Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Front placket dress and a summer cardi

This is the front-placket dress from the lovely Japanese book Fu-Ko Basics: Girls' Clothes I Want to Make, and I would have given up on it pretty quickly were it not for this fabulous tutorial that Sanae put together (thank you! thank you!). There's nothing especially complicated about the dress, but the diagrams for constructing the placket are not very clear, and I suspect that even if the book were in English I'd find this particular pattern hopelessly confusing. With the tutorial, though, it's very do-able and I enjoyed seeing the dress come together. R insists that this is actually a tunic, and perhaps she's right - it did turn out on the short side. It's pictured in the book worn with leggings, a pattern for which is also included, so I tried them out and lo and behold, I seem to have found the perfect pattern for R's skinny legs. I used a lovely light linen from Kim Anh for the tunic and cotton/elastane jersey from my stash for the leggings, pictured below.

I found some beautiful (if overpriced) cotton knit at Spotlight - I don't know what it is, but it's not stretchy enough to be a jersey and not thick enough to be sweatshirt knit - which worked beautifully for this little short-sleeved cardigan. I used pattern F from A Sunny Spot, which is a bolero-length cardigan with buttons down the front, but I made mine waist-length with just two metal snaps at the top. It's comfy, easy to wear and goes with lots of R's clothes, so I imagine it'll get a lot of use. I'm less sure about the dress/tunic, because much as I love it, I suspect it might not be R's cup of tea.

All in all, a satisfying little outfit to sew, even if it's not exactly leggings weather around here. Next up, another dress from Fu-ko Basics - and it isn't blue!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

A dip-dyed dress and a kitty bag

First day of summer holidays - yay! Unfortunately it's a stinking hot day - over 40 degrees as I write this - and we're all staying inside with just the odd foray outdoors to hang up washing, rescue wilting plants, retrieve cats etc. I dragged R away from her cubby-house building and persuaded (ie bribed) her to try on this somewhat experimental dress.

Inspired by Toya's stunning dip-dyed dress I had a go at dying some cotton lawn before cutting out the dress pieces. As you can see the results are somewhat stripy and not nearly as amazing as Toya's, but I do love the shades of purple (Dylon intense violet, in case anyone wants to know). The pattern is from this book, which was part of a thoughtful and generous Christmas gift I received from... me. The book has some great patterns, but I am mystified by the use of American food products in the photographs. Was the stylist perhaps a huge fan of Lays chips and Hershey bars? Or is there some uniquely Japanese logic to their inclusion that I don't understand? Anyway, this is top #6, lengthened. I added a few centimetres' width to the front and back pieces for extra body, and the fit is pretty good except that the armholes turned out surprisingly wide. The pattern is almost identical to the Citronille Marie that I made a couple of months ago. It looks cute worn as is, or tied around the waist with some hastily-made tassels on a string. Probably loose will be the way to go, especially given the hot and sticky weather at the moment and the fact that Morry thinks the tassels are a cat-toy and has already had a good chew on them.

Some time ago I saw this fantastic cheetah bag on the Kids Clothes Week site. I checked out the original tutorial and made one for R, using linen for the outside and synthetic fleece for the inside. The fleece gives the bag a good, substantial structure and it feels soft and appropriately cat-like when you put your hand in it. I added press-studs at the ear-tips so the bag can be (kind of) closed, which also prevents the ears from flopping. Despite my less-than-professional embroidery skills, I really do adore this bag and R loves it, too. I made it a few months back and haven't blogged it til now, but what do you know, the purple embroidery makes it a perfect match with the dress!

I have another outfit ready to be photographed, but it's too hot to do anything right now, so I'm going to have to close this hot laptop and retreat to the airconditioned comfort of the loungeroom, which I have been avoiding so as not to have to listen to the sounds of Return of the Jedi being screened at full volume. Melbournians, I hope you're keeping cool today!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Briabaloo: a pinafore dress

Recently I was approached by the lovely Eluned of Sewabaloo to review her Briabaloo, a digital pattern for a girl's shirt dress, pinafore and peplum top in sizes 1-12. The pattern looked very sweet, and I love nothing better than an excuse to sew a pretty dress, so I jumped at the chance!

I made the 'pinafore', which is a sleeveless dress with a gathered waist, in-seam pockets and buttons down the front. I really liked the look of the peplum top's collar, though, so I cut out the pieces for that too, and sewed it with some piping. It was easy to add the collar to the dress and I love the way it looks. The fabric is blue linen from Kim Anh Fabrics.

