Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 advent calendar (a very late post!)

Hello! Season's greetings! I know I'm super late with a Christmas themed post, and you're probably well and truly over Christmas, if you celebrate it, but please indulge me in posting this, I really wanted to show off our advent calendar.

For several years now I've been making advent calendars using little disposable paper envelopes, but always had it  in mind to sew little fabric pockets, never quite getting around to it. So this year I elevated it to no.1 on the craft project list, did some serious daydreaming, a little Pinterest searching and gathered supplies.

I essentially sewed little pockets to hang from our silver stick (used previously to hang Christmas ornaments) in our corridor. They'd then be filled with treats or suggestions for activities. And as anyone with small children knows, the whole ceremony is quite exciting :-)

The pocket outers are made from one of my favourite oatmeal coloured linens, then each has a contrast colour used for embroidering the numbers and lining the pockets - as seen in the pic above.

Embroidering the numbers took a few days to complete - every kids soccer lesson, swimming lesson and play in the park saw me sitting stitching away, but I loved every minute of it. I find embroidery so enjoyable, particularly freeform style. There were also lengths of ribbon to cut and buttons to sew on - I used a mismatched assortment from my button jar, which worked out fine. What wasn't quite so fun was the production line style sewing of all the linings to the outers, but in the end it wasn't so painful.

And what I'm thrilled about is that we now have something that can be used year after year, creating a little tradition for our family. And with any luck it will be loved and cherished for years to come. The only thing that didn't work out so well was that as I spent so much time making it that the contents were quickly put together and sweets based, little chocolates and lollies mainly, rather than fun activities and outings. But hopefully that will happen next year, when at least one thing will be off my Christmas Craft list!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shibori Polly top

Well, we're at that time of year again when the holiday season is hurtling towards us and I start to feel panicky... not enough days left to sew and make everything I want but a burning desire, as always, to do it all! I find it so frustrating, but I think the lesson in it all is to just let go and don't expect too much of myself - which is hard. So I spent a bit of time today writing lists of what I would really like to make, and making up a project bag for each including my notes, the pattern and fabric. That way, I'm thinking, I can pick up a project and do it in a slightly more organised way. And hopefully not get sidetracked with all the other possibilities!

Anyway... this is another Polly top (first one here), the free pattern from By Hand London.

Shibori Polly top front

I used a piece of black voile from my stash for the main section, and for the front insert panel I used a piece of fabric I'd shibori dyed in a workshop ages ago. I'd been waiting for the right project to pop up, not wanting to ruin it, and was initially going to use it for a panel in a Wiksten tank, as I love that pattern, especially now that I have the fit just right for me. But when the Polly top pattern came out I thought this would be a better option as my piece was small.

Shibori Polly top front 2

I don't think I got the fit quite right in my first Polly top, and I don't think it's perfect on this one, maybe it will take a few attempts to get it just right, as it did with the Wiksten Tank, but I do like it all the same and have already worn it several times.

Shibori Polly top back

And I figure you can never really have too many little tops like this for summer... I'm sure there will be more.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Midnight blue seven circle

I finally finished my winter knitting project (I'm a really slow knitter so one project each winter seems to be my limit :-). This is my second seven circle (first one here), a beautiful (and free) pattern from Melbourne designer Kirsten Johnstone.


I loved knitting this pattern again. I'd definitely recommend it to a beginner because it's so interesting, lots of casting on and off, not just the same old row after row that an ordinary scarf might be.


This time I used a beautiful midnight blue wool.Using a wool this time has made such a difference to the feel of the finished garment. I had made the first one out of an acrylic that I'd had laying around and it's fine, I like the colour, but it's not a patch on the feel and warmth of this one. I could go on and on about how much I love wool in many different forms. I sewed a merino cardigan recently which I'm hoping to blog soon too.


