Monday 31 August 2015

Book Week: Tom the Cabin Boy

Do you remember Captain Pugwash? 
NB: Quotes and illustrations are from various Captain Pugwash books by John Ryan

"Captain Pugwash was a pirate. He thought
himself the bravest, most handsome pirate
on the seven seas. Here is a portait of him."

Well, the Captain was a bumbling fool with a useless lazy crew, but...

"He had too, a cabin boy called Tom, and
this was lucky, because Tom was really the
only person aboard who knew how to work
the compass, sail the ship, and make the tea."


This week was Book Week and Thursday was dress up as a book character day at P's school. Without giving any thought to the weather P and I decided on our favourite Caribbean pirate cabin boy, Tom.

Before we go any further, let's just get the whole Roger rumour out of the way. Sure, there was a cheeky BBC televised cartoon of Pugwash and some of the crew had very risque names but Roger the Cabin Boy is a myth. Right, back to Tom...

 Tom wears a red and white striped T-shirt with wide stripes and a ragged pair of blue pants. So I set out to do just the same for my little cabin boy. Then we set sail for a photoshoot and he proved that he too could scrub the decks, turn the capstan and make the tea!

His pants were easy. Yep, I obviously just hacked up a pair of old school pants (seen here new). He'd already worn through the knees so they were destined to be turned into summer shorts anyway. 

The T-shirt took a bit more thought. I'd just made the Oliver + S Parachute Polo and it seemed the perfect starting point with its side hem splits and good fit.

 I was never going to find such wide striped fabric so I chopped the pattern up in order to join sections of red and white cotton lycra and get my stripe width just right. The sleeve stripes are slightly narrower in order to make them fit, but it looks like I could have just cut the sleeves a bit longer and kept it all the same after all. I wasn't working to the pattern sleeve length but just aiming for something longer than a regular T-shirt.

The only other change was the neckline. I kept the height of the original neckline front and back but squared it off. After drawing the rectangular neckline, I just copied that line to make a 1.5" wide facing. The facing is sewn with a straight stitch, so it loses any elasticity, but a quick check showed it would fit easily over his head. Phew.

After having had some pleasant spring weather the week before last, this week we were plunged back into winter. Thursday, dress up day, was one of the worst and it rained most of the day. Of course he did wear shoes to school, and layered up with a singlet and swim trunks underneath. He shivered bravely through the parade like any long suffering cabin boy and then wore his school jacket for the rest of the day.

Today we were gifted with another nice sunny day, and while the wind is still cold, it's starting to feel like spring is almost here.

We had a family outing to the Polly Woodside, which I'd never visited and Flipper had last been to as a school kid! We had a fun tour along with one other family and then plemty of time to take pictures afterwards with no -one else around.

The holds and below deck quarters were wonderfully restored. The kids were fascinated by the latrine and the "poo rope" (apparently a rough hemp rope is suitable for bottom wiping ?!) and the captain's quarters were decidedly luxurious. Not quite as impressive as Captain Pugwash's perhaps...

 The Ship's Mate who took our tour had all the kids scrubbing the decks. He inspected each kids work and praised them all. When he got to P, who was last in line, he jokingly barked that his work was terrible, a disgrace to his ship and crew. Everyone, including P, laughed. But a moment later I could see his chin trembling and the little gulping movements of trying really hard not to cry. Oh, he wouldn't last a day at sea, this sensitive little creature of mine.

But he's nothing if not resilient. Only a few moments later he was telling the Ship's Mate slash Tour Guide all about Tom. How he's the one who always saves the day and rescues the ship and its crew. And then how it was Book Week, how he is Tom, and his mum made his costume. 

Then, not to be outdone, A pipes up about how I made her hat and coat too. Bless them both! :)

Sadly, we weren't allowed to send him up the rigging - he seriously would have loved to climb the mast - but he did have fun hamming it up for photos and this was a rare photoshoot were the kid keeps directing the photographer to "take one more like this". 

We got some pretty hammy poses, but I also love the skyscrapers that are rising out of the sea to starboard!

I had a lot of fun with this. I love books, love costumes and love sewing. We all had a few nights worth of dinner table conversations about book characters. What is literature and what counts as a book character. We all agreed that colouring book style merchandise from a film does NOT count as a book. There were too many ideas to keep track of them all for next year. Just one point to remember and that is to consider the weather.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Parachuting into the Art Museum

Some time ago, Sarvi (who's dress I just made) made the suggestion that those of us who sew Oliver + S patterns should endeavour to photograph our kids wearing the garment and doing the activity that the pattern is named for.