I'm so happy with the fit of this dress. As the pattern promises, it's loose-fitting with room to grow, but the gathered waist and additional ties at the back (which I somehow managed to stuff up - the casings are meant to sit right on the waistline) give it shape. The pockets are nice and deep for collecting treasures and the construction is beautifully thought-out and detailed, with neck, armhole and hem facings making the finished garment very professional-looking.

Briabaloo isn't what I would call a quick sew, like some of my Japanese patterns with very few pieces, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making the dress and seeing how lovely the finished product looks on R. Eluned's pattern instructions are absolutely superb, with clear illustrations and very well-explained steps to guide you. This is easily the most detailed and professional digital pattern I've come across from a small independent designer. Also, the pattern PDF includes layers, allowing you to print out the size you want, which makes cutting out the pieces so much easier. For my little beanpole I made a size 4 with size 6 length and the fit is just right.

Check out R's vampire teeth in the photo below! I was so glad I got a picture of them, because right after I did, one of those wobbly teeth fell out. Now she just looks like a one-fanged vampire.

As well as the Briabaloo, Eluned has a cool kids' animal costume pattern, and her blog is worth following for the sewing tips and tutorials she posts. She recently blogged a fabulous Christmas sewing wish-list, which should be essential reading for partners of sewing enthusiasts (if my husband is reading this, he should check out this link!). Thanks, Eluned, for the chance to try out your pattern. I couldn't be happier with the result.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

KCW - a summer outfit

So often I read on someone's blog that they just 'whipped something up' in an hour or two, and I am always amazed and impressed that anyone can sew that quickly. My own sewing always seemes dogged by interruptions, mistakes and the discovery that I am lacking certain crucial items (zips, buttons, thread). But last night I surprised myself by whipping up something super-quick. Something straightforward, with a two-piece pattern and with no zips or buttons. And it was SO satisfying!

This little singlet in cotton jersey was a nice easy sew, even with a few modifications. I used this free pattern from small dreamfactory - it only goes up to size 4, but that size is spot-on for R's measurements. To get a less tightly-fitting singlet I added a few centimetres to the width of front and back pieces and gathered the neckline and back before sewing the bias tape (which was just a length of the same jersey, cut cross-grain). I also crossed the straps at the back for a bit of interest - the pattern has them going straight down.

The shorts are from Kids Clothes Sewing Lesson Book and were made last week, so not strictly a Kids Clothes Week item, but I'm throwing them in anyway. This is a really cute pattern with front and back pockets and an elasticised ribbed waist. I used a French terry from Darn Cheap (another $2 p/m find, hooray!) and I really hope R will wear these despite her anti-pants stance because they fit her so beautifully.

In a final, frenzied burst of activity this afternoon, I sewed a bucket hat from this tried-and-true Oliver + S free pattern. I made size L, and as with my last version, I broadened the brim, added grommets to feed a strap through, and eliminated the hand-sewing by using this easy method. Having lots of scraps of striped jersey lying around my (insanely messy) sewing room, I added faux piping to the edge of the brim so it matches nicely with the singlet.

Now I'm looking forward to taking a breather and checking out everyone's projects on the Kids Clothes Week site!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

KCW - a party dress

Every little girl needs a party dress, right? Well actually, no - not when birthday parties typically involve such activities as trampolining, swimming, racing around play centres and going wild in a giant room full of inflatable things. But do you think I'm going to let the fact that R doesn't need a fancy party dress (complete with tulle petticoat) stop me? No. As the mother of a girl, it is my right to make one, so make one I did!

I wanted a fitted bodice and a full skirt, so I diverged from my Japanese pattern books and bought Dana's First Day Dress. It's such a cute pattern, and seemed perfect for the job. But it turns out the back closure is basically just a small slit with a button, and I could imagine the shrieks of outrage from R as I tried to pull it over her head. I decided to do a little modification and use an invisible zip instead, a nice long one that extends into the skirt. This worked really well and I don't think I'd make the dress any other way now. I also recut the neckline a little to make it lower - this thing has a super-high neck - and I'm happy with this change, too. I fully lined the dress - instructions for this are included in the pattern - and spent an unhappy few hours trying out various ways of adding a layer of tulle between dress and lining. I eventually hit on a solution that didn't look ridiculously bulgy, which was using a folded-over section of cotton lawn for the top part of the tulle petticoat, and gathering the tulle before sewing it to the lawn, sandwiched between the two layers (I have no idea if that makes sense, but it's late, I'm tired, and also I don't really want to revisit the trauma of sewing the tulle). The result is rather nice even from the inside, and it hangs well.