And in case you haven't seen how this clever design works, here it is stretched out on my arm. While I was knitting it (mainly while waiting for kids at dancing and swimming classes) I had so many people looking at me quizzically and asking "What is it??". It does look kind of weird until you slip it over your head and then it all makes sense. She's a clever one, that Kirsten!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Edible christmas gifts

For the past few Christmases I have cooked a batch of something to give to friends, neighbours and anyone who I'd like to know that I appreciate them. I enjoy the planning, cooking and making cute little packages, finishing them with hand printed tags. All very satisfying!

Last year I made jars of caramelised red onion chutney and packaged them with a box of crackers and some brie. The year before was peppermint bark in cellophane bags with pretty ribbons. This year I wanted to try cordials to mix with soda water or iced water (or possibly vodka for the grown-ups ;-) So I tested  out lime this time.


I tried this recipe, which I liked, though it was a bit sweet (the kids love it, obviously!) and I'll adjust it next time. I also love the look of this rhubarb cordial and will try that one too. And in preparation for the gifts I bought some empty bottles from Ikea.


I made a little citrus stamp and used it on a hand written tag with some jute ribbon. I packed up a bottle to give to a lovely friend as thanks for a favour, along with a fresh lime to slice and add to her drinks.


While at Ikea (and will food gifts in mind) I spied the lovely fabric above, which previously had not appealed at all to me, and thought it would make lovely shopping tote bags. See, the sewing sneaks in yet again ;-)

I'll also probably make some more celery salt, one of my favourite little condiments which we use a lot and is quick and easy to prepare, plus there's the opportunity to do some more stamping. And the colour fits well with the Christmas theme too. Important details in the scheme of things!


... and another option would be Apple Jam, a pretty safe bet that most people will like it.


I think I'm starting to get into the spirit of Christmas now. A little craft will do that! How about you - planning any edible gifts?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

New bag: Oliver & S 'day in the park'

I'd been daydreaming about a new bag recently. My needs have moved on a bit in the mum-bag area. Now that the kids are getting bigger we rarely use the pram and I'm finding myself feeling like a pack horse carry everything on my shoulders (and sometimes a child too :-).


So when I came across Oliver & S' A day in the park bag pattern it looked perfect. I think this pattern was released in 2010 but somehow hadn't come onto my radar.

I had specifically been looking for a bag to take on a school excursion I was going on with my middle child who's in kindy. And anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know that I'm like a dog with a bone when I get an idea, needless to say this was put together at the 11th hour, but I was so glad I did as it was fantastic on the excursion. See, I'm finding ways to justify the sewing mania :-)


In case you hadn't heard of it either, it's basically a tote bag that you can also use as a backpack. You just pull the straps...


and et voila, it's a backpack. Ingenious!


I really loved making this pattern. As you may know I have made plenty of bags in the past and consider mine are reasonably good, but this pattern is such a cut above my efforts. All the little finishing touches make it look so professional, so its practical as well as not looking homemade (which we know is a curse, right, as opposed to handmade :-)


I used a heavyish mid weight cotton dot print fabric for the outer (about $3 worth at Spotlight - yay!) and a dark grey cotton for the lining. I used stiff interfacing as I wanted it to have some body and not slump down, and also interfaced the straps to give them a bit more strength. Annoyingly I couldn't find O rings for the straps, so had to use the closest I could get, and also couldn't find rivets, which definitely would have finished it off even better. I may try to find some online to add.

The only change I made to the pattern was to widen the side panels, as quite a few people seem to have. This definitely made it more practical for my needs.

This bag has already had several outings (and is less than a week old) and lots of favourable comments from people, including a few from friends with sideways glances and the familiar 'did you make that?' question, which I'm sure they regret asking when I start to rave about how much I love it :-)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Green Bee Amelia dress

My KCW efforts kind of crashed and burned last week due to having the attention span of a gnat various other things to get through, but I do hope to finish it this week and not end up with more UFOs -arghh!

This is a dress I made a few weeks ago but hadn't blogged yet. I fell in love with Green Bee's Amelia dress when I saw this one, and then later this one. Despite the fact that I couldn't find much online about it, I bought the pattern. I thought the general shape would suit me and loved the fact that it's cut on the bias.


