Thursday 24 March 2016

My Firework Shingle Dress and Giveaway Winner

When I first took possession of my lovely pile of Maai Design fabrics, I had a definite plan for my Froy & Dind Firework knit fabric.

It was going to become a Marcy Tilton knit dress - pattern Vogue V8813

Of course, being a stripe addict, I would still love to find jersey fabrics of the same colour with three different stripe widths and recreate that exact dress, but I digress. I was going to make it with my firework blue knit...

So I made a test run first. I measured, chose my size and cut a muslin out of a very stretchy, pilling jersey of a beige-y khaki colour.  It was not looking good. Stupidly, I tried to get some feedback from Flipper but the big beige mess was too awful, and he couldn't even get enthusiastic about the model in her version on the pattern cover. The fabric was maybe too stretchy, but the whole thing was enormous, heavy, saggy and such an awful colour that I just completely lost interest.

But while I was looking for sizing tips or inspiration for that pattern I kept seeing another pattern popping up in my searches...

So when I went to buy the smaller size range of Vogue V8813 (which I will make one day) I found myself buying Vogue 8904 - The Shingle dress too.

Having just cut an oversized mess based on my measurements I decided to just dive in and cut the same size for this pattern. After all, how tight could it be?... Well, quite tight was the answer to that ;)

I added an overall 2 inches in length, which took a bit of thinking through. In order to keep the layered shingles looking even I added half an inch to each shingle, and lengthened the underdress by half inch increments at a mid point under each of the shingle layers.

 - before I add another image, a quick explanation for the strange modelling: To try and make some fun out of a forced outing for blog post photos we played Simon Says and that did include me. Perversely the best images of my dress are the ones that are somewhat odd in terms of sewing blog modelling.  :)

As I sewed it was becoming obvious that I should have paid attention to the part that said 2 inches of negative ease. I was not going to make the 5/8" seam allowance and be able to wear this dress. I sewed the full side and underarm seams at only 1/4" seam allowance on the overlocker, and from the bust down that was necessary. Above the bust and through the sleeves was really baggy, so I went back and took it in to the indicated 5/8" seam allowance.

I like it a lot, but it definitely feels like a date-night hold it all in kind of dress, rather than a go about the long, busy day in a comfy knit dress kind of dress. Know what I mean?

I'll definitely make the pattern again with a size or two larger below the waist and perhaps in the long, sleeveless version. I love Meg from Cookin' and Craftin's version- stripes of course!

The pattern would probably be better suited to a yarn dyed rather than printed knit. That way the raw edges wouldn't be so obvious. I did an overlocker rolled hem on all of my raw edges and you can see the sleeves and bottom edge lay nicely. The rest tend to curl. It gives the dress a more casual look, and I'm surprised to find it doesn't bother me as much as I thought it might.

What's with the backdrop change? Giant hairy knuckles to you too!

We hunted high and low for a suitable backdrop for our photoshoot for the Maai Design Blog Tour. I wanted something monochrome since we all had different coloured fabrics to wear. I'd dragged the whole family into the city as I recalled one of the galleries had concrete stairs, white walls and giant windows. I'd recalled wrong, it was redwood stairs, concrete walls and busy, smaller panelled windows. Add in that the gallery happened to be really crowded that day and a photoshoot just wasn't going to happen.

But of course close to home is always better. The local community arts centre has a great wall with the black and white painting on it, and down by the river is a giant mural paying tribute to a local indigenous elder - Uncle Larry Walsh

I hope Uncle Larry doesn't mind being hand model to my awkward dress modelling ;)

And now, a couple of lucky blog readers can start planning their own sewing with some gorgeous fabrics that I purchased from Maai Design to share with you....

Drumroll please.

The winners are:

Maaidesign Fabric Giveaway

In a happy coincidence they can both have the fabric they wanted! I'll email you both straightaway.

Then we're off on holidays for a bit. Hope everyone has a happy and safe Easter!

Monday 21 March 2016

Froy & Dind Hopscotch Dress

Like a breath of fresh air, or a relaxation massage, or just a nice cup of tea, my next pattern for the Maai Design Blog Tour was a tried and true pattern. Well written and a joy to sew.