And then Liesl, with delicious humour, went and released a pattern called the Parachute Polo and Sweatpants. I've already made the pants here, but today I'm teeming the Parachute Polo shirt with the Art Museum Trousers. That would make for a hilarious Mission Impossible style photoshoot at the gallery. Or we could just ham it up at home instead...

Let's talk trousers first.

I've made the trousers only once before and they're still in rotation as school pants. The old ones were a lengthened size 4 and are getting pretty slim fitting. These are a straight size 7. No, there's no sound reasoning behind my jumping 3 sizes. I almost never get around to measuring the kids and apart from sleeve length I know they're pretty much smack on the age sizing in Oliver + S patterns.

The trousers are generously long and kind of an old fashioned trouser fit. By that I mean there's room in the crotch and hips but they're relatively narrow in the upper thigh. Exactly the kind of pants that I can't wear but that small boys wear very well!

I used some of my little iron on faux rivets and a single line of edgestitching on the pockets and seams. Sewn in a stretch denim they've come out as a halfway between casual jeans and more dressy trousers.

The great part of this pattern is the instructions for sewing welt pockets. I didn't sew the world's neatest welts here but they're not too bad and they really aren't half as hard as they seem.

Barely visible in the photo above are the belt loops which P loves. Completely unseen are the pocket bags and waistband facing which I cut from a light tan coloured cotton that formerly was a pudding cloth. Even though it had been washed, as I was ironing the seams the pants began to smell slightly Christmassy and very delicious!

 The Parachute Polo shirt is designed to be made in knit with a woven collar and placket, but it works perfectly well if use the knit all round!

This is a pretty stable knit and behaved quite well, although trying to neatly edgestitch a knit collar is not quite as easy as woven collar. I failed for the record. But couldn't be bothered making it any neater.

If your sewing machine doesn't like knit buttonholes then you'd certainly want to leave off the one that's right near the edge of the band portion of the collar. Otherwise you can do it exactly as per the pattern. Or can you?...

It was only as I was finishing the placket and was unsure about the length of my placket (the very next step said to trim any overhanging length) that I checked the forum and pattern for errata. There was quite a bit of discussion about how the collar fitted and an errata was issued to help with any trouble.  Too late for me as I'd already cut everything, but the errata finished by saying that if you follow the pattern it still works anyway.

I couldn't really understand what the problem had been and so the remedy didn't make a lot of sense and it worked perfectly when I did it as per the instructions. I'm still none the wiser. I've already cut another one and it will also be done as per the original pattern.

Nailed that sleeve length! The shirt is size 7 with 2&3/4" added to the sleeves. They probably don't run short but this kid has ultra long arms.

The only thing I do want to change for the next one I've cut out is where the interfacing on the back of the placket is positioned. It was very visible on the inside of the underneath placket. I've peeled it back and trimmed it right close to the edge of the placket, but if he was to wear it completely unbuttoned there'd be an ugly, visible strip of white interfacing on show. Is that what the errata was about?

I hadn't intended for these to be worn together, but he's chosen to do it that way each time they've been worn, and I'm kind of digging the autumnal colours. Honestly, it's almost springtime here and I should probably be getting excited about other colours but I just love these earthy tones all year round!

Both of these garments were needed, but were also test runs before making some others. That will be a more mad fabric that could prove to be quite an eyeful.

A fairy attempted to photobomb the shoot and was mostly smothered. Another will visit tonight to pay out on the first ever lost tooth! Last ever photo with a full complement of baby teeth:

Monday 17 August 2015

Sarvi's Dress

Is there anything nicer than Nani Iro fabric? No, you say...

Well there is just one thing nicer. It's Nani Iro fabric that is gifted to you!

A little while ago Sarvi and I hunted down some out of print patterns for each other. When Sarvi sent me mine she included a shirt (seen here) and a dress that she'd cut out and not got around to sewing before her daughter had outgrown them.

While the shirt was a mystery pattern, I was on familiar ground with the dress as it's the School Photo Dress by Oliver + S.

I've made the dress twice before and had the instructions to hand as well, so the sewing was smooth sailing from start to finish. One note to make, the instructions talk about finishing seams allowances at the beginning if you're using a serger. You should take that to mean; Finish all the skirt seam allowances before you start construction no matter how you want to finish them.  It just makes thing so much easier.

This is the View B with the ruffle collar and 3/4 length sleeves in straight size 4. But this time without the pocket (not enough fabric perhaps?).