I made a muslin, then made a few modifications to the fit, subtle things but I think it's definitely made the fit better.


The zip is bubbling out a bit, which I guess is the bias cut fabric, and I probably should have done some sort of stabilisation on it. I couldn't check the pattern instructions to see what to do though as I'd lost them :-( I took them to the playground to read while the kids played (sewing nerd ;-) and accidently left them there! So then I just winged it with what I remembered I'd read and what made sense to me. It's not a super complicated pattern and went together quickly.


I chose the fabric from Spotlight, a Japanese cotton, and loved the pattern. But in hindsight I don't think it works well. Maybe it's just that it's too much of the same thing, but the dress feels frumpy to me and just a bit blah, particularly when not accessorised, as below.


(big sigh) So I'm not loving this dress unfortunately. I think I should just wear it a few more times and see if it grows on me, but I'm not super hopeful. Maybe I just need to use a striped fabric as in the version I loved, or maybe the style doesn't suit me afterall, or the fabric is too heavy or ... (I could go on and on).

Any thoughts? Do you have those sewing blahs where you don't like what you've made occasionally? Say it's not just me!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

KCW Japanese top and bubble shorts

I've been wanting to make my big girl a short sleeved blouse for summer, and have had my eye on Figgy's Ayashe top but decided to use my Japanese pattern book instead (the shorts she's wearing here are from the same book).


She chose this apple print cotton and it sewed up nicely but I got a feeling making it that it was going to be too small... and it was, so I did some alterations to save it, mainly making the armholes and neckline larger. I'd used the largest size in the book, size 8, which would usually be her size, but I guess Japanese children are smaller.



And on checking the Ayashe pattern details it only goes up to size 8/9 too. In any case it made me realise that she's entering that stage when she's getting too big for children's sizes but not big enough for adult sizes.


I also finally finished the bubble shorts for one of her best friends that I'd promised ages ago. The poor girl had resorted to very timidly asking my girl how they were going - oh the shame, letting a little girl down! I think I'll wrap them up nicely and add something special to say sorry.

Do you have that problem with the sizes? Find it hard to buy appropriate patterns/clothing for your almost tween?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

By Hand London Polly top and summer sewing list

Have you seen By Hand London's newest pattern, the Polly top? It's lovely and it's also free! When I saw it I instantly knew what I'd like to make it in, a fabric I've been saving forever, but thought I'd better make a muslin first...
But I ended up liking the scrap fabric muslin, so I finished it off and it's now a wearable muslin :-)

The fit is a little off so I'm adjusting it for the proper version, though I will still wear this.

- - - -

More on the Polly top later but for now, before Kids Clothes Week starts tomorrow I thought I'd share my thoughts on summer selfish sewing, for us here in the Southern Hemisphere.

I'm considering these patterns:

By Hand London's Anna dress. This pattern is taking the online sewing world by storm, if you haven't noticed already. I fell in love with the Anna instantly thought the shape would suit my figure. I particularly like this and this version.

Sewaholic's Saltspring dress. The only pattern I've sewn of Tasia's is the Minoru, which is my sewing pride and joy :-) But apart from that I find Sewaholic patterns a little girly for me. When I first saw the Saltspring I wasn't tempted at all, but, as often happens with us sewing fanatics, all it's taken to convince me otherwise is seeing a few amazing versions, like this one and this one. I love the thought of the maxi version in a lightweight silk like this one or jersey like this one (complete with beautiful plaited straps). And I think keeping it in a solid will make it less girly.

Victory Patterns Simone top. I love all the details on this top. If my patience could hold out and I chose great fabrics I can picture it looking good. I love my Ava tops, so I'm thinking this would be a winner too.

Grainline Studio's Maritime shorts. Shorts. Hmm, I've not been a fan of shorts in the past. I find them not very flattering at all to my leg shape (shapeless, and I have lots of post-pregnancy spider veins, def not my best feature). BUT I can see how practical they are. So maybe if I make them a little longer and in a chambray or light weight denim to keep them low-key. I like this and this version.

