Wednesday 31 December 2014

2014 sewing review

I started the year with something for me, and didn't stop there...

And there is one T-shirt, a blouse and a pair of pants that haven't yet been photographed. The hits and misses?

Well the first dress, the one that looks and feels like a camel bred with a settee; definite miss. The Coco? Saved only by the fabric, it's still getting some wear. The Coco top didn't even make this picture collage. The Lisette denim jacket made me realise just how fussy I am about inside finishes. I won't make another jacket without lining it. Live and learn.

The jersey knit dresses have been the standout successes and are in very heavy rotation. The silver sparkly Weekend Getaway has come out for a couple more parties recently and is just the easiest thing to throw on but still look very dressed up. (just realised I still haven't worked out what to do with Grandma's vintage silk)

I remain quite clueless about fitting myself, but since I'm hooked on sewing and wearing knits, I'm mostly getting away with it.

The kids love their knits too....

If P were here to ask what his favourite of the year was, there's no doubt he'd say the Knight Hoodie. Man, he loves that sweater! All of the T-shirts have had heavy wear. He especially liked his Robert Morris Sculpture T, but we never did get around to visiting the art gallery while wearing it.

The duds? Well, sewing so many pairs of navy shorts and pants for school was always going to get boring. As much as he loved the Sandbox pants initially I think he found the drawstrings too fiddly, and since they're a heavy knit, I suspect they may have been falling down a bit.

The insane straw boater project ended up being a touch too small once the Petersham ribbon was added. Worn once, but worth the effort just to prove to myself I could do it.

Much harder to predict is what A will like, or wear, or not tolerate at all. After declaring her favourite colour was purple for most of the year, she surprised me by seeming to be most fond of the brown Hopscotch dress, and the brown Japanese leaf dress. Happy surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.

The things I really like that she simply won't wear are the Apple Picking dress in that sweet  Alannah Hill fabric that J Wo gave me, and the red wool peplum. Oh well, they'll be as good as new when they get passed on to someone else.

And what became of the insane beaded deer project? She declared it "too bobbly" for a long time and then finally decided to wear it one day. I snapped the picture above, and then we headed out for the day. We ended up at a country school fete which had a bouncy castle. No sweat, she's a pretty timid bouncer... Next thing I know she's graduated from the little bouncy castle to the giant inflatable slide next to it and she's going down head first! Needless to say, the larger beads didn't survive, there are bits of frayed beading thread everywhere and the sweater itself is filthy. Still, I had a lot of fun making it, and it was pretty hilarious watching her fly down the slide. Clothes are for wearing, right?

The only kid's clothes I bought this year were some school uniform shirts for P and socks and underwear for both kids. Otherwise I went 12 months without buying anything for either of them.

On to making things just for the fun of it: Here are all the gifts and accessories and Little Things To Sew projects I made this year. - Correction: I didn't make all of them. The kids did some sewing and made the butterflies (with help). The blue one on the card was made entirely by P and was a gift for his prep teacher. Thanks to Heidi for the inspiration and link to tutorial.

Admittedly a few of those gifts were projects from the Little Things To Sew book that I was making because of my challenge to sew the lot, the recipient just happened to be in the right place at the right time. But shhh, don't tell them that.

For Christmas, Flipper got a couple more pair of lycra booties and some little phone cases made out of old PUL nappy bags. It's on my list of things to do to share the cycle shoe cover pattern as I really don't think you'll find another like it on the web anywhere (You've been searching too, right?!)

The other gift that hasn't yet made the blog is the Newcastle Cardigan that I made for Roger. I took some photos of it on the hanger, but missed seeing Roger at Christmas, and I know you'll be hanging out for modelled shots. That's his New Year mission, and perhaps, a condition of receiving the gift! :)

I had a lot of fun with the blog this year. Hosting the Little Things To Sew challenge was so enjoyable, and only a lot of work because I suck at formatting Excel spreadsheets. Being a contributor to the Kid's Clothes Week was a blast and quite an honour. I landed a dream job with Oliver + S contributing to their blog on a regular basis. I think my job description is to do interesting things with their patterns and occasionally something a bit out of left field. I loved the Valentine's gift exchange and I'm hoping Sanae and Ute host it again, and I'm branching out into blogging advertorial and have a new Thread Theory pattern to show you very soon.... (I think you know I'm brutally honest about what I think about a pattern and that there won't be any cash for comment on this blog!)

Thanks to everyone who has visited the blog in 2014. I hope, by documenting what I make, the brilliant bits and the balls-ups, I can amuse or inspire you in the new year.

Have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday 24 December 2014

A gift for a baby far, far away

When I was stroking and squishing that maille merveilleuse that I bought from France, I really was thinking I needed to sew something for a baby with the leftovers.