This is the Hopscotch Dress by Oliver + S. I've sewn it many times before, both as a t-shirt and a dress. In fact this pattern was the first sewing with knit fabrics I ever did. I'm reminded that I really need to revisit the cute little skirt that's part of the pattern too.

The first few times I made the top/dress I thought I needed to size up, probably because the knits I chose didn't have a lot of stretch, maybe 'cause I wasn't much good at maintaining a 1/4" seam allowance. Also baby arms are pretty podgy compared to small kids. But the last time I'd made the dress was this one back in April of 2014, and my notes suggested that was a straight size 3 on a recently turned three year old...

So I decided I'd make a muslin of this dress too, just to be sure. I had some cheap 1m cuts of knits from Spotlight in the stash and so I made a size 6 for my recently turned 5 year old.

It was comfortably roomy. I would probably have been fine with the size 5 after all, but I couldn't be bothered tracing off another size, so I stuck with the 6. She'll grow.

This is such an easy dress to wear and very much like an elongated, but slightly fancy t-shirt. I often think it would make a fabulous nightie pattern for sleepwear, but then I know I would never look at the pattern as a "day dress" again.

Perhaps when this one is too short I'll lop the sleeves and bottom off and sew some white, knit shorts and it can be part of a pyjama set!

In a nutshell, if you want the sewing equivalent of that feeling when you stop hitting yourself on the head with a hammer, sew an Oliver + S pattern.

In some really good quality fabric, of course!

Here's my original Maai Design Blog Tour post with all the fabric links, and there's still 2 days for my Aussie blog readers to enter the Gleam widget competition and win some nice Froy & Dind knit for yourself. Good luck!

Saturday 19 March 2016

The Zander Zonen09 Hoodie

Time for a bit more of an in depth look at the garments I made for the Maai Design Blog Tour. First up, P's hoodie:

For a couple of years now I've been wanting to re-create a zip-up, knit fabric hoodie that P had outgrown. I'd stalled due to not being able to find the exact knit I wanted - the old one was a double sided knit with two different, but complementary, coloured striped faces. It had welt pockets, and the welts, bottom band, cuffs and zipper placket were all sewn with the "wrong" side of the fabric showing.

For the lack of such a fabric the obvious thing to do was to use two different knits. I didn't have a suitable pattern, and I was about to start seriously complicating one of my favourite basic T-shirt patterns, when I remembered a pattern I did already have....

It's the Zander Hoodie by Everything Your Mama Made (E.Y.M.M.) and I think I'd bought it a while ago in one of those PDF pattern bundle sales. I figured since I already had a hoodie pattern I may as well use it. I liked the asymmetrical zip, although that stopped me from doing welt pockets as I figured they would look oddly unbalanced, so I sewed it exactly "as is".

P is 7 and a half years old, and his measurements put him smack in the middle of the 6/7 and 8/10 sizes. Knowing his tendency to  need extra sleeve length, I went for the bigger size and scratched around for some fabric to make a test run. What I found wasn't going to suit P, and he didn't need two hoodies anyway, so I made up one for the little sister that can sit in the cupboard for three years!

To be clear, I'm not a big fan of print at home PDF patterns. Sometimes, it's fairly painless and the pattern is so good it's worth it, and other times, not.

I faffed around with Microsoft reader trying to get the 1" test square to be any size other than 15/16ths of an inch. Eventually I gave up, reinstalled Adobe and got my test square the right size. The pattern boasted an ingenious tiling solution that didn't require any trimming. Just line up the free edge of one page with the printed line on the previous page. Great I thought.... I did note an odd comment about using a large window to overlap the pages IF you're using A4 paper. Well, since when did paper size have anything to do with transparency? Tosh, thought I...

Then I gathered up all 34 pages of pattern printout and started trying to align them. They simply did not match up. By searching the EYMM website I found the addendum that the page aligning method won't work for any paper size other than whatever non international standard size the yanks use. For the rest of the world, one should align the pages as best as possible by linking up the lines. It will be accurate to within 1/8th of an inch. Whaaaa??? *#%^@&?!  I've just spent an hour or more trying to eliminate the 1/16" of an inch scaling error only to have to haphazardly mash my pattern pages together.

To be clear, I'm not a big fan of (most) print at home PDF patterns.

Deep breath, pour a glass of wine and start cutting some pink loopback terry knit and the little bits of leftover Lisette knit for the lining.