The Nani Iro brushed cotton is gorgeously soft. Should I ever win the lottery I would have someone make me pyjamas out of this stuff. It's divine. The collar and cuffs are a lightweight shot cotton and the dress is then lined with a pale pink cotton voile. All perfectly cut out for me to sew!

After sewing quite a few invisible zippers with my regular zipper foot, I did buy an invisible zipper foot last year. That combined with the trick of ironing the zipper open results in a pretty darn good invisible zipper if I do say so myself.

I made this dress just before making the purple ruffle-y jewelled thing, so I'm afraid it's been passed over a bit. Hopefully she'll find it suitable for a few summer parties before it's outgrown. It was too lovely not to sew up and put to use. Thanks Sarvi!

Monday 10 August 2015

On Ruffles, Bling and Flamenco...

This post covers two dresses, an Oliver + S guest post and a whole lot of background ideas and inspiration. Bear with me, and enjoy the pictures of a very happy girl!

First up, the purple, bejewelled dress with ruffles - holy crap I really did put all of that into one dress!

This dress came about via a combination of a shop bought dress that she adores, and a trip to Maria's Beads and Trims. Actually, it was meant to be a trip to Buttonmania, but the shop was closed for 10 minutes and we found ourselves in the bead shop while waiting....

That's dangerous with a small girl who likes her bling. We jointly decided that another knit dress with built in jewelled necklace was needed (desperately!) and laid out some jewels which Mary then set into clasps for us. Then the idea got shelved for a bit as winter sewing took over.

The "diamonds" are pink, clear, cognac and blue and to space them out a bit I sewed a clear bead (leftover from the Deer) between each one. I also made a largish French knot at each space which you can't see well in the photo, and while it looks nice, I'm not sure if it adds or detracts from the stability of the stitched on jewels. The underside of the neckline is stabilised with a roughly 2 inch wide facing of iron on interfacing.

She tells me that she stores all her powers in that central pink jewel and it spurts out pink lightning. I can't recall if that happens when she's mad or happy. I think it's a confused mash up of Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger and some Chima LEGO and unicorn TV shows. Whatever, it definitely holds the power to make her LOVE her dress!

In recreating the original dress I cut a little keyhole out of the centre back neck and then bound the edge with knit binding. My first attempt was a bit loose and so I unpicked it (serged seam of course - face palm) and stretched the binding strip as I attached it again. Worked a charm second time.

The rest of the neckline is finished the same way. A strip of knit serged onto the neckline, pressed to the inside, then double needle stitched down. I used a hair elastic to create the button loop at the end. Turns out she doesn't need to unbutton it to get it on or off anyway, but it's a pretty faithful recreation of the original dress.

I never really think I know what I'm doing, or that what I am doing hasn't been beautifully photographed and turned into a smashing tutorial elsewhere. But... I got a couple of lovely comments on Instagram (here I am) wanting a "lesson" in doing that neckline. I do sometimes feel quite proud of my knit sewing, but perhaps I'm just being big headed.... Let me know if my tips and tricks are worth sharing here on the blog.

The last feature of the original dress was the dropped waist and the ruffles. This dress is based on the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt. From my jotted notes it looks like it was size 4 with the side seams shortened to 8", and an arbitrary 1&1/2" added to the sleeve length. The ruffles were added to the top, middle and bottom of a trapezoid shaped skirt section. I cut my ruffle lengths one and a half times the width at each of the attachment lines.

The fabric is a gorgeously soft viscose jersey from the remnant table of, I think, GJ's fabrics. It's not too heavy for the weight of the ruffles although the waistline is perhaps a bit more dropped than I'd originally intended. :)

Finally the skirt ruffles were hemmed with a rolled hem on the overlocker. Fast and pretty!

Once I knew it worked I made another as the "tutorial" (and let's admit to using that word pretty loosely in this instance) for the Oliver + S blog. Initially I'd thought I'd work out the ruffle and trapezoid dimensions for every size but the maths just never seemed to add up, so I've kept it deliberately vague. Still, it's hard to go wrong unless you're overly concerned about an exact final length or accurate ruffle depth.

While she loves the purple one, I think this one is just about my favourite thing so far this year...

This time I left the sleeve length as per the pattern, but then added a cuff so they're probably about 1" longer than the straight size 4 length. The neckband is as per the pattern and the ruffles the same as the first version.

The mint fabric is a very synthetic, cheap knit from one of the Sydney Rd stores, and obviously doesn't have as much vertical stretch as the waist is a bit higher on this one. I was keen to use different fabrics for each ruffle to make it easier to photograph the making of the skirt and stuck with what I had in the stash. I almost went out and bought overlocker thread that matched the ribbing better but then thought that was daft. The electric blue is near enough.