...Then, of course, there is the Oliver + S Lullaby Layette pattern that was demanding to be sewn.

.... and I had some nice merino jersey leftover which would do perfectly for lining a little jacket.

Finally, throw in just about the most beautiful, and beautifully photographed, children on the internet, and their awesome mother, who is occasionally awake at the same time as me and we can email chat as if we're talking over the back fence....

OK, so it's a little bit weird and fan girl-ish to make something for someone you don't really know. But we all feel like we know Rachel, right?! If you're not nodding your head, go check out Stitched Together

But in my head, all of that sounded like a perfectly reasonable argument to sew something, so here is my only sewing gift for a kid this holiday season!

I made the Size 6-12m jacket, but it turns out baby Hazel has just clocked over at 4 months old. So it should fit perfectly just about when the northern hemisphere summer rolls around. Oops. (face palm).

Rachel kindly assures me they live in a land of air conditioners and a soft, squishy jacket will always get worn. Phew.

Apart from the sizing gaff, I did get a bit inattentive while sewing and I ended up stitching the sleeve fronts to the sleeve backs and the body parts into two separate tubes. Unpicking the wool was fine, but the thick, fluffy cotton was a nightmare. There's nothing wrong with the instructions, it's actually quite a clever way of constructing the jacket, just be warned and pay attention!

The lining is a little touch of down under in some fine merino jersey (probably from New Zealand as I recall it was a Fabric Store purchase). Now, between the taupe main fabric and the brown lining this was looking more like something I'd wear than a baby's jacket, and I went round and round in circles trying to decide on which bias binding colour would un-beige it best.

It came down to the pink, a nice mustard and a peacock blue. They all looked great and I might have plumped for the mustard except that's really just a yellowy shade of brown, and Flipper interjected and said it had to be pink.

And finally, for the lack of a label, I stitched her initials at the back neck. I like it better that way. Rachel and her family know who sewed it,... although they know who their baby is too, so that argument may not wash.

It's not just that maille fabric that is warm and fuzzy. This was one of those times that I just felt good that I am able to make things, that I can share them here and for the friendships that I've made on the other side of the world.

It's warm and fuzzies all round!
And on that note, I hope you all have a happy holiday season and a glorious start to the new year! See you in 2015.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Julia Sweater: Pattern testing

Firstly I want to thank everyone for their comments on my last blog post. I don't know if I'll be able to make sense of what's going wrong, or work out how to fix it, but I am feeling better for all your kind words! I could get far too philosophical about the narcissism of blogging,.... suffice to say I love hearing from you, and I can't believe I enticed my own husband (aka Flipper) into his first blog comment. Yay! (oh, and if you read his comment and didn't get it - here's the link to the best scientific powerpoint presentation ever!)

The randomly drawn winner of the Oliver + S pattern is Inspinration - I've sent you a message via facebook. I am terribly behind in my own blog reading and comment leaving list, but I do always click on the names of people who visit my blog and I love seeing what you're doing.

What have I been doing? Far too much actually.

A couple of weeks ago I joined the pattern testing crowd again to test the Julia Sweater for Compagnie M.

The pattern is an adult version of the cute, dolman sleeved Julia sweater for kids. At the time of the pattern test there were a few different options for how to do the sweater; with or without collar, with button tabs, faux placket and with or without a kangaroo pocket. By the end of the pattern test it had blown out to dozens of variations. Most of which are included in the final pattern and a few others as tutorials on customisation.
I figured the pattern testers role is to make the pattern as designed by the pattern creator and see how it goes, so no embellishments here.
This first one is a merino rib knit with quite a lot of stretch in both directions. It worked perfectly. Since the sleeve's circumference ends up being perpendicular to the main direction of stretch, some testers were having trouble with too tight lower sleeves. Marte ended up including instructions for a split front and back panel with the sleeve parts being angled 45deg and apparently that works fine with less stretchy fabrics.
The collar option I sewed above ended up being ditched in favour of a wider neckline and a bigger collar. The final collar does look more balanced on an adult sized sweater.
To properly test the instructions I thought I'd have a go at the option with a button tab and front pocket:

I picked some random bits of T-shirt cotton knit and some navy ribbing. The lower sleeves are a firmer fit on this one, but they're still Ok. I found the instructions for the pocket to be somewhat lacking. I've sewn exactly this kind of pocket with the School Photo dress but that one comes with very detailed instructions, pattern markings at which to stop the seams and clear diagrams. Perhaps I made things difficult by printing the instructions in black and white, and thus the coloured photos were less clear, but I found it very confusing. Mostly the entire sweater can be made on an overlocker, but I couldn't get my head around stopping an overlocked seam mid way up the garment, so reverted to the sewing machine.

The instructions are probably no more or less than you might expect with an indie PDF pattern. I guess I've been spoiled by the likes of Oliver + S and Thread Theory.

