Sunday 31 August 2014

Little Things to Sew: Cover to Cover Challenge - I made it.

Remember last October, when I announced I was going to go all the way and invited you to come along for the ride?
Well, I've done it. I've sewn my way through Little Things To Sew.

I broke my sewing machine on Thursday (don't ask me how, it may have something to do with sewing over pins all the time), so I hand to hand sew my final project.

That wasn't so awful as it was a gorgeous Spring weather here and so while the kids did laps of the pump track on their bikes, and Flipper took photos, I sat on the grass in the sunshine and made my little bear puppet.

The kids quickly named him Olaf and gave him a bit of a personality, which I'm afraid may be wholesale plagiarised from Frozen. (as an aside: is it bad that my daughter has been invited to a Frozen themed party and I have NO desire to make a costume? In fact I'm thinking a small size pair of blue dishwashing gloves will suffice!)

Anyway, Olaf and I got chatting and he decided to interview me, in the same manner that I've interviewed the other sewers who have completed my Cover to Cover Challenge so far.

But first he wanted to go home and have a series of photos taken so that he could dominate the interview with his cutaways (Also known as "noddies" Current affairs satire here in case you'd rather watch that than read the interview ;) )

Q: As a sewer, what was your favourite project in the book?

A: From the sewing aspect, it would have to be a tie between the Art Smock and the Explorer Vest.

The Art Smock has lovely French seam finishes, comes together so quickly and easily but ends up being a really well finished project.

The Explorer Vest is much more like home territory as it's really kid's garment sewing. The pockets are all neatly constructed and the topstitching makes it very satisfying and professional looking.

Q: Which project was the favourite from the kid's point of view?

A: They're not here to ask right now, but for the large part it's been the most recent. You're looking pretty popular right now, little bear.

Some projects are used rarely but always bring joy. The Puppet Theater is the best example, they love it, but just tend to forget to get it out.

The Penguin Backpack is in very regular use as A's daycare bag. P is wearing some Mittens for the cold morning rides to school. I've made countless numbers of Bucket Hats and they come out for the whole summer season, and during winter P has loved having his Travel Quilt on his bed. I'd say there haven't been any dud projects!

Q: Were there any projects that you found difficult or got stuck on? If so, why?

There were only two that cause me any real grief. The first was the No-Tie Scarf. I am perhaps a bit too literal when it comes to the written word, and when the instructions said to "turn inside out" something  that I'd just sewn right sides together, I became baffled. It already is inside out, I decried...

As it happened you turn it right side out, and yes, I was being a bit pedantic. If it helps anyone else I've made four in total now and will have a tutorial for the Pencil scarf on the Oliver + S blog soon.
The other project that caused me trouble was my first Messenger Bag. That was purely down to my choice of fabric. Not far from our house is a canvas awning manufacturer and I'd asked them for some Kevlar strength offcuts to patch the knees of P's pants. They gave me enough to make the bag, so I did. Man that was tough to sew. I bent countless pins, broke a few needles, and finally the light bulb blew and I finished it off sewing the bias binding after midnight in the dark. It's a really cute bag, and worked well as a kindy bag for P.

My second Messenger Bag went together much better using a standard canvas fabric. However I found the pocket flaps ran a bit small so I redrafted and recut them. It was a gift and I was happy to recently see that it's been getting daily use.
Q: Were there any projects that you wouldn't have made except for the Cover to Cover Challenge and the need to make them all? Which one(s)?

Oh, wow.....

This is awkward {long pause}....

You know, now that you're here little bear, we all really like you and couldn't imagine our family without you in it.

......But I guess you have to understand there was a reason why you came last.

Don't be sad. Like everything I've made from Little Things to Sew, even if I was ho-hum at the start, I've been delighted with the end result. I've drafted off the larger size Bear Puppet pattern too, so I thought I might make you a mum and a dad one day. How'd you like that?

That's better.

Q: Would you be happy, uninterested or horrified if there was ever a Little Things To Sew Volume II? 

