Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 Sewing Year in Review

My compilation sewing photos from this year have run to five pages! I kicked off the year with a holiday from work and went on a sewing bender in January

Top row: LTTS drawstring bag, LEGO Jumprope dress, 2x LEGO Sketchbook shirts, Ice cream dress
2nd row: Ice cream dress, Japanese shorts, Family reunion top, Swingset skirt
3rd row: Japanese blouse and Puppet Show shorts, After School top and Japanese skort, After School top detail, Hopscotch dress
4th row: Hopscotch dress with chicken!, Bubble dress, Birthday party dress, LTTS Penguin backpack
5th row: Music Class blouse, Japanese bag, Happy Homemade hoodies x2

A couple of months passed and I was inspired to get into my Japanese sewing books by the wonderful series that Cherie hosted. I enjoyed the posts and found the explanations excellent but I'm always one to figure things out for myself and really just wanted to sew along, and so my blog was born.

More than anything it just had to be created as the Film Petit idea of an Elle Driver Moschino suit was under way...

Top row: Japanese bag 60% size, Field Trip Cargo pants, Field Trip T, After School pants
2nd row: Japanese dress and bag, Japanese dress, blankets for babies x2
3rd row: MADE dressing gown from scraps, Elle Driver trench, trousers and eyepatch, School Photo dress
4th row: After School Jeans, Field Trip Cargo pants, After school "gay pride" pants, After school pants with Music Class blouse
5th row: Woodland Stroll cape, Rolelrskate dress, Sleepover pyjamas, Sleepover pants and flashback skinny Ts
What else happened up there? I sewed something for myself! Admittedly it was a pretty simple cape but it's proven to be quite successful and was the start of the idea that I could maybe, just maybe, make stuff for me. During this time I also bought myself my overlocker and those two little Flashback T-shirt pyjama tops were the start of a love affair with the overlocker...

Top row: Flashback/Sleepover pyjamas, sewing a movie screen!, Ottobre dress, School photo dress
2nd row: Flashback t-shirts x 3 two of them with ruffles!, P's pile of long sleeve T-shirts
3rd row: My Kurt Vonnegut tribute Field Trip raglan, Field trip in wool, Flashback Skinny T, Field Trip layered rocket T
4th row: Japanese velour blouse with flower, that Japanese bag again, School Days coats, Sleepover pyjama top
5th row: Sleepover pyjamas bottoms, then another pair. "flipped" Rollerskate dress
Winter was upon us and I was spending the dark evenings crazily knocking things up with my new overlocker. The Ottobre dress was an outsized disaster that has been somewhat salvaged and worn a few times. While my poor little ice skating bear dress has never been worn. Still, I didn't care. This was one of those things I wanted to make, and that was because I'd discovered the world of blog link ups and challenges. My only "flipped" pattern to date but I've got that button proudly displayed and I'm following along.

Top row: Linen top for Lilah, modelled by P, Book Report dress, LTTS Explorer vest
2nd row: Sailboat Top, Music Class blouse, Field Trip sweater, Field trip with car applique
3rd row: pattern mash pants, Field trip footy T, Ruffled Flashback skinny T, Regular Flashback
4th row: Flashback T and Bedtime Story pants, Bedtime Story pyjamas, LTTS drawstring bag, Kenzo knock off pants
5th row: Once upon a sewing machine's ruffled PJs, Japanese blouse, Diplomat dress, Mystery Nicole shirts
There was a lot of fun had in that block of sewing. Challenging myself to make the linen swing tank for Lucinda was fantastic fun and quite simply the most rewarding thing I've done.

Onto another silly idea that had to be made, I did some more pattern mashing and created my Kenzo pants. I seem to have mislaid the Tiger sweater photo from this set, but I was continuing my new found love of painting stuff on clothes and amusing myself in creating another couture knock off after my Moschino suit. I also taught myself some blogging HTML and made my first "button" in honour of my pattern mash pants.