Speaking of Thread Theory, I've just been sewing a Christmas gift for Roger (remember my dad's body double from father's day?). He wanted a cardigan just like dad's, only with pockets, and some red lining.

I've almost fulfilled his wishes. More details and hopefully modelled pictures to come after Christmas, but here's a sneak peek:

And then, as soon as I get the chance I'll be doing a bit of Thread Theory sewing for me! They've just released their first women's pattern, the Camas blouse,  as a reward for all the women who buy their patterns to sew for their blokes. Although there are blokes buying their patterns and sewing for themselves. I love this blog post and the seriously impressive pants he made.

But back to my Julia sweater (which I'm wearing right now as I type)... Flipper said it was missing one thing, so I photoshopped it in. If only I'd thought to do the hand salute too!

Thursday 11 December 2014

Giveaway: and a request for help


Easy for me to say, but I'm wondering if it isn't becoming increasingly difficult for you to respond.

I seem to be having some issues with Blogger and I suspect it might be affecting how you can leave comments on the blog. (or maybe you have all wandered off to look at something else, and I'm being vain and not realising it!).

Can you help me out?

I tried an HTML patch that changed the page refresh times, and I think it might have even made things worse...

Could you do me a huge favour, and spare a minute to leave a comment on today's blog post. Make sure to include the internet browser you're using (or tablet/phone etc) and which ID you're signed in as. In the example above I'm at home, so it's Internet Explorer (IE) and I use my Google ID.

Now, in case it doesn't post, be sure to highlight and copy what you've written. If, or when, it fails to post you can paste the same content into an email. Either click on the mail icon at the top of the blog, or send it to lightningmcstitch at gmail dot com

As a bit of an incentive, I'll give away an awesome paper Oliver + S pattern to one person who leaves  a comment. Whether it arrives by email or on the blog I don't mind. It's your effort that's being rewarded, not the success of the comment posting!

The pattern is the beautiful Hide and Seek dress which I recently made here. It's size 6m to 4 years, uncut and as new. Happy to post to anywhere.

Can't think of anything to say, well, everyone has a haircut story, right?

Only a week after having her hair trimmed into the nice, angled bob that she's been sporting for a while, A decided that she and her toy koala needed a bit more off. She hacked at the front part of the bob (and koala's fluffy ears) and so I saw my chance to whiz her back to the hairdresser and get the short, Mia Farrow cut that I've been thinking would be super cute.

When I was her age I had a very similar haircut and she's sold on the idea of looking just like mummy. Before it grows out, I want to recreate a dress I had at the time and play along with the When We Were Young series

I eventually grew my hair quite long, and so here's my hairdressing horror story:

With my long hair ready for a new style I went to see my uncle's family who were all hairdressers. I won't say exactly how old I was, but you might guess the era anyway...

I pointed to a picture on the wall and requested the haircut to be just like that one. The picture probably looked like this:

My cousin set to work, snipping and trimming. I became a bit concerned at how this was going to eventuate into the style I wanted, but I didn't say anything, as he was the hairdresser and I presumed it would work out at the end.

Eventually he put his scissors down and reached for the mirror. That was when I realised he'd finished. That was it. He looked quite proud of himself as he showed me the sides and back. I burst into unexplained tears.

The picture next to Farrah Fawcett looked a lot like this one...

He'd done a perfect job of it, it's just that, not only was it not the haircut I wanted, I didn't even look like that model.

I looked more like Adam Rich (aka the chubby kid from Eight is Enough):

I'll draw the winner of the pattern in about 7 days. Thanks for your help. As much as I use the blog as my own record of what I've done, I really enjoy hearing from you, and I know how infuriating it can be when a blog comment fails to post.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

A pattern mash polo shirt

Why buy new patterns when you can combine a couple of good ones to get exactly what you want (and with no risk of dud sleeves to boot)?!

So, I wanted to make a classic polo shirt for P. I had just finished making his Spirograph shirt using the Oliver + S Sketchbook pattern and knew that it fit perfectly and the pattern pieces were still lying around. All I needed was a placket...

Enter the Oliver + S Jump Rope dress pattern. I've made this dress pattern four times now and it's just lovely. The placket instructions are very easy to follow but somehow leave you feeling like you're the genius for sewing such a great looking placket. Of course, this is my contribution to the Oliver + S blog for this month. You can see a bit more by clicking on the link in the image below:

Or just hang around here for more pictures of P!

The fabric for the polo came from Eliza fabrics in Sunshine and I think cost about $5. The collar and placket are leftovers from A's Moschino / Kill Bill suit. As an aside, I had a kid's wardrobe clean out recently and bagged up or gifted quite a lot of handmades. But the Moschino suit is still in the wardrobe. It's a bit short in the sleeves and legs, and so it's no use to us anymore, but I really don't know whether anyone is going to want a hand me down cream suit for a three year old. It's a bit strange, no?

