Amos El. Go on over and have a read!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Kids Clothes Week: 'Dancing Men' singlet

In my post on how to sew with words on the Kids Clothes Week blog I wrote about using freezer paper stencils to paint a word in Dancing Men code, which features in a Sherlock Holmes story. The freezer paper worked brilliantly, but I decided to use a different (coded) phrase on a singlet for K and, having run out of time today to painstakingly cut out a freezer paper stencil, went for the quick option and printed an iron-on transfer. Somehow the transfer looks much more plasticky on this top than it did on the Pierre top, so I'm not 100% happy with it. Another weird thing is that this singlet, though drafted in an identical way to the previous one, does not fit as well around the chest. I guess I can put that down to fabrics behaving in different ways - unless, of course, K has shrunk overnight...?

By the way, if you're wondering what the coded phrase is, I'm afraid I can't tell you because I want K to read the story and work it out for himself!

K was more than happy to get outside and model today as we had basically chained him to his computer and forced him to complete a school project. Well, that's what you get for leaving things til the last minute.

And that brings my Kids Clothes Week sewing to an end, and while it's been fun, I'm more than ready for a break! Did you manage to finish everything you wanted to sew?

Kids Clothes Week: Mama Jumbo dress

For this dress I took my inspiration from a South African children's book, Zanzibar Road by Niki Daly. In this story, Mama Jumbo arrives in Zanzibar Road carrying all her possessions in a basket on her head, then builds herself a township-style home out of corrugated iron and bits of wood. Throughout the book she wears a series of wax-print dresses - not at all South African, but then, she is an immigrant... And since I adore colourful African fabrics - kangas are my favourite - I decided to make a 'Mama Jumbo' dress for R.

I used pattern M from Girly Style Wardrobe, but turned the facings to the outside to make a blue border around the neckline and added matching pockets with a blue band at the top. The fabric, amazingly, is not actually African - I bought it at Darn Cheap about a year ago and although it's clearly a wax-print-style design, it has a very shiny quality more like sateen. I'm so happy with the result, and I think the style and colours look just beautiful on R.

The KCW website is full of amazing things ranging from the practical to the incredible, so it looks like everyone's been extra-productive this season. As for me I have just one item left to finish up and - hopefully - photograph today. Bye for now!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Kids Clothes Week: Pierre top

There once was a boy named Pierre
who only would say "I don't care!"
Read his story, my friend
For you'll find at the end
that a suitable moral lies there.

That, for those who don't know, is the prologue to Maurice Sendak's tiny book Pierre. Pierre is part of the Nutshell Library, a  collection of four miniature books (and the other three are pretty cool too). I had these books when I was growing up, and my sister bought a copy for my kids a few years ago.

Since Pierre is a favourite at our house, and since my son K shares some of Pierre's lack of respect for parental authority, I thought it would be appropriate to use Pierre's catchphrase on a top for him. Originally I was just going to use the words, but I thought they might seem a little less harsh if combined with Pierre's image - less 'ten-year-old ratbag' and more 'clever literary reference'. Those who find the phrase a little negative will be heartened to know that at the end of the story the moral is 'care' (but what would be the fun of putting that on a kids' top?).

While K is not short of attitude, I get plenty of smiles as well. And gosh he's a ham - most of the photos I got were of ridiculous faces and silly Michael Jackson-like crotch-grabbing dance moves.

Anyway, on to the details: the singlet is made from brushed cotton jersey and instead of ribbing I used a very stretchy cotton jersey in a different colour. I drafted the pattern based on one of K's tops and the sewing was very straightforward. I printed the image and text onto T-shirt transfer paper and ironed it onto the top. It seems to have adhered well but there are some slightly whitish bits that feel like they may be residue from the paper. Either they'll come off in the wash, or else I overcooked the whole thing and... well, I've never used these transfers before, so I'm a little scared to wash it and find out!

My next KCW project, which I will attempt to photograph tomorrow, is - coincidentally - also blue and green. Back very soon, I hope!

A tutorial

Something different today - I'm posting a tutorial on Sew Mama Sew. Click on over and have a look!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It's Kid's Clothes Week, but... the time I finish sewing, photographing and blogging my KCW stuff it'll probably be the weekend. So in the meantime I'm just going to post about a gift I made for my nephew R a couple of weeks ago, when he turned 7: a cubby-house kit!

I saw these things online a few years ago and loved the idea of making one, then forgot about it until R's birthday this month, when it struck me that it would be the kind of thing he'd appreciate. My kids are always trying to build cubbies (what you in the US seem to call 'forts') and getting frustrated when their sheets and blankets don't stay put. Clothes pegs and bulldog clips will only get you so far, unfortunately. This kit solves that problem by including the following:

* 2 sheets with loops and ties at each corner and in the middle of each edge
* 2 sets of nice big clamps for attaching sheets to chairs etc
* a torch and some glow-sticks for use inside the cubby

Other kits I've seen include rope as well, but for safety reasons I'm not comfortable with that and I wanted the cubby to be something R could play with unsupervised, so I didn't include it.

I used op-shop sheets and attached the loops and ties using strips of cotton jersey. All the other things I bought at a two-dollar shop. I was thrilled to find the perfect fabric at Spotlight for making the bag: a cotton drill with a cool camping print. I made a simple two-tone drawstring bag based on this tutorial, sized to fit the contents of the kit, and attached a label so R would know what it was (otherwise imagine the disappointment of thinking you'd been given sheets for your birthday! He'd think I was the worst aunt ever!).

I wish I had managed to take photos of the contents, but alas, it was a bit of a busy week and all I could manage was the bag... but apparently R has already built a giant cubby with his kit (apologies to my sister for encouraging her children to take over the lounge room) and it worked brilliantly.

Back soon with some Kid's Clothes Week sewing, provided my model is cooperative!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hooray for marble runs

Whenever I hit on something that captures the imaginations of both my 6-year-old and my 10-year-old, it's like I've struck gold. And today I'm sharing that gold with you!

School holidays have just ended, and unfortunately almost every day of them involved what felt like hours of squabbling between K and R, to the point that I thought there must be something seriously wrong with my parenting (which there may well be)... BUT then I remembered that I'd been saving toilet rolls and cardboard rolls for months so we could make marble runs. And this turned out to be the best holiday activity ever.

Some giant sheets of cardboard (found in the shed, left over from our cardboard Christmas tree), my carefully hoarded cardboard tubes and a roll of masking tape resulted in a happy and productive morning. Marble runs provide a lot of opportunities for problem-solving: the marbles get stuck, they fly out at the wrong spot, they fail to do what you expect them to. But because the whole construction is held together with masking tape, it's easy to alter things, experiment, try again til you get it right. Educational and fun - so perhaps I'm not such a crappy parent after all.

K and R are so proud of their marble runs, and so am I. I'm also proud of myself for thinking up an activity that was so engaging they forgot to fight. Hooray for marble runs!

Friday, 26 September 2014

The short story of a long nightie

R loves her pink flannel nightie so much, it's been difficult getting it into the laundry basket. Clearly a second one was needed, and clearly - as our cold weather is just about over - I've been rather slow in making it (despite having bought this Anna Maria Horner fabric a couple of months ago). But hey, I got there in the end, didn't I? And I've made this one super long, with extra long sleeves so it will still fit her next winter.

This is the third time I've sewn dress pattern J from Girly Style Wardrobe, and as I did with nightie number 1, I moved the placket to the front, lengthened the dress and added a frill.

I used 'diamond' buttons to add some sparkle.

And I'm pleased to report that tonight the pink nightie is (finally) in the laundry basket, and - as I write this - a little someone is sleeping sweetly in the blue one.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Kids Clothes Week blog


I'm posting over at the Kids Clothes Week blog today - go check it out! 

And now that I've got that first KCW post done and dusted I can start planning my own storybook-inspired kids' clothes. I have a couple of ideas, but gee it's hard applying this theme to my older child, ten-year-old boys not being all that fond of storybooks. I'm going to have to think outside the square for this one...

Back soon with a bit of pre-KCW sewing - as soon as I can persuade R to model it, that is :)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Sew Japanese series: tunic and spring coat

Shino, who writes the blog Nutta, provided me with the perfect excuse to do some sewing when she invited me to be part of her Sew Japanese series, which started on September 8. In this five-day series she is looking at the different styles of Japanese sewing book authors, accompanied by guest posts from bloggers sewing clothes from their respective books.

I chose one of my current favourites which I always think of as 'A Sunny Spot', but which turns out to be called Girls' Fashionable and Pretty Clothes (R's long cardigan and jersey/cotton dress, which I blogged about recently, are from this same book). For Shino's series I made a tunic in the loveliest blue linen, and a 'spring coat' (very apt, as spring has just begun here) in organic Cloud 9 canvas. Click on over to Nutta to check them out! I'll also be putting up some extra photos in Flickr.

Also, I have a couple of fun things coming up in the next month or two. I think I can reveal the first one, since I've already put the button on my sidebar: I'm going to be a contributor for the Kids Clothes Week blog! This season's KCW has a brilliant theme: storybook. If you haven't already, you might want to subscribe to the KCW blog just so you can see me make an ass of myself be inspired by my contributions. In the meantime I'd be interested to know - in my official capacity, of course! -  what kind of sewing does 'storybook' suggest to you?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Couturier to the Queen

Bet you can't guess who R dressed up as for her friend's Frozen-themed birthday party. Was it the snowman? The reindeer? The dastardly Prince Hans, perhaps?

According to shop assistants at the places where I bought the fabrics for this dress, mums all over Melbourne are busy sewing up Elsa dresses for their daughters - which would explain why Spotlight has such a large range of glittery snowflake fabric. 

This little number was a pleasure to sew and (for R) a pleasure to wear. The pattern is self-drafted, with the top part based on one of R's long-sleeved school tops and the bottom section improvised. I made the upper section of the bodice white in an attempt to at least vaguely resemble the gown in the movie (it actually has sheer sleeves, but no way was I going to attempt sewing with that stuff!) and I found joining the white and blue parts easier than I'd anticipated, although they puckered a little when topstitched. The blue fabric is totally synthetic and totally stretchy, so it's already become a little longer in the torso than intended, but it has a lovely soft reverse side, making the dress extra comfy. The white is some kind of stretchy polyester knit.

To ensure washability the cape is completely separate from the dress, and attaches via two little buttons just under the arms. It was supposed to be floor length but R insisted that I leave it ridiculously long. Consequently she spent much of her time at the party today holding up her cape (including at least an hour's jumping on a trampoline) but this didn't bother her in the least. The things we do for fashion!

I'm thinking R may want to wear this for Halloween this year. I wonder if her older brother will agree to be a snowman, or a reindeer...? Now that would be convenient!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Pintucks and lace: a Sunny top

I'm thrilled to be part of the sewVery Sunny Pattern tour! The Sunny is an A-line dress or top which can be made with or without a ruffle at the neck. Both versions have an elasticised, low back and ties which fasten in a bow, courtesy of some ingenious loops. This is an easy-to-sew pattern that offers a lot of bang for something that can be sewn up so quickly. The PDF comes with very comprehensive instructions accompanied by photographs, making it suitable for beginning sewists as well as those with more experience.

Unlike some PDF patterns this one is a breeze to print and tile, with only 8 pattern pages. I really appreciated this when putting it together! (I once bought a Burda pattern online, which had - I kid you not - close to 100 pages. Needless to say, I never even printed it.)


Having already made a Sunny dress for the testing phase of the pattern, I thought I'd jazz things up a bit by adding pintucks. Were I not so mathematically-challenged this would have been a simple alteration, but it took much scratching of the head, chalking and re-chalking, sewing and resewing, before I finally achieved what I was hoping for: four neat(ish) pintucks down the centre of the front. I like the effect.

In my last post I wrote about the difficulty of getting R to wear shorts. Because she won't wear shorts or pants, many of her looser-fitting tops - the ones that don't look good with skirts - have sat unloved in the wardrobe, including some of my favourite sews - such as this and this. Too sad. I didn't want the same fate to befall her new Sunny top, so I used a secret weapon: lace. I already know she loves the crossover straps and the bow at the back - as do I - but I'm hoping an extra bit of frilliness will provide enough incentive for her to wear the top. And now that I think of it, a little straightish skirt would go really nicely with this style of top - maybe that will be my next project.

R loves her Sunny top. She wore it all day after I photographed it, even though it's winter and the maximum temperature that day was 13 degrees. I call that a success.

Oh, and because I got impatient and sewed the elastic in without doing a fitting first, you might notice that the top is a little looser around the chest than intended, but it will be easily fixed. And come summer, I know this little gingham-and-lace number won't be languishing in the wardrobe with the other tops!

This is the second-last day of the Sunny Dress & Top blog tour, but if you'd like to check out some wonderful versions of Veronica's pattern, here's the list of participants:

To celebrate the launch of the Sunny pattern, Veronica is giving away two copies to two lucky winners. You can enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also get 20% off the pattern until the end of the tour using the code SUNNY20. So get in quick! You can buy the pattern here.

Thanks for having me on your blog tour, Veronica!