Sunday, 10 December 2017

Fairy tale dress for big brother's Bar Mitzvah

Yesterday was K's Bar Mitzvah. It was exhilarating and exhausting in equal measures, and after spending last night washing dishes and today rearranging furniture, I have no energy left even to write about it. I will say, though, that while I often worry about the aspects of parenting that I could have done better, I did look at my boy yesterday and feel a sense of pride that I had helped him reach that special day. It wasn't easy!

But enough about that - you're here for the sewing. No clothes were sewn for the Bar Mitzvah boy, although I did post his tallit bag on Instagram,  but his sister demanded a special dress and chose the sleeveless version of the Oliver + S Fairy Tale dress, without the collar. She chose the fabric, too - a cotton lawn from Spotlight. Not the fanciest of fabrics, but in the end it was perfect for the occasion as we had a relatively informal afternoon tea for friends and family back at our house, complete with backyard cricket.

I was indecisive about whether to go for the sash tie or the sewn-on, lower-key bow, so I left the dress plain, then made a full sash (the one in the pattern is sewn in at the side seams and ties around the back) and tacked it on at the seams so it could be removed after. R laughed and laughed when she saw how giant the sash bow was - she looked like a present! It did give the dress a festive look, though.

Photos were a last-minute affair so they're not exactly great, but the Fairy Tale really is a lovely dress to sew, and once you've made your muslin to get the bodice size right (I made two, then sized up for a longer-lasting dress) it really isn't difficult, especially without sleeves and collar. The layer of tulle under the skirt gives it a bit of extra shape without being uncomfortable for the wearer and the invisible zipper instructions are excellent.

R had lots of compliments on her dress and she looked utterly angelic in synagogue - until she started viciously pelting her brother with sweets. Throwing sweets at the Bar Mitzvah boy is a traditional part of the service, but she was still going long after everyone else had stopped - and she put that bowling arm to good use! I had to drag her back to her seat so the service could continue!

Now that the big event is over and the house is - kind of - back to normal, I'm looking forward to my own fairy tale ending: putting my feet up and bingeing on leftover croquembouche.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Summer dress in teal knit

I'd been admiring this beautiful teal fabric in Spotlight for at least a year, so when it appeared on the clearance table recently, I pounced.

This is a simple little dress adapted from pattern O from Girls Style Book. I improvised a front placket instead of having a slit at the back of the dress, and left off the patch pockets, but otherwise it's exactly as per the pattern. The Birch organic knit was nice and easy to sew with and I love the colour SO much.

White wall plus blazing sun plus strong wind doesn't make for the greatest photos (nor the most pleasant experience) but the dress really looks lovely on R. It's a little looser than I'd intended, so I hemmed it to be it just above the knee instead of shortening it further, which had been my plan. This way she can wear it again next summer and it won't be too mini.

R has grown out of so many of her clothes, which is wonderful as there's nothing I love more than sewing summer dresses. Time to start cutting out my next one...

Thursday, 28 September 2017

A tried-and-true dress with ruffled sleeves

Dress J from Girly Style Wardrobe - I have made it so many times, most recently in merino. Although just about every Japanese sewing book I own has a similar pattern, this one suits R so well that I'm happy to forego being adventurous in favour of the tried-and-true. It's also quick and easy to sew, provided one doesn't make too many stupid mistakes - more about which, below!

Once again I ditched the back placket, substituting a slit with bias binding ties (the neck is bound anyway, so it's the obvious modification). I also shortened the sleeves and added large ruffles. Then I tried it on R and realised the ruffles were too low down on the sleeves - so I redid them. Then I tried it on R and realised the ruffles were... no this is not an editing mistake, but it sure was a sewing one. It took me THREE goes to get the ruffled sleeves to work, by which time this 'easy-to-sew' dress had turned into a bit of a nightmare, due entirely to my winging it rather than adapting the sleeve pattern piece properly. But I got there in the end!

The fabric is a denimy-coloured cotton from Kim Anh Fabric. I couldn't get R to take her (too small) leggings off - it wasn't quite warm enough for that - but I'm thinking it'll be a good trans-seasonal dress with or without leggings, cardigan etc (assuming she can get a cardigan sleeve over those ruffles!).

We went down to the local 'school' to take some photos - it's actually a former school that is now a massive green space full of grass and trees (the photo at the top of this post shows the 'secret entrance' to this garden paradise). Sad to think it will soon be turned into little boxes for people to live in. R is outraged at the thought that many of the trees will be chopped down, as am I. Not to mention the issue of the State government selling off our school sites to developers...