To have been invited to pattern test Once Upon A Sewing Machine's Ruffled PJ's was a real honour. I had figured I was going to need to start using my facebook account and stalking the clever folk who make patterns if I ever wanted to join the "reviewers" set. That's just not my style, so I was really thrilled when I was asked to test the pattern and the pink one's (which also seem to have missed the picture selection) are A's absolute favourite things in the world.

Top row: Musci Class skirt, Kindy hat pocket thing, LTTS Puppet theatre, Nature Walk hoodie
2nd row: Happy homade hoodies for Halloween cloaks, Hat week again!, fairy tale "Cinderella" dress
3rd row: Japanese blouse take 2, Feed the Animals coin purses, Have It All Wallet, hand sewing
4th row: LTTS Travel Quilt back and front, Lisette Diplomat dress take 2, That Japanese bag, again!
5th row: Have It All Wallet, Flashback skinny T's with transfer and stencil, LTTS tutu

As the year drew to a close there were lots of gifts to sew. Gifts for p's wonderful kindergarten as well as for family at Christmas time.

My idea of making everything in the Little Things To Sew book grew wings, gained a sponsor and a Flickr group, and I'm now getting flogged in my own race by Sharon aka mama_knowles03! The fun part is seeing the Flickr pool grow photo by photo and the list of members which, for me, reads like a who's who of the sewing I admire.

Since I sew to amuse myself there were no misses. (sewing to clothe myself would be a laughable idea!) Anything that was frustrating to make taught me something. The freaky sewing luck I had where things worked, patterns/stripes matched, or fabric remnants were just enough, was the icing on the cake. Having a blog (sorry, still can't use "blog" as a verb!) and sharing things made me feel like less of a craft nerd and like I was part of something bigger.

I'm not one to make resolutions but I'd be very happy to keep doing this kind of stuff. It's such fun isn't it?!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas fellow sewers!

A short post today to wish you all a very merry Christmas. (it is in my time zone!)

I've really enjoyed having my blog this year and sharing what I make with a little more detail than Flickr allows. Most of all I love reading comments, clicking on people's profiles, reading your blogs and feeling like part of one, big happy stitching community.

I couldn't leave my daughter out when it came to handmade Christmas gifts and why not tick off one more project from the Little Things To Sew book.

It's wonderful seeing the Flickr pool fill up with projects and I'll be crunching some stats and rounding up some pictures as soon as the dust settles on this silly season.

Until then, here's wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and a seam ripping free New Year

Monday, 23 December 2013

Me + Google Images + Field Trip pattern = Awesome T-shirts

Forgive me if this is a bit self indulgent but I may have reached new levels of awesome mum/aunty-ness with my latest T-shirts.

Previously I'd bought my son's favour with this Space Shuttle Field Trip long sleeved T-Shirt. I'm ashamed to say that my double needle hems have all popped on that one and it's in need of some repairs.

Never one to go back and fix old mistakes I sallied forth and made some more!

Firstly, for my nephew who hasn't had a birthday or Christmas yet without some kind of handmade gift from me, an astronaut dinosaurT-shirt.
 I seemed to be on the path to making everything in the Little Things To Sew book for him but decided that could get a bit obvious. Instead he gets a cotton/lycra Field Trip Raglan T
Unsure what to put on it I asked my kids who'd just hung out with him while we were in Mexico. P said astronaut or rocket and A said dinosaur, then they couldn't agree, so P suggested an "astrosaur".

Thankfully there are amazing artists who put their images on the web and so a Google search for "dinosaur in a spacesuit" came up with this brilliant illustration by Piya

I used Canon brand T-Shirt transfer paper and I'm really happy with how it came out although it probably needs to go through the wash to get that residue off the surface and look nice and shiny.

...And then for P. A T-shirt that he's been waiting for for a while now. He specifically wanted a black darth vader (perhaps he was worried I'd do a purple one?) with a red light saber.