Possibly all three emotions at once! I'd be really happy 'cause I know they'd be cute projects. I'd be completely uninterested in sewing them right now, but I know I'd have to buy the book straightaway anyway. I'm a bit horrified at the thought, as, knowing me, I'm sure I'd end up making everything just for the sake of the challenge all over again. Mostly, I think it would be great!

Q: And finally, what's next? 

Right now I'm looking at an unfinished Newcastle Cardigan that just needs buttonholes. That Thread Theory pattern was an absolute delight to sew. Having been brought up (in a sewing sense) on Oliver + S instructions I can't say enough good things about the Thread Theory pattern.

But, I need the sewing machine back from the repair shop to finish that. The kids then want to make Flipper a painted t-shirt for father's day, and I've had an idea for a completely overlocked raglan dress for A. I want to play with my overlocker and try to make it look like a flatlocked seam.

I suspect I may have pledged some bias-trimmed aprons and oven mitts for the School fete cake stall table.... (oh dear)

So, there we go. The Cover to Cover Challenge has come to an end for me.

But what about you? Well, I have no idea what time zone any of you live in, so I'm leaving the official finish time to some time after every possible spot has seen out the end of August 2014. For those of you in French Polynesia or little US island outposts, you have heaps of time. I hope all the Samoans have sewn their last stitch already!

I'll be back in a day or two with the final PDF scoreboard and then we'll draw the winner of the Fabric Stash gift voucher shortly after. By the way, if you don't like your odds in the lucky prize draw, you could just go shop at the Fabric Stash right now as there's a Labour Day weekend sale on!

Here's my collage of images of (nearly) all my Little Things to Sew projects. If you don't already have this sewing book, what can I say?... you should.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Continental skirt

Here's a skirt I made during my frenzy back in May/June and have been wearing lots, but have only now got around to sharing;

It's the Continental skirt by Lisette, in a straight size 18.
I'd found this little remnant of a DKNY cotton/linen tweed at The Fabric Store and stashed it away thinking it would make jacket for A. I seem to be raiding the supply of potential jackets-for-A fabrics a lot lately. Hopefully she'll forgive me as this fabric is just too nice!
The pattern pieces are cut on the bias so it's pretty economical in terms of how much fabric is required. The awesome aspect of it being cut on the bias is the freedom of movement you get. Normally I wouldn't look twice at a straight skirt as I doubt I'd be able to ride my bike, or just do day to day stuff in such a fitted skirt.
The genius bias cutting gives it a great curve over your backside, a little bit of a tulip shape, and allows you to do this!!!
When an elegant looking skirt allows you to be as un-elegant as that, I say, that's a pattern to make over and over again. It has been bicycle commute to school tested and it's perfect.
I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to adjusting patterns for any kind of decent fit, and I wanted to get it right before chopping my designer remnant. I'm also notoriously fussy (too many examples to provide links to them all!) and I wanted this skirt to be lined.
I figured the perfect solution would be to cut the lining in some cheap thin voile from the stash, make the adjustments to fit, use the lining as a muslin and then as the lining itself.
It turned out the size 18 was perfect and I didn't need to change a  thing (phew!).
the twill tape finish of the waistband is a really nice touch and I'm sure it would be perfectly nice without lining. But I'm happy to have lined it, although this one is a bit sticky with tights as the lining is cotton. I'm sure in springtime with bare legs, the cotton lining and the linen/cotton skirt will feel fantastic.
I'm thinking I could have many more of these skirts. A lightweight linen one, a denim one, a plaid wool one....
And finally, here's the photobombing kids finding it hilarious helping me with my posing!

Thursday 21 August 2014

Why I Sew.

If you've ever clicked on that little "View my complete profile" button on my blog and been disappointed to learn not much at all, then boy are you in for a treat! ;)

I'm finishing up my season on the Kid's Clothes Week blog talking a bit (too much perhaps) about why I sew.
How about you, why do you sew? It's a tougher question to answer than it first appears..... 

Monday 18 August 2014

Oven Mitts from Armholes!