The sewing is mostly easy, interrupted by trips back and forwards to the computer to view the instructions. Easy that is, until you get to the shoulder and back neckline stage. The pattern has no notches or markings anywhere and this one step is where that is a real problem. To sew the angle at the front shoulder is similar to sewing a V neck T-shirt. There are two opposite V's which need to come together with no puckers.

The problems is that the apex of each V is not clearly defined. One side (the side with the zip placket) is about a cm different to the other - and I was being precise with my seam allowances. To sew a neat V it helps to staystitch, clip, pin down the apex and then shift the fabric under the needle. In fact here's a tutorial I wrote doing exactly that. But I was stumped here as I just didn't have any reference points for where this apex was meant to be...

If I'm sounding a bit grumpy about this, bear in mind that this awkward corner is sewn four times in total. Both sides on the lining and the outer garment. If you're fussy about puckers and rip the seam and re-sew, the count goes up from four. There was swearing.

But after that point, the rest of the sewing is very pleasant, and then when you're finally done and the fit is perfection, well, that's when you go back and do it again (and there was swearing the next four times through that shoulder corner as well)

It was certainly easier in a stretchier knit. I'm sure if you were using polar fleece or similar it would be relatively easy to fudge a decent corner. But why not just give us some pattern markings and save everyone's sanity?!

Perhaps the huge hood is intended to always cover that point, so no one ever needs to feel bad about their shoulder corners. It is a very generously sized hood!

One feature that I really like, and might have had trouble figuring out, had I made up my own zip up hoodie is the inner zip shield. This is neat:

I think there's meant to be some edgestitching around the bottom band, but since I had no idea which way to press my seam allowances when I attached the zipper, I ended up with some seam allowance down into the bottom band, and some up. Edgestitching seemed futile. Of course I didn't think it through before the second version so it also went without the edgestitching on the bottom band.

A neat trick that I learned from Oliver + S is this (I was looking elsewhere for instructions by now) : After attaching one side of the zipper, close the zip and mark the bottom and top of the garment, and the line of the top edge of the pocket on the zipper tape. Then when you attach the other side of the zipper you can get it perfectly aligned so that the pockets match when the zipper is closed.

To give P's Zonen09 knit hoodie the same weight and warmth as the terry version I underlined with a single layer of polar fleece. I also used some ribbing inside the bottom band and cuffs, so they're also hefty, double thickness.

The pattern has the sleeves unlined (I should have taken a photo of the pink one inside out, sorry), but since I wanted the green one to be super thick I lined and underlined the sleeves as well. It made no difference to the sewing, just that the sleeve cuffs are the final part attached and thus the only inner visible seam. My overlocker did struggle a bit with all that thickness, but they're not about to fall off.

The final verdict: He LOVES it. The squishy fabric, the thick, coziness of it, the ludicrously big hood and the "it's not straight, mum" zipper. And now that the sewing experience is behind me, so do I. To have a jacket fit him so well with no adjustments is a delight. I mean look at those sleeves! No more bare wrists for monkey boy. I'm scoring a definite "room for improvement" on the pattern's assembly and instructions but it's two thumbs up for the finished garment.

I even kept the big tiled pattern sheet so that should I need to trace another size one day then I'm one headaches headstart on this version!

Don't forget you can still enter to win some lovely Soft cactus or Froy & Dind fabric by using the widget at the end of this blog post. Good luck

Thursday 17 March 2016

Maai Design Blog Tour - fabric love and a GIVEAWAY

There's a new fabric dealer in town and she's importing the good stuff...

I'm very excited and happy to be bringing you the penultimate blog post in the Maai Design blog tour.

Stick around, see what I've made, take a peek at the other amazing creations that have preceded mine in the tour so far and pick up a discount code to go shopping for some of this incredible fabric. Not enough, you say? OK, you can win some fabric on me too. Read on...

Maaike is a Belgian born Sydney-sider who, through her online shop, Maai Design is bringing some of the most divine fabrics into Australia. Maai Design also stocks matching ribbings, piping, zippers and the paper patterns from Compagnie M.