What's on your list for summer sewing? Or if you're on the opposite side of the world, what were your favourites last summer? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kids bucket hat

We were due to go away recently and  I did my usual pre-holiday rush around shopping for things. You know how it goes: one child needs socks, another has outgrown her shoes, someone else has been making do with something that now desperately needs replacing... at least that's how it goes in our house - holiday time highlights all those little things that need to be done!

Kids bucket hat

I had planned on buying my boy a sun hat as I didn't want to stay up til all hours the night before sewing (which I must admit I've done many many times). But I couldn't find anything I liked for a price I was happy to pay, so I gritted my teeth and got on with sewing one (after some grumbling to the Mr about how I'd prefer to be sewing anything else ;-). I really don't enjoy sewing bucket hats - all that easing in around the circle trying not to get puckers does my head in, and come to think of it I don't enjoy easing in at any time - I like those top patterns where you attach the sleeve cap to the bodice and then just sew from the sleeve right down to the hem. I know it's not the 'correct' way to do it but saves a lot of frustration!

Bucket hat in action

Anyway, I used this pattern which I've used before and is fine (I think most use the same easing-in method), and remembered this time to add a heavy interfacing to the brim to keep it stiff. The fabric I used was some leftover scraps of Ikea fabric that I'd screen printed and used for Abby's baby bag. Incidentally I've finally added a link to my tutorial on the right.

And speaking of Abby, have you seen her blog post announcing that she's doing a month of handmade present ideas for men and boys in November? What a great idea. I think this hat would be a good one, if only I could get over my dislike of easing in!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wrist cuffs on Etsy and Madeit

In a little burst of energy today I re-activated my Etsy and Madeit shops to list some of these leather wrist cuffs that I've been making.

When a friend recently asked me what I was selling in my shop and I told them there was nothing at the moment it got me to thinking of why I do (or don't !) list things, and I came to the conclusion that, for the moment anyway, I list things to sell when I'm enjoying making something and think others may like it to. I wish I could be more consistent but at this stage it just happens when I'm inspired.

So there's a little collection of cuffs and things waiting for new homes :-)

Hopefully this burst of creativity will inspire others too. And hopefully also top up my Paypal account so I can go and buy some handmade Christmas presents (sorry for mentioning the 'C' word ;-) and some new Indie patterns for me (oh, the list is loooong, hee hee).

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rhubarb icecream addiction

My latest food fad is rhubarb, and in particular homemade rhubarb ice cream. It's so tangy, creamy, sweet and prettily pink. I am seriously tempted to make batch after batch of it and fill our freezer for when rhubarb season is finished ;-)


Recently I found myself in possession of lots of rhubarb when I bought a huge bunch at the markets and then went to visit my mum who had heaps of it growing and also gave me some. I vaguely remembered having a rhubarb ice cream cone in an independent cinema once and being blown away by the taste, so thought I'd try to recreate it. My first, quite lame, attempt involved just stewing the fruit with sugar and a little water  and then stirring it into softened vanilla ice cream. But it was too hard, not creamy enough and just not right :-(


Then I stumbled upon this extremely simple recipe and it's a winner! If you're even a mild rhubarb fan, try it, I think you'll like it.


- - - -

Rhubarb ice cream (recipe based on this one)

500 grams rhubarb
250 grams caster sugar
150 ml double cream  

Wash and chop the rhubarb into smallish pieces, put into a large pan along with the sugar and put the lid on. Leave to simmer until the fruit is soft. Allow to cool and then refrigerate until cold.
Mix the rhubarb and cream together then pour into an ice-cream maker* and churn until thick. Eat straight away or store in the freezer. When serving from the freezer allow to thaw slightly before serving.

- - - -

*I'm not sure if I'd try to make it without an ice cream maker (I just have a small cheap model that does the churning for you) as you do want the texture to be light and I'm not sure this would be possible by hand?