But on a more positive note, the weather is getting warmer, the air is full of jasmine and we have some special holiday activities planned. Bring on springtime!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

A silver skirt

In my last post about the Burdastyle miniskirt I mentioned that the pattern is actually for a metallic imitation leather skirt. Spotting a roll of silver stuff in Spotlight recently, I thought I'd try version 3 of this pattern with the fabric it was intended for. And I'm rather pleased with the result.
Sewing this skirt was not the most pleasant experience, due to the tendency of the fabric to stick under the presser foot and the necessity to avoid using pins (which make holes that remain visible after sewing). Sewing with the wrong side up helped the fabric to move under the foot smoothly, but I found that wonder clips left indentations on the fabric and washi tape was less than ideal for holding things together. Still, I muddled my way through and managed to assemble the various pieces, even doing a bit of double-stitching on the front pockets and hem.

I modified the pattern in the same way I had done for version 1: I sewed buttonholes at the sides of the inside waistand, then threaded buttonhole elastic through the back part of the skirt for a better fit. The fabric is surprisingly soft and comfy on the inside due to cotton backing, and the fit is really quite nice. R's eyes widened with excitement when she saw the silver skirt, and she insisted on wearing it into town today. I thought she had quite a 60s vibe in her mini and black top and leggings!

Sadly, modelling was cut short when R realised she'd left her new water bottle at the Japanese place where we'd had lunch, meaning we had to hike across town to get it. After that, things went downhill rapidly - her feet were sore, she was tired, she didn't want to be photographed etc etc. Still, the skirt is a huge success and I know she'll wear it often!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Burda + Ottobre + A Sunny Spot = a new outfit

Three garments, made in bits and pieces over the past few weeks:

1. Ottobre (Autumn 4/2010) 'Montparnasse' hooded jacket
2. Burda miniskirt revisited, and
3. A Sunny Spot's 'Ribbon tie tunic'.

First, the jacket. Luckily for me, I noticed a tutorial for the jacket on the Ottobre blog - what a find! This made it super easy to sew, even though I mixed up elements from the two different jacket styles (I made the longer jacket with the gathered pockets and hood elastic of the shorter version) and ended up with a zip that was slightly too short (totally deliberate, naturally). The fabric is a midweight cotton French terry that I picked up at an op shop a while back, and the hood lining is a scrap from another op shop fabric, so all I had to buy was the too-short zip and a new double needle as my old one had disappeared. Love the fit of this jacket on R and will happily use this pattern again.

Next, the skirt. A while back I made a denim mini for R using the same pattern, which is actually called 'Girl's metallic skirt' and is intended to be made in metallic faux leather. I loved the skirt but R wouldn't wear it because the zip and waistband fastening were scratchy - it needed a fly guard. So I remade the whole thing in a denim that R chose, adjusting the waistband so I wouldn't have to elasticise it like I did last time and - of course - adding an improvised fly guard. Although R is really happy with the new skirt, I don't like it as much as the old one. The denim isn't as nice a colour, the less A-line shape doesn't look as good and the waistband is still too big. Clearly I will have to have a third go at this one!

The top is a simple little pattern from A Sunny Spot - you can see my previous version here. I made this one the same way, lengthening the sleeves and omitting the hem facing. Although it is not what I would call tunic length, the 'tunic' cut gives it a nice flare at the bottom. For this one I used cotton jersey bought on clearance at Spotlight, so it was another cheapie.

Yesterday was freezing and windy (and today is even worse!) so I had to photograph quickly, but I predict the hoodie in particular is going to get a lot of wear.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Merino for a Melbourne winter

Although R likes reading on her own, I still read to her most evenings, often from the books that I loved as a child. In this way we've read through several books that she would have found difficult on her own: Little Women, What Katy Did and the Anne of Green Gables series, among others. At the moment we're reading The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig, about a Polish Jewish family who are deported to Siberia in 1939 and spend the wartime years enduring hunger, isolation and extreme hardship. Of course there are plenty of descriptions of the harsh Siberian winter, which have left me feeling very, very lucky to have only our relatively mild Melbourne version to get through. But still, our winter is more than cold enough for us. A couple of weeks ago we happened to be near The Fabric Store and I dashed in and bought this beautiful olive green sweatshirt merino. It has a small amount of nylon in it which I imagine is what gives it a lovely soft fleecy underside - perfect for cosy winterwear. This fabric was a steal at $12 a (very wide) metre - I bought 1.4 metres and I think I have enough left for a long-sleeved top for R.