A little while ago, ok perhaps it was quite a few months, I was lucky enough to win some Froy & Dind knit fabrics from Maai Design. I chose the Firework Blue for me (left), and the Art Deco pink for the girl (right). Then I couldn't help myself and purchased some of the gorgeous Zonen09 Off Beetle Green (centre) for the boy. Oh, and I bought some matching ribbings, of course

But I got busy, and the fabrics were still waiting for me...

When Maaike invited me to join the Blog Tour I knew I just had to sew up my fabrics that I'd petted, washed, dried, petted some more and then put away.

I'll talk more about the patterns I used and the successes and failings of my sewing in other posts to follow this one. Suffice to say I liked these fabrics so much that I sewed muslins of (almost) every garment in something cheap and nasty first. For me to sew a practice run, well that is a real measure of how special a fabric is!

I love this Beetle fabric for P. It's a gorgeous soft shade of green and is very gender neutral really. But you know, boys and bugs just go together so well!

The knit is quite the softest, loveliest feeling stuff, and so I was sorely tempted to use it as lining. Instead I dug out a soft, brushed knit that highlighted the little blue bugs nicely, interlined the two layers with a layer of polar fleece, and now it is truly, the most snuggly hoodie in the whole world.

Both the Froy & Dind and Zonen 09 knits are a cotton elastane, made with GOTS certified organic cotton. They are thick enough, stretchy with great recovery and beautifully printed. None of the print quality is lost when the fabric is stretched, so I was happy to use the main fabric for my bottom band and cuffs. - which meant I got to save my co-ordinating blue ribbing for another day!

A simple dress shape to show off the Art Deco Pink print was on the cards for A. This time I did use some of Maai Design's white ribbing:

You know, when you sew for a little girl you go through phases when sewing yet another pink garment might. just. kill. you.

This is certainly a bright pink, a kind of hot raspberry pink, if such a shade exists. But look, it's mixed with white and quite a surprising shade of green. And well, I really like it.

In a moment of indecisive online shopping I may have ended up with both the white and green ribbings, and truly, it was a tough decision! The way the ribbing behaved for the neckline was perfect. Not too tight, not too wavy and took a good pressing with the iron with no fuss. I'd previously bought Ottobre ribbings online and had them shipped from Finland, and never thought I could put up with anything else ever again. This ribbing is every bit as nice without the crazy postage price. Winner Maaike - now I'd like you to stock a merle gray, navy and black please! :)

The Froy & Dind knits are extra wide at 160cm, so I have enough leftover for another pink T-shirt when this dress is outgrown!

Of course, the bulk of my fabric win was always going to be for me! I had a firm vision for the summer dress I was going to sew myself. It isn't this one, and here it is almost Autumn, but gee I'm happy anyway!

Cotton elastane knits are always going to curl at the edges, so why not just embrace it?! This dress pattern calls for raw edges which I'm afraid I just can't bear to do, so I did a narrow overlocked rolled hem. They still curl quite a bit but the effect is sorta textural - I'm going with that.

This dress is probably the best example of the quality of these knits. It's tight. No doubt about that. (can I breathe now, honey? Did you get that shot?)

In a lesser fabric it would feel clingy, lumpy, underwear bulgy and just not good enough. With the exception of the single layer sleeves, most of the dress is two, or even three layers thick and it feels goooood. Soft, thick, stretchy and smooth.

Our modelling session may have been helped along by playing Simon Says. One plays, all play. It seems I gotta abide by the rules too.

So that's the three of us in our Maai Design knits. I really wish I'd had the time and foresight to get some of this Stickly Rockers woven cotton and make a shirt for Flipper!

As part of the Blog Tour, Maaike is offering a 10% discount on all fabrics from Maai Design until the 26th March 2016 - just use the code maaidesign10% at the checkout.

You can see the introductions to all the tour participants by clicking on the banner image below, or check out the previous posts directly. There has been so much fantastic sewing you're bound to be inspired.

Maai Design blog tour 
March 8th - Suz from Sewpony

March 9th - Caroline from Usefulbox

March 10th - Kate from Sewing With Kate

March 11th - Allison from The Tall Mama

March 12th - Suzanne from Dressed in Pretty Little Things

March 13th - Toni from Make It Perfect

March 14th - Natalie from Sew Outnumbered

March 15th - Jenya from While She Was Sleeping 

March 16th - Nicola from Create.nic

March 17th - Shelley from Bartacks and Singletrack

March 18th - Maaike from MaaiDesign

Now, you've come this far and you're ready to have a bit of this fabric for yourself, right?!