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My sloppy Sloppy Josephine

Sloppy Josephine Papercut Patterns

The more I sew for myself the more I realise how important drape, fit and form are... and with that in mind I recently ordered the Sloppy Josephine pattern by Papercut Patterns. I had been lusting after this pattern for quite a while. I've always loved that slouchy look (camisole straps showing and all - that's surely a feature of this top), it lends itself beautifully to layering and has a relaxed but elegant feel. So although that little voice in my head kept saying "it's such a simple pattern, you should draft it yourself and save some cash", the voice that was louder was this one: "it's the cut of the pattern that's lovely... you could stuff around for ages trying to draft something similar and not get it right - or just buy it! And hey, you'll be supporting a small company, that's gotta be good!".

Sloppy Josephine Papercut Patterns

The irony of all that about simple lines etc etc is that I totally stuffed up this top and it ended up not so simple afterall! The original lines are a bit lost now that I have a massive pleat in the front. To explain: this is my second attempt at Josephine. The first I made as a muslin and was fairly uneventful, all went well and I liked the fit, but the fabric was a bit thick and didn't have the lovely drape that a lighter weight would give. So I pulled out this soft almost mesh-like pale grey fabric. I don't know what its made of and found it in one of the cheap fabric places I go to when I need something inexpensive.

The fabric was a bit hard to work with but all was going OK til I got to the neckline, which stretched and moved so much that it looked a sight when it was done :-(. So I carefully cut it off - there was no unpicking it, I'd used the overlocker and well, life's too short! Then I made another band and reattached it. Still no success. Then I grumpily put it aside for a week or so to take the sting out of the whole process (do you do that?!). So by the time I went to sew on the third (or was it fourth?) neckband, it worked well enough finally, but the neckline was so big that it was falling off my shoulders, and not in a good way! Pulling in the excess with a pleat at the front was the only thing I could think of to save it, because despite all of this I do really like this top.

Sloppy Josephine Papercut Patterns

So now I am on the hunt for beautiful tissue weight knits that I can use to make more Josephines. Can anyone help me with my neckline issue? Maybe I need to add something to stabilise the band? I'm not usually one for using all sorts of products but I'm concerned that this is going to keep happening. Any suggestions welcome.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Selfish sewing boat neck tee

Despite my best intentions Selfish Sewing week has been somewhat hijacked by both school holidays and a short family trip away. But I did get this essential garment done, a fitted boat neck t-shirt.

Self drafted boat neck tee

This is by no means an exciting t-shirt, but one that hopefully I can reach for on those mornings when I need to grab something quickly and get going for the day. I really like elbow length sleeves, they're comfortable and great for in-between season weather. And, whether fashionable at the time or not, I'm always attracted to boat necks as I think they balance out my pearish body shape.

Self drafted boat neck tee

I used my self drafted pattern as a basis then used Dana's boat neck tutorial for the neck opening. I liked my previous t-shirt but always thought the finishing wasn't great. But I've had more experience with knits since then and am more confident now. I like how the neck turned out and I think it adds a more professional feel to the t-shirt.

Self drafted boat neck tee detail

As an aside, lately I've been thinking a lot about the issue of sewing special clothes vs everyday clothes. And I've come to the conclusion that sewing basics really is a good way to go - they get worn a lot and appreciated more. Sure you can buy a t-shirt very cheaply at one of the big chain stores, but you can't choose the fabric, sleeve length, neck finish etc, and inevitably some area of it probably won't fit so well. And of course you also can't buy that feeling you get from wearing something you've made yourself :-)

Monday, September 23, 2013

UFO no. 1: Ruby Star Wiksten Tank & some notes on fit

Trying to keep up with my promise to myself to clear my UFO pile, here's the first one off the list, and just in time for me to join in with Selfish Sewing Week - which I'm hoping will give me another little push along.