This time it was a stencil. I found this fantastic stencil by YGreen on a site called DeviantArt and printed it off. Then I made my own freezer paper stencil in order to paint the front of my T-Shirt. I used the Setacolour paints again and they're fantastic.

Sadly it's a one off as the stencil was very fiddly to make and then couldn't be removed from the T-shirt without some tearing.

I'm also proud to say I think I really have mastered the art of the knit T-Shirt hem. I'm too lazy to switch to my walking foot so there are some tiny bumps at the side seams that would detract from a perfect score. But the success seems to have come from tips gleaned from the Oliver + S forum. I'm now using "woolly nylon" in the bobbin and I've bought a second bobbin casing so that I can loosen the tension right off and get a good zig zag on the back and no tightness on the front.

Oops, kids are home. Better publish so no-one sees the images

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Home with a thud and some Christmas gift sewing

We landed back home around midday Sunday and I had to get straight back into sewing to get my mother in law's Christmas gift ready for Wednesday night dinner (more on the holiday later). By straight back in, I mean after lots of sniffling, blowing my nose, moaning and feeling pretty miserable at having gotten sick on the plane trip home. Still even a sick plane trip for 14 hours is blissful when the kids aren't underfoot!

Back to the sewing...

Some time ago my mother in law said she liked the Japanese bag I made for a friend (admittedly really a practice run for this scaled down one)

When I saw this black and white canvas fabric in Ikea I knew it would suit her perfectly. I asked what colour she'd like to go with a black and white bag, should she ever get one, and she said lime green. Not unsurprisingly that wasn't a fabric I had to hand so I bought some quilting cotton and stashed it all away til she'd forgotten about it.

To make it a little bit more pleasing to my own eyes I added the olive fabric leftover from my pattern mash pants.

This time I lined the external side pockets so there's no raw edge on the inside where the sash meets the bottom fabric.

Then I made another Have It All Wallet to match:

I beefed up the interfacing compared to my first one, but perhaps with the thicker fabric it was overkill. This one was very hard to do the edgestitching on.

Have to say, my sewing machine is a very basic Janome but it has the attitude of the Little Engine That Could and simply never gives up. Sometimes a bit of hand cranking is needed and I have been known to break both thread and needles, especially on that industrial strength canvas Messenger Bag I once made. However, my brave little machine soldiers on.

I, on the other hand, am a wimp and really need to buy myself a thimble as pinning this wallet was downright dangerous.

I'm happy to report that Darcy, who won the first wallet, has received it and sent me a lovely complimentary email. It feels so nice to make stuff to give away that is enjoyed and my mother in law seemed genuinely pleased with her gift.

Speaking of gifts, the Flipper and I are immensely thankful to my family for looking after the kids and allowing us an amazing culinary tour of Mexico.

Me searching Venice Beach, L.A. for that spot that looks like a scene from the film Pumping Iron. Sadly, to no avail.
Breakfast enchiladas with just a bit of meat! Barbecued on the spot in the market hall.

Need more protein on that enchilada? Add some grasshoppers! See those little legs?

Tacos Al Pastor. Oh my goodness, so yummy, and that's about $2 worth of food!
City bike hire schemes everywhere we went. Sadly, only for the locals. The Flipper and I were totally up for mixing it with the Mexico City traffic!
Cooking class in Puebla. We made Mole number 9. The best ever! (although the first eight were awesome too)
fantastic markets

those Mexicans are mad for Christmas. Pinatas everywhere

Is that me eating again?
This could be the happiest you'll ever see me. A Pastelleria that boxed up as much as you could carry. That tray was less than $7 worth and fed eight people! heaven!
We couldn't miss a Lucha Libre match. Hilarious, and our ringside seats were crazy dangerous!
That's a Lisette Diplomat dress and a Woodland Stroll cape on a deserted evening street.
If only we could have brought some of this loot home. Super cheap lollies for filling Pinatas.

 Before we went away the kids scored a balloon each from somewhere. We were bored one morning so we decided to cover them in papier mache and turn them into balls.