The fabric is Dear Stella Confetti Dot, which I got on sale a while back when I ordered some stuff from Fabricworm. I like it, but fear it may be horribly crinkly once washed. Time will tell! The lining is cotton lawn which is lovely and soft. I bought a few metres so I'd have plenty left for future projects, then wasted most of it making stupid mistakes with the lining. In fact, the litany of errors, blunders and stuff-ups made during the construction of this dress could fill an entire blog post, if not a series of them. Honestly, I'm surprised I emerged from this experience with a decent garment and my sanity (kind of) intact. Marisa's law: whatever can sew wrong, will sew wrong.

I made the bow on R's headband using the Oliver + S felt bow pattern. These things are so quick and satisfying to make - and I know my finger will recover from the glue-gun burn in no time at all. I didn't have any felt, but I think I've found my favourite use for all those scraps of Mexican oilcloth I can't bear to throw away.

How is Kids Clothes Week treating you?  I hope your sewing is not as frustrating as mine has been!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Citronille's 'Marie', modified

When I sewed the Paloma dress for Sew Mama Sew's Citronille challenge, Abby from Fiddlehead sent me a bonus pattern, which I launched into at the first opportunity. The 'Marie' is a  peasant-style top or dress with a gathered neckline held together with bias binding - you can see the details here.

Having become addicted to the French Citro-fan website Je Couds Citronille I had already checked out numerous Maries, and decided to try out the modifications described on the blog By Mimosette. This 'manche papillon' (butterfly sleeve) version involves adding about 20cm width to each pattern piece, which, when the pieces are sewn together and gathered, results in a fuller dress with flutter sleeves. As I was making a larger sized dress than Mimosette's example, I added around 25cm to the sleeve pattern piece and added the same amount to the front and back pieces just by placing them 25cm away from the fold when cutting. It was a super simple modification, although all that extra fabric did make gathering a little more intense!

I also made a small change to the way the back opening is constructed - I sewed a facing instead of binding a slit in the fabric. This makes for a neater opening and is easier to sew (the photo above left shows the facing attached to the right side of the fabric before being turned inside and sewn down - I did mean to photograph the process in more detail, but forgot about it in my rush to get the dress sewn up!). Then, instead of a button and loop, I used a metal snap to join the two sides together. I will use this technique next time I make the Paloma, as well.

I couldn't be happier with this Marie - it's so sweet and summery. The fabric I used is a cotton voile from Spotlight's clearance table and I absolutely love it. It's a happy compromise between red (which I love and R hates) and blue (which she loves, and I don't mind). And as if on cue, Melbourne's weather suddenly changed from winter to summer. We went to take some photos in front of a factory wall down near the train station and discovered this lovely little patch of greenery right by the tracks, complete with dandelions and snowbells.

I really recommend this pattern as a sweet little basic with an easy modification. Vive la Marie!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

La belle Citronille

Have you heard of Citronille patterns? They are a range of children's and women's clothing patterns with classic, vintage-inspired style and super-cute cover drawings that remind of of Oliver + S. Until recently, these patterns were only available in French - but now Fiddlehead Artisan Supply has started selling a range of patterns complete with English translations, which is very exciting news for anyone who has ever admired French bloggers' gorgeous Citronille outfits.

I was lucky enough to be given a pattern to sew for Fiddlehead and Sew Mama Sew's Citronille Challenge. Mine is the Paloma, a sleeveless dress with a fitted bodice and two gathered skirt sections. The pattern is nice and quick to trace and cut out (seam allowances are included! hooray!) and the instructions were pretty straightforward and easy to follow.

I made size 6 length with size 4 width based on R's measurements. I sewed the dress exactly as instructed but replaced the buttons on the back with metal snaps so they wouldn't catch on R's hair. The snaps are such a great alternative to buttons, and having spent a lot of time unpicking botched buttonholes lately, I was only too happy not to have to sew any! I also increased the width of the binding by a half centimetre or so - it's something I always do, because I'm not too good at working with narrow binding.

I really love this dress, and you can see from R's expression that she loves it too. It has just the right degree of fullness, giving it plenty of flounce and a nice full profile - not to mention a high degree of 'twirlability'! The fabric I used is a bouncy cotton seersucker which worked beautifully for this style. My only regret is that while the bodice is a perfect fit for R right now, I don't know if it'll last more than a season. But never mind, our warm weather is just beginning here so she'll get plenty of wear out of it, and I'll have an excuse to make a new Paloma before too long.