Around this time last year I was making the Oliver + S School Days Coats seen here and as I was cutting out the vests from the quilted fabric it occurred to me that the little bits leftover from the armholes might be useful for something.

They look like mini oven mitts don't they?!

Well, I thought they did and I stashed them away for another day. As the time came to make my Bias Trimmed Aprons for the Little Things To Sew Cover to Cover Challenge, it seemed the perfect time to dig out my little oven mitt bits. While this obviously isn't a project from Little Things to Sew, I think it's definitely in the spirit, so I'm calling it the unofficial 22 project! (and that might just be enough of a challenge to get Sharon or Lynn to sew some!)

Now, I realise not everyone is going to have sewn the quilted vest of the School Days coat, or have kept the armhole leftovers if they did.... So I've made a PDF pattern which has a pattern piece for the Oven Mitt as well as the Upper Piece and written instructions. There's a link here to the PDF so you can download it for yourself.

And now for a photo tutorial of how to make them, ending with some kids-making-lemon-biscuits photos....

What you'll need:

- The quilted oven mitts (see the PDF for notes on making your own)
- Two fat quarters of fabric (main: fabric A. Underside/lining: fabric B)
- 1 yard 3/8" bias binding (make your own from 1.5" bias strips)
- about 2" cotton twill tape or grosgrain ribbon (optional for hanging loop)


Measure the short, straight edge of your quilted oven mitt piece. (if you're using the pattern provided you can skip this step). For this size 6 armhole, it measured 4.5"

From each of fabric A and fabric B cut a rectangle that is 12" long with a height the same as the width measurement you just took in Step 1. ie 12" x 4.5" (that is the dimensions for the rectangle if using the PDF pattern pieces)

Lay the fabric B rectangle right side up on the table. Place one Oven Mitt quilted piece on top with the short ends aligned. Now place the fabric A rectangle on top with the right side facing down.

Do the same at the other short side. Pin the three layers together at each end and stitch with a 1/2" seam.

Turn the rectangles right side out by pulling the oven mitt pieces out from the middle. Press the seams away from the oven mitts.

Edgestitch the seams.

Create a pattern piece for the Oven Mitt Upper Piece out of freezer paper or tracing paper/interfacing. Draw around the top of the quilted oven mitt piece and then a straight line across about 2" above the bottom of the quilted oven mitt piece. If you're using the PDF pattern you can skip this step as the Oven Mitt Upper Piece pattern is provided.

Cut 2 Oven Mitt Upper Pieces from each of Fabric A and Fabric B.
Put one Fabric A piece and one Fabric B piece together with wrong sides facing and baste around the perimeter with a 1/4" basting stitch. Repeat for the other Oven Mitt Upper Pieces.

Apply bias binding to the short, straight sides of the Oven Mitt Upper Pieces. Trim the ends of the bias binding to be flush with the Oven Mitt Upper Piece.

Lay the Oven Mitt Upper Pieces on top of the Oven Mitts with the curved edges matching. Pin in place. Baste around the entire perimeter with a 1/4" basting stitch. This will hold the Oven Mitt Upper Pieces in place and also baste the upper and lower rectangles together.

Finally, apply bias binding to the entire perimeter. If you want to add a hanging loop, then tuck your cotton twill tape or ribbon under the bias binding halfway along one long side of the rectangle before stitching down the bias binding.

And you're done! If you're any good at baking then start heating the oven. If not, then my kids discovered you can do funny clappy dances while wearing oven mitts! (but I forgot to get any pictures of that!)

I also didn't get any photos of our lemon biscuits, trust me, they were delicious!

It was P's idea to have their oven mitts over their shoulders. And he doesn't even watch reality TV cooking shows...
If you use this pattern to make oven mitts I'd love to see them. please send me an email: lightningmcstitch at gmail dot com

Sunday 17 August 2014

Little Things to Sew: Bias Trimmed Aprons

I've got a deadline looming and it was time to tackle the Bias Trimmed Aprons.