Wiksten tank Kokka Ruby Star

This is another Wiksten Tank, this time in Kokka Melody Miller Ruby Star Vinyl fabric. As I've made this pattern several times now I've tweeked it to fit me here and there and I think the fit now is pretty right for me. Recently I was reading about how one person tweeked a pattern many times til it fit right, and it made me realise that often I don't do that - I just accept the fit as that's the way it is and unless it's obvious that something's drastically wrong (like it's too tight or loose around the waist) then I leave it. But really I should be trying to get it just right.
So why don't I? I think it's:
A. impatience with a touch of laziness - I want it to wear now
B. I'm a pretty standard size, which is great. Most garment fit reasonably well if I follow the size guides and do any grading where necessary. BUT there are still areas that could be much better. No pattern is going to fit anyone perfectly right from the start as we're all different. To expect a pattern company to be able to create patterns to fit everyone with no alterations is just plain unrealistic. It just took me a while to realise this
C. After years of wearing almost 100% RTW til the last few years I think I'm just used to fit not being quite right. Ever. Know what I mean?

Wiksten tank Kokka Ruby Star

So with this pattern my mods are:
1. lengthen the hem by about 2 inches (I have a long body)
2. take some width out of the back using notes from this post
3. add a bit of width to the side seams at the bust to give me a bit more ease. Clearly a FBA is not needed by me, but I did like the fit of the XS size everywhere but the bust and thought going up a size would throw the balance out.

It's just a simple little top and maybe doesn't warrant all those alterations but I do feel a lot more comfortable in this version than this first one because of those mods. I look back on those pics now and can see all the little things that are not right (though I still love the fabric and wish I had more!). I hope I can keep up this attention to detail with other patterns, but am not putting any money on it :-)

Wiksten tank bound hem detail

And just a couple more notes on this version... I used a bias binding to finish the hem as well as the neckline and armholes as I thought it would finish it nicely. I made the binding with my Clover gadget in a complimentary coloured cotton. Somehow I managed to lose the scraps of the Ruby Rising fabric so couldn't use it to make binding and also couldn't add a pocket to the front! But I think it's fine anyway, there's a lot going on in the print of the fabric.

And speaking of the fabric, this cotton/linen blend is lovely to wear and feels more substantial than my other voile versions, but I do think voile sits better with this pattern. You can see in the second pic above that the cotton/linen sits a little stifly... but overall I'm happy with this one!

Now onto the next UFO. And I'll be keeping my eye on the Selfish Sewing Flickr group with keen interest this week, but hoping to not feel too inspired - that UFO pile needs to go down first!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Little red riding hood costume

I have such a backlog of stuff to blog, I wish I could just think the post and it would be done :-), none of this taking pics, editing, writing etc etc, it just appears. Maybe one day it will be possible, who knows!

Anyway... a little project I worked on several weeks ago were costumes for the girls' book parade at school. Big girl went as Pippi Longstocking, which was pretty easy, mainly just doing hair and pulling together a few clothes, but little girl was adamant right from the start that she wanted to be Little Red Riding Hood... this would need a bit more planning. And because it's her first year at school I wanted to make it all fun and nice for her.


I thought it wouldn't be too much to do...


First I made a little red cape from the 'Reversible play cape' pattern in my much-used copy of the book Growing Up Sew Liberated. I used a mid weight cotton for the outer layer and lined it with red polyester satin. Instead of adding a button to fasten the cape I made 2 strips of bias binding and sewed them between the 2 layers.


Great for twirling in apparently :-)


And a little skirt and apron from some stash fabric: the gingham skirt is just a rectangle joined with a seam and an elasticised waist. Then I made the apron by sewing a lace trim to a piece of white cotton and adding a waistband with Velcro at the back. I added her white skivvy and she was excited to wear her favourite red shoes to school :-)


She then said she'd have to have a basket with red apples inside and a little cloth on top... well, I admire her attention to detail, though it did give me more running around to do (that seems to be a kid's job these days!!).


I'd definitely recommend the cape pattern to anyone looking for a play cape, it's a quick, easy sew with great results - lots of bang for your buck!
Related Posts with Thumbnails