Obviously, once we saw all those Christmas pinatas in Mexico we knew what out balls should become. If only we could have carted some cheap lollies home. I'd love for the kids to have tried the chilli tamarind ones (yuck!)

I'm gunning for the blindfolded child with a broomstick method of Pinata destruction. Wish us luck, and no trips to A&E!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Selfish Sewing Week Revision: Part 2

So, my first garment from Selfish Sewing Week was a fail... What about the second? My Lisette Diplomat dress:

If only my life involved a lot more standing around at cocktail parties I'd consider this dress a success. But sadly, it's not come out of the wardrobe again as I am continually having demands made of me that require me to move, bend, pick things up and generally move in ways that this dress just wouldn't allow.

All that moving around sometimes ends up with me finding myself in a fabric shop. How about that? And one day I found myself having moved about such that I was standing in front of a bolt of fabric that had that elusive bit of stretch that this dress lacked. It also had the great two-tone weave that I'd really liked about the first dress.

I also have some linen that I think would make a great sleeveless version of this dress so I was keen to try and sort the sizing out once and for all. I went up one size over all and then added another size through the hips. I graded the pattern out over a 6" section starting at the waist. I also added 1&1/4" to the length, just cause I like a just below the knee length, and because I still have that bump on my inner leg from the stupid motorist who ran me over

I don't know how it happened but I found my completed dress front was a good half inch longer than the dress back. The stretch in this fabric let me get away with that but I'll have to check my pattern pieces before trying it with the linen.

I really struggled with the zip. The fabric wanted to stretch and it looked so wavy. It would shift such that I had to sew downwards on both sides but the folded neck facing at the top was so thick and was an awful spot to try to start stitching from. Nightmarish. I pulled it out and resewed it about three times before deciding it was good enough even though I know it could be better.

This time I've sewn a dress I definitely will wear. Arguably it could probably be a bit better fitted just under the arms and through the waist, but it's super comfy as it is. Perfect everyday dress.

In fact, as you read this I'm probably wearing it right now....

This post was brought to you by blogger's scheduled posting 'cause I'm on holidays. Yippee!

Can you guess where I am? Here's a Self Portrait with a Monkey as a clue: (try Google if you need more help!)

Apologies if that image just broke your computer screen!
See you all again soon!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Selfish Sewing Week Revision: Part 1

Back in September I stopped making things for the kids and did some sewing for myself. For one Selfish Sewing Week I made some good coffee, drank some great wine, sewed two garments for myself and never did get around to mixing any cocktails.

My first garment was a fail. A too small blouse from a Japanese pattern book. Too narrow in the shoulders, too tight across the chest.

Determined not to have failed, I had a go at revisiting it to try and get it right this time (which always reminds me of the Goodies "Get It Right!")

I got lucky and found the exact same cotton, self striped fabric for $3/metre. I couldn't bring myself to make it in the same colour so I went for the wet seaweed-y colour instead.

I split the pattern vertically both front and back and added 1.5cm to the shoulder width by spreading the split pattern pieces apart then pinning them onto the fabric. Then I added another 1cm at each side seam and to the same to the armhole on the sleeve.

I decided I'd be clever and photograph and blog the whole construction of the top. But then I completely mucked up the inner neck binding which is the only part that anyone might muck up and need to be shown how to do. If I haven't learned that pride comes before a fall by now, eh? While my method wasn't tutorial worthy it did work, and pleasingly, my top fit nicely this time.