Of course, as with all deadlines, I put it off a bit longer and made some more Mittens first:

These were a quick one night sew so that P, who had left his gloves at school, would have something to keep his fingers warm on the ride to school the next day. I used some of the awesome double sided windproof fleece from this vest, and I still have plenty for when I finally get around to making Flipper a jacket (next winter perhaps, honey...)

Then to my aprons: I cut my own bias binding, and made what I thought would be more than enough, but then I had the idea of making matching bias bound oven mitts (come back tomorrow to see them and a tutorial on how to make them!), so I ran out anyway, and had to make more. I think as soon as my kids are old enough to safely make bias binding that can become one of their chores for which I shall allow them, in return, to continue to live in my house. It's so boring. (but oh so worth it, as the stuff from the packet is horrid to sew)

A's apron is the size Medium (3-6 years). The fabric is one she chose herself when we were in a country town quilting shop. The selvedge says it's a Rosemarie Lavin design for Windham fabrics called "ribbons of hope"

It's almost enough to inspire me to host one of those fundraising morning tea's just so she can wear her perfectly suitable apron (and no, I could think of no other appropriate use for this fabric. I certainly wasn't going to make a dress out of it. Sorry kiddo)

Snaps are just perfect for projects like these. After hours of sewing bias binding to finish everything off with a quick snap press is wonderful.

P's apron is the size Large (6-10 years) in a Kokka Trefle fabric which he'd declared "too baby-ish" when I'd bought it to make him a shirt.

The good news is, there's probably enough left for a baby's shirt, so someone else's kid can get a cute little animal shirt.

I had thought I might be able to rustle up some close up photos of early projects of mine using bias binding but I haven't any to hand....

The first thing I ever made with my new sewing machine was this wombat play mat

I had no idea how to attach bias binding, and never thought for a moment that I could find that information on the internet, or even to try a book. I just had a go. I tried to pin it such that both sides would be aligned and stitch it all on in one go. It is amazingly bad.
Little baby P!

Now I know to sew one side on first, press really well, and then to get the other side perfectly lined up I use Quilter's Edge 1/4" fusible web. I iron my bias binding in place so that I don't have to use pins. Sewing the second side down is fast and accurate! There are some pictures of this in my how-to-avoid-handstitching-the-bucket-hat post.

It may be a bit of a cheat, and it does cost a little, but to not have to go back over any spots where you miss the underside of the binding is priceless.

So, my aprons are done, and while making these I made some matching oven mitts. I'm declaring them to be the unofficial 22nd project if anyone wants to go a bit further than all the way!

Come back tomorrow to see the oven mitts and a tutorial and download the free PDF pattern for making your own!

Monday 11 August 2014

Pants, pants, pants, pants.....

Catching up a bit here by dropping no less than four pair of pants on the blog in one hit!

First up, three more pairs of navy (read: hard to photograph) school pants for P.
These first ones are the tried and true Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo pants.
I did all the edgestitching and topstitching, but since it's all navy, it's subtle. Nothing like those Team Australia (Oh, don't get me started on Tony again) pants that P's friend is wearing.
For a bit of something extra, I'm loving these iron-on faux rivets from Jimmy's buttons. They really look the business, but no complaints about scratchy metal bits on the inside.
Not only are there no scratchy bits, but the insides of these pants are so lovely to touch...
The fabric is a moleskin, which is undoubtedly meant to have this soft, brushed face on the outside. I talked it through with P and he definitely wanted the softness on the inside, and the more standard issue navy drill side on the outside. These super snuggly pants are his own little school uniform secret!

For the record, these are size 5, with about 3/4" length added at the bottom hem and the cargo pockets left off. No other mods and they fit perfectly.

The second pair of school pants is another pair of Sandbox pants in some more of the thick terry knit. I saved myself some trouble by not trying to flat fell every seam. The side seams are finished together and edge and topstitched and only the crotch seam is flat felled. So they look pretty much identical to the first pair but took half the time.

...and I used the genius suggestion from my blog commenter Rootaberger to use "one of those little plastic things that hold the string. You know, the ones you push down to loosen or tighten".

