Thursday, 29 December 2016

A seersucker swimsuit

Looking through rolls of swimwear fabric the other day I found some fantastic neon-striped seersucker that took me back to circa 1983, when I'm pretty sure I had a bikini made of something virtually identical. But I'm not a fan of bikinis on little girls, so a Cosi Swimsuit it had to be! I've used this pattern before (here and here) so it's a tried-and-true one for me. I made R the size 8 length and altered the width to size 5.

This morning R was desperate to go to the beach. The boys weren't even out of bed yet, but I did a deal: I take her to the beach; she models her new bathers. Since the photos only took me about a minute, I think she got the better end of the deal, but I did enjoy getting into the cool water even if the beach was a bit too windy (hence the quick photoshoot, and my failure to notice that the bathers look all scrunched up at the bottom - they are actually a pretty perfect fit, provided one pulls them up properly...)

The awesome fabric is from Joelle's Fabric Warehouse in Dingley, which is my go-to place for swimwear material. This seersucker was only $7 a meter, making these bathers pleasingly inexpensive to sew. Due to ear problems R hasn't yet learned to swim, but her specialist has given her the all-clear, so this will probably be a year of intensive swimming lessons. These Cosis are going to get a lot of wear! They're probably not ideal for extreme UV days at the beach, though, which is why I'm now moving on to a more sunsmart swimsuit... coming up shortly!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Jinbei PJs

Having tackled a yukata for R's school's Japan Day, I felt pretty confident about making a jinbei - a Japanese two-piece outfit combining a yukata-style top with a pair of shorts. This pattern came from Cotton Friend Kids! Summer 2016 and was far easier to sew than my yukata pattern, with more manageable-sized pieces and a simpler method of construction.

The top part of the jinbei has a inside tie as well as an outside one, and next time I make one of these I think I'll just use a button for this part to reduce the not-so-pleasant feeling of a knot and bow inside the top (not that R has complained, but it doesn't seem ideal). The shorts have an elastic waist and are slightly lengthened in the hope that they'll fit R for a while. I decided to go totally cutesy and use this cotton strawberry fabric from Spotlight, which of course R loves - in fact, she loves the whole outfit and has been wearing it constantly.

Here are the jinbeis shown in the magazine:

The boy version is identical, but doesn't have the ruffle at the bottom of the shorts.

Now to make R some less layered nightwear for the stinking hot summer nights that will no doubt be arriving soon...

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Ribbon dress

This is the 'ribbon-embellished dress' from Linen, Wool, Cotton: Kids. I found the trim on clearance at Darn Cheap Fabrics and was excited to make this dress, which I'd long admired in the book. The dress itself is made in a lovely white linen from Kim Anh Fabrics.

I though this one would be an easy sew, but it proved quite complicated. The ribbon yoke is made from pieces of trim cut at various angles and assembled (I had to zigzag the edges as I went or it would have been a total fray-fest!). Then the dress sections are joined to the ribbon yoke, and finally you make an inner ribbon yoke in pretty much the same way. Having chosen white linen, though, I realised I'd have to make some kind of lining, so I basically wound up making two dresses - an inner and an outer, with the inner made from voile - and sewing them together at the neckline.

I really like the shape of this dress, and, of course, the super-bright trim. It makes me think of a cross between Hmong embroidery and Ethiopian traditional wear, with a modern neon twist. Totally impractical of course, and god knows how that trim's going to stand up in the wash, but I love it anyway!

Monday, 21 November 2016

The four tops

Today's post bundles together four tops, so I couldn't resist the musical reference to the Motown greats!

Up first is a top from this Japanese sewing book, which I wanted to try as I was curious about the construction of the sleeves and the insert below them. It's a really nice, simple style with buttons down the back (I used snaps instead). The fabric is a light cotton from my stash with a seersucker-like wave to it. In the bottom set of photos you can see the side view of the sleeve and also the side slits - a lovely detail, I think.