I've already bought some lovely white fabric to make one more and this time I'll translate that Japanese pattern into some nice written and photographed instructions I promise.
I love the sleeves on this blouse. It strikes me as curious that these very slim Japanese women must have quite long arms. Usually sleeves are too short on me but these are perfect. I think I should add about 3cm to the body length though...
I'm not sure how the yoke is meant to sit with the two gathered bits. Perhaps if I was as slim as one of those long armed Japanese women those gathered bits would be closer to my bust. Perhaps I need to widen the whole yoke section, although that would be making things much, much trickier.
And a hammy photo of me:
What became of the too small red version?
I passed it on to a friend in my French class who is about my height, slimmer and with a similar taste in clothes. It fits her perfectly and, I'm told, is in high rotation.
The following week she brought into class a little clown suit that she'd made for her own children (a considerable time ago I think) and gave it to me for my kids dress up box. I imagine it's probably intended for someone more like A's size, but P just loved it and claimed photo rights on this one.
Merci Morag!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Little Things To Sew: Travel Quilt

I'd been thinking for a long time that I really should make my son a quilt. With my challenge to make everything from the Little Things To Sew book I knew what quilt pattern I'd use. But how to make it suit my kid?...

If my kids play with quilts or blankets the game always ends up as "sausage rolls" where they roll each other up in the quilt then roll all around the house. There's no way a white background quilt was going to last at our house.

So the background is a fantastic French General fabric in an inky-blue-charcoal colour that should hide the stains. For the metric minded fabric scrooge: You can cut the quilt front background and the binding from 1.5metres of fabric rather than the recommended 2 yards

But hang on, what's that quilting pattern?  You're thinking: Could she really have ignored everyone's advice to stick to straight lines? (yes, says my mum, asking for advice then ignoring it is not unprecedented)

Well I didn't ignore you dear blog readers. I clicked on every link and looked at every suggestion and of course I ended up deep in the linky pages of quilting blogs, seeing things that an ambitious novice should never see without having to sign up for a pay per view tutorial.

And the problem that I had was this: I'd created the back of the quilt just in an ad hoc, that looks good there kind of style, and there's no way I could line the front and back up such that horizontal, straight line quilting wasn't going to chop through the Start Boat block in a really ugly way.

The front is all horizontal lines, the back was all vertical lines and the two needed to find some kind of compromise. Circles it was!

But here's where I screwed up. I very carefully pinned the front and back with two layers of lovely cotton wadding together. I took lots of care to make sure the panels were aligned such that both were straight with respect to each other. I used lots and lots of those bendy safety pins that the real quilters use.

I drew on my first circle using a wine glass (empty already and that could have been part of the problem) and then used my walking foot (real quilter tools, see) with it's width guide arm thingy to make expanding concentric circles 1.5" apart.

The quilt moved a bit but I smoothed and repined and made sure I was starting each circle in the middle somewhere. I completely failed to notice that the front was sliding around and so the backing was no longer square to the front.

Exhibit: Wonky quilt back photo

The only thing that saved me from tears was that I completely failed to notice it happening. I proudly showed the finished quilt front to Flipper, declaring it to be the best Travel Quilt ever. Then flipped it over with a flourish to show him the back of the Best Travel Quilt Ever only to see the leaning strip of wonkiness and cry out "Oh C*^K!" There was nothing for it but to laugh and make a further declaration that apart from taking one photo for posterity it will never be held up vertically like this again.

I soothed myself with some handsewing using a twisted chainstitch for the title and backstitching for the rest of the lettering.

The book gave great instructions for the binding and how to get the corners nice and square. It was a bit different to how I'd ever done it before but very well explained. By the time I'd wrapped it over my legs and sewn the binding on I was sufficiently snuggled and happy with my quilt to forgive myself that crappy fabric shifting mistake.

I think P will like having his own quilt, and I'm happy that I've finally made him one that's not too babyish that he can't keep it for a few years to come. I'll wrap this along with a stencilled Darth Vader T-Shirt for Christmas!

And that's ticked off project number 12 of the 20 (or 21) in my Cover to Cover Challenge. Are you sewing along?


I'll be ready for something a bit simpler next. Maybe a tutu for A....
Meanwhile I've been sewing for myself, revisiting both of my disasters from Selfish Sewing Week. All I need is a few hours of daylight with a photographer and I'll bring you those as soon as I can.