Well, I don't know if they have a name either (I'd guess at toggles) but I happened to have two on hand. I put one onto the original sandbox pants, and that definitely helps, but with these pants I went one step further: The elastic waistband on these ones goes all the way around and is fixed in length. The ties are stitched onto the elastic near the buttonhole outlets and thus are purely for decoration.

To make the navy pants production line a bit more interesting I busted out a new pattern for my third pair of pants:

These are the Figgy Banyan pants and it was my first ever time sewing a real zip fly. You know I took another photo of the pants as above, but slightly from the right, which hid that sticky out zip pull perfectly but was just a touch out of focus.
A close up from a better angle makes it look alright...

I found the pattern instructions were somewhat lacking when it came to the zipper insertion. I think there is a Figgy's photo tutorial and I know there are plenty of other tutorials on sewing blogs as to how to do this step well. But, when I'm using a pattern for the first time I like to follow just the pattern, as given in the package that I bought. It may seem perverse, but I feel like that should be sufficient.

Just checked: there is a Figgy's tutorial, but it doesn't address the main problem I had, which was quite where exactly to line up the zipper so that it's not completely exposed. The first time I sewed it on it was 100% visible. I unpicked it and chose some arbitrary distance to set it back and it is well covered by the fly flap, except that I chose a zip with a hefty pull, so that part does stick out a bit.

There was also no mention made of shortening the zipper. I'm sure mine was the recommended length but I had to trim a considerable amount off or it would have dangled down inside the pants a long way. Now I would have no concerns doing this again, but if it's your first time and you're a bit more timid and less slapdash, you may want to check out Cindy's awesome tutorial.

Anyway, there it is, and it works! I managed to sew the curve of the fly shield the wrong way so it's curved where it attaches to the pants and right angled at the free edge where it should be curved. Oops. Oh, and I got completely bamboozled with how the waistband attached. The pattern may not be to blame there as it was getting late at night and I was starting to do things the autopilot (Oliver + S) way.

Once I'd finished, and P was wearing them I was itching to make another pair straight away. Partly to correct my mistakes, but also cause they are such a great pair of trousers. I love the slightly jodhpur-esque shape and they look really trendy on. I have some green denim that I think will be awesome for this pattern.
These pants were the last cut out of the 3m of navy drill that I bought when P started school. From that I've made 2 pair of shorts and 3 pair of trousers!
Then, on to she-who-will-never-wear-pants. The only time I can convince A to wear pants is when we're taking the bikes down to the BMX track. She is of the opinion that princesses and ballerinas wear dresses all the time, except when they're working laps of the pump track!

But as you can see her pants are getting too short. Not surprising as they're over a year old now. The one pair of pants that do still fit her really well, are completely unsuited to mucking around in the dirt, and those are her Moschino knock off trousers.

My challenge was to make another pair of those pants, that were suitable for outside play, but princess-y enough to perhaps get worn...

The pants are a lengthened version of the Oliver + S Sketchbook shorts. The size is only 18-24 months but fits my 3.5 year old perfectly. I guess they're roomy shorts, and probably in that size there's some nappy room which is not needed anymore. My Moschino pants had a very straight leg and I tapered these ones slightly and kept the cuff, as a result they've ended up looking a lot like another pair of Banyans!

The princess appeal came via some metallic silver topstitching on the back pockets
Edit: Forgot to mention. The Sketchbook pattern does not have back pockets. These are size 4 pockets from the After School pants pattern.

...and some more iron on faux rivets, but this time, with diamantes (can't believe I just typed diamantes on my blog, ugh the things we do huh)

I doubled the metallic thread and the sewing machine coped fine with the straight stitches, but the decorative stitch did skip a bit. I probably needed to loosen off the needle thread tension as the metallic thread does seem very grab-by.
I'm happy with these pants for so many reasons. It was a small remnant of high quality denim that was just enough for this length and no more. I didn't need to draft a new pattern size. They were dirt cheap to make and I think they look pretty cool.
She's happy with them for those moments when a girl just has to wear pants, no buts about it.
P.S that blue top is the Oliver + S 2+2 Blouse and is one of the first bits of knit (merino jersey) sewing I did!