Back to the polo shirt. In my efforts to match stripes, I thought it was correct to align the notches on the sleeve and the notches in the armhole at the same point on the stripe pattern. Obviously not. Is there a trick to getting the sleeve stripes lined up so that they appear to be a continual horizontal stripe with the shirt body?

I'd like to get it right as I have some striped fabric to make myself a Skippy dress, and there'll probably be enough leftover for another polo shirt like this one for P.

But before I tackle anything that requires thought I need a nice, foolproof project. My first attempt at pants for myself ended disastrously and I'm feeling a bit dejected. Somewhere along the way I mucked up such that my pants were about 3" smaller than the waistband. I thought they fit ok, so just chopped the waistband down to fit the pants. So very wrong! (about 3 inches wrong in fact). I don't even have the energy to go back over them to find out where I went wrong. Perhaps next year! :)

Part of my disappointment is that I had mentally planned a very funny, multi location photoshoot for these pants. I'm going to have to revisit the pattern if only for that reason!

I'm not all gloom though. In happier news, I raced my mountain bike a couple of weeks ago and had a win (lack of fitness cancelled out by lack of competition :) ) as well as beating the kids on the train this year. In tragic I-may-never-beat-my-kids-in-another-race-ever-again style I stood on the train platform with my bike over my head as the train pulled in. I may even have thumped my chest or pointed at the kids,...perhaps.

And then, as I gritted my teeth and listened to the dreadful grating noise of my thrice serviced Janome, I received an email saying I'd won a Toyota sewing machine. I didn't even know I was in a competition to win one, but apparently, by having entered the Show I had entered a lucky door prize as well. Bonus!

So the terrible, no good, too small pants were at least sewn on a machine that sounded sweetly happy to be in service.

If you want to see how to make a polo shirt from a girl's dress and a boy's shirt pattern. hop over to the Oliver + S blog. Or if you're curious to see what it looks like when mountain bikers take on a steam train, there are pictures of last year's race here.

Friday 5 December 2014

Neptune Tee

Taking pictures and recording my sewing here has taken a bit of a backseat lately as I have been busy.... Sewing, of course.

I finally managed to get some pictures of a T-shirt that I've been wearing quite a bit since making it one evening last week. The Neptune Tee by See Kate Sew

It's getting a bit boring with the old stand in front of the only blank wall in the house modelling style, but unless I wait months for nice weather and a photographer that's the only way I can document what I've made.

There's so much to love about this pattern, and one big glaring problem that I'll come to in a bit. Essentially it's a basic T-shirt with some neat instructions for creating these V shaped cut outs at the neckline and/or sleeve cuffs.

Initially I'd planned to put a little bit of Liberty fabric behind the cut outs, but then I figured I needed more go-with-everything T-shirts and any patterned inserts would, in my head at least, immediately make it a patterned T-shirt.

I made a straight size L in cotton interlock. There are options for a curved or straight hem (mine's the curved obviously), and as you can see above it's a slight hi-lo hem as well. I love the length, the neckline, the slight A line T-shirt shape, the cut outs... but I am really disappointed with the sleeve/armscye.

It's hard to see on my all black version but there's a whole heap of twisting in the sleeve and it's like Coco all over again for me. The armscye is not quite deep enough and I absolutely concede that's probably due to my flabby arms, but looking at the pictures on the See Kate Sew site and any blogged Neptunes I could find (only the Pattern Anthology tour, hence all complimentary) everybody has this icky twisting effect. The best photos are those where the wearer of the T-shirt is sticking their arms out, or has a hand on a hip.

Oh well, I can do that too. Here, this looks better....

The sleeve is cut on the fold, and with the exception of the awesome Flashback Skinny T (which is for kids after all!) I just don't think that works. I really should find the time to lay this sleeve pattern, and the Coco sleeve out next to the Metro T-shirt sleeve (armhole perfection!) and see where the difference lies.

Now, I'm sure if I'd done my homework I might have spotted the sleeve issue and shied away. Perhaps I should have consulted Get Off My Internets again ({waving} apparently they find you if you invoke their name!) In fact, what I want to do is trace the Metro T armscye into this pattern, 'cause I do love the T-shirt shape and I definitely want to make another, just without the dud sleeve/armscye.

Back to the good stuff.... Since I print out my instructions and work from the hard copy I really appreciate well written instructions and line drawings rather than photos for indie patterns. The Neptune Tee has excellent illustrated instructions and is a very well presented PDF pattern.

In summary, it's good, and I'm glad I made it. It will get worn. It's not perfect, but the V cut outs, the great instructions and the T shirt shape make it a pattern worth having. It's just that it could be so much better. When I get time I hope I'll revisit it and make it a pattern I can really love.