Next up is a peplum top from the magazine Cotton Friend: Kids. This cute little number features an elasticised back with crossover straps. I used a linen-lookalike cotton from Spotlight. The pattern was really confusing and I still can't work out why I ended up with an extra (unused) pattern piece - most perplexing! In the end I just looked at the photos and figured it out from there.

This Oliver + S school bus t-shirt sat around my sewing space for some months due to indecision about which colour neckband to use. Finally guilt got the better of me and I just grabbed some grey ribbing and finished it. I made the stupid mistake of not shortening the neckband enough and consequently the fit around the neck isn't great. I should really re-do it - but will I ever get around to it, I wonder? The fabric is a knit from Spotlight.

Lastly, I couldn't resist this cute strawberry print - so summery! I really wish I could find something similar in a swimwear fabric. The pattern is the girl's singlet from Small Dreamfactory - a lovely FREE pattern that goes from 9 months to size 14. As I did with the one I made last summer, I crossed the straps at the back and added a little width to the front and gathered it.

But wait - that's not all! I put a photo of these up on Instagram on the weekend, but here they are in more detail: my two fruit bags from Cotton Friend: Kids. The pineapple is kind of a backpack with drawstrings; the strawberry is a little drawstring pouch. They were fun to sew and R pounced on them as soon as they were done, destroying my plan to give one away as a gift. I guess I might have to sew some more, then...

And that's all from me for today, except for this one last pic: R was adamant that there had to be a photo of her eating the strawberry, so here it is!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Pattern testing: the Tic Tac Toe Dress

If you've been reading this blog over the past few months you'll know that I've sewn two versions of a self-drafted dress, one in a bambiblauw panel and one in a 70s-style floral print. Well, my self-drafting days are over, because Suz of Sewpony has released a new pattern that's exactly what I've been looking for: a vintage-style dress with a fitted bodice, gathered skirt, generous pockets and piping. Best of all, I got to test it!

The Tic Tac Toe dress comes with loads of options: simple bodice, pieced bodice or piped bodice; rounded back neckline or v-back; sleeveless, ruffle sleeves, puffed sleeves or long sleeves; full or half collar; epaulettes; optional ribbon tie. There's a blog tour going on at the moment, and today you can see some beautiful puffed-sleeved and collared versions over at Amelie and Atticus and a gorgeous one with epaulettes at Inspinration. I made the sleeveless Tic Tac Toe with a v-back and a piped bodice and I really love the way the lines of piping extend into the curve of the pockets.

The pattern has been tweaked a bit since I made my tester version, but I have to say, the fit on R is superb. I had to blend sizes to suit R's proportions, so I made size 4 width with size 8 length. The bodice is lined and Suz has an ingenious way of sandwiching the invisible zipper edges between the lining and the outer, which makes for a very neat finish (why, oh why have I been hand-sewing the lining to the zipper all this time?). The dress is not a difficult sew, although obviously the more details you add, the more time it takes (but all that piping is well worth it in the end!). For my dress I used cotton drill from Spotlight, with gold spots to match R's gold summer sandals.

I adore the v-back, even if I didn't do the most brilliant job of photographing it. These pics were taken on a furiously windy day and poor R was freezing and windswept. If it hadn't been for the packet of tic tacs I bribed her with (because it's a tic tac dress, you know) there's no way I would have got her outdoors.

Ugh, so blurry! Here's one I took indoors. I really should use thicker lining next time, shouldn't I... but at least you can tell that I was a good girl and cut all my notches as instructed.

R adores her new dress, even if Melbourne's weather isn't cooperating by providing some springtime warmth and sunshine... good thing this girl will do anything for a packet of lollies!

Want to see more Tic Tac Toe dresses? Here are the details of Suz's blog tour so you can check out the many variations of this very versatile pattern:

You can buy the Tic Tac Toe pattern here, with a 10% discount available throughout the blog tour using the code TICTACTOE10 on checkout.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Japanese Day

R asked me to make her a special outfit for Japanese Day at school: a yukata (summer kimono). How tough could it be, I thought, as I ordered a cute-looking pattern from Amazon Japan. Sure, I had no idea what a yukata looked like close-up, nor how they were traditionally constructed, but given my years of sewing from Japanese patterns I didn't think it would be much of a challenge.