Since Maaike was sponsoring the blog tour with discounted fabric for the tour participants and I'd already won and/or purchased mine anyway, I figured I should buy a bit more to give away. Deciding what to buy on your behalf was every bit as hard as choosing for myself!

I chose two bundles in the end, and now that I've seen and felt the Soft Cactus cotton  I am really wishing I hadn't made a mental pledge to give it away. It is seriously good.

Enter via the Gleam widget below. Don't forget to say in a blog post comment whether your preference is for the woven Soft Cactus fabric with piping, or the Froy & Dind knit with ribbing. The first winner selected will get their choice of bundle. The second winner might get what they wanted, or they might just get some fantastic fabric that they can be happy with anyway. Fair?!

Maaidesign Fabric Giveaway
- note: Competition entry is only for Australian residents, 'cause I'm paying the postage! - Also Maai Design currently only ships to Australian postal addresses

I've timed my competition to end on Wednesday 23rd March at 10am. That way if you miss out on my giveaway you still have a few days to shop using the blog tour discount code!

Thanks to Maaike for having me on the blog tour and introducing me to her beautiful fabrics. I'm hooked.

Over the next week I'll post each of our garments in a bit more detail, show you my trial runs and share the trials and tribulations of family blog shoots. Stay tuned.

Monday 7 March 2016

Birthday Dress Part II - Library dress

This blog post was inspired by, and almost completely written by NanouQC at Autant en emporte l'automne back in 2014

If you read French then here's the blog post that I am wholesale plagiarising:  Comme des enfants

If not, then read on, and I'll explain...

I also fell for this fabric back in 2011 when it came out. It is, of course, Children At Play - On Parade, by Sarah Jane for Michael Miller fabrics. I bought maybe 2.5 yards of it, knowing that I would have to compulsively pattern match any seams, then stashed it away and thought too much about how to use it.

Meanwhile two things happened. Firstly I started to completely move away from sewing with quilting cottons. Secondly I saw versions of this fabric everywhere. Like really, everywhere. Some treatments of the dress were nice, others were just too frou frou for me.

And so, I started to look down my nose at this overly girly, childish quilting cotton...

When I saw Nanou's Library dress and read her blog (which I'm now quoting back at you!) I figured I too had to face up to cutting this fabric before my daughter was too grown up to consider wearing it.

I also knew, that while she might not like the Bubble Dress I'd just made, she would love this party dress. We were planning a little surprise birthday party for her, and I figured this would be the dress that she could spill cake on and play in without me getting all uptight!

So, I was given the pattern inspiration on a plate, but of course I had to complicate things...

Firstly, I wanted to cut the skirt as one piece to avoid having to match side seams. Also I cut it as a straight rectangle without the pattern's slightly curved hem. It loses a little bit of it's gentle shape, but it's the only way to treat a border print.

Of course, if there was only going to be one seam, at the back, it would have to be pattern matched:

So, my rectangle skirt was cut to an arbitrary length in order to match the print. That meant I had to increase the depth of each pleat by about 3/8 of an inch. I wrote the maths down, but I forget the exact numbers now.

I couldn't decide between the orange/white spots or the aqua/pink spots for the belt, so without thinking through the consequences I decided to do the bias flat piping in order to use both...

In my head I was going to sew the bodice side seams then attach the skirt. That would have been easy but for the need to have that little bit of flat piping facing down. I muddled through, and while I can hardly describe how, here are a few in progress pictures in case someone else is attempting the same thing (don't would be the best advice!)

The buttons were chosen by A herself when we were in the backrooms of Buttonmania at one of their Monday sale days. Nice and sparkly for a party dress!

The pattern is the Library Dress by Oliver + S. It was my first time sewing this dress and if only I hadn't over complicated it, I'd be able to say it's a delight to sew.

With the exception of the fuller skirt it's basically a straight size 5 and I love the fit and the bodice. Such a gorgeous shaped dress.

Both kids enjoyed looking in detail at the border print and chose their favourite character. Curiously, they both picked the same one; a little red haired girl.

Here somewhere...

There she is!