It's that rolled hem that I love so much. This dress was initially rejected almost outright but then I sat A down and we watched some Flamenco dance on YouTube. I tried to seek out dancers with contrasting hems on their dresses. We dug the castanets out of the music box, put the Buena Vista Social Club on the stereo (I know, not Flamenco, but she was fooled) and the dress was declared to be great - but not as good as the purple one because of the lack of jewels.

I'm used to knit sewing being quick and my expectation of a one evening's sew for these was blown out by those ruffles. Gathering and attaching ruffles is time consuming. Made much worse if you forget to use a contrasting thread for the gathering stitches and then almost make your eyes bleed trying to pick them out.

The sun was out for this photo shoot so we ended up wandering down the street for a coffee, and stopped for a quick picture next to the super cute, purple owls.

Hopefully both of these dresses will get plenty of wear in spring. There's no doubt the purple one will be worn until it's indecently short or fallen apart.

If you feel like turning a T-shirt into a ruffled up, power jewelled, little girls' dream dress then my post on the Oliver + S blog might (!) prove useful.

Or, you could watch the video we watched together. My next girl's dress might need to be red and have more ruffles everywhere!

Sunday 2 August 2015

Colour blocked winter Lunch Box Tee

The Lunch Box Tee is the cute little boxy cropped T-shirt that comes with the culottes in the Oliver + S pattern. This is my fourth version and the first I can call a complete success!

Previously I'd made the short sleeve pocket less version, along with the culottes (seen here). That one was way too short for everyday wear. Everyday wear meaning pulling the front waistband of your skirt or trousers down to well below belly level and then having half your belly hanging out the front. It's actually a nice, cropped length t-shirt, but only if you'll wear your pants/skirt pulled up properly. It's now had a band added to the bottom. Salvaged.

The other two were the long (?!) sleeved versions with pockets. A's was a straight size 4 and while the body length was reasonable the sleeves were about an inch too short. The pink sweater knit didn't have much stretch and using it for the neckband meant that it's a nightmare to get over her noggin. Worn a few times, but essentially... Fail.

P's was a size 5 with size 7 length but is about 2-3 inches too short in the body and about 5" too short in the arms! Fail. (sadly, cause he loved the fabric.)

this is before hemming!

So, what were the modifications to the successful Lunch Box Tee.....

 I stuck with size 4 as the pink one did have the right body size. I've added a total of 3&1/4 inches to the sleeve length and 3" length at the side seam.

Then I created a high/low hem by raising the centre front hem by 1/2" above the side seam, and lowering the centre back by 1&1/4" I was so happy with how the hem looked I even bothered to change thread colour for the front and back hems!

The colour blocking was both by design and to use up some bits of gorgeous, soft merino fleece that were too small to use on their own. The black is from my Metro T-shirt, the cream from A's Deer jumper and the red from her Issey Miyake Peplum.

This fleece is from The Fabric Store and is truly the loveliest stuff, both to sew and wear. I confess to just throwing it in the wash with everything else, but I understand that felting wool is a bit like playing Russian Roulette. Now that there are a sufficient number of wool fleece clothes in  the household I will endeavour to wash them separately. It will still be in the machine, but on the gentle wool cycle, and that's as big a laundry concession as I'm prepared to make.

The colour that I had the least of was the red and I was nervous that the sleeves wouldn't be long enough. Of the 371/4" length added there is 2&1/2" extra length at the sleeve hem. That was the extent of my red fabric, so I added the extra 3/4" by extending the cut line of the front and back body pieces at the sleeve junction. that means my drop sleeve is dropped by 3/4" more than the pattern design intended. Works well for me and I'm happy the sleeves are long enough for this winter, and possibly the next.

The merino fleece doesn't have a lot of stretch so I used some ribbing for the neckband. For some insane reason I cut that about 1/2" longer than the pattern piece. Maybe I was on a roll adding length to everything, or maybe I was worried about the fit over her head. Whatever it was I shouldn't have done it. The ribbing has heaps of stretch and good recovery but it's just that tiny bit long to make it not sit as flat as it could.

 I 'm happy to say this one has got me very much back in love with the pattern after our rocky start together. I have some great textured cream knit and I want to make one with some gold zippers at the side seams! - I've taken to writing down ideas like that in an art journal as I find I buy fabric and patterns and stash them and then completely forget what I had thought to do with them. Now I just have to find the perfect open ended gold zippers.....

Meanwhile I need to sew more colour blocked use up the leftovers kind of clothes to justify more fabric purchasing!