The pattern arrived and I realised that a yukata is made from mega-long pattern pieces that form both front and back sections - there are no shoulder seams. This requires a good few metres of fabric, which immediately ruled out just about all the fabrics I liked due to budget constraints (because how much is it really reasonable to spend on a school fancy dress outfit?). Eventually I found some Japanese-themed voile on sale at Spotlight that worked quite nicely.

The Japanese teacher at my work lent me a yukata so I could see how it was made. This helped me make sense of the bizarro pattern pieces, although being an adult's yukata it was different from the one in my pattern, which had the tucks at the shoulders and waist which - I have since figured out - are there to allow the garment to be let out as the child grows.

So I sewed the yukata, which, once I'd got my head around it, was quite simple (this series of posts on sewing a child's yukata was helpful). I even changed things up a little and used French seams so it would look neater from the inside. Then came the obi. I found some dimensions from a shop selling them on Rakuten, and, using some soft voile from my stash, sewed a giant sash (basically a massive long rectangle). Things were so rushed in the lead-up to the 'big day' that I didn't have time to try the outfit on R in advance, but in the morning I used this tutorial to help me tie the obi.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time admiring kanzashi hair ornaments on the internet and ambitiously had a go at making my own, but after two ribbon flowers I'd had enough. Cutting and gluing tiny bits of ribbon is really not my forte, but luckily the two I managed to make before giving up looked quite nice when attached to a two-dollar shop headband, and R was thrilled with her new accessory.

At school I watched R walk around, smiling sweetly as people admired her outfit. She continued to be a sweet little Japanese girl even after she came home that day, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her bow to me and pretend to be polite! Given the generous tucks in R's yukata (meaning that it is likely to fit her forever) I'm not expecting to have to make another, but since I've got a grip on the general construction principles I think I'll have a go at a jinbei, which has a very similar top section. I just have to find the right fabric and finish a few WIPs first...

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Living in the 70s - a floral dress

A roll of fabric on the clearance table at Spotlight caught my eye. I pulled it out and was immediately reminded of a 1970s curtain - or maybe a doona cover. So I put it back and went home, only to find that images of the blue, green and yellow vintage print kept popping into my head. Those who spend way too much time obsessing over fabric will understand that I was compelled to go back the following day and pick up a couple of metres. And yes, it does resemble a 1970s curtain, but in a really good way, right? And I just love the colours - perfect for spring.

My first thought was to use the fabric (a bargain at $4 a metre, by the way) for a dress in a similar style to the poppy one I made recently. I used a bodice from a Japanese pattern, lengthened it, and added a gathered skirt with piping at the waist. This time I made the skirt wider and included in-seam pockets. The bodice is lined with voile, closes with an invisible zip and has a little stamped cat tag on the inside (because our home is ruled by our cats). I didn't do quite as great a job with the zip this time round, but given the length of R's hair it's not likely anyone will ever see this little imperfection! And because I'm already lamenting the fact that the perfectly-fitted poppy dress will not fit R for long, I made this one a good few inches longer and a little wider. I don't think it looks too baggy, and it should be good for next summer too.

I gave R some 'punching balloons' to keep her amused during her brother's (very long) cricket match today. I must say, they are pretty irritating things, especially when they are being 'punched' right next to your head as you attempt to watch your son batting. They also make a terrifyingly loud bang when they pop, which, of course, occurs when the balloon is right next to your head.

So now I can stop thinking about blue and green flowers and swirls and move on to finishing R's yukata. But I'm not quite done with this fabric yet - I have just enough left to make a skirt for my little niece, who saw the fabric when she was here and pronounced it beautiful. Such good taste and only four years old!

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!