This is the fourth time I've made this pattern, from one of my all-time favourite Japanese pattern books Girly Style Wardrobe (other examples are here, here and here). It's meant to have a back placket and a strip of lace around the waist, but I left out both of these; the merino is so stretchy it doesn't need any kind of opening. I made a long tie in the same fabric, sewed a couple of thread chains at the sides and threaded it through. I think it saves the dress from being too drab, and although you might think a nine-year-old wouldn't care for such a plain garment in such an un-girly colour, I'm pleased to report that R loves it!

This deliciously soft merino was a joy to sew with, and while it probably wouldn't keep you warm for five seconds in Siberia it's cosy enough for Melbourne, where winter still sucks, only a whole lot less than being on the steppe!

Friday, 2 June 2017

A tic tac toe dress in shweshwe

Here is my second version of Sewpony's wonderful Tic Tac Toe dress (you can see the first one here). This time I opted for the long sleeves, plain bodice, piped collar and piped pockets. It's not obvious at first glance, but the fabric has patches of bright blue in it, and I thought piping the collar in blue would bring that out nicely.

As I didn't make the pieced bodice this time, the dress should have been quite quick and easy to sew, but I made a monumental stuff-up: I cut the front neckline too high due to a late-night pattern-tracing error. Tragically, I didn't notice this until I tried the finished-except-for-hems dress on R and realised something was wrong. There was nothing for it but to unpick the sleeves, lining and collar so I could trim down the neckline and reassemble the bodice and sleeves. I can't begin to express how frustrating this was... and how disappointing, just when I thought I'd finished the dress! But it was all worth it, because with the correct neckline the dress looked so much better. So let my mistake be a lesson to anyone tracing off patterns in dim light, while watching a subtitled television series and being harassed relentlessly by a tissue-paper-loving cat: multitasking does not go with pattern tracing, and neither do cats.

The fabric is shweshwe, a traditional South African cotton fabric. A couple of years ago I asked my dad to bring me some Three Cats brand shweshwe from Cape Town and instead of the usual shades of indigo and brown, I received this green one. I must confess that initially I wasn't that excited about it, but the colour and pattern have really grown on me and I'll be looking out for more greens next time I put in an order.  This particular shade has a lovely autumnal quality and goes beautifully with the fallen leaves in our garden.

The lovely deep pockets are one of the best features of this dress, and I love the centre gathers on the skirt. R and I are both really happy with this one.

To finish up, here are a couple of photos featuring a feline guest star - and it's NOT the one who mucked up my pattern tracing!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

A drop-waist Laure and a cosy cardi

I was so thrilled with my first Laure dress that I could hardly wait to make another - but real life intervened and when things got tough I didn't feel like sewing. Now that things have taken a turn for the better, I'm back at the sewing machine and loving it!

So this is the drop-waist version of the Laure, made in Three Cats shweshwe, a traditional South African cotton fabric. There's not much to say about this dress except that it's a great pattern with a great fit and I love it just as much as the qipao. R showed me a special spot in a local park that's full of lovely trees and we had a nice little wander, with her pointing out items of interest and me clicking away. 

The red cardigan is from this Japanese pattern book and was a nice easy sew. I used the same beautiful wool jersey I used for R's Arrietty dress and some scraps of red shweshwe for the facing. I think it goes perfectly with the Laure dress and it's also nice and cosy for autumn and winter.

I have a couple of other sewing projects on the go and I'm so looking forward to getting stuck into them. Pity it's Monday tomorrow...

Sunday, 19 March 2017

An overalls-dress and fancy-sleeve t-shirt

Life's been challenging lately - sick relatives, financial troubles and toothache. Desperate for some sewing therapy, I did something a little out of character: I made something for R just because I wanted to. After much flicking through my Japanese pattern books I settled on an overalls-dress from this book (I have no idea if there's a 'proper' name for this style) and a t-shirt with decorative sleeve details from this magazine. I really can't pretend R needs another dress or another t-shirt, but since they served a therapeutic purpose I'm telling myself it's OK! What's more, both were made from stash fabric - even the buttons were from my little collection.

The dress is made from a lightweight black denim and was a pretty straightforward sew. I ran into a bit of trouble attaching the straps to the back waistband, but serendipitously my sewing friend Jing had just made the pants version of the same pattern and was able to set me straight.

The t-shirt is made from some interlock-ish jersey (previously used to make this top). It's a really nice, loose style with a pretty sleeve detail. I will use this pattern again I'm sure.

How annoying is that loose bit of hair??! R loves the dress and was pleased to find not only inseam pockets, but a pocket on the top section as well. It took me days to get her to model this outfit, but once she got it on it was clear that she really loved it. Turns out this dress is quite twirly, too!