Since I was so careful to cut my fabric to avoid any seams I'm afraid  I have quite a lot left over. In hindsight I should have just chopped it so that I had seams, matched the print and left nothing behind. Maybe I need to take up quilting, or perhaps just give it away and be done with it.

Apart from not messing with patterns I have learnt my lesson not to be swayed by public enthusiasm for fabrics that really just aren't my thing.

Or maybe not, 'cause she does really like it...

Pattern: Library Dress - Oliver + S
Fabric: Children at Play and quilting cottons to match from GJ's
Buttons: Clear plastic with silver dots  Buttonmania
Size: 5

Friday 4 March 2016

Birthday dress part 1: Bubble Dress

In the middle of last month, my little girl turned five. It's taken ages to share her birthday dress(es) but here's the first...

This is the one that I really wanted to make, and wasn't sure (and didn't really care) about how it would be received:

I'd bought this fabric on sale at The Fabric Store about three years ago. Probably with the intention of making another semi-sheer Fairy Tale dress like my first one.

But since size 5 is the largest size of the first release of the Oliver + S patterns I wanted to sew the Bubble Dress again before it was outgrown (itty little ones here and here).

The fabric is a silk chiffon with squiggly strips stitched onto it. Hard to describe, but here's a close up to help:

The Bubble Dress pattern was an easy fit for the fabric, as it's already a fully lined dress. The lining, which I'd purchased at the same time as the original fabric, is a kind of peacock blue acetate. Lovely to sew and work with.

The only seam finish changes I made to deal with the semi-sheer fabric was to snip off the applique strips from the seam allowances to remove bulk (talk about time consuming!). Otherwise they're invisible enough not to have needed underlining or any other special treatment.

The little rosette was an after thought as the dress, for all it's fancy squiggles, was looking a bit plain. It's a strip of chiffon with tiny birds on it that's already gathered onto a stitched central line. I'd bought it at Darn Cheap fabrics one day and the colours were just perfect for this dress.

The dress closes at the back with buttons, and I decided self fabric covered buttons were the only ones that would work.

The shape of the bodice with those curved, cap sleeves is just divine.

The dress and lining are hemmed together with some 1/4" elastic sewn into the hem to give the bubble effect. I considered creating an extra channel of lining fabric to cover the elastic but couldn't be bothered in the end. If you get in under the skirt and look closely then the beige elastic is visible through the outer fabric, but since it's tucked up under it would never be noticeable when worn.

I made the dress in secret and presented it on the morning of her birthday in a fancy box. As I said, this was one that I wanted to make, but of course I was delighted when she oooh'ed and aaah'ed over it. She often gets to go to watch the ballet and this will be a perfect ballet concert dress.

I'm certainly not the first one to use fancy fabric for the Bubble Dress and I'm very grateful to those who've done it before and reminded me of what a great silhouette it is. Also, thanks to Sarvi and Janice who kicked off the "Size 5 Project" last year and planted the idea in my mind of sewing these early patterns before they are outgrown. Happily this one looks like, with added length, it could be made again next year as it's plenty roomy enough.

She's in school full time now, so gone are our days of hanging out and taking photographs at our leisure. These pics were snapped this evening in between rain storms, as the sun was setting. It had been hard to find time for photographs earlier, but also, it's only now that she hasn't got a huge bandage on her chin. If you look closely you can see one last stitch that hasn't yet fallen out.

On Valentine's day she stacked her bike (riding the half pipe at the skate park mind you!) and sliced her chin open. It required about 7 stitches which were done under local anaesthetic. To allow the local to be injected she had laughing gas.

That, my friends, is hands down the funniest thing I have seen to date. She was completely off her scone. She was giggling, trying to pinch or punch me, slurring out "mummy"s and "Oi love you"s. I got the giggles. The doctor got the giggles. Only the nurse kept a semi-stern face as she tried to hold down my drunk, loved up, smash faced little gigglebot.

I'm kind of proud too, that once she'd recovered and was describing the accident to me, she said she crashed 'cause she wasn't going fast enough! Alright, girl, momentum is your friend. Know that!

This next picture goes out to Iris of the Stitched Together clan!

Birthday Dress details:
Pattern: Bubble Dress
Size: 5 (no mods)
Fabric: Appliqued silk chiffon from The Fabric Store