While Citronille patterns are quite simple in design and straightforward in construction, they are best suited to those with a bit of sewing experience. The instructions are quite sparse - although they do include diagrams - and they don't mention anything about seam finishing, nor do they give details about techniques such as gathering (for the record, I top-stitched the gathered sections of the skirt to make the gathers lie nicely). Rather, the patterns assume a basic knowledge of sewing and provide you with classic styles that can be made 'as is' or customised as desired. The beauty and simplicity of Citronille patterns is evidenced by the enormous following they have in France - check out the French-language site Je couds Citronille for numerous examples of every pattern in the range.

Now click over to Sew Mama Sew for the chance to win a Citronille pattern of your choice! Or visit Fiddlehead to get your fill of French style en Anglais.

You can also check out the blogs of these sewists, who will be posting their Citronille creations between now and 25 September:

Michelle Morris of That Black Chic
Sherri Sylvester of thread riding hood
Tenille Brien of Tenille's Thread
Maris Olsen of Sew Maris
Vanessa Lynch of Punkin Patterns
Sara Johansen of The Sara project
Natalie Strand of Vegetablog
Diane Reafsnyder of Gator Bunny
Jessica Wright of Willow & Stitch
Sara Homer of Now Try This
Kelly Donovan of Craftree

Thank you Fiddlehead and Sew Mama Sew for the opportunity to try out the Paloma - I'm so happy to have sewn my first Citronille !

Monday, 3 August 2015

Easiest birthday cake ever

K turned 11 recently and decided he was too old for a birthday party - what he really wanted was to have six friends over to stay the night, watch a movie and eat pizza and ice cream. His dad said no but I said yes, because I could see how excited he was and because I wanted him to have the best birthday ever. So - long story short, they came, they ate. they fought with nerf guns, they stayed awake til after 4am. And they made noise. LOTS of noise. It was heaven for the boys and hell for the rest of us, and I'm glad they had such a good time because it won't be repeated EVER again.

While the sleepover was the stuff of nightmares, K's cake was a dream to put together. I made a simple chocolate cake, coated it with buttercream icing and covered it with smoothly-rolled white fondant. I left to harden for a night before putting it out to be decorated with food markers by K's friends.

I kicked off the decorating with a simple 'happy birthday' message on the blank cake and was impressed by how well the markers worked, with clear lines and colour just as intense as regular markers. Having read reviews of various brands, I'd bought Americolor markers rather than the far less expensive Wiltons ones, and I'm so glad I did. Americolor isn't easy to find here in Australia, but luckily I located some at this amazing shop.

Besides looking rather cool, the cake tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself! R has now decided she wants one of these for her next birthday instead of the usual smash cake and I'm all for it. In the meantime, I wonder what other foods I can write on..?

Friday, 31 July 2015

Back in time

"I'm going back in time!" R announced a couple of weeks ago.

I assumed she was referring to some imaginative game related to her Little House on the Prairie obsession, but then she pulled a notice from her school bag about an excursion to an 'olden days school'. I felt a bit jealous, because if there's one thing I love, it's olden days stuff. Among my favourite books as a girl were - in addition to the Little House series - What Katy Did, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and, as a token Ausssie contribution, Playing Beatie Bow. I dreamt of a time when girls wore pinafores, wrote on slates and played with rag dolls.

Having this golden opportunity to live my olden days fantasies through R, I did a bit of research to see what Australian schoolchildren wore in the early 1900s. Then, looking through R's wardrobe, I noticed something curious: she already has a heap of old-fashioned clothes, thanks to my beloved Japanese pattern books. All that was missing was a nice white pinafore, and I had the perfect pattern for it: dress A from Happy Homemade. I used some beautiful white fabric with a seersuckerish stripe and lined it with the lightest, softest lawn. I made two small modifications: I cut the shoulder ruffles a little wider for a more 'olden days' effect and - keeping the bodice the same size - I made the dress a couple of inches wider at back and front.

With her new pinny worn over her Japanese ensemble and a couple of giant hair ribbons, I reckon she really looked the part.

I'm pleased to say that R's dress came back from the excursion as snowy-white as it was in the morning, that she passed her fingernail inspection and completed her schoolwork satisfactorily (on her slate, naturally). Now to work on developing some lovely old